Friday night was a rollercoaster. Calm was replaced by chaos, butterfly stomach, eagerness, nausea. Then came the switch … the final jaw drop, hands shooting to the air, and an enormous grin: “KATE FREAKING KILLED THAT EIGHT!!”
That was no sly foreshadowing! If you watched the women’s 800 meter semi-finals on ESPN2, you saw Alysia Montaño surge into the lead, with a chase pack ready to kill for spots 2, 3, and 4. You also know that Kate ran an outstanding race and the camera zoomed on her beaming smile. But the cliffhanger to it all is what it felt like to witness it in real life.
Heading to the track that day I can assure you we all had nerves for Kate. Never nerves of doubt, only the good kind of nerves. The kind that send shivers up your spine, butterflies to your stomach, and the occasional dewy eyeballs just thinking about how far this girl has come.
Drake Stadium was about to have another day of extreme professional talent. At 8 p.m., Kate and the competition appeared on the track and calmly paced their way to the start. I got to see the infamous cooling vest Kate had talked about the day before -- sort of like a pro-style outdoor air conditioning. Legit – and it just looked flippin’ awesome. She did her lion breathing: tongue stretched out like a hungry lizard, eyes closed, mind racing, confidence at its peak.
Her stacked heat went from sweats off, feet in blocks and gun up in a matter of nanoseconds. The stands were silent, and finally the gun went off.
As if Drake Stadium hadn’t known there was a posse of birds in the house already, they knew now. Not to mention to the rest of EPSN2 that got an earful of giddy fans screaming their pants off for K8. Shout out to Sarah Chan for this photo below. Our faces say it all:
One lap passed and the eight women surged onto the bell lap. The front pack was blazing. With only 100m to go the fans stood, our hearts raced and I may have blacked out with excitement! But I do remember one thing. All 8 competitors leaned over the finish at what looked like the exact same time from the angle we were sitting. Everyone’s eyes beelined to the reader board to see exact results.
Alysia Montano: 2:00.14
Ajee Wilson: 2:00.91
Kate Grace: 2:00.96
Shouts of “AHHHHHHHH!” “SHUT UP!!” “OMG!!” “KATEEE!!” rang in my ears and relief blanketed my heart. It was pounding like a bongo drum. In all honesty, I have never felt so effected by a single race – I felt like a proud mom (and I know I’m younger than her). You can watch all the track and field you want on television, but there is nothing like being present in the moment of that level of talent, dedication, and hard work that pays off – it was incredible to witness.
Kate laid it out. Her confidence, patience and ease is indescribable to relay on paper. You just gotta watch her. I met high school girls that day that came to the stadium just to cheer for Kate. Also girls that had met her after a race and couldn’t stop singing her praises for being such a friendly and gracious person. Kate’s got it going on and isn’t slowing down soon. This girl is seriously on FIRE and it’s contagious!