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Wilson Wins Fast 800 to Conclude US Champs

WILSON CLAIMS FAST WOMEN’S 800m TO CONCLUDE USA CHAMPIONSHIPS
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom and David Monti @d9Monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

SACRAMENTO
(29-Jun) — The 2014 USA National Championships came to a fast
conclusion here at Hornet Stadium, as three women dipped under the
two-minute barrier for 800m, led by 20-year-old Ajee’ Wilson. The
Neptune, N.J., native claimed her first national outdoor crown with a
time of 1:58.70, separating from recent University of Oregon graduate
Laura Roesler in the final stretch.

Taking the lead from the
start was Saucony’s Molly Beckwith, who brought the field through a
fast opening 400 meters in 57.75 seconds. Trailing Beckwith was IAAF
World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez, with Wilson a step
behind. Sitting back in fifth was Roesler, the 800m NCAA Champion both
indoors and out.

“I wanted to run fast,” Beckwith told
reporters. “I wanted them, if they were going to beat me, I wanted to
run under two minutes.”

Hearing the opening 400 meter split,
Wilson was a surprised and a bit nervous. Yet, showing the acuity of an
experienced racer, she quickly reassured herself.

“I’m like,
‘OK, don’t think about that, just go. You’ve got the strength, you’ve
got the endurance for it, you’ve been working really hard on being able
to come through and still keep going,'” said Wilson. “I just tuned out
the time and decided to keep going.”

Moving into the lead with
300 meters to go, Wilson made her claim for the win with authority. As
soon as she went to the front, Roesler began a move of her own, surging
from fifth to second in the span of 200 meters.

Rounding the
final bend, Wilson was ready to unleash the same finishing kick that
earned her titles at both the 2013 and 2014 USA Indoor Championships.
Although Roesler put up a good fight, it was no match for Wilson’s
final gear, as the Temple University student powered home in 1:58.70.
Roesler finished strong in second, breaking 2:00 for the first time
with a 1:59.04 mark.

“I knew most of the girls in the race had
a strong kick, but I used the big screen and looked up,” said Wilson,
referring to Hornet Stadium’s video board. “I was peeking up and seeing
how close people were. Yeah, luckily that was right there!”

For
Roesler, the sub-2:00 clocking was very meaningful. She has not yet
signed with a shoe company, though has partnered with Pace Sports
Management, an athlete representation group led by Ricky Simms. Running
1:59.04 will likely open up more doors for potential endorsements and
entries into European meets.

“I was pretty sure that no matter
the race, I was going to run under two minutes today,” she said. “This
race might have thrown a little bit of a wrench in my plans in a good
way. I’ll just have to see.”

Passing Brenda Martinez with less
than 100 meters to go was Beckwith and Maggie Vessey, who finished
third (1:59.04) and fourth (2:00.17), respectively. Martinez would come
across fifth in 2:00.18.

“The girls are just tough. I just
didn’t have it the last 100,” said Martinez, visibly frustrated and
disappointed. “They just went around us and had more.”

SOLOMON REPEATS AS MEN’S 800M CHAMPION

In
the men’s two-lap contest, Duane Solomon was given strict orders by
coach and American record holder Johnny Gray to hit splits of 49
seconds and 1:15 for 400 and 600 meters, respectively. The 2012
Olympian did just that, leading wire to wire to win his second straight
national title in 1:44.30.

“I did exactly what I wanted to do
and just tried to maintain the whole way through,” said Solomon,
sporting his gold medal. “The whole thing with me was just to do the
pace coach wanted me to do.”

Solomon’s only challenge came from
Casimir Loxsom, who hung tough through 400 meters before fading in the
final lap. Finishing second in 1:45.97, Loxsom was thrilled with the
silver medal.

“This is one of the best track and field moments
of my career so far. I’m really happy with it,” said Loxsom, a member
of the Brooks Beasts.

Solomon and Loxsom’s front running style
helped the pair avoid a race-altering fall by Charles Jock. Roughly 250
meters into the race, Jock’s feet tangled with another competitor,
causing him to trip and crash to the track. The fall disrupted everyone
but Solomon and Loxsom, creating a large gap between front and chase
packs.

“It kind of sucks that I couldn’t finish the race
because of something out of my control,” said Jock, who fell hard on
his hip and shoulder. “Somebody clipped me from behind and I tried to
stay up and I just couldn’t get my balance.”

“That’s why I stay
out in the front because anything can happen in the back. I knew there
was some jostling back there. I could hear it,” said Solomon.

SIMPSON WINS FIRST NATIONAL OUTDOOR 1500M TITLE

In
the women’s 1500m, two-time world championships medalist Jenny Simpson
finally won her first USA outdoor 1500m title. Controlling the entire
race, mostly from the front, Simpson got a clear victory over junior
sensation Mary Cain, 4:04.96 to 4:06.34. Katie Mackey got third in
4:07.70, her first podium finish at a national track championships.

“First one, and it feels really, really good,” a smiling Simpson told reporters.

Simpson
had hoped that another athlete would take the race out hard, but when
she saw that the early pace was soft, she decided simply to take over.

“When
we went through the first 300, when I looked at the clock and I
thought, this is slow,” Simpson said. “No one really wanted to take it.
So, I thought, everyone expects me to go to the front and I feel good
doing that, and why not?”

Simpson got her biggest challenge
from Cain, who got into good position behind her, but was simply too
far back to mount a challenge in the homestretch.

“I was really
trying to save it for more like the last 200, 100,” Cain explained.
“So, when she (Simpson) started to go, I just tried to stay on Katie as
much as possible.” She continued: “I think I gave her too much of a
gap.”

Simpson has now won a total of eight national titles
since 2007 at 1500m (both indoors and outdoors), 3000m indoors, 5000m,
and the steeplechase.

THIRD STRAIGHT STEEPLE TITLE FOR JAGER

Like
Simpson, Evan Jager was a heavy favorite in the men’s 3000m
steeplechase. But the Bowerman Track Club athlete, who came into
today’s meet as a two-time defending champion, got his biggest
challenge from his training partner, Dan Huling, the 2010 national
champion.

Five minutes into the race, Huling took the lead.
Jager stayed close, then re-took the lead heading into the last lap.
Huling hustled to catch him him on the backstretch, but ran into some
trouble.

“Should have passed him with 220 to go,” Huling
lamented. “I had a bad barrier and an even worse water jump. So, I’ve
got to figure that out.”

Jager accelerated out of the final
water jump, then sprinted the homestretch to win in a solid 8:18.83 to
Huling’s 8:19.73. Olympian Donn Cabral was a clear third in 8:20.04
over Cory Leslie (8:26.30).

“I knew going into this he was
really fit,” Jager said of Huling. “He’s had two incredible races so
far this year.” He continued: “I was definitely looking out for him the
whole race.”

Jager, 25, is quickly developing into America’s
best-ever steeplechaser. In addition to his three national titles, he
has the top-4 times ever run by an American, including the national
record of 8:06.81. In the 2012 Olympic Games, he finished sixth, and he
was fifth at last summer’s IAAF World Championships.

When asked if he was in the best shape of his life, he responded: “Yeah, pretty close to it.”

# # # # #

The
2015 USA Outdoor Championships will be held at the Hayward Field at the
University of Oregon in Eugene, as will the 2016 USA Olympic Trials.

PHOTO:
Ajee’ Wilson (r) leads Laura Roesler (center), Brenda Martinez (black
top) and Molly Beckwith on her way to winning the 2014 USA Outdoor
Championships 800m title in 1:58.70 (photo by David Monti for Race
Results Weekly)

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