Part of the fun on Friday night at the Penn Relays was the women’s 800m, which featured the OAC, Sage Hurta. The 7x All-American from the University of Colorado finally crossed onto the other side of the two-minute barrier with her finishing time of 1:59.76. We briefly caught up with her to recap the moment:
THE LAP COUNT: You’ve been on the verge of breaking two minutes for a while with some very near misses. What does it mean to finally be under it, especially doing it the hard way, being all by yourself on a cold night in April?
SAGE HURTA: It’s definitely a little bit of a relief. I feel like I have gone into at least one or two other races where I’ve been thinking about it the entire time, but I went into this weekend trying not to obsess about breaking it. Maybe that was partly because it was a little chilly and not ideal for an 800. Earlier in the day I thought ‘cool, it might not be the day — whatever happens, happens.’ So I feel like almost because of that, I was able to relax a bit more and get it done. It’s really nice because it’s been three years of wanting to do that.
THE LAP COUNT: Does it feel like a weight has been lifted? You’ve been in multiple situations where it was just you out there going for it.
SAGE HURTA: Yeah, definitely. I feel like most of the time when I’ve gone for it, it’s just been me out there. And so now I can just hopefully get into some fast races and compete, even if it’s a slower race. I can focus more on the competition and don’t need to prove that I can run under two minutes anymore.
THE LAP COUNT: Last year at the Trials you fell during the semi-finals and never got a fair chance to make the team. Looking back now, how have you internalized that whole experience and everything surrounding the disappointment?
SAGE HURTA: In a lot of ways I feel like I was kind of traumatized by it. It was my first time competing as a professional athlete and it was a really dramatic way to start out. But because I was switching to a new program right after the Trials, it almost gave me a reason to move on pretty quickly. It became just a reset to get back in training and get settled with the new team.
I feel like it underlines that just no matter how much you do, you can never control every outcome. I’ve been a little bit more relaxed about my future in this sport in a sense because of it. I’m going to try really hard to get where I think I can go, but you can’t guarantee anything.
THE LAP COUNT: When you watch Athing Mu run 1:22, how do you process that as a competitor? The standard of women’s middle-distance running in the US is at such a high level so what do you have to do to make sure that you’re there with them?
SAGE HURTA: A lot of people look at the women’s 800, in particular in the US. and their attitude is like, ‘well, why would you even try when everyone’s so good?’ But I feel like I’m lucky to be in the same event, but come from a different skill set.
I could run a good 600, but never in my life will I be running a 1:22. So I really respect what she does and it’s kind of cool because like, this is a living legend right here! But at the same time, when it comes to the 800 my skills are totally different so I need to play to them.
THE LAP COUNT: In reference to those skills, you were a half-decent steeplechaser a few years ago. You’re in this unique situation where most people move up in distance as they get older, but you were doing the 5000m and steeplechase and moved down. How did that happen?
SAGE HURTA: That’s mostly a result of being at the University of Colorado. I was definitely a 15 person in high school and then when I got to college, my coaches said that I had the strength and speed and was relatively coordinated for a distance runner. So they suggested the steeple. Once I started doing it my heart wasn’t in it. And so the whole time I was like, “can you just let me get back to the 1500?”
THE LAP COUNT: So no plans to return! Do you see yourself focusing on the 1500 later this year now that you have the sub-two?
SAGE HURTA: I mean, that’s kind of the big question. I definitely think I’m worthy in the 800, but I also have a lot of people telling me my future is there. I’m not ready to go all-in on one just yet.
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