May 30, 2009
Greensboro, N.C. - As the NCAA East Regional Track and Field Championship opened on Friday at North Carolina A&T State University, sophomore Kate Grace (Los Angeles, Calif.) blazed through the competition to end the day with the fastest preliminary time in the 800-meter run. She easily qualified for the finals in the event, which will be held on Saturday.
Four heats were held for the preliminary round of the 800-meter run. The top finisher in each heat advanced to the finals, as did the four runners with the next-fastest times. Grace ran in the last heat.
Grace won her heat in 2:06.69. Until Friday, her fastest time of the season had been 2:06.75, which she ran in the preliminary heat of the ECAC Championships two weeks ago. This race in Greensboro was a close one; Grace's heat was the fastest of the day by far. The top three women all qualified for Saturday's finals.
A senior from Charlotte was right on Grace's heels with a 2:06.97 finish (only .28 seconds behind).
"It was neck and neck," Grace said. "I was on the outside of her the whole time; we were both running in lane one around the 100-meter mark. Around the 120-meter mark, where people normally start kicking I started and she didn't necessarily go. The other heats were very slow, and if she knew the approximate times then she knew that she didn't have to win it; she wasn't trying for the best possible time. But it was good for my confidence for me to win today."
Penn's Anna Aagenes, who has been consistently right behind Grace at the finish line this season, finished third in their heat in a time of 2:07.40 (.71 seconds behind Grace).
"I'm always in her heat," Grace laughed. "I've run the past four races with her - and Heps, of course - and we're kind of friends. She's a really nice girl and we're always running together."
Other contenders in the finals include Florida State junior Pilar McShine, who won her heat in 2:06.88 - a mere .11 seconds slower than Grace's time.
During Saturday's finals Grace will strive to keep her time as close as possible to her preliminary one, or at least to finish in the top five. The first five finishers are awarded automatic berths to the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. June 10-13. She will have some tough competition; with preliminary times so close together, no one can know how the finals will turn out. She'll have to keep running just as well as she has been. At this point, though, finishing in the top five does not seem like too difficult of a task; Grace remains the one to beat.
Her feelings about the finals? "Excited," she stated confidently. Not nervous. "Coach Young says we can be `cautiously optimistic.' I have been slower on the second day of competitions in the past, but I've really been working hard this season: training longer and holding off tapering, so I'm a lot stronger."
Grace will compete in the 800-meter run finals at 6:25 p.m. on Saturday on North Carolina A&T's Irwin Belk Track. She will run in lane four. Live results will be posted here immediately following the event, and coverage will be posted on YaleBulldogs.com later in the evening.
More information on the NCAA East Regional Chapionship can be found here.
Report by Kyle Eichner '12, Yale Sports Publicity