EUGENE (22-Jun) -- A year ago yesterday, Josette Norris finished eighth at the USA Olympic Trials at Hayward Field here, missing the Olympic 5000m team by five places and 19 seconds. After having some time to reflect on that race, the former Big East 1500m champion for Georgetown University got back to training and enjoyed a triumphant second season, dropping her 1500m time to 3:59.72, her mile to 4:22.71, and her 5000m to 14:51.32, all world class times. She made three late-season Wanda Diamond League appearances in Lausanne, Brussels and Zurich, enjoyed two podium finishes, and never finished lower than sixth.
PHOTO: Josette Norris in Eugene, Oregon, on June 22, 2022 (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)
"Looking back, it's crazy the Olympic Trials was actually my first time to Hayward," Norris told reporters here today at a press conference. She continued: "I came in excited but unsure of what was going to happen. I really wanted to make that team. It was a big disappointment when I couldn't do that, but I just went back home that summer, trained for another month, and was able to have a great season where I had a lot of new doors opened for me."
Perhaps more than anything, the 26 year-old Norris started to see the 1500m as less of a flirtation and possibly her primary event. She didn't feel that way in April of last year when her personal best was only 4:07.35.
"It almost took my mind off the 5-K and the Olympic Trials disappointment," Norris said of focusing on middle distance races last August and September.
Of course, Norris has become a formidable miler. In the 2022 indoor season she took second at the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games in a snappy 4:20.81, a mark which made her the third-fastest American miler of all time (indoors) behind only Elinor Purrier St. Pierre and Mary Slaney. She then took second in the 1500m at the USATF Championships beating Purrier St. Pierre, the 2021 USA Olympic Trials champion, by just 1/100th of a second to earn her first national team berth. She held a high level of fitness into the later-than-usual World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade last March taking fifth. She has built up so much confidence now as a middle distance runner that she decided to double here in Eugene in both the 1500m and 5000m.
"I've just been able to build on that and build momentum," Norris said of her racing earlier this year. "I just feel a lot calmer and just more experienced going into this outdoor season having last year's big summer under me."
Here in Eugene, Norris will start these championships with the first round of the 1500m on Thursday night, then the final on Saturday afternoon (assuming she advances, of course). She'll have less than 24 hours to recover before the 5000m --which is a straight final-- on Sunday afternoon when forecasters say the temperature could hit 94F/34C. She's still learning to run rounds, she said, but her confidence is high after her success in Belgrade.
"My first practice at rounds in the 1500 was actually at Worlds this indoor season," said Norris who represents the Reebok Boston Track Club which is based in Charlottesville, Virginia. "I'm excited to do the rounds of the fifteen again, and if everything feels good coming off the fifteen on Saturday, I'd love to run the 5-K and see what I can do. This year is actually a chance to do the double, so I'm excited for the opportunity." She continued: "It's nice that the fifteen is first so I can focus on that... and worry about the 5-K afterwards."
Norris sees competing at both distances as ideal.
"I see myself running both events competitively for a long time," she said. "I want to be able to run the fifteen and the 5-K competitively at the world stage in both events." She continued: "I see myself in both events in the future."
Supporting her in her training has been her fiancÚ Robby Andrews, the 2016 Olympian and 2017 USA 1500m champion (the couple plans to marry in December). Andrews, 31, told Race Results Weekly that "my training is her training now."
"Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday (we) run together, for probably the last two years," said Andrews, who will not be competing here in Eugene.
And even for a world class athlete like Andrews, Norris's training is tough.
"It's harder than I thought it would be," said Andrews. "She's figured it out. It's been a really cool change of pace for me to have her be kind of the focus, have her running coming first, and gives me a challenge to make it fit my running."
Like all of the top athletes who will compete here over the next four days, Norris is excited by the chance to not only qualify for the World Athletics Championships with a top-3 finish, but also have the unique opportunity to run in a world championships on home soil (also here at Hayward Field), something that past American athletes have never had a chance to do. Next month's World Athletics Championships will be the first ever held in the United States.
"It was such an honor to represent Team USA on the indoor season in Belgrade," Norris said. She continued: "Getting on that world stage for the first time is really going to help me in this next step, going through rounds and hopefully making the team this outdoor season."