SABRINA SOUTHERLAND MAKING MOST OF WORLD JUNIORS OPPORTUNITY
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
(Used with permission)
EUGENE, OREGON (22-Jul) -- Sporting the red Team USA vest for the first time at the
IAAF World Junior Championships, Sabrina Southerland was overcome with pride. When she
took to Hayward Field here for the opening round of the women's 800m, the 18-year-old
from New York City had a clear look of determination in her eyes, an aura of confidence
and jubilation glowing from her frame.
"It's amazing. I'm so happy and proud to be representing the USA. It's an honor to represent
my country in my own country," she told Race Results Weekly shortly after placing third in 2:05.84.
"It's been in other countries in past years, and it's barely ever in the U.S., so it's such an honor to be able to compete this year in the U.S. It's just
Taking advantage of the first IAAF World Championships competition hosted in America since 1992 (three years before she was born), Southerland gritted her
teeth around the Bowerman curve and down the homestretch, holding on for third and qualifying herself for Wednesday's semi-final. Southerland was the only
Patriot from Tuesday's middle distance action to advance on to the second round.
For Southerland, the first round was a proving point, a race that validated she could compete with some of the world's best juniors and hold her own. It
was also a learning experience, one that taught her a few valuable lessons.
"I actually didn't hear the gun. I didn't know it was like a computer gun or something. I was just trying to stay with them and secure my position,"
she said with a chuckle. "I didn't know what to expect, but now I know going into the second round. It was a different experience but it was fun."
Over the last three months, Southerland has faced some setbacks. After a fine freshman season at Georgetown University that saw her earn a conference indoor
title and 2:04.21 personal best, Southerland recorded a DNF at the NCAA Division I Eastern Preliminary Round, thus not qualifying her for the all-important
NCAA Championships. At the USA National Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., she finished last in her heat, timing 2:07.48.
Walking through the mixed zone after that race, the often bubbly Southerland looked lost and confused, frustrated and baffled.
Earlier this month at the USA Junior National Championships here in Oregon, Southerland appeared to turn the corner, placing second and qualifying for her
first national team. Making the most of her opportunity here today, Southerland did not let herself get intimidated by those faster than her in the prelim,
including Cuba's Sahily Diago (who owns a personal best of 1:57.74).
"I was just trying to run my best and not worry about anyone else in the field. Just making it to the next round is my goal for right now, until tomorrow,"
Southerland is well aware that a time around 2:01 or 2:02 is likely needed to earn a medal at these championships. That thought doesn't daunt her whatsoever
"I feel like this is the perfect situation for me to run [a personal best]," she said. "I've been in races with girls who have run 1:57 like Brenda Martinez
and Phoebe Wright, and that has kind of prepared me for a different level. I feel like I'm prepared so I just have to run it like any other race."
On Wednesday, Southerland will sport the red USA kit once again, aiming to solidify a spot in Thursday's final. She'll do anything she can to make it to
Thursday, giving her another chance to don USA on her chest.
"I knew there were some great girls out there," she said. "It's like a test for me."
PHOTO: Sabrina Southerland of the United States after here preliminary heat in the 800m at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships
(From the March/April 2016 edition of NER – all photos by Ben Kimball) Wide, peaceful …