Powering Through the CA Heat

The USATF and USATF Junior National Championships concluded this past weekend in Sacramento, Calif., and despite the harsh hot conditions, four HepsNation athletes are in contention to compete later this summer wearing Team USA uniforms.

Three of these athletes will get this honor in London at the IAAF World Championships in the 1,500m races.  Rio Olympian and Yale alumna Kate Grace finished as the runner-up behind four-time 1,500m champion Jenny Simpson. Grace went into Nationals with the top seed time of 4:03.59 and was in contention for a second national title (she won the 800m at the Olympic Trials last year for her first) with 100m to go as she sat on Simpson’s outside shoulder.  But Simpson showed once again her stellar kick as she held of Grace, 4:06.33 to 4:06.95 (Letsrun.com race recap).

In the men’s equivalent, Princeton’s volunteer assistant coach Robby Andrews won his first outdoor title as a professional as he powered by the Olympic champion Matthew Centrowitz, Jr., in the final 40 meters to win in 3:43.29.  Andrews previously won two NCAA titles in the 800m as a sophomore at Virginia before turning professional as a junior in 2012.  Andrews has been on Princeton’s coaching staff since 2013.  While Andrews out-kicking the Olympic champion was exciting, the more exciting finish was for third place.  Columbia alum Johnny Gregorek was in tenth place at the bell lap, eighth with 200m to go, and sixth with 100m to go.  But once Gregorek unleashed his kick, he powered by the field and nipped Craig Engels at the line to claim that coveted final spot – 3:43.99 to 3:44.01.  Social media erupted with applause and congratulations to Gregorek, whose response was this tweet: “Close one!  Never gave up though. Thank for the positive vibe everyone!!” (Letsrun.com race recap)

We need to also note that Gregorek is a lock for London as he has already achieved the IAAF standard of 3:36.00 while Andrews has not met that mark yet in the qualification window.  Andrews has until July 23rd to hit that mark or else Andrews’ spot will be filled by the next athlete who has the IAAF standard.

On a similar note, Cornell hammering great Rudy Winkler just MISSED third place by less than an inch.  The NCAA champion and defending USATF champion finished the hammer competition in fourth place with a best mark of 71.43m (234-04), coming up just short of Sean Donnelly’s third place mark of 71.45m (234-05).  Winkler’s chances of making it to Worlds are slim as no one in the American hammer field has met the 76-meter IAAF standard and if any American throwers would get invited to Worlds, they would first invite in the top finishers from Nationals. Winkler has been contending with an injured back through most of the spring, so it may be unlikely he will attempt to chase the standard to secure a spot.

Ben True also finished an agonizing fourth place in his event.  The Dartmouth alum was out-kicked in the final 150 meters in the 5,000m final by Ryan Hill after being in contention for a London spot by leading the chase pack for most of the race as eventual winner Paul Chelmo took off from the field early on in the race.  “I knew those guys were behind me with a kick and I knew they were going to come by me at some point,” True said to Letsrun.com after the race. “I was just hoping when they came by, I could regroup a little bit. And I thought I was gonna be all right until that last 100 meters when Ryan Hill had a little extra gear and pulled away. That’s what you get for sitting out in the front for so long.”

Other event finalists in the top 10 included Donn Cabral in the steeplechase (6th – 8:25.75), Tim Wunderlich in the decathlon (9th – 7,502 points), and Sean Furey in the javelin throw (5th – 73.46m, 241-00).  Full results can be found here.

Meanwhile, Harvard rising-sophomore Judy Pendergast will be heading to Lima, Peru as a part of the Team USA contingent of the Pan-American Junior Championships from July 21st to 23rd.  Pendergast finished second in the junior 3,000m race in 9:49.97 in hot conditions on Saturday.  Harvard also had an event finalist in the steeplechae as Eliza Rego finished eighth in 11:05.58.  Penn had three event finalists: Tia Livingston in the 400m hurdles (6th – 1:02.51), Nia Akins in the 800m (7th – 2:13.83), and Sean Clarke in the pole vault (t-4th – 5.15m, 16-10 3/4).  Full results can be found here.

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