Rachel Schneider crosses the finish line on Monday to clinch a spot in the Tokyo Olympics by finishing third in the women’s 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. Kevin Morris Photo

Rachel Schneider didn’t sleep much the night before she raced in the 5,000-meter finals at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials.

As for finishing third Monday night and punching her ticket to the Tokyo Games? That prompted yet another no-doze night.

“I am feeling exhausted,” she said by phone Tuesday morning from Eugene, Oregon. “I’ll sleep well (Tuesday night), though.”

A native of Sanford who now lives and trains in Flagstaff, Arizona, the 29-year-old Schneider is one of nine Mainers competing at the trials and the first to qualify for the Olympics. After Ben True of North Yarmouth and Isaiah Harris of Lewiston came up agonizingly short by placing fourth at 10,000  and 800 meters, Schneider persevered through 94-degree heat at Hayward Field to capture one of the three available berths.

Elise Cranny and Karissa Schweizer finished 1-2 and Schneider crossed the line a full second later in 15 minutes, 29.56 seconds – ahead of fourth-place Abbey Cooper by 1.49 seconds.

“It’s still sinking in,” said Schneider, who is scheduled to race at 10,000 meters on Saturday. “As cliché as it sounds, it feels like a dream come true. I mean, to get to represent our country on the highest stage and to get to Tokyo, especially after such a hard year with COVID and the way the pandemic plagued the entire world, it’s a huge honor.”

Schneider entered the trials with the fifth-fastest seed time (14:52) in the 5,000 meters. She placed second in her qualifying heat on Friday (15:23), conserving her energy for a Monday finals that included 15 women, eight of whom had achieved the Olympic standard. To qualify for Team USA, both the Olympic standard and a top-three finish were necessary.

On Monday, Schneider stayed between second and fourth place for nearly the entire race before settling in at third for the final four laps.

“With how hot it was we kind of expected (the pace) to be slow,” she said. “We didn’t think anyone would want to make it a blistering pace. I executed my race plan really well. We wanted to be towards the front running as relaxed as possible.”

Schneider’s coach, Mike Smith, is also her fiancé. They are planning a September wedding.

After crossing the line to secure her Olympic spot, Schneider congratulated Cranny and Schweizer and then took a seat on the track.

“I don’t really remember having the heat feel like it was a big factor in the race,” she said. “But after, I felt like the heat exhaustion kicked in and I was a little light-headed. I’m sure a part of it was the emotional release. I just needed to sit down and get some water because I was like, whew, feeling the heat at that point.”

Eventually, Schneider arose and joined the other two new Olympians in a victory lap. She embraced a friend, Katrina Coogan, who had been a Georgetown University teammate. She celebrated with Smith and her family.

After a press conference, she spent a long time in drug testing. She said it was a struggle to produce a urine sample because she was so dehydrated.

Finally, she joined her family – mom, dad, sister, brother-in-law, nephew and two brothers who she had not seen since before the pandemic – and enjoyed a picnic at their short-term rental.

“It was so lovely,” she said. “We sat outside probably until midnight just talking and that was really nice.”

The television announcers on NBC mentioned Schneider as an example of the recent changes in racing shoe technology because after more than six years of sponsorship by Under Armour, she left that brand last week in order to sign a four-year deal with Hoka and ran in that company’s Cielo LD spikes, which feature a carbon plate and cushioning foam.

Schneider said the parting with Under Armour was bittersweet because of the gratitude she feels for their support of her as both an athlete and a person. She said the company was gracious enough to allow their sponsored athletes to part ways, “and that ended up being the best decision for me. Just wanting to stand on the start line and not feel like there’s any disadvantage in any way, and that it’s more about fitness over footwear, was important for me.”

Hoka wasn’t the only company offering to sponsor Schneider, who said she was flattered by her options, but she sampled their shoes and liked them best.

“It’s been a little bit of a whirlwind heading into the trials that I wasn’t necessarily expecting,” she said. “But everyone I’ve talked to and worked with has just been so wonderful and so supportive that fortunately it hasn’t been super stressful, so I’m really grateful for that.”

The 10,000 is scheduled for early Saturday evening, not long after the temperature is expected to crest 100 degrees. If the heat is unbearable, Schneider may withdraw but as of now is planning to race.

Afterward, she will return to Flagstaff to prepare for the Games in Tokyo, and to represent Team USA.

“It feels a little unbelievable,” she said. “Even though I’ve worked so hard for this and felt ready to do this, it does feel like a dream come true.”

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