From Start To Finish: Molly Huddle Wins 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Women’s 10,000

July 2, 2016

EUGENE, Ore — Molly Huddle didn’t let up this time. Huddle was relentless this morning in the women’s 10,000 final and led from start to finish – and even kept pushing a few meters past the finish – to make sure she won her second straight US title at 10,000 at the 2016 US Olympic Track and Field Trials in 31:41.62. Huddle dropped Emily Infeld, the woman who nipped Huddle at the line at the World Championships last summer for the bronze medal when Huddle celebrated too early, on the last lap, which Huddle covered in 68.97, to finish off a 4:48.41 final 1600. Marielle Hall, the former NCAA champion for Texas, grabbed the third Olympic spot in 31:54.77 with Kellyn Taylor grabbing the alternate spot in a well-beaten fourth in 32:11.29.

The Race

Huddle-wins-10k Huddle at the finish

As with the men’s 10K last night, the women’s 25-lapper began under sunny skies and no breeze. The temperature was a bit lower (in the mid-70s for the 11:04 a.m. start). But once again, the conditions are dissimilar to what most top-level distance runners have become accustomed. To those that complain, however, the folks at USATF can claim some logic behind the decision for timing of this race: the women’s 10K final in Rio will also be run at 11:00 AM. Whether any of these decisions were ultimately dictated by NBC is moot: warm and sunny on a late morning is the reality. And with temperatures on Saturday afternoon likely to be the warmest of the entire week (the forecasted high today is 86 degrees), starting the race before noon presented the best conditions possible given the time schedule for today’s competition.

When the gun went off, Molly Huddle and Kim Conley shot straight to the front and the pace was honest from the very beginning, as the leaders hit 75.01.

By 800, the pack had already begun to string out in single file as Huddle went through in 2:32.59. Behind Huddle was Aliphine Tuliamuk, Jordan Hasay and Conley. 1200 was 3:49.78 as Huddle continued to lead.  The pace was honest although each lap was gradually getting a bit slower.

Huddle remained the clear pacesetter as the group hit 1600 in 5:05.87. The main contenders remained unchanged in a lead pack of 19.

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Huddle went through 2K in 6:22.80; a pair of 3:11 1000s’ to set the tone. In the process, Huddle looked purposeful but relaxed: given her extensive experience road racing, competing in the morning out in the sun and wind is nothing new for her.

At 3200, Huddle’s relentless work had whittled the lead pack down to 16 but the pace had slowed considerably as she split 10:17.97.

Heading into 3600, the first big crisis of the race unfolded. After some jostling, Conley had to move out to lane 3, and sat on the track to fix her shoe, which appeared to have come off. As she got back up, she had a seven-second deficit on the pack, which fortunately for her, had settled into 3:18 1000 pace.

Every athlete's Olympic Trials nightmare Every athlete’s Olympic Trials nightmare
Conley did the right thing in putting her shoe back on Conley did the right thing in putting her shoe back on

Conley went out hard, particularly during the first 200, to try to catch back up. During the first 400 after the mishap, she recovered more than half the deficit as she ran a 74.72 compared to Huddle’s 78.20. Conley’s next lap of 77.30 was a bit more measured and the problem was Huddle and the leaders started running faster as Huddle ran that lap in 76.78. On the third lap after her stop, Conley picked up some significant ground as she ran 76.49 to Huddle’s 77.86 but then the big gains ceased. Conley ran the 400 from 4800 to 5200 in 77.22 to Huddle’s 77.37 as Huddle brought the pack of 11 through 5K in 16:08.94.

Conley was relentlessly trying to catch back up but on the 13th lap she picked up just .15 on Huddle, then .09 on the 14th lap and .23 on the 15th lap which brought her to 6k. At 6K, the lead pack was six: Huddle, Hasay, Tuliamuk, Kellyn Taylor, Marielle Hall, and Emily Infeld. Conley was in ninth, just 12-13 meters behind Infeld, but she had worked really hard to get there as the lead pack had just split the fastest 1000 of the race up until that point. And the pace would only get faster. While 8 of Huddle’s first 13 laps were 77 or slower, none of her final 12 were over 77 as Huddle would ultimately win by running a big 16:08.94 – 15:32.68 negative split

After 6k, Conley started to lose ground as she lost .78 seconds on lap #16, 1.36 on lap #17 and it was soon clear that Conley’s dreams of a top-three finish were over. At 6800, Hasay was dropped and now the lead pack was five. By 7200, Conley had caught up to Hasay to battle for sixth but the lead pack of five was 50 meters clear.

