Carbondale resident’s sights set on Olympics |

Carbondale resident’s sights set on Olympics

Jeff Caspersen
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

BEND, Ore. ” Training in mountainous Bend, Ore., this week, Carbondale’s Carrie Messner-Vickers is putting the finishing touches on years of grueling training done with one goal in mind ” that of making the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

And, for all that’s gone into her bid to represent the United States in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, the days preceding the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials are more or less playing out anticlimactically.

“I thought it’d be more, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s here,’ but it’s more, ‘It’s here, let’s do this,'” said Messner-Vickers, trying to put her feelings into words as she prepares for Monday’s preliminaries at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. “It’s a great thing to be a part of. I’m excited.”

The 31-year-old University of Colorado alumna, who made the Roaring Fork Valley her home after her 2000 graduation, is utilizing Bend and its 3,623 feet of elevation as training ground before making the 130-mile journey to Eugene to compete in Monday’s steeplechase preliminaries. If Messner-Vickers makes the final, she’ll be back at Hayward Field on July 3 hoping for a top-three finish that’d send her to Beijing.

After training vigorously in the Rocky Mountains, Messner-Vickers wanted to get in a little mid-elevation training before racing at 426 feet in Eugene.

Anything to get that edge she’ll need to challenge a star-studded steeplechase field. Messner-Vickers is seeded sixth (9 minutes, 43.06 seconds) among those vying to qualify for women’s steeplechase’s Olympic debut. Lisa Galaviz of Gilbert, Ariz., holds the top seed time among the hopefuls (9:28.75).

“It’s going to be a really good field,” Messner-Vickers forecasted. “It’s nice to see, to have so many women in the steeple this year. It’ll be good, good competition.”

The Carbondale resident’s event of choice is a track oddity ” one that forces its participants to not only run but hurdle obstacles like immobile barriers and water pits.

It surfaced as an exhibition event at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials before being added to the Summer Olympic repertoire in 2008. Olympics men’s steeplechase has been around for a while.

Had women’s steeplechase been an Olympic event in 2004, Messner-Vickers would have made it to Athens with her third-place finish. While frustrating, it’s something she’s come to terms with.

“It’s one of those things,” she said. “I really wish it had been an Olympic event back then and I got to go to Athens, but that’s all right. It was more important for us to get it seen and noticed, to put it on the map so to speak.”

And that certainly has happened, as Messner-Vickers notes.

“The event as a whole around the world has stepped up the last two years,” she explained. “People are getting faster. It’s really fun to be a part of. Younger kids are getting into it. You see high schools running it.”

That said, it takes a mentally and physically tough person to take the steeplechase on.

“You have to be willing to fall,” said Messner-Vickers, a distance runner in high school and college whose post-school coach Bobby McGee directed her toward steeplechase. “It’s a different kind of pain from a lot of other events. You’re jumping five times a lap, running through water. It’s a more athletic event. There’s no set style for a steepler. You have people of all different builds, different everything.”

Messner-Vickers has had her eye on Eugene for some time. Long enough that she’s simply ready to run.

“I’m definitely ready,” she declared. “My plan is to make the [U.S. Olympic] team. Is it going to be easy? No. There are good women there. It’s going to be hard work, but there’s not much else you can do at this point except get out there and go.”

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