A medal finish eluded 1999 Canyon High grad Lauren Fleshman Friday night in Daegu, but the “comeback kid” wasn’t disappointed.
“It was great. I’m happy,” Fleshman told reporters. “I stuck to my race plan. I didn’t get overwhelmed by the environment. Those are all things I wanted to accomplish here to set me up for next year.”
It was enough for Fleshman that she made it to the IAAF World Track and Field Championships in South Korea at all. The onetime NCAA champion from Stanford battled a series of foot injuries that sidelined her for the entire 2009 season. She refocused, got some expert medical attention and bounced back in 2010 to take her second U.S. title.
Following her first-place finish in the 5,000-meter race in London earlier this month with a time of 15:00:57, she made Team USA alongside SCV native and repeat gold medalist Allyson Felix, who races Saturday.
Fleshman, who now lives in Oregon where she’s sponsored by Nike, appeared in good spirits as race time approached.
“Got a little 5k coming up at 8:25pm in Korea,” she Tweeted.
She found her pace and stayed up front most of the way. Then, with 550 meters to go, the Kenyans and Ethiopians pulled away.
Fleshman crossed the finish line in seventh position at 15:09.
Gold and silver went to Kenya’s Vivian Cheruiyot (14:55:36) and Sylvia Jebiwott Kibet (14:56.21). Meseret Defar of Ethiopia took bronze with 14:56.94.
Later, Fleshman she recounted the experience on her blog.
“First 3k: I’m all focus. I lose myself in the laps and relax as much as possible. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency,” she wrote.
With five laps to go, she studies her African competitors to anticipate when they’ll make their move. She tries to improve her position but they shut her out.
“2 laps to go: The pain is barely endurable, and then 200 meters later, the leaders take off and the pack strings out. I latch on as much as possible with the knowledge that I could easily fall apart at any moment.
“1 lap to go: My physical limits are very near, but so is the finish line.
“200 meters to go: I am barely surviving, reaching into the corners of the toothpaste tube to squeeze out just a little bit more, and I catch one more woman right before the finish line.
“I didn’t know who won, who got medals, who I pipped at the line, what time I ran, or what place I finished,” she wrote. “Complete immersion into maximum effort drowned out all my senses.”
She wrapped it up in her own, inimitable fashion– from the perspective of someone who has faced a few of life’s challenges and will no longer stand for them to get in her way.
“It wasn’t until passing through the mixed zone with the media that I learned how I placed,” she wrote, “and all I could think about was this – June 24th: 8th in the USA. September 2nd: 7th in the World.
“Just goes to show, you never know what awaits you. Believe in turnarounds. Believe in yourself.”