Shannon Rowbury became a two-time Olympian with her second place finish in the 1500 meters on July 1 at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. In 2008, Shannon was the US Olympic Trials champion and went on to place seventh at the Beijing Olympic Games. That seventh place finish is the highest finish by an American woman in the 1500 meters in Olympic history. This is Shannon’s fourth consecutive national team qualification. In addition to these two Olympic team berths, she was also a member of Team USA for the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. At the 2009 World Championships she earned the bronze medal in the 1500.
The three qualifiers for the London Olympics were Shannon (4:05.11), the number one ranked runner in the world in 2011 Morgan Uceny (4:04.59), and the 2011 World Champion Jenny Simpson (4:05.17). The fact that all the experts were saying that these three were the clear favorites to qualify, didn’t make my race day morning have any less butterflies.
After two laps that were led by Treniere Moser and Brenda Martinez, the big three made their way to the front of the pack. With 500 meters to go there began to be some separation between these three and the chase pack. In reality, the drama of who was going to make the team was gone. The three battled it over the last lap before the final order was settled.
After screaming our heads off from the stands during the race, we hustled down to the fence to give Shannon a hug as she took the traditional Hayward Field victory lap. After the meet we headed to the Wild Duck Café. Tamalpan Mike Fanelli insisted on buying us a pitcher that we drank while watching NBC’s west coast broadcast of the meet (it was almost as exciting watching Shannon qualify for the Olympics this second time). Another highlight was taking a picture with Dave Frank, a coaching friend who used to coach at St. Francis and run for the Aggies. He now coaches in Portland and was the head coach at Cathedral Catholic when one Galen Rupp attended school there. I feel that Dave and I share some common emotions. Then we headed for some coffee and dessert. Finally Shannon finished her Olympic processing so we met up with her, her parents, her boyfriend (Pablo) and others in her core support group to raise a glass of champagne in celebration.
We got back to our hotel room just shortly before midnight. I was still pretty excited and couldn’t pull myself away from the computer to go to sleep. I read every e-mail, text, and Facebook comment. I re-lived the race and conversations with people at the meet. I watched a FloTrack interview where Shannon even gave me a shout out.
When I woke up this morning, I checked to make sure this wasn’t all a dream. Nope, it wasn’t. It all really happened. Shannon Rowbury is now a two-time Olympian! Congratulations!
I came upon some lists on LetsRun.com that, as a distance running fan, caught my interest. I have copied the lists below and I make no claim to have done the research to create or verify the lists. I take no responsibility if there are inaccuracies. But I read them with interest.
The Seven 1:41s in History:
1:41.11 – Wilson Kipketer – August 24, 1997
1:41.24 – Wilson Kipketer – August 13, 1997
1:41.51 – David Rudisha – July 10, 2010
1:41.73 – Sebastian Coe – June 10, 1981
1:41.73 – Wilson Kipketer – July 7 1997
1:41.77 – Joaquim Cruz – August 26, 1984
1:41.83 – Wilson Kikpeter – September 1, 1996
Running under 1:42 in the 800 meters is an amazing feat. It had only been done six times in history up until last week when Kenya’s David Rudisha, only twenty-one years old, added his name to the list with a 1:41.51. Sebastian Coe was the first sub-1:42 runner when he set a new world record of 1:41.73 in 1981. Three years later in 1984, Joaquim Cruz became the second runner to ever run under 1:42 for 800 meters. Coe and Cruz would be the exclusive members of this club for twelve years. Finally in September of 1996, Wilson Kipketer became the third person to achieve the feat. Kipketer was not done. Cementing himself as the greatest 800 runner of all-time, Kipketer ran sub-1:42 three times in a seven week period in 1997. First Kipketer tied Coe’s world record of 1:41.73. Then he bettered it with a 1:41.24. Then he set what still stands as the world record, 1:41.11.
Thirteen years would pass before Rudisha became the fourth man to run sub-1:42. Two fellow Kenyans rabitted the race through a 49 second first lap. The first rabbit dropped out at the that point and the second rabbit pushed through until the 500 meter mark. Then it was all Rudisha. You can see tremendous focus in his eyes and great arm pumping action as he fights down the final straightaway all alone (second place was three seconds behind him) to become the second fastest 800 runner in history.
