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Kara Goucher / Shalane Flanagan Showdown Highlights Day 1 of 2008 Olympic Track and Field Trials
June 26, 2008
by: LetsRun.com
Start lists

The women’s distance events at the 2008 Olympic Trials get off to an intriguing start with the 10K final on Friday night featuring a Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher showdown. Goucher and Flanagan, arguably the best American hopes for a female Olympic distance medal in Beijing, will go head-to-head at 10k for the first time, as they lead a top-heavy field.

Changing of the Guard
The race represents a changing of the guard in US women's 10k running, as the most recent women’s Olympic medalist in the distance events (the indomitable Deena Kastor, who took bronze in the 2004 Athens marathon) will be absent. The 2004 Olympic Trials champion in this event, Kastor decided to forego the Track Trials in favor of better preparation for the Olympic marathon. Since 2004, Kastor has won 2 of 4 national titles at 10k.

The changing of the guard in this event is noticeable looking at the complete Olympic Trials results from 2004. Only Elva Dryer (2nd in ’04), Katie McGregor (4th in ’04) and Amy Begley (9th in ’04) return to compete from the top 10 finishers at the last Trials.

Shalane Flanagan
Shalane Flanagan

Indeed, new American 10K record holder Shalane Flanagan, who was simply happy to make her first Olympic team back in 2004 (in the 5K) has, quite strikingly, moved to a new level in the past 14 months and now also holds the U.S. record at 5K. Rumors of minor injuries curtailing her recent training continue to pop up, but Flanagan is declared in both the 5K and 10K and one has to assume that she will show up ready to race. Running world class times under coach John Cook, Flanagan has begun to fulfill the promise she has displayed since her high school days in Massachusetts.

She will be racing against Kara Goucher, who earned a stunning bronze at the 2007 World Championships in the 10K, running a gutty final five laps that included a memorable final 400 to earn the United States first medal at the World Championships in a track distance event since Lynn Jennings. Goucher went on to set a U.S. half-marathon record (beating Paula Radcliffe in the process) later in 2007 and has looked impressive in her early season tune-ups (Goucher ran 14:58 at Pre and even picked up a mile win at Millrose indoors). Goucher (coached by one of America’s all-time grittiest distance runners, Alberto Salazar) cannot yet boast Flanagan’s personal bests on the track, but she has proven herself to be a great racer and, unlike Flanagan, has shown the ability to peak when it matters most, at the World Champs/or Olympics.

Message board talk for weeks has speculated about this showdown: Flanagan of the fast times and impressive closing ability (ask Kim Smith, who led Flanagan during most of the record-setting 10K at Stanford, about this…. Flanagan blew by her in the final 200) versus Goucher’s grittiness and competitive drive.

The question remains when will the two really start racing each other all out during the 10,000? We'll find out on Friday but expect one of those two to win.

Battle for Third and Final Olympic Spot
After Goucher and Flanagan, there should be a spirited battle for 3rd. And the interesting thing is the people who ultimately end up battling it out for third may be the ones leading the pace early.

Kara Goucher
Kara Goucher

Why do we say this? Because in the entire field, only four women - Flanagan, Goucher, Molly Huddle and 2005 US 10,000 champ Katie McGregor - have met the Olympic A standard of 31:45.00.

In past Olympic Trials, having the standard may not have been as significant a plot as it is this year. In 2008, USATF is committed to picking the Olympic team the night of each race, meaning there will be no opportunities for athletes who do not yet have the Olympic A who finish in the top 3 to chase the standard later in the summer. So assuming decent weather conditions (although it is supposed to be hot Friday in Eugene with a high of 85 and it still 75 degrees at race time), expect the pace to be fast enough early on to give people a chance for the Olympic A standard.

There are a number of top runners who lack the A but are probably capable of it and certainly are likely to give it a shot. Leading the way very well could be Amy Rudolph, the 2006 champion and two-time Olympian. Rudolph's qualifying time is only 12 seconds off the Olympic A. Others who certainly will want a fast pace include Amy Begley and Iowa State’s NCAA Champion Lisa Koll - the revelation of the recent women’s collegiate track season, being the new American collegiate record holder at 10k and the NCAA champ. These runners will certainly want to see a pace of 76 per 400 or better as they will want to dip under the 31:45 standard so that a top three finish would actually be rewarded with an Olympic bid.

Prediction Contest Poll
Who will win the
Women's 10,000
Shalane Flanagan 88%
Kara Goucher 11.6%
Molly Huddle 0.2%
Blake Russell 0.1%
Jen Rhines 0.1%

Assuming Goucher and Flanagan take the top two spots, the battle for the third spot should provide a lot of drama. Fans will have to not only watch the battle for the third spot in the race but also keep their eyes on the clock. If the 3rd placer isn't under 31:45, then whoever crosses the line first between Huddle and McGregor is going to their first Olympics.

In the inspiring atmosphere that is Hayward Field and with the legacy of Steve Prefontaine a part of any distance race at the University of Oregon, anything is possible. Considering Goucher basically ran alone to an Olympic "A" standard a month ago, a relatively slow race up front will likely still result in an Olympic "A" standard. And a slow pace doesn’t have to mean an unexciting race. Either way, the Goucher / Flanagan showdown is a great way to start off the Olympic Trials in distance-crazy Eugene.

Predictions: 1) Flanagan 2) Goucher 3) Molly Huddle

Other action: *Start lists
The women's 10k is definitely the highlight on day 1 but there also is the 1st round of the men's and women's 800 and the men's 5k, plus the start of the women's 100. Brief preview of what to watch out for below.

Men's 5k Heats: USATF Shows Its Wisdom, Rupp Running
USATF in all of its infinite wisdom decided to have 2 heats of 12 to get to a final with 16 guys in it. Totally ridiculous. So 8 people total will get eliminated from the men's 5k heats. If USATF is going to run a final with 16 guys then it should run 2 heats of 16 as well.

The other big news is Galen Rupp is entered in the 5k and plans on likely running round 1, but not the final (article here). USATF does not have an honest effort rule but we think they should have one.
*Message board thread on Men's 5k heats

Women's 800: Is Alysia Johnson Back?
The big 3 in the US, Alysia Johnson, Hazel Clark, and Alice Schmidt are all in different heats. The only thing really to watch is whether Johnson is 100%. Johnson, last year's USATF and NCAA champ, pulled out of the NCAA semis this year with a foot injury.

Men's 800: Lomong, Wheating and Rankin all doubling?
We sure hope everyone entered in the 800 is actually running (in our opinion athletes shouldn't be allowed to pull out of their first event in the meet and run in another event in the meet). And according to the entries, Lopez Lomong, Andrew Wheating and Jon Rankin are all attempting the 800/1,500 double. Actually, Lomong apparently is using the Galen Rupp strategy and is just going to run round 1 to better prepare him for the 1,500 final.

Heat 1 looks the most interesting on paper. The favorite Khadevis Robinson (1:44 this year) , Sam Burley (1:45 this year), Lopez Lomong (1:45 last year), and Jonathon Johnson (1:44 in the past) are all in the same heat. But with 16 of the 30 first-round competitors advancing to round 2, no one has an excuse for not making it to round 2.
*Message board thread on Men's 800 Heats

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