Nelson feels the love in Hayward’s return
Each of the previous three rounds had been won by a Jamaican. This country was well represented in the stands at Hayward for Saturday’s session of the World Championships in Athletics, and they had another athlete to cheer on in round four – an athlete who was also a former host of the meet , the University of Oregon. .
And so, as a defending NCAA finalist Kemba Nelson of Jamaica and Oregon braced for its heat, a voice shouted from the 2018 section of the home venue of athletics in the United States.
“Come on, Kemba,” shouted a man wearing Jamaican green, black and yellow. “Your piece!”
Nelson later said with a smile, “One thing about Jamaicans, we’re everywhere. It’s never a surprise how many of us are out there.”
If his fans showed up for Nelson on Saturday, Nelson obliged by showing up as well, running 11.10 seconds to finish third in his heat and automatically advance to Sunday’s semifinals. Nelson will run as part of a packed day of action for OU alumni on Sunday that begins with Galen Rupp in the marathon at 6:15 a.m., sees Jillian Weir attempt a medal in the hammer throw at 11:35 a.m., followed by of Devon Allen, Johnny Gregorek and Nelson run in the evening – Allen and Nelson potentially running both the semi-finals and the finals of their events.
So continues a busy season for Nelson – but also one that stretched over a year ago, when she was seventh in the Jamaican championship and failed to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo.
“Last year the trials weren’t at my best,” she said on Saturday. “I kind of got into my head saying, yeah, I’m really tired from a long season.
“But I put that behind me. I’m tired when I say I’m tired.”
Oregon Athletics alumnus Jessica Hull doesn’t get sucked into stories about a busy schedule, either. For the second day in a row, she ran a controlled 1,500m race on Saturday, qualifying for Monday’s event final, after which she will turn her attention to the 5,000m.
After finishing second in her heat on Friday, Hull was advised by her coach to think more in terms of finishing third or fourth in Saturday’s semi-final, conserving energy for the final. That advice was put to the test when 2019 bronze medalist Gudaf Tsegay of Ethiopia started picking up the pace with 700 to go on Saturday. But Hull let Britain’s Laura Muir take the place behind Tsegay and followed them home in third, crossing in 4:01.81.
“I’m actually very proud of the patience I’ve been with at that point,” Hull said, “because it’s easy to take the bait. I knew Gudaf was going to go for it, and I didn’t really want to be the one to go with. I wanted someone else to walk past me, and Laura did just that. So I was proud of myself for not being, like, 10 yards too tall nervous.”
“Everything that was in my head at the time was calm, calm, calm.”
As the peloton reached the final stretch, Hull took a look around to make sure she was in a good position. And she had the sneaky suspicion that Muir in particular had more to give, but “definitely had his cards in hand”. So, Hull obliged.
Playing such cat-and-mouse games with elite international competition is a relatively new sensation for Hull, who are in their second world championships in athletics and were also Olympic runners-up in Tokyo.
“It’s really different to be in a position where I can stand out from these top women,” Hull said. “Whereas in 2019 in Doha I was the athlete getting crushed in the home stretch. Now I’m up there and we kind of look at each other, not wanting to say too much.”
Former OU Johnny Gregorek also has another 1,500-metre run to look forward to, after clearing Saturday’s first run in the men’s event. The 2015 Oregon graduate finished ninth on the bell lap of his heat, but progressed to finish sixth in 3:35.65, claiming the last automatic qualifying spot in his heat.
That time was less than half a second off Gregorek’s season record. He expected that kind of effort would be needed to qualify for Sunday’s semi-finals.
“That’s where the event is right now – great depth of talent, lots of strong guys,” Gregorek said. “So I know what to be ready for – a long burn.”
Among this depth of talent was another OU alum, Cooper Teare, the recently crowned American champion of the event. Teare raced in Saturday’s opening run and was in the top six for much of the race, before crashing to 13th on the final lap in 3:41.15.
Teare said afterwards that he actually won the US title despite the effects of a stress reaction in his left shin. The condition limited his training for Worlds to swimming and cycling, which showed up at the bell on Saturday.
“I felt so flat,” Teare said. “You can do all the endurance stuff you want on the bike or in the pool, but that rolling stuff is tough. When world-class guys start flipping it and really kicking it, it’s hard. is difficult to reproduce by doing anything other than running.”
Friend of Teare, training partner and alumnus of the UO program Cole Hocker also had to train due to injury this summer and couldn’t even make it to Oregon22.
“That’s kind of how it goes,” Teare said. “You gotta roll with those punches. I trained to do my best to come here and go as far as I could, and that’s all there was today. It’s hard to to have that result on my first really big Worlds stage, and especially when it’s here. But there’s really nothing you can do about it.
Allen was the first OU alum on the track on Sunday, for his first run of the 110 hurdles. Having mourned the passing of his father in the weeks following the USATF Championships – Allen finished third despite news of the loss the same weekend – Allen won his race on Saturday morning in 13.47 seconds.
“I got a little sloppy today, but it’s okay,” said Allen, who will move into football and training camp with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in a few weeks. “It doesn’t really matter. 100% the target (Sunday) will be to do a time under 13. Maybe my last 30 hours on the track.”