EFRAIMSON READY TO CHALLENGE FOR MEDAL AT IAAF WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
By David Monti, @d9monti
EUGENE, OREGON (21-Jul) -- She still has a year left of high school, but Alexa Efraimson has already graduated to the top levels of American middle distance running. The 17 year-old from Camas, Wash. (about 130 miles north of here) has been the dominant prep miler in the United States this year, running very grown-up times of 4:07.05 for 1500m, 4:32.15 for the mile, and 9:00.16 for 3000m.
Here in Eugene, she'll take to the track at historic Hayward Field tomorrow for the preliminary round of the women's 1500m at the IAAF World Junior Championships. The brown-eyed athlete, who laughs easily and has a disarming smile, is looking for her second world championships medal. Last year in Donetsk, Ukraine, she won the bronze medal at the same distance at the IAAF World Youth Championships. She'll face similar competition here, including Ethiopia's Dawit Seyaum who won the silver medal in Donetsk, is the reigning African junior champion, and has a sparkling career best time of 3:59.53.
"I'm really excited for the meet," Efraimson told Race Results Weekly in an exclusive interview here yesterday outside of Hayward Field. She continued: "I think being able to close pretty quickly in my last race really helps me with the speed side of things. So, I'm really excited for Friday."
In that race --the final of the USA Junior Championships earlier this month here-- Efraimson won a last-lap duel with Colorado's Elise Cranny, 4:16.87 to 4:17.40 (Cranny is Efraimson's USA teammate here). Efraimson was running on tired legs because she also competed in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships on a scorching afternoon in Sacramento, Calif., nine days earlier. Finishing seventh in her heat, she failed to advance to the final and had to be helped off of the track by medical personnel.
But working with personal coach Mike Hickey, Efraimson feels fresh and recovered, ready for the kind of elbow-throwing, shoulder-bumping racing she's already seen at these championships. She said she and Coach Hickey have talked about different race scenarios and that she is ready for anything.
"I think I will definitely have to be a little more aggressive, just make sure I don't get pushed around," Efraimson explained. "And then, just going into it, I know that I just have to hold my own." She continued: "We do a lot of self-visualization before the race. So, I've done that a few times just thinking of where I want to be and how the race could go."
Playing to Efraimson's advantage is the level of comfort she feels competing in Eugene. After the USA Junior Championships, she was able to make the short drive home, and rest up for this week's competition. She had one of the shortest trips to Eugene of any of the athletes competing here, and gets to compete in her regular time zone.
"I didn't have to go right off to another country (after USA Juniors)," Efraimson said. "It's really nice not having to adjust to time zones, just being able to realize that this is my home turf. I've raced on this (track) quite a few times now, so hopefully, everything will go well."
Efraimson also said the coaching she gets from Hickey --the pair have worked together since she was in the 8th grade-- has been not only critical to her success, but also to giving her the confidence to run well here in Eugene.
"He knows how I'm feeling, whether it's race day or a specific practice," Efraimson revealed. "And, if I'm not feeling well he knows when I'm just not pushing very hard, or when I'm actually not feeling well. He'll definitely acclimate the workouts to my needs."
Moreover, she said the support from her parents, Dan and Chantal, has also made a big difference.
"I don't think that I would be at the point that I am without the support I've been given," Efraimson admitted. "A lot of thanks to my parents. They believe in me, they realize how much it takes, how dedicated I am to this sport. They really help me to improve myself, not just as an athlete but as a person."
Should Efraimson win a medal here, it would be historic: no American woman has ever won a medal in the 1500m at an IAAF World Junior Championships. Efraimson isn't thinking about that.
"I just want to go into this race, hopefully Sunday, and just finish the race with no regrets, saying that I ran hard, I ran as fast as I could," Efraimson concluded. "It could be a completely strategic race, it could go out very fast, I'm not really sure. I know I'm fit, I'm ready, and I'm excited."