Phoebe Wright's plan has worked wonderfully so far. Tonight she'll try to take it one final step to London.
The former Red Bank High School and University of Tennessee runner from Signal Mountain ran almost exactly the same time in the two preliminary rounds of the women's 800-meter competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. -- a second-best 2:00.83 on Friday and a fifth-best 2:00.88 in the semifinals Saturday.
The top six runners Saturday were within three-quarters of a second, from 2:00.25 to 2:01.01. The top three tonight, beginning about 9:50 EDT, will make Team USA for the London Olympics, and Wright believes everyone will be trying to take it up a notch.
"I think it's going to take 1:58 to make the team," the 2010 NCAA 800 indoor and outdoor champion said. "This is probably the deepest 800-meter field I've ever seen, and it's going to be really cutthroat for those three spots."
Wright, 23, has avoided any chance of being tripped up by taking the early lead but said that's not her "favorite way to run." She said she's willing to jump in front early tonight but doesn't think she'll have to. She also thinks the push for 1:58 times will work in her favor.
"I'm more speed based in relation to the field, and I'm kind of hoping someone really tries to take off. That would be ideal," said Wright, who in mid-2010 ran a 1:58.22 on this track. "It all kind of depends on how the first 200 unfold. It's almost like football: You get out there and read the play and make a decision based on what's going on.
"I feel really good. I feel great about where I am and how I've recovered from the [prelim] rounds."
She also is entered in the 1500 meters but may not follow through if she makes the U.S. team tonight. The 1500 rounds are Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
"If I make the 800, I may shut it down for the week, but the 15's still on the table," she said.
The 800 finalists include "the same main players of the last three years," Wright added, so she's not expecting big surprises in strategy moves.
"I've raced them a thousand times before," she said.