August 12, 2016 - by
Tested Quigley Set For Olympic Debut; Hall And Lagat Shine

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – Colleen Quigley’s path to the Olympic Stadium starting line for Saturday morning’s 3000-meter steeplechase semifinal was littered with obstacles, not the least of which were a series of injuries which prevented her from racing for nearly 10 months.

In something just short of a miracle, Quigley turned a 10-week training crash course – she called it “microwave fitness” – into a third-place finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials, posting a lifetime-best of 9:21.29 in the process.

With five more weeks of training, mostly at altitude in Park City, Utah alongside her Bowerman Track Club teammates – six of whom qualified for the Games – Quigley has her focus on a top-three heat finish, or one of the next six fastest times, to earn a spot in Monday’s final.

Given all that the 2015 NCAA champion and nine-time All-American for the Seminoles has overcome, confidence should not be in short supply.

In a recent interview with the Oregonian, Bowerman Track Club coach Jerry Schumacher was asked to describe each of his seven Olympic qualifiers. Of Quigley, he said:

“Talk about a competitive athlete, that’s Colleen. Injuries made it a rocky year for training purposes for her. But she got through it and did enough to put herself in position to make the team. Her raw competitiveness did the rest. She does not want to be left out.”

Quigley credits Schumacher and her Bowerman Track Club teammates – aka, #bowermanbabes – for nurturing that mental toughness in the months between her 12th-place finish at the 2015 World Championships and the U.S. Olympic Trials.

It was teammate Shalane Flanagan, the grand dame of American distance running who will compete in the marathon in her fourth Olympics, who provided Quigley with much of that guidance, including a text just shortly her race at the Trials: “Remember all the hours in the pool.”

The reminder of the countless hours invested in cross training when she was unable to run was all Quigley needed.

“Shalane and Amy [Cragg], both, being older mentors for all of us young girls that just graduated from college has been so amazing,” Quigley said. “The reason I joined the team is the same reason I chose FSU. I wanted to surround myself with greatness. That’s the reason I chose to be around all those All-Americans at FSU, because I wanted to be an All-American. When I chose Bowerman I wanted to be an Olympian, so I surrounded myself with people who had already made it to the Olympics or who were looking at their first time just like me.

“I knew it was going to be a great thing but they have far-surpassed their call of duty as my track moms. They’re always there and always pumping me up, even through all that pool time.”

Watching Flanagan work through an injury with 2-3 hours of cross training daily in advance of the marathon trials, proved to be an invaluable lesson.

“It made me up my game from one hour to 2-3 hours,” Quigley added. “They were there every day. They never gave up hope, even when I thought I was done, they said, ‘You’re a gamer and you can do this.’

“Gosh, if Shalane Flanagan is telling me that I can’t let her down. It has been amazing. I can’t ask for better teammates, mentors and friends.”

And Quigley will have no shortage of friends offering support Saturday and beyond.

In Rio, she has reconnected with a trio of former Seminole women’s distance standouts, including former teammates Linden Hall (Australia) and Violah Lagat (Kenya) who qualified in the 1500, and Susan Kuijken (Netherlands) who qualified in the 10,000 and 5,000.

Then there’s the BTC family of marathon qualifiers Flanagan and Cragg, Emily Infeld and Betsy Saina (10,000), Shelby Houlihan (5,000) and her former Missouri high school rival and road roommate Courtney Frerichs, who will line up in the third heat of the steeplechase.

Frerichs and Quigley were already fast friends before storming past Stephanie Garcia over the final 120 meters to finish second and third at the Trials, behind champion Emma Coburn.

“The whole thing was just a dream,” Quigley said, reflecting on the race which secured her a spot in the Games. “I had imagined the race so many times in my head and I really thought that I knew how it was going to go as far as pace and who the players were going to be.…It was exactly how I wanted it to go. My ideal team was going to be Emma, obviously, then me and Courtney. I thought that after the prelims and that’s exactly how it turned out.”

It wasn’t easy. Quigley first had to suppress doubts that she was ready to make a run for Rio, having managed just two steeplechase workouts on the track and one 1500-meter race, 10 days before the prelims in Eugene.

“I just didn’t know if I was ready,” Quigley said. “I just hoped that the fitness was there. I had one really tough steeple workout at altitude and one good one when I came down and felt so much better. I was still having doubts after that.”

