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Iceland’s Hinriksdottir Leads 800m Qualifiers At Junior Worlds

American Sabrina Southerland also advances to Wednesday’s semifinal.

American Sabrina Southerland also advances to Wednesday’s semifinal.

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

EUGENE, Ore. — Despite being 3,845 miles from her home in Reykjavik, Iceland, Anita Hinriksdottir looked quite comfortable racing on the famed oval at Hayward Field Tuesday. Decisively moving into the lead with 250 meters remaining in the first round of the women’s 800m, Hinriksdottir stamped her ticket to Wednesday’s IAAF World Junior Championships semifinal with a win on the first day of competition here.

“I was happy about how I did it now,” Hinriksdottir told reporters, a smile showing how excited and relieved she was to be moving on.

Hinriksdottir, 18, is attempting to add another international medal to her already impressive stash, having won gold at both the IAAF World Youth and European Junior Championships last year. In 2012, she was fourth at these championships in Barcelona while competing at only 16 years old.

Using her global racing experience to her advantage, Hinriksdottir remained calm as she reeled in Australia’s Georgia Griffith and Germany’s Sarah Schmidt. Taking advantage of a very small gap in between the two, Hinriksdottir split the pair on the backstretch and went on to win in 2:03.41.

“It was maybe a little, you know, eh,” Hinriksdottir said, making a shaky gesture with her hand trying to explain how risky the pass was. “That competition spirit a little. I hope it was OK.”

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When Hinriksdottir crossed the line a knowing smile came across her face, the kind of expression that showed she’d taken care of business yet had much more left in the tank.

“The race went as planned,” she said. “First round is always pretty stressful because you don’t know in advance in what kind of a shape you are and how you’d feel on the track.”

In February at the NYRR Millrose Games in New York City, Hinriksdottir led aggressively from the start of the women’s 800m, trying to prove herself against Ajee’ Wilson—the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships gold medalist—and past NCAA champion Natoya Goule. Despite tying up in the final lap, she’d finish fourth in a respectable 2:02.66.

Now, some five months later, Hinriksdottir is glad to be back on American soil, racing at one of the world’s most fabled tracks.

“It is very good organized here and great atmosphere,” she said. “I hope for a fast time hopefully but there are a lot of fast girls here.”

Australia’s Georgia Wassall won heat 2 in 2:05.69, while Ethiopia’s Zeyituna Mohammed and Kenya’s Margaret Nyairera Wambui claimed the third and fourth sections in 2:04.47 and 2:04.24, respectively.

American Sabrina Southerland advanced to Wednesday’s semifinal thanks to her third-place finish in heat 4 (2:05.84).

“The race was different. It was interesting to see all the other countries and I was giving all I got,” said Southerland, a rising sophomore at Georgetown University. “I didn’t know what to expect, but now I know going into the second round.”

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After charging to the lead in heat 3, New Balance Nationals 800m champion Raevyn Rogers looked poised to secure a top three finish. However, Rogers was thrown off her tempo when Kenya’s Maximila Imali clipped her heals, sending the American into the second lane. Unable to recover from the jolt, Rogers faded to sixth in 2:08.01. The finish was a bitter disappointment for Rogers, who will attend the University of Oregon next fall.

“I was moving towards the inside and got tripped up and it all went wrong,” said a visibly dejected Rogers. “Everything happens for a reason.”

Also held Tuesday morning was the preliminary round of the men’s 1500m.

Kenya’s Jonathan Kiplimo Sawe controlled the opening heat wire-to-wire, winning in a season’s best time of 3:41.35. After going out in 58.96 for 400 meters, Sawe let the pace relax before turning on the jets again with a 59.72 third lap.

“That race went fine. I feel like I can win and I will try my best,” said Sawe, 19, the 2011 IAAF World Youth Championships bronze medalist. Placing second in a Slovenian national record was Jan Petrac (3:43.15), with Sweden’s William Levay a step behind in 3:43.28.

Finishing ninth was Michigan high schooler Grant Fisher, the 2013-14 Gatorade National Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. Although he set a personal best of 3:49.62, Fisher was disappointed with his placing.

“Difficult. Very difficult,” Fisher said in between sips of water, referencing both his race and the constant jostling faced mid-contest. “That’s how it goes. It’s international racing, definitely different than anything you get in the States. Everyone here is competitive and the best in their country. Going in you have to expect that stuff and today my response wasn’t the greatest.”

Brazil’s Thiago Andre took the second heat in 3:47.68.

Abdi Waiss Mouhyadin of Djibouti almost didn’t get a chance to win the third and final section of the men’s 1500m. Racing among a very large and tightly bunched pack, Mouhyadin was clipped from behind. Somehow the 18-year-old avoided falling to the track, staying on his feet and refocusing to edge Kenya’s Hillary Cheruiyot Ngetich in a sprint to the line. Their times were 3:48.36 and 3:48.40.

American Patrick Joseph, a sophomore-to-be at Virginia Tech, was fifth in 3:49.00 and did not advance.

PHOTO: Iceland’s Anita Hinriksdottir focuses before winning her heat in the 800m at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore. Photo: David Monti | Race Results Weekly