Rancho Cucamonga’s Brenda Martinez earned her first berth in the World Track Championships finishing second at the USA Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa on Sunday.
Martinez, a product of UC Riverside who now lives in Big Bear, had the top qualifying time in Friday’s semifinal but was just beaten out by Alysia Montano, now a five-time US champion in that event.
Each won their semifinal heat with Martinez registering a 1:59.84 and Montano a 2:00.14.
The final shaped up as a battle of strategy as most thought it would. Montano tends to take an immediate lead, pull away from the pack and withstand any challengers coming from behind while Martinez likes to stick with the pack, then close the gap with a full-out sprint the last 200 meters.
The race played out that way with Martinez coming up a step short at the tape. Her time was slightly off her personal best of 1:58.18 which came last month at the Mt. SAC Relays.
“I just had to gauge how Alysia [Montano] was going to get out, so I think I gauged it pretty well, ” Martinez said. “I’m happy with second place. Trying to gauge, I didn’t want to get out too hard, wanted to get out comfortable. I think with 300 to go, start gradually accelerating. By the time I hit the last turn that’s when I felt like I had to start picking up a whole lot more and give it all I had.”
Both runners, along with third-place finisher Ajee Wilson move on the World Champions in Moscow Aug. 23-25.
Martinez did qualify for the Worlds in the 2012 Indoor season but competed in the 1,500 meters, an event most thought she would compete in this year as well.
Among the other runners earning berths on the World team was former Riverside Community College standout Brandon Johnson who was third in the men’s 800 meters.
“It feels amazing,” he said Hard work … don’t stop believing in yourself. I’m a true testament to that. You can literally do whatever you want. If you would have told me I was going to run an 800 two years ago I would have told you you’re crazy.”