Uceny victorious at trials
EUGENE, Ore. – Now, all Morgan Uceny has to do is win an Olympic Gold Medal.
Don’t laugh. It’s a distinct possibility.
The 2003 Plymouth High School grad dominated a loaded field and earned a trip to the London Olympics by winning the women’s 1,500-meter run Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Before a nationwide television audience, Uceny bided her time for three laps, then surged to victory with a determined homestretch sprint down the famed track at the University of Oregon.
Her winning time, 4 minutes, 4.59 seconds, placed her over a half-second ahead of runner-up Shannon Rowbury (4:05.11) and defending world champion Jenny Simpson (4:05.17).
Next stop, London, where Uceny will begin her quest for Olympic Gold with preliminary heats scheduled Monday, Aug. 6.
“Now that I’ve (made the team), I’m just so excited,” said Uceny afterwards. “I’ve never been in better condition this early in the season, so I’m just going to take advantage of that and do the best I can to get a medal for the U.S.”
Uceny, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, is the first Olympic athlete ever from Plymouth.
It’s been a long road to get there. After winning a state title for the Pilgrims in the girls 800-meter run in 2002, Uceny dropped out of sight when she got to college.
But after a lost freshman year at Cornell University, when she freely admits she drank and ate too much, she dedicated herself to reaching the pinnacle of her sport.
“I went to Cornell, where, my freshman year, I drank too much and gained 10 pounds and didn’t get a varsity letter, running, which was just embarrassing,” said Uceny, when asked about her athletic background in the post-race press conference.
“That changed me as a person, because I knew that’s not who I was,” she said. “The next summer, I came back an entirely different person. From then on, I put my head down and knew that I was running for myself. That may sound selfish, but when you are hurting as bad as you are, that, I find, is the motivation from within. It’s been different ever since. Now, I have all these aspirations and goals that I dream of, and it has just worked out.”
Now, Uceny is a two-time national champion, not to mention the world’s No. 1-ranked 1,500-meter runner.
And Sunday’s race showed she has matured as a tactician, as well. Running near the front, but not taking the lead till the final lap, Uceny waited until she, Simpson and Rowbury separated themselves from the field, pretty much guaranteeing all three an Olympic berth.
“On that last lap, I knew that if I just kept my nerves and kept calm and pressed a little bit, that I would be OK,” said Uceny.
“I really wanted to win,” she said. “Terrance (Uceny’s coach) told me, ‘Make sure you’ve got the top three down, and then you can go for the win.’ Once I saw we were the top three, it just really boiled down to that last 200 meters.”
With the finish line in sight, Uceny found another gear and the race was over. She raised her arms in victory, then pointed to family members in the stands — a whole bunch of them came to Eugene and rented a couple houses — before grabbing an American flag and taking off for a victory lap with her new Olympic teammates.
She won’t be taking time off … there’s work to do, there’s a Gold Medal to be won, so she’s heading back to her training camp near San Diego. But she looks forward to a trip back to Plymouth after the Games.
“I think it’s going to be a pretty good family reunion,” she said.