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.
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.”