Huddle Did a Lot of Leading Huddle Did a Lot of Leading

At 7600 there was another mini-break, Kellyn Taylor (in her hat) was dropped and the lead pack was now four: Huddle, Tuliamuk, Hall, and Infeld. At 8K, things were rearranged further as Hall and Infeld moved onto Huddle’s shoulder, putting Tuliamuk in fourth and 100 meters later they had put 20 meters on her. A bit further back, Conley pulled out at 8K, her brave bid to get back with the leaders now completely derailed.

With 1600 to go (26:53.21), a tight pack of three meant that the Olympic team was set, barring disaster: Huddle, Hall, Infeld. The only question now would be the final order of finish. Huddle, to this point, had led every step of the way and went through 28:44.99 at 9K.

A 73.39 third to last lap dropped Hall. It now was a two-person race but Hall was safely in third – nearly 100 meters ahead of fourth, her Olympic spot secure. The race up front was between two women who had finished just inches apart last August in Beijing and Huddle continued to grind it out, inexorably pulling ahead at the end of a 71.98 penultimate lap. With 300 to go, she had opened a 10-meter gap. Unlike at last year’s World Championships, there would be no let-up for Huddle this time as she powered home for the win, closing her last lap in 68.37, running 31:41.62. Her final 1600 was 4:48, her final 1k 2:57. Last year’s World Championship bronze medallist Infeld took second (31:46.09) in a great comeback from injury early in 2016 and Hall (31:54.77) held on for the third and final Olympic spot. Taylor was fourth in 32:11.29 while Laura Thweatt moved up to get fifth in 32:26.11 and Liz Costello was sixth in 32:31.81. Rochelle Kanuho was seventh in 32:32.05 while Tuliamuk faded to eighth in 32:32.32.

Results, interviews and analysis below.

Huddle and Infeld Huddle and Infeld

1 Molly Huddle Saucony 31:41.62
2 Emily Infeld Nike Bowerman TC 31:46.09
3 Marielle Hall Nike 31:54.77
4 Kellyn Taylor HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite 32:11.29
5 Laura Thweatt Saucony / Boulder TC 32:26.21
6 Liz Costello New Balance / NB Boston 32:31.81
7 Rochelle Kanuho HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite 32:32.05
8 Aliphine Tuliamuk Unattached 32:32.32
9 Jordan Hasay Nike Oregon Project 32:43.43
10 Emily Sisson New Balance 32:54.06
11 Kaitlin Gregg Goodman Strava TC 32:55.21
12 Serena Burla Mizuno / RIADHA 33:19.88
13 Natosha Rogers New Balance 33:21.95
14 Alisha Williams adidas Rocky Mountain Elite 33:22.22
15 Tara Welling Skechers Performance / High Perf West 33:56.08
16 Chelsea Blaase Tennessee 34:10.14
17 Sarah Pagano Boston Athletic Association 34:14.04
18 Lindsay Flanagan Mizuno / RIADHA 34:17.25
19 Chelsea Sodaro Saucony 34:22.31
20 Stephanie Bruce Oiselle / HOKA ONE ONE NAZ Elite 34:27.48
21 Emma Bates Boston Athletic Association 34:32.44
22 Courtney Smith Harvard 35:45.82
DNF Kim Conley New Balance
DNF Alia Gray Roots Running Project

Huddle ... Leading Huddle leading some more

Quick Thought #1: As great as Huddle looked today, she’s going to have a tough time medalling in Rio
There is no doubt that Huddle is in great shape. The problem is the competition she will face in 2016 is much tougher than what she faced in 2015. This year, four women have already broken 30:30 for 10,000. Last year, the world leader was just 30:49.68.

The Four Fastest Women of 2016
1 30:07.00 Almaz Ayana ETH
2 30:26.94 Alice Nawowuna Aprot KEN
3 30:28.47 Gelete Burka ETH
4 30:28.53 Tirunesh Dibaba ETH

One of the things that made Huddle’s premature celebration gaffe last year all the more sad was Huddle realized 2015 was perhaps a once-in-a-career opportunity for a medal for her – no matter her fitness. Last year, Ayana wasn’t in the event nor was two-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba. Add in newcomer Alice Nawowuna Aprot of Kenya and remember Vivian Cheruiyot – the defending champ – is running great this year and a top-5 showing is going to be a feat for Huddle.

She admitted as much in the post-race press conference, saying that it could take 30:20 fitness to medal and that she might run a great race and still only wind up eighth. No American has ever run that fast (Shalane Flanagan has the American record at 30:22) and Huddle’s pb is “only” 30:47.

