University of Washington

Danielle Lawrie
Charles Blackburn

Softball star Danielle Lawrie unretires for sport’s Olympic return

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Two-time NCAA Player of the Year Danielle Lawrie-Locke is coming out of a three-year retirement as softball readies for its Olympic return in 2020.

Lawrie-Locke, a 31-year-old Canadian pitcher with two daughters, advanced from a preliminary national team selection camp in January to a final camp from May 30-June 10 that will determine the 17-player roster for the world championship in August.

“I never thought I would be playing into my 30s, but I also think when you are married and have kids … I think you start to get an itch for some type of competitiveness again,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the Langley Times in her native British Columbia. “The big light at the end of the tunnel is I want to try and get a medal at the 2020 Olympics with my family in the stands.”

Lawrie-Locke is one of the greatest players in NCAA history, one of three women to earn multiple NCAA Player of the Year Awards along with Cat Osterman and Keilani Ricketts. Before her University of Washington career, Lawrie-Locke made waves at the first World Cup of Softball in 2005, when, at age 18, she handed the U.S. its first defeat in three years.

Lawrie-Locke then led the University of Washington to a national title as a junior, her first of two straight seasons as NCAA Player of the Year. That came after she took a year off from the NCAA to play for Canada at the 2008 Beijing Games, thought to be softball’s final Olympics until the sport was added for Tokyo 2020 almost two years ago.

Lawrie-Locke pitched her final professional game in 2014 after having her first daughter, Madison, on Dec. 16, 2013. She and husband Drew Locke also have a 1-year-old daughter, Audrey.

Lawrie-Locke reportedly said she first thought about a comeback while watching the World Cup of Softball last August. She listened as analyst Michele Smith, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion pitcher, said she believed her own athletic peak came at age 34 or 35.

“At that moment, it hit me,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the newspaper. “It just hit me when she said that, and it took me a couple of weeks to come to terms with the idea.”

Lawrie-Locke’s motivation partly stemmed from an unsatisfying 2008 Olympics. Canada lost its last four games, including in the semifinals, to finish fourth overall.

“I had a lot of bad emotions based on that ’08 experience,” Lawrie-Locke said, according to the newspaper. “(And) I was probably not as good a teammate as I should have been.” (She clashed with a Canadian coach, according to the Seattle Times.)

The world champion becomes the first nation to qualify for the Tokyo Games (Japan is already in as host nation). Softball, previously on the Olympic program from 1996 through 2008, is not guaranteed to remain in the Games beyond 2020.

The U.S. and Canada, ranked Nos. 1 and 3 in the world, can also qualify for the Olympics by finishing in the top two of the 2019 Pan American Championship.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Oregon runner celebrates too early, beaten at finish line

Hayward Field
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Oregon senior Tanguy Pepiot learned a hard lesson in the final few strides of a 3000m steeplechase Saturday.

Pepiot had what he thought was an insurmountable lead with the finish in sight. So he began waving to pump up the home crowd at Oregon’s Hayward Field.

Little did Pepiot know the fans meant to alarm him to Washington junior Meron Simon, who was unleashing a furious kick.

“I heard some noise,” Pepiot said, according to the Eugene Register-Guard. “I was very surprised. Then I checked the screen, and I was like, ‘Whoa, somebody’s coming!’”

Simon passed Pepiot to his right and beat him to the finish by one tenth of a second (video here).

“I thought he had me,” Simon said, according to the newspaper. “I thought he was just so far ahead. Then I heard the crowd get crazy, and he started throwing his hands up.

“I was like, ‘I don’t think he knows I’m coming.’ I just went to the line and just raced.”

The finish conjures memories from May, when a cyclist at the Tour of California and Olympic 1500m champion Taoufik Makhloufi prematurely celebrated and lost races on back-to-back days.

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