Molly Huddle runs to victory in the women's 10,000-meter at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field on June 25, 2015 in Eugene, Ore.
EUGENE, Ore. – No one could blame Molly Huddle for not celebrating as she crossed the finish line Saturday to win the women’s 10,000-meter at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field.
All she did was smile slightly.
“I was just relieved,” said Huddle, who led wire-to-wire. “I didn’t want disasters to happen. I just wanted it to be a smooth run, no trips, no falls, no nothing.”
That included no nipping at the tape.
Last year, Huddle was poised to take the bronze medal at the world championships in Beijing, but celebrated too soon. She let up, raising her arms in the air, and teammate Emily Infeld, who was right on her heels, surged past to cross the finish line first. Huddle’s shocked expression was one of the images of the world championships.
Infeld was also behind Huddle on the final lap at the trials, but Huddle pulled steadily away to win with a time 31 minutes, 41.62 seconds. She made her second U.S. Olympic team, but in a different race.
Huddle was in the 5,000-meter in 2012, placing 11th at the London Olympic Games.
Infeld, who faded on the final stretch, was second to make her first Olympic team with a time of 31:46.09, while Marielle Hall, who came in with the fastest time by an American on the world list, was third at 31:54.77. This is also Hall’s first Olympic team.
Huddle won her second straight 10,000-meter title. She won the 5,000 in 2011 and 2014 and may run that race as well next week.
Huddle debated seeing if anyone else would take the pace, but she didn’t want it to go much slower than 76 or 77-second laps. She stayed in front, which is also the best place to stay out of trouble, but would slow down a bit occasionally to see if anyone else would come up.
“It’s hard up there alone,” Huddle said. “When you’re following someone, it’s always just a little less stressful.”
But she kept pressing. “I looked up (at the video screen) and saw four of us had broken away,” Huddle said, “and I thought, “You just need to trust that this is hurting them. Just don’t get weak now.’”
With a lap to go, she said, “I just put everything I had into it,” clocking 68.37 seconds.
“As long as I was in the top three, I think that took a lot of stress off of me,” Huddle said. “I knew (Infeld) was a fast closer, so I just didn’t want to leave anything to chance.”
After the finish-line mishap in Beijing, she said it was “going to take a long time to get over” it.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” Huddle said. “I just kind of moved past it and not dwell on it and not let it steal any more from me by fixating on it.”
She said her relationship with Infeld did not change.
“What happened last year, I was just mad at myself,” she said, “but I was glad that another American placed, and (Infeld) was the only American medal at worlds for the distance events. It would’ve felt worse if it weren’t one of my teammates, but we’ve always been friends.”
Infeld did have a big smile at the end of the race.
“I love smiling, but I was so happy,” she said. “We all looked at each other and I was like, ‘We did it.’ It was crazy. I wanted to take it like it was any other race, but once I crossed the finish line I realized that it really happened. It was such a special moment.”
Huddle, who also enjoys road racing as well as running on the track, said it was “cool to be able to move up” to the longer race at the Olympic level.
“Maybe next time I’ll try the marathon,” she said. “I think that’d be a cool career to just have a taste of everything. I feel more comfortable in the 5,000 still. I think I just need to work on the mentality of the 10K a little more, but training goes hand in hand.”
Huddle also said she realizes that she needs to go much faster to have the potential for a medal in Rio.
“Having seen some Ethiopian and Kenyan results, to medal I think you’ll need to be in 30:20 shape, which is a huge order and the American record,” Huddle said. “I’m going to get as fit as I can for that race, but I could have a great day and finish eighth, you just never know.”
And though she wishes she had run faster at the trials, she’s happy to come away from the 10,000 with no surprises.
“It’s such a spectacle here,” Huddle said. “This meet is enormous and the pressure can feel enormous, so I was just trying to not have an out-of-body experience on the track. I learned to just tune that out and pretend it’s any other race.”