The Olympic Trials, whatever the sport, are the place where years of training bring you to the biggest stage in the world or leave you at home, relegated to the role of spectator sometimes by painful margins.
Alaska sent four athletes to the Olympic trials for swimming and track and field, and one of them hit the jackpot.
Seward’s Lydia Jacoby hit the record high earlier this month in Omaha, Nebraska, where she made the Olympic team at age 17 placing second in the women’s 100-meter breaststroke.
“I’ve been through this moment so many times in my head, but it was nothing like it,” Jacoby said. “I wasn’t alone until around midnight, (so) I didn’t have a chance to treat him for a long time. It’s just really crazy. So crazy. It’s definitely a great mix of emotions – disbelief, pride, happiness. “
The other three Alaskans experienced a series of emotions:
• Heartbroken for Isaac Updike of Ketchikan, whose legitimate bid for an Olympic berth escaped the final 200 meters of the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase on Friday during the Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, Ore..
• Satisfaction and hope for Kenai’s Allie Ostrander, who ran a brave final lap to secure a personal best in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase on Thursday. She did so despite limited training from an injury and treatment for an eating disorder. (Ostrander skipped the other race she qualified for, Saturday’s 10,000-meter race.)
• Excitement for John Heaphy of Eagle River, a 20-year-old swimmer who was thrilled to compete in the Olympic trials in the men’s 100-meter breaststroke. He didn’t get the personal best he hoped for placing 27th, but he got a taste of the most important and intense competition for American swimmers.
Updike raced with the leaders almost to the very end of the men’s steeplechase final, finishing 2.67 seconds off third and one move to Tokyo. The heat was excruciating, and for Updike, so was the result.
He is 29 and is primarily an amateur athlete – his individual sponsorship with Hoka One One was not renewed earlier this year – in professional sport.
Updike made his move just before the last lap and was in the lead, with others just behind, at the start of the bell lap.
He was third at the last corner, 200 meters from the finish. Then came the last water jump, where he lost his momentum with a small misstep when he landed in the pit. He fell behind from there and finished in 8: 24.72. His PR is 8: 17.64 and his Monday semi-final time was 8: 21.01.
Ostrander, who ran to the back of the field early but finished strong, placed eighth in the women, more than eight seconds off third. The quick finish put a smile on Ostrander’s face and a new personal best on his resume.
“The best I have ever been,” Ostrander posted on Instagram. “Walking away from the trials with a PR, an Olympic standard and a feeling that I have a lot left to give.”
Ostrander is 24 years old and has been a member of the Brooks Beasts Professional Track Club for two years. She is a veteran of the World Championships, who qualified for the steeplechase final in 2019, where she set a personal best of 9 minutes 30.85 seconds, which puts her 0.85 short of the Olympic standard of 9: 30.0.
She hit that standard in Thursday’s final running 9: 26.96, an PR of 3.89 seconds. She showed her courage on the last lap, running the 400 meters faster than everyone except the three Olympic qualifiers.
Updike and Ostrander gave Alaska a runner in both steeplechase finals, where there were 28 spots available – 14 for men, 14 for women.
Jacoby and Heaphy gave Alaska multiple swimmers at the Olympic Trials for the first time since 2000 and brought the Alaskans’ total who qualified for that competition to 12.
Jacoby is one of two athletes from Alaska heading to the Olympics. Alev Kelter of Eagle River is set to make his second appearance as a member of the US women’s rugby sevens team.