Olympic Trials Women’s 800 — Another Junior Record For Athing Mu

Her PR was 2:01.17 when the year began: now Athing Mu is down all the way to 1:56.07. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE HIGHLY ANTICIPATED 2-LAPPER presented intriguing elements: a young upstart versus proven veterans, and steam-bath conditions prompting race-plan revisions.

It took 2:01.31 or better to advance to the semis, with Rio 1500 semifinalist Brenda Martinez the only notable first-round casualty. Chanelle Price (1:59.86) produced the only sub-2:00 clocking. Nascent professional Athing Mu won her heat in 2:00.69. Still racing well within herself, Mu led the semis at 1:59.31, the No. 4 American Junior performance ever.

Mid-afternoon on the meet’s final day with temperatures soaring, the final’s start was postponed by some 5 hours to allow competition in the gloaming.

In the delayed final held under the lights, Price went right to the front at the opening gun followed closely by Ajee’ Wilson. A backstretch jostle knocked Nia Akins down. The others, bunched, followed Price, who clocked 27.32 for the first 200. Leading the chase pack was Wilson (27.46), with Mu next at 27.54.

Approaching the bell, Mu moved up right behind Price, who split the first lap in a spritely 57.44, with the favored Mu (57.53) and Wilson (57.63) still in close attendance, followed by Hanna Green and defending OT champ Kate Grace.

On the backstretch, Mu opened up her long stride and smoothly moved into the lead, speeding by 600m in 1:27.58 with Price (1:27.75) and Grace (1:27.83) still in hot pursuit. Green (1:27.93) had slipped just ahead of Wilson (1:27.96) and fan favorite Raevyn Rogers (1:28.00).

But then it happened. With 150m to go, Mu unleashed a finishing surge the others lacked. Mu separated from the others quickly as she spun onto the homestretch and raced unchallenged to the line, crossing in a world-leading 1:56.07 that just missed Wilson’s national record of 1:55.61. The time did break her own American Junior Record.

The fast-closing Rogers (1:57.76) moved from 6th to 2nd over the final furlong while Wilson (1:58.39) rallied from 5th to cross 3rd, grabbing the final Olympic berth.

Reflecting on the race the winner said, “After Chanelle led the first quarter, the next 200 I wanted to get my place because it was going to be a fast race. The last 200 I wanted to go and the last 100 I wanted to give it all I had.”

But the 19-year-old NCAA 400 champ acknowledges there is additional work to do. “I wouldn’t call myself dominant yet,” she said. “This is my first year coming out here running to my potential. My confidence takes a lot from it. In 2019, I wasn’t confident. I was good enough, just not confident. Gaining confidence has contributed to my dominance thus far in the 800 — being good at it, knowing it’s my event.”

The jubilant Rogers, whose trophy cabinet already holds the ’19 WC silver medal, could not yet grasp her new Olympian status. “I feel like it hasn’t settled in, to actually process being an Olympian,” she said. “It is something I’ve worked extremely hard for. I still can’t believe that I am an Olympian.”

Wilson shared her thoughts on racing from behind, saying, “I’m not used to being in that position in the last turn. I have to find a way to get it done, measure my effort. I am glad to have gotten it right. I’m thankful I made this team. I was super emotional after the race. Super relieved. I know I’m not in a terrible place. I have some time to get it together.”

WOMEN’S 800 RESULTS

(June 27)

1. Athing Mu (Nik) 1:56.07 AJR (old AJR 1:57.73 Mu [TxAM] ’21) (WL, AL) (2, 2 A; 3, 10 WJ)

(27.54, 29.99 [57.53], 30.05 [1:27.58], 28.49) (57.73/58.54);

2. Raevyn Rogers (Nik) 1:57.66 PR (9, x A)

(27.66, 30.22 [57.88], 30.12 [1:28.00], 29.66) (57.88/59.78);

3. Ajee’ Wilson (adi) 1:58.39

(27.46, 30.17 [57.63], 30.33 [1:27.96], 30.43) (57.63/60.76);

