Roisin Willis’ search for an elusive time

Updated: Aug. 11, 2022 at 6:30 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Roisin WIllis was representing the USA Track and Field team for the first time in her young career at the U20 World Championships. She was competing in the 800-meters with a chance at glory.

The stage wasn’t unknown to the Stevens Point native. She had been named the Gatorade National Player of the Year in track and field, and made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2021.

But she had one more goal to accomplish before heading to Standford University for college—a sub-two minute 800-meter time. Only two female high schoolers had ever done it before.

“I think going into that was like, ‘I don’t want to waste this opportunity,’” Willis said.

She tried for it at the Wisconsin state high school meet in June but came up three milliseconds short. Now, competing in her signature event on the international stage in Colombia, she had one final shot as a high schooler.

“I think when I walked on the track, I was really excited. I just remembered, ‘okay. The time is now. Let’s go,’” Willis said.

Once the gun went off, Willis sprinted to the front of the pack right away. She led the race heading into the last 400-meters, but that’s when the sprint to the end began.

“I just knew in my head there’s only one thought. It was just, ‘Go. Don’t give up,’” she said.

Willis lost the lead early in that lap, needing a push in the final 100 meters to come out on top. With that thought in her head, she vaulted down the final straightaway in front to cross the finish line alone. Roisin Willis was a gold medalist.

“I think I turned around and the whole USA group was there and they were all screaming,” Willis said.

When she looked at the clock, it read a time of 1:59.13. Not a two was in sight.

“To do it in my last race of my high school career, my last 800 at the World Championships. I don’t think the timing could really be better,” Willis said of breaking the two-minute mark.

Willis stood for the national anthem atop the podium with the USA flag draped around her back with two gold medals around her neck, the second won with the 4x400 meter team. Her time in the 800-meters made her the second fastest girls high school athlete ever in that event.

“To make it this far. To run under two minutes, only three high schoolers have done it. To be one of them, it’s just such an honor,” Willis said.

One more accomplishment check off the list before she heads to college at Stanford, where more dreams lie ahead.

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