By Frank Gogola | @FrankGogola
RIO DE JANEIRO – Molly Huddle broke an eight-year-old American record in the 10,000-meter as she finished sixth on Friday at Olympic Stadium.
Huddle credited the weather – cool with intermittent rain, ideal for running – in helping her set the new American record at 30:13.17. Huddle’s time was 9.05 seconds faster than Shalane Flanagan’s 30:22.22 from 2008.
“That’s an amazing record,” Huddle said. “I always thought that was a ridiculous time that Shalane ran. So, definitely proud to have gotten that.”
Huddle’s time shattered her personal best of 30:47.59, set in 2014, by 34.42 seconds.
“I’m very happy with the time,” Huddle said. “I think I just need to digest it a little bit. I knew a medal was no guarantee. I knew I had to count on one or two women messing up at the front. I’m probably the sixth-best person coming in and that’s where I finished.”
Huddle settled into the eighth spot early on as a group of eight runners separated themselves considerably from the other 29. Her 5,000-meter split time of 14:55.5 was 8.6 seconds behind the leader. She moved up to seventh around the 6,000-meter mark and sixth by 8,600 meters.
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Ethiopian Almaz Ayana took the gold with a time of 29:17.45, breaking a world record that stood since 1993. Her time was 14.33 seconds better than the 29:31.78 run by China’s Junxia Wang 23 years ago.
This was Huddle’s best Olympic finish after taking 11th at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In July, Huddle was the first U.S. woman to sweep both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the same Olympic Trials, leading wire-to-wire in both races. She chose to only compete in the 10,000 in Rio to preserve her body and begin training for her marathon debut at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6.
Prior to the Olympic Trials, her grandfather died at 93 on June 25. A runner himself, Dr. Robert Huddle Sr., attended many of her events over the years, including the 2012 Games. On occasion, Huddle, her father and her grandfather would run road races together and sweep their age groups. When she started to get tired during Friday’s race, she thought about him and how she had to “run a race he’d be proud of.”
“I think he would have been happy with the American record,” Huddle said. “But I think he knew that I have the potential to finish higher someday.”
Frank Gogola is a student in the Sports Capital Journalism Program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.