Pacific Assocation of USA Track and Field

IAAF World Athletics Final, Thessaloniki, Greece

IAAF World Athletics Final, Thessaloniki, Greece

Sept.14, 2009

Maggie Vessey races to a Thrilling Come-from-Behind 2nd in the 800m

Event REPORT – 800m – WOMEN

Anna Willard makes it four out of four 800m victories this year, chased by team-mate Maggie Vessey
Anna Willard makes it four out of four 800m victories this year, chased by team-mate Maggie Vessey
Anna Willard’s late season momentum continued here today with her confident victory in the women’s 800m.

The 25-year-old, who began the season as the No. 2 American steeplechaser, ended it as one of the world’s best 800m runners when she capped her breakout middle distance season with a 2:00.20 victory.

200 metres into the race, Willard tucked in behind leader Elisa Cusma and remained in second until taking the lead off the final turn. Striding on confidently, she was never really challenged to add yet another impressive victory to her 800m resume.

“I started well and ran fast for the first 200 metres to avoid getting pushed,” said Willard, who collected victories over the distance in New York, Paris, and Brussels. After a season in which she also joined the sub-four minute club in the 1500m with her 3:59.38 in Zurich two weeks ago and finished a solid fifth at the World Championships over the distance, Willard has admitted to taking a liking to the shorter distances.

“I prefer the 800,” Willard said, “but I also like the steeplechase.” For now, her plans are to continue competing in both along with the 1500m. Some more off-season reflection may change her mind.

Until tonight, no American woman has ever won a middle distance title at the World Athletics Final. Here, along with Maggie Vessey, Willard led a U.S. 1-2.

Maggie Vessey, the Eugene and Monaco winner this season, moved from seventh to second over the final 80 metres, reaching the line in 2:00.31 to edge Briton Jenny Meadows, the Berlin bronze medallist, by 0.10. Russian Mariya Savinova (2:00.72), the European indoor champion, also overtook Cusma (2:00.84) to finish fourth.

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF

Shannon Rowbury 5th in 1500m

Event REPORT – 1500m – WOMEN
Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Langat takes a surprise win in the women’s 1500m (Getty Images)

Olympic champion Nancy Jebet Langat takes a surprise win in the women’s 1500m (Getty Images)
A year ago, Nancy Langat didn’t produce a victory until she crossed the line first at the Olympic Games. This year, the 28-year-old Kenyan apparently saved the best for last as she collected her first win of the season in the final edition of the World Athletics Final.

“To be honest, I didn’t expect to win,” said Langat, who took advantage of the sluggish pace to collect her first win in eight outings over the distance. “The race had a very slow tempo which was an advantage for me.”

Dawdling paces were the order of the day in the first two middle or long distance events on the programme, and that trend continued in the women’s 1500m. With no one forcing the pace or making a move, the tightly wound pack took more than 73 seconds to cover the first lap, and nearly 75 to cover the second.

Ethiopian Geleta Burka, who was famously knocked to the ground and out of contention in the World Championships final, made the first move when she jumped to the lead about 900 metres into the race, taking the bell in 3:14.85. But she didn’t really manage to break away from anyone, with World champion Maryam Jamal of Bahrain shadowing her closely and Russian Anna Alminova just another step behind.

Burka still led midway through the final turn, but with plenty in reserve, others positioned themselves to stake their claims for the podium.

Finishing strongest was the Olympic champion who passed by the Ethiopian on the inside to reach the line unchallenged in 4:13.63. With much of the field running in lanes two, three and four, Briton Hannah England found an opening on the inside to finish a surprise second (4:14.05), just edging American Christin Wurth-Thomas. It was certainly the highest profile finish for the 22-year-old England, who improved to 4:04.29 this season.

Meanwhile, Jamal, who came to Thessaloniki with four straight WAF titles under her belt, faded to fourth in 4:14.12, with American Shannon Rowbury, the Berlin bronze medallist fifth (4:14.18).

Bob Ramsak for the IAAF