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Adam Jude / Special to The Forum, Published June 28 2012

Perham's Anderson advances to 1,500 semifinals at U.S. Olympic Track Trials

EUGENE, Ore. – Gabriele Anderson said she feels lucky to be here competing at her first U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

There are moments, no doubt, when she feels lucky to be here, period, after being diagnosed with cancer twice in the past three years.

“It’s given me a little bit of perspective, just being able to do what I love. I appreciate every day out here. I appreciate every race,” Anderson said Thursday, after finishing second in her heat of the women’s 1,500 meters to advance to today’s semifinals at Hayward Field.

“You know,” the Perham, Minn., native added, “I didn’t become an elite athlete until after I was a cancer survivor, so obviously, I think I did gain some strength through that – and a little clarity with what I wanted to do with my life. I knew all those years I was running in college and not quite making it to the top level, I knew I wanted to be a great runner. And after I got diagnosed with cancer, I just made that decision to just go for it and take advantage of this opportunity every day.”

So far, the former University of Minnesota standout is right on track in her first Olympic Trials.

Anderson separated from the pack with 100 meters to go and used her patented kick to surge into second place in her heat in 4 minutes, 14.23 seconds, which held up as the second-fastest time overall in the three qualifying races.

Today’s semifinals are scheduled to begin at 5:45 p.m. CDT. The final is Sunday.

“This is my first Olympic Trials, and I’m really just trying to have fun here,” Anderson said Thursday, three days after her 26th birthday and about seven months after completing her final treatment for thyroid cancer last December. “Because this is cool. You gotta have fun at the Olympic Trials, right?”

Running in a tight pack, Anderson sat comfortably in third place for most the race, running behind Katherine Mackey and Morgan Uceny, who was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 1,500 last year.

A couple of times, Anderson accidentally clipped one of Uceny’s feet, prompting Uceny to turn her head and shout in Anderson’s direction midway through the race.

“It was not intentional in any way,” Anderson said. “I was actually trying to run in between (Uceny and Mackey). ... I wasn’t trying to take anyone down at all.”

Tripping, she said, is the ultimate fear in these tight qualifying races.

“It can be a little uncomfortable running these tactical heats, because you know that they’re very unlikely to go fast,” she said. “So the groups don’t spread out, and you have to make sure you stay on your feet and have a good finish. I just wanted to make sure I was safe through this round, because the tough racing starts (today)."

After slipping into fourth place on the final turn, Anderson zoomed ahead on the inside with 100 to go and finished behind Uceny, who won the heat in 4:14.07.

“I’ve had a strong kick this year, so I feel confident in it,” Anderson said.

Anderson ran her personal best of 4:06.46 earlier this year. To qualify for the London Olympics, she will need to finish in the top three in Sunday’s final and run the Olympic “A” standard of 4:06.00.