All the top contenders advance to tomorrow’s semifinals.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
EUGENE, Oregon — Nearly all of the top athletes advanced to tomorrow’s semifinals in the men’s and women’s 800m as the USA Outdoor Championships opened at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.
The fastest mark in the four men’s heats was achieved by Mark Wieczorek, the former NAIA standout from MidAmerica Nazarene University, who won heat 3 in 1:46.82. He was followed in the same heat by the University of Oregon’s Elijah Greer (1:46.86) and the Santa Monica Track Club’s Richard Jones (1:47.14). Four-time defending champion Nick Symmonds also advanced by finishing second in heat 2 (1:48.56), as did NCAA first and second place finishers Robby Andrews of the University of Virginia (third, heat 4, 1:48.60) and Charles Jock of the University of California Irvine (second, heat 1, 1:47.49).
“It went out a little faster than I expected, so that took me by shock, first 100 meters,” said Jock after coming from fifth position with 300 meters to finish second. “But, the rest of the race (I) was slowly moving up. I felt pretty comfortable.”
Andrews, who was in last place with 400 meters to go, said that his only concern today was advancing to the next round.
“You know, it’s all about getting through, and I was really fortunate today,” said Andrews. “So, look forward to running tomorrow.”
Two athletes who were viewed as possible finalists, Duane Solomon and Ryan Martin, were eliminated. Solomon finished fourth in heat 2 and Martin, the University of California at Santa Barbara junior who had run 1:45.34 at the Big West Conference meet last May, finished fourth in heat 4.
On the women’s side, the two top athletes for the overall title ran the two fastest two times. Phoebe Wright, last year’s NCAA champion for the University of Tennessee, and Alysia (Johnson) Montano, the defending meet champion, both won their heats in 2:03.42 and 2:03.50, respectively. Maggie Vessey, last year’s runner-up at this meet, also advanced, as did 2008 Olympian Alice Schmidt.
Chanelle Price, the Tennessee junior who won this year’s SEC 800m title, was knocked out of the meet when she was tripped from behind at about the 500-meter mark in heat 2. She got up slowly and finished last in 2:36.05.
“I was in perfect position, and then I was on the ground,” said a distraught Price. “It definitely came from behind. I was on (Alysia) Johnson’s shoulder, so I don’t know (what happened).”
Montano was confident after winning her heat, but was taking nothing for granted. She said she wasn’t focused on any one key rival.
“I don’t think it’s good for any one athlete to take a look at just one athlete because, at any given moment, the person no one is watching is the person who’s going to come up and give you the biggest challenge,” she said with a red flower in her hair. “I think that the young people are the ones I should be looking out for.”