Rudisha father, Daniel Rudisha, is a former runner who won silver at the 1968 Olympics as part of the Kenyan 4×400 meter relay team. Unfortunately, the son has not yet been able to match his father’s medal, he failed to qualify for the 2008 Olympics and failed to make the 800 final at the 2009 World Championships. But his young age and solid progression in the 800 meters (2006-1:46.3; 2007-1:44.15; 2008-1:43.72; 2009-1:42.01; 2010-1:41.51) suggests that he may be on the cusp of breaking Kipketer’s world record. Be sure to keep an eye out for his name, and if he’s racing at 800 meters you may want to check out the race because it could be a world record!
USA Women’s Sub-4:05 1500’s (through 7/10/10):
Mary Slaney, 34
Suzy Favor Hamilton, 24
Regina Jacobs, 21
Christin Wurth-Thomas, 11
Shannon Rowbury, 11
PattiSue Plumer, 7
Ruth Wysocki, 5
Diana Richburg, 4
Anna Willard Pierce, 3
Morgan Uceny, 3
Jenny Barringer, 2
Nicole Teter, 2
Sarah Schwald, 2
Treniere Clement Moser, 2
Cindy Bremser, 1
Claudette Groenendaal, 1
Darlene Beckford, 1
Erin Donohue, 1
Janice Merrill, 1
Kim Gallagher, 1
Linda Sheskey, 1
Marla Runyan, 1
Sue Addison, 1
– 140 total sub-4:05 performances; 33 by current athletes (24%)
– 23 different USA women have run sub-4:05; 7 current athletes (30%)
I am not sure what to make of this list. It’s an interesting way to look at some of the top 1500 meter women of all-time. But keep in mind that there are many ways to consider how “good” a runner is. Here is a look at finishing place at World Championships and Olympics.
US Women 1500 meters top 8 finishes at World Championships and Olympics
Mary Decker Slaney – 1st (1983 WC), 8th (1988 Oly)
Regina Jacobs – 2nd (1997 WC), 2nd (1999 WC)
Shannon Rowbury – 3rd (2009 WC), 7th (2008 Oly)
Christin Wurth-Thomas – 5th (2009 WC)
Anna Willard Pierce – 6th (2009 WC)
Ruth Wysocki – 7th (1995 WC), 8th (1984 Oly)
Diana Richburg – 7th (1987 WC)
Marla Runyan – 8th (2000 Oly)
Should Suzy Favor Hamilton be considered the #2 1500 runner in US history? She ran sub-4:05 24 times (#2 on the list above) and her PR of 3:57.40 is the second fastest of all-time (see list below). But she never placed in the top eight at a World Championships or Olympics.
Another way to compare athletes is to look at their PR:
US Women 1500 meters all-time
1. Mary Slaney, 3:57.12 – 07/26/83
2, Suzy Favor Hamilton, 3:57.40 – 07/28/00
3. Anna Willard, 3:59.38 – 08/28/09
4. Jenny Barringer, 3:59.90 – 06/07/09
5. Christin Wurth-Thomas, 3:59.98 – 07/10/09
6. Ruth Wysocki, 4:00.18 – 06/24/84
7. Shannon Rowbury, 4:00.33 – 07/18/08
8. Regina Jacobs, 4:00.35 – 08/29/99
9. Diana Richburg, 4:01.79 – 09/05/87
10. Morgan Uceny, 4:02.34 – 07/08/10
It’s worth noting that five of the top ten US runners of all-time are currently active. Also, Treniere Clement Moser (4:03.32 in 2006) and Erin Donohue (4:03.91 in 2010) are currently competing, too. The US currently has seven sub-4:05 runners.
The sub-4:05 list is about how often a runner was able to run a quality mark than about how good that quality mark was. For example, where should PattieSue Plumer rank when one considers the best 1500 meter runners in US history? She did break 4:05 seven times. But her PR of 4:03.42 does not rank among the ten best in US history. Perhaps someone has a large number of sub-4:05’s because they liked to race a lot or had more race opportunities.
