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Tracktown USA, June 24-28, 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

2015 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships

Emotions Roil In The Media Tent

 

Eugene, Oregon

You see it all in the mixed zone - that staged demilitarized zone where track & field athletes have contact with the media. Everybody from the print press to bloggers to tweeters and photographers gathers in tented seclusion awaiting the athletes who march through once their work day on the track or in the field is done. Some - elated from a victory or a PR performance - will be happy to answer questions or share feelings on a whole range of track & field topics. Others - coping with an unexpected setback or merely a bad day at the office - will often avoid eye contact and quickly run the gauntlet through the area as they seek find a quiet place to sort out all of their feelings.

Depending upon who you were, the 2015 USATF outdoor track & field championships was either a gathering of great joy or a meet of great despair - or something in between. With the IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships rapidly approaching, the reactions by and responses from the athletes can be clues to their respective states of mind as this year's pinnacle event in athletics approaches. Here are some thoughts from Hayward Field by several of the country's top female athletes in track and field:

Francena McCorory / 400m world leader at 49.85 and prohibitive favorite who finished 4th in the 400m final and may not make the world team: "It just wasn't my day today. I just didn't have it. It just wasn't my day overall."

Phyllis Francis / 400m finalist who ran 50.67 to finish 3rd and make her first senior global team: When did she know she was on the team? "When the scoreboard showed my name up there. So it was official. I like to be sure. So I like to wait around before I get all excited." The difference this year? "I feel that it is my focus. I believe in myself a little bit more. I'm starting to push myself to that limit and run to my full potential." Is there a changing of the guard underway in the woman's 400m? "I feel like that may be the case."

Allyson Felix / 400m champion in 50.19; world qualifier in both the 200m and the 400m: Has she made a decision yet as to whether or she will run the 200m or the 400m in Beijing? "Not yet. I haven't even been able to process anything yet. So after this, I will go down and sit with Bobby [Kersee]. I am not sure what his time frame is on making a decision. But I am sure we'll have good discussion. Ultimately it is up to Bobby. I'm not sure exactly what he's thinking right now. I would hope to make a decision pretty quickly just to let the next person know if I decide to go the other way. So I am sure we'll go back and evaluate it and not take too long. But I know that going into next year, he really wanted to see how I handled the rounds here." Does she have unfinished business in the 400? "I feel like I still have a responsibility there - like I could still challenge myself there. I still love the 200. And it's difficult to be out of it." Her thoughts on the Beijing schedule making a 200/400 double prohibitive: "I was disappointed just because I could have focused on the 4 and still been able to see what I could do back in the 2 had the schedule been like it was back in 2011. That's how it goes. And it's an opportunity to focus on one." When did she know she had the 400m championship race? "I didn't know I had it. I just knew I wanted to dig deep and leave it all on the track. So I buckled down and went for it."

Lolo Jones - Summer and Winter Olympian - while quickly striding through the mixed zone after DNFing in the 100H final and failing to qualify for the U.S. team: "To sum it up, I messed up two hurdles."

Dawn Harper-Nelson / 100H champion in 12.55 and irrepressible Queen Of The Coiffure: On her clutch win in the 100H final: "I would like to say that is my signature. I go into the races confident because I know I put in the hard work. Me and Bobby Kersee put together a good training regimen for this meet. Yeah, I'm a gamer; I'm a gamer! I love to go out there and compete. I knew these ladies were ready. And I said to myself, 'Dawn, you have to be on your 'A Game' in order to make this team.'" On her post-race celebration: "I probably have some crazy-looking pictures because I screamed a lot. You put so much into it. You know, your work; your blood sweat and tears into this. And when I crossed that line, it was just a sigh of relief. It paid off - again!" On racing with the young hurdle pups: "You're with the younger ladies. You're showing that you still have it. And I love what I do. I was very passionate about today's race. You know they're there because the world lead changes almost every week now. On preparing for Beijing: "I know that I am going to go to track practice every single day and whatever Bobby Kersee says - do! I'm going to try to put it together to the best of my ability." On her confidence level: "I believe that I am the best one out there. I don't want to sound cocky, but what it really comes down to is I believe I am gifted. I am getting my start together and now my ending is coming together as well. And as long as I do those things, I almost feel like I 'm unstoppable - you know? - in my own head." On her health: "I am healthy! And I am excited. Typically through the rounds, I would tweak a little hamstring or something. But it was just mental today. And I felt good." On what she would say to young Sharika Nelvis on making her first senior world team: " I would say, 'Hey, hey there, missy. You want to slow it down there a little bit?!' I knew she was ready. I saw Jasmin and the other ladies were going to step it up. And I told myself, 'you're going to have to go 12.3 or you're not going to be on this team. And it just came to me in the finals. I think we all put together a great race. And I was blessed to cross first." And, finally, does anybody have better hair than you? "I would have to say absolutely not. Fans asked me to wear this hair style again for nationals because I missed a couple of meets. And so it's back! And I love it. I was trying to keep it a little aerodynamic, you know, so when I lean across the line I get a little 'oomph.'"

