By JULIE JAG
LONDON — Alysia Montano saw she had a chance at an Olympic medal in the 800 meters. A blink later, she saw it disappear behind a red-and-green lycra fence.
Montano, a Berkeley runner, got boxed in during the final 200 and couldn’t get out in time to catch winner Mariya Savinova of Russia. Caster Semenya of South Africa and Ekaterina Poistogova of Russia also passed her on their way to Olympic hardware, while Montano finished fifth, just four-tenths of a second off the podium in 1 minute, 57.93 seconds.
“It’s been such a long road to get here. It feels like it took forever and now it’s here and it’s gone. I wanted a medal,” a teary-eyed Montano said after the race. “You don’t just train for four years or for a year, you train your whole life. I went out there and fell short.
“I see myself making little errors and I saw that in the last 200. I kind of got stuck and that was the difference between a medal for me.”
Montano stuck to her typical style of leading early in the race, and she held on until midway through the second of two laps, when 2008 Olympic champion Pamelo Jelimo of Kenya passed her. The rest of the pack was gaining on her with 200 meters to go, and she knew it was time to sprint. But she was on the far inside of the turn and Semenya was on her shoulder and Elena Arzhakova of Russia ahead of her. She had no place to go.
“By the time everything opened up – those girls aren’t scrubs, you know — they were gone and I was just chasing after that,” said Montano, 26.
Montano qualified fourth for the race out of the semifinals and had the fifth fastest personal best time in the field. Semenya entered with the fastest time. She was competing in her first Olympics after being sidelined for nearly a year after being forced to undergo gender tests after shattering the year’s best mark in 2009. That mark previously had been held by Soquel’s Maggie Vessey.
“We all know each other. We all met in 2009. I knew how they would run,” said Semenya, 21. “The main thing was for me to run my own race. I just listened to my own coach and tried to do my best.”
Semenya got off to a rocky start as Montano set a wicked pace early. She recovered, however, to blaze down the straightaway, passing two runners on her way to second in 1:57.23. The winning time for Savinova, the 2011 world champion, was 1:56.19.
“Eight-hundred metres is such a tactical event. You have to be very smart to run the event. It’s compared with chess playing,” she said.“You have to think fast about which step has to be done, where you have to finish or delay the finish.”
Montano missed the Olympics four years ago, when she broke her foot during the semifinals. This year, she won the trials, beating out Soquel’s Maggie Vessey, who had a disappointing race and finished eighth after entering as a favorite to finish among the top three and qualify for the Olympic team.
“It’s been different for me,” said Montano, who had to use her elbow to keep from getting pushed off the track during the final turn. “In the United States, our women aren’t as aggressive.”
Though Montano was clearly upset at her result, it did nothing to deter her from shooting for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“There’s no giving up, that’s not part of my DNA,” she said. “I went out there and I fought.”
Magdelena Lewy-Boulet, the Oakland runner who won last year’s Wharf to Wharf race, advanced out of the semifinals of the women’s 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials on Monday. The top six in each of two heats advanced. The top three in the final will make the the Olympic team.
Lewy-Boulet previously reached the Olympics in the marathon in 2008 but did not finish the race due to injury.
Soquel’s Maggie Vessey, who is attempting to reach her first Olympics, will race in the 800 final in a few minutes.
Aptos’ Nikki Hiltz (1) crosses the finish line while competing in the Girls 1600 Meter Run during the finals of the 2012 CIF State Track & Field Championships at Veterans Memorial Stadium at Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif. on Saturday, June 2, 2012. Hiltz would place first with a time of 4:42.45. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Staff)
Nikki Hiltz dominated the California state track meet last week; today she may do the same against an international field in the Dream Mile at the adidas Grand Prix in New York City.
The Aptos High junior last week won just the fifth state track title in Santa Cruz County history when she cruised through the 1,600 meters in 4 minutes, 41.93 seconds — the third fastest time in the nation this season. That gives her the fastest personal-best of any of the 14 girls on the start list for today’s 11:30 a.m. race. The second-fastest is the 4:42.71 held by Harvard-Westlake senior Cami Chapus, who placed fifth at state.
Hiltz won’t be the only county runner competing at the Grand Prix. Olympic hopeful Maggie Vessey of Soquel is scheduled to run the 800 at 12:23 p.m. Vessey holds the fourth-fastest time this season [2:00.19] and second-best PR time [1:57.84] in the eight-woman field behind Ethiopia’s Fantu Magiso [1:57.56].
Categories: Maggie Vessey, Olympic Preparation, Olympics, Photos, Running, Track & Field Events
Tags: 1600 meters, 800 meters, adidas Grand Prix, Aptos, Dream Mile, Nikki HIltz, Soquel
The 38th annual Prefontaine Classic will be held June 2-3 in Eugene, Ore. Soquel’s own Maggie Vessey, an Olympic hopeful, is among the entrants to race in the women’s 800 meters on Friday, June 2. Here’s part of an IAAF.org press release on the event:
The women’s 800 metres brings together an elite field led by two world-class Americans who are the fastest since the turn of the century in Alysia Montano and Maggie Vessey.
Both Montano and Vessey were finalists at last year’s World Championships in Daegu. Montano was just out of the medals in fourth and Vessey a stride back in sixth. Montano, a three-time U.S. champion who earned bronze at the 2010 World Indoor Championships, has a best of 1:57.34, making her the fifth-fastest in U.S. history. Vessey, with a best of 1:57.84, is not far behind as the eighth-fastest American.
Several others with Olympic dreams are entered, including one attempting to repeat past success. Last year’s 3rd-ranked American Alice Schmidt is a veteran of the 2008 Olympics as well as three World Championships. Among those in the field are American Erica Moore, bronze medalist at this year’s World Indoor Championships, and Ethiopian Fantu Magiso Manedo, a 19-year-old who finished fourth at this year’s World Indoor Championships. Two other key entrants are Molly Beckwith, winner of the Penn Relays mile last week, and past NCAA champions Phoebe Wright and Geena Gall.