What a race! It was a tactical affair to begin but a blazing last lap made it a very entertaining race all the way to the finish.
By John Crumpacker
For The Register-Guard
If it’s an odd-numbered year, look out for Jenny Simpson. It’s 2015. Look out for Jenny Simpson.
In 2011, Simpson won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. In 2013, she won the silver medal at the Worlds in Moscow. If that pattern holds, she’ll win the bronze in Beijing this August, not that Simpson has a specific goal of finishing third, mind you.
“I am feeling more fit than I’ve ever been at this time of year,’’ Simpson said Sunday after winning the 1,500 at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. “I want to be really strong for the World Championships. … I think, simply stated, I’m hoping to be in the top three in every race all year long. This World Championships team is going to be amazing. Half of the women on the starting line are going to be sub-4-minute 1,500 runners.’’
Because Simpson had a bye into the Worlds as the 2014 Diamond League event winner, she didn’t even have to run in the final. She did, though, and once she got clear of a tightly-bunched pack of runners on the bell lap, she powered through the final 400 meters in 58.86 seconds to win in 4 minutes, 14.86 seconds. It was a fast finish to a slow early race.
“That was out of my element,’’ Simpson said of race conditions that found her in the middle of the pack for much of the race. “I felt anxious more than ever. That wasn’t the typical race that I run. I still felt very confident I could manage this, that I could respond to others’ moves.’’
Finishing just behind Simpson was her primary U.S. rival, Shannon Rowbury, who came across in 4:14.99. Kerri Gallagher was third in 4:15.81. With Simpson’s bye, the U.S. will send four women to the World Championships.
The lucky fourth-place finisher, Lauren Johnson of OTC Elite, earned a trip to Beijing by the narrowest of margins — .01. That’s the time she finished ahead of Rachel Schneider, 4:16.08 to 4:16.09.
“I’m happy,’’ Rowbury said. “Anytime you’re second you wish you could have won. I got boxed most of the race. Getting second to Jenny is no sad accomplishment. … I spent most of the last 300 meters (waiting for an opening). Once it came I went as fast as I could. Making the team was the main goal. My main focus was making sure I was in the top three, or top four.’’
Rowbury had a little drama in the rounds on Friday when she lost a shoe early on and ran barefoot the rest of the way, ripping skin from the bottom of her foot in the process.
“It got tore up pretty good in the rounds,’’ she said. “It didn’t seem to hinder me. There’s no thought about missing Nationals. This is what I train for. I’ll worry about the rest later.’’
Treniere Moser of Nike Oregon Project was sixth in 4:16.18 while teammate Mary Cain was eighth in 4:16.77.
WATCH Jenny win last year’s national championship.
By letsrun.com, June 4 2015
Jenny Simpson solidified herself as the woman to beat this summer’s World Championships. Simpson came on strong in the last 80 meters to win her fourth straight 1500 at a Diamond League meet in a seasonal best 3:59.31 over two of her biggest expected rivals at Worlds as Sifan Hassan was second and Ethiopian teen sensation Dawit Seyaum third.
Simpson clearly wanted to run fast today as she slotted herself into 4th (2nd racer) behind the first pacers as the rabbits took the field through 400 in 63.04 (Simpson roughly 64) and 800 in 2:09.09 (Simpson just under 2:10).
Running down the backstretch for the third time, Simpson nearly passed the final rabbit but at the bell it was last year’s world leader Hassan (3:57.00) who had the lead. Heading into the final 200, it was a five-person race as the final top three were also accompanied by Brit Laura Muir and Kenyan Viola Kibiwot, but it soon turned into a three-person race.
As the runners hit the homestretch, a tiny gap opened up between the top two and Simpson with about 80 meters left and we thought Simpson looked beaten.
Shame on us. Simpson’s last 50 is often very strong as her strength comes through. Sure enough, Simpson powered home to the victory to finish off a final lap of just under 61.00 (leader-to-leader it was 61.00). Simpson’s last 200 was definitely under 30, possibly something close to 29-flat.
Simpson said after the meet, “I started to panic in the last 200 meters as I felt packed in the field. Then, my energy came out automatically and I started to speed up. I am very proud of myslef to be so consistent during this season and I was really hoping for the time under four minutes. I do not want to feel myself as the one to beat now. It always puts more pressure on you and it is easier to attack from behind. People here were so good and supportive.”
Quick Thought #1: Jenny Simpson Still on Top of the World: What can you say? Simpson has now won four in a row at Diamond League meets (not all were DL races). Perhaps more importantly, she beat Seyaum for the first time although they’d only raced once previously (at last year’s NY meet).
She’s clearly the best woman in the world right now at 1500 when looking at all of the women who have run a 1500 this year.