Boise State alum, national champion switches gears for another shot at Olympics

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One of the most decorated distance runners in Boise State history is prepping for another shot at Olympic gold.

Emma Bates — a 12-time All-American at Boise State from 2010 to 2015 — will compete in the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials from June 18-27 at University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene, which is where the NCAA championships are currently being held. The 10,000 final is scheduled for June 26.

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. The opening ceremonies are now scheduled for July 23, and officials are still debating if they should admit fans.

Bates won a collegiate national championship in the 10,000 in 2014. She admits she’s more of a marathon runner these days, but she’s excited to once again test herself against many of the best runners in the world.

“I wasn’t really planning on getting back on track super seriously this season,” Bates told the Idaho Statesman on Friday. “Qualifying for the trials was my biggest goal. I don’t have any expectations other than putting it all out there.”

Bates ran just one race this year — a 10K in Los Angeles in late May — and she qualified for the Olympic Trials with a time of 32 minutes, 4 seconds, which was nine seconds faster than her previous personal record. She has spent the bulk of the past four years training for marathons, though, and she says she has a lot to learn about running the significantly shorter 10,000 races, because strategy is everything.

“In a marathon, I like to run my own race, because it’s such a long time to be running you really have to know your body to run within yourself,” Bates said. “In a 10K, you’re trying to cover moves the whole time to stay in the race. Some runners will try to run really uneven splits to make it harder to anticipate what they’re doing, so you have to be ready to adjust your pace.”

She’ll get a chance to put that strategy to the test on Saturday in the New York Mini 10K — an annual women’s-only road race, which has been held every year since 1972 with the exception of last year, when it was canceled because of COVID-19.

Bates finished fourth in the event in 2019, and she’s looking forward to her first big race since the pandemic shut everything down a little over a year ago. The last major event she competed in was the Olympic marathon trials on Feb. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. She didn’t make the cut.

“I’m surprised how strong the field is given the Olympic track trials are in two weeks,” Bates said. “Nobody wanted to take anything for granted, especially on a road course. We’re all very excited this race is going to happen.”

She’s heading into this weekend’s race on the heels of a move to Boulder, Colorado, where she has revamped her training with a new team. While living near Boise, Bates spent much of her time training alone in the mountains, but working out with a team again has its benefits, she said.

“I’m reaching new heights in training and pushing myself farther than I ever thought I could,” Bates said. “It helps to have teammates there to push you. Sometimes their strengths are your weaknesses, and you can really feed off each other.”

Bates will compete against one of her teammates Saturday in fellow American Laura Thweatt, and she’s excited that unlike the last time she ran the New York Mini 10K, international runners are also allowed to compete.

She’s looking forward to testing herself in the event she dominated in college, but Bates isn’t planning on heading back to the track full time. In fact, she’s planning to run another marathon sometime this fall.

After a year of cancellations and uncertainty, she’s just excited to get out and compete again.

“The whole past year with races getting canceled, it’s been kind of roll with the punches as best you can,” Bates said. “It’ll be fun (Saturday) to see what I still have.”

Boise State adds some muscle to 2022 recruiting class with second commit in three days

BSU’s O’Brien earns All-American honors

Boise State senior Clare O’Brien clocked a career-best time of 32 minutes, 36.96 seconds in the women’s 10,000 meters for a sixth-place finish in the event Thursday at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

It marks O’Brien’s fourth career All-American award, but it is the first time she has landed on the first team.

“I’m really proud of Clare. She’s made the most of her last outdoor season,” Boise State coach Corey Ihmels said in a news release. “She worked hard to put herself into this position and have a chance to score in the top eight.

“I think she ran extremely well throughout the race and ended up with a great finish. Now she’s going to rest and recover and prepare for the 5K on Saturday.”

O’Brien also qualified for the national meet in the 5,000, which will be contested at 5:55 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday.

Fellow Bronco Kristie Schoffield ran a 2:07.2 in the women’s 800 to finish 21st overall and earn honorable mention All-American recognition.

Some field events and heptathlon events will be streamed periodically throughout the day on Saturday on ESPN3. Saturday’s TV broadcast begins at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

Football: BSU defensive end transfers

The Boise State football team has now lost three members of its 2020 recruiting class to the transfer portal.

Defensive end Robert Cooper announced his decision to transfer Thursday night on Twitter. He follows offensive tackle Brandon Hernandez, who left the team last week, and cornerback Donovan Clark, who announced Wednesday that he was transferring.

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Cooper thanked Boise State coach Andy Avalos, defensive line coach Frank Maile and defensive coordinator Spencer Danielson in his goodbye message, which ended with: “I find it in my best interest to enter the transfer portal. Therefore my recruitment is 100% open.”

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound native of Spanaway, Washington, joined the Broncos as a three-star recruit out of Bethel High. He didn’t appear in any games last season.

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