Portland, Oregon is hosting the 2016 USATF Indoor National Championships as a prelude to the IAAF World Championships next weekend. The green 200 meter banked track is temporarily set up in the middle of the Portland Convention Center, offering a bright stage for the top US track and field athletes. The top 2 in each event will represent the US at the World Championships.
Day one drew a decent crowd given all events were held during regular work hours on a Friday. With the proximity to Eugene, University of Oregon alumni had strong, vocal support from the audience.
The headline middle distance and distance events for the women on Day 1 of the USATF Indoor National Championships were the 800 and 3,000 meters.
Women’s 800 meter semi-final
The 800 meters was a four heat semi-final with at least one US team contender in each. Only the top finisher in each heat automatically qualified for the final with two more in on time. Heat one included Duck alumna Roesler and Phoebe Wright (@Phe800). Roesler won in 2:03.77, followed by Wright (2:03.81) and Fricker (2:03.82). The final stretch was aggressive, with elbows flying. Wright and Fricker were both fast enough to claim rights in the final.
Moser was a no show for the second heat, which Praska led for three laps but was outmaneuvered by Leinart (and Cox) in the final lap.
The third heat proved the most dramatic as World Championship medal contender Ajee Wilson led from the gun but was almost caught by Farley in the final meters. The times were slow enough that had Wilson not won the heat she would not be in the final.
The final heat featured 2012 Olympian and two-time NCAA National Champion Geena Gall (@GeenaGall) who convincingly stamped her ticket to the final leading wire to wire. Afterwards, Gall stated that she prefers not to lead because of the extra energy required, but did what she needed to do to win the heat. When asked about tactics in Saturday’s final, Gall said she welcomes a fast race and is not afraid to compete with anyone, including the 2013 and 2014 USA Indoor National 800 meter Champion and two-time World Team Member Ajee Wilson who boasts a 1:57.67 personal best (versus Gall’s 1:59.24).
The field for Saturday’s final is Roesler, Leinart, Wilson, Gall, Wright, and Fricker.
Women’s 3,000 meter final
The 3k featured Shannon Rowbury, Abbey D’Agostino, Shalayla Kipp, and Emily Infeld. Infeld led for about 10 laps, starting in 35 second per 200 for three laps, averaging 36s for the next 800, and slowing to 37s for the third 800. Movement began at the front with Hall and others moving to the lead. In the change, Infeld was knocked off the track which seemed to throw her off for the rest of the race. She finished 10th in 9:10.
Shannon Rowbury kept with the leaders until 400 to go which she covered in 61 seconds (31 and 30 seconds for the 200 splits). Her move was definitive and left no doubt that she is a medal contender next week in the World Championships. Abbey D’Agostino moved well in the final laps to finish second in 8:57 and will join Rowbury on Team USA. Rowbury defended her US title in 8:55.