Prep runners relish Trial mile

June 29, 2012 

EUGENE — Amy-Eloise Neale’s career doesn’t exactly scream “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

But that is exactly what she experienced running in the Nike Mile exhibition event Friday during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field.

Neale, who just completed her junior year at Glacier Peak High in Snohomish, likely was competing at a U.S. Trials for the only time in her life.

“Some of the other girls are racing toward the trials, but because of my citizenship this is literally a once in a lifetime experience,” Neale said. “It was a great experience and I’m grateful for that.”

Neale moved from England to Washington when she was a youngster and has competed for her home country in youth worlds events in the past, and she could run for them in the future.

“(Hayward Field) is amazing,” she said. “There are so many people. A lot of times you can block out, but there are so many people you can’t block it out. There is so much energy in the stadium.”

Neale finished second in the race in a time of 4 minutes, 56.18 seconds. Hannah Meier, from Gross Point Farms, Michigan, won in 4:55.63. North Central senior-to-be Katie Knight also ran in the race, but the Spokane star struggled and finished eighth in 5:03.96. She had to be helped off the track as she has been attempting to overcome sickness since April, but didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to run Friday.

Mead senior-to-be Andrew Gardner felt the same way. Gardner hadn’t run since winning the Class 4A state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in May, but he wasn’t going to miss his chance to run at Hayward Field.

“It’s an honor to get a chance to come down here,” he said. “It is a track that everyone has run. There is a lot of history that has been run on it, and even getting a little history; even getting a shot was worth it.

“The race itself wasn’t amazing, but just being here was an honor.” Gardner took seventh in 4:11.59, while Bernie Montoya, from Yuma, Ariz., thrilled the crowd with a stellar time of 4:08.01.

“I wasn’t really hoping for anything, just didn’t want to get last,” Gardner said. “I was just coming here and got in the race and through three laps wanted to see what happens. It kept getting better.”

Neale was unhappy with her time, as it was nearly 10 seconds slower than her personal best, but the fact that she was even competing was remarkable.

Neale strained her hamstring after the Arcadia Invitational in early April, and re-injured herself during the state track meet.

“Right before my race at state in the 800, in my run out, I felt it go again,” she said. “I was so inexperienced — I probably shouldn’t have ran, but I was inexperienced and I was like, ‘What do I do?’ I didn’t have my coach out on the track there, but I did well. I won, but I could barely walk afterward.”

She was so hurt after the race, that she scratched out of the 1,600 final later in the day.

Since then, she has also participated in the Dream Mile in New York City, and has just continued to work in anticipation of running Friday in Eugene.

“I haven’t PR’d since the Dream Mile last season, and this was kind of my opportunity. This was the race to do that,” Neale said. “So I’m a little disappointed in that regard, but I’m still happy that I don’t have to race anymore. I can just focus on mileage and get my hamstring healed.”

Lame finish: Washington State graduate Jeshua Anderson’s Olympic dreams came to an abrupt end Friday in the semifinals of the men’s 400-meter hurdles.

Anderson, who has been slowed by a hamstring injury the past two months, pulled up significantly when he tried to go up a notch on the final turn.

“I know if I was healthy, I’d be able to run for a spot on the team,” Anderson said. “I know that I’m hurt. I know that I wasn’t as well prepared as most people were because of injury, being out two months. It’s been rough.”

Anderson was eighth in his semifinal heat, finishing in 53.15 seconds. It was a disappointing finish to a strong calendar year, where he won the U.S. Championship title after winning the NCAA Division I title. He missed the NCAA meet as a senior this spring, because of the hamstring injury.

“I wanted to come in today with the mindset that it doesn’t matter,” he said. “That whatever happens, I’m going to have to run hard. I got out and I just couldn’t. My leg just wouldn’t allow me to.

“For everyone who got through, I’m looking forward to seeing how they do in London. I’m for sure going to train my hardest and I’m going to come back with a vengeance.”

Washington connections: Lake Stevens’ Brittany Aanstad took 24th in the women’s javelin preliminaries with a mark of 148 feet, 4 inches. She competed at the state meet in Pasco in 2007 and finished up her senior year at Seattle Pacific this spring.

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