That’s how long Isaac Updike led Friday’s race.
As the pack of 14 runners — some of the country’s best athletes — rounded the final turn of the second-to-last lap in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase finals at the U.S. Olympic Team Track and Field Trials — and the group entered the last loop around the track at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon — the “kid from Ketchikan” was leading them all.
“It was remarkable,” Dan Ortiz, Updike’s former high school cross country coach said. “In that last lap, the kid from Ketchikan was leading the race. Pretty exceptional.”
Exceptional, indeed, especially considering all of the hard work Updike had put in, leading up to that moment.
But sometimes a moment doesn’t end the way that it’s hoped.
Updike was passed by Hillary Bor and Benard Keter during the final lap. But the Ketchikan High School graduate still held third place before the final water hazard in lap eight.
And with the top three finishers guaranteed a spot on Team USA, and a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics next month, Updike still had a chance.
But a slight stumble as he landed after the water hazard allowed Mason Ferlic to pass him by, and Daniel Michalski to gain ground.
Michalski overtook Updike in the final straightaway, as Updike fell back. He finished fifth in the steeplechase finals, in 8 minutes, 24.72 seconds.
Bor won the race, making his second Olympic team. He crossed the finish line in 8 minutes, 21.34 seconds.
Keter and Ferlic placed second and third, respectively, in 8 minutes, 21.81 seconds, and 8 minutes, 22.05 seconds, and will join Bor on Team USA.
“I can’t be prouder of Isaac,” Ortiz said. “He really did a great job throughout his season this year. And to compete at that level, amongst the country’s best — and to come in fifth — I can’t think of any athlete from Ketchikan that has, in any sport, competed at a higher level than that.”
Updike set this year’s world’s fastest time in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in April. That race was at the same course as Friday’s finals.
Updike finished that competition in 8 minutes, 17.74 seconds, which is a personal best.
He carried that momentum into the U.S. Olympic Team preliminaries on Monday.
Updike held the top time in the trial’s first-round, finishing the course in 8 minutes, 21.01 seconds, and just before he and Bor crossed the finish line in Monday’s preliminaries, the two gave each other a fist bump.
Bor placed second in the heat, in 8 minutes, 21.09 seconds.
“Obviously he worked hard to get there, and he’s been chasing that dream for a good eight years, now,” Ortiz said. “But again, I can’t express how proud I am of him, and what a great year he had.”
Updike was in the front-half of the pack for the entire race on Friday. He was in second place after the first lap, and was consistently in fourth place for laps two through six, before jumping to first place in lap seven.
Two-time Olympian Donn Cabral led for most of the race, before falling back to sixth place in lap seven. Cabral finished just behind Updike, in 8 minutes, 25.95 seconds.
Updike passed Bor for the lead 7 minutes, 4.3 seconds into the race — toward the end of lap seven. He held the top spot until the 7-minute, 40-second mark.
“I was getting so excited at that point because he grabbed that lead, there for a minute, and I thought for a second that he was going to do it,” Ortiz said. “But then, he didn’t quite make it.
“But it was still a good race,” he continued. “... I don’t think people realize, when you are at the U.S. Olympic Trials, and you finish fifth, that’s pretty rarefied space. ... So he certainly made our community proud.”
At 29, Updike still can compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase beyond 30 years old. Cabral is 31.
But whether or not Updike decides to compete in the World Athletics Championships, which are scheduled for July 15, 2022 through July 24, 2022 — also in Eugene, Oregon — isn’t at the forefront 13 months out from its starting date.
What is front and center is how well the “kid from Ketchikan” performed on a big stage.
There aren’t too many others that competed in Friday’s finals.
And Updike was near the top of the list.
“(Isaac) performed exceptionally well,” Ortiz said. “To be fifth in the U.S. Olympic Trials — in the finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials — that’s among the best of the best, and he made us all proud.”