Jeff Smith noon, March 8
You Can't Sneak On
All Julia Lucas had to do in the women’s 5,000 meters was take it easy, stay with the pack and make sure she came in third or even fourth. Heck, fifth might have been good enough.
Going into the race she was one of the contenders who already had the “A” standard for the London Olympics. The “A” standard is 15:20 for the women's 5,000 meters.
What is the “A” standard? It is the measurement needed to qualify to participate in an event at The Olympics. An athlete needs to achieve the “A” standard during the Olympic year and win a spot on their country’s team. There is a “B” standard which is used if there aren’t enough competitors to fill an event.
The pace was sluggish even as Jennifer Conley tried to pull the pack along with the early lead. Conley needed to get the “A” standard and was pushing for it but not enough to break away from the pack.
With about a mile to go, it looked like the “A” standard would not be met by those who needed it. With three laps to go, Julia Lucas broke away from the pack.
She opened a sizeable lead and forced the other runners to pick up the pace. They needed to keep her close or else there would be no chance to catch her at the end.
With 50 meters to go and on the home straight away, Lucas fell apart. Her legs looked as if they were dead limbs being dragged along the track by her upper body. Conley was closing fast and caught Lucas by .04 seconds.
Lucas’ breakout, with 1200 meters left, enabled Conley to make the “A” standard and thereby bumping Lucas off the team.
In the press area Lucas explained her strategy. “You can’t just sneak onto the team that way. You have to deserve it. You can’t fake it, the work needs to be there.”
We can admire Lucas’ spirit. She could have snuck onto the squad but she wanted to earn it up front.