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In the United States and beyond, the 1500 meter distance is a notoriously competitive event. And among the U.S. women, the depth of talent meant that the national title wasn’t guaranteed to any single standout.
As predicted by Kara Goucher during the U.S. outdoor championships in June, it was Sinclair Johnson who shook up the 1500 final and won the whole thing. Placing second and third, Cory McGee and Elle Purrier St. Pierre join Johnson in heading to the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, starting with the first heats on Friday July 15. The semi-finals will take place the following day on July 16 and the 1500 meter final will wrap up in the evening on Monday July 18.
Here’s what you should know about Johnson, McGee, and Purrier St. Pierre ahead of the world champs.
Though she’s in her third year as a pro, if you haven’t been paying attention, it can feel like Johnson is just now entering the scene. Signing with Nike in 2019, her first year as a pro was quiet, thanks to the pandemic, but over the past two years she’s been honing her skills physically and mentally. Now she’s a national 1500m champion and is on her way to compete with the best middle-distance runners in the world.
“I’ve learned a lot about just having to advocate for myself,” says Johnson about being a pro runner. “I’ve learned to listen to that inner voice a lot more throughout my years and really just follow that because I feel like whenever I do, it doesn’t ever lead me astray.”
From fall 2020 to fall 2021 Johnson was training with Bowerman Track Club, but eventually made the switch to coach Pete Julian’s Union Athletics group, stating that struggled to adapt to the high volume of training with BTC.
After a strong showing (4th place in 3:58.85 and a PR) at the Prefontaine Classic earlier in the season, Johnson knew she had a shot to make it to the world championships. “A few months ago if if someone would have told me I was going to win USAs–and not that I’m not satisfied with it, but I want more from it–I think I would have been like, ‘No, you’re crazy,'”she says. Her new goal is to medal at worlds. “I’m ready to do big things there.”
1500m PR: 3:58.85 (2022)
Best part of training: “I’m just having a lot of fun. I’m enjoying going to practice and working hard and really testing my body’s capabilities. But also, I’m surrounded by such a good group of people, and they make it so fun to be around. Of course, we’re coming to practice to work really hard, but I feel like with the people that I’m around, it just makes it a lot more fun. And even the times where the workouts can become grueling and I do not want to throw in the towel, I feel like just having them around and seeing [Jessica Hull] or Koko [Klosterhalfen] or Donovan [Brazier], or Raevyn [Rogers] just working super hard, it’s just really inspiring to me and to be around that every single day has been my favorite thing about this group and this lead up to World Champs.”
Worst part of training: “Sometimes honestly, even like the easy runs it’s hard to get out the door to run six to eight miles just because–I don’t know, it either is raining or I’m tired or I just I’m feeling lazy that day. I feel like those are sometimes the worst days to work out.”
Best advice received: “To treat it like any other race. I think the cool thing is that I’ve competed in Hayward Field so many times that when I get there, I won’t be so in awe by the atmosphere of the stadium, like all the people there, because I feel like I’ve done that so many times.”
Pre-race superstition: “No superstitions. I do try to really not do the same thing on race day, just because you never know if you’re going to have access to everything that you normally have access to. I try to really just be flexible with that and not get too caught up on having to do a certain thing on race day to feel like I’m gonna succeed that day.”
Go-to summer jam: “Oino” by LA Priest
Calling Cory McGee’s training over the past year consistent would be an understatement. The 1500m Olympian, working with Team Boss coach Joe Bosshard, has added in layers of work that ultimately paid off when she took second place (4:04.52) at the U.S. Outdoor Championships and secured her spot on Team USA for world champs.
Bosshard, who is a very data-driven coach, recently went over the stats with McGee: “Joe said in the last year, well, the 17 weeks before USAs, I did 40,000 meters of threshold work. And then this year, I did 193,000. So five times. That was a nice indicator of where some big jumps had been made.”
With all that work behind her and just a short plane ride from Colorado to Oregon, McGee feels relaxed heading into global competition. “It feels very low key. I don’t feel the normal pre-race jitters that I usually have when you’re in a hotel or getting adjusted with jetlag, and all those things–eating in the dining hall, whatever comes with the territory,” she says.
Instead she’s honing her focus and mental energy while she waits for competition to start.
1500m PR: 4:00.34 (2022)
Best part of training: “The teamwork aspect is always really fun on Team Boss. We’re a group of a lot of strong-minded, tough ladies. And I really enjoy going to practice every day. Even the hard days are very fun.”
Worst part of training: “We had a couple blizzard runs that weren’t very fun during our spring training. But again, it’s always myself and a few teammates, we would always find a way to kind of make a game out of it or someone tells a good story. So even days that suck, we still figure it out.”
Best advice received: “I had some really good advice at USAs and I think it holds true to worlds and that’s from Joe where he just reminded me before the US champs, essentially, not to worry too much about how I was going to get it done but just that I could and just make up in my mind now that I’m going to do what it is that I’m that I’m setting out to do. And so I think I can just now apply that to worlds. And it helps me not worry too much about the details of how the race will unfold. It’s more just kind of focusing on my race, staying in my lane, and being really focused on responding rather than worrying. And that’s really helpful advice, especially in the 1500, where there’s so many ways that that race can play out. You could drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what your competitors are going to do. So it’s just really nice to have comfort in the fact that my coach thinks that I can respond to whatever the situation is.”
Pre-race superstition: “It’s actually really funny, when I was a kid, my dad loved to try to think of catchphrases to say to me before races, and they always feel like they were curses. There’s this one phrase that he would always say–and even now I’m kind of like, ‘Don’t say it.’ But he used to say ‘the stage is set.’ So my only superstition is if someone says that phrase to me, I think I would be like, ‘You’ve got to get away from me.'”
Go-to summer jam: “I have been listening to a lot of Mt. Joy before races. It’s more just like relaxing. And they reference New Orleans in a lot of their songs [like “Silver Linings” by Mt. Joy] and I’m from pretty close to New Orleans. So I think that that gives me a little comfort like and just makes me happy.”
Elle Purrier St. Pierre has been one of the class leaders of the women’s 1500 meters in the United States the past few years, finishing first in the Olympic trials and third at the indoor championships earlier this year. She was the outdoor champion until the USATF champs in June, where she came in third. The powerhouse from Vermont is known for her ultra-cool Oakleys and her finishing kick, which secured her a silver medal in the 3,000 meters at the indoor worlds in March.
Her experience racing on a global stage is likely to be a plus when the heats start on Friday—in addition to the Tokyo Olympics and the indoor champs in Serbia, she competed at the last world championships in Doha, Qatar, in 2019.
“Feeling ready for worlds next week, thankful for training partners, and excited to see what the upcoming summer races have in store for us!,” she wrote on Instagram last week from Boston.
1500m PR: 3:58.03