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  • Eric Gay / Associated Press

    Former UC Davis standout Kim Conley reacts after earning the third and final spot on the U.S. Olympic team in the 5,000 meters.

  • Charlie Riedel / Associated Press

    KIM CONLEY
    (* pictured left)
    Event: 5,000-meters
    Local affiliation: UC Davis

Ex-UCD star Conley earns spot in Games

Published: Friday, Jun. 29, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 - 1:57 pm

EUGENE, Ore. – Former UC Davis standout Kim Conley surged from a big deficit on the final straightaway Thursday night.

The UCD volunteer assistant coach leaned her way into third place at the finish line of the women's 5,000-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and earned a berth to the London Games, UCD reported.

Her top-three finish earned her a spot on the United States team, while her time of 15 minutes, 19.79 seconds bettered the Olympic Games "A" standard of 15:20, guaranteeing her a spot in the 5K field in August.

"This is beyond a dream come true," Conley said. "In 2008, I was sitting at home watching the Olympic Trials thinking that it would be really cool to run at the Trials one day. Four years later I'm an Olympian."

Julie Culley won the race in 15:13.77, while Molly Huddle was second in 15:14.40.

Looking so smooth and exerting little effort, Allyson Felix glided to an easy heat win in the 200 meters.

Minutes later, appearing just as smooth and expending just as little of energy, Jeneba Tarmoh cruised to a victory in her heat as well on a drizzly night.

If controversy was weighing the sprinters down, they didn't show it on the track.

Five days ago, the training partners crossed the finish line in a tie for the third and last Olympic spot in the 100.

Now, everyone is waiting to see what they will choose to break the dead heat – a runoff, coin flip or if one of them simply gives the spot to the other.

After the race, Felix and Tarmoh might have gotten more of a workout than on the track – trying to make it through the media without saying a word.

First was Felix, who followed her coach, Bobby Kersee, through the corral and into the restricted area reserved for athletes. The only thing she muttered on her way out was a simple "after the final" comment.

Kersee, who also coaches Tarmoh, doubled back around and met up with Tarmoh, escorting her through the same circus. Tarmoh apologized on her walk, politely declining interview requests with a "No, I'm sorry."

Felix and Tarmoh have already said they won't announce a decision until after the final Saturday.

Judging by their performance on a slick track, they should each have a lane on that day.

In a thrilling finish to end the night, Galen Rupp caught Bernard Lagat in the 5,000 final, a scintillating race that came down to a sprint at the end.

Rupp finished in a time of 13:22.67, significant because it broke meet record set by the late Steve Prefontaine nearly 40 years ago.

Around these parts, Pre's a folk hero, rising to fame in this very stadium.

"Never brought (Prefontaine's record) up," said Rupp's coach, Alberto Salazar. "I told him, 'The only way you can have the confidence you can kick it on the last lap, is to leave it to the end here. If you go early, we're never going to know. In London, you're going to have to do it in the last lap.' That was the plan today, get it going a little bit."

Rupp outkicked one of the best, too. Lagat is 37, but he still has the energy of a youngster. "He's 1 for 13 against Lagat now," cracked Salazar, who said Rupp will run both the 5,000 and 10,000 in London. "I was going to joke afterward that if Galen had lost today, we still have another five years to beat Lagat. We figure we can get him when he's around 45."

Julie Culley (women's 5,000), Evan Jager (steeplechase), Lance Brooks (discus) and 2008 Olympic silver medalist Brad Walker (pole vault) also won.

Felix looked stylish in her black two-piece suit with neon green patches. She looked just as stylish blasting out of the blocks and finishing in a time of 22.82 seconds.

Then Tarmoh took the track. Like Felix, she took off and couldn't be caught, clocking 22.90 seconds. The 100-meter flap seemed hardly a concern.

USA Track and Field was caught off guard by the third-place tie and had no protocol in place. The organization had to make one up in a hurry, resulting in all sorts of criticism.

The 200 has long been Felix's specialty, as she won Olympic silver medals in 2004 and '08. She's said that if she doesn't get a gold in the 200, it will be considered a "failure."

"Just because it's not my first Games, not my second, but my third time," Felix said in a recent interview. "I've had eight years to think about being a silver medalist. This time I want to win."

After six grueling rounds – provided, of course, they both make it to the 200 final – the two will get to pick how to break the tie. While Felix and Tarmoh technically have until Sunday, when the Trials end, to decide, there might be some wiggle room.

Kersee has been advocating for a Tuesday runoff race, should that be the option his sprinters decide to pick. That way, they have more time to recover.

Because of the unique circumstances, these two sprinters may forever be linked. Before this drama, many had heard of Felix, who's one of the faces of the sport. But few knew anything about Tarmoh.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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