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June 8th, 2019
Austin, Texas

Unfazed by blazing sun and 98 degree temperatures, the women’s 1500 meter finalists eschewed cat-and-mouse race tactics, drilled down to a challenging early pace, and authored a championship race that produced some sparkling times.

The metric mile preliminary rounds did little violence to the form charts. In Heat 1 a bunched pack went through 800m in 2:19 and was 3:07 at the bell. Oklahoma State junior Sinclaire Johnson took control with 300 meters remaining and dished out a 64.7 second closing lap to cross first in 4:12.35. Portland senior Taryn Rawlings, Michigan State junior Dillon McClintock, Johnson’s senior teammate Jenny Celis and Stanford sophomore Ella Donaghu also snagged big Q’s. Donaghu’s sophomore teammate Lawson and Rhode Island sophomore Lotte Black advanced on time. Heat 2 was much the same. With an almost identical race tempo as Heat 1, the 2nd heat pack also took the bell at 3:07. Oregon favorite Jessica Hull broke away and was closely pursued by Notre Dame senior Jessica Harris and Ohio State senior Julia Rizk. The trio crossed that way as Hull [4:12.02] easily covered the final circuit in 64.2 seconds. Oklahoma State senior Molly Sughroue and BYU junior Whittni Orton also earned automatic qualifiers. Led by Johnson, Oklahoma State advanced 3 athletes to the final.

Scorching heat and bunched qualifying times suggested a possible crowded, tactical final. But no. When the championship race got underway, BYU’s Whittni Orton rushed to the front and set a quicker tone. Just inside 3 laps to go, Notre Dame senior Jessica Harris went to the front and was followed closely by the finalists’ pack led by Hull and Johnson. After two more spirited circuits, Harris reached 1100 meters in 3:02. Just after the bell, defending champion Hull spurted into the lead, a move that was quickly covered by Johnson. Pulling away, the duo flew down the backstretch and were side-by-side coming onto the homestretch for the battle to the wire. As they raced to the line, one quick final surge gave Johnson just enough lead to allow her to hold off the Australian middle distance star as they hit the finish. Johnson’s 62 second closing 400 gave her a winning time of 4:05.98, while Hull crossed 2nd in 4:06.27 – PR’s for both. Johnson’s clocking was fast enough to set a new championship and stadium record, stand as a new collegiate leader, and provide the new champion with a qualifying mark for the 2019 World Championships.

Afterwards, the ebullient Johnson was unrestrained in the mixed zone. “I know she likes to sit a lot because I’ve watched her race before. I knew that if I was going to pass her, that was going to be the only time. So I really wanted to wait until the last possible moment. I knew I have a pretty strong kick, so when I passed her, I was like, ‘Okay, this is it. I can’t let her come back.’ I just went for the home run.” The new champion expressed breathless reverence for the prior champion. “I knew I could (perform this way), but in the fashion I did it, I mean Jessica Hull is an awesome competitor. She hasn’t lost a race, she has two or three national titles to her name. To beat her and to run what I did today, honestly, I’m at a loss for words. I really can’t believe it.”

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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