Tianna Bartoletta / 5th place finisher in the 100m and world-leading winner in the long jump at 7.12m / 24' 4¼": Which is your better event: 100m or LJ? "I think I've had more jump meets, therefore I have a little more confidence. I have more reps under my belt. But the 100 is just as much my event as the long jump. I just need to get more races and put more into it." Beating Reese? "Honestly, I've won two world championships and could never win nationals. So it was a really big deal for me to be able to win today - and also with a personal best. So I am really pleased." Did you know you had that PR coming? "Yes, I knew it was coming. But you always have to know that it is coming, because that is the only way you can get that max effort every time you jump." Thoughts about the relay pool? "I haven't been through team processing yet. I wasn't going to be able to process both events at the same time until after the long jump." Next competitions? "The Diamond League meets for the jumps especially - just fine tune and find that rhythm and get on the board more consistently. And hopefully some lanes will open for the 100 so I can lower my time there too." Equally a 100 meter sprinter and a long jumper? After a pause, "Yes!" Whichever one she is doing at the moment? "Exactly. I have to kinda stay present and be 100% for that event while I'm in it. Honestly, they are very different. The 100 is a more spastic and a little wild; the long jump is more controlled and more rhythm. And so I can't carry them over or overlap." On her 7.12m [23'4¼"] jump: "It felt really, really good. When I woke up this morning I knew with three rounds of the 100 under my belt I had to be smart - especially with the heat today. I had to be more choosy with my warm up and pay more attention to what my body was telling about how I felt today. And so I really felt just fine about being technical just in case I didn't have that speed or that bounce in my legs because I used so much of it yesterday." On missing the 100m berth by .02 seconds: "I was disappointed for about 10 minutes because of just missing out by 2 hundredths. But if you look at the season so far, I went from running 11.19 to being able to run 10.94 with these girls. I can't really be upset about that. That was a major drop of time, a major season's best - which goes to shows what kind of competitor I am. I took a step back and wasn't as emotional. I realized it was a really good meet for me. And when I run the 100 first, it really primes my legs for the long jump."

Abbey D'Agostino, Beijing bound after her 15:56.69 and a 3rd place finish in the w5000: "I went a little bit too soon. So I thought to myself, 'I can't be the first one to make that final move.' When Katie went, I was thinking, 'Stay on her shoulder.' People started coming around and it was like, 'Who's going to have that last gear?'" On her first year as a pro: "There are so many things that you really can't prepare for, physically and mentally. One element of the transition that's been just hard, is not having that academic balance or some other presence in my life. I have been really trying to navigate that - and just keep distracted. It is so great to be with Mark [Coogan]. I think that really eliminates a huge challenge for a lot of people."

Murielle Hall, on the global team as a runner-up in 15:06.45 in the w5000: "I didn't want to wait. But I just tried to keep grinding out the 5K and finish strong. I just kept repeating the same thing, 'I'm not not going." I kept saying, "This [not making the team] isn't happening." So I just kept trying to grind it out. Nicole Tully has been beating me all year the same way: with a great kick. So I tried to fight with her the best I can." To be on the national team: "This is what I've trained for all year. Every time somebody asked me what I am doing and what does this whole professional running thing mean, I'd say, 'I'm trying to make this team for Beijing.' So to actually be here this weekend and get it done is pretty special."

Nicole Tully, winner of the w5000 in 15:06.44. "I feel amazing. I am so pleased and I am so proud to be a part of a group of such elite women who were in that race to the very last lap - I believe there were six or seven of us. The entire race included women I have looked up to and competed against for a number of years. It's cool to be a part of it. I am so pleased that I had it in the last lap and was able to come home strong and pull it out in that last 30 meters." With 600 to go: "I was thinking to myself, 'This is it. 90 seconds and you are done with this race.' With 400 to go, it was all a blur: everyone was just trying to protect themselves, cover the moves, and come out of that last turn with a shot at the finish line. I think I went a little too early coming out of the turn. As soon as I could see the finish line, it was a complete blur and I was trying to get there. I tied up a little bit with 30 to go, but I just tried to keep it coming and even lean little bit - pretend I'm a sprinter. It worked out OK." On making the world team: "I'm beyond ecstatic. I am super happy. I just really proud that I can represent my coach, my family, my team, and my sponsors."

Ashley Higginson, a non-qualifying 5th in the w3000 steeplechase final: "The event is getting better and I've got to get better."

Colleen Quigley, Florida State steeplechaser who finished 2nd in 9:24.92 to make the world team: The final water jump: "Going into the last water jump, I thought, 'Oh God, NCAA's all over again.' I think it gave me a little confidence knowing that I did it once and could do it again. I feel a lot better about my hurdles and my water jumps than I have really ever in my life. I felt like as long as I didn't trip on anything and nothing like that happened, I could get through there cleanly and I would be fine." On O'Connor's stumble: "I could tell that I hit the barrier just a half second before her. But I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She slipped. And soon as I hit the ground, I felt like she wasn't there anymore. And I just took off, not looking back, just hoping that if I put in enough distance from her there, it would be enough to break her.

Emma Coburn, who ran 9:15.59 - #2 on the world leader board - for the steeplechase win: "9:15 was a little surprise. I saw 8:02 at the bell and was like, 'Oh, this is what I did when I did the American record when I came through.' Closing alone versus having a leader to chase when I broke the record was a little different. So I didn't close as well as that day. Yeah, I was surprised how fast it was." The heat: "The prelims were hot. So it was a great practice run to get use to those conditions, managing them. So much of it is just mental - being able to get out there confidently, to know that everyone else has to deal with it, and to do the best you can to prepare for it. The prelims were a great way make today's heat feel less nerve-wracking." On taking the lead with 3½ laps to go: "I just had to make a clean break or try to make a very strong move. And so it just happened to be at the water jump. I could have waited until the bell and try to make a strong move there. It just kinda happened to be that way. I just wanted to try and make a strong move when I took the lead." Her thoughts on the USA team: "I think we've agreed that we all belong in the final. Colleen has had a very strong collegiate season. So if she can manage the fatigue of that season - and she's with Jerry Schumacher now - so I am sure they will manage that very well. I think that Stephanie Garcia and I are used to racing the professional circuit. And I know we both will be ready."

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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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