Lost in the shuffle of defending Olympic champion Athing Mu’s shocking fall 200 meters into the finals of the women’s 800 meters is Nia Akins, who now lives in Seattle as part of the Brooks Beasts team that boasts the likes of world champion at 1500 meters Josh Kerr, and wily veterans like Isaiah Harris, won the race in a personal best 1:57.36 to conclude day 4 of the US Olympic Track & Field Trials Monday night.

 

While she said that she didn’t have time to think about what had just happened, the San Diego native knew someone had fallen, but she was so locked in on the task at hand.

 

“I was just tunnel vision,” she said, “focused on just finishing the race.”

 

As they crossed the line with one lap, frontrunner Michaela Rose of LSU took to the front, with Kristie Schofield and Akins tucked behind.

The Women’s 800m final was, to put it mildly, a tough race, photo by Chuck Aragon, for RunBlogRun

Heading up the backstretch, Akins opened up, took the lead from Rose near the 600-meter mark, and left the rest of the field without a challenge, setting a personal best of 1:57.36.
Allie Wilson and Stanford’s Juliette Whittaker all made late charges to catch the fading Rose. Wilson finished second in a season-best 1:58.32, while Whittaker ran a personal best of 1:58.45 to grab the final Olympic spot.

Nia Akins wins 800m, with Allie Willson taking silver and Juliette Whitaker taking bronze, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun.

 

Mu’s fall may also have contributed to the sub-par performances of Oregon alum Raevyn Rogers, who had to jump to avoid Mu, and of Sage Hurta-Klecker, who jumped inside the rail to prevent falling herself.

 

Rogers, the Olympic bronze medalist from Tokyo, was seventh in 2:01.12, while Hurta-Klecker was fifth in 2:00.38.

 

There was a bit of deja vu for Akins, who fell in the 2021 Olympic Trials 800 finals race and finished last.

 

When asked about whether or not she was surprised that no one challenged her over the last 200 meters, the Penn grad and San Diego native, who was still in a state of shock after her victory, said, “Honestly, I wasn’t thinking. I felt it in my spirit to just go for it. I’ve never moved there before, and I’m thinking ‘I hope this works’”.

 

She said the idea of winning the whole thing hasn’t settled in.

 

“I’m super proud of finishing the top three and moving on to Paris,” Akins said

 

“The Trials are so difficult. We just practice what the Olympics is going to be,” referring to the US system of running three rounds to survive and advance.

 

“The competition in Paris is going to be super difficult. I’ll be curious to see what it’s like battling people down the homestretch. Being in a kick battle is a lot different than running away. I’m expecting to work a lot harder.”

Nia Akins takes the 800 meters, at the 2024 Olympic Trials, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun.

 

“I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for that (what happened three years ago at the Trials when she fell). I learned a lot from it. It sucked, and it happened. It helped me grow as a person. You never know what’s going to happen in life. Nothing’s promised.”

 

Since teaming up with coach Danny Mackey and the Brooks Beasts in 2020 with a collegiate personal beat of 2:01.67, Akins has shown a steady progression, breaking two minutes for the first time in 2022.

Valery Tobias. Nia Akins doing some hill work, photo by Johnny Pace for Brooks Beasts TC/Brooks Running

 

After winning the national title last year, she advanced to the finals at the world championships, where she finished sixth in 1:57.73.

 

THE FOLLOW UP…

 

In my first piece on the Trials, I wrote about University of Washington head coach Andy Powell’s training group and the fact that he had four runners entered in the men’s 1500.

 

In Tuesday night’s final, 2023 NCAA 1500 meter champion Nathan Green finished fifth in a race in which the top nine men either ran a personal best or a season best.

The final of the Men’s 1,500m, June 24, 2024, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

 

Green ran 3:32.20, breaking his previous personal best of 3:34.49 set two days earlier.

Two-time NCAA champ Joe Waskom also set his personal best, running 3:33.74 to finish seventh. He shattered his previous personal best of 3:34.64, set last year in Lignano, Italy.

Waskom wins the 1,500m once again! photo by Paul Merca

 

Waskom, who just graduated from Washington and signed a pro contract with adidas, will continue training with Powell, which means he’ll still have Green, who has one year of eligibility remaining, as a training partner.

 

Luke Houser, the two-time NCAA indoor mile champ, will move across town after signing a pro contract with Brooks and the Brooks Beasts.

 

Also, in my first piece on the Trials, I wrote about 16-year-old Quincy Wilson from Bowie, Maryland, one of the nine high school athletes competing in the meet.

 

Wilson, who broke the national high school record and the world under-18 record in the 400 meters twice in the first round (44.66) and in the semifinals (44.59), finished sixth in 44.94.

 

Running out of lane 2, the Bullis HS standout had ground to make up early but made a late charge in the homestretch, placing sixth in 44.94.

 

That sixth-place finish puts Wilson in contention for selection to the US Olympic team’s 4 x 400 men’s and mixed relay pools. The decision will ultimately be made by the coaching staff, particularly Mike Marsh, the men’s relay coach.

 

JaiCieonna Gero-Holt, the high school phenom from Emerald Ridge High in Puyallup, Washington, finished sixth in the women’s high jump, clearing 6-2 (1.88m).

 

Gero-Holt, who won the USA under-20 heptathlon title almost two weeks ago here at Hayward Field, needed two tries to clear 6-0 (1.83m) and 6-2 (1.88m) before being eliminated at 6-3.25 (1.91m).

 

She’s expected to travel to Lima, Peru, at the end of August to compete at the World Athletics U20 championships before attending the University of Illinois.

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