Geena Gall’s tremendous run, from sixth to second, over the last 200 meters in the women’s 800 meter final, had 21,000 fans on their feet. Gall, coached by Mark Rowland, per Dave Hunter, seems to be coming around perfectly, as her timing may mean great things for Geena as she heads to London for the Olympics.
This is how Dave Hunter saw it:
A Daily Journal From The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials / Track & Field
Highlights From Hayward
By Dave Hunter
June 27, 2012
With 250 meters to go in the women’s 800 meter Olympic Trials final Monday evening, Geena Gall found herself in 6th place behind a tangle of America’s top middle distance runners, all pushing furiously to capture one of the top three spots and gain a ticket to the London Games. Gall kept her cool. “I knew what to expect going into the finals. I have raced against these girls multiple times and I know how they race. I just play to my own thing. I have a great kick which I had executed during the first two rounds. Before the last 200, when Brenda Martinez passed me, I knew it was ‘go’ time and I needed to shift into another gear. So I swung really wide on the curve. When I hit the last 100 meters coming off the Bowerman curve, I just put my head down and gave it all that I’ve got. I could hear the crowd cheering super loud. I picked off the girls one by one as I was closing on Alysia [Montano]. As I crossed the finish line, I threw my hands up in the air and I knew I was on the Olympic team and that I had made it,” exclaimed Gall. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
Leading up to the final, Gall ran her preliminary 800’s in textbook fashion – exhibiting progressively-faster performances through the first two rounds. In Monday’s final, her blistering last 200 – the fastest of all the finalists – gave her the clear path she needed to unleash her speed over the final straightway to secure her position on the Olympic team.
Does Gall see herself as a front-runner or more of a patient kicker? “I would like to think that I have both styles,” says Gall. “I like to run from the front, but I don’t go out in 55 or anything crazy like that. But if somebody does go out that fast, I am going to just tuck in behind them and play to my strength. My endurance and my speed allow me to really come home strong. My last 200 in the final gives me a lot of confidence,” confides Gall. “I know if I am right there with 100 to go, I could beat anyone.”
So with the London Games now in her sights, Gall intends to not get ahead of herself. “I am just going to go round-by-round and that’s exactly how I did it at the Trials this past week,” notes Gall. “I just focus on each day and try not to think too far ahead. In London, every round is a final for me. So I am going to give it my all – 110% – every time I get on the track.”
A charting of Gall’s 2012 performances suggests she has the potential to surprise at the 30th Olympiad. Her 800 clockings still trail the likes of Kenya’s Pamela Jelimo and a few others. But her all-time best 800 of 1:59.24 on Monday evening – her second PR this month – suggests that this 25 year old is peaking at just the right time. Gall’s recent successes and her international experience – she was a member of the USA’s 2009 world championship team in Berlin – should give her the poise she needs to focus at track and field’s biggest event.
Gall has a secret weapon – an edge that only she and 12 other fortunate athletes possess. They are part of what Gall refers to as “the big family” that is coached by Mark Rowland, the savvy Brit who won the bronze medal in the ’88 Olympic steeplechase. The newly-minted Olympian is very candid in praise of her coach. “Mark is always there to make us more professional. He has really helped me to grow up a lot in this sport,” notes Gall. “As an Olympic athlete, he knows what to do and how to peak in this sport. Having a coach like that is good for me. I am pretty independent myself so we really understand each other. He really doesn’t have to say too much to me. We both know what he has done. And I know I have the confidence and I know how to execute my race plan.” Smiles Gall, “Having him in my corner has been amazing the past three years. And I can’t thank him enough for that.”
I suspect the best “thank you” Geena Gall could give Coach Rowland would be an Olympic performance that displays the blend of the astute coaching preparation and athlete execution that earned her the right to perform on London’s big stage. If she can thank him in that way, it would be enough.