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By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

EUGENE (25-Jun) -- Sinclaire Johnson, who won the 2019 NCAA 1500m title for Oklahoma State, added the open USA Track & Field title to her résumé here today, beating reigning champion Elle St. Pierre (née Purrier) with a strong sprint over the last 100 meters.  Johnson, 24, who represents the Nike Union Athletics Club, clocked 4:03.29 to not only clinch her first national title but to also earn her first senior national team berth.  St. Pierre finished third in 4:05.14, with Cory McGee finishing second in 4:04.52.  All three women have the World Athletics Championships entry standard and booked their places on Team USATF for next month's World Championships which will also be held here at Hayward Field.

Johnson took a deliberate approach to today's race which was held in sunny, hot and windy conditions.  Through the first 400 meters, she was in second position behind St. Pierre and the pace was slow, just 72.9 seconds.  She stayed near the front through the bell where St. Pierre, Karissa Schweizer, McGee, Helen Schlachtenhaufen, and Heather MacLean were all still in contention.  On the backstretch of the final lap, McGee surged to the lead and Johnson gave chase.  The two women rounded the final bend together, then Johnson turned on the jets.

"From the beginning I was just going to try to hold that top-three position and not let myself fall back from that," Johnson explained.  She continued: "I felt like the last lap was just waiting patient to unleash my last gear."

It was a huge win for Sinclaire who only placed 12th at the USA Olympic Trials here one year ago.  She felt like she has really grown in the last year and is ready for the World Championships, especially after finishing fourth at the Prefontaine Classic here last month where she ran a personal best 3:58.85.

"I feel like I'm pretty confident," she said.  "Pre a month ago it showed me that not only am I going to be able to compete the the best in the U.S., but I'm going to be able to compete with the best in the world.  That race... really boosted my confidence going into this week."

St. Pierre, who ran a championships record of 3:58.03 at the Trials a year ago, nearly finished off the podium.  She only passed Schweizer --who won the USATF 10,000m title last month-- inside of the last 40 meters.

"I was digging," admitted St. Pierre.  "My hamstrings feel it for sure."

McGee finished in the same position as she did at the Olympic Trials last year, and like St. Pierre made her second consecutive national team.  Heather MacLean, who was third at last year's Trials, only finished fifth here and will not be in the World Championships.

In the men's 1500m, former Oregon Duck Cooper Teare ended up on top after a wild sprint finish in which none of the three leaders coming out of the final bend --Sam Prakel, Eric Holt and Johnny Gregorek-- got on the podium.  Teare, and the University of Illinois's Jonathan Davis, came from the pack in the last 50 meters to finish one-two with Josh Thompson, sixth at last year's Olympic Trials, getting third.  It was Teare's first national title.  Their times were modest --3:45.86, 3:46.01, and 3:46.07, respectively-- and partially as a result of that Davis will not be able to claim his spot on the national team.  That's because he doesn't have the World Athletics Championships qualifying standard of 3:35.00 and is too low in the World Athletics point rankings to be allowed in the competition.  As a result, the USA team will be Teare (has the standard), Thompson (is high enough in the points ranking) and Gregorek (who finished sixth but has the standard).  Holt and Reed Brown, who finished fourth and fifth respectively, have neither the standard nor enough points.

"It was a warm day and I knew if I was just patient and within the mix I could just rely on my kick and get me to the team the last 50 meters," Teare told reporters.  "That's kind of what happened today."

Teare is entered for tomorrow morning's 5000m final, but wasn't sure yet if he would start.

"Not sure yet," he said when a reporter asked him about tomorrow's race.  "Signed up for it.  Going to see how we recover from this and take it from there."

Davis, who finishes sixth in the NCAA Championships earlier this month, was thrilled to get on the podium in his first USATF Championships.

"I'm ecstatic," Davis said.  "I don't think I could have expected anything better."

In the men's steeplechase final, Hillary Bor won his third straight national title, taking control at the bell and finishing comfortably ahead of seven-time national champion Evan Jager, 8:15.76 to 8:17.29.  Third place went to Benard Keter (8:19.16) who made his second straight national team.  Duncan Hamilton of the University of Montana-Bozeman finished fourth in 8:20.23 after leading for three laps in the middle of the race.

For Bor, today's victory was particularly special.  He had never beaten Jager head-to-head in a national championships.

"This feels good, especially having Jager," Bor told Race Results Weekly.  "I've never won when Jager's there.  I know he's not fit; I know he's not one hundred percent, but it's good to have him on the field."

For Jager, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist who hasn't competed at a high level since 2018 because of injuries, today's runner-up finish meant a lot.  He not only finished second, but also achieved the World Athletics Championships qualifying standard of 8:22.00 which assured his selection on Team USATF.  After so much time away from the top level, he was grateful to be back at the highest level again at 33 years-old.

"I felt like me making my first Olympic team, honestly," Jager told more than a dozen reporters gathered around him in the mixed zone.  "Making my first Olympic team, winning silver in Rio, and this.  Same kind of emotion.  I couldn't really even keep it together until the finish line.  The emotions came pouring out of me."