NCAA Women’s 800 — Startling Stanford 1–2 Punch

Indoor champion Juliette Whittaker had teammate Roisin Willis right behind her this time. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE DEFENDING CHAMPION qualified very easily in her semi. That would be LSU’s Michaela Rose, who led her SEC runner-up from Arkansas, Sanu Jallow, to the line in 1:59.90. The 20-year-old Tiger junior has had a strong season, and looked capable of threatening both the meet and collegiate bests. The same could be said for the rapidly-improving Jallow.

Also qualifying was ’23 runner-up Gabija Galvydytė (Oklahoma State), with a fast-finishing 2:00.11 PR; NCAA indoor winner Juliette Whittaker (Stanford); her teammate Roisin Willis, the ’23 indoor champion; and promising Harvard frosh Sophia Gorriaran. A tactical victim in the first semi was Clemson’s Gladys Chepngetich, owner of a 1:59.81 at the Regionals.

Gorriaran took command at the break and, with Jallow, led down the first backstretch. Those two were in front at the 200 in 27.0, with everyone else bunched behind them.

Then the pace slowed considerably, and Jallow moved ahead at the 400 in 58.06, with Rose and Whittaker just behind to her outside.

Around the penultimate curve, it was Jallow and Rose, with Whittaker trailing by a few strides. Rose took the lead on the backstretch, followed by Whittaker, Jallow and Hayley Kitching (Penn State). A tight, compact group passed the 600 in 1:28.9. It was anyone’s race at this point.

Around the final curve, Galvydyte moved into 3rd on the outside, and held that position into the stretch as Whittaker eased past Rose. With 50m left, Whittaker was clear, but moving fastest of all out in lane 3, coming from 7th with 150 remaining, was Willis. In the last 15m, she passed Galvydytė, giving Stanford an unexpected 1-2.

Whittaker’s last lap took 61.3, Galvydytė 61.59 and Willis 61.67. Rose, Kitching and Jallow were next across. For the third time in the last four NCAA championship 800s, one of the Stanford duo came up with a victory over the LSU favorite.

Whittaker thus completed an indoor-outdoor double. “It feels really special, to see us both celebrate this one together,” she said. “We see each other working hard every day, so we really get to see firsthand everything the other person is putting into the sport and just trying to keep a balanced life as a runner and a person.”

Reflecting on the race itself, she said, “I was shocked that nobody really wanted to take it out. Maybe it’s because the prelims were fast. I definitely felt it in my legs a lot, and I’m sure others did too, just from two days ago. With the 800, you never really know how it’s going to play out.”


FINAL (June 08)

1. **Juliette Whittaker (Stan) 1:59.61 (58.34/61.27);

2. **Roisin Willis (Stan) 2:00.17 (58.50/61.67);

3. *Gabija Galvydytė’ (OkSt-Lit) 2:00.23 (58.64/61.59);

4. *Michaela Rose (LSU) 2:01.03 (58.22/62.81);

5. **Hayley Kitching’ (PennSt-Aus) 2:01.05 (58.60/62.45);

6. **Sanu Jallow (Ar) 2:01.07 (58.06/63.01);

7. **Aniya Mosley (OhSt) 2:01.23 (58.80/62.43);

8. **Lauren Tolbert (Duke) 2:01.95 (58.42/63.53);

9. ***Sophia Gorriaran (Harv) 2:03.04 (58.27/64.77).

SEMIS (June 06)

I–1. Kitching’ 2:01.47; 2. Tolbert 2:01.79 PR; 3. **Makayla Paige (NC) 2:02.25; 4. ***Gladys Chepngetich’ (Clem-Ken) 2:02.45; 5. **Smilla Kolbe’ (NFl-Ger) 2:03.21; 6. Kate Jendrezak (UCLA) 2:03.42; 7. Sydney Steely (Ky) 2:05.81; 8. Joanna Archer (GCan) 2:06.58.

II–1. Rose 1:59.90; 2. Jallow 2:00.40; 3. Gorriaran 2:00.87; 4. *Victoria Bossong (Harv) 2:01.20; 5. Kelly-Ann Beckford’ (Hous-Jam) 2:01.36; 6. **Makayla Clark (IaSt) 2:01.72 PR; 7. Kelsey Schweizer (Mo) 2:02.39 PR; 8. **Sylvia Chelangat’ (SC-Ken) 2:04.50.

III–1. Whittaker 2:00.09; 2. Galvydytė’ 2:00.11 PR; 3. Willis 2:00.21; 4. Mosley 2:00.80 PR; 5. *Josefine Eriksen’ (Ut-Nor) 2:01.66 PR; 6. **Nora Haugen (StJ) 2:03.47; 7. *Aaliyah Moore’ (Ks-Guy) 2:04.61;… dnc—*Wilma Nielsen’ (Wa-Swe).