Uceny coasts to semifinals at trials

EUGENE, Ore. — Even if she doesn’t talk about it, Morgan Uceny still has memories of being tripped during her World Championship race a year ago.
So, when it came to the preliminaries of the women’s 1,500-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials, she wasn’t taking any chances.
“Given my history, it makes me uncomfortable (to be back in the pack),” said Plymouth native Uceny after she led her prelim race almost from start to finish Thursday night.
Her winning time —4 minutes, 14.07 seconds — was the fastest recorded in any of the three opening races. But time is not nearly so important as the fact she advances to today’s semifinals at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.
There will be 24 women running today. Twelve will make it to the championship race Sunday evening.
The pace was not especially fast until the last lap, but Uceny said she felt comfortable and relaxed. Her main goal was just to stay away from flying feet and elbows.
“Getting out front was a way for me to stay out of trouble,” said Uceny, who was ranked No. 1 in the world last year by Track & Field News magazine.
“If I’m going to get clipped from behind … I just can’t let that happen,” said Uceny. “I just have to stand my ground a little more.”
Uceny is the defending national champion and received a hearty roar from the standing-room-only crowd when she was introduced.
Afterwards, though, she was pestered a bit by reporters still asking about last year’s mishap.
“You can’t think about it too much,” said Uceny. “It does make me more aware of my surroundings. I try to put myself in positions where that (getting tripped) is less likely.”
Uceny’s chief rival, Jenny Simpson, finished second in a different heat and also advanced to today’s semifinals. She and Uceny will be in the same semifinal race.
Former Notre Dame All-American Molly Huddle made Irish fans proud by placing second in the women’s 5,000-meter run to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete at the London Olympics in August.
Huddle, who set the American record in the event in 2010, clocked 15:14.40 on Thursday. After running in the lead pack through most of the race, Huddle became entrenched in a two-runner dual down the homestretch.
Julie Culley of the New York Athletic Club outsprinted Huddle to finish first in 15:13.77.
There was a heartbreaking finish for Mishawaka resident Mark Hollis, who is an assistant track coach at Elkhart Memorial High School. He placed fifth in the men’s pole vault, missing a spot on the Olympic Team by about five inches. Brad Walker won the event.
In the men’s 5,000 meters, Galen Rupp outkicked Bernard Lagat, clocking 13:22.67 and adding a second title to his resume. He won the 10K last Friday.
Lance Brooks won the discus and Evan Jager took the 3,000-meter steeplechase.