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Tollefson's top challengers end bid

8/8/2004

GIORGIOUPOLI, Greece -- Carrie Tollefson has been added to
the U.S. Olympic team in the 1,500 meters after her two challengers
gave up their attempts to meet a qualifying standard for the Athens
Games.

Tollefson won the 1,500 at the U.S. Olympic trials three weeks
ago in Sacramento, Calif., but did not make the team then because
her time wasn't fast enough.

Tollefson, from Minneapolis, has since run fast enough twice,
but her spot in Athens wasn't assured until Amy Rudolph and Jen
Toomey gave up their attempts to run the distance in 4 minutes, 5.3
seconds, which is the top standard in the event.

If either of them had done so, they would have bumped Tollefson,
who met a slower standard but held the advantage because she won
the event at the trials.

Monday is the deadline for athletes to meet qualifying standards
for Athens.

"I'm excited and I'm exhausted," Tollefson told the Star
Tribune of Minneapolis after running five 1,500s in 12 days in her
attempts to make the team.

Tollefson will be the only U.S. entrant in the women's 1,500. If
Tollefson had not met the slower standard, Suzy Favor Hamilton
would have made the team because she met the top mark late last
season.

Tollefson said quest to meet the top standard made the American
trio mildly famous among European track fans.

"Everybody knows about us and all the races we've run,"
Tollefson said. "We were in Belgium and people said, 'Weren't you
in London last night?' We were in Zurich and people said, 'Weren't
you in Liege the other day?' Everyone knows about the American
1,500 women."

Tollefson started running on the streets of rural Dawson, Minn.,
as a junior high schooler, won 13 Minnesota state high school
titles and then moved on to NCAA All-America status.

While she said Saturday that "my body is shot," Tollefson also
said the concentration of races in July and August has strengthened
her and taught her how to strategically compete in the 1,500.

Her coach, Dennis Barker of Team USA Minnesota, said, "People
underestimate Carrie if they think she's not going to make the
finals" in Athens.