Local woman’s ‘track dive’ in Oregon earns her trip to world track championship meet

Andrews native Lauren Davenport Johnson, shown here competing several years ago in the Oregon Relays, will travel to Beijing, China, later this month as a member of Team USA to compete in the 1,500-meter run at the IAAF World Championships.
Andrews native Lauren Davenport Johnson, shown here competing several years ago in the Oregon Relays, will travel to Beijing, China, later this month as a member of Team USA to compete in the 1,500-meter run at the IAAF World Championships. Photo provided.

Originally published Aug. 6, 2015.

Before Lauren Davenport Johnson could run in Beijing, she had to tumble in Oregon.

Johnson, a professional runner and Andrews native, captured fourth place in the women’s 1,500-meter run at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, OR, on June 28 with a dive at the finish line.

That effort, coupled with her performance at a race in Belgium a few weeks later, punched her ticket to China’s capital for one of the biggest track and field events in the world, the IAAF World Championships.

Johnson, who runs for Oregon Track Club Elite, says her dive at the end of the race in Oregon, held at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus, was actually by accident, the result of leaning forward too far to get past an opponent.

“The only thing I was thinking is, ‘I just got to get my shoulders in front of her,’” says Johnson of Rachel Schneider, the woman she was running alongside for the race’s final 15 meters. “There were two other girls on the outside edge – no idea they were there – but the girl right beside me, I knew if I was going to get fourth I had to get my shoulders in front of her shoulders.

“So, I was just leaning at the line, trying to make that happen and it wasn’t really an intentional dive; I think I was just leaning so much that I just kind of fell into it. Just ended up laying on the track at the end.”

Johnson bested Schneider by a millisecond – 4:16.08 to 4:16.09.

Johnson’s performance gave her a chance to qualify for the IAAF World Championships. To earn a spot at the biennial competition, Johnson needed to meet or exceed the organization’s “A” standard for the women’s 1,500, which is 4:06.50.

To this end, Johnson traveled to Heusden, Belgium, where she pursued the standard at the KBC Night of Athletics on July 18.

This time around, the only thing Johnson needed to do at the finish line was cross it.

Johnson ran the fastest 1,500 of her life. She clocked in at 4:04.17, which broke her personal record of 4:07.33 and secured her a place running for Team USA in Beijing.

The IAAF World Championships run from Aug. 22 to 30. They’ll be held primarily in Beijing National Stadium and will be the biggest event conducted there since the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Johnson is preparing for the event with her confidence at an all-time high.

“I’m one of the top 1,500 runners in America now and the U.S. is probably the top nation in the world in terms of the depth in the 1,500,”  says Johnson, a former Huntington North High School and Huntington University runner. “So, I think it (being) competitive here in the U.S. gives me a lot of confidence that I can be competitive on the world stage.”

Johnson will depart the United States on Monday, Aug. 10. Her first stop will be Japan, where Team USA has a training camp. After spending 10 days there, she’ll head to Beijing.

Heats for the 1,500 will be run on Sunday, Aug. 23, followed by the semifinals on Tuesday, Aug. 25.

The final is set for Thursday, Aug. 27.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” says Johnson. “… I know it’ll be a learning experience. But I also want to go in and be as competitive as I can.”