October 4, 2022
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McKenna Keegan Advances to First Career Outdoor Final in 800 Meters

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EUGENE, Ore.—Two previous semifinal races in the 800 meters allowed graduate middle distance runner McKenna Keegan (West Grove, Pa.) to know that if she stayed calm and waited until the final 150 meters that she was capable of finishing strong and making it into the final of an outdoor NCAA Championships race for the first time in her career. That was exactly how her heat played out on the first night of women’s competition at the 2022 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Thursday, as Keegan advanced to the final of the 800 meters with an automatic qualifying spot and the second-fastest time of her career.
 
“The less riled you get at this level the better it is so I just try to keep my focus [before the race],” Keegan said. “I knew my job was to get top two or fight trying and I just wanted to make sure I stayed relaxed the entire time so in the last 200 to 150 [meters] I had enough to close. I haven’t had my best races [at the national meet] which I have always been disappointed with, but luckily I had experience at this level and I have been training well so I knew if I stayed calm I was capable of running the time needed to get into the final.”
 
Keegan ran in the last of three semifinal heats at Hayward Field and crossed the finish line in 2:01.82 to finish both second in the race and post the second-fastest qualifying time for the final on Saturday afternoon. The only previous time in her career that Keegan has broken 2:02 came in the national quarterfinal round of the NCAA East Preliminary last year when she surged to a lifetime best mark of 2:01.25. Keegan had a measured approach to Thursday night’s semifinal and will now conclude a stellar collegiate career in her first outdoor NCAA final in three tries.
 
“I was in good position and I knew that I could swing out,” Keegan said of what she saw in the final 150 meters of the race. “I waited to swing out into lane two or three until after I was around the turn, but once I got around the turn I was like ‘you can do anything for 100 meters.’ I didn’t want this to be my last race in a Villanova singlet so I knew I needed to fight until the last meter because I didn’t know where people were but I knew I was even with a couple of girls. I just wanted to get to the line in second or above.”
 
The top two finishers in each heat and the next three fastest times moved on to Saturday’s final. Keegan was in a heat that appeared on paper to be the most difficult of the three semifinal sections, and with the benefit of the other two heats already taking place the third race did end up being the fastest of the night and produced two of the three on-time qualifiers. Keegan didn’t want to leave it to chance despite having a sense that the race would be a stressful one.
 
“I can’t control what others do, I can only control what I do so that’s how I went into the race,” Keegan said. “My workouts have been like that [practicing closing in the final 150 to 200 meters] and I knew that if I stayed relaxed the entire time I would be able to finish well. I heard them say that the third place 2:03 [in the second heat] was the fastest time qualifier, so obviously I wanted to get top two but I knew that I needed to do if I wasn’t in order to get to Saturday, which is ultimately the goal when you come to this meet.”
 
Keegan’s time of 2:01.82 is the seventh-fastest in Wildcats history and the ninth race ever by a Villanovan with a time below 2:02. She is one four Villanova runners – along with school record holder Debbie Grant, Veronica McIntosh and former teammate Siofra Cleirigh Buttner who have ever broke 2:02 during their collegiate careers. Keegan, who came in third in the 800 meters at the indoor NCAA Championships earlier this year, is the Wildcats first women’s runner to qualify for the 800 meter final outdoors since Cleirigh Buttner posted a fourth place finish in 2018.
 
The final of the 800 meters takes place on Saturday at 6:44 p.m. Eastern time (3:44 p.m. Pacific time). It will be preceded by the championship competition in the high jump in which senior Sanaä Barnes (Keller, Texas) will be in action. Barnes has jumped as high as 1.86 meters this season and owns a lifetime top mark of 1.87 meters. High jump begins at 5 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday. Next up for Villanova is the last day of men’s competition on Friday evening when sophomore Sean Dolan (Pennington, N.J.) will compete in the final of the 800 meters at 10:14 p.m. Eastern time.

 





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