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Symmonds Wins Fourth National 800m Title

Montano takes women's race; Coburn wins women's steeplechase.

Nick Symmonds won his fourth national title in the 800 meters on Sunday. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Montano takes women’s race; Coburn wins women’s steeplechase.

Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

EUGENE, Oregon — In what was his toughest USA Outdoor Championships final ever, Nick Symmonds found the closing speed he needed to beat longtime rival Khadevis Robinson and collegiate star Charles Jock and win his fourth consecutive national 800m title on Sunday. Symmonds’ race closed the middle and long distance program of this four-day championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.

“I got done with this one and it just felt so sweet because I’ve felt so nervous for this one,” said Symmonds after the race, looking relieved. “Obviously, this is the deepest the field’s been in a long time; I think they had nine “A” standards. So, to win in a field like this is just phenomenal.”

Jock, the NCAA runner-up from the University of California at Irvine bolted to the lead from the gun, and led the field through 400 meters in an honest 50.82. Jock was followed closely by Penn State’s Casimir Loxsom, Oregon Track Club Elite’s Tyler Mulder, Symmonds, and four-time national 800m champion Khadevis Robinson. The 6-foot, 4-inch Jock said that running from the front was his best strategy for victory.

“I did it the best way I knew how; taking it out hard and hoping that nobody catches me at the end,” Jock explained.

Jock was still in front at 600 meters, and his stride looked smooth. Loxsom remained in contention, but Symmonds had moved into third and Robinson into fourth. Loxsom began to fall back through the final curve, but Jock was still going full-tilt at the front. The race was playing out just as Symmonds had hoped.

“My only race strategy was to be on the leader’s shoulder with 100 to go,” Symmonds told reporters. “I caught up to Jock, and just flipped it that last hundred. To be honest, with 50 meters to go I thought maybe I’d flipped it a little too soon.  I could feel my body tying up.  But, I just tried to get my hips forward and just try to get across that line.  It wasn’t until I crossed the line that I knew I won it.”

Symmonds got to the tape in 1:44.17, a time which was only 7/100ths slower than his epic 2008 Olympic Trials victory, and the second-fastest of his four wins. Behind him, Robinson would also drive past Jock to claim second in  1:44.49. Robinson complimented Symmonds on his race.

“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Robinson said. “He ran 1:44.1. I thought it would take what I ran to win. I ran that; he ran faster.  Took my hats off. The guy ran a tough race.”

Jock crossed next 1:44.67, a personal best. A college junior, he may have been the most thrilled of all about making the national team.

“It hasn’t hit me yet–I’m still in shock,” he said. “When I crossed that finish line I was like, wait a minute. I didn’t see anybody else pass me and I saw my name in third. The emotion, it was just crazy.”

NCAA champion Robby Andrews finished last, bewildered that he had nothing left in his legs after what he said were relatively easy preliminary races. His coach, Jason Vigilante, was nonetheless very pleased with his star athlete’s performance.

“He’s a 20 year-old in a field with some great kids,” said Vigilante. “I told him you’ve got nothing to hang your head about.”

Alysia Montano dominated the women's 800-meter final, winning in 1:58.33. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Montano Dominates Women’s 800 Meters

Alysia Montano, the former Alysia Johnson, dominated the women’s two-lap event, notching her third USA outdoor title in five years. A white flower affixed to her black headband, Montano motored through the first half in 56.07 seconds and already had a several meter lead on Alice Schmidt. Montano said that a back problem had forced her to only run uphill in training which made her a lot stronger. That strength, she said, was critical today to holding her speed to the finish.

“We’ve had really good workouts these last couple of weeks,” she told the assembled media. “I spent a few weeks back before Pre only running uphill because I had a little back issue.  So, I knew I had that strength.”

Down the homestretch, Montano couldn’t be touched. Her winning time of 1:58.33 was the fastest at these championships in 15 years.

“My feelings about making the team?” Montano said, gently mocking reporters. “Yeah, that’s awesome!”

Maggie Vessey was also having a great race. Her final 100-meter push to the line got her past both Phoebe Wright and Schmidt to take second in 1:58.86. Schmidt was trying to hang on for just a few more meters because Wright was catching her on the inside. Schmidt finished third in 1:59.21, just 4/100ths ahead of Wright.

“Even before I looked at the scoreboard I just thought, honestly, I was dying so hard in that final straightaway, I know I did everything I could,” said Schmidt, a 2008 Olympian. “So I was, like, really hoping I made the team. Then, when I found out third it was the best gift all day.”

The University of Colorado's Emma Coburn added a USA steeplechase championship to the NCAA title she won just a few weeks ago. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Coburn Takes Women’s Steeplechase

The University of Colorado’s Emma Coburn showed again that she is now the top steeplechaser in the United States. She had already won the NCAA title, and had secured the IAAF “A” standard of 9:43.00 at the Cardinal Invitational Meet last May. Here, she ran near the front the entire race. Coming down the backstretch of the final lap she led former Penn State star Bridget Franek and the University of Virginia’s Stephanie Garcia, the NCAA runner-up to Coburn. Delilah DiCrescenzo was in fourth and struggling to maintain contact.

“I knew if I kept close with about 500 left to go I would probably make the team, like, if I could see first and was within striking distance, said DiCrescenzo. “So, I was confident there, but I was more tired than I expected.”

Coburn and Franek took the final water jump easily, but Garcia slipped on the push-off and tumbled head first into the water. The crowd let out a collective gasp.

“(I) kind of came up on Bridget’s shoulder coming into 200 to go,” said Garcia, who would finish fifth. “I was worried because they were pushing me in to the inside, and I was like, OK, you’re going to be really close to that edge of the barrier. Just take it quickly. And, my left foot just slipped a little bit pushing off and I took a dive. So, I tried to get up as quickly as possible, but by then, Delilah had just taken the water and kept going.”

Franek finished a clear second in 9:44.90, making her first World Championships team (she ran under the “A” standard at the adidas Grand Prix earlier this month). DiCrescenzo finished third in 9:46.31, under the “B” standard of 9:50.00 so she is on the team, too (a team of A-A-B is permitted).

Coburn was over the moon. “I’m so happy!, she swooned. “I’ve never been so happy in my entire life.  I feel like this season and this whole year went better than I can even dream.”