By David Monti
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
DES MOINES, IOWA (20-Jun) -- After a quick opening lap of 72 seconds, Shalane Flanagan was never seriously challenged at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships here tonight, winning her third USA 10,000m title by 34 seconds in 31:43.20, a Drake Stadium record. For Flanagan, 31, an Olympic bronze medalist, it was her 15th overall national title.
"Winning national titles are important because it's the step towards the next level," said Flanagan, looking thoroughly composed despite running in 84-degree (29C) temperatures. "So, I think it's important to win national titles to have a presence in the U.S., and hopefully inspire and motivate people. I enjoy winning national titles. I like the competition, the atmosphere; it's important to be here."
With her victory, Flanagan is assured a spot on the United States team for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August. For good measure, she again broke the IAAF "A" standard of 31:45.00 during the race and, in truth, would have earned a team berth with a top-3 finish because she already possessed the standard prior to the race.
Behind Flanagan, a spirited race played out for the other two national team spots. In the early laps, Flanagan was joined by her training partner Kara Goucher who stayed just on Flanagan's heels through 2400m. Goucher soon lost contact, and found herself running alone while Jordan Hasay, Tara Erdmann and Amy Hastings worked together to catch her. Hasay, who just completed her NCAA career at the University of Oregon, is now a teammate of Erdmann's at the Nike-sponsored Oregon Project under coach Alberto Salazar, and the pair were clearly working together.
"Once Amy took over, Jordan and I knew we had to help her out to catch second place," explained the petite Erdmann who ran in the NCAA ranks for Loyola Marymount. "I think we could both hear Alberto telling us when to take laps. It really helped having Jordan because I knew if I was hurting she could take the next lap."
With nine laps remaining in the 25-lap race, Goucher only had three seconds on her chasers, and half a lap later she was passed.
"Once we got to Kara she didn't respond, so like Tara said we just switched off the lead," Hasay explained.
With four laps to go, Hastings also began to drift back, leaving Erdmann and Hasay to fight for second. Hasay surged ahead of her teammate at the bell, and Erdmann was unable to catch her. The pair clocked 32:17.34 and 32:24.16, respectively, to earn provisional spots on the national team.
Neither athlete is assured that they will run in Moscow because they have yet to earn either the IAAF "A" or "B" (32:05.00) standard for the event. Under USA Track & Field rules, they have until July 20, to improve their times, something both the athletes and their coach said they would do in a special mixed-gender race to be held in Oregon, probably in Portland, in the coming weeks. While there are several possible scenarios, should one athlete get the "A" and the other the "B" they are both on the team because IAAF rules permit two A's and one B to make up a three-person team.
"Basically, we need one to get the 'A' and the other to get the 'B' and they can both go," Salazar told Race Results Weekly.
Should both women get only the "B" standard, fourth place Amy Hastings would make the team with the highest placing "B" athlete because Hastings already has the "A" standard from last summer's Olympic Games. Should neither women get the "A" or the "B," Flanagan, Hastings and fifth place Goucher would make the team because she has the "B" standard already (she ran 31:46.64 at Stanford University last April).
Goucher, who won a bronze medal at this distance at the 2007 IAAF World Championships, was clearly disappointed with her race. She made no excuses, but said that perhaps the fact that she is nearly 35 and ran a marathon in April could have been a factor.
"I was just kind of like trying to survive, trying to survive," lamented Goucher, whose grandparents had driven nearly 400 miles from Duluth to see her race. She continued: "Boston was two months ago and I guess I'm not as young as I used to be."