The tears dried Monday, the signature smile returned and Hannah Waller, as it turns out, has a stuffed suitcase of USA gear and a ticket to Poland anyway.
“It definitely still hurts, but not as bad as (Sunday),” says the recent Buchanan High graduate a day after experiencing an athletic swing of emotions unlike any in her 18 years.
Waller, on her home track at Veterans Memorial Stadium, placed second in the 400 meters of the USA Track & Field Junior Outdoors Championships with a lifetime best 52.86 seconds.
Because she finished among the top two, that would have earned her a berth on Team USA for the World U20 Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland, on July 19-24.
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Only Waller, who had run in lane 6, learned about 10 minutes before she was going to climb aboard the medals stand she was disqualified for stepping – once – on her inside lane line coming off the final turn: “At that point, I’m not on the (USA) team, everything was thrown out of the window and I was trying to look at the bigger picture.”
Wow, now it’s hit me: I will represent my country. I’ve got a smile on my face.
Buchanan graduate Hannah Waller, who’s made Team USA for the World U20 Championships in Poland
Then, 45 minutes later, USA Junior Worlds women’s coach Lisa Morgan hunted her down in the grandstands and shared words that, in a matter of seconds, spun a horrific day into one of honor.
“She says, ‘I see some good things in you and want you on the team. Get your credentials and gear and come with us.’
“I was shocked.”
Morgan told Waller she’ll run on the 1600 relay.
Waller then went to the Buchanan cafeteria, where Team USA athletes were given World U20 Championships credentials and sized up for competition and travel gear.
And oh for the spoils of making Team USA.
8 Combined Team USA uniforms and sweatsuits provided to Waller
Waller breaks it down: “Three uniforms, two pairs of tights, three pairs of socks and five sweatsuits, which includes a rain suit, medal suit, travel suit and regular wind breaker. The list goes on.
“I’ve seen friends with the gear, but me? Wow, now it’s hit me: I will represent my country. I’ve got a smile on my face.”
Team USA will depart for Poland on July 15 from two sites, Chicago and New York. Waller will join the Chicago group.
“I’m so very glad to go with an amazing group of talented athletes,” she says. “It’s all great; I’m still going. (The disqualification) still hurts, but things happen. My season’s not over; I have a lot more ahead of me.”
She had regardless of making Team USA because she’s headed to Oregon on a full scholarship. The Ducks have placed second and first in the past two NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Already, before the USA Junior Championships last weekend, a glowing Waller bio featured a state 400 title as a junior, Central Section records in the 200 and 400, four section Masters Championships golds in the 400 and two Fresno Bee Athlete of the Year honors in girls track and field. It was a career without a DQ before Sunday at just after 7 p.m.
Waller was “attacking” the final turn in an attempt to run down Indiana Storm Club’s Lynna Irby, who would win in 52.51.
Waller, who had closed the gap on Irby in the final 20 meters, did notice an official had his yellow flag raised after the race, meaning a violation had occurred.
And it takes little to violate an IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) lane rule.
Specifically, one step out of a lane constitutes an IAAF DQ. This as opposed to two consecutive steps in college and three in high school, according to Weaver.
But for whom among the eight competitors would the yellow flag be directed in this case?
Then, a few minutes later, when Buchanan coach Brian Weaver pulled Waller away from a crowded infield, she had a pretty good idea the yellow flag had turned red for her: “When he started walking me away, something wasn’t right.”
When Weaver delivered the bad news, Waller “lost it.”
“I’m a strong individual who never breaks down in public,” she says. “But I had no control over my tears at that point.”
Remarkably, it’s been a common scene at Veterans Memorial Stadium for Central Section stars three consecutive years.
It was in the 2014 CIF State Track and Field Championships that Edison’s boys 400 relay team was stripped of a gold medal because of lane violation. It would have been the Tigers’ first state title in the event in 31 years.
Then, in the 2015 state finals, Clovis North’s Mikaela Smith – as the prohibitive favorite to capture a third-straight 800 gold – was spiked in the first 20 meters of the race and disqualified for impeding the progress of another.