The End of the Beginning

Here are some lasting images and observations from Days 3 and 4 of the first big-time track meet I’ve ever attended, the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR last weekend.

Practically every event had me on the brink of choking up with emotion, seeing the athletes put so much at stake for one singular chance to compete in Rio.  A handful did, and a boatload did not.  Curiously, I found myself emotionally going back and forth between the dids and the didnots.   For me, that impulse is one I can’t always plan. Who I actually find myself rooting for tells me something that is indiscernible with logic. Only in the moment on the brink do I realize whose story is tugging at me.   That happens in life too– I often use that “heart tug” to show me the way through a decision that is not revealing itself to me through analysis.

I hope you find yourself rooting for someone in Rio, when these athletes begin to represent the United States on the track.

 

 

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Ashton Eaton finishes the 1500m to win the decathlon.

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And when the World’s Greatest Athlete invites you to a pool party, you go. His fellow decathletes have their own Rocky/Apollo Creed moment in the steeplechase pit.

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Allyson Felix settles in for the start of the 400m. My heart is probably beating faster than hers at this point.

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Felix won the event with world’s best time this year. Look for her on a podium in Rio.

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This is how my stomach felt to be so close to my track crush.

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I did not make the team.

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On Independence Day morning, I drove out to Florence, OR to see the sand dunes. What struck me even more was the surreal shelters built from driftwood. Just goes to show what beautiful and useful pieces can be built from what others’ discard.

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Allyson Felix be warned. Emma Coburn may be my new track crush after her dominating win the 3,000m steeplechase.

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In the most talked about race on the first weekend, Alysia Montano leads on the first lap of the 800m, with a flower in her hair.

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But Montano finishes alone and despondent. She tumbled just before the final turn and poof!, just like that, her Olympic dream ends.

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Montano’s daughter Linnea consoles her mom after the race. Montano famously competed in the US Championships two years ago while 34 weeks pregnant with Linnea.

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In my favorite photo of the weekend, Akron’s Clayton Murphy blows by Boris Berian to win the 800m. Both go to Rio.

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Murphy, Berian and Charles Jock. Your 800m US Olympic team.

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My brush with greatness. I got to meet Dave Wottle, who was one of the first distance runners I ever idolized when he won the 1972 Olympic 800m race with his mammoth kick. He is still the last US man to win the race. This time, I wore the hat.

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So long, Historic one. Thanks for bringing together so many staggeringly prepared athletes (and track nerds) in one place. Who knew?

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