In women’s middle-distance running, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the teenager. As the United States celebrates the accomplishments of Mary Cain and Ajee Wilson—17 and 19 years old, respectively—British fans have a middle-distance phenom of their own: 18-year-old Jessica Judd, who won the 800 meters on Sunday, June 30, at the Sainsbury’s Grand Prix in Birmingham, England.
Judd didn’t just win; she posted a time of 1:59.85, just under her previous personal best of 2:00.37 and tantalizingly close to Charlotte Browning’s 2002 British junior record of 1:59.75.
The race finished with a dramatic final 200 meters in which Judd overtook her countrywoman Marilyn Okoro, who finished in 2:00.76. A mere eight days earlier, Judd had won her international debut at the European Team Championships in Gateshead, England, also at 800 meters.
By breaking two minutes, Judd accomplished a major goal. “It’s huge,” she told the Telegraph. “It’s been staring at me in the face for a long time. I got to 2:03, but then I thought that it was still quite a lot to get under two minutes. But now I’ve done it.
“When I got to 600 I quickly looked at the clock and felt, ‘I’m on for it, and I feel okay,’” she added. “In the home straight the crowd were going nuts and it was amazing. I just held on and I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line.”
Next up for Judd is the British Championships, where she’ll compete for a chance to represent her country at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow this coming August. Should she punch her ticket to Russia, she’ll face off against Wilson, who took third in the 800 meters at the USA Track & Field Championships on June 23 in a time of 1:59.55. Cain, who ran 1:59.51 on June 1 at the Prefontaine Classic on Eugene, OR, is also headed to Moscow, but she’ll be running the 1,500 meters.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg