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Racing to Athens

Racing to AthensTop runner and Tufts graduate Jen Toomey has her sights on the finish line – and a berth in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Paris.

Boston [09.10.03] The 2003 track season has been a great one for runner Jen Toomey - but not without its hills and hurdles. The Tufts graduate ran the fastest 800-meters ever recorded by a runner from New England -- the eighth-fastest time worldwide in 2003. But after failing to medal in last month's IAAF World Championships in Paris, the Tufts runner says she plans to focus on her energies on her goal of reaching the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"Rather than focusing on nationals and being on the downside as I was by the time I got to Paris, I'll focus on peaking in Athens," Toomey told Lynnfield's North Shore.

The 31-year-old Tufts graduate had garnered praise for her performances leading up to the IAAF World Championships - track and field's most important tournament in non-Olympic years.

"Salem's Jen Toomey made a big splash at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon," reported The Boston Globe. "Running the 800 meters, Toomey clocked a time of 1 minute 59.75 seconds. Her time, which was good for fifth in the race, was the eighth best in the world this year, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations."

USA Track and Field - the governing body of track & field, long-distance running and race walking - reported that "Toomey made the most of her first World Outdoors appearance, advancing to the semifinal."

But as USA Track and Field predicted, it would have taken "close to a personal best for her to make the final." Toomey failed to qualify for the medal run, finishing seventh in her heat.

The Tufts graduate - who had her best outdoor season in 2003 - said that an aggressive approach to the tough competition may have cost her a berth in the finals.

"I was probably a little aggressive because I knew it was going to be hard to qualify," the 31-year-old Toomey told the Shore. "I decided to just go for it and when you do that, you risk blowing up."

But Toomey says she plans to use the World Championships as a learning experience - and preparation for Athens.

"I think it's just a matter of running a little smarter," Toomey told the newspaper. "I wasted a lot of energy at the beginning of my semifinal heat. People were really on top of their game in Paris."

As she told North Shore, "For the first time, I believe I have a chance to make an Olympic final."


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