Something hit Ajee Wilson’s left leg.
In the final race of the 800-meter U.S.Olympic trials, Alysia Montano fell coming off a turn with 150 meters left. Wilson led the pack and avoided the disaster.
“I was clipped in the back of my calf. When I felt it, I kind of tucked in and made my form tighter.” Wilson said. “I panicked and I was running down the street scared.”
The Temple student, who runs track professionally, came into the race as the top seed and planned to make a final kick towards the finish with 150 meters left.
Wilson made the push with 300 meters remaining. Unsure of what occurred, she never looked behind and didn’t realize the fall occurred until after the race.
The senior Kinesiology major finished in second place with a time of 1:59.51, securing a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. After she finished, Wilson spotted Montano crying.
“Where I was intending to kick before, that is where a fall happened. In hindsight it is good I went when I did,” Wilson said. “It is fortunate how blessed I was to not be involved and it was kind of a surreal moment.”
Wilson knows the feeling of taking a tumble after falling on her face in the 2015 U.S. Indoor Championships. Her accident in March marked the start of a rough 2015 season.
After earning a slot in the world championships in Beijing, the Neptune, New Jersey native suffered a stress reaction in her right shin. Wilson watched the event from her home in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia.
“It was hard to watch the world championships that I could have been there and could have done well, but it is one of those things you can’t say should of, could of, would of in our sport,” Wilson said. “It was worth it to shut things down and get ready for this year.”
After spending one year as a professional runner and attending Brookdale Community College, Wilson transferred to Temple as a non-student-athlete to receive an education while being closer to her coach Derek Thompson in 2013. She is majoring in Kinesiology in hopes to become a physical therapist.
Temple professor Michael Sachs watched Wilson cross the line in the 800 meter final from his television at home on July 4.
Sachs has been a competitive runner since he attended graduate school at 24-years-old and finished the New York City Marathon in 1979. He continues to run three days a week.
The professor enjoyed reading Wilson’s essays about running in his Social Psychology of Physical Activity class at Pearson Hall. Although the two share a common interest, Sachs treated the senior Kinesiology major no different when she left for events.
“For all our students we understand they are all adults,” Sachs said. “You try to be flexible, particularly for a national championship or something, which is a more valuable experience than being in the classroom for a couple of days. “
Wilson started running at nine-years-old for the Jersey Shore Track Club near her home in Neptune, New Jersey. Wilson’s been working towards the Olympics since running competitively as a sophomore at Neptune High School.
No sport programs existed in her high school, Academy of Allied Health and Sciences.
Placing second at the trials bugged Wilson for a brief moment before realizing she is heading to the Olympics.
“To come up slightly short I was disappointed, but the consolation was I make the team in Rio,” Wilson said. “Hopefully I can bring home some hardware, preferably gold.”
Connor Northrup can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ConnorNJ4life