Molly Huddle wins 10,000m final, this time running hard through finish

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Molly Huddle ran hard through the finish line this time. Didn’t matter. Nobody was going to catch her anyway.

The long-distance runner who gave up the bronze medal at the world championships last year by celebrating too soon left no room for doubt at the U.S. Track and Field Trials on Saturday.

She outdistanced second-place finisher Emily Infeld by nearly five seconds, never coming close to the finish-line stumble in Beijing, when Huddle slowed and raised her hands a step before the tape. That day, the hard-charging Infeld shouldered her way past for the bronze medal. This day, Huddle, Infeld and third-place Marielle Hall made the Olympic team.

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over it,” said Huddle, who finished in 31 minutes, 41.62 seconds on a hot afternoon at Hayward Field. “But I’m trying to move past it and not dwell on it, not let it steal anymore from me by fixating on it.”

Huddle insisted she learned from the mistake, even if the lesson was a tough one. On Saturday, Huddle took the race out at a brisk pace so that not many runners would follow the lead. There were four for a while, then three and finally just Infeld and Huddle with a lap remaining. Just to be safe, Huddle cranked it up another gear to pull away from Infeld.

Still, Huddle couldn’t help but cast a quick glance at the scoreboard near the finish, just to make sure Infeld wasn’t gaining ground.

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She wasn’t. No celebration, though.

“I was just relieved,” Huddle said. “I didn’t want any disasters to happen.”

There were certainly a few chances for one, like when a discus rolled across the track during the middle of the race. No one was bothered by it.

Or when Kim Conley — a prerace favorite — was stepped on and lost a spike. She had to stop to put it back on, costing her valuable time. So much that she elected to call it a day early and save her strength for the 5,000 on Thursday.

“I tried to catch up, but the leaders were too far ahead,” said Conley, a 2012 Olympian.

For Huddle, this was business as usual.

“What happened last year, I’m mad at myself,” Huddle said. “But I was glad that another American placed. I would’ve felt worse if it weren’t one of my teammates.”

There’s no animosity between Huddle and Infeld. They’re friends, and remained so even after the episode last year.

“That would be a better story (if we weren’t friends), but that’s not true,” Huddle said.

What’s true is this: Infeld is heading to her first Olympics. For that, the 26-year-old from Ohio thanks LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“After watching the Cavs, I better step up my game,” Infeld said. “It’s such a special moment.”

MORE: Injuries bite biggest Olympic track and field stars as Trials begin

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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