Those doubts were put to rest when Quigley laid down consecutive laps in 71, 71 and 70 seconds to finish off her Olympic quest in the finals.

“I had never done anything like that in my life,” Quigley said. “I have no idea how we did that; I literally don’t know how my body did that…

“I was happy to take third. I was just praying to God that fourth place wasn’t coming up. You could see the pain face in all the pictures. I had nothing left. Courtney was smiling and I was in so much pain. I was not going to let myself smile until I crossed the line.”

Quigley hasn’t stopped smiling since, though she will put her race face on in the first of three heats Saturday at 9:05 a.m. (ET).

The first Seminole in action Saturday will be Kimberly Williams in the women’s triple jump. A finalist at the 2012 London Olympics, the Jamaican star will jump 16th in Group B, set for 8:40 a.m. Quigley and Williams’ events will be televised on NBCSN or available via live stream at http://stream.nbcolympics.com/track-and-field-day-8-morning.

Former Seminole sprinters Marvin Bracy and Kemar Hyman will compete Round 1 of the 100-meter dash, with the first of eight heats set to begin at 11 a.m. NBC will begin live coverage of on the network station at 10 a.m.

Tested Quigley Set For Olympic Debut; Hall And Lagat Shine

Hall, Lagat Advance On Opening Day At Track

First-time Olympians and one-time Florida State teammates, Linden Hall and Violah Lagat carried the flag among former Seminoles on Friday, the opening day of track & field competition at Olympic Stadium.

Hall and Lagat advanced to Sunday’s semifinals of the 1500-meter dash from separate heats to open the evening session of competition.

“Both Linden and Violah did a great job,” FSU head coach Bob Braman said. “It’s real easy to let the moment overwhelm you, but they truly kept their focus. I’m really excited about their chances of making the final. It was a great opening event for the Noles.”

Representing Australia and thrust into the first heat, Hall demonstrated the moxie she displayed during her three-time All-American career with the Noles. Patiently tucking into the front of the pack, she grabbed an auto berth into the semis by place fourth in 4:11.75.

Two heats later, Lagat rode the wake of fastest heat of the night, advancing on time (4:08.90) to place eighth in heat three and 13th overall. It was heady performance for the Kenyan, who claimed a pair of All-American honors during her FSU career.

Teammates on the 2011-2012 FSU cross country and track & field teams, they will return to the track Sunday at 8:30 p.m. for the semifinals.

A trio of former Seminole 400-meter standouts – twins Kevin and Jonathan Borlee, and Alonzo Russell – were not as fortunate in the opening rounds, failing to advance.

Kevin Borlee, who along with his brother was making his third Olympic appearance representing Belgium, placed fifth in heat 1 in 45.90. Jonathan Borlee (46.01) was fourth in heat 3 with Alonzo Russell, making his Olympic debut for the Bahamas, placed fifth (46.23), though he was later disqualified.

“I though Alonzo ran as hard as he could,” Braman said. “He actually had the lead with 100 meters to go, but couldn’t hold it.

“The Borlee’s ran almost identical races in difference heats.  Both closed really well and just missed an automatic qualifying spot. The good news is that all three will get to run the 4×400 relay later on in the Games.”

FSU’s final representative on the opening night, long jumper Stefan Brits, came up short in his attempt to join a pair of fellow South African teammates in the final. After an opening mark of 7.46 meters, Brits came back with a second-attempt 7.71 (25-3.50) to climb into contention, before a third-attempt foul left him short of the 12-man finals.

“I’m really proud of Stefan,” Braman said. “He wasn’t even sure if his injured leg would allow him to jump and his 7.71 is really good considering he couldn’t even take full approach jumps last week. He’s as good a competitor as anyone we’ve ever had.”

Two-time NCAA champion and nine-time All-American Susan Kuijken kicked off the day for the Seminoles on the track with a 14th-place finish in the fastest women’s 10,000-meter race in track & field history. Competing in just her second race at that distance on the track, the first-time Olympian from the Netherlands finished in 31:32.43, just a half-second off her previous best. Ethiopa’s Ayana Almaz smashed the world record (29:17.45) for the gold as four women dipped below the 30-minute mark.

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