NCAA Women’s 800 — Teenager Watson Doesn’t Panic

“Whenever I panic, that is when I fold,” said A&M’s Sammy Watson. (MIKE SCOTT)

After her decisive victory indoors and PR 2:00.72 outdoors, Oregon senior Sabrina Southerland, 22, was the clear favorite. Instead, it was 18-year-old yearling Texas A&M frosh Sammy Watson, the No. 2 choice, who prevailed.

A&M’s Jazmine Fray, a frontrunner who had won her semi wire-to-wire in impressive fashion, took the tightly bunched field through a 60.89 first 400 as everyone was battling the conditions. Southerland (61.03) stood 3rd on the inside, a foot behind, and as the runners hit the backstretch, she had trouble finding a clear lane, while Villanova’s Síofra Cléirigh-Büttner (60.99) and Watson (61.08) moved to the front.

Cléirigh-Büttner had a clear advantage at the head of the homestraight, but Watson quickly moved past. “I was thinking, ‘Just pump your arms. Don’t panic,’” Watson said. “Whenever I panic, that is when I fold.”

With 50 left, unrated Abike Egbenyi of Middle Tennessee had broken free and with every step was gaining on Watson, but she ran out of territory, Watson winning by a yard, 2:04.21–2:04.33. Ashley Taylor of Northern Arizona finished strongly for 3rd (2:05.01), while Cléirigh-Büttner (2:05.73) faded to 4th and Southerland (2:06.99) was never a factor, finishing 7th in her final college race. Fray (2:07.34) fell back to 8th.

Said Watson, who became not only A&M’s first winner in the event ever, but also the Aggies’ first scorer, period, “I wanted this bad; I wanted this since I got here. Hopefully, there is more in store the next couple of years.”

Another first-year collegian, Avi’ Tal Wilson-Perteete, made NCAA history by running the fastest non-qualifier in meet annals with her 2:03.53. The UNLV frosh was just a 2:12.04 performer last year, although she did run 2:09.31 as a soph back in ’15.


NCAA WOMEN’S 800 RESULTS

FINAL (June 09)

1. ***Sammy Watson (TxAM) 2:04.21

(61.08/63.13) (16.0, 31.4);

2. *Abike Egbeniyi’ (MTn) 2:04.33

(61.19/63.14) (16.0, 31.3);

3. Ashley Taylor’ (NnAz) 2:05.01

(61.36/63.65) (15.9, 31.7);

4. Síofra Cléirigh-Büttner’ (Vill) 2:05.73

(60.99/64.74) (17.5, 33.0);

5. Olivia Baker (Stan) 2:06.18

(61.48/64.70) (16.7, 32.9);

6. **Martha Bissah’ (Norf) 2:06.79

(61.25/65.54) (17.4, 33.6);

7. Sabrina Southerland (Or) 2:06.99

(61.03/65.96)(17.7, 34.1);

8. *Jazmine Fray’ (TxAM) 2:07.34

(60.89/66.45) (18.2, 34.6).

SEMIS (June 07)

I–1. Southerland 2:02.96; 2. Egbeniyi’ 2:03.18;

3. ***Avi’ Tal Wilson-Perteete (UNLV) 2:03.53 (fastest NCAA non-qualifier ever);

4. Alethia Marrero’ (AzSt) 2:04.56; 5. Michelle Howell (Jack) 2:06.34; 6. **Nia Akins (Penn) 2:07.26; 7. ***Kristie Schoffield (Boise) 2:07.66; 8. *Sadi Henderson (Boise) 2:08.30.

II–1. Fray’ 2:02.55; 2. Watson 2:02.65; 3. Baker 2:02.76; 4. Cléirigh-Büttner’ 2:03.11;

5. Heather MacLean (MaA) 2:03.61; 6. ***Kamryn McIntosh (Clem) 2:03.73 PR; 7. Allie Wilson (Monm) 2:05.55; 8. **McKenna Keegan (Vill) 2:07.39.

III–1. Taylor’ 2:05.65; 2. Bissah’ 2:06.17;

3. *Jasmine Staebler (IaSt) 2:06.29; 4. *Susan Aneno’ (Ct) 2:06.58; 5. **Elissa Mann (Co) 2:06.73; 6. Fellan Ferguson’ (Clem) 2:06.74; 7. ***Aaliyah Miller (Bay) 2:08.33; 8. **Laurie Barton (VaT) 2:09.00. □

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