I asked Ruth Wysocki, two top eight championship finishes, #6 US all-time, and five sub-4:05 races, what she thinks of the sub-4:05 list. Ruth told me that she would be interested in seeing what percentage of an individual’s 1500’s were sub-4:05. She pointed out that Mary Slaney probably had a very high percentage of her races sub-4:05 and while Regina Jacobs didn’t race as much as Slaney, when she raced she tended to be ready to go so Jacobs probably had a high percentage of her races at sub-4:05. Ruth, on the other hand, said that she tended to race her way into shape so she had more races that were over 4:05 on the way to her peak performances.
What stands out on the sub-4:05 list to me is how many runners from the same era appear. Slaney, Plumer, Wysocki, Richburg, Bremser, Groenendaal, Gallagher, Sheskey, and Addison were all competing in the 80’s together. And now Wurth-Thomas, Rowbury, Pierce, Uceny, Barringer, Moser, and Donohue all face off against one another. I think it takes one or two individuals to set the bar high and then others strive to reach that level as well.
No matter what list you look at or how you analyze it, we are currently in a special time for the men’s 800 and for the US women’s 1500. Sit back and enjoy the fast running as people run fast times that will require these lists to be re-written.
Wow! Talk about a memorable day!
I assume most of you already know the good news that Shannon Rowbury won the bronze medal in the women’s 1500 at the IAAF World Championships here in Berlin. It was a roller coaster of emotions. First there was her fall on Tuesday in the first round when she did not qualify and we had to wait some anxious hours until we got confirmation that she was advanced to the semi-final on appeal. Today there was another fall…but I am getting ahead of myself.
For the first 2 1/2 laps there was a lot of shoving but Shannon looked confident and well positioned. Her strong kick at Friday’s semi-final gave me some great hope for how the final 200 might go. In fact this morning my text message to her was: “The Rowbury kick is there. The competition better watch out. Good luck. Love, Andy, Malinda, and Sherie.” With a lap to go there was still a pretty good size pack but with about 350 meters to go the leaders started to separate and Shannon was in that lead group. I started thinking to myself, maybe this is her day. With 200 to go there were 5 of them battling for the medals. I didn’t see it live but on replay it was pretty clear that Rodriguez from Spain pushed Burka from Ethiopia. Burka fell and Shannon had to dance around/over the fallen runner. With 100 to go it was Rodriguez, Jamal from Bahrain, Dobriskey from Great Britian, and Shannon. Shannon stayed close but crossed the finish line 4th. I was happy for her because it appeared that she ran the race she wanted to run and competed well, battling for a medal right up until the finish line.
Then the replay came up on the scoreboard and we realized that Rodriguez might be DQ’ed. None of the 1500 athletes took the ceremonial victory lap so we knew there was an appeal. I spent the next half hour watching the finish area through binocolars, hoping to see Shannon come running on to the track with a USA flag for a victory lap. Then Shannon’s mom, Paula yelled down to me and gave me a thumbs up. Moments later the German man sitting next to me tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the scoreboard which showed the revised 1500 results with Shannon getting the bronze.
The next hour, waiting for the medal ceremony was weird. I don’t think I
believed it had happened. But all of a sudden there was Shannon on the podium getting her medal. I’ve been told that some combination of me, Malinda, and Sherie were on TV/universalsports.com waving our Go Shannon banner.
After the medal ceremony I got a text from a friend of Shannon’s congratulating me. That’s when it hit me that this was really happening. I was shaking as I texted back to him. The people in the stands near us had figured out who we were so loudly cheering for and many of them took pictures of us with the banner and smiled or congratulated us. What a feeling to be in the stadium and watch it unfold when Shannon won her first World Championship medal.
It’s 2:37am and we just got back to our apartment. We went to the Hilton to
celebrate with Shannon, her parents, agents and several other close friends. It was pretty special to be there in person with her for this special evening. And I can’t wait to show people the pictures and swag that we got! I like my Bolt Arms…but I love this Team USA jersey!