The recently concluded US Olympic Trials represented my second Trials experience, and while I entered the meet with a very different mindset and expectations than I did in 2012, in the end my path to the podium proved equally challenging to that of four years ago.
Among the many differences in my approach to my second Trials, a year ago I began harboring a vision to not only qualify for the Rio Olympics but to bring a teammate along. I didn’t necessarily know at the outset what that would actually look like, but I believed in the power of sharing a lofty objective. As we entered 2016 and Kate Grace emerged from the depths of injury it became clear that she was gathering steam at just the right time. We began to feed off each other’s momentum, and while I initially fancied myself playing the role of bringing Kate along, it soon became clear that she was thriving on her own. When everything is said and done, I now look back on the spring and my journey at the Olympic Trials and realize that it is actually Kate that is bringing me to the Olympics with her.
My 2016 Trials experience left me trying my best to control a lot of emotion between the 10,000m and the 5000m races. Losing my shoe and choosing not to finish the 10,000m race on July 2 proved extremely disappointing, but I didn’t feel like there was any room to dwell on it with the 5000m still on the horizon. The days between the 10,000m and 5000m did produce doubt, because clearly a “worst case scenario” was capable of happening. Balancing my own personal doubts became easier due to the thrill of watching Kate win the 800m. After initially being unsure about whether I wanted to watch the race from the hotel or the warm up area, I decided instead to find a spot along the fence right alongside the track. The 800m final was full of drama, but seeing Kate emerge unscathed to reach the top of the podium reminded me of the great moments that can occur at the Olympic Trials. Seeing her win inspired me and strengthened my resolve to make the trip to Rio with her.
In that same 800m race, I also watched fellow Team New Balance athlete Brenda Martinez stumble and lose her chance at one of those Olympic spots. While I was initially gutted for her, that feeling soon shifted to the same sense of resolve that I was cultivating for myself. I knew that she could come back in the 1500m and get the job done. When Brenda and I texted each other and saw each other throughout the days that followed, her clear sense of determination encouraged my own. While savoring my victory lap following the 5000m, I stopped to watch Brenda fly down the home stretch and dive across the line for the final spot on the 1500m team. It was a great moment that completed the day and the meet for me.
Sunday night there was an amazing celebration at Agate Alley that allowed me to spend time with family and friends who had made the trip to Eugene for the meet. Both NorCal Distance and Team New Balance athletes were also there, and after some anxious waiting Abbey D’Agostino had learned that she would be named to the 5000m team following a gutsy performance to overcome setbacks during her outdoor season. The evening featured a great sense of triumph, and I was delighted to share those moments with many different people who had played a role in getting me to that point.
As the events of the Olympic Trials continue to sink in, I reflect on the difference between 2012 and 2016 and realize how challenging it is to make any Olympic team. Regardless of the path to a goal fulfilled, the four years of the Olympic cycle currently drawing to a close have affirmed for me the power that rests in the collective effort of a team. The people that surround me and share in my journey give me a purpose beyond simply running for myself, and for that I am both grateful and excited about my immediate and long term future in this sport.