An Oral History Of The 2012 Olympic Trials Women’s 5,000, Part II: The Race

By Jonathan Gault
June 28, 2016

No meet captures the imagination of American track & field fans like the US Olympic Trials. And at the 2012 US Olympic Trials, no distance race was more dramatic than the women’s 5,000 final (LRC The Women’s 5,000 Final – The Olympic Trials At Its Absolute Best: The Battle For Third Is One That Will Not Be Forgotten).

It had everything: absolute elation and devastation; an unlikely victor upsetting one of America’s greats; a bold late-race move; a young star breaking onto the national scene for the first time; an epic three-way sprint for the final Olympic spot; and redemption stories galore. It was everything that is great about our sport, years of pain and sacrifice distilled into pure joy for the three Olympians and utter disappointment for the woman who came four-hundredths of a second short of her Olympic dream.

But this was more than a race. The fans saw 15 minutes of racing on the track, the victory laps and the post-race interviews. They didn’t witness the obstacles these athletes had to overcome to even make it to the starting line. Nor did they see what unfolded in the days, months and years after, the struggle to return to normal following the highest high or lowest low of an athlete’s career.

With the 2016 Olympic Trials set to start on Friday — and today marking the four-year anniversary of that epic 5,000 — we revisit the story, as told by the women who made it. Part I gives the backstories of the main players and recounts their roads to the Trials. Part II deals with the race itself. Part III (coming Wednesday) deals with the lasting effects of the race on the women who ran it. Portions of the following interviews have been condensed for clarity.

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If you missed Part I, click here to read it.


The Prelims

The women’s 5,000-meter prelims were held on Monday, June 25, 2012, at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., with the final to follow three days later. There were two heats featuring a total of 25 athletes, a number that would be reduced down to 16 for Thursday’s final. The top six women from each heat would qualify automatically, with the next four fastest women making it on time. Right away, there was drama: Jackie Areson, who had the #3 SB coming in (15:14) and whom LRC picked to make the team in its preview, was 12th in heat 1 after falling apart with a 5:13 final 1600. Not only had she failed to secure an auto spot — she wasn’t even in contention for a time qualifier. She was going home.

Heat 1 results

1 Abbey D’Agostino Unattached 15:41.14 Q
2 Julie Culley Asics/N Y A C 15:41.29 Q
3 Julia Lucas Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:42.82 Q
4 Emily Infeld Georgetown 15:43.41 Q
5 Deborah Maier Unattached 15:43.54 Q
6 Lisa Uhl Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:48.16 Q
7 Kathy Kroeger Stanford 15:50.09 q
8 Emily Sisson Unattached 15:52.37 q
9 Renee Metivier Baillie Unattached 16:01.47
10 Amanda Dunne Saucony 16:02.23
11 Angela Bizzarri Brooks 16:05.01
12 Jackie Areson Nike 16:11.19
13 Brie Felnagle adidas 16:13.34
14 Frances Koons New Balance / New York A C 16:45.93
Areson at Oxy in 2012 Areson at Oxy in 2012

Jackie Areson: Before that, I never liked to get ahead of myself with what I can do: it was just too much pressure. That year, I thought “I don’t even have to do anything amazing to be an Olympian, I just have to do what I’ve done before multiple times that year.”

Going in, we knew for the prelims it was going to be one of those sit and kick races as it always is. I’m a good kicker but not good at going from really slow to really fast. We trained a lot for that but it didn’t seem to matter. When the crazy change in pace came from 5:20 to 5:00 pace, that was it. I completely blew up. 

I can still picture it in my head. When I got dropped, I thought, “This is my nightmare, this is the worst thing that could ever happen.” Now that I don’t run anymore, I think it’s ridiculous [I thought] that this was the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

Even before I crossed the line, I was bawling, hyperventilating. It was so dramatic. I didn’t even care what anyone thought about me. I was inconsolable the next hour, even days after the race. Complete meltdown.

It just shattered me and took a long time to get over it. It still affects me, I still get upset when I think about that race. I don’t think there was anything else I could have done. I’ve gone through that race thousands of times in my head and it completely changed me as a runner so who knows what it was. 

