As the runners came to the finish line in the women’s 10,000-meter race at the World Championships in Beijing, three runners, Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot, Ethiopian Gelete Burka and American Molly Huddle were ahead of the pack, primed to earn medals.
But no one told Georgetown graduate Emily Infeld (MSB ’12) that.
Infeld surged from behind in the final steps of the race to earn the bronze medal in 31:43.49, leaning at the finish line to beat her compatriot Huddle by a miniscule margin of 0.07 seconds.
“It’s surreal. I still can’t believe it happened. I feel like I’m in a dream, it’s incredible and crazy,” an elated Infeld said to reporters in Beijing after the race. “It’s going to be weird tomorrow when I wake up and I realize that it really happened.”
Huddle appeared to raise her arms in celebration slightly before the finish line, which gave Infeld the tiny opening that she needed.
“The only thing I feel guilty about is that I know Molly let up, and I don’t think she knew I was there. I hate to take a medal away from a teammate and fellow American, and she’s amazing and phenomenal, but I’m really happy, I’m so happy that happened and I really can’t believe it. I just feel really blessed and excited,” Infeld said.
Infeld enjoyed great success during her time at Georgetown. She was an 11-time All-American, and she won an individual national championship in the 3000-meter run at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. She still holds several school records in events including the indoor 3000-meter run, the outdoor 1500-meter run, the women’s outdoor mile run and the women’s outdoor 5000-meter run.
Prior to the race, Infeld had only run two competitive 10,000-meter races in her running career. While her relative inexperience might be considered a disadvantage, Infeld stated her belief that her background as a mile runner in particular helped her make her final push toward the finish line.
“I feel like this played into my hands because I have a pretty good kick just because of my background as a miler, and it went out pretty slow so I felt really good, and gosh I’m just really excited, I’m so happy,” Infeld said.
Chris Miltenberg, who was the women’s cross country head coach and track and field associate head coach during Infeld’s time at Georgetown, was thrilled to watch her success at the World Championships.
“It was so exciting,” Miltenberg said, “I got up at five in the morning California time to watch it, and to me, it’s so reflective of Emily. If you look at the way it played out, she kept fighting and scrapping all the way through the finish line when a lot of other people would have said, ‘Okay, I’m fourth, this thing is played out,’ she said, ‘Fight, fight’ all the way through, and all of sudden you wind up with a medal.”
The road to Infeld’s bronze medal was not easy. Since graduating from Georgetown in 2012, she has suffered multiple injuries, including two sacral stress fractures. Miltenberg cited her exceptional self-belief as a driving force behind her successful comeback from injury.
“Through all the really hard days, and there were some really hard ones for her, she never stopped believing in herself,” Miltenberg said. “At Georgetown it was really exciting to watch her grow in [her self-belief]. She had that from the first day, that fearless competitiveness, but then growing and learning how to really use it and to be able to run with anybody in America was an awesome process to be a part of.”
Infeld became the first American runner to medal in the women’s 10,000m at the World Championships since Kara Goucher won bronze in 2007. She led a successful American showing in the event, as Huddle finished fourth and fellow American Shalane Flanagan finished sixth.
“To me, it’s all just a testament to her resilience as a person. It’s pretty amazing, you can pick out anybody in the sport, male, female, sprints, distance, you name it, but to have this type of comeback is inspiring to everybody,” Miltenberg said.
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