* Darius Kipyego (left) and Sophia Gorriaran
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Two young runners from Rhode Island will find themselves on the line this weekend at the Music City Distance Carnival with huge opportunities in front of them at 800 meters.
Because if all goes right at Lipscomb Academy in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday, a few major things could happen for either of these athletes: A personal best time, a record or two, or maybe even a U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifier.
Sometimes key variables have to line up for those things to be possible.
But on Saturday, everything seems tailor-made for a fast finish: Each athlete will line up against professionals at the top of their games.
In Gorriaran's case, she has a golden opportunity to grab the Trials time-qualifier of 2:02.50 that she's been searching for since the beginning of the year. She's in the elite fast section of the 800m.
* Gorriaran's 2:03.36 in June
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In June, the 15-year-old from Rhode Island -- who turns 16 the week of the Trials next year -- ran 2:03.36 in a small meet in Providence, netting the fastest overall time for 800 meters over the 2020 season.
But on Saturday, things will be amplified by a multiplier of 10. Gorriaran is scheduled to compete in the City Auto Women's 800m featuring former NCAA champions such as Jazmine Fray and Sammy Watson, not to mention sub-2 minute pros like adidas' Kaela Edwards and HOKA One One's Ce'Aira Brown.
Preparation has been ongoing, though. In August, Gorriaran posted career best marks of 25.23 and 55.24 seconds in the 200m and 400m, respectively, giving reason to think she has the wheels to compete with women twice her age.
But there is at least a small concern on sharpness. In recent weeks, the young athlete has begun transitioning over to the lacrosse season, where -- not surrpisingly -- she also exhibits elite-athleticism and ability.
Still, Gorriaran's last three 800m races have seen her improve each time. In her biggest race yet, she will need a time of 2:02.50 to earn that milestone mark.
Important times to consider here will also be the freshman national class record of 2:02.40, captured Robin Campbell in 1974, and the 15-year-old age group record of 2:20.29, which Mary Decker also accomplished in 1974.
Meanwhile, in Kipyego's case he will also be lining up against an NCAA Champion. The top athlete in his field -- 1 of 2 sections -- is former Iowa State Edward Kemboii, who won NCAAs in the 800m over both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2015.
Kipyego may want to be patient here, as Kemboi owns a career best 1:44 mark.
But don't count out the Rhode Islander, who has been uber-focused since June, when he came up short over the last meters of a big race in Arizona and finished in 1:51.59.
Since then, he said, a focus has been placed on longer endurance work and a pairing of speed workouts.
That promptly saw a reward, as Kipyego produced a career best and new state record time of 1:48.82 in July over a field that included Asics' Johnny Gregorek and former Oregon athlete Colby Alexander.
|800||1:50.80||May 26 (TT)|
Kipyego, MileSplit's No. 2 recruit in the Class of 2021, says he wants to break 1:48 in this race on Saturday.
And recent history has been kind to the Rhode Islander. In July of last year, he finished with a 1:49.46 at the Pan American U20 Championships, netting a silver medal and the top time in his class.
Like Gorriaran, he's put in the necessary speed work in recent weeks to accomplish that goal, securing personal best marks in the 200m of 22.58 and 49.34 in the 400m.
Kipyego is one of three boys who have broken 1:49 this outdoor season, but he currently sits at US No. 3, behind Amador Valley senior John Lester (1:48.26) and Niwot (CO) graduate Cruz Culpepper (1:48.50).
There's a realistic shot here for the junior class recor dof 1:47.68, which is owned by Elijah Greer.
Kipyego also turns 18 in September, meaning the 17-year-old age group record -- also owned by Greer -- could be in jeopardy.
In both cases, both athletes have every reason to leave everything on the track. If nothing else, there's this ... last race best race.