This piece was written by McKenzie Days. McKenzie has written for us on the Pre Classic and NCAA Champs. In this piece, McKenzie writes about the tough women’s 800 meters and how many things changed, and almost changed in the last fifty meters! Thanks to Lori Shontz, SOJC Track Bureau for developing this program for your writers.
By McKenzie Days
SOJC Track Bureau
Upon hearing the gun Sunday afternoon in the 800 meters at the USATF outdoor championships, Olympic champion Athing Mu grabbed the lead and charged ahead during the first 200 meters, a position she resided in comfortably for most of the race.
As the athletes turned for the last 200 meters, they gradually started to speed up in anticipation for the final stretch.
In the last 50 meters, Ajee Wilson challenged Mu’s position with the same kick that won her gold in March at the world indoor championships. The two battled side by side to the finish ribbon. The volume of the stadium steadily increased as spectators grasped the idea that Wilson could surpass the gold medalist.
However, Mu was able to lean and win by .07 seconds. She finished in 1 minute, 57.16 seconds while Wilson crossed at 1:57.23, her season’s best.
Mu said it caught her “a little off guard” to have someone to the side of her.
“Usually the last 100 I’m like, ‘Oh, time to run for my life,’” Mu said. “Because I don’t know where any woman is or how far they are, but I’m just going to get my spot.”
Mu said it was good to get a little kick in her legs and it displays the competitive side of her running with someone else “who’s running neck and neck with her.”
“I’m glad I got to experience that,” Mu said. “Who knows how many more times it’s going to happen for the rest of the year.”
Wilson said she was happy with the race for the most part. She said the race advanced how her coach had anticipated. She was prepared and knew where she wanted to be. However, it was not perfect.
“I think I got a little bit excited towards the last phase,” Wilson said. “I went a little too early.”
Wilson said she was excited to go home and try to “fine-tune things for worlds.” She is striving for a “preferable gold.”
While Mu and Wilson were intertwined in their battle, University of Oregon’s favorite Raevyn Rogers made her signature move on the outside in the last 100 meters, finishing third with a season-best 1:57.96.
Rogers attributed her third-place position and the last stretch move to her mindfulness on the track as the competitors were speeding up.
“You can only just be aware of how you feel,” Rogers said. “And that’s just something I’ve carried through these rounds –just awareness.”
All three women will represent the United States at the World Athletics Championships at Hayward Field in July.