Quick Thought #2: Molly Huddle Said She “Didn’t Want To Take Any Risks”
Huddle said that she wanted to stay out of trouble in the front and didn’t want the race to go too slow. She let the pace slow at times to see if someone would take it, but when no one did she continued pressing as she didn’t want to be running slower than 76- or 77-second laps. She admitted however that it wasn’t easy for her out front leading and once she wasn’t able to break away from the field by 5000 she decided to wait until the final 1200m. Huddle said, “That felt hard … When I looked up and saw that four of us had broken away I thought, ‘You just have to trust that this is hurting them. Don’t get weak now.'”

Huddle’s finish line mishap in Beijing last year came up multiple times and Huddle said she doesn’t know if she’ll “ever get over it”, but tries not to dwell on it or let it “steal any more” from herself by “fixating on it.” Commenting on not celebrating today, she joked that it helps when there is no finish line tape. We asked if she took any special satisfaction that it was Infeld she kicked away from in the final lap today, but Huddle said she just wanted to make sure she was top 3 and “if Emily passes me, she passes me.”

Molly Huddle, Emily Infeld, Mariell Hall Your Olympic Team Molly Huddle, Emily Infeld and Marielle Hall: Your Olympic Team

Quick Thought #3: Huddle, Infeld and Hall could all double back in the 5k; could they go 1-2-3 again?
Infeld said she’s definitely doubling back and Hall said that her plan was always to run both events at the Trials, though she’ll have to check with coach Derek Thompson before making a final decision. Huddle said she’d have to see how she recovers from this one but will definitely consider running the 5k. If Huddle runs it, she’d definitely be the favorite as she’s the American record holder and her 14:48 this year is way faster than anyone else in the U.S. Infeld looked great today and has the #2 time this year, 15:00 from indoors. And Hall was the runner-up last year. There are several other women in contention for the Olympic spots, including defending champ Nicole Tully, Shelby Houlihan, Abbey D’Agostino and Kim Conley, but Huddle, Infeld and Hall could definitely reprise their performance today should they all elect to double back. The most likely way that happens is in a fast race, and with the front-running Huddle in the field, that would be a distinct possibility.

Quick Thought #4: The bubbly Infeld said her plan was simply to conserve energy and stick with Huddle as long as possible
Infeld executed that plan to a T, and though Huddle was ultimately too strong over the final 400, Infeld easily made the team to Rio. That was no certainty going in, even though Infeld is the defending bronze medallist at Worlds — she developed an injury in February but decided to run through it at USA Indoors, a decision she immediately regretted. Afterwards, it was revealed that Infeld had another stress fracture, the third such injury of her career. But Infeld pointed out that she’s come back faster each time — from six months to 10 weeks to five weeks for her most recent one. Infeld noted that she will try to make some tweaks to her form that may help prevent future injuries. Though Infeld had not raced at all outdoors until today, she did a hard workout in Park City recently that helped her simulate race effort.

Infeld, an Ohio native, also said at the press conference that she was looking forward to Rio and was hoping to meet the Cleveland Cavs’ Kevin Love, but he won’t be going as he’s not on the Olympic team. She’ll have to settle for meeting Kyrie Irving instead.

Quick Thought #5: Kellyn Taylor has been getting closer, but still not quite there
Taylor, like her Northern Arizona Elite teammate Scott Fauble last night, took fourth and was not pleased with it — she said she would have rather finished last than fourth today. This was Taylor’s second near miss of 2016 as she was sixth at the Marathon Trials in February. Taylor said the disappointment of missing out in the marathon was very tough to overcome and while she was certainly bummed today, she can’t afford to spend her time wallowing in self-pity as she’s coming back to run the 5,000 in a few days. Unfortunately, of the three events, the 5,000 is Taylor’s weakest as her PR is 15:21; the only good news is that, with their 10k spots secure, top contenders like Huddle, Infeld and Hall may elect to run only the 10k in Rio should they qualify in both.

Quick Thought #6: Marielle Hall From Making Her First US Championship in 2014 to Making the Olympic Team in 2016
Four years ago, Marielle Hall was watching the Trials on TV. She first ran the US Championships only two years ago. Now she’s going to her first Olympics.

Hall said it was a team effort in getting there. Her parents, including her mom (and her sister) who doesn’t come to a lot of meets, were here. She trains with 800m star Ajee Wilson and likes the setup she has in New Jersey even if it is untraditional. The training partners who help her most are men with jobs or who are in school. She mentioned Dante (works and has kids who stay in the car while she works out), Trayvon (in business school) and Alex (works).

