June 25, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. - Rice All-American Becky Wade has advanced to the finals of the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., where she will have a chance to make the United States national team and compete in the 2012 Games next month in London.
Wade, who graduated from Rice last May (and did so earning a prestigious Watson Fellowship), posted a time of 9:50.66 to finish fifth in her heat. She secured one of 10 automatic spots in the finals of the steeplechase scheduled for Friday (June 29). A total of 14 competitors qualified for the event finals, where a coveted spot on Team USA will be on the line.
After the completion of Monday's two qualifying heats, Wade finished with the 10th-fastest mark overall. The Dallas native was 6.11 seconds behind the third place time of 9:44.55. The top three finishers of Friday's event finals will represent the U.S. at the London Olympics.
Wade was happy with the outcome, particularly after an opening portion of the race that she explained was not her best. She was in a precarious seventh place at the midpoint but rallied in the second half, highlighted by an impressive finishing-kick over the last 800-meters.
"It was a little daunting at first," Wade said. "I hesitated on a lot of the barriers and I didn't get in a great position. I got a little more comfortable as the race went on. I try not to count places as the race is going on because that's an unnecessary distraction, but with a couple laps to go I knew I was within reach of the automatic qualifying spot. Coach and I had been working on kicking over the last barrier and last 40 meters, and that was exactly what we had been practicing-on. That was kind of fun.
"I'm super excited," she said. "I am really inspired to be here. I feel fortunate making it to the finals running a not-great tactical race, but I'm thrilled to be moving on and thankful that was a prelim and not a final."
Wade's rough start was understandable considering the elite runners in the Olympic Trials field and what was at stake. Add-in that Monday night's race was only her second steeplechase in the last three years, and Wade's achievement really shines in the eyes of her coach - Rice women's head coach Jim Bevan.
Bevan was proud of his pupil's achievement, but he deserves some credit as well after having the foresight to make having a good finishing kick a priority at Wade's recent workouts. Bevan's training centered around a logical assessment that a young runner might fall behind early while competing in her first Olympic Trials. A polished finishing kick might prove to be pretty important in a big race.
"Overall it was quite a bit different circumstances than when she ran at Rice nine days ago," coach Bevan said. "It was a very different race today. Becky didn't get in the best spot initially and found herself behind people and had to move up. Navigating the barriers, hurdles and water, surrounded by people, is just something she hasn't done in three years. There's no way to prepare adequately for that.
"She gave a great accounting of herself, moved up over the last 800 meters and passed two people to earn the last automatic spot (fifth)," Bevan explained. "Becky out-kicked another runner to get the last automatic spot. I'm very proud of her."
Wade finished a great race to reach the finals, but she's not finished just yet. She said she is going to try and carry the momentum of her finish all the way to Friday where she doesn't have to win in the finals... she only needs to finish third out of 14.
"I just need to get in a better rhythm from the beginning on Friday," Wade added. "It's possible if I put everything together. I'm definitely going to go for it."