I went back to Portland the next day. I didn’t look at the results and I said to Steve [Magness, an NOP coach], “Never tell me what happened.” I have still never looked at the results of that race. I didn’t really find out what happened [in the final] and how crazy it was until a month later. I didn’t even watch the Olympics that year. I couldn’t take it. Even this year, the Olympic cycle, brings back memories.

There were a couple surprises in heat 2 but nothing to rival Areson’s shocker in heat 1. Three-time Olympian Jen Rhines wound up scratching before the race, while Amy Hastings, still feeling the effects of her 10,000 victory three days earlier, faded badly over the final three laps and wound up in a non-qualifying 9th place after a 76-second final lap. On a more positive note, Lauren Fleshman managed to qualify, outkicking Magdalena Lewy Boulet for the final auto spot despite never running more than 11 miles in a single week that year due to injury.

Heat 2 results

1 Elizabeth Maloy New Balance 15:46.00 Q
2 Molly Huddle Saucony 15:46.05 Q
3 Kim Conley SRA Elite 15:47.39 Q
4 Tara Erdmann Unattached 15:49.98 Q
5 Alisha Williams Boulder Running Company/adidas 15:51.10 Q
6 Lauren Fleshman Nike / Oregon TC Elite 15:51.53 Q
7 Magdalena Lewy Boulet Saucony 15:51.73 q
8 Kellyn Johnson adidas/McMillan Elite 15:54.42 q
9 Amy Hastings Brooks 15:59.05
10 Nicole Aish Unattached 16:02.84
11 Alissa McKaig ZAP Fitness Reebok 16:03.09
DNS Katherine Mackey Brooks
DNS Jennifer Rhines adidas

Lauren Fleshman: When you’re injured, you just go day to day. And especially in an Olympic year, you hold onto your dreams so tight. And you’re so optimistic that you’re just one day away from this injury turning the corner and then you’re going to be free. So you just keep going one day at a time, one day at a time. Next thing you know, the race is there. And I was qualified and I had a spot. And then I just got curious. I was like, “Well I could just not do it.” But then the other part of me was like, “I’m going to have a kid next year, I don’t know if I’ll ever to run another Olympic Trials.” (Fleshman was 30 at the time). It’s an honor to be here and I’m just curious, how fast could a person run off of an average of 9 miles per week for a couple months if they had done all the other things, you know been in the gym, been swimming, been on the ElliptiGO, all that stuff? I just wanted to know.

Fleshman_Lauren-OlyT12It was kind of exciting. I got myself into a good mental headspace where I literally had no expectations. [I was] like, “Let’s just see what you can do, let’s see what’s possible.” I was secretly hoping the race would go out slow and it did, so I was just taking it one lap at a time, like “Can I hang on one more lap? Okay I did. I’m still here, I’m still here, I’m still here.” And then it came down to, if I was going to make it to the final, a sprint finish. And I had done basically nothing but sprint in my running, so I ended up outkicking a couple people for sixth.

When I made the final it was just un-fucking-believable. I just couldn’t believe it. There are pictures from that race where I’m grabbing my head. It looks like I made the team but all I did was make the final. Some years in your career, the storyline changes and deviates from normal. And that was one of those years.

[Afterwards, my body] was just fucking wrecked, totally wrecked. I was just like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I have to do this again in three days.”

I was really proud of how courageous I was to step on the line. I’ve made three world teams in track and two in cross and you just don’t really see athletes of that caliber step on the line when they’re not in fine form. I feel like I made that year into my own definition of success and I gained and learned a lot from it. I really value that experience actually. Sometimes I say it’s the race I’m most proud of.


Expectations for the Final

Julie Culley: I remember in 2008 standing on the starting line [at the Trials]. I looked all around me thinking, “I can’t beat these women.” But I remember thinking in that moment, I need to come back again (in four years) and I have to come back here doing it all right, every last detail that I can possibly could put together. Because that’s what’s going to give me the edge to be able to make the team.

