The quest that started a month ago is now over. The University of Florida's Cory McGee earned her spot on the plane to represent the USA at the World Championships in Moscow next month.
It began at US Senior Nationals in Iowa. After a seventh place 4:14 in the 1500 meter prelims, she shocked the field by finishing in third place against the nation's finest. However, in order to make the team one must attain at least the 4:09.00 World "B" Standard--McGee's season best was a 4:10.55 and the slow and tactical finals race of 4:29.70 did not get her anywhere close. Undeterred, McGee set out to prove to the world she belonged and punch her ticket to her first World Championship team.
Thus began a month-long journey that has been much hyped among the track community. During that month McGee has seen her fame grow from being little-known outside of the SEC faithful to being among the prominent rising stars of the USATF. It has been a journey both figurative and literal; it has taken her around the world.
Genevieve LaCaze and Amanda Perkins, her two roomates from the University of Florida, have served as part of her entourage during the European tour. Lacaze, the 2012 Australian Olympian steeplechaser, has remained by her friend's side even after a fractured foot caused a premature ending to her own season. Perkins, the recent UF graduate and aspiring broadcast journalist, has played a key role on the supporting cast to keep both McGee and Lacaze in good spirits.
Last week in Belgium, McGee came oh so close! She placed third in the Memorial Leon Buyle with a 4:09.85. After the race, she said her confidence was very high and the low-key race at Oordegem simply wasn't the right one to get her there. But she knew she had it in the tank. It was only a matter of time.
Headed into her second race in the Kingdom of Belgium, McGee knew she would have to open up the race quicker than last week. Luckily, this week's KBC Night of Athletics brought in a rabbit to help keep them on pace.
From the gun, the 21 year old tucked in just behind the rabbit. She was determined this would be the day. She followed up her opening 63-second lap with a 2:08 split at 800 meters. The fast start was not exactly the original intention going into the race, causing her to quickly evolve her strategy.
"The plan pretty much went out window after the first 200," said McGee, "... we went out at a ridiculous pace. And I'm okay with that ... I like going out at a fast pace ... I think I saw 60 when I went through the first 400 and that's always a little bit nerve-wracking, but I knew this is my chance. So I had to regain my composure and ... just have the confidence that--no matter what happened--I knew I could do it."
The pace was definitely on target to get the ellusive mark, but could she hold on to it long enough to go under the 4:09.00 World B Standard?
She could. The Mississippi native went through 1200 meters in 3:16.53 and with 200 meters to go she started to hit the wall. Fighting hard to ignore the burning of her legs and the several runners passing her, McGee turned in a huge personal best of 4:06.67! She crossed Shannon Rowbury's name off the list and claimed her spot as the third American in the 1500 on the Moscow team.
The quest is over, but the new and bigger quest is on. Now she is out to prove she belongs and can compete against the world's finest. If history is any indicator, never bet against Cory McGee. She doesn't take "no" for an answer.
- Cory's Athlete Profile
- Cory's Twitter Page @CoryMcGeeRuns
- Race Results
- FloTrack Coverage of KBC Night of Athletics