Anna Aagenes was just a second away from automatically qualifying for next week’s NCAA Track and Field Championships. Now, she’ll have to wait a whole year before she can redeem herself.
The junior competed at the NCAA East Regional Championships in Greensboro, N.C., last weekend along with senior Leah Brogan, but it was Aagenes’ performance in the 800 meters that highlighted the weekend.
With the top five competitors in each event receiving an automatic bid to Nationals, Aagenes was left out when she finished in eighth in the final race — exactly 1.16 seconds behind fifth-place runner Clarisse Moh of Seton Hall.
“It’s really tough,” coach Gwen Harris said. “When you’re in a situation like that for your first time, things happen that you might not be ready for.”
The news got worse Tuesday following Friday and Saturday’s races. Aagenes still had a chance to qualify for Nationals if her time was in the top 27 in the country. Unfortunately, the junior’s time of 2:08.85 was only good enough for 28th place — four-hundredths of a second behind the final qualifier.
“You never really know how things are going to shake out,” Aagenes said following the ruling. “It was pretty devastating.”
Aagenes advanced to the East Regional finals Friday after posting a career-best time of 2:07.40 that ranks her second in Penn’s history in the 800. The Doylestown, Pa., native’s strategy of staying close to the pack worked to perfection, as she finished third in a close three-way finish.
“Our goal was to make it to the finals,” Harris said. “I knew that if we made it to the finals, we’d have a pretty good shot to go [to Nationals].”
However, the strategy failed her in the finals, as the slow pace took Aagenes by surprise. She fell behind during the sprint to the finish and regretted not being “aggressive” enough.
Brogan, meanwhile, placed 18th out of 44 in the 5000 meters with a time of 16:52.46 — the second time in her career that she broke the 17-minute mark. But, according to her coach, a strong field and external distractions surrounding graduation held her back, not to mention pouring rain that began shortly after the start of the race.
“We did a couple of workouts; she was pretty good,” Harris said. “She was right on schedule, but I could also see that she was still a little stressed.”
“She really put her heart into her last race,” Aagenes said.
Unlike Brogan, her junior teammate can take solace in the fact that she has not run her last race at Penn. Aagenes won’t need to search hard to find motivation for next season.
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