[Early in 2012], I’m on this run with my boyfriend and we’re talking about it. And he just stops dead in his tracks and says, “I think you can win this race. In fact, I don’t think it: I know you can win this race.” And I was like, “You’re crazy, I can’t beat Molly Huddle, American record holder. There are so many good women running right now.” I hadn’t even hit the standard.

[But] it just planted that seed in my brain. I hadn’t been thinking about winning, I had just been dreaming about finishing top three. But as I got closer to it, I kept thinking to myself if, if I go for the win, and I come up short, that’s what’s going to get me in the top three. But if I go for top three and come up short, I could finish fifth. So it was just re-framing the way I that I was attacking the race mentally.

I think the hardest part about of trying to win that race was vocalizing that that was what I wanted to do. Putting it out into the universe, being that vulnerable that this is what I want. I started carrying myself that way, training that way and approaching every aspect of the buildup with that attitude. So when I went into this race, there was this overwhelming sense of calm that I knew what I wanted to do. It wasn’t scary anymore, it was just a matter of getting in there and executing. I never wanted a race, ever, that badly.

Frank Gagliano (Culley’s coach): I told her that you don’t have to win it. You’re an Olympian if you’re first, second or third.

Lucas, who was based in Eugene at the time, was deservedly confident. With the fastest 1500 (4:07) and 5,000 (15:08) on the year, she felt that she could make the team in any sort of race and even offered a prediction after her prelim. 

Julia Lucas (to Flotrack): My circle of friends is wide and strong and they’re all there [watching]. So I’d love to do something, either like a big dramatic move at the end with a k to go, just take it.

Ian Dobson (Lucas’ husband at the time): We really approached it as her Trials very much. Things were not going well for me at the time. I mean they were going fine, I was running 13:30 or something like that, but I was very, very unlikely to be in a position to be competitive in the final. I think we very much approached it as a team, like we’re Team Julia for these few months. I took a lot of pride in how she well was doing and I was so happy to see her run well I think we both felt she was going to have to screw up to not make the team, which sounds a bit crazy to say now.

One variable added another layer of intrigue to the final: the Olympic standard. For the U.S. to send the maximum three athletes, all three had to have the ‘A’ standard of 15:20.00. Only seven of the 16 finalists had the mark — Lucas, Culley, Huddle, Fleshman, Lisa Uhl, Elizabeth Maloy and Magdalena Lewy Boulet. That meant if someone outside of that group — say D’Agostino or Kim Conley — wanted to make the team, they had to break 15:20 in the final.

Conley didn’t have the standard in the 5,000 or the 10,000 but decided to enter only the 5,000 at the Trials.

Kim Conley: That basically came down to I needed to PR by 15 secs in the 10k to get the standard and only needed to PR by five in the 5k. I knew both races had a high probability of being tactical. I felt more confident that I could keep the 5,000 race honest enough to get the standard.

Abbey D’Agostino: [My mentality was] just to give myself a shot. Mark [Coogan, my coach] and I talked about it and he was still consistent with the goals that we had set up. Our plan was consistent throughout. Before the Trials, we had talked about how it was icing on the cake to be there. It was an opportunity that happens once every four years and there are no guarantees. I don’t even remember us discussing the standard. I think my PR before then was low-15:20s (15:23). I knew that I was hovering around it.

Mark Coogan: We were trying to keep it low-key the whole time. When we had discussions, we knew top three was possible. We were like, “Let’s not worry about time, time will take care of itself. Hopefully, the race is quick enough that you can get the standard during it.” We didn’t waste an ounce of energy saying like, “Oh man, we’ve gotta make sure it’s fast.”  

We always talked about you’re going to have to close in 62 or something like that to make the team and that knocks a lot of time off. I always believe the people who are going to make the team are going to kick really hard and if they’re running a decent pace early, times more often than not take care of themselves.

Drew Wartenburg (Conley’s coach/boyfriend): [Kim and I] really did talk about the need to keep the pace honest early just to not let it slip too far from grasp. That 15:20 mark, we did realize that it was going to be a tall order in terms of maybe having to go to the front and lead. But we talked about doing that and then seeing if she couldn’t enlist someone to go with.

