Sunday, June 24, 2012

Only One Thing Would Be Better - Oly Trials Day 1

Amy Hastings - Olympian
It's my favorite time of the quadrennial: Olympic Trials time! You can have the NBA Finals, the World Series, Lord Stanley's Cup, and yes, dare I say it, you can even have the Super Bowl. I'll take the Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Being a runner/track guy, I love a good track meet anyway, but the Olympic trials embody everything about racing. You get this one shot, at this one moment, on this one date and you're either faster (or longer or higher or stronger) than the next guy or girl ORRRR you don't make it. The finality of that makes it fascinating and creates incredible drama.

Real sports fans should flock to this every-four-years affair, but unfortunately for them, they don't. Why? You'd have to ask them. I could cite broadcast networks that seem to be unable to create a product worthy of the actual event, or the ignorance of the public to embrace anything that isn't consider a "real" professional sport, or we could look at the actual structure of a real live track and field meet. All of those possibilities will have to wait. I'm too busy digging the action.

Let's begin with Friday evening and the finals of one of my favorite events, the 10,000 meters. In the old days having a favorite in a race was easy, you went with the person you know, the one you love to cheer on. With Twitter and Facebook and Flotrack, the expansiveness of who we "know" has catapulted to a point where I feel like I know and really wish the best for most everyone in the field. But at some point, the gun goes off and I have to commit. Who will I expend energy cheering from the comfort of my home over a thousand miles away. My choices were/are clear: Galen Rupp and Amy Hastings.

Galen Rupp is a guy whose talents were discovered at an early age and gradually honed by his attendance at the University of Oregon and his affiliation with the Nike Oregon Project, both under the watchful eye of Alberto Salazar. Rupp is a confident, yet humble kid that just wants to be the best in the world. Not the best non-East African in the world, the actual BEST in the whole world. I like that! He also takes a beating on many of the message boards and blogs from the many jealous haters who resent the success of anyone who seems to be a nice person (and is more than just the flavor of the month). Hating that is quite undeserved (but that's yet another topic for another time).

Rupp, Friday night ran masterfully, like a man among boys. He shared the early pace with his teammate, Dathan Ritzenhein, whom he helped achieve the time he needed for the coming Olympics. He knew the pace they needed to run (part of the time in POURING rain) and when to step it into another gear to take control. He did both with authority. It was great to watch. By the way, very happy for former CU Buff, Ritz, who qualified after being an "oh so close" 4th at January's marathon trials.

Then there is Amy Hastings. And while, yes, I'm a HUGE Shalane Flanagan fan, Amy Hastings is the, wait for it........ All American Runner Girl! Cute as a button, yet tough as nails. Like Rupp, Hastings has a good nature and in her case, a sweetness that makes it almost impossible to not root for her. And after being the other 4th place finisher at the Trials marathon, her bandwagon was quite full.

My Hastings moment came at the 2011 Bolder Boulder as my son, Ryan and I watched the pro women get ready for the start of that 10K race. As she and Renee Metivier Baillie warmed up in front of us, I said, "Go get 'em, ladies." Hastings turned, smiled and gave us this aw shucks look and said, "Thanks." That was all it took. She was/is destined to be my daughter in law (since I have yet to figure out how to be 30 years younger). And in the absence of her and my son ever really meeting, I'll settle for cheering her on like a member of the family.

Friday night, after doing the bulk of the work to break up a large pack and quicken the race, Amy was passed by both Shalane and newcomer Natosha Rogers with a half a lap to go. It looked bleak. Then, reaching down to that tough as nails spot, she blasted off the curve, found some running room and flew past for the victory. Good stuff!

All in all, I was two for two rooting on Friday evening and it felt pretty good. I was happy for my two favs and delighted to be absorbing another great Olympic Track and Field Trials. 

Only one thing would have been better. Unfortunately, the trip to Hayward Field was not in this year's cards. Maybe next time!

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