Runners Raced to Qualify for Olympic Trials at Portland Track Festival By: Lindsay Rossmiller

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P6121666.JPGElla Donahue, Katie Rainsburger and Christina Aragaon, Portland Track Festival, photo by Peter J.L. Thompson

The Portland Track Festival, held on June 11 and 12, has become a place where the Portland running community gets excited and involved. Here is Lindsay Rossmiller's piece on the meet, after covering the NCAA Outdoors for RunBlogRun for four straight days!

Runners Raced to Qualify for Olympic Trials at Portland Track Festival By: Lindsay Rossmiller

PORTLAND, Ore. ­ In a last chance for some athletes to run times needed to qualify to compete at the Olympic Trials, the Portland Track Festival was also an opportunity for others to get back on the track and sharpen their racing skills as everyone tunes up for the next two months.

On Saturday night as an early summer evening chill settled over Griswold Stadium at Lewis and Clark College, the women toed the line of the 10,000 meters in the High Performance section.

New Balance's Natosha Rogers (2012 NCAA 10,000 meter champion and runner­up at the Olympic Trials that year) continued her return to running and was the first woman across the line. She ran 32 minutes, 6.82 seconds to smash the meet record and qualify well­under the Olympic standard of 32:15.

Sara Hall was eighth in 32:44.48 in spite of her four girls in the stands cheering, "GO MOM!" every time the pack came around.

Sunday was a full day with both community races and plenty of High Performance heats as runners of multiple nationalities chased standards to either qualify for their country's Olympic trials or to be named to their teams outright.

David Torrance (Peru) just missed the 800 meter standard (1:46) with 1:47.81 and Marta Freitas (Portugal) was unable to hit the 1500 standard of 4:07 the day after winning the NCAA championship for Mississippi State. Freitas was tenth in the top heat with 4:15.94.

Clayton Murphy, who just won the NCAA men's 1500 two days prior, also traveled up from Eugene to see if he could run the Olympic qualifying time of 3:36.2. Sunday morning he made the decision to turn professional and by that evening collected his first official paycheck when he won the race in 3:36.23.

Murphy represented the U.S. in the 800 at last summer's world championships in Beijing and was hoping to have his choice of which event at the trials in a few weeks.

"I'm super disappointed I was .02 off, but I ran a PR I guess and walked away with my first professional win," said Murphy.

In the women's 800, the crowd groaned as Brenda Martinez's time of 2:00.21 flashed on the screen after Martinez (Big Bear Track Club) crossed the line. She had unleashed a dominant 59.71 second last lap, but couldn't quite squeak under the two minute mark.

In the men's 800, Drew Windle (Brooks Beasts) was ecstatic to run 1:45.65 as the only guy under the standard in a race filled runners from the professional training groups in Oregon.

The meet also made sure to include a uniquely Portland flare. There were food trucks, wise­cracking announcing including plenty of jabs at Seattle, an attempt at a world record in the 32 x 50 relay, and the Unipiper Brian Kidd.

At one point in the afternoon while they set up another set of races, Kidd serenaded the crowd with the Star Wars "Imperial March" before transitioning into "Final Countdown" on his flaming bagpipes (yes, flaming) as he rode around the track on his unicycle wearing a kilt and Darth Vader mask.

Shortly after, the women's 1500 meter heats got underway.

Fresh high school grad Christina Aragon of Billings, Mont. ran the fastest high school time of the year when she ran 4:09.27 to win her heat and qualify to compete in Eugene.

"It's always fun to get in a race you know is going to go fast because there's no pressure for what place you need to get," said Aragon.

That same race also featured recent high school grads, Katie Rainsberger (Colorado) and Ella Donaghu (Oregon) who ran the second and third fastest times, over the 4:09.5 standard. Aragon and Donaghu will head to Stanford in the fall while Rainsberger will attend Oregon so it felt like catching a glimpse of compelling PAC­12 matchups to come in the next few years.

Kate Grace (Oiselle) won the top section in 4:05.93 as four women managed to slip under the standard including Nicole Sifuentes (Saucony), Gabriela Stafford (Toronto) and Stephanie Brown (Nike).

In the final events of the evening, Kim Conley (New Balance) and Galen Rupp (Nike Oregon Project) earned wins in the 5,000.

"This is the first win I've had this season so in terms of confidence I really needed that," said Conley who ran 15:16.75 and plans to race the 10,000 at the trials.

Rupp made his return to the track after qualifying for the Olympic Marathon February 13, 2016.

"A lot of it is just getting back into racing. The marathon is obviously a little different animal so you know I just got to get my track legs back under me," said Rupp. "You can work out all you want, but at some point you've just got to get back into racing."

Rupp won in 13:20.69 as fans lined the track on the infield and out in lane four for an up close look at the action. As the pack came through, spectators could feel the wind as they ran by.

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