By August Howell

The last race of the final regular season meet at Hayward Field was a special moment for Stephanie Aldea. The second section of the women’s 1,500 meters was the Canadian’s first ever race at Hayward Field. She traveled with her coaches from Windsor, Canada, where she trains with the UWindsor Athletic Club.

“It’s weird seeing it come to life,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures online over the past 10-15 years, but to actually see it, it really is magical. It’s a special place. I’m grateful to be here.”

For Oregon’s Lilli Burdon however, a race at Hayward was just business as usual.

With teammate Jessica Hull pacing the race and hardly any wind on the track, Burdon won the second section of the women’s 1,500 meters in 4 minutes, 15.16 seconds at the 2018 Oregon Twilight meet. Aldea finished second with a season-best 4:19.71.

“I didn’t really know how I was going to hold up today, but I’m happy with a solid race,” Burdon said.

Burdon and Hull led the race from the starting gun. The juniors came through 800 meters at 2:14, and Burdon was locked comfortably onto Hull’s pace.

Burdon and Aldea began to pick up the pace after the 800 mark. Hull, despite running a lifetime-best 2:04 in the 800 meters just 10 minutes earlier, managed to pace Burdon for the first 1,000 meters.

“Jess is a champ. She did me a huge solid after racing a great 800,” Burdon said. “I just had to go solo and finish it off.”

Burdon didn’t take any chances after Hull dropped out. Even as the chase pack changed leaders and runners shifted positions, none of them approached Burdon as she finished the final 500 meters all by herself. Aldea was almost caught in the final straightaway by Annie Leblanc (4:20.29) and Ashley Maton (4:22.60), both Oregon alums.

“I just started to gear up and pick people off,” Aldea said. “And I didn’t realize the girl was way ahead of us, the girl in front. I wish I would have done that sooner.”

Katie Rainsberger, who missed all of the indoor season due to injury, completed her first 1,500-meter race of the season in 4:23.03, good for fifth place. Right behind Rainsberger was OTC Elite runner Hanna Green. In her first season since graduating from Virginia Tech, she ran 4:23.6 for her first 1,500 of the season.

With the regular season over, Burdon and the rest of the Oregon team will shift their attention to the Pac-12 Championship meet at Stanford. Burdon’s personal best of 4:12.52 is the seventh fastest time for 1,500 this season. She believes the team is in great shape to compete at the national level in the coming weeks.

“I think our whole team is feeling confident,” she said. “We’ve had some great training behind us and we’ve been grinding and working really well together.”