Commentary

Amy Hastings triumphant at trials

Updated: June 23, 2012, 3:51 AM ET
By Jim Caple | ESPN.com

EUGENE, Ore. -- Friday was a long day of cold rain at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, but the highest recorded amount of precipitation might have been the tears pouring from Amy Hastings' eyes after she won the 10,000-meter run at evening's end.

The trials are as much about heartbreak as triumph, with the vast majority of competitors taking home disappointment rather than a ticket to London. And Hastings had already been through that earlier this year. She finished fourth at January's marathon trials in Houston, where only the top three runners qualified for the Olympic team and she was an alternate if one of those runners couldn't go. While training for the marathon, she had convinced herself that she would make the team, and finishing just shy of making the team devastated her.

"I cried about it probably every day for a month," said Hastings, 28. "But at the same time, every single day it was getting back into it and going to work and trying to recover and doing everything right to prepare myself for this day.

[+] EnlargeAmy Hastings
AP Photo/Matt SlocumAmy Hastings finished Friday's race in 31:58.36.

"I was in my room right after the race and I was crying to my coach, and then I said, 'OK. We're going to do the 10K. We're going to do the 5K.' And I still had to take a month off because I hurt my foot, but as soon as the marathon didn't work out, I was refocusing even though I was so upset."

Dathan Ritzenhein had a similar comeback to Hastings. He ran the 10,000 at the 2004 Olympics and the marathon at the 2008 Games but finished fourth in January's marathon trials. Like Hastings, he came back to qualify Friday, with a third-place finish in the men's 10,000. "This is the best one," he said of making the team after his marathon near-miss.

When Hastings lined up Friday evening for the day's final event, she could see Shalane Flanagan, one of the runners who beat her in Houston. Running in the cool rain, Hastings was focused on finishing in the top three until the final lap, when she became determined to win. With a grimace deepening across her face, Hastings passed Flanagan and Natosha Rogers around the last turn, and held on for the win in a time of 31 minutes, 58.36 seconds.

"I just wanted it so bad, I wanted to be on the team," Hastings said. "The last 400 meters, your brain shuts off and you just want to cross the finish line first. I think the marathon taught me a lot to dig down and just go as hard as you can to the end. It was those last 15 meters where everything was shutting down. If it had been any longer, it would have been an ugly finish."

She crossed the finish line, collapsed to the track and began to sob. But unlike at the marathon, these were tears of joy.

"Coming across the finish line today, it's a night and day difference," Hastings said. "It was heartbreaking in Houston. I can't even believe it right now. It hasn't completely sunk in. I'm completely overwhelmed with excitement."

The irony is Hastings could have finished seventh Friday and still made the team. That's because Flanagan, who finished third in the 10,000, said she will not run the event in London to focus on the marathon, while Rogers has not run an A-qualifying standard in the event and does not qualify for the Olympics. That opened up spots for two alternates on the U.S. team: fourth-place finisher Lisa Uhl and seventh-place finisher Janet Cherobon-Bawcom.

"It was an ugly way to make the Olympic team, but I am so happy to go to London," Cherobon-Bawcom said.

But as Hastings could tell her, ugly or beautiful, the important thing is making the team.

Jim Caple | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com