Saturday, July 2, 2016

Follow the Leader

US Olympic Trials
Women’s 10,000m

Molly Huddle took the lead on the opening step of the women’s Olympic Trials 10,000m race and never relinquished it - not even an inch.

“You don’t want to risk anything at the Olympic Trials by trying to run a fast time,” said Huddle,  “so I just tried to keep it as relaxed as I could until the last mile and still stay out of trouble.”

Instead, Huddle was trouble for everyone else.

An Olympic Trials schedule which models that of the Olympic Games - today’s race started at 11:04am - gave the contestants challenging conditions in heat which is sure to be worse in Rio.

Huddle ran to burn off the competition and remarkable negative splits of 16:09/15:33 more than accomplished that mission. Her final time was 31:41.62, with Beijing 10k bronze medalist Emily Infeld second in 31:46.09 and Nike’s Marielle Hall third in 31:54.77.

Kellyn Taylor was a distant 4th in 32:11.30, and with 1200m to go, Olympic team membership was never really in doubt. The only question was the order.

“With five laps to go it started to really hurt,” said Infeld, “and with three laps to go I said, ‘OK, this is a grind – a lap at a time, just hang on to Molly. She’s just so tough! She led that whole race and I knew she always has such a great kick at the end. I was just trying to stay relaxed, stay composed.”

Since exacerbating a late winter injury while running in the US Indoor Championships in Portland in March, Infeld was off the US distance radar screen this spring. She did a training stint at elevation in Park City, Utah, where she completed a blowout workout ten days ago.

“That was my best workout of the year and I thought, ‘If I can do that, I’m ready to hurt in this race.’ It hurt and I’m just really, really happy and so excited,” Infeld said of making her first Olympic team.

“Going into it, my coach told me two things,” said Hall, “to be patient and to be invisible for the first half. It’s a really long race, so for me I had to get used to the waves. Sometimes there are surges and sometimes people are falling back, lots of contact, so being a part of the pack you can definitely feel the tension, but all of that is expected in this race.”

Huddle was refreshingly candid in anticipating her competition in Rio.

“Having seen some of the Ethiopian and Kenyan results, to medal I think you’ll need to be in 30:20 shape,” said Huddle, “which is a huge order.” Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana leads this year’s world list at 30:07.00.

“But looking at the results of what I assume are the Ethiopian Trials, you are frustrated because there’s not a lot of talk about that country. But I need to get as fit as I can and just trust that rules will be followed in August.”

The ebullient Infeld said, “I had a great year last year and an unexpected high finish at the Worlds. Looking at the girls who have qualified for the 10k so far, it’s going to be a tough event, but I obviously want to do my best and see if I have a shot at medaling.”

All three 10,000m Olympians indicated they are very likely to contest the 5,000m next Thursday and Sunday.

Infeld, who was raised in NE Ohio, was asked about Ohio’s sports renaissance.

“After watching the Cavs I said, ‘I better step up my game!’”

She was hoping to meet Cavalier star Kevin Love in Rio, but with his decision to skip this quadrennium’s Dreamy Team, she’ll have to wait until another time to meet her Love.

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