Heading into the midway break, Monday was the first really "quiet" day of the Trials. But then, how do you compete for headlines with Eaton’s WR, Dead Heat Gate, and the returns of Justin Gatlin & Tyson Gay? After all that excitement Monday was rather tame.
With most of the London berths in the day’s field event finals already decided based on limited numbers of individuals with "A" standards, the"drama" for the day was produced by the two 800 finals.
Alysia Montano took the guess work out of who would win the women’s race as she went immediately to the front; opened up a sizeable lead; and cruised home to the win in 1:59.08. Behind her was a rush reminiscent of the California gold rush with four women fighting their way up the home stretch in search of two golden tickets to London! The winners of that battle were Geena Gall (1:59.24) and Alice Schmidt (1:59.46). Schmidt having gone out early behind Montano, giving up some ground on the second backstretch then coming back in the final 200. Gall simply moving up on the second lap, then kicking like a champ in the homestretch.
Molly Beckwith (1:59.68), who was the best American earlier in the season looked to be on her way to London as she was in good position coming off the final turn and kicked well, but stumbled in the closing meters as Gall went by on the outside and Schmidt on the inside. And there among the kickers was Phoebe Wright (1:59.72) who was totally out of character kicking after trying to press the early pace with the leaders. But the fast 55 second first lap still left her back and forced to try to kick it home.
That Montano took it out that fast seems to underscore that she seems very confident in her abilities heading to London. I hope so because she’s going to have to improve on her PR 1:57.34 to have a shot at the podium with the likes of Jelimo, Magiso, Jepkosgei, Savinova and Semenya likely to be waiting. This will be one of the toughest medals to earn in London.
Speaking of confident, that’s exactly how Nick Symmonds looked in the home stretch of the men’s 800 as he came home strongly in 1:43.92. Nice to see an American running 1:43 because it may take at least that much to get into the final in London. I must admit I keep looking for someone to come along and run like Johnny Gray, or Mark Everett and take over this event – but Symmonds keeps turning them back. He doesn’t look like he should be our best, but he keeps proving to be, and as he said in his post race interview, hopefully with a little sharpening he can go 1:43 low in London.
Behind Symmonds, Khadevis Robinson (1:44.64) and Duane Solomon (1:44.65) got the other two spots to the Games. Though their times were nearly identical they came in different fashions. Solomon went out and tried to keep pace with lap leader Charles Jock who went flying by the bell in 49.86. Jock faded badly after 600, however while Solomon kept working – even trying to stay with Symmonds as he went flying up the stretch.
In contrast, Robinson played his usual wait and kick game, closing strong and nipping Solomon at the line. At the end of the day I think this will be our strongest 800 team since Johnny Gray and Mark Everett led us in the 90’s. I hope they prove me right.
So that’s how we head into the break. I think now I’ll go back and re-watch the meet (of course I’ve been taping it) and see what I may have missed the first time around. Time to start looking ahead to London and what our prospects will be at the Games. As well as the European AND Jamaican Championships which get going this week. It’s going to be another big week in the sport.