Runners at Coronado High School have a treat in store this fall—tales from a London Olympian.
Alice Schmidt, a Coronado resident since 2008 and a volunteer track and cross country coach for the Islanders, made the U.S. Olympic team Monday night in dramatic style—going from fifth to third in the final 30 yards of the 800-meter final at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR.
Running on a rain-sodden inside lane, Schmidt, 30, outgutted 24-year-old Molly Beckwith—the second-fastest American this season.
“Honestly, you’re red-lining,” Schmidt said of her final yards at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. “You’re going as hard as you can. I was lucky I had some kick left over.”
With Alysia Montaño taking a lead she never gave up, the race was for second and third. Schmidt held the No. 2 spot until the final stretch, when she was passed by two others.
But the Coronadan exploited her strength and long strides (at 5 foot 11, she was the tallest in the field) and clawed her way back.
See her race here, courtesy of NBC Olympics.
“I have confidence in my experience at the end of races,” she said after a press conference where one of her teammates called her “the mother hen.”
“I’ve run enough 800 races now. With age comes experience,” said Schmidt, also entered in the 1500-meter heats Thursday.
She praised her coach at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista—Joaquim Cruz, the 1984 Olympic 800 champion from Brazil. (She and her husband, James, moved to San Diego when he came to attend law school at Cal Western. But he later dropped out and resumed military service as a Navy reservist.)
Schmidt aims to improve on her previous world-meet finishes—sixth in a first-round heat at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and failure to make the finals of the 2005, 2007 and 2011 IAAF world championships.
But she’s not “flinching” at the effort she’ll need to make the London final, she said.
“There are still some pieces I need to put together,” she said. “So I am cautiously optimistic” about London, with first-round heats on Aug. 8.
A two-time NCAA champion from North Carolina (who grew up in Nebraska), Schmidt clocked 1:59.46 on Monday night.
The 2008 Olympic final was won in 1:54.87 by 18-year-old Kenyan phenom Pamela Jelimo. But third in that race was 30-year-old Hasna Benhassi of Morocco in 1:56.73.
It took a 1:58.61 or better to make the Beijing final.
Schmidt’s all-time best? 1:58.61.
“I think I have a [personal record] in my legs,” Schmidt said Monday. “I’ve had some good races in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve ever maxed out.”