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Suffolk runner reaches women’s 800m final at U.S. Olympic qualifiers despite physical contact just before the finish line – The Virginian-Pilot
Suffolk runner reaches women’s 800m final at U.S. Olympic qualifiers despite physical contact just before the finish line – The Virginian-Pilot

EUGENE, Oregon – Nobody said competing in the Olympics was easy.

Kate Grace shot inward near the finish line, was accidentally elbowed, flew off the track and finally crashed into the clock in the infield.

After finishing second in the 800-meter semifinals at the U.S. Track and Field Qualifiers on Sunday night, Grace lay down for a moment. When she got up again, she had abrasions on her arms, hip and knee. Nevertheless, she made it to the final on Monday night.

“She’s a tough girl,” said home-schooled Michaela Rose of Suffolk, who caused the accidental contact and finished in 1:59.00, three hundredths of a second behind Grace. The race was won by reigning Olympic 800-meter champion Athing Mu in 1:58.84.

Grace may have a few scrapes from the track, but she doesn’t care. In a two-lap race, some physical contact is inevitable.

“Everything was honest,” said Grace, 35, who did not hit her head and felt ready to compete in the final on Monday. “A lot of us were trying to get to the finish line. If that thing (the pole) hadn’t been there, I might not have fallen, but there’s just a lot of stuff in the infield. So you kind of have nowhere to go.”

Rose said she had no idea that Grace, who made the U.S. team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, was charging hard at her from the left.

After the race they chatted briefly.

“She seemed OK,” said Rose, who is headed to LSU. “She said, ‘Good job. I hope you make it to the finals.'”

Rose made it through and secured a place in the final based on her time. Rose also had the perfect game plan and took a big lead. She ran out of steam on the home stretch when Mu and Grace started to accelerate. The crowd let Rose know what was going on.

“I know she’s a crowd favorite,” Rose said of Mu. “So when I heard her cheering, I thought, ‘Oh, they’re coming. They’re coming at me.’ So I just tried to give it my all.”

By Isla