DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA – Coming down the homestretch in the women’s 800 meter semifinal, Maggie Vessey found another gear and it carried her past Great Britain’s Jennifer Meadows and into the 800 final on Sunday evening at the World Track Championships.
Vessey’s strong finish enabled the Soquel High School graduate to place second in the race in a time of 1:58.98, and capture one of the two automatic qualifying spots for the final. The race was won by Yuliya Rusanova of Russia in 1:58.73.
Vessey ran in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, and made it to the semifinals of the 800 meters there, but did not advance to the finals. She said that failure motivated her in this race.
“Making it to the semifinals in 2009 was good, but (not advancing) was disappointing and I didn’t want to be there again.”
At the end of the first lap, it looked like being eliminated again in the semifinals was a distinct possibility. Vessey was running in eighth – and last – place with 400 meters to.
“I wasn’t in panic mode, although eighth place wasn’t where I wanted to be. But that first 200 (meters) went out really, really fast,” said Vessey.
“I made some gutsy moves pulling wide on turns and wide with 300 to go, because I knew it was going to take getting up there with the leaders. It took some mad composure to get it done.”
With that strong move on the backstretch, Vessey moved to second place, but Meadows, a savvy runner who was the 800 silver medalist in 2009, managed to squeeze past her and build a slight lead. Then it was a sprint to the finish line, with Vessey closing the gap inch by inch.
With 10 meters to go, Vessey finally edged by Meadows, and got to the line with a slim .09 second margin.
“I just felt like I needed to get my chest across that line before she did . . . It’s just I wanted it, I wanted it so bad.”
Vessey said that although she had some nerves, mentally she feels much stronger this year.
“I’m racing a little more intelligently now, and I have a higher level of confidence. You just can’t put a price tag on those things and they come out without you knowing it.”
The 800 finals will take place on Sunday, the last day of the championships, at 8:15 pm (4:15 am PDT). Among the other seven finalists is Vessey’s U.S. teammate, Alyssa Montano of Canyon Country, California.