• Curtis Anderson

Green, Blankenship, Mead to represent OTC Elite at Worlds

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Track Club Elite coach Mark Rowland admitted that things “got a little messy” during competition at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, last week.

However, the overall results were positive.

OTC Elite brought six athletes to the four-day meet. Four of them reached the final of their respective events, and three performed well enough to earn a spot on Team USA for the IAAF World Championships, Sept. 27-Oct. 6, in Doha, Qatar.

Those earning a coveted spot on the World team were Hanna Green in the 800 meters, Ben Blankenship in the 1,500m and Hassan Mead in the 5,000m.

“As far as I’m concerned, the Trials are all about getting qualified,” Rowland said. “Everyone knew what the permutations of qualifying were going into the weekend, so job well done. But as usual in a U.S. championship meet, it wasn’t quite that simple, and it got a little messy at times.”

There was no mess for the 24-year-old Green.

The second-year pro out of Virginia Tech came into the U.S. championships with an abundance of momentum after setting a personal best of 1 minute, 58.75 seconds in the 800m at the Prefontaine Classic on June 30. It was her Diamond League debut and the first time she had broken 2 minutes in the two-lap event.

At the U.S. meet, Green executed her game plan to perfection. She eased up on the home stretch in easily winning her first-round heat (2:02.74), and then safely advanced out of the semifinal without exerting too much energy, placing second in 2:01.37.

In the final, Green tucked inside in the middle of the pack through the first lap, then gradually moved up on the backstretch, putting herself in solid position to earn a podium spot over the last 100 meters. She used her strength to power across the finish line in second place to make her first World team with another PB of 1:58.17, making her the fifth-fastest 800m performer in the world this year.

“We both knew what would be required during the race,” Rowland said. “It was important for Hanna to seize the opportunity to secure her first World Championships berth by being smart, patient and strong. It was a bonus to run a PB for the second year in a row at nationals.”

Things weren’t quite so tidy for Blankenship and Mead.

The former University of Minnesota teammates came into the U.S. meet having already achieved the World Championship qualifying standards, giving them a distinct advantage over those who had not yet run the standard because USATF – the governing body for the sport in the U.S. – had declared that athletes would not be allowed to chase the standard after the meet concluded.

Blankenship, who set a PB of 3:52.51 in the Bowerman Mile at the Pre Classic a month ago, was strong and composed as he won his 1,500m semifinal with a time of 3:43.07. In a tactical final, he placed fourth (3:45.60), but still earned a spot on his third global team because third-place finisher Josh Thompson did not have the standard. Blankenship was fifth at the 2018 World Indoor Championships and eighth at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Ben’s in good shape, but he ‘got out of jail,’ so to speak, and he knows that,” Rowland said.

In the 5,000m, the trio of Paul Chelimo, Woody Kincaid and Lopez Lomong broke away from the field of 21 runners with a brisk early pace, while Mead settled into the front of the chase pack. At the midway point, the frontrunners slowed enough to allow the rest of the field catch up, and Mead worked his way through the pack to join the leaders with a mile to go. He placed fourth overall (13:28.04) but two of the runners ahead of him did not have the standard, so he secured a spot on his fourth World team. Mead earned his qualifier by virtue of his 5,000m victory at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Championships (NACAC) in Toronto last summer.

“Hassan ran tactically well for his current condition, but was left short at the close, and showed he has plenty of room for improvement,” Rowland said. “He is gradually progressing back to his previous shape of a couple years ago. He’ll need to be patient.”

Elsewhere, Harun Abda made the 800m final and placed seventh, while Drew Piazza (800m) and Vince Ciattei (1,500m) both reached the semifinals.