The Women's 5,000 Final - The Olympic Trials At Its Absolute Best

The Battle For Third Is One That Will Not Be Forgotten

by LetsRun.com
June 28, 2012

What a race!!!!

This race is what the Olympic Trials are all about.

It had the American record holder, it had seven women with the Olympic 'A' qualifying standard, and it had a bunch without the 'A' who dreamed of the 'A' and were willing to do the work to try to get it.

And in the end, it will be remembered for one thing - the most thrilling of victories and the most agonizing of defeats - and by victory and defeat we mean the victory of finishing third and defeat of finishing fourth.

A truly, truly epic race.

The results will forever show that Julie Culley passed American record holder Molly Huddle on the inside with about 30 meters remaining to get the win in 15:13.77 to Huddle's 15:14.40. But for anyone who watched this race live in Hayward field live, it will be remembered 20 years from now for one thing - the epic battle for third.

The Battle For Third
The race started somewhat honest as Kim Conley and Alisha Williams, two women in need of the 'A' standard, came to play and alternated laps at the front for the first seven laps before American record holder, Molly Huddle, led laps eight and nine, as the runners went through 1600 in 4:58.8 and 3200 in 10:00.0. With a mile to go, the top women would need to run a 4:43 if the 'A' qualifying standard of 15:20.00 was going to come down.

As they hit three to go, 2012 US leader Julia Lucas made a big play for the lead, opening up a five meter gap on Huddle, Culley, Conley, Liz Maloy, Lisa Uhl and Emily Infeld. Lucas' 68.95 lap gave her a 1.31 second lead.  Lucas followed that up with another 68-second lap (68.45 lap). Her lead on second and third wasn't that much bigger at the bell - 1.84 seconds as Huddle and Culley weren't that far back . However, it seemed that the Olympic team was most likely set - Lucas, then a fast closing Huddle and Culley - as the 4th placer, Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino, was 3.66 seconds back. D'Agostino, who had separated from Conley, Infeld and Maloy to move into fourth with 600m to go, had lost some ground after a penultimate lap of 69.94. On the first turn of the last lap, D'Agostino, who is known to have a good kick, didn't really seem to be moving.

Barring a total crater by Lucas, the Olympic team was set.

On the backstretch, Lucas seemed to be in a bit of trouble. Huddle & Culley made up a ton of ground and came flying up to Lucas at the 200m mark on the backstretch - could Lucas latch on and go with them?

Lucas tried to respond but she couldn't latch on but again Dartmouth's D'Agostino wasn't coming on strong.  With slightly less than 200 meters to go, Lucas still had close to three seconds (2.9 by our watch) on D'Agostino and another 1.5 on Conley. That means D'Agostino was roughly 15 meters behind and Conley 25 behind.

The Finish Via NBC Sports

But in the final 100, Lucas really started to crater.

Up front, Culley came back on Huddle on the inside to become the surprise winner as both made their first Olympic teams.

But the drama was for the third spot. Would Lucas be able to hold on? Her lead was massive but she was really cratering.

It was an absolutely stunning final 50 meters. At first, it first seemed as if D'Agostino might catch the faltering Lucas, who had run an incredibly brave final three laps, mainly because it wasn't clear if Lucas was going to make it the finish line, not because D'Agostino was finishing strongly.

The only person really running the last 100m was the early leader Conley who was coming back with a 68.78 final lap to storm from out of contention to suddenly be in the mix in the final 20 meters. Seemingly out of nowhere, Conley made up 4+seconds to at first catch D'Agostino and then pull up to Lucas right before the line. It was incredibly close. All Lucas seemingly needed to do was keep her momentum going and lean over the line and it was hers. She couldn't do that and it was too close to call.

Had Conley really made up more than 4-seconds in the final 150 and got Lucas at the line and had Conley also gottten the ĎA' standard at the line?

Yes and Yes.

Conley's name flashed on the scoreboard in 15:19.79 - just .21 under the ĎA' standard of 15:20.00 - and just .04 ahead of Lucas' 15:19.83.

D'Agostino, who seemingly wasn't all that aware of Lucas' cratering but was awakened a bit by Conley, also got under the ĎA' standard at 15:19.98.

