March 13, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Sophomore Kate Grace ran a terrific race in the preliminary round of the 800-meter run to qualify for the final round of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which will take place on Saturday evening. Grace, who qualified for the meet based on her provisional qualifying time of 2:06.41 at the ECAC Championships last week, will be competing in her first final at the National Championships.
While it was a tough road to get to the Championships, Grace certainly showed that she belonged at the meet and will be a force to be reckoned with over the next two indoor and three outdoor seasons. Grace qualified for the Championships by the closest of margins. Her time of 2:06.41 earned her the 17th and final qualifying spot in the meet and was only .04 seconds ahead of the next competitor in line to qualify. Today, however, Grace made the most of her opportunity and totally exceeded her seeding.
Grace ran in the first of three heats of the 800-meter run. With 17 student-athletes in the field, each heat had five or six athletes who started with a double-waterfall. The top two athletes from each heat advanced to the finals in addition to the two fastest athletes among those that did not place in the top two in their heats.
Grace's heat included some tough competition, which caused the heat to be the fastest of the day. The fast heat caused Grace to run a very fast first half of her race, going through the first 400 meters in just over 59 seconds. She was able to run very quickly for the first part of the race because she was able to run along with the other athlete that was included in her part of the waterfall. After a fast first two laps, Grace continued well later in the race and had a strong finish, running her final lap faster than her third lap. Grace finished fourth in her heat in a time of 2:04.72, allowing her to claim a spot in the finals. Both of the athletes that received a spot in the finals based on time came from Grace's heat, which was won by Michigan's Geena Gall in a time of 2:04.10. Gall took fourth in the event at the Championships last year and had the second-fastest time in the nation prior to the race. Grace's time in the preliminary heat would have been the ninth-fastest in the nation prior to the race.
Grace, who is the only Bulldog and the only Ivy League athlete competing in a track event at the Championships, is prepared to do well in the event finals, which are scheduled for tomorrow evening at 6:20 p.m. Although she was the last athlete to qualify both for the Championships and for the finals, she is faster than some of the athletes in the field. Her time of 2:04.72, which broke her previous school record by more than one-and-one-half seconds and is faster than her personal record outdoors, is the sixth-best time in the field. Grace also went under the facility record. The fastest time in the preliminary round was by Tennessee's Phoebe Wright, who won the second heat in a time of 2:03.71.
Grace was very pleased with her race and happy that she ran in a fast heat.
"I felt great in my race," Grace said. "It was a very fast race and definitely the fastest I have been in in my life. There was a waterfall, so I had one other person to compete with for place in the beginning of the race, which was nice because I didn't get boxed in. It helped to be in a fast race because I got pulled along. One of my big problems is losing focus in the middle of the race, but I was able to step it up and continue to concentrate."
Grace, who competed at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last year in the 800-meter run but did not advance to the finals, is excited to be in the finals.
"I am so happy to be in the finals," Grace said. "It is great to get race experience at this level of competition and I am very excited to race again tomorrow. It is such an experience and I want to give it my all tomorrow. I really like the facility that we are racing at. The track is amazing and has big turns, which are perfect for me."
The last Bulldog to compete at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in a track event was Lindsay Donaldson '08 in 2006. She finished seventh in the mile run. Donaldson earned six All-America selections over the course of her Yale career. That same year, Molly Lederman '06 competed and placed 15th in the pole vault.
Grace, who has reset the school record in the 800-meter run at every meet she has competed in, will have one more chance to lower her record when she races in the event finals tomorrow at 6:20 p.m.
Report filed by Caleb Dorfman '09, Yale Sports Publicity