In an unexpected finish to the women’s 400-meter semifinal Friday night at the U.S. outdoor track and field nationals, defending Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross, didn’t make the Saturday final and the University of Miami’s Shakima Wimbley did.
The top four finishers in each semifinal qualified for the final, to be held Saturday afternoon at Hayward Field. Wimbley finished fourth in her heat in 51.09 seconds to advance. Richards-Ross ran faster, 50.95, but finished fifth in her heat, which included the top qualifier, Francena McCorory in 49.85, and the overall top three timed qualifiers.
“I’m disappointed, but God is good so there’s a reason for this,” Richards-Ross said. “So I’m just going to have to go back and figure it out.”
Wimbley ran in the first heat, seeded in the lane next to Allyson Felix.
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She had left Hayward Field just two weeks ago after finishing fifth in the 400 meters at the NCAA championships, a performance that she said was disappointing. Friday, as she doubled over in the media tent still spent from her race, she said the experience helped her.
“I kind of got the jitters out being afraid to race people that are faster than me,” she said. “So it was a confidence booster.”
As she came down the final stretch, Wimbley could see she was in contention for fourth. “I just told myself, ‘Fight,’” she said. “I didn’t care that my body was starting to fatigue. I fought through it. I did it in practice, so I could do it in the meet.”
Richards-Ross felt her race come apart in the backstretch.“I kind of knew that it was a tough semi and if I didn’t run really well, there were going to be people coming on to me,” she said. “I’m disappointed, though, but it’s the way it’s meant to be today.”
Although Richards-Ross’ run to the world championship has ended for this year, she is still looking to the future. “It’s awesome to see the ladies running so well,” she said. “I’m going to get back to the drawing board, and I’ll be ready to defend my title next year.”