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Morgan Uceny '07, 1,500-meter star, on track to compete at world championships

Morgan Uceny wins national championship

Morgan Uceny '07 wins the 1,500-meter USA Outdoor Track and Field Championship in Eugene, Ore. June 24. Photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport.

For anyone watching the 1,500-meter race at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. June 24, the competition must have seemed over shortly after it had begun. American Christin Wurth-Thomas, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team, had raced out to a commanding lead and seemed to have victory in hand.

That's when Morgan Uceny '07 made her move.

After leading the chase pack with 400 meters to go, the former Cornell track standout used her kick to close the gap, ultimately rolling past Wurth-Thomas with 80 meters remaining to win her first U.S. outdoor championship by nearly two seconds, crossing the line in 4:03.91.

With the victory, she earned a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the IAAF World Track and Field Championship, to be held in Daegu, South Korea, from Aug. 27 to Sept. 4. Uceny is the first Cornellian to qualify to represent the United States at the World Championships since Cornell Hall of Famer Stephanie Best '91 made the 1999 team, also in the 1,500.

"The goal was to place in the top three and to make the U.S. team," Uceny says. "I wasn't going to do anything crazy and blow my chances. I know my strengths and what I am capable of. The hard part is controlling the weaknesses, like being patient! It was difficult to let Wurth-Thomas go, but I was focused on the race plan and ran my own race."

For Uceny, a four-time All-American and six-time Heptagonal Champion in the 800 meter, her first national championship was a long time coming and jump started what has become her most successful track season as a professional runner. With her performances over the past month in the IAAF Diamond League, the most prestigious racing circuit in the world, she is now considered by many to be the top female 1,500 runner in the world.

Morgan Uceny running track at Cornell

Morgan Uceny '07, pictured while at Cornell, is now considered by many to be the top female 1,500-meter runner in the world.

That is because Uceny is currently leading that league's standings in the 1,500 meter; she won two consecutive league races, defeating Bahrain's Maryam Yusuf Jamal, the reigning IAAF World 1,500 champion, twice in 10 days. With those victories, she became the first American woman in 25 years to win more than one Diamond League 1,500 race in the same summer. In her final league 1,500 race July 22 in Monaco, Uceny finished third in a personal-best time of 4:01.51, which ranks ninth all-time for U.S. athletes.

Additionally, Uceny ran her first outdoor 800-meter race of the 2011 season July 19 in Lignano, Italy, and earned the victory with a personal-best time of 1:58.37. That performance is the seventh best time in the world this year and the second best by an American by 0.04 seconds. In the race, she defeated Alice Schmidt and Maggie Vessey, both members of the U.S. team.

Uceny will look to continue her momentum as she attempts to capture her first world championship next month. If Uceny wins at that level, she will become the first ever Cornellian, and second Ivy League graduate, to bring home an IAAF World Track and Field Championship, joining Adam Nelson (Dartmouth, shot put, 2005).

Uceny says the competition in South Korea "will be a great test for me. I want to be the last one standing at the end of it all."

As a tune-up, Uceny may run a few more 800-meter races but will mostly use the time to get in a solid, uninterrupted training block. She will do that as she trains with the Mammoth Track Club in their base camp of Lucca, Italy.

Related links:

IAAF World Track and Field Championship (Daegu, South Korea)

Mammoth Track Club

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