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Uceny set for finals at World Track & Field Championships

August 31, 2011

The moment of truth has arrived.
“The final will be about taking a risk,” said Plymouth native Morgan Uceny from a secluded spot underneath Daegu Stadium in Daegu, South Korea, early Tuesday morning. “You can’t win without taking a risk.”
At 7:55 a.m. Thursday (EDT), the 2003 Plymouth High School graduate will toe the starting line with 11 other women seeking a Gold Medal in the 1500-meter run at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships.
The race will take about four minutes. It will be decided by fractions of seconds. Millions of spectators will be watching worldwide on both television and the Internet.
And though this is her first-ever appearance in a world championship race, Uceny believes she has just as good a chance as anybody to win.
“I’m just going to have to do it,” she said in an interview on Flotrack.org. “I realize that doing it, versus just saying it, is very different. So, I just have to focus and make it happen.”
It’s been a long journey for Uceny since she won an Indiana high school state championship in the girls 800-meter run back in 2002. But little did anyone realize what an omen of things to come that would be.
Uceny reached Thursday’s final by virtue of a fifth-place finish in her semifinal race Tuesday. She clocked 4:09.03, far from her best effort this year.
But understand, fifth place was fine. The top five finishers in each of two semifinals automatically qualified for the final.
She was trapped along the rail midway through the race, but worked her way outside and up into the lead pack. Once it was certain she would make the top five, she backed off a little and cruised across the finish line.
It’s worth noting that defending world champion Maryam Yusuf Jamal — from Bahrain — was fourth in the same semifinal, just a half-step in front of Uceny. The leading runners weren’t worried about fast times, just moving on.
Still, that doesn’t mean Morgan was exactly happy with her semifinal effort.
“I didn’t quite execute as well as I needed to,” said Uceny in a post-race interview. “I didn’t commit up front enough that last lap. I was way wide and behind. Down the homestretch, I really didn’t want to go to that last gear. I just wanted to make sure I was in (the final) but not press too much.”
Uceny is one of two Americans to make the 1500 final. The other is Jenny Barringer Simpson, from Colorado. That fact alone is reason to celebrate. American women have not done well in this event over the years. The last American to win a gold medal was Mary Decker in 1983.

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