There are very few women in the U.S. who have run an 800m in the low 2:02’s this year. In fact, to date, there are only 16 women who have run 2:02.50 or faster. Most of the names on the list are well known; there are Olympians, sponsored athletes, post collegiate runners and a few college standouts. But one name stands out on the list – Amy Weissenbach. She ran a 2:02.04, and is six years younger than any other athlete in that group.
As a high school junior, many things have changed for Weissenbach after running her stunning time at the California state meet. With a flurry of interest in her races and new opportunities opened up to her, Weissenbach is now adjusting to being a star of high school track and field not only in the U.S. but also around the world. Weissenbach is currently in Lille, France representing Team USA at the IAAF World Youth Championships. While most of the other women who top the 800m performance list are veterans of international competition, everything is a new experience for Weissenbach. Simple things that veterans wouldn’t think twice about are a special experience for Weissenbach. “I’ve never been at a race with people carrying our stuff in baskets,” Weissenbach said of the basket carriers toting athletes’ warm-ups and bags. “It is kind of cool.”
The lists of firsts on Weissenbach’s trip to France goes on and on: first time to run three rounds, first time wearing the USA uniform, first time traveling with people not from her hometown, first time to have to walk foreign streets searching for a pre-race meal of pasta and her first time to have a language-barrier separating her from her competitors. While most of Weissenbach’s list of firsts is true for many of the young competitors at this World Championship, her sudden fame adds even more to the international experience for Weissenbach. As one of only three athletes from around the world at a pre-meet IAAF press conference, Weissenbach quickly adapted to fielding questions from an international gathering of journalists and responding through a translator. Weissenbach told journalists, “I’m so excited to be here to represent the U.S. I don’t so much feel pressured; I’m just so excited to compete at this level.”
At the press event, the former world record holder in the men’s 800m, Wilson Kipketer of Denmark not only wished Weissenbach good luck in the championships, but also told her that he wanted to see her break the women’s 800m world record someday. Meeting Kipketer was certainly a thrill for Weissenbach, but she is no stranger to elite athletes. As a student of Harvard Westlake High School near Los Angeles, Weissenbach trains regularly with coaches, Olympic gold medal winners, Quincy Watts and Joanna Hayes. While Weissenbach spends most of the time working with the distance coach Tim Sharpe, being around individuals who have run at the top levels of the sport certainly rubs off on her. “It’s so exciting to be able to train with them,” Weissenbach said of Coach Watts and Coach Hayes. “And it’s so incredibly inspiring to be around them.”
Hayes certainly knows what it takes to make it as an elite athlete, and of Weissenbach’s future, she says, “Amy is an incredible athlete and with the combination of her natural ability, dedication and work ethic, I have no doubt she will be a successful elite athlete if that is what she decides to do.” Weissenbach has one thing left to add to her lists of firsts in France: win a World Championship medal. The final of the girls’ 800m is on Sunday, July 10 at 10:30 ET.