EUGENE - Amy-Eloise Neale’s career doesn’t exactly scream “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
But that is exactly what she experienced running in the Nike Mile exhibition event Friday during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field.
Neale, who just completed her junior year at Glacier Peak High in Snohomish, likely was competing at a U.S. Trials for the only time in her life.
“Some of the other girls are racing toward the trials, but because of my citizenship this is literally a once in a lifetime experience,” Neale said. “It was a great experience and I’m grateful for that.”
Neale moved from England to Washington when she was a youngster and has competed for her home country in youth worlds events in the past, and she could run for them in the future.
“(Hayward Field) is amazing,” she said. “There are so many people. A lot of times you can block out, but there are so many people you can’t block it out. There is so much energy in the stadium.”
Neale finished second in the race in a time of 4 minutes, 56.18 seconds. Hannah Meier, from Gross Point Farms, Michigan, won in 4:55.63. North Central senior-to-be Katie Knight also ran in the race, but the Spokane star struggled and finished eighth in 5:03.96. She had to be helped off the track as she has been attempting to overcome sickness since April, but didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to run Friday.
Mead senior-to-be Andrew Gardner felt the same way. Gardner hadn’t run since winning the Class 4A state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters in May, but he wasn’t going to miss his chance to run at Hayward Field.
“It’s an honor to get a chance to come down here,” he said. “It is a track that everyone has run. There is a lot of history that has been run on it, and even getting a little history; even getting a shot was worth it.
“The race itself wasn’t amazing, but just being here was an honor.” Gardner took seventh in 4:11.59, while Bernie Montoya, from Yuma, Ariz., thrilled the crowd with a stellar time of 4:08.01.
“I wasn’t really hoping for anything, just didn’t want to get last,” Gardner said. “I was just coming here and got in the race and through three laps wanted to see what happens. It kept getting better.”
Neale was unhappy with her time, as it was nearly 10 seconds slower than her personal best, but the fact that she was even competing was remarkable.
Neale strained her hamstring after the Arcadia Invitational in early April, and re-injured herself during the state track meet.
“Right before my race at state in the 800, in my run out, I felt it go again,” she said. “I was so inexperienced - I probably shouldn’t have ran, but I was inexperienced and I was like, ‘What do I do?’ I didn’t have my coach out on the track there, but I did well. I won, but I could barely walk afterward.”
She was so hurt after the race, that she scratched out of the 1,600 final later in the day.
Since then, she has also participated in the Dream Mile in New York City, and has just continued to work in anticipation of running Friday in Eugene.
“I haven’t PR’d since the Dream Mile last season, and this was kind of my opportunity. This was the race to do that,” Neale said. “So I’m a little disappointed in that regard, but I’m still happy that I don’t have to race anymore. I can just focus on mileage and get my hamstring healed.”