Monday, July 07, 2008

Shannon Rowbury-- Olympian

If there is one area of society through which most Americans live vicariously, it is the world of sport. Those of us blessed with only enough athletic talent which is useful for such feats as company softball and backyard beer pong have to gain their glory by raising athletes to hero status. Their success is ours; their rivals' defeats our schadenfraude. For me, I find this kind of self-worth especially gratifying when looking at people my own age, the success of others somehow justifying my mediocre existence; at least someone has done something with the same 24 years I've gotten.

So it was with great pride that I watched the women's 1500 m race at the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon last night. The favorite going into the race was fellow Duke graduate Shannon Rowbury, who previously had turned in the fastest US time in five years at an earlier meet. Rowbury was in my freshman dorm at Duke, and so somehow I feel that the vicariousness is closer. Also in the race was former UNC student Erin Donahue, who I met while attending a track camp back in high school. As they announced the contestants, there was another interesting side-story, a 16-year old girl, Jordan Hasay, had qualified for the final, shattering the high school record to do so.

Soon after the gun sounded, a slow pace was set by some of the underdogs in the race. This seemed to be counter-intuitive; in order to go to Bejing, a runner not only had to finish in the top 3 but also make the Olympic qualifying time of 4:07.00. Only five runners in the race (including Rowbury and Donahue) had such a mark, so it would have made sense for those who had not eclipsed that time to do so in this race. After running the first 1100 meters in about 2:50, Rowbury tired of staying with the pack and broke free. Her lead over the second group widened with 200 meters to go and Rowbury crossed the finish line with a solid 4:05.48. Said Rowbury after the race:

"I reacted well and was able to bring home the win. I'm so excited because we have a great contingent going to Beijing. Should be an exciting next couple of months and I can't wait till August."

Rowbury joins several former ACC track stars on the US team. Donahue qualified by finished second in the race, and Walter Dix of FSU filled the gap voided by injured superstar Tyson Gay by winning the 200 m final in 19.86 seconds. Fellow Duke grad Jillian Schwartz failed to qualify in a hotly contested pole vault field; a headwind complicated matters and even Sydney gold medalist Stacy Dragila failed to qualify.

Shannon Rowbury joins an illustrious cast of successful characters from my freshman dorm. There's Doug Kim, who finished at the final table in the 2006 World Series of Poker; Dan "DJ Sensei" Morris has also made a name for himself in the world of online poker. Yet another poker player, Dave Mosca, has his own start-up company. Someday, when this blog is the number one blog about a quirky baseball feat, I can join their lofty status. Someday.

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