Olympics Valley Athletes
Kyle Alcorn could see it coming.
After the pack sagged back for most of the race, a front herd emerged and began to make its charge for the final two laps of a 3,000-meter steeplechase heat Friday at the London Olympics.
Alcorn, a 2003 Buchanan High graduate, was ready to surge with them. His closing kick always has been his strength.
But this time, something was missing. Alcorn couldn't find his last gear, nor his go-to move, and the Clovis native failed to advance out of the preliminary round.
Alcorn finished in 8 minutes, 37.11 seconds -- well off his usual time and ninth out of 12 runners in his heat as he failed to qualify for Sunday's final.
"They all started making their move and I was trying, but it wasn't happening for some reason," Alcorn said via cellphone. "The kicks usually benefit me. But I didn't have it. I tried, and when I didn't have it, I kind of started panicking. At that point, you start tensing up when you're not moving and that's never good.
"It's a little disappointing," said the 27-year-old, who needed to finish in the top four in his heat or the top 16 overall from three heats to advance.
He always understood it would take close to his best time to advance.
"I felt good, felt healthy going in," said Alcorn, who clocked out in 8:22.17 while finishing third at the U.S trials last month. "I was a little nervous, but it was a good nervous, not too much. I made sure to look down at the ground when we got on the track and not look at how big the crowd was because I didn't want to get overwhelmed by what I saw."
Then the gun went off for heat two of an event that requires runners to hurdle thick barriers and navigate water pits. Immediately, Alcorn could tell it would be a different race than he's used to running.
Rather than someone sprinting to an early lead, the runners in his heat seemed reluctant to charge.
Alcorn was among the first five for the opening 30 seconds and 200 meters. But he soon dropped to midpack, and into his comfort zone, which usually provides him time and energy for his late charge.
"The race definitely was a lot slower than other heats," Alcorn said. "I call these a 'sit-and-kick race.' They all go out slow and wait for the big kick during the last 400 meters. Someone with good closing speed usually does well in races like this. It usually would benefit me."
But as the race went on, Alcorn kept slipping back.
By the final lap, he realized he had little kick in him and the leaders pulled away. All Alcorn could do was to try to finish strong.
Brimin Kiprop Kipruto, the reigning Olympic champion from Kenya, won the heat in 8:28.62. Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad of France -- the 2008 silver medalist -- was the top qualifier in 8:16.23 while running in the first heat.
Evan Jager of Algonquin, Ill., was next in 8:16.61. The third American, Donald Cabral of Glastonbury, Conn., qualified in 8:21.46 while finishing fourth in heat three.
After crossing the finish line, Alcorn bent over. He didn't smile, but instead kept looking down at the track.
"I wish I had done a little better," he said.
Finally, Alcorn looked up and for the first time Friday took in the massive crowd at Olympic Stadium.
In that moment, he realized all he had accomplished. He didn't medal, or even make a trip to the final, but he had made the Olympics -- the summit for any steeplechase runner.
"It's been an exciting journey," Alcorn said. "Opening Ceremony was probably the best, taking pictures with (U.S. basketball players) Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and James Hardin. I'd ride the elevator almost every day with the gymnast girls. That's probably the coolest atmosphere and the biggest crowd I've ever had a chance to run in front of.
"These are memories that'll be with me forever."
Archive by category ''Olympics Valley Athletes
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