A truly remarkable race.

If you weren't at Hayward Field or didn't see it live on tv, we encourage you to watch the race highlights on NBCOlympics.com. Because they were a bit more focused on the leaders, it doesn't quite do Lucas' battle to hold onto third justice.

Quick Take #1: We'll repeat. If you were at Hayward field on Thursday night, in twenty years, there is no chance you will have forgotten watching the battle for third. You very easily may have forgotten the battle for first - if you even knew who won in the first place. Two hours after the race, LetsRun.com's Wejo admitted he didn't know who won the race.


Julia Lucas Shows Her Class After The Race

QT #2: We don't know how to console Julia Lucas. Her dream season turned into a total nightmare in the last 50 meters.

We've started a thread on the messageboard in her honor. We gained a tremendous amount of respect for her for her willingness to go for it and for her frankness after the race.

MB: Official Julia Lucas Appreciation Thread!!!

People admire Steve Prefontaine going for the win at all costs and Lucas certainly did that so we hope they admire her. Sadly her bold move not cost her an Olympic spot in the cruelest of two different ways. She lost third by .03 and her bold move helped carry Conley to the "A" by .21. If Lucas waits 20 meters, she probably ends up third but even if she'd finished 4th, Conley would have run over 15:20.00.

One thing we are certain of is that Lucas deserves is everyone's respect. Her post-race interview is a MUST WATCH. It's embedded on the left. What a class act. In a day and age, when most 4th placers blow through the interview area without talking to the press, Lucas showed herself to be a TOTAL CLASS ACT.

QT #3: As bad as it was for Julia Lucas at the end, it was that good for Kim Conley. If Lucas was going to lose out, we must admit we think it's only fair that the spot went to Conley and not D'Agostino as Conley (and Williams) are the two people who made the 'A' standard possible. Fans of distance running want to see the people who do the work and go for it to be rewarded. That certainly didn't happen in Lucas' case but the silver lining is that it did in Conley's case.

QT #4: The young D'Agostino was sobbing after the race. I our mind, she has little to be ashamed of. She capped off an unbelievable year with first an NCAA title and then a PR and 5th place finish in the Olympic Trials at age 20. Not too shabby. At this time of year, a lot of runners are on fumes and yet the 20-year old followed up a win at NCAAs with a PR at the Trials.

That being said, we guess we know why she was so upset. Given Lucas' total crater at the end, it ended up being a missed opportunity. If D'Agostino had been running a bit more with her head up, she likely would have realized Lucas was there for the taking. Now she'll have to wait for four full years like everyone else who wasn't in the top three.

QT #5:  4.98 seconds was the margin that Lucas had on Conley with 400 meters remaining.

QT #6: While women's running isn't nearly as deep as men's running, American women's distance running is getting deeper and deeper. It was a good sign that with 6 laps remaining in a race that ended up in an Olympic 'A' time, that every women in the field was still in contention. That's the good news. The bad news the Olympic "A" time is 45 seconds slower than what you need to be running if you are going to contend in London.


Results, splits and a slightly more descriptive recap of the early stages of the race appear below.

1 Julie Culley Asics/N Y A C 15:13.77
2 Molly Huddle Saucony 15:14.40
3 Kim Conley New Balance/SRA Elite 15:19.79
4 Julia Lucas Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:19.83
5 Abbey D'Agostino Unattached 15:19.98
6 Lisa Uhl Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:24.17
7 Elizabeth Maloy New Balance 15:24.85
8 Emily Infeld Georgetown 15:28.60
9 Alisha Williams Boulder Running Company/adidas 15:32.98
10 Tara Erdmann Unattached 15:33.96
11 Magdalena Lewy Boulet Saucony 15:34.31
12 Emily Sisson Unattached 15:34.68
13 Deborah Maier Unattached 15:37.56
14 Kellyn Johnson adidas/McMillan Elite 15:39.60
15 Kathy Kroeger Stanford 15:40.55
16 Lauren Fleshman Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:54.14

