EUGENE, Ore. - In a race that truly captured the essence of the Olympic Trials, three fast and determined women became the first athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games from Friday's opening day of competition at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field.
The top three finishers in each event at these Olympic Trials, who have met Olympic performance standards, will earn the ultimate prize of a spot on the Team USA roster for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The need for that Olympic A standard was writ large in the women's 10,000m, run at 9:20 p.m. on a humid evening.
As she did at the Women's Marathon Olympic Trials April 20 in Boston, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet took the early lead in the 10,000 and paced the field through 10 laps. But 13 minutes into the race, American record holder Shalane Flanagan decided the pace wasn't to her liking and led World Outdoor bronze medalist Kara Goucher and Amy Yoder Begley away from the pack, dropping the pace by nearly 10 seconds per lap, down to 71 for one quick lap.
A Nike Oregon Project athlete who was a two-time NCAA champion and 16-time All-American while at the University of Arkansas, Yoder Begley entered the Olympic Trials lacking the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 31:45:00 - a time she needed to beat in order to ensure a place on the team. Knowing a ticket to Beijing was on the line, Yoder Begley took the lead with seven laps to go, in pursuit of the A standard. Flanagan and Goucher again took over with three laps to go, and with 300m to go, Flanagan turned on the speed and pulled away to win in 31:34.81, a Hayward Field record, with Goucher second in 31:37.72.
But it was Yoder Begley's solo race for third that was most inspiring. Running alone and visibly digging for every available bit of energy, she needed to cover the final 800 meters in 2:20 to beat the 31:45 standard. It took minutes after she crossed the finish line for her time to be displayed on the scoreboard, but when it did, it was cause for celebration. 31 minutes, 43.60 seconds. Yoder Begley made it to Beijing with 1.40 seconds to spare.