EUGENE, Ore. — When the bloody gash on her left shin heals, Alexa Efraimson will have a true battle scar.
Sunday, the Camas 17-year-old went toe-to-toe with the world’s best runners under 20 in the 1500 meter finals of the IAAF World Junior Championships at Hayward Field.
She also went shoulder-to-shoulder and shin-to-spike.
Efraimson finished sixth in 4 minutes, 13.31 seconds in a race that showed how physical high-level running can be.
In the lead pack with one lap to go, Efraimson jostled with Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay. They bumped shoulders as that tight group began to separate.
With 100 meters left, Efraimson was less than a second behind, but others’ final sprints were stronger. Ethiopia’s Dawit Seyaum won in 4:09.86.
Efraimson was still exhausted 15 minutes after the race. Before addressing the media, she stood hands on knees for long stretches during a muggy day in the mid-80s.
“I’d rather give it all I have than have anything saved up for the end,” Efraimson said. “I don’t think I could have done anything else.”
Elise Cranny, a Stanford-bound runner from Colorado, finished fourth.
“Alexa was definitely getting pushed around when the pace changed,” Cranny said.
Physical contact is simply part of racing, Efraimson said.
“I don’t think it disrupted me mentally,” Efraimson said. “One of the girls was just trying to get out so she could kick. You have to be physical. You have to hold your own in these races.”
With personal bests at least four seconds faster than everyone else in the field, Seyaum and Tsegay were the favorites. Efraimson and Cranny were medal contenders, entering Sunday with the third and fourth fastest 1,500 times, respectively, ever run by an American high-school-age girl.
Sunday was the biggest track and field event in a long season for Efraimson that saw her set a national high school record in the 1,600 meters at the state track championships in May.
She ran a personal best for the 1,500 in June at the Adidas Grand Prix in New York, clocking 4:07.05 against professionals.
Efraimson plans to forgo her senior year of running at Camas High School. She is considering turning pro or remaining an amateur and running unattached in high-caliber meets next year.
Sunday, she didn’t give any details about her future plans other than “two weeks off.”
The reason for giving up high school competition is to focus on finding the best competition possible her coach Mike Hickey has said.
Besides providing Efraimson with a scar, Sunday offered valuable experience for the future. It also proved Efraimson won’t back down from a challenge.
“I just wanted to go out there and not be afraid of anyone or anything,” Efraimson said. “I wasn’t going to be afraid of the pain.”