Sanford native Rachel Schneider raced her way into the 2021 Summer Olympics on Monday evening, overcoming 94-degree heat to finish third in the women’s 5,000-meter run of the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.
Another Maine native, Lewiston’s Isaiah Harris, just missed qualifying for the Tokyo Games with his fourth-place finish in the men’s 800-meter run.
The 29-year-old Schneider, who attended high school in New Hampshire, raced collegiately at Georgetown University and now lives in Flagstaff, Arizona, was one of 16 runners in the women’s 5,000 final and moved into second place early in the race.
She remained among the top four throughout the race save for a brief period when she got caught against the rail amid the tight pack of runners and dropped as far back as eighth place.
She worked her way to the outside of the pack, then quickly moved toward the front and was third with three laps remaining.
She remained part of a four-runner lead pack with Karissa Schweitzer, Elise Cranny and Abbey Cooper for the next two laps, but gradually Cooper began to fall off the pace and left the other three in the group to run for the three available Olympic team berths.
Cranny outkicked Schweitzer down the final stretch to win the race in 15:27.81, with Schweitzer next in 15:28.11 and Schneider a comfortable third in 15:29.56.
All three top finishers previously had achieved the Olympic qualifying standard of 15:10.00.
Schneider, who advanced to the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials at 1,500 meters, is scheduled to compete in Saturday’s 10,000-meter final along with fellow Maine native Emily Durgin of Standish.
The Tokyo Summer Olympics is scheduled for July 23 through Aug. 8.
The 24-year-old Harris, a former Lewiston High School basketball and track standout who won the 2018 NCAA Division I championship in the 800 for Penn State University, started on the outside of the eight-man field in the men’s 800 final but quickly settled into third place and was fourth at the start of the final lap.
He briefly fell to fifth place after being passed by race favorite and reigning world champion Donovan Brazier. Harris re-passed Brazier on the last corner but was unable to gain on any of the leaders on the final straightaway.
Harris achieved the Olympic qualifying standard with his finishing time of 1 minute, 44.58 seconds but came up one spot short of earning one of the three Olympic bids in the event.
Clayton Murphy, bronze medalist in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, used a strong finishing kick to win the race in 1:43.17. Isaiah Jewett, who 10 days earlier won the NCAA championship on the same track for the University of Southern California, led most of the race and settled for second in 1:43.62.
Bryce Hoppel, who narrowly defeated Harris in Saturday’s semifinals, claimed the final Olympic team berth with a time of 1:44.14.
Among other runners with Maine ties who have competed in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials, North Yarmouth native Ben True narrowly missed earning a berth in the men’s 10,000 final last Friday.
The 35-year-old running veteran finished fourth in 27:58.88, less than four seconds behind the final qualifier as the top three finishers used strong last-lap kicks to earn their trips to Tokyo.
The finish marked another narrow Olympic miss for True, a former Greely High School track and skiing standout who went on to compete at Dartmouth College and now lives in Hanover, New Hampshire.
True finished fifth in the final of the 5,000 meter run at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, as well as sixth in the same event in 2012.
True is scheduled to compete in the 5,000-meter semifinals on Thursday, with the final in that event set for Sunday.
Former Orono High School distance standout Hannah Steelman, now a junior at North Carolina State, made her Trials debut in the 3,000 meter steeplechase on Sunday evening.
Steelman did not qualify for Thursday’s final after finishing 13th in her semifinal heat with a time of 9:59.11. That was the 24th-fastest time among the 32 competitors.
She entered the Trials as the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference champion in the steeplechase and placed 14th in the event at the NCAA Championships in 9:46.09 earlier this month to earn second-team All-America honors.
Two Maine natives and former University of Maine track athletes, Nathaniel Meade of Waldoboro and Julian Hubbard of Windsor, competed in the Trials’ triple jump last Saturday, but neither were among the top 12 finishers to advance from the qualifying round for Monday night’s finals.