On Saturday, Amy Hastings came oh so close to making the Olympic team. Her surges would have cracked many a marathoner, even a Kara Goucher of a few months ago. But, by the time Kara Goucher did not falter after the third surge, Amy was spent. Kara Goucher gutted it out and Amy Hastings, giving it her all, finished fourth.
This is the US Olympic Trials, the biggest poker game in sports. In one year, Amy Hastings has gone from not a marathoner to the 4th best in the U.S. Her coach, Terrance Mahon calls her, ” little Deena” in honor of Amy’s improvement and her similarities to the AR holder, and 2004 bronze medalist Deena Drossin, who took sixth in the same race, ten months after giving birth.
Amy Hastings wept after the race. She was devastated. Then, she went to the press conference and held her own. A class act and mark my words, Amy Hastings will be a future Olympian. She lives the words, citius, altius, fortius.
Dave Hunter, our roving correspondent, wrote this piece, focusing on what we saw as the supreme battle, the battle between third and fourth place in the U.S. Olympic Trials-Marathon for women. We hope that you enjoy it.
Saturday, 14 January, 2012
U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials / Women’s Marathon
The Despair of Fourth
Emotions Run High At Conclusion Of Epic Battle
Flanagan, Davila, Goucher, 2012 US Olympic Trials-Marathon, photo by PhotoRun.net
As they crossed the finish line, each of the first four finishers of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials wept without restraint. For the first three – Shalane Flanagan, Desiree Davila, and Kara Goucher – the tears were a product of a myriad of feelings: joy, fatigue, relief, and the exhilaration of knowing that they had made the U.S. Olympic team and will be competing in the Marathon in August in London. For the fourth finisher – Amy Hastings – the emotions were vastly different.
No words were necessary. As the flag-draped Olympians embraced Hastings in a spontaneous gesture of support and respect, Hastings tear-streaked face evidenced her tortured reality. For Amy there would be no Olympic marathon. While the top three were whisked away for TV interviews and photo ops, Hastings was left to walk alone, to sob, and to gather her thoughts.
It all began at sunrise. On a perfect morning for road racing, 182 of America’s finest women distance runners launched off on what had been billed as “the First Step To London.” After a dawdling opening mile of 6:11 – which left the crowded field looking like Houston’s Interstate 610 during rush hour – the elite field began to sort out. By the 5th mile, a tidy pack of 9 runners – Flanagan, Davila, Deena Kastor, Adriana Nelson, Katie McGregor, Goucher, Janet Cherobon-Bawcon, Serena Berla, and Hastings – grouped at the front of the race. After gliding through the first 10K in 35:23, an impatient Davila decided it was time to inject some additional honesty into the race pace. Flanagan – who would later admit that she could tell “Desi was getting a little ‘twitchy”‘ – knew the extended warm-up miles were over.
Davila took matters into her own hands. From that point on, the per mile pace began to drop – the 9th mile was covered in 5:22 – and the war of attrition was on. By Mile 12, the lead pack had discarded both Nelson and McGregor and only seven warriors remained. Not long thereafter, Serla would also let go. After the 15th Mile was run in 5:31, only a quartet of Olympic hopefuls remained. It was a foursome that was at once beautiful, intense, and expected: Goucher – whose upright and statuesque stride belied her abbreviated preparation; Flanagan – whose steely focus exemplified her pre-race mantra of “cold execution”; Hastings – whose rhythmic bounce suggested she had plenty of run left in her; and Davila – sporting the seemingly-effortless, but relentless leg speed she displayed on Patriots’ Day. The regular season was over – this was the Final Four.
The next miles found this group searching for chinks in the armor of the others. Hastings was the first to show the strain. At times, she would drift back. But suddenly she would claw her way back to the lead trio. Then, amazingly, she would make a bold move to open a small gap at the front – “Hey, I was feeling confident at that point.” She wasn’t the only one taking stock of the situation. Goucher, who later admitted that her pre-race crisis of confidence left her “a wreck” – knew she couldn’t leave it until the end. “I kept pressing the pace because I had to break Amy. I knew that the pace was taking me beyond my fitness level. I was digging a little hole for myself. But I knew this is what I had to do.” And so Kara soldiered on – staying at or near the front of the back to ensure there would be no pace relief.
Goucher did not need to worry about pace droop. Flanagan, the Cold Executioner, would never allow that to happen. Controlling the race from the front, Flanagan pressed on, forged a gap from the lead trio and Hastings, and began her end-game drive to the finish. In the post-race frenzy at the finish line, Shalane offered this: “My primary goal here was to make the team…But, I love to win. When I made my move, I wanted to make sure it was real and that I could sustain it through to the finish. I didn’t want a wobbly legged finish.” Her winning time of 2:25:38 provided her with a 17 second margin over Davila who finished 11 seconds ahead of Goucher. A disconsolate Amy Hastings, who unraveled in the final miles, crossed the line in 2: 27:17 – more than a minute behind Goucher.
By the time the post-race press conference was held an hour or so later, Hastings had regained her composure. With a brave front, she methodically fielded inquires from the media about her race. “It [my race] was pretty solid through 20. I ran out of fuel. It was an emotional last mile. It’s OK. I’m fine with the way I raced today.”
The pervasive disappointment of finishing fourth will undoubtedly postpone serious consideration about Hastings plans for the U.S. Track & Field Championships in Oregon in late June. But her bona fide track credentials – she was a 5000 meter finalist in the 2011 World Championships – make her an authentic candidate to make the Olympic team in one of the two distance races. If, as is ultimately expected, Hastings does compete in Eugene, the runner her coach calls “little Deena’ can expect to receive heartfelt support from the knowledgeable fans at Hayward Field.