I remember standing with Ray Treacy (Huddle’s coach) the day before the final, and obviously Ray has watched people run a lot more laps than I have in his coaching career. H assured me in no uncertain terms that there was no way anyone was going to run the standard [in the final].

Lucas: Going into the race, I didn’t know who had the standard and who didn’t. I knew in small ways — I knew that Molly did because I remember the race. I remember Julie Culley did because she had run it in the race where I had run mine. But it was just really important to me — and I talked about this a lot with Ian — that we run the races we wanted so that we weren’t bossed around by the guys behind the scenes who were, we felt, removing the purity from the sport.

Dobson: I hate the standard and I hate that that’s a piece of it.

The Final

Rain had pelted Eugene earlier in the week, and conditions were cool (62 degrees), damp and still for the women’s 5,000 final, set to go off at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, June 28. 

Lucas: I had run far fewer races in the past four years than most of the people I was running against [Lucas suffered seven stress fractures during that time which limited her racing]. I just didn’t have experience with different sorts of tactical races. [My coach Mark Rowland] said “Keep it simple, go with three laps to go or with 600 to go. It’s up to you and how you feel.” Run inconspicuously were his words, and when you make a move, put them away.

Conley: Drew handed me a note to take into the call room to take with me. It said to stay patient early and do something heroic at the end.

Wartenburg: I definitely have done it with other athletes at various levels that I’ve coached. I’ve also written notes that I ended up crumbling in my pocket and keeping. You take the pulse of where the mindset is and that’s a card you either play or don’t depending on the read. Kim seemed like she was ready, she was confident, as relaxed as you can be in that moment. For me, it was tied to representing the folks that had gotten her to the line and I think the final line was tied to do something heroic, which is something that we had talked about. That was the task that faced her: do something heroic and let the cards fall where they may.

Conley leading early Conley leading early

The gun went off and Conley and Alisha Williams, another woman who did not have the standard, alternated the lead in the early laps. But the 2200-meter split was only 6:49.96 (15:31 pace). Huddle then took the lead, and the next two laps (76.11, 76.55) were the slowest of the race. At 3k (9:23.02, or 15:38 pace), the entire field remained closely bunched (just 1.35 seconds separated first and last).

Wartenburg: [Kim] looked fine [early in the race]. Knowing going in that she was probably going to be forced to the front to make it go, that wasn’t unexpected. In that context, that was her role. I think knowing the 3k split, seeing that it was slow was not reassuring.

Conley: Once I had seen the clock that we were quite a bit off the pace that I had been planning to run, I just thought, “Aw, there’s no way I can get the standard now.” So then it kind of seemed like if I wasn’t going to get the standard, I wasn’t going to make the Olympic team. I started having those negative thoughts.

Huddle continued to lead, and the field hit 3400 in 10:36; anyone who didn’t have the standard would have to close in 4:43 or faster for the final 1600. With 1300 meters to run, Lucas took the lead and dropped the pace, splitting 68.95, the fastest lap of the race to that point, to create a 10-meter lead with two to go. The pack, which had contained everyone except the hobbled Fleshman at the time of Lucas’ move, was ripped wide open. Huddle and Culley led the chase pack, which was down to seven women

Lucas: I remember being stressed out in the pack and feeling that there were too many people around me. I had never been great with that, running with the pack. With a little over three laps to go, I made the first actual move. Molly was leading the pack, and I tucked in right behind her. I felt so good, I was like, “Well damn, let me just take it.” The rule was three laps or 600 to go. I was allowed to go then, so I did.

I increased the pace to something that I thought felt fast but comfortable. I was excited, I was inexperienced in that role and just felt good. There was nothing ahead of me. I’m breaking wind and the crowd is mine. And that was the track I did every practice on. The actual steps were very familiar but the level of sound was not. On the track, you couldn’t hear yourself scream, the way Hayward Field is, and I was a hometown girl, so that got a big reaction.

