COLLEGIAN JONES UPSETS PROS AT PREFONTAINE CLASSIC NATIONAL 1500
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
EUGENE, OREGON (25-May) — On a chilly evening here at historic Hayward Field, University of Colorado redshirt junior Dani Jones beat back the collective challenge of 14 professional women to win the national section of the 1500m on the first day of the two-day Prefontaine Classic, the third stop of the 2018 IAAF Diamond League.
Jones, 21, who was second at the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships in the mile back in March, ran tucked in the pack, trying to avoid some of the pushing, shoving and spiking that knocked two contenders, Sara Vaughn and Emily Lipari, out of the race and left another athlete, Ce’Aira Brown, bleeding badly just above her left Achilles. Jones took the lead at the bell from Cory McGee and Lauren Johnson, built a small cushion on the backstretch, then pulled away from her closest rivals on the strength of a 64-flat final circuit to win by a full second in a career best 4:07.74. Alexa Efraimson finished second with a strong stretch run in 4:08.70, while Cory McGee held on for third in 4:09.09. Johnson faded to seventh in 4:11.55.
“I wanted a PR,” Jones told reporters looking somewhat disappointed. “I think I’m in a lot better shape than 4:07. But, the win means a lot. There were a lot of talented women out there, and women that I look up to. So, I ran pretty gutsy, I think, and I took it with 400 (to go) so I’m happy with how it all went.”
Jones won’t be here in June for the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships. She and her coaches, Mark Wetmore and Heather Burroughs, decided that she should sit out this outdoor season and, instead, compete as a fifth-year senior in 2020 when the next USA Olympic Trials will be held. That would allow her to compete in those championships wearing the University of Colorado colors.
“It just spaces out my seasons nicely,” Jones observed. “I want to take a fifth year and be at the Trials in uniform. After a tough indoor season kind of being injured, we thought it was the perfect time.”
Jones also felt beat up after her indoor season and didn’t want the pressure of competing for her school this spring. She had a small injury which, she said, had completely cleared up. Still, she misses running with her team.
“It’s going to be hard to watch the NCAA’s without me being in it,” she said. I’m feeling pretty good. I had some Achilles tendonitis; it wasn’t really huge or anything.”
Part of Jones’s success comes from training with four-time USA 1500m champion Jenny Simpson who also lives and trains in Boulder, Colo. Since Jones is on a different competition plan than her Colorado teammates, it’s been great for her to train some of the time with Simpson.
“The collegians have been on a really different schedule, racing a lot and not training a lot,” Jones explained. “She’s been an amazing mentor, and so awesome. Running behind her has been just great.”
Sara Vaughn, who made it to the semi-finals of last summer’s IAAF World Championships, was unable to finish after some rough contact on the third lap.
“I got stepped on and shoved,” said Vaughn who showed a reporter a bloody heel before walking slowly to the athletes’ recovery area.
In other races, Ethiopia’s Selemon Barega won a slowish two-mile where the top contenders refused to follow the pacemakers. What was supposed to be a meet record attempt (sub-8:03.50) quickly fizzled when the main pack hit halfway in only 4:14.9. Barega emerged victorious in a last-lap sprint, clocking 54.9 seconds for the final circuit to defeat American Paul Chelimo (8:20.91) and Bahraini Birhanu Bales (8:21.54).
Barega, whose listed age is 18, said the race wasn’t that hard.
“No strong; easy,” he told reporters in English. He added that under the right conditions he could run close to eight minutes.
The 800-meter races went to Jamaica’s Natoya Goule (2:00.84) and Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir (1:45.16). Korir beat 2012 Olympic silver medalist Nijel Amos of Botswana (1:45.51) and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Wycliffe Kinyamal (1:46.14). Reigning world indoor champion, Adam Kszczot of Poland, finished sixth.
The 43rd Prefontaine Classic concludes here tomorrow with the main program of event, including 13 Diamond League disciplines. This will be the last time this meeting will be held at historic Hayward Field before the stadium is demolished and a completely redesigned stadium is built to replace it.