TrackTown blog from Beijing: Mixed emotions in 10K finale

Bowerman Track Club teammates Shalane Flanagan and bronze medalist Emily Infield (right) meet the press in the mixed zone after the women's 10,000 meters on Monday.

BEIJING – The action on the track at the IAAF World Championships can often be heart-breaking and thrilling at the same exact moment, something that was emphasized again on Monday evening in the dramatic finish of the women’s 10,000 meter race.

U.S. distance fans know that only one American has medaled in that race at the World Championships – Kara Goucher in 2007 – and it appeared to those watching at the Birds Nest Stadium that Molly Huddle was about to become the second American 10K medalist. Huddle was third as she came toward the finish line, and she raised her arms in joy at the prospect of a bronze medal.

Just as Huddle ever-so-slightly let up, teammate Emily Infeld caught and passed her on the inside to capture third. Huddle was crestfallen when she realized she had finished fourth, and Infeld was in disbelief to be the third-place finisher.

“I was just trying to run through the line and give it everything I had,” Infeld said. “I feel a little guilty because I feel like Molly let up a little and I don’t think she realized how close I was. But I’m really happy and thrilled.”

Infeld’s training partner in the Bowerman Track Club, Shalane Flanagan, finished sixth in the race, just behind OTC Elite’s Sally Kipyego. Flanagan and Infeld were together as they spoke to the media after the race, and both were fighting back tears at the same time they were beaming with pride and joy.

Flanagan won bronze in the same race on this same track in the 2008 Olympics. She knew what Infeld was feeling at that moment.

“I (told) her these moments don’t happen very often . . . even though you’re there, you’re ready and you’re fit, you still have to nail it on the day (of the race). Soak it up because it doesn’t happen very often, especially for a distance runner.”

In track and field, ecstasy and pain are often just a whisker apart. In this case, the difference between the bronze medal and the utter frustration of fourth place was .09 seconds.

That ridiculously slight margin is why we can’t take our eyes off this sport. Especially on the grand stage of a world championships.

Keep that in mind over the next six years, and be there at historic Hayward Field in 2021.

Day Two, Evening Session

The action was fast and furious at the evening session on Day Two of the IAAF World Championships. The stadium was packed and rocking throughout the session, as the anticipation built for the long-awaited Usain Bolt-Justin Gatlin showdown in the 100 meters. As if that were not enough, Bingtian Su of China set a national record of 9.99 in the semis and qualified for the final on time in a three-way tie, leading to a nine-man race in the final. In a dramatic finish, Bolt won the race in the final strides over Gatlin by one-hundredth of a second, 9.79 to 9.80.

There was plenty of drama earlier in the evening, too. OTC Elite’s Brianne Theisen-Eaton gave a wonderful display of battling to the end in the heptathlon. After a disappointing first day, Theisen-Eaton faced long odds to come back against Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis-Hill, who is just 13 months removed from giving birth. But Theisen-Eaton closed the gap, and in the 800 meters, needing to beat Ennis-Hill by more than six seconds, she took the pace out hard from the start. It didn’t happen for her, but Theisen-Eaton secured her second consecutive world silver with 6,554 points, 115 behind Ennis-Hill.

Also facing long odds in her quest to make the women’s 1,500 meter final, OTC Elite runner Lauren Johnson gave it her best shot, but finished one place away from qualifying. Johnson placed eighth in her semi in 4:10.01. Shannon Rowbury and Jenny Simpson will represent the U.S. in the 1500 final.

Defending champion Mohammed Aman of OTC Elite and Ethiopia was disqualified in the men’s 800 meter for obstructing anohter runner after qualifying on time for the final.

It might be hard to duplicate the excitement and thrilling action of Sunday’s program, but these World Championships are certainly off to crowd-pleasing start, with plenty more to come over the next seven days.

Day One, Morning Session

On a beautiful, sunny morning in Beijing, Team USA got off to a great start in the IAAF World Championships. American record-holder and medal contender Evan Jager of Bowerman Track Club led all three U.S. steeplers into Monday’s final, the first time that has ever happened at these championships. Jager’s BTC teammate Dan Huling had the fastest time, 8:25.34, of the American trio.

The U.S. women continued the momentum in the first round of the 1,500 meters, as all four moved on to the semifinals. Lauren Johnson of OTC Elite was part of a tightly-packed group of nine runners at the finish, and placed seventh in 4:05.79. Johnson was the fastest of the six time qualifiers, and 11th fastest overall. Just ahead of her was Nike Oregon’s Shannon Rowbury in 4:05.66. Jenny Simpson qualified easily in 4:10.91.

Oregon alum Brianne Theisen-Eaton, competing for her native Canada, had mixed results in the first two events of the heptathlon. She bolted to a personal best of 12.98 in the 100 meter hurdles – the third-fastest time of the day – as husband Ashton Eaton cheered her on. In the high jump, however, Theisen-Eaton could only manage 5-10¾, well short of her best of 6-1½.