Dobson was in the call room under the West Grandstand, warming up for the men’s 5,000 final, which was the next event. 

Dobson: They had a TV down there so whenever you were warming up you could keep an eye on what was going on. I went onto the track for the last couple laps right when she gapped everybody.

I was excited. I thought it was exactly what she should do. It was not a crazy move. It was a big, bold move, but given how close she was to the finish, how good she looked, how well her workouts were going it was like, “Well done Julia. That’s how you make an Olympic team.”

Culley: It was kind of terrifying to be honest with you. When she made that move, she made it so quickly. And we knew Julia was fit. She was on fire and she was talking about how she wanted to win the race. My immediate thought was, “We are contending for second and third.” I didn’t think she was in the realm of possibility. She had pulled away so decisively that I didn’t feel that that was going to be an error.

D’Agostino: I remember thinking that it did seem a little bit early. But at that point in my running career, everything was pretty novel to me. Racing at that level, I barely even knew who Julia Lucas was. Maybe she was known for her aggressive kicking style. I don’t know that I had the tools to analyze what was going on. But I knew I wasn’t ready to make that move.

Wartenburg: It was definitely interesting and I think what went immediately through my head was, “This is trouble.” She had the time, had the standard, looked good, and as you watch any athlete, particularly one who isn’t your own, make a move at that point, you think she must really be feeling it and this is trouble. There were no immediate signs that she was under any duress. It’s almost two races in one. There’s the breakaway and then there’s looking back and finding Kim and see[ing] how to coach that in the moment and at least stay in the hunt, if nothing else.

As Lucas continued to press, Conley was falling off the pace. 

Conley: With about 600 meters to go, I regrouped and realized that Drew and I had worked way too hard, and my family had been supporting me so much over the years to get to that point, that I didn’t want to give up. I knew if even if I didn’t get the standard, even if I didn’t get to go to the Olympics, I felt like there would be a huge honor in getting up on the podium. That’s when I really set my sights on the third place position and tried work my way back to there.

Wartenburg: At the point where her focus started to stray and it got hard and Kim started to fall back, those are not good signs and the challenge then as a coach is to continue to provide feedback without letting panic enter into your voice and keeping things positive and in the moment. Before she regrouped, she had started to go backwards and that was definitely a little bit alarming.

Lucas hit the bell with a 1.84-second lead (around 10 meters) over Huddle and Culley in second and third. D’Agostino was on her own in fourth a further eight meters behind, with Conley even further back in fifth, just ahead of Elizabeth Maloy and Lisa Uhl. At that point, Conley was 2.89 seconds out of third and a massive 4.98 seconds behind Lucas. But Huddle and Culley began kicking around the first turn, gaining on Lucas, who could not shift to a higher gear. With 300 to go, it was apparent that Lucas was slowing down; Huddle and Culley passed her midway down the back stretch.

Wartenburg: It would be great if I could sit here and say we had it all measured out but even at the bell, there was so much ground to make up.

Conley: With 400 meters to go, I don’t look like I’m anywhere close to finishing top three.

Lucas: With about 300 to go, I started to feel a hitch. I was still running well and strong but perhaps not floating exactly like I should. I didn’t handle that moment well emotionally. I broke down more than I should have. When Molly and Julie passed me with about 200 meters to go, they took my last bit of magical feeling with them.

Culley: With 600 to go, [Lucas] came back into my periphery and I remember seeing her form and thinking “That’s not good for her.” But she was still so far ahead. I was tucked on Molly’s shoulder at that point and I remember her perking up because she probably had a better line of sight to see Julia and she started to press forward a little bit. And that’s when I looked up with about 500 to go and that was like “Oh my gosh, Julia’s coming back.” We were thinking Julia was breaking down but there’s a sense of, “Is that it for her, or is she going to come back?”

When we got really close to Julia with about 300 to go, I remember, as a competitor, thinking we need to go by her very decisively so that she doesn’t latch on. It sends a message to the rest of the field too. Once we went by Julia, I remember this surge of adrenaline like, “Oh my god, this is happening.”

