When 1.1 seconds separates first place from last place, it’s easier to find greatness than fault.
So when Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson ran the race of her life in winning the women’s 200 meters at the World Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, on Thursday night, former University of Kentucky star Abby Steiner was still feeling pretty good about her fifth-place finish.
“It was just such a great learning experience,” Steiner said during her postrace interview with FloTrack.org. “I got to compete against some of the people that I’ve looked up to for so long in this sport. I got to get used to a World Championship atmosphere and, after a really long season, I’m already looking forward to next year.”
Jackson’s time of 21.45 seconds was a record for the World Championships. Fellow Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price was right behind in:21.81. Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith took the bronze medal in :22.02.
Next came Nigeria’s Aminatou Seyni (:22.12) and Steiner (:22.16). The remaining order of finish included Steiner’s USA teammate Tamara Clark in sixth (:22.32), Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson-Herah in seventh (:22.39) and Switzerland’s Mujinga Kambundji in eighth (:22.55).
Steiner appeared to get off to a strong start but faded late. However, with separation measured in a mere blink of an eye, more detailed analysis will have to come later.
Steiner, who won the NCAA (:21.80) and US championships (personal best:21.77) earlier this summer on the same Hayward Field track in Eugene, cited two challenges that might have led to a slower time Thursday than she posted in those previous victories .
Qualifying heats earlier this week placed Steiner on the outside in Lane 8 for Thursday’s finals. Since the race begins on a curve in the track, that meant the former UK star broke from the blocks with the entire field out of her sight line. Also, Steiner acknowledged that a long collegiate season leading into the World Championships might have caught up with her along with many of those brilliant sprinters behind her.
“It was really just kind of get out and don’t tense up if you see them coming,” Steiner told FloTrack, saying she could not recall having ever run from Lane 8 before. “I got out hard and I kind of lost it at the end but you know I wanted to give it all I had in Lane 8 and hold on for dear life pretty much.
“I knew that I was trying to run away from really fast people behind me so I was just doing the best I could.”
After indoor and outdoor track seasons at UK as a senior this spring, Steiner won the NCAA championship on June 11 and the US title on June 26 before preparing for the Worlds.
That added up to a lot of racing.
“I wasn’t trying to think about it but that was my 55th race so I think that my legs kind of felt that a little bit but, again, that wasn’t really in my head,” she told FloTrack. “I was just trying to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities.”
Steiner’s postrace interview, conducted while she was still catching her breath after leaving the track, was loaded with optimism and void of self-doubt.
She said the chance to experience the Jamaica-USA sprint rivalry for the first time on a national stage was “so fun.”
“Just kind of seeing where I stacked up and also getting to talk to them and seeing what they do,” Steiner said of her competition Thursday. “They’re all such sweethearts and so easy to root for so I’m really happy for their success. I’m definitely going to keep that in the back of my head as I take this time off and get ready for fall training. I’m excited to get ready for next year as a pro and be at this meet as a pro without the collegiate season on my legacy.”
In need of a break, Steiner told FloTrack that she does not expect to race again this year once the World Championships end this weekend. However, she might have more work to do for Team USA in this meet if called upon.
Heats are scheduled Saturday in both the 4-by-100 and 4-by-400 relays, with finals set for Sunday. Steiner is eligible to contribute in either event.
“I’d love to run a relay,” Steiner told FloTrack. “I’m going to give everything I have to this meet wherever they need me.”