EUGENE, Ore. — It worked once, so Morgan Uceny decided to do it again.
Leading pretty much from start to finish, Uceny won her semifinal heat of the women’s 1,500-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Her time Friday — 4 minutes, 8.9 seconds — was the fastest of all the qualifiers at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. She now heads to Sunday’s championship race, which will be broadcast live by NBC at 7:23 p.m.
“I felt really good yesterday, so I sort of went into today with the same mindset,” said Uceny. “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broke. “
Bolting to the lead as soon as the gun sounded, Uceny got away from the elbows and jostling of the 12-runner pack. She strode easily for 3-1/2 laps before kicking down the homestretch.
“I just went with it,” she said. “Went with what felt comfortable.”
Joining her at the front was her main challenger for the title, Colorado’s Jenny Simpson. She paced easily beside the Plymouth native and finished second in 4:09.12.
Sunday’s race promises to be an epic battle. Simpson is the defending world champion. Uceny is the defending national champion and ranked No. 1 in the world last year by Track & Field News magazine.
Simpson was ranked No. 3.
“It’s hard to say how it will play out. We’ll just have to see,” said Uceny when asked about her expectations for the race.
“One of the great things about both Morgan’s and my story is that, in different ways, we’ve reached the pinnacle of our sport, and we’ve definitely earned our stripes along the way,” said Simpson.
“Neither one of us is a flash in the pan,” said Simpson. “(Morgan) has been around a long time, I’ve been around a long time. I think we have a lot of mutual respect for each other.”
While times won’t mean a whole lot in the final, it’s worth noting that Uceny had the fastest time in both the prelims and semis. But whether she will try a front-running tactic again is anybody’s guess.
“I’ll do what my coach tells me to do,” said Uceny.
Two finals were run Friday. Jillian Camarena-Williams won the women’s shot put with a toss of 62-10 1/2.
Emma Coburn won the women’s steeplechase in 9:32.78.