Lucas couldn’t respond. One of two women would be the United States champion: Huddle, or Culley, who was right on her heels around the final turn.

Culley: My one thought was don’t fall, just make it to the finish line. Molly was pouring it on at that point. I was thinking, “Just get there.” This moment is bigger than anything you’ve experienced in your life and I didn’t want to lose it.

I remember thinking okay, once you come off this turn try to get around her. So I started to pull out into the edge of lane 1 on the Bowerman Curve. Molly sensed me coming out and she widened her stance in lane 1 to make sure that I didn’t come around her. But in doing so, coming off that turn, she swung wider than she probably intended to. So the second we came off that turn, I took one step to the inside and I had a straight shot on the inside to the finish.

You’re so tunnel vision through this race, you don’t hear anything. You’re so focused on the task at hand that the noise around you is this hum. That last 75 meters, I suddenly became aware of the crowd because there was this enormous eruption.

As I’m coming down the straightaway, I’m thinking to myself, there’s still one more gear. Sometime’s that’s a terrifying feeling because you’re almost afraid to go to that edge as an athlete. That one last gear, what’s is that going to mean? Am I gonna try it and it’s gonna fail? Is it gonna be there? Is it actually there?

Gagliano: I just told her, elbows back, knees up. I use two words, “Hit it.” And she hit it very hard, changed gears with 100 to go.

Culley: I went for it and I remember coming up on her side and thinking, “Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!” and hearing the crowd getting louder and louder and louder and making that one tiny last move. And there was the finish line.

Culley won it as the battle for third played out in the background Culley won it as the battle for third played out in the background

Culley won it in 15:13.77 to Huddle’s 15:14.40 thanks to a 65.65 last lap. They were both Olympians.

Gagliano: I’m a very emotional person when it comes to things like that. I remember [NJ*NY assistant] Tom Nohilly was standing next to me. He gave me a high five and I thought my shoulder came off. It was very emotional for me and NJ*NY because that was our first Olympian.

Culley: That’s something you [want] so badly that you visualize, and you taste, and you crave, and you train, and you bleed, and you cry, and there’s that one moment where it happened. It was just unbelievable. You almost have to look up at the scoreboard to make sure that your name is there and you finished and there’s not a DQ and there’s nothing funny that actually happened right now. And then the race happened behind us. The real drama was just about to start.

Lucas was cratering, but her lead over D’Agostino was still 2.9 seconds with 200 to go. Conley, in fifth, was an additional 1.5 seconds back. But Lucas’ lead was shrinking with every step.

Lucas: The final 200 meters were about pulling together and doing a good job. I think I was running on too much emotion that I did not do a good job with that. I did not hold it together, just ran out of steam. I know that many spectators would say that I went too hard that I went too fast and that maybe is true for the day, but I was not running so fast and over my head that I should have broken down quite that much.

D’Agostino: I started to hit it on that back stretch. I guess the best way to describe it was it felt like an out-of-body experience. I just couldn’t believe that this was the reality that I actually had the potential to make the team in that moment. I felt like I had the capacity to outrun [Lucas]. My eyes were fixed on her and knew that she was near collapse. And that’s what made it so sad to see it happen because she was so gutsy and it was admirable to see.

Conley: I started to feel like I had a lot of momentum and I could tell I was gaining on Abbey and even Julia, even though she was quite a bit farther ahead at that point. It took me until about 200 meters to go to really kick into the highest gear to know that I could get third if I really laid it out on the track. Abbey was still the person that was immediately ahead, but I did have a sight line on Julia and realized that she was really starting to come back.

Lucas: That last 100 meters, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. It was a lactic flood, but god, I can just remember every moment of that, just looking at the finish line and wanting it to come to me.

D’Agostino: That last 100, I don’t think that I was rationally processing that moment. I don’t even know how to articulate it. I think I remember tying up the last 100 or 50 meters but it’s so hard for me to objectively assess that.

Conley: I was really riding that momentum of feeling I was gaining on both Abbey and Julia, and as I came off the final turn, I’ll never forget the roar of the crowd in reaction to the drama that was unfolding. I kind of knew, “I’m doing this right now.” And I think that is why I leaned at the line. Because I knew it was going to be that close.

