Kim Conleys former high school coach Larry Meredith sent me his thoughts about Kims upcoming Olympic race.
Small correction on making finals.
Kim will run in the second of two heats allowing her to see the times needed to beat from that heat.
Qualifing will be a little different from what Meredith had been told. It will be first 5 of each heat plus the 5 fastest times qualified not among those ten.
Here are the heat sheets and the results a few minutes after the race finishes.
The Realm of Possibility
By Larry Meredith
IN JUST OVER THREE HOURS I will join friends, club mates and a few newcomers on the sand for the 35th Annual Salmon Creek Beach Run. It is a cool, misty, gray dawn and I am picturing the beach training scene from the film Chariots of Fire. This year the mental images are more meaningful than usual given the fact that (a) the Olympic Games are in London, (b) the track and field events began just two days ago and (c) in 42 hours our local star, Kim Conley, will make her Olympic debut in the women’s 5000 meter run.
More than ever the Santa Rosa area is tuned in to Olympic track and field, thanks to the local, regional and even national media coverage of Kimmy since her stunning qualification run in Eugene five weeks ago. I have enjoyed debating with my group of friends just what will take place when the gun goes off for Kim’s first-round race. By the time most of you read this, the story will have already played out.
In my long-ago coaching days I found that the toughest job was giving tactical advice to a runner either in a qualifying round or in the championship event itself. At the high school level, and probably far beyond, the runner often has built up a great deal of trust in their coach’s judgment. The coach knows this, realizes it is a delicate balance and sometimes has a long and torturous internal debate about what to tell the athlete just prior to their big event. In some cases the fate of their future relationship can rest on the outcome.
As an interested follower the debate is much less stressful but just as challenging. What will Kimmy do? What should she do? There are two 5000-meter heats and to qualify for the final Kim will need to either place among the top six in hers or hope that she is one of the top three non-automatic qualifying times. Her options, in my meaningless opinion, are as follows.
Kim can do what almost everyone else does in almost every Olympic qualifying heat for the 5000-meter event. Follow the pack through a seemingly pedestrian pace for eight laps or so and then respond to the inevitable jailbreak that will take place in the last mile of the race. Given that Kim ran her final mile in Eugene in about 4:43 (each of her first two miles were run in about 5:01), she might have enough confidence in her finishing strength to consider this a reasonable strategy. It is risky. If Kim takes this route and fails to move on she will be doubly disappointed because her time will almost certainly not be near her best.
If anyone in her race sets a hard, early pace, Kim won’t have to worry about that first option. She can just follow along and see what happens on the final lap.
Another thing for Kimmy to consider is to run this event with the intent to run her absolute best effort which, according to her post-race comments in June, will result in a time of around 15:05. She would finish knowing that she performed at her peak against the best runners in the world and, qualify or not, can take a huge measure of satisfaction from that. It is risky. Almost every unknown runner who has tried this in championship events ends up fading into anonymity over the final laps.
Poor weather would rule out this scenario. No one wants to push the pace into gusts of wind and sheets of rain.
Kim is overmatched, of course, having just squeaked into the Olympics with a qualifying time only 0.2 seconds better than the “A” standard. We all understand that and know that the odds are stacked heavily against her moving on to next Friday’s final. After all, Kim’s best is not among the top 30 in the world this year and then you come to the sobering fact that 18 of the top 19 times have been turned in by women from either Kenya or Ethiopia. The one exception is a runner from Morocco.
But then one’s mind begins the counterattack. Of those 18 Kenyans and Ethiopians only six will be in London on race day. Throw in the Moroccan and now you see that the eighth-best women’s 5000 meter runner of 2012 at the Olympics this year has a best time of 15:08. Hell-O-oo! That’s right in Kimmy’s ballpark!
So yes, Kim Conley has a legitimate chance to make the Olympic 5000-meter final. It will not be easy. It will not be expected. But anyone who saw Kimmy race in Eugene must realize that anything – and I mean anything – is possible.