THIS WAS A fascinating event, made more so by the status of the last two WC gold medalists, both Americans. Reigning world champ Phyllis Francis simply had to compete in Des Moines to be eligible for her Doha Wild Card, but she didn’t have to run the 400, and she chose instead to run the 200.
The ’15 world champ—and 3-time 200 world champ—Allyson Felix would normally have been a shoo-in for another high finish in whatever event she chose to run. But this was not a normal year for her. Last November, she gave birth to her first baby by C-section and she had not competed since then. Her return to the track here gave rise to much publicity across the spectrum, some generated by her posting on social media.
“Today I’ll step on the starting line for the first time in over a year,” she wrote. “It might sound cliché, but making it there is a huge victory. There were a lot of days I wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. I worked harder than I even knew I could. There were tears, frustration and doubt. At times, it felt like everything was against me. So today, I’m far from my best, but I’m grateful for this opportunity and to experience the joy of competing again.” Her Instagram post had more than 70,000 likes (and counting) and her quotes were picked up by People, USA Today and other mainstream media. (Continued below)
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today i’ll step on the starting line for the first time in over a year. it might sound cliche, but making it there for me is a huge victory • almost 8 months ago this was my entire world. staying in the NICU all day & night watching my baby girl fight. i can still hear the beeping and alarms of the machines. the uncertainty. the fear • there were a lot of days i wasn’t sure this was going to be possible. i worked harder than i even knew i could. there were tears, frustration and doubt. at times it felt like everything was against me • so today i’m far from my best, but i’m grateful for this opportunity and to experience the joy of competing again • more than anything i thank God we are healthy.
On the track Felix started off rusty. In her heat, with 3 automatic qualifiers, she finished 4th but ran 52.20 and made it to the second round only as a time qualifier. She seemed much sharper in her semi, taking 3rd in 51.45 to advance to the final, where she ran 51.94 and finished 6th, exactly the position predicted in our formchart. That put her in a position to be named to one of the WC relay teams.
“I knew that it was a less-than-ideal situation for me,” she said. “But being in this environment and being back in the final, it kind of gets the juices flowing. It’s going to be a lot easier going into next year and getting a full year of training.”
The almost-ignored winner was defending champion Shakima Wimbley, who was not on the U.S. top-10 list going into the meet but who dominated the entire event in Des Moines. She was the fastest heat winner (50.87) and ran the fastest semi (50.20).
She then led the final from start to finish, winning comfortably in 50.21. She was drawn in lane 6, with Felix (3), Ellis (4) and Wadeline Jonathas (5) on her inside and Courtney Okolo (7) directly outside. Wimbley was clearly in the lead at the halfway point (23.7 vs. 24.0 for Ellis and 24.1 for Jonathas, with Felix clearly out of it at 24.9) and maintained that gap around the curve. In the stretch she lost two 10ths to Ellis (50.38) and Jonathas (50.44 PR) but the outcome was never in doubt.
“She finally trusted in herself and executed at the right points and showed in a race what she has been doing in training,” coach Lance Brauman told Reuters.
For her part, Wimbley, too, was on the praise-Felix bandwagon, saying, “She probably thinks I’m crazy. I’m obsessed with her; I love her. Just seeing what she did here today is amazing.”
USATF WOMEN’S 400 RESULTS
1. Shakima Wimbley (adi) 50.21
(23.7, 12.7 [36.4], 13.8) (23.7/26.5);
2. Kendall Ellis (NBal) 50.38
24.0, 12.8 [36.8], 13.7) (24.1/26.3);
3. Wadeline Jonathas (SC) 50.44 PR
(24.1, 12.7 [36.8], 13.6) (24.1/26.3);
4. Courtney Okolo (Nik) 50.86
(24.2, 12.6 [36.8], 14.1) (24.2/26.7);
5. Jessica Beard (adi) 51.28;
6. Allyson Felix (unat) 51.94
(24.9, 13.1 [38.0], 13.9) (24.9/27.0);
7. Briyahna DesRosiers (Or) 52.36;
8. Jasmine Blocker (Ois) 52.53.
1. DesRosiers; 2. Blocker; 3. Felix; 4. Ellis; 5. Jonathas; 6. Wimbley; 7. Okolo; 8. Beard
Felix 0.185; Blocker 0.198; Ellis 0.205; Wimbley 0.210; Jonathas 0.220; DesRosiers 0.230; Okolo 0.238; Beard 0.281
I–1. Lynna Irby (adi) 51.14; 2. Kaylin Whitney (Nik) 52.02 PR; 3. DesRosiers 52.02; 4. Felix 52.20; 5. Brionna Thomas (unat) 53.04; 6. Asha Ruth (NBCPTC) 53.25.
II–1. Wimbley 50.87; 2. Okolo 51.10; 3. Joanna Atkins (unat) 51.60; 4. Chloe Abbott (Ky) 52.56; 5. Shatajah Maximin (unat) 53.99.
III–1. Blocker 51.62; 2. Jaide Stepter (unat) 51.70; 3. Beard 52.25; 4. Tatum Waggoner (Az) 53.01; 5. Felecia Majors (unat) 53.45; 6. Aaliah Birmingham (OkSt) 54.18.
IV–1. Jonathas 51.16; 2. Ellis 51.29; 3. Venessa D’Arpino (Or) 52.97; 4. Jordan Lavender (unat) 54.59;… dnf—Makenzie Dunmore (Or);… dq—Stephanie Davis (SC).
I–1. Ellis 50.81; 2. Jonathas 50.81; 3. Beard 51.89; 4. DesRosiers 52.02; 5. Irby 52.12; 6. Stepter 52.35; 7. Waggoner 53.06; 8. Abbott 53.19.
II–1. Wimbley 50.20; 2. Okolo 50.94; 3. Felix 51.45; 4. Blocker 51.58; 5. Atkins 51.71; 6. Whitney 52.02 =PR; 7. Thomas 53.07; 8. D’Arpino 53.11. ◻︎