Leaders Splits
73.5 (Conley)
75.7 (Williams)
75.1 (Conley)
74.5 (Conley - 4:58.8)
74.3 (Williams)
74.3 (Conley)
77.5 (Conley/Huddle)
75.2 (Huddle - 10:00.0, 5:01.2)
73.1 (Huddle)
69.6 (Lucas)
68.9 (Lucas)
68.9 (Huddle)
33.0 (Culley - 15:13.77)

The Agony of Defeat: Julia Lucas

A Tearful Abbey D'Agostino on Coming so Close (link fixed)

10,000m Olympian Lisa Uhl After 5000m Final

Julie Culley, Molly Huddl and Kim Conley Your Olympians


Longer Women's 5000 Recap (With More About Beginning Of Race):
Kim Conley, one of the women still in need of the Olympic A, immediately surged to the front and the pace seemed honest through 200 meters and brought the field through 400 in 73.5.  After 400, Alisha Williams (also in need of the A), then took the lead...they had a five meter lead on Molly Huddle at 600 meters.   

Williams led a 75.8 second lap and the pack had regained contact.  Pre-race favorites Julia Lucas and Molly Huddle lurked in third and fourth as the field went through 1000 in 3:07.33, too slow for the A standard.

Conley took back over at 1200 and they were still running 75s...honest enough to lead comfortably while still keeping 15:20 in play.  A 74.5 fourth lap brought them through in 4:58.8 at 1600.  Everyone was still in the hunt.

Soon after the mile, Williams took control again.  2K was hit in 6:13.1 so the second kilo was right around 3:06.

Conley took the lead again and now Huddle moved into second with Julie Culley in third, Williams in fourth and Kellyn Johnson in fifth.  As they hit halfway, everyone was still in the hunt, with no one dropped.  

Huddle moved up to Conley's shoulder as things slowed heading into 2800 with a 77.5.

3K was hit in 9:22.9 for a 3:09 1000.  Roughly 4:46 mile pace the rest of the way would insure 15:20.

Huddle took the lead at 3200 as they went through in 10:00.0 and now the racing seemed ready to begin.  (With a mile to go, Lauren Fleshman's gallant attempt seemed ended as she got dropped).

As they hit three to go, Julia Lucas made a big play for the lead, opening op a five meter gap on Huddle, Culley, Conley, Liz Maloy, Lisa Uhl and Abbey D'Agostino and Emily Infeld.

At 4K, Lucas had thrown in a 69.6 to get to 12:22.6 for a 3:00 1K.  Huddle led the chase pack and she and Culley now had a five meter gap on D'Agostino.  With 600 to go, D'Agostino separated from Conley and Infeld and Maloy to chase down Culley and Huddle.

But with a lap to go the team seemed set:  Lucas, then a fast closing Huddle and Culley.

All of a sudden Lucas was in big trouble. Huddle & Culley came flying by on the backstretch - could Lucas latch on and go with them?

Lucas couldn't latch on but Dartmouth's D'Agostino wasn't coming on very strong. But in the final 100, Lucas really started to crater.

Up front, Culley came back on Huddle on the inside to become the surprise winner as both made their first Olympic teams.

But the drama was for the third spot. Would Lucas who had made a bold bid for victory 1200 meters out be able to hold on?

It was an absolutely stunning final 50 meters as it first seemed as if D'Agostino would catch a suddenly faltering Lucas, who had run an incredibly brave final three laps.  But then it was Conley coming back with a 68.78 final lap who stormed out of nowhere to at first catch D'Agostino and then seemingly catch Lucas at the line.

But when the race was over - it wasn't 100% clear who was going to the Olympics.

Had Conley truly made up more than 4-seconds in the final 150 and got Lucas at the line and had Conley also gottten the ĎA' standard at the line?

Yes and Yes.

Conley ended up with a 15:19.79 time - just .21 under the ĎA' standard of 15:20.00 - and just .04 ahead of Lucas' 15:19.83.

D'Agostino also got under the ĎA' standard at 15:19.98.

A truly remarkable race.

Kudos to Lucas for her drive for the win in the last 1200.  Kudos also to Conley, who did much of the work early to insure an honest pace before her amazing final lap to claim the final spot.

 


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