By Tim Glon
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ohio Northern junior All-American Emily Richards (Delaware/Hayes) advanced through the first round and into the semifinals of the women's 800-meter run at the 2017 United States Track & Field Outdoor Championships at a blistering hot Hornet Stadium on Thursday afternoon on the campus of California State-Sacramento.
Richards finished third in her heat in 2:03.61 and was 14th overall.
The top three finishers in each of the four 8-women heats and the next four best times among all 31 runners advanced to the semifinals on Friday evening at 8:28 pm (11:28 pm EDT).
She qualified for the finals in comfortable fashion, finishing 1.04 seconds ahead of the fourth-place finisher in her heat.
"It's an awesome feeling to advance into the semifinals," Richards said. "A group broke away from the pack and I went with them and felt comfortable the entire race. I'm excited to have another race tomorrow."
"Emily ran really well," ONU head coach Jason Maus said. "She was very smart, made good moves. Put herself in the race really early and stayed there. Made the race look easy and did what she needed to do to advance. One race, one day at a time. Really proud of her and excited for the semifinals tomorrow."
Late-afternoon temperatures of 108 degrees at the start of the race slowed down the times some.
"The heat made it really tough," Richards said. "You could really feel it. No question it slowed us down. But it was the same for everyone and all that matters from today is advancing to the semifinals tomorrow and we did that so I'm happy."
She will run again Friday night at 8:28 pm (11:28 EDT).
Richards broke her own Div. III record in the 800-meter run and automatically qualified for the USA National Meet with a school-record time of 2:00.62 at the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville on June 10.
Richards entered the race with the ninth fastest time in the country in the race and owns the second fastest time among collegiate athletes in the event.
She also ranks 28th in the world in the women's 800-meter run this year.
Richards finished ahead of eight professional runners and collegiate runners from Stanford, Duke, Boise State, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Northern Iowa, Oregon and California-Davis.
She is only one of three collegiate runners to advance into the semifinals, joining 2017 NCAA Division I champion Raevyn Rogers of Oregon and NCAA Division I All-American Hanna Green of Virginia Tech.
Richards is a 5-time NCAA Division III Champion, winning the 800 three times and 1500 twice. This season, she swept the 800 and 1500 titles both Indoors and Outdoors after winning the 800 crown Outdoors in 2016.
She is also a CoSIDA Academic All-American and won the Ohio Athletic Conference Cross Country individual title in 2015.
The finals are slated for Sunday at 5:06 pm (8:06 EDT).