Huddle, Suhr, Watson shine at USATF Championships in Sacramento

Results  Open  Junior

The 2017 USATF Outdoor Championships concluded Sunday (25-Jun) on the campus of Sacramento State University in Sacramento, Calf. The championships which began on Thursday (22-June) were marked with unusually high temperatures during the first two days of competition with highs hitting 106 degrees on Thursday and 97 on Friday.  
The event was a combined open (professional) and junior (under 20) championships.  The open athletes were vying for Team USA spots for the IAAF World Championships (London, UK; August 4-13) and the juniors were looking to secure the right to done the Team USA uniform at the Pan American Junior Games (Lima, Peru; July 21-23).  For the open athletes a finish in the top three in Sacramento (plus meeting the IAAF standard) secured their spot on the team.  For the juniors a top two finish in their event was their ticket to Peru.
Six (6) Niagara members competed competed in the open championships and five (5) competed in the junior championships.  
The story of the meet for the locals were the ladies, as Molly Huddle and Jenn Suhr continued their outstanding careers with earning Team USA spots to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Championships and 17 year old Samantha Watson concluding her storied high school career by running through two qualifying rounds and to make the 800m finals in the open championships.
Huddle started the meet off with a bang on the first day of competition as she unleashed a sub-4:44 last mile to defeat a star-studded field and picked-up her third consecutive 10,000m national title.  How talented was the field?  Huddle is the American record holder in the event and both Shalane Flanagan and Emily Infield have world global medals in their trophy cases -  Flanagan the silver from the 2008 Olympics and Infield the bronze at the 2015 world championships. 
Despite temperatures in the high 80s Huddle ran a impressive time of 31:19.86 to win.  Flanagan led for most of the race and with four laps to go a pack of Huddle, Flanagan, Infield, and Emily Sisson had separated themselves from the rest of the field.  With only three spots available for London the race was accented by the fact that one of the four would not make the team.   Huddle took over the lead from Flanagan just past 8000m and began a gradual acceleration.  Where as the lap splits had been 1:15-1:17 throughout the race; those dropped to 1:13 for the next two laps. With two laps to go Flanagan began to lose contact with the group and then Huddle dropped a 1:09 penultima lap and hit the bell lap with a 2 second lead over Sisson and Infield.  She would run 1:05.03 over the last lap to cement the win.  In the battle of the Emilys, Infield out ran Sisson 31:22.67 to 31:25.64.  Flanagan finished fourth in 31:31.12.
Despite a an ailing back, Jenn Suhr made her 11th global international team (3 Olympic, 5 world outdoor, 3 world indoor) as she finished second in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.65m (15-3). “Coming in I was not exactly sure how things would go as I had some back spasms, so we stayed on shorter runs the whole week, Suhr told reporters, “To come in and qualify, I am pretty happy. Anytime you can qualify at a meet and go represent your country, you have to be happy because so much can go wrong. I felt as the meet kept going (I was) figuring out my timing and I switched poles. I am really excited for the next couple weeks of training.”
While Huddle and Suhr were the stars of the meet for local athletes, Samantha Watson’s weekend was just stellar as she navigated through two qualifying rounds to reach the 8 woman final.  In the 1st round she ran 2:03.02 to finish second to NCAA champion Raevyn Rogers.  In the semi-finals where the top 4 in each race would advance to the finals, she ran 2:02.54 for fourth place; .47 seconds ahead of Hannah Fields.  Then in the finals she ran 2:00.99 to finish sixth.  The time was the second fastest of her career behind the 2:00.78 she ran at the Prefontaine Classic last month. She now holds the #3, #5, #6, and #8 times ever run by a prep athlete in the event. The only other prep who has multiple times in the top 10, is the late Kim Gallagher with the #2 and #9 performances.
Jonathan Jones (Chula Vista, Calf.) finished ninth in the shot put with a mark of 19.14m (62-9½).  2016 Cornell grad Ben Rainero (Ithaca, N.Y.) finished 16th in the 5000m in 14:11.14.  Madeline Kopp (Spencerport, N.Y.) picked up 19th place finishes in both the 400m (53.35) and 800m (2:05.52).
In the Junior Championships Binghamton University freshman Daniel Schaffer (Endicott, NY) finished third in the 5000m in 14:27.98; just .56 seconds short of second place and the last spot for the Pan American team.  I am very pleased with the race," Schaffer said afterwards (from Binghamton University sports information dept.). "I was hoping for one of the top two spots and have the opportunity to compete in Peru but I am still very happy with third. I ran in some national meets in high school but this is the first time I have ever made it to the podium (top three)."
A trio of University of Buffalo athletes competed well during the competition.   Caleb Covell (Rochester, N.Y.) finished sixth in the 5000m running a personal best time of 14:35.28. Sam Wray (Lockport, N.Y.) finished ninth in the discus throw with a best mark of 53.29m (174-10) and Matthew Mercer (Orchard Park, N.Y.) finished 11th in the 3000m steeplechase running 10:03.68.  
Rounding out the Niagara performances in Sacramento was Megan Caltagirone (Holland, N.Y. / Grand Valley State) with a ninth place finish in the 3000m steeplechase.

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