The finish line photo The finish line photo

Conley was closing like a freight train. Just meters before the finish line, she finally passed D’Agostino, who herself was just a stride behind the rapidly fading Lucas. At the finish line, Conley lunged for the tape, which she and Lucas hit nearly simultaneously with D’Agostino just behind as the crowd gasped. In the moments after the finish, it was hard to know for sure whether Conley or Lucas had earned the third spot. And what was the time? Was it under the 15:20 Olympic standard? If not, the order of finish was irrelevant: Lucas would be going to the Olympics.

D’Agostino: I had no idea [Kim] was that close. None at all. I just remember that when she did actually pass me, it totally caught me by surprise.

Conley: I crossed the line and at first I felt a huge sense of dread because I thought that I had got third and I knew that we had closed really hard but I just had this feeling that the story was going to be that I just missed the Olympic team [because I didn’t have the standard]. 

Lucas: I didn’t know that and Abbey and Kim were coming behind me until a shadow passed. And even then, I didn’t know if they had caught me. The crowd was completely silent waiting for results.

Conley: I stood there like waiting forever. It popped up and it said 15:19.79 — under the standard — and I saw the [Olympic] rings pop up and I was just beside myself.

Embed from Getty Images

Amazingly, both Conley and D’Agostino had sneaked under the Olympic standard, with Conley edging Lucas for the final spot on the team by .04 of a second (You can watch the race in its entirety here (on certain browsers, doesn’t seem to work in chrome).


*Full race video *LRC recap from the day of the race *LRC homepage the day after the race

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

Lucas: I don’t know if I had heard of Kim Conley before. I must have, but it was this oxygen-starved moment where I was like, ‘What? Who?’ Every once in a while, race results comes up and whoever finished last was first and they fix that. And that did not happen.

Wartenburg: I was watching from the 200-meter mark. When [the result] finally popped up on the board, Scott Guerrero from Loyola Marymount was the one who told me. I tore his arm out of his socket and I think I PR’d for 200 meters [running] to the finish.

Coogan: I was with John Evans [of New Balance]. We were like, “Woah, what just happened?” I just remember [being] like “Friggin a, it was just so close.” [Abbey] was just so, so close. I think I just wanted to go find her. Obviously, I was very proud of her, the whole community was.

Culley: [Molly and I] were pissed! [laughs]. Because we were like, this is such a great moment for the two of us and frickin’ Kim Conley steals the spotlight. It was pretty cool to be on track with Kim [during] that moment. It was [the] moment of the Trials, it was that moment for her. It was just really special. But I did pull her aside in London and tell her how pissed off I was that she stole my spotlight. We got a good laugh out of it.

Dobson: I was really disappointed, which sounds like an understatement. I was really surprised and sad for Julia. Like shit, what are you going to do? That’s the Olympic Trials experience and what’s exciting about it. You get one shot. I knew, having been on the good and bad side of it, that’s it. It’s over.

In a cruel twist of fate, Conley was able to achieve the standard in part because of Lucas’ aggressive move with 1300 to go. Had Lucas waited until 600, it’s unlikely Conley would have been able to close quickly enough to break 15:20.

Lucas: For the small print to define the way you live life and run races is such a bummer to me. What a weird stance to hang your career on, but I felt it deeply. It’s not like I ran fast knowing that it would string [out] the race. That was not in my head. I wanted to run an awesome race, I wanted to make magic happen. I wanted to be proud of the story I was living and the race I was running. I was not thinking of the technicality of how many heads in this race have a standard and exactly how many seconds are we off.

A good example of the power that those rules have over making a race is if I had run that same race four years before, I would have been the only one to make it because the standard at that point was 15:09. So even getting fourth, I would have gone and no one else would have. I didn’t like the idea of making it onto the team with a handshake like, “Congratulations, you did it, I guess.”

Come back tomorrow to read Part 3: An Oral History of the 2012 Olympic Trials Women’s 5,000, Part III: The Aftermath

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