Hall ran at the University of Texas so she said the heat didn’t bother her too much. She was asked about the Texas tradition and cited the slogan “Texas is tradition,” and then mentioned how she enjoyed seeing Ryan Crouser yesterday win the shot, and then talked about Sanya Richards-Ross (400), Trey Hardee (decathlon) and she also mentioned Leo Manzano who runs later in the meet in the 1500.

Manzano has been top 3 at USAs every year since 2006 when he first ran USAs. Marielle now has her own little Manzano streak going. She was 3rd in the 5k in 2014, 2nd last year and now 3rd in the 10k.

Quick Thought #7: Aliphine Tuliamuk Makes Her U.S. Citizen Track Debut
If Aliphine Tuliamuk was going to pick any meet for her first track race as an American citizen, she couldn’t have picked a better choice than the US Olympic Trials. The Trials is American track and field at it’s best and Tuliamuk got to be there in the hunt for an Olympic spot. Tuliamuk was a former All-American at Wichita State and got her US citizenship at the end of April. Since then she has focused on the roads, winning the US 25K Championships in May. She trains in Santa Fe as part of triathlete Ryan Bolton’s group which also includes 2015 Boston Marathon champ Caroline Rotich.

Tuliamuk gave a good interview saying she was disappointed not to be top 3, but proud of the effort she gave today. She got a bit emotional as she said “I gave it everything. … Hopefully someday I’m going to make my Olympic dream come true. I felt like I wanted this so bad, but it just didn’t work. Someday, maybe.”

Tuliamuk was also full of respect for the top three today saying, “The three girls who are going to Rio, I think they’re going to do an amazing job. … I wish them all the best and I’m going to watch them on TV. … I’m so proud of Molly Huddle because she did the hard job.”

We asked Tuliamuk about her road to citizenship and she explained that the process started back in 2012 and at that time her focus wasn’t professional running so the 2016 Trials weren’t even on her mind. She said she wished she had started sooner so maybe she could have ran the Marathon Trials in February (she has a 2:34 marathon PB), but she felt lucky to get it in time for this meet, admitting if she hadn’t then she would have competed at the Kenyan Olympic Trials instead. From here she plans to turn her attention back to the roads so expect her to start racking up some more US titles this summer and fall.

Quick Thought #8: Natosha Rogers Goes From 2nd In 2012 To 13th In 2016
Back in 2012, Natosha Rogers was a huge story in the Olympic Trials women’s 10,000m. The 2012 Trials were a culmination of a ridiculous string of PRs for her as she went from a 34:18 on May 11th to win Big 12 Championships to 32:41 to win NCAAs and then a 31:59 to get 2nd at the Olympic Trials behind Amy Cragg (Hastings) and in front of Shalane Flanagan. While that race in 2016 would have got her a ticket to the Olympics (the qualifying standard is 32:15), in 2012 the standard was 31:45 so she watched London from home.

At that point Rogers looked like the “next big thing”, but the next year she shockingly quit the sport and stepped away from running with no results in 2013 and only a couple race finishes in 2014 and 2015 when she came back under Mark Coogan. However, now coached by Steve Magness, she’s made a “comeback” of sorts in 2016, getting a 32:06 victory last month at the Portland Track Festival.

Given she was one rule change from making the team in 2012, you’d think she’d be disappointed with a 13th-place finish here, but Rogers said she was just glad to be back at the meet. “It was beautiful. I’m so happy to be back at the Olympic Trials four years later. It’s such a good feeling. … It’s really awesome.” Rogers said she “learned to love the sport again” after making the move back to home to Denver and switching coaches to Magness.

Former NCAA Champion Emma Bates Finishes 21st
2014 NCAA champion Emma Bates was disappointed with what she her “poor day”, but said she didn’t take for granted the experience of competing at the Olympic Trials. She hopes to be back with a shot at making the team in 2020.

Laura Thweatt Says a Mental Lapse Contributed Her Not Making it To Rio
Thweatt before the interview below talked about how she had a “mental lapse” when the field broke and she didn’t go with the leaders right away. When she tried to respond, she said it was too late. Thweatt can now turn her attention again to the marathon where she had a very successful 2:28:23 debut in NY last year, but skipped the marathon trials to prepare for the track trials.
Talk about the race on our messageboard: MB: Official 2016 Olympic Trials Day 2 Live Discussion Thread
All the post-race 10,000m interviews are below or on this stand-alone page.

NBC’s Live Extra has live streaming of the Olympic Trials here:

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