Where Your Dreams Become Reality
All the pre-race attention focused on American record-holder Shalane Flanagan and 2007 world championship bronze medalist Kara Goucher and we’re sure the mainstream media will give them most of the attention in their recaps of the women’s 10K. But in reality, the performance of the day at Hayward Field came from Amy Yoder-Begley, who ran the race of her life to place third in the women’s 10K and just eke under the Olympic A standard of 31:45.00 with a 16-second PR of 31:43.60, thanks to an absolutely inspired last 5K in which she led five of the last eight laps. It truly was one of the more inspirational distance runs we've ever witnessed.
Yoder-Begley to the Front
One might think that Yoder-Begley's Nike Oregon Project training partner Goucher would help with the pace but they'd talked before the race and it was known that it was every woman for herself. As a result, Yoder-Begley set the tempo that might lead to her dream coming true. Squeezing the pace down to 74s and 75s, Yoder-Begley relentlessly went after the A standard. With the two other Olympic A qualifiers (Katie McGregor and Molly Huddle) in the field over 20 seconds back, it was clear who the top three placers would be; the race within the race became whether Yoder-Begley could call on the spirits of Hayward Field and somehow manage to validate her ticket to Beijing with a time that seemed out of reach earlier in the night. Breezy conditions from earlier in the day had subsided but it was still warm (75 degrees) at race time and after the first 800 was reached in a pedestrian 2:46, a fast time, let alone a personal best, seemed out of the question.
But Hayward Field has been good to Yoder-Begley in the past. In her last race here in 2001, she won the NCAA 10K title by running herself to exhaustion as she collapsed on the track and needed two IVs to get her going again. And it was good to her again in 2008 as she once again pushed herself to the edge. Taking the lead with 3,200 meters to go, occasionally wiping sweat from her brow and on at least one occasion reaching for a cup of water from a trackside official, Yoder-Begley plowed ahead, with Goucher right behind and Flanagan comfortably in third. With 1,200 remaining, Flanagan and Goucher surged by. But despite 70 and 69 second laps by the two pre-race favorites that opened up a sizeable gap, Yoder-Begley was also able to manage to increase her pace. Needing 3:36 (72 pace) for the final 3 laps, she ran 73.9 and 73.9 ... and then surged home with a 67.3 final 400 to claim the third and final ticket to Beijing, 1.4 seconds under the Olympic A standard.Yoder-Begley was obviously thrilled with her performance after the race. “This is probably the best day ever. Kara and I have been running against each other since we were itty bitty. I wouldn’t want to go to Beijing with anyone else.” Yoder-Begley revealed afterwards that Salazar had instructed her to wait until 5,000 meters because even if the race went through in 16:00, he thought she was capable of a 15:30 final half. Yoder-Begley said the slow first half was agonizing for her. Once the pace picked up, she wasn't sure if they were going fast enough. Over the roar of the Hayward crowd, Yoder Begley had trouble hearing exactly what Salazar or her husband were saying to her as she ran by them but she said she knew she needed take the lead with 8 laps to go because after running by and looking at her husband the look on his face said to her, “If you don’t go now, you are in trouble.” And she thought, "If I don’t go now, I’m going to regret this the rest of my life." So she went and achieved something that was truly legendary.
McGregor 4th Again
Finishing in the most heart-breaking of all position - fourth - for the second straight Trials was Katie McGregor, who ran 32:29.82. McGregor, while obviously disappointed, was a complete and utter class act after the race. She congratulated Yoder-Begley on the track and was full of praise for her and US women's distance running in her post-race comments. McGregor held her own head up high as well. She said in 2004, she cried and felt sorry for herself but she wouldn't be doing that this time. (Video interview worth watching on right)
In the exciting duel between the current queens of U.S. distance running, Flanagan opened up a decisive gap with 300 to go and finished nearly three seconds clear of Goucher, 31:34.81 to 31:37.72,. Flanagan ran her last 1,600 in 4:40.6 to break a Hayward Field record set by Mary Slaney back in 1982. Given the ease with which they dominated the American field (both will also be factors in the 5K next week, an event they both intend to compete in), the attention and hopes of U.S. distance running will deservedly focus on the pair in Beijing.
Some might think that the World Championships bronze medallist Goucher might have been unhappy with losing to Flanagan tonight. They would be wrong. Said Goucher, "I've wanted to be an Olympian for so long. And the (World Championships) medal is awesome and it proved to me that I can compete with anybody on any given day but this is like, 'I'm an Olympian.' This is the childhood dream. This is better for me. The dream was not an obscure medal in Osaka, Japan - the dream was to be an Olympian."
Flanagan was equally excited and noted that before the race coach John Cook had told her to “prepare herself for war.” Flanagan is a UNC alum, and Cook compared her task of beating Goucher at Hayward Field to the Tar Heels overcoming Duke in a basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Looking ahead to Beijing, Flanagan has the fastest time in the world
this year and Goucher proved she can race with the best in last
year’s World Championships final. But while the American medal
hopes in August may belong to them, the story today was Amy
Yoder-Begley, who added another thrilling chapter to the history of
American distance running at Hayward Field with her stunning effort
Friday night. If you don’t believe us, then believe the only
two people who managed to finish in front of her Friday night. Said
Goucher, “(Amy) really is the story of the night. She ran
amazing. We have been together every step for the past year and she
is the perfect example of hard work paying off.” Echoed
Flanagan, “You could tell she wanted it badly. She is
absolutely the story.” And in looking ahead to Beijing,
Flanagan said “I might be fighting off teammates to win a
medal. It is very exciting and a good position to be in."
Finals 1 Shalane Flanagan Nike 31:34.81S 2 Kara Goucher Nike 31:37.72 3 Amy Begley Nike 31:43.60 4 Katie McGregor Reebok 32:29.82 5 Blake Russell Reebok 32:31.07 6 Magdalena Lewy Boulet Saucony 32:45.06 7 Sara Slattery adidas 32:46.60 8 Lisa Koll Iowa State 33:09.87 9 Molly Huddle Saucony 33:17.73 10 Melissa Cook New Balance 33:18.12 11 Desiree Davila Hansons-Brooks 33:18.56 12 Stephanie Rothstein unattached 33:22.86 13 Amy Rudolph adidas 33:33.34 14 Amy Hastings adidas 33:37.52 15 Elva Dryer Nike 33:38.60 16 Serena Burla RIADHA 33:40.40 17 Allison Grace ZAP Fitness 33:40.84 18 Jill Steffens New Balance 33:51.88 19 Melissa White Hansons-Brooks 33:54.35 20 Sharon Thompson unattached 34:10.46 21 Tara Storage Run Ohio - S S R 34:24.84 22 Heather Gibson Asics Aggie 34:28.00 23 Katherine Newberry New York A C 34:34.20 -- Alex Gits Stanford DNS