July 28, 2009

Former Track & Field Sensation Anna Willard ’06 Enjoys a Successful 2009 Season

Providence, RI- Former Brown Track & Field standout Anna Willard ’06 continues to make huge waves in the international track world when she recently won the 800m run at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City and followed it up with a title in the 1,500m run at the London Grand Prix.  Willard also took home the highest profile win of her career with a thrilling come-from-behind victory in the 800m at the IAAF Golden League Track & Field meet in Paris, France.

At the Reebok Grand Prix, Willard ran 1:59 to beat Olympians Kenia Sinclair of Jamaica and Hazel Clark of the United States, and at the London Grand Prix she edged out Shannon Rowbury, who competed in this event in the 2008 Olympics and won this year’s U.S. Championship title.  

At the IAAF Golden League Track & Field meet, Willard made an incredible final kick to chase down the field over the final 100m to win in 1:58.80, her second sub-two minute performance of the season.  She edged Italy’s Mediterranean Games champion Elisa Cusma (1:58.99) and Russian Oksana Zbrozhek (1:59.13) for the win. The Golden League is an annual series of track & field meets organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Athletes (in selected events) who win their event at all six meetings take a share of a $1 million jackpot.  

Last month at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, Willard qualified for the World Championships in two events.  Willard competed a very tough double in which she had to compete in trials and finals of both the steeplechase and 1,500m run.  She placed second in the steeplechase in 9:35.01, less than six seconds behind winner Jennifer Barringer of Colorado.  She also qualified in the 1500m by placing third in 4:07.70.

Willard was a 2008 Olympic Trials champion, a 2007 USA Outdoor runner-up; 2007 NCAA Outdoor steeplechase champion, and a five-time Big 10 Outdoor champion in two seasons.  Willard ran her first steeplechase race as a junior at Brown in 2005, filling in for an injured teammate on just two weeks of training. She broke the school record in that first race. By the time Willard was finished, she held nine school records in the distance medley relay, the indoor and outdoor 4x800m relays, and the 800m, 1000m, 1500m, 3000m, 3000m steeplechase and 5000m races.

After graduating from Brown, Willard had a year of eligibility remaining, which she used at the University of Michigan while earning a master's degree in sports management. In 2007, she was named the top female performer at the Penn Relays, named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year after winning the conference steeplechase, 1500m and 5000m titles, and broke the collegiate steeplechase record in winning the NCAA Championship. Willard went on to finish second in the steeplechase at the U.S. Outdoor Championships in 9:34.72, one-tenth of a second out of first place.