Hill, Lucas Just Miss Making U.S. Olympic T&F Team
June 28, 2012
EUGENE, Ore. - NC State junior distance runner Ryan Hill smashed his own school record in the men's 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials, but missed qualifying for the United States Olympic team by finishing fifth in the race.
Former Wolfpack All-American Julia Lucas also missed becoming the first former NC State runner, male or female, to make a U.S. Olympics track and field team since Joan Benoit in 1984.
Hill, a native of Hickory, N.C., needed to finish in the top three and reach the Olympic qualifying standard of 13:20 in the race to make the U.S. team. The pace started slow and Hill laid back for much of the race, until making his move in the final two laps and getting into position to kick with leaders Galen Rupp, Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong.
Hill was unable to make up the gap in the bell lap and finished with a school-record time of 13:27.49 behind the lead trio and Andrew Bumbalough, all of whom already had the Olympic qualifying standard prior to the Trials.
As a consolation, however, Hill was the top collegian finisher in the race and he topped the school record of 13:31.67 that he set at last year's Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., by more than four seconds.
"Ryan was just off the charts tonight," said veteran head coach Rollie Geiger, who was with Hill at historic Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon. "The other four runners in the field are all professionals who are ranked in the world. They all also had run the Olympic standard time.
"He ran an outstanding race."
Hill, a seven-time All-American as a distance runner and a seven-time ACC champion in track and field, will return for his senior season on the track next spring for the Wolfpack. This season, he not only ran the fastest time ever by an American collegian in the indoor 3,000 meters, but also finished third in the outdoor 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships and broke the four-minute mark in the indoor mile. Hill has completed his cross country eligibility and graduated with a degree in sport management.
"Ryan did a great job of representing NC State and establishing himself as one of the elite college distance runners in the nation," Geiger said. "He'll certainly carry that title into next season."
In the women's 5,000 meters, the remarkable comeback of Lucas, a former Wolfpack All-American and ACC champion who had quit running competitively less than a year ago after seven career stress fractures in her lower legs and feet, came to an end with a fourth-place finish on her adopted home track. For much of the race, Lucas stayed back on the inside rail, but headed to the outside with three laps to go and surged into the lead.
Lucas, who has the fastest time by an American in the 5,000 meters this year at 15:08.52, opened a 30-meter lead going into the final lap, but struggled down the stretch. She was not only passed by eventual winner Julie Culley and runner-up Molly Huddle, but was caught at the finish line by Kim Conley.
Conley's lean at the end not only earned her third place, but also beat the Olympic A standard of 15:20 by 0.17 seconds. Conley had not previously met the qualifying standard.
"It was just a heart-breaking situation for Julia," Geiger said. "She'd worked so hard, to come back from so much, to put herself in that position and be so close ... words can't even describe how heartbreaking that is.
"It was compounded by the fact that the other runner's final lean got her the qualifying standard and the trip to the Olympics. Otherwise, Julia would have gone. We are proud of what Julia has done in her career, both at NC State and as a professional runner."