Fighting off the Hayward Hecklers
EUGENE, Ore. -- Normally, a track athlete wouldn't worry much about a negative crowd reaction, because how much negativity could by fomented by the handful of fans who attend most meets?
But this is Hayward Field, in Track Town USA, where Friday's attendance was 4,000 more than the listed capacity of 16,350.
So Shalane Flanagan, a University of North Carolina grad, thought about how to deal with a crowd that would overwhelmingly favor her prime rival, Kara Goucher, who trains in Eugene, in the 10,000 meters.
"My coach told me it would be like the Tar Heels going into Cameron [Indoor] Stadium,'' Flanagan said, referring to the Duke basketball arena where the fans are known as the Cameron Crazies. "I knew they probably wouldn't be saying my name much.''
Flanagan fended off the crowd and Goucher, pulling away in the final 300 meters to win by 2.9 seconds in a Hayward Field record of 31 minutes, 34.8 seconds.
"I wanted to prove I could run fast over the last two laps in a tactical, championship race,'' she said.
The 26-year-old Massachusetts native had set a U.S. record of 30:34.9 last month, making her the race favorite.
"A lot of athletes dream of being the favorite. I was excited to be in that position.''
Goucher, bronze medalist at the 2007 worlds in Japan, also had a dream come true.
"My dream is not an obscure medal in Osaka, Japan,'' Goucher said. "It is to be an Olympian.''
Flanagan had made the 2004 Olympic team in the 5,000 but slogged to 11th in the semifinals at the Athens Games.
She and Goucher also are scheduled to run for 2008 places in the 5,000 Monday.
-- Philip Hersh
Photo: Shalane Flanagan runs ahead of Kara Goucher after they finished first and second, respectively, to make the U.S. Olympic team in the women's 10,000 meter final at Hayward Field. Credit: Matthew Stockman/ Getty Images