SPASH’s Roisin Willis pushes through disappointments, sprints to the Olympic qualifiers

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 3:10 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Entering 2021, Stevens Point Area High School’s Roisin Willis set one goal: qualify for the Olympic trials. On Friday, that goal was accomplished.

As she approached the end of her signature 800-meter race at the Trial of Miles meet in New York, she knew she was on the verge of something special.

“The other girls took it out fast which is exactly what I needed and I was pushed all the way through the second lap. With 100 meters to go, I just went for the win and kicked as hard as I could,” Willis said

After months of pushing for the time, 100 meters separated her from a feeling she’ll never forget. What came before Friday was a series of misfortunes and many close calls.

“I was chasing that time [last year] and I was half a second away before everything got shut down,” Willis said.

By February, Willis was traveling to meets at least once a month, aiming for the qualifying time of 2:02.50.

“So many things happened, unfortunate events. And I wasn’t quite ready to do that coming into 2021,” Willis said.

She ran multiple races that were within a second of the time. Then there was a meet in Chicago that gave her disappointment, but hope. She would’ve qualified after what felt like a good race, but an official error made everyone run just a little bit longer than 800 meters.

“I’m like, oh my gosh. I feel like I’m running really fast but these times are running slower than I thought,” Willis said.

When she entered the Trial of mile Meet in New York on Friday, she was two weeks away from the deadline to qualify. Stress was mounting.

But when she finished those last 100 meters, she had left no doubt. Her final time was 2:00.78, which was good for the fourth-fastest high school time ever and the fastest for a 16-year-old in the 800 meters.

“I had such a big smile on my face,” Willis said of the moment.

After a series of disappointments, Willis had finally done it.

“I’ve crossed so many finish lines in that race and just been like ‘You know, I didn’t get the time.’ It’s a sucky feeling. But like today, I was like ‘Soak it all in, you’ve worked so hard for this,’” Willis said.

She’ll race at the Olympic Trials in Oregon that run from June 18-27. She’s also returning to SPASH to compete at the high school level in the meantime.

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