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Posted: June 28, 2009  :

(RRW) Athletics: Top Women All Smiles After 1500M Final

From David Monti

© 2009 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

EUGENE (28-Jun) -- Sometimes it's possible for a race to have more than one winner, like in yesterday's women's 1500m final at the USA Outdoor Championships here.

The big winner was Shannon Rowbury. The 24 year-old from San Francisco, who was seventh at last summer's Beijing Olympics, defended her national title by running a sizzling 60.3 seconds for her final 400m to catch a breakaway bid for victory by Christin Wurth-Thomas. Rowbury clocked 4:05.07 to Wurth-Thomas's 4:06.00, impressive times considering they ran the first lap in about 68 seconds.

"We've really worked on sharpening the last few weeks," a visibly excited Rowbury explained. "It's one thing to practice it, but another to actually have it happen (in a race)."

Wurth-Thomas, who ran to a 4:03.96 win in a similar front-running move at the Reebok Grand Prix last month, became impatient with the slow pace, and surged less than half-way through the race. She quickly built up a five second lead, a lead that stuck nearly to the finish line.

"You know, I went for it," said a smiling Wurth-Thomas who clearly felt great about being able to assert herself in such a big meet. "That was the way I wanted to run the race."

Rowbury didn't react quickly to Wurth-Thomas's move, but waited until the last circuit to shift to full power. Her back as straight as an I-beam and showing perfect form, Rowbury glided up to top speed and caught Wurth-Thomas just before the finish.

"I was not sure I could close it," she said of the wide gap to Wurth-Thomas. "By the time I hit 400 (to go) I said I better be the one to close it."

Both with IAAF "A" standard times in their pockets, Rowbury and Wurth-Thomas are qualified for Berlin, which brings us to our third winner, Anna Willard.

Willard, the Olympic steeplechaser with a 9:22.76 personal best, completed the first leg of her double at this meet by finishing third in 4:07.70. Barring disaster, she should also get a podium finish at today's steeplechase final and will have earned team berths in both events (she has "A" qualifying standards in both events). Does she plan to run both events in Berlin?

"MY coach and I have to decide... in the next few weeks," said Willard referring to Mammoth Track club coach Terrence Mahon.

Under Mahon, Willard has quickly evolved into America's most versatile middle distance runner. This year alone she's clocked 1:59.29 for 800m, 4:01.44 for 1500m (both career bests) and 9:26.85 for the steeple. Assuming she can maintain her excellent form through July and August, she would be competitive at both events in Berlin.

Should Willard decide to do only the steeple, fourth place Erin Donohue, also an Olympian last year, would move up to take Willard's spot in the 1500m. Donohue, who is now coached by Frank Gagliano, has a "B" qualifier of 4:06.70 (the "B" standard is 4:09-flat), which is good enough to make the team because both Rowbury and Wurth-Thomas have "A" standard times. (The IAAF allows two "A" athletes and one "B" to form a team.)

When a reporter asked if Willard to should step aside to allow Donohue to have the third team spot, the former high school javelin thrower said Willard should not. "It's up to her," said Donohue. "Whoever was the fastest should get to represent the U.S. If she's feeling up to it, she should do it."

* * * * * *

In the other distance final yesterday, Josh McAdams ran a very controlled race to win the men's steeplechase in a modest 8:29.91. McAdams ran comfortably in the pack as fellow Olympian Billy Nelson led for the first four laps (he would fade to 13th at the finish), then broke away with Daniel Huling, who would finish second (8:32.86). Kyle Alcorn, the 2008 NCAA champion, got third in 8:34.65. All three athletes have "A" qualifiers (8:23-flat), and are all set to make the trip to Berlin in August.

McAdams credited his coach Ed Eyestone for advising him to be cautious yesterday and not take the race out fast. "He said, 'It's great to throw caution to the wind, but let's make the team,'" McAdams recounted.

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