LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Morgan Uceny is a woman on the move.
Today, she’s in Lausanne, Switzerland, getting ready to run in a big track meet Thursday. It’s a Diamond League meet, where a professional runner — such as Uceny — could potentially earn a lot of money.
From there, it’s on to Italy, home base for Uceny’s Mammoth Track Club, a collection of unbelievably talented distance runners getting ready for the World Track and Field Championships. Then, after bopping around Europe for a couple months, it’s on to Daegu, Korea, where Uceny will race in the world championship meet the week of August 27 through September 4.
Of course, Uceny is doing all this because of what she did Saturday in Eugene, Oregon.
The 2003 Plymouth High School graduate won the women’s 1500-meter run at the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships, clocking a red-hot 4:03.91, as a worldwide audience watched live on NBC television. In the junior nationals, meanwhile, Culver Girls Academy graduate Waverly Neer earned a dramatic win in the women’s 3,000-meter run.
“To finally make a (U.S.) world championship team, I can’t tell you how that feels,” said Uceny by telephone a few hours after her victory. “It’s a sense of relief because I’ve bombed in a lot of national championship races before, but today everything came together.”
Uceny — the daughter of Marty and Brenda Uceny of Plymouth — took a calculated gamble as Saturday’s 1500 final began, allowing early leader Christin Wurth-Thomas to open a huge lead over the first three laps.
Wurth-Thomas, who ran for the University of Arkansas, surged away at the gun and held a 40-meter advantage with one lap to go. Behind her, Uceny — who ran for Cornell University — stayed patient, fighting the urge to sprint and catch up.
“She (Wurth-Thomas) has done that before, so I wasn’t surprised to see her out there,” said Uceny. “I thought about trying to catch up to her, but my coaches kept telling me to stay calm, maintain form, she’ll be coming back.”
With 300 meters to go, Uceny unleashed a withering kick, while Wurth-Thomas started to falter. Uceny caught Wurth-Thomas at the top of the homestretch and then surged away, extending her lead to nearly 20 meters by the finish.
Jenny Simpson placed second in 4:05.66 and former champ Shannon Rowbury outleaned an exhausted Wirth-Thomas at the line for third. It was one of the most dramatic races of the day.
“With about 600 (meters) to go, I could tell I was starting to make up some ground,” said Uceny. “I could see (Wurth-Thomas) wasn’t running as efficiently, while I was feeling great.”
The top three finishers in each event at the U.S. Championships qualify for the World team, as long as they have met a tough performance standard. Uceny hit that mark several months ago.
So, Korea, here she comes.
“I’ll be staying in Europe and running meets until it’s time for the World Championships,” said Uceny. “I probably won’t get home to visit Plymouth until late September or October.”
The simple fact is that — like soccer — track and field is a much bigger sport in Europe than it is in the United States. American runners spend much of their summer in Europe because that’s where they earn their money.
Uceny is sponsored by Adidas. For the past two years, she has lived in California while she trains with the Mammoth Track Club, an elite group of world class athletes. You can check out their Website at: www.mammothtrackclub.com .
Five members of the club, including Uceny, qualified for the World Championships.
After her victory, Uceny said she was flooded with text messages and phone calls from old friends and coaches back in Plymouth, giving her extra motivation to run well at the World Championship meet.
“I’ll be home for a visit,” said Uceny, “but I’ve got a lot of running to do before that.”