The women’s 1,500 meters was a spectacular race, and Madeline Ryan wrote this piece about the strategy in the race. Thanks again to Lori Shontz, who managed the writers of the SOJC Track Bureau.
By Madeline Ryan
SOJC Track Bureau
A little friendly competition never hurts. On Saturday at Hayward Field, Micaela DeGenero of Colorado and Sintayehu Vissa of Ole Miss knew each other’s capabilities — their battle in the 1,500-meter final at the NCAA Championships felt familiar.
Vissa, runner-up in the indoor mile during the NCAA Championships in March, entered the race knowing she had to make a change in order to beat DeGenero. DeGenero won that indoor race after she took a breakaway lead in the final lap.
“At indoors, she left me shocked — shocked that I couldn’t catch her in time,” Vissa said. “I didn’t want to repeat that again.”
Vissa was successful and won the 1,500 for Ole Miss, while DeGenero was runner-up by .20 seconds. The tactical differences in the race contributed to the reversed-order finish.
In an alternate approach from indoors, Vissa brought herself into the second position behind the pack leader, Arkansas’ Chrissy Gear, from the first lap. She maintained a place toward the front until she made her move on the backstretch of the final lap, passing Gear and taking the lead.
Moments later, DeGenero pushed into second, and the two were a step apart through the final curve. As they came into the homestretch, Vissa could feel DeGenero behind her, and she was trying to move to the right to control her space.
“I felt like there was an alarm going off in my body,” Vissa said. “I knew what she did indoors. I knew she had a kick. I was just like, ‘I just gotta keep going.”
Vissa refused to give up her lead. She continued to run ahead of DeGenero, winning in 4 minutes and 9.42 seconds. DeGenero finished in 4:09.62.
DeGenero said she realized too late in the race that she couldn’t make it to the front. Like Vissa, she picked up her pace and moved with 300 meters left. She had spread out into the third lane and was trying to make it back to the first lane with Vissa but couldn’t move into the rail quickly enough or gather enough momentum.
“My one mistake would have been when I came up on Vissa with 150 meters to go,” DeGenero said. “I should have just flown by her. But I thought I could save something for the last 100.”
DeGenero is hoping to qualify for USATF nationals at the end of the month. Her 1,500-meter time puts her on the border. But even with that meet on the horizon this summer, DeGenero said she was proud to have finished so close to a win.
She said she ultimately expected a challenge from Vissa. “I got her in indoors. And she got me back this time. So I guess we’re even,” she said with a laugh.
Vissa knew in the last few meters of the race that she had the win. But when she crossed the finish line, she turned to her competition.
“I gave her a hug,” Vissa said. “And I said, ‘I’m sorry.'”
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