Ryan Hill already knows what will be going through his mind as he watches the men’s 5000-meter Olympic final on Saturday.
“I won’t be able to help watching Lopez Lomong and thinking I was only three seconds behind him,” wrote Hill in an e-mail from Europe, where the North Carolina State rising senior competed in several meets after he finished fifth in 13:27.49, the top collegian at the distance in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials this summer. “I hope to be in Brazil having made the team in four years so yes, I will be comparing myself [during these Games] to all of the athletes in the 1500 and 5K, determining if I have what it takes to get there.”
Hill, 22, was one of three collegiate distance standouts at the Trials, along with Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino, 20, in the women’s 5000 meters and Texas A&M’s Natosha Rogers, 21, in the women’s 10,000 meters. Together, they form a core of young American distance runners who gained valuable experience in Eugene and begin to look toward the 2013 and 2015 IAAF World Championships and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
D’Agostino, who won the NCAA Championship at 5000 meters as a sophomore this spring, finished fifth in the Trials in 15:19.98, just under the coveted Olympic “A” standard but .19 of a second short of making the team in a dramatic battle for the third and final spot.
“She’s mature and smart and tough,” said Mark Coogan, her coach, a 1996 U.S. Olympian in the marathon. “We knew that she was going to be in it.”
“Now I have to stay confident because I want to go back,” D’Agostino, who hails from Topsfield, MA, told the Salem (MA) News after the Trials.
The more immediate goal of D’Agostino, who in late July was named by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as its Female Outdoor Track Scholar of the Year, is to improve on her third-place finish from last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Rogers, the 2012 NCAA champion at 10,000 meters as a junior, finished second at that distance in the Trials, but lacked the “A” standard so had to cede her Olympic spot. The Trials was only her fourth race at 10,000 meters. Since running her first in May, Rogers has slashed 1:43 from her time, running a personal best of 31:59.21 in the Trials despite falling early in the race.
“She’s become such a fearless racer,” said her coach, Wendel McRaven, when asked if he was surprised that beat 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and 2012 Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan to the line. “I knew that she could run with everyone; I just didn’t know she could run with them right up until the end of the race
Rogers wrote in an e-mail that watching the Olympic race wasn't easy after coming so close to being in it, "but I made sure that I didn't miss a second of it. I was inspired to someday close that gap behind the other dominating countries in this event. I really enjoyed watching the women's marathon as well. It might be something I want to try someday."
As for Hill, the third-place finisher at 1500 meters in the 2012 NCAA Championships left soon after the Trials for Europe, where he ran four races in Belgium and one in Ireland, winning three times at 1500 meters and setting personal bests at 1500 meters (3:38.36), the mile (3:56.78) and 5000 meters (13:26.34).
“He has a high IQ in terms of racing,” said his coach, Rollie Geiger. “He’s very good at putting himself in the right position, and he can finish a race. I think Ryan is going to be a player four years from now, maybe even a player next year for the World Championships team.”
“Ryan’s a stud,” agreed Coogan. “To me, he’s at that same level that Galen Rupp was in college.”
Photo of Hill: ACC