By Tim Glon
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ohio Northern junior All-American Emily Richards (Delaware/Hayes) advanced into the finals of the women's 800-meter run at the 2017 United States Track & Field Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium on Friday evening on the campus of California State-Sacramento.
Richards ran at the front of the pack the entire race and finished third in her heat in 2:01.95. She will be seeded sixth in the finals on Sunday at 2:06 pm (5:06 EDT).
The top four finishers in each of the two 8-woman heats advanced to the finals. Richards was a full 1.42 seconds ahead of the fifth place finisher in her heat.
"I'm just really thankful to be here and am excited to have the opportunity to race in the finals," an estatic Richards said. "I came here not with tons of expectations, but of course the finals is the main goal. I am focusing on having fun. I'm comfortable racing at the front, so that's where I stayed. I held on for as long as I could and it was good enough for third place. It's so awesome, I can't put it into words."
"She was great for the first 600 meters," ONU head coach Jason Maus said. "And she closed well enough to advance. She's going to rest a day and have fun in the finals. This was the second-fastest time of her career. I am so proud of her and what she has accomplished so far this season."
The only other collegian in the finals is Raevyn Rogers, the NCAA Division I champion from Oregon.
The top three finishers in the finals make the USA National Team and will represent the United States in the World Championships in London later this summer.
The temperature at the beginning of the race was a modest 84 degrees, much lower that the scorching 108-degree temperatures the runners endured in the first round on Thursday.
In the first round on Thursday, Richards finished third in her heat in 2:03.61 to qualify for the semifinals automatically. She was 14th overall out of 31 runners.
Richards finished ahead of eight professional runners and collegiate runners from Stanford, Duke, Boise State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northern Iowa, Oregon and California-Davis.
She was only one of three collegiate runners to advance into the semifinals, joining Rogers and NCAA Division I All-American Hanna Green of Virginia Tech.
Richards broke her own Div. III record in the 800-meter run and automatically qualified for the USA National Meet with a school-record time of 2:00.62 at the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville on June 10.
Richards entered the Championships with the ninth fastest time in the country in the event and owns the second fastest time among collegiate athletes this season.
She also ranks 28th in the world in the women's 800-meter run this year.
Richards is a 5-time NCAA Division III Champion, winning the 800 three times and 1500 twice. This season, she swept the 800 and 1500 titles both Indoors and Outdoors after winning the 800 crown Outdoors in 2016.
She is also a CoSIDA Academic All-American and won the Ohio Athletic Conference Cross Country individual title in 2015.