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800m Favorites Diago, Hinriksdottir Shine At Junior Worlds

Elsewhere, American Sabrina Southerland finishes eighth in her heat.

Elsewhere, American Sabrina Southerland finishes eighth in her heat.

(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

EUGENE, Ore. — With an unrelenting rain dousing historic Hayward Field, women’s 800m medal favorites Sahily Diago and Anita Hinriksdottir advanced out of the second round here at the IAAF World Junior Championships Wednesday. Diago, a native of Cuba, won her section with relative ease, while Iceland’s Hinriksdottir, the reigning IAAF World Youth Championships gold medalist, narrowly advanced based on time.

“It was a difficult race. It’s cold, I can’t stand the cold, but I was convinced and determined to make it through to the next round and I did. I’m very happy,” said Diago, speaking through translator Javier Clavelo. At race time, temperatures were in the 55-degree range.

Taking to the puddle-ridden track, Diago boasted the fastest personal best in the field by over two seconds, the only woman to have broken 2:00 (1:57.74). Running comfortably tucked in behind leaders Hinriksdottir and Australian Georgia Griffith through 400 meters in 60.76, Diago was simply waiting to make her move. Knowing the top three would automatically advance to Thursday’s final, the 18-year-old kept her eyes peeled and counted those around her.

“The race unfolded the way I thought it to be so I didn’t force it just to be in the lead group and just do enough to qualify to the final,” said Diago.

Making the final turn into the homestretch, four athletes—Diago, Hinriksdottir, Griffith and Kenyan Margaret Nyairera Wambui—were all charging to solidify a top-three position. While Diago, Wambui and Griffith finished strong, Hinriksdottir struggled mightily in the final 70 meters.

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Diago would win in 2:03.60, a step ahead of Wambui (2:03.72) and two up on Griffith (2:04.00). Hinriksdottir, fourth, crossed in 2:04.99.

A clear medal favorite entering the meet, Hinriksdottir would have to wait for the second section to know her fate. Quickly rushing through the mixed zone without speaking to the media, Hinriksdottir’s expression was one of stress and concern. Just before heat 2 was set to begin, the 18-year-old peered out of the athlete recovery area and into the media center, eyes focused on a grainy television monitor.

With the pitter-patter of increasing rain now clearly audible, section 2 began fast. Ethiopian Zeyituna Mohammed and Australian Georgia Wassall headed the charge alongside Kenyan Maximila Imali.

Between 200 meters and 600 meters, however, the pace would slow dramatically. While heat 1 took the bell in 60.76 seconds, section 2 passed halfway in 61.10, still bunched close enough for contact to be made between athletes.

“It’s really quite hard, it’s really cat and mouse,” said Wassall, describing the erratic pacing and jostling.

Puddles splashing beneath their feet, Mohammed and Wassall would battle over the final circuit, rounding the bend and charging for home. The Ethiopian would take first in 2:04.62 with the Aussie second in 2:04.84. Third went to Morocco’s Sara Souhi in 2:05.37.

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Before Souhi crossed the line, Hinriksdottir let out a sigh of relief as she saw the clock pass 2:04.99. Her time had held up and earned a spot in the final.

When asked by Race Results Weekly what had happened in the final 100 meters of her contest, Hinriksdottir answered honestly.

“I still don’t know. I was just good before, I don’t know. Maybe I was too comfortable with it,” she said, adding “I’m happy to get to the final.”

Joining Hinriksdottir as a qualifier based on time was Kenyan Maximila Imali, who finished fourth in heat 2 with a time of 2:05.37.

American Sabrina Southerland was eighth in the second section, 2:08.76 her time.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and the weather conditions weren’t great, but it was a pretty good race,” said Southerland, a rising sophomore at Georgetown University. “It’s a challenge. Of course it’s going to be a challenge.”