The Olympic Trials for Track and Field begin today in Oregon, and Ahwatukee Foothills resident Lindsey Schnell plans to be ready. She will run the 800 meter in an attempt to earn a spot on the USA Olympic Team.

Schnell started running the 400 meter in high school, in addition to her competition in the long jump and in volleyball. At first, running was just another sport for her. She went to a high school in Indiana that was too small for a track team and she preferred to focus on volleyball anyway.

“We had no organized practices,” Schnell said. “We just went and ran at track meets. Running came pretty easy for me. But volleyball was my passion in high school and college.”

Yet after Schnell became pregnant with her daughter, Sydney, she began to run more seriously. At seven months pregnant, she ran in a 5K, breaking 21 minutes and winning her age division. A year or so later, she and her family moved to Arizona and that is when Schnell decided that she would go to the Olympics.

“It was fall 2006 and I was 26 years old, married with a 2 year old,” Schnell said. “It has not been an easy road on and off the track. I ran in 2006 and ran a 2:04.88 for 800 meters. In 2007, I got two stress fractures in my feet. 2008 was the first Olympic Trials, I missed making it to the trials by one person. They took 30 people in the 800 meter and I was lucky number 31. That was hard. In 2009 I struggled with Achilles issues all year and coaching. Finally, in 2010 it started to come together. I made it to the semi finals at the USA Outdoor Nationals and placed 12 overall. I got my 800-meter time down to 2:03.67. The following year, 2011, I got my time down to 2:02.50. I placed fourth at USA Indoor Nationals and was going into the USA Outdoor Nationals with the No. 8 time. Unfortunately, I strained my calves two weeks before outdoor nationals. I went to the event and did not pass the first round.”

But now that it is 2012, Schnell thinks she has a better chance.

“I placed fifth at USA Indoor Nationals and have had great training the whole year,” Schnell said. “I have not had any serious injuries. I tore my hamstring in April, but have fully recovered from it. My goal going into the Olympic Trials is to concentrate on each round and put myself in the best position possible in each race opportunity.”

Schnell has worked hard training in order to be in the Olympics, taking only one day off each week. She has speed workouts three days a week on the track, one day where she runs long for an hour, and another day where she uses an Altra G treadmill. She also uses weights, massages, chiropractic care, and physical therapy when needed.

Three years ago, Schnell’s daughter was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, and although this is tough for the family, Schnell has found inspiration from the people she sees at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“The children in the oncology/hematology division are amazing,” she said. “They are so strong and so positive through all the treatments they have to go through. My daughter has to get treatments every five weeks, sometimes more, and will have to get one before we leave to go to the trials just to get her through the time we will be there. These children are much stronger than me and they inspire me.”

Schnell also added that running does not encompass her entire life, it is just a small part of it. She calls it “my little time to challenge myself and show my daughter that hard work can pay off and dreams can come true.”

Schnell wants to thank her support team for helping her to get this far. This includes Brooks, Mountain Pointe High School, Dr. Cary Gundlach, Massage Envy, Derek Steveson, Spooner Physical Therapy, and all her family and friends.

“My journey to the Olympic Trials has not been an easy road,” Schnell said, “but I have grown a lot and have become stronger throughout it.”

Schnell’s goal is to get to the finals of the Olympic Trials, and, if all goes well, to make the USA Team, which only takes three women from the 800 meter. The run is June 22 and 23, and the finals will be announced on June 25. The competition will be televised.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Jessica Tueller is a junior at Desert Vista High School. She is interning this summer for the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

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