July 1, 2008
Eugene, OR - Anna Willard (Greenwood, ME), a 2006 graduate of Brown University, competed in the 2008 USATF Olympic Team Trials in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last night. In the preliminaries, Willard earned second place in her heat with a 9:52.06 to qualify for the finals on Thursday, July 3rd. The top three finishers in each event will make up the roster for Team USA and compete in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
"I decided to lead from the gun. I felt strong. It felt easier than a tempo run," Willard told the USATF. "The crowd was going nuts and I couldn't hear myself think -- I'm not used to that."
A two-time All-American in track while at Brown, Willard captured school records in the outdoor 800m, 3000m, the 3,000m steeplechase, 1,5000, and the 5,000m, and is an indoor school record holder in the 1,000m and the one-mile run. She was also a part of the school record holding 4x800m and distance medley relay teams for both indoor and outdoor track. Heading into her senior season, Willard dropped 30 seconds in her steeple time from her junior year, and was the Ivy League champion and holds the League record in that event as well. Willard captained the 2005 women's cross country team and led them to one of their highest finish at the Heptagonal Championships in the last four years.
"It has been incredible to see the progression Anna (Willard) has made," said Brown coach Craig Lake. "She continues to improve and impress. She has what it takes physically and mentally, and I could not be more impressed by all she has accomplished and I feel honored to have worked with her. It has been amazing to watch her continually increase her focus and dedication to the sport and watch it all come together. I think she will make the Olympic Team, but whether she does or doesn't, she is a huge success regardless."
Willard went on to compete at the University of Michigan for one year while attending graduate school, and became a 2007 NCAA outdoor steeplechase champion and three-time Big Ten champion in her one outdoor season. In 2007, she claimed the Mideast Regional championship in the 3,000m steeplechase and a Big Ten Outdoor championship in the 1,500 - and 5,000-meter runs and the 3,000-meter steeplechase. At the 2007 USA Outdoor Championships, Willard finished less than one-tenth of a second out of first place in the 3,000m steeplechase. Her time of 9:34.72 was the second-fastest run by an American in 2007 and makes her the No. 3 seed in the event at the trials.