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Moscow, August 14, 2013 -- Shannon Rowbury agreed that her preliminary race in the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships here this morning was "a low stress grind," as her teammate Molly Huddle put it. The race started achingly slow --just 3:08.72 for the first 800 meters-- only picked-up modestly in the middle, and Rowbury never had to sprint to lock in one of the five automatic qualifying positions for Saturday's final. She didn't quite jog, but finished comfortably in fourth place in 15:50.41, one position behind Huddle.
"Pretty uneventful," the petite 28 year-old from San Francisco said looking completely composed as she spoke to reporters. "I don't know if I expected six-minute pace (3:44/km)," she laughed.
While pleased to be moving to the final, Rowbury said her participation in these championships was bitter-sweet. She had hoped to compete in the 1500m --the event in which she won the bronze medal at the IAAF World Championships in 2009 and placed sixth at last summer's Olympics-- but she failed to initially qualify when she finished fourth at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Des Moines last June (the top-3 athletes make the team). That forced her to race the 5000m the next day where she qualified for the world meet by finishing third.
But last week, USA 1500m champion Treniere Moser withdrew from these championships with a hamstring injury, and Rowbury saw an opening. At the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Monaco on July 19, Rowbury had clocked 4:01.28 for 1500m, easily within the IAAF "A" qualifying standard for Moscow, and she did it one day before USA Track & Field's cutoff date for achieving championships qualifying marks. Based on the order of finish in Des Moines, she was next in line for the 1500m squad.
But because of a misunderstanding in the process for reporting times, Rowbury's federation didn't enter her as a possible competitor in the 1500m in Moscow, so she was ineligible to switch disciplines.
"So, apparently USATF didn't know that I had the "A" standard and didn't enter me," Rowbury began. "I was supposed to e-mail Sandy Snow (Director of International Teams & Championships) by July 20th to make sure they knew my split. I raced Monaco, ran the 'A' standard really late that night. The next day I was traveling."
Rowbury admitted that it was her responsibility to notify her federation of her mark, but she found it odd that officials hadn't recognized it on their own considering it was such a fast time achieved in one of the sport's best-known meetings.
"Honestly, I don't ever remember seeing that; she (Snow) said it was on the website," Rowbury continued. "Anyway, at the end of the day I guess that's my mistake, but I find it pretty unfathomable that USATF didn't know I had run 4:01 at Monaco." She added: "More than anything, I was just disappointed that I wasn't given the option, and I had to find out via Twitter that my spot had been forfeited without me knowing it."
When contacted for comment, Snow referred the inquiry to Jill Geer, USATF's Public Affairs Officer, who said in an e-mail: "As Shannon indicated in her remarks, athletes who chase standards must submit their marks to USATF to secure their spot on the team. She did not report her mark and therefore wasn't included in the final roster submission."
Moser's team spot went instead to former University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer Sarah Brown who had finished sixth in the USA championships, but was tapped for the team because she was the next finisher who possessed the "A" standard of 4:05.50. Brown had to get a visa to enter Russia as quickly as possible, and only arrived to Moscow the night before her preliminary heat last Sunday. Brown advanced to the semi-finals, but her meet ended there when she finished tenth in the second of two heats.
For Rowbury, although her irritation about the entry snafu was palpable, she said she is nonetheless focused on the 5000m final. She has a solid personal best at the distance, 15:00.51 from 2010, and her excellent kick should be a big asset in these championships were the medals are usually won by women with sub-60 second closing speed.
"You know, I've been training since USA's for the 5-K, so my preparation had been leading towards that," she said.
Because Kim Conley also qualified for the final in the second heat by placing fifth, three Americans will be in the final for the first time in World Championships history. No American woman has ever won a 5000m medal at an IAAF World Championships since the discipline was introduced in 1995. In 1983 when the 3000m was contested, instead, Mary Decker earned the gold medal.