FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT AT THE US OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD TRIALS.
By Jon Gugala
EUGENE, Ore. — Soquel High alumna Maggie Vessey had one job to do at the U.S. Olympic team trials on Friday, and it wasn’t to win.
It was to advance.
Vessey entered the trials as a top seed for an Olympic spot in the 800-meter race, but to earn a berth an athlete must advance through the preliminaries, then today’s semifinals, then place top three in the final on Monday.
In the preliminary rounds, the top three women in each of four heats automatically advance by place; four more advance by the fastest times of all heats combined.
Vessey was in the same heat as rival and top seed Gina Gall of the Oregon Track Club Elite. With a temperature of 59 degrees and steady rain, Vessey stayed close to Gall’s shoulder through 400 meters, coming through in 1 minute, 1 second to Gall’s 1:00.58.
Coming down the backstretch, Vessey responded to the challenges of the other six women in the heat and would swing wide in the last 150 meters, turning on her speed just enough to ensure a runner-up finish in 2:03.31 to Gall’s winning time of 2:02.96. Margaret Infeld of the New York Athletic Club was third in 2:03.53.
“She executed the race plan beautifully,” coach Rose Monday said. “I didn’t want her to be in third, fourth, or fifth and running wide. In all the other heats [because of the rain] people fell. It’s not her favorite running style, but she did it well.
Monday and Vessey knew Gall could challenge, and Monday gave Vessey instructions
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that “if it comes down to a kicking match, don’t worry about it.
“[Vessey] didn’t need to dig deep,” Monday said, “she just needed to qualify.”
All three women advance to today’s semifinal. Vessey enters the round in the second of two heats, with the first heat scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Vessey was unavailable for comment after the race.
Other results of note include Alysia Montano’s heat win in 2:02.63. A Cal alumna, she entered the trials as a heavy favorite and her time was the fifth-fastest of the day. Additionally, Molly Beckwith, representing Saucony, won the third heat in 2:00.61; Alice Schmidt, representing Nike, took the fourth heat in 2:03.53.
The upset of the day was 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships bronze-medalist Erica Moore who, after being caught in a stumble in the final lap of her race, finished fifth and did not advance. She was ranked second in the event in the U.S.