4. Michaela Meyer (Va) 1:58.55

(27.74, 30.30 [58.04], 30.17 [1:28.21], 30.34) (58.04/60.51);

5. Chanelle Price (NikOTC) 1:58.73

(27.32, 30.12 [57.44], 30.31 [1:27.75], 30.98) (57.44/61.29);

6. Allie Wilson (AtlTC) 1:59.02

(27.86, 30.14 [58.00], 30.25 [1:28.25], 30.77) (58.00/61.02);

7. Kate Grace (Nik) 1:59.17

(27.70, 30.07 [57.77], 30.06 [1:27.83], 31.34) (57.77/61.40);

8. Hanna Green (NikOTC) 1:59.55

(27.61, 30.12 [57.73], 30.20 [1:27.93], 31.62) (57.73/61.82);

9. Nia Akins (BrkB) 2:12.87 (fell)

(31.14, 30.58 [61.72], 32.43 [1:34.15], 38.72) (61.72/71.15)

HEATS (June 24)

I–1. Price 1:59.86; 2. Sage Hurta (OnAC) 2:00.08 PR; 3. Juliette Whittaker (MdHS) 2:01.21; 4. Amber Tanner (Ga) 2:01.53; 5. Laurie Barton (Clem) 2:02.54; 6. Brooke Feldmeier (adi) 2:03.10; 7. Michelle Howell (UArm) 2:06.70.

II–1. Mu 2:00.69; 2. Green 2:00.79; 3. Helen Schlachtenhaufen (Sauc) 2:01.05 PR; 4. Nikki Hiltz (adi) 2:01.42; 5. Dana Mecke (TracksmCSTC) 2:02.36; 6. Brenda Martinez (NBal) 2:02.72; 7. Brenna Detra (BAA) 2:03.45; 8. Sammy Watson (adi) 2:03.83; 9. Olicia Williams (Caden&M) 2:04.38.

III–1. Aj. Wilson 2:00.55; 2. Al. Wilson 2:00.71; 3. Meyer 2:00.75; 4. Roisin Willis (WiHS) 2:01.27; 5. Julia Rizk (unat) 2:01.31; 6. Sarah Hendrick (Kenn) 2:04.15; 7. Claire Seymour (BYU) 2:06.67; 8. Lauren Johnson (unat) 2:08.12; 9. Skylyn Webb (Sauc) 2:13.02.

IV–1. Sabrina Southerland (OTC) 2:00.85; 2. Rebecca Mehra (OisLWA) 2:01.42; 3. Sadi Henderson (OisLWA) 2:02.40; 4. Kendra Chambers (OisTxEl) 2:02.73; 5. Avi’ Tal Wilson-Perteete (UNLV) 2:03.06; 6. Sinclaire Johnson (NikBowTC) 2:04.05; 7. Lauren Barnes (BYU) 2:05.59; 8. Kaela Edwards (adi) 2:05.92; 9. Angel Piccirillo (OisLWA) 2:06.95.

V–1. Rogers 2:00.75; 2. Grace 2:00.81; 3. Akins 2:00.82; 4. Sophia Gorriaran (RIHS) 2:02.26 PR; 5. Aaliyah Miller (Bay) 2:03.27; 6. Olivia Baker (GSTCNBal) 2:03.33; 7. McKenna Keegan (Vill) 2:03.81; 8. Emily Richards (Hoka) 2:03.88.

SEMIS (June 25)

I–1. Mu 1:59.31 (x, 4 AJ);

2. Grace 1:59.43; 3. Price 1:59.90; 4. Green 2:01.19 (advanced on appeal); 5. Mehra 2:01.33; 6. Schlachtenhaufen 2:01.85; 7. Willis 2:03.99;… dnf—Hurta.

II–1. Aj. Wilson 1:59.49; 2. Rogers 1:59.66; 3. Al. Wilson 1:59.94; 4. Meyer 2:01.06; 5. Akins 2:01.09; 6. Whittaker 2:01.30; 7. Southerland 2:05.61; 8. Rizk 2:07.77.

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