Women’s 10,000m Preview: Foregone Conclusion or Fairy-tale Ending?
Review of The Basics
- Date: Today, Friday, June 22
- Start times and TV Schedule: Men at 8:45 pm CST, Women at 9:20 pm CST
- Channel: NBC Sports HD (1640 for ATT, 1646 for TW)
- Olympic A Standard times: Men – 27:45 (66.6 seconds per lap), Women – 31:45 (76.2 seconds per lap)
- Start list: http://www.usatf.org/events/2012/OlympicTrials-TF/entry/status.asp
The most intriguing thing about the women’s race is that it is guaranteed to produce 3 new Olympians. Unlike the men’s race, however, the women’s field is far from the deepest in recent history. Injuries to Deena Kastor and Jen Rhines (former Olympians) and decisions by others to focus on alternative events like the marathon or 5K have left the field depleted of the top talent.
The field can be divided into 3 groups:
1) Shalane Flanagan: She is the Olympic Bronze medalist in the 10K that I discussed in my preview and is in a class of her own. She won the Olympic Trials in the marathon in January and has opted to focus on that event. She will race tonight and is the clear favorite to win, but has already said she will not take a spot on the Olympic team in this event.
2) Lisa Uhl, Amy Hastings, and Janet Cherobon-Bawcum: These 3 athletes all have the “A standard” for the 10K and are the only athletes besides Shalane with the Standard Time in the field. None of them have been Olympians before, so that provides some excitement. But, they also have no incentive to push the pace and help the other athletes achieve a fast time. If no one else earns an A Standard tonight, then these 3 women will be your Olympic team even if they finish dead last.
3) Everyone else: The remaining 20 women have not reached the A standard so must do it in this race, tonight, or they will be left off the team no matter what place they achieve. This will be a tall task as none of these women have run within 15 seconds of the standard, and only 3 have run within 30 seconds of it. The real question for this group: who will be brave enough to go for it? Or will a group of them work together to set a solid, early pace? Will this race have a fairy-tale ending or is the team a foregone conclusion?
Here are some of the stories to watch:
Amy famously finished 4th in the Olympic Marathon Trials in January. I talk about her in my blog from the Marathon Trials here. She was one spot from a team then, and now looks poised to punch her ticket to London tonight. The knock on Amy has always been her impatience. Much like the late, great Steve Prefontaine, she is an impetuous racer who is always pressing the pace, causing her too often to make poor tactical decisions or do more work than she should in races. This has left her with mixed and some times mediocre results up until this year. The question tonight is: will she stay patient and let the race unfold in front of her, knowing that she will have a strong closing kick? Or, will she press an honest pace from the beginning to test the group, knowing that it could also carry someone else to a fast time and spot on the team in her place? For her sake, I hope she is patient, but for the race’s sake, I hope she holds nothing back!
Janet is 33, one of the older athletes in the race. She is only recently a US citizen as of last September, having been born in Kenya. But, this is no story of a ringer-runner-turned-US-citizen who will dominate the race. She grew up in a part of Kenya where running was socially unacceptable for females and didn’t start running until high school. She moved to the US to attend a DII university in Arkansas, Harding University, recruited to run there by a coach who saw potential in a relatively “slow” young Kenyan girl who boasted a 5K PR still north of 20 minutes at the time. While working extra jobs to send money home to family in Kenya, she thrived at the DII level, eventually winning 3 DII national titles, but went on to nursing school after graduation receiving no offers for sponsorship or to join an Olympic Development team. But, she kept running and working hard, getting faster. Now, she has won 2 national road titles in the last 12 months, and comes to Eugene fit and ready to make an Olympic team. I think she will do it tonight, regardless of how the race goes. And, she will do as a perfect representative of what the American dream can be.
Alisha comes into this race with a 10K PR that is 18 seconds off of the Olympic A standard. If anyone can hit the standard tonight, she is the one. She has lowered her 10K PR by over a minute in the last year and has several, recent and prominent results including a 2nd place finish in the US Road Mile. Her day job… she is a full-time accountant, complete with a LinkedIn Profile here (http://www.linkedin.com/in/alishawilliamscpa). She is proof that runners at the Trials come from all places. But, without the A standard, she must run the race of her life. Can she do it? I am rooting for her!
Even with 4 US national titles and 3 NCAA titles to her name, Katie McGregor is more famous for what she hasn’t done that what she has done. Her claim to fame: finishing 4th at the last 2 Olympic Trials for the 10K, one spot from making the team in 2004 and 2008. This race is likely her last chance to truly go for it, but she still needs to the hit the A standard, and her recent fitness is a question mark. It is hard to say where she will finish tonight, but you can count on this… she will stick her nose in the race and go for it. She has nothing to lose.
Like Aaron Braun in the men’s 10K, Stephanie and Kellyn are teammates from McMillan Elite in Flagstaff. You can pick them out on the track by their purple and reddish Adidas kits. Both of them have similar personal bests, but they need to chop nearly a minute off of their PRs to get the A standard. That said, they have shown strong recent fitness and potential. Stephanie is a 2:29 marathoner and went into the Olympic Marathon Trials as a top 10 favorite, although suffered an injury in the race and did not finish. This race is her chance for redemption, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these two teammates worked together to force the pace if no one else will.
My prediction: My heart wants to see a fairy-tale ending, and I hope that a surprise name earns an Olympic spot. But, the cynic in me prevails this time. A coalition of “everyone else” will push the pace early and go after the Olympic A standard, but the favorites will be the only ones standing by the end. I predict that Shalane wins easily with Cherbon-Bawcum and Hastings rounding out the top 3, and Uhl will join those two on the Olympic team.