EUGENE, Ore. - Amid all the surprises at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, there was one constant: Molly Huddle.
Huddle led the women’s 5,000 meter final on Sunday from start to finish, winning in 15:05.01. With the victory, she became the first American woman ever to win both the 5,000 and 10,000 in the same Trials, and she led for 14,000 of the 15,000 meters in those two finals.
The Bowerman Track Club’s Shelby Houlihan used her finishing speed to run the last 400 in 63.8, close to Huddle’s final lap of 63.2, and claimed second place in 15:06.14.
Eight days after dropping out of the 10,000 meter final due to a shoe issue, Kim Conley repeated her third-place Trials 5,000 finish from 2012, and booked her ticket to Rio with a time of 15:10.62.
Following the race, though, there was still some uncertainty about who would actually run the 5,000 at the Olympics. Huddle said she was “99% sure” she would just run the 10,000 in Rio, though she did not officially rule out the double.
If she does not run the 5,000, that would open the door for Houlihan’s teammate, Emily Infeld, who was fourth. But Infeld, in turn, said she needed to talk to her coach, Jerry Schumacher, before deciding whether to do both events or not. If Infeld bows out of the 5,000 as well, it would mean fifth-place finisher Abbey D’Agostino would take the third 5,000 spot.
No matter how that ends up playing out – and the U.S. team is scheduled to be announced on Monday – Huddle’s performance underscored her status as the top American female distance runner on the track. The versatile 31-year-old Notre Dame grad has the American record in the 5,000 (14:42.64), and has now won 22 U.S. national titles on the track, the road and in cross country.
Huddle wanted to keep the pace honest because she knew Houlihan, Katie Mackey and some of the other 1,500 types in the race could close very well in a slower, tactical race.
“It was definitely a windup,” Huddle said. “My legs were a little tired from the all racing this week. I wanted to take the kick out of those 1,500 girls . . . I knew I had to make the last (1,000 meters) hurt.
“I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up over 50 laps (prelims and finals) and fortunately it held up well.”
One of the strong kickers Huddle was worried about, Houlihan passed on the 1500 in favor of the longer race here. Despite her success in the 1500 - she was NCAA champion in 2014 – and her twitter handle of "shelbo800," Houlihan's coach, Jerry Schumacher, decided her best chance to make the Olympic team was in the 5,000 after she ran a 15:06 at the Millrose Games in February.
It worked out perfectly.
“I knew that if I was in it with a lap to go I have a great kick,” Houlihan said. “And I had a lot left. I didn’t look back and just closed as hard as I could.”
She said moving to Portland to join Schumacher’s training group “made all the difference. I had teammates there to push me every day and I’ve never had that before.”
Conley said getting back to the Olympics was very important to her, and she became even more determined after having her shoe stepped on early in the 10,000 final. She fell 40 meters behind the leaders in that race when she stopped to put her shoe back on, and couldn’t close the gap once she running again. She finally stepped off the track with five laps to go.
“Once I stepped off the track (in the 10K) I turned the page right away,” Conley said. “I’ve just been totally forward focused since July 2 nd.
“I feel relieved and triumphant that I was able to pull through and get third. It has been a long eight days.”
Former Oregon standout Jordan Hasay finished 13 th in 15:51.68, and defending champion Nicole Tully fell with eight laps to go and later dropped out.