NCAA Women’s 1500 — Harvard’s First Title

Kiwi soph Maia Ramsden had the requisite wheels when the race broke open in the final stretch. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

BY THE END of the first backstretch, NC State’s Katelyn Tuohy was in the lead, full of confidence as she quickly strung out the field. Only Olivia Howell of Illinois, the indoor champion, Oregon’s Izzy Thornton-Bott, whose mother had flown all the way from Australia to cheer on her daughter, and Shannon Flockhart of Providence, the sole returning scorer from a year ago, went with her.

Tuohy hit 400 in 64 as she began to gap the field. Rounding the turn heading to the 800 mark, at 2:11, her lead had grown to 20m — with Thornton-Bott and Oklahoma State’s Billah Jepkirui comprising a small chase pack.

Would Tuohy — who was planning a rigorous 15/5K double and who had formidable credentials — now run away with it?

As probably the deepest field in the race’s history — with the slowest PR Jepkirui’s 4:12.39 —entered the second half of the race things began to change.

Thornton-Bott broke away and went after Tuohy, who surely heard footsteps as the Aussie was now on her shoulder. At the bell Tuohy led at 2:03.95, but her pace had slowed slightly to 68 while the others behind her were gaining momentum. The race had just begun.

Howell and Flockhart had drifted back as the lead group became Tuohy, Thornton-Bott, Jepkirui, Virginia’s favored Margot Appleton and, moving up rapidly on the outside in the all-black of Harvard, a soph from New Zealand, Maia Ramsden.

Around the final turn, Tuohy was holding on but grimacing, and as Thornton-Bott began to take the lead, she herself was passed by Ramsden, who suddenly was flying free down the straightaway. The race was settled and Ramsden crossed the line 0.61 ahead of Thornton-Bott in a career best 4:08.60.

Another Oregon Duck, Klaudia Kazimierska, closed well for 4th while Tuohy, her frontrunning strategy doomed, faded to a forlorn 7th.

“After watching my teammate, Graham Blanks, get 2nd last night in the 5K — he’s such a gutsy runner — I thought, ‘Oh, I can do this, too,’” said the 21-year-old Ramsden, after becoming Harvard’s first 1500 champion.

“Last year [when she finished 10th] I was so nervous. I didn’t have the goals and dream. This year I worked on trying to have fun with it a little more. I love racing. It’s exhilarating.”

Ramsden has a remarkable background. She was chosen MVP of the track team at her high school, the International Community School of Addis Ababa, where her family lived; her father, Mark, is her homeland’s envoy to the African Union. In middle school she was the Under-16 secondary school champion in Fiji, where her father – a Harvard alum himself — was ambassador.

Of the 8 who began the meet with PRs of 4:08 or better, 2 were unable to make the final, a testament to the rapid development of the distances in college today.

The final produced PRs for Jepkirui, Flockhart and the champion, who broke 4:10 for the first time in the semis, then improved on that to take the title.


FINAL (June 10)

1. **Maia Ramsden’ (Harv-NZ) 4:08.60 (9, 9 NCAA)

(63.27, 2:10.81, 3:19.52) (49.08, 68.71 [1:57.79], 67.54 [3:05.33], 63.27);

2. *Izzy Thornton-Bott’ (Or-Aus) 4:09.21 (10, x NCAA)

(64.98, 2:13.10, 3:20.70);

3. **Margot Appleton (Va) 4:09.30 (64.17, 2:11.80, 3:19.91);

4. ***Klaudia Kazimierska’ (Or-Pol) 4:09.84 (64.27, 2:11.61, 3:20.04);

5. ***Billah Jepkirui’ (OkSt-Ken) 4:10.17 (65.19, 2:13.29, 3:20.95);

6. **Shannon Flockhart’ (Prov-GB) 4:10.78 (64.58, 2:13.30, 3:21.93);

7. **Katelyn Tuohy (NCSt) 4:11.40 (67.45, 2:16.12, 3:23.50);

8. *Olivia Howell (Il) 4:11.54 (64.31, 2:15.67, 3:23.37);

9. Abbe Goldstein (NM) 4:11.86 (65.74, 2:14.63, 3:22.31);

10. ***Maddy Elmore (Or) 4:12.70 (66.94, 2:14.77, 3:23.05);

11. **Melissa Riggins (Gtn) 4:16.57 (69.28, 2:18.03, 3:27.23);

12. **Sophie O’Sullivan’ (Wa-Ire) 4:22.81 (73.14, 2:24.60, 3:33.72).

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA place: 6)

SEMIS (June 08)

I–1. O’Sullivan’ 4:09.58; 2. Ramsden’ 4:09.81; 3. Appleton 4:09.83; 4. Tuohy 4:09.83; 5. Kazimierska’ 4:09.84; 6. Goldstein 4:10.81; 7. Elmore 4:11.49; 8. *Simone Plourde’ (Ut-Can) 4:11.91 (fastest non-Q ever); 9. **Kimberley May’ (Prov-NZ) 4:13.14; 10. *Lauren Freeland (MiSt) 4:14.84; 11. Gabrielle Wilkinson (Fl) 4:17.10; 12. **Mia Barnett (UCLA) 4:25.21.

(best-ever mark-for-NCAA place: 5)

II–1. Jepkirui’ 4:17.76; 2. Howell 4:18.24; 3. Flockhart’ 4:18.28; 4. Thornton-Bott’ 4:18.30; 5. Riggins 4:18.46; 6. Anna Gibson (Wa) 4:19.58; 7. **Amina Maatoug’ (Duke-Neth) 4:19.59; 8. *Laura Pellicoro’ (Port-Ita) 4:21.31; 9. *Rylee Penn (Cinc) 4:23.34; 10. *Tiana Lostracco’ (Brad-Can) 4:23.60; 11. *Flomena Asekol’ (Al-Ken) 4:23.90; 12. **Şilan Ayyıldız’ (SC-Tur) 4:26.58.