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A miraculous run to the London Olympics

Kim Conley was boxed in, running in eighth place and so far back she did not even appear on the TV screen for much of the final lap. She was as close to dead in a 5,000-meter race as one can get and still have a competitive pulse.

Conley, a former Montgomery High School standout, had led much of Thursday night's Olympic trials race in Eugene, Ore., pushing the pace because she needed to both place in the top three and to run a 15:20 — five seconds faster than her personal best — to earn a trip to next month's London Games.

With a lap to go, she had paid a tremendous price for her efforts to dictate the race, getting buried in the pack of competitors as the lead runners galloped away.

Kim Conley

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Her coterie of fans in the stands at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field saw the race slipping away from the 26-year-old.

"To be totally honest, as a coach in those moments, you start seeking damage control. How can the finish be respectable at this point? Let's pass a person or two and let's get top five," said Drew Wartenburg, Conley's coach and head coach of the UC Davis track team where she ran as a collegian.

Conley knew her race strategy had sapped her strength and allowed the other runners to streak away in the closing moments.

"Normally, you wouldn't put yourself in the lead and do all the work for everybody else, but I had to take the risk," Conley said.

Val Sell, Conley's track and cross country coach at Montgomery High, was in the stands, in disbelief at how far back the gritty runner she knew had fallen — a distant fifth for much of the final lap of the 12.5 lap race.

"I thought, &‘No way.' There was no way. There was a huge gap," Sell said.

Conley had moved up to fifth place and she understood the gap was still huge. But she also understood the runner in front of her wasn't pulling away and the runner in third was fading.


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