With thousands of fans cheering for her, Jordan Hasay sat down for a photograph. However, this was far from an ordinary photo-op.
Blocking some of the large yellow letters, Hasay smiled and waved as the scoreboard behind her lit up and displayed: J. Hasay 4:14.50 HSR. The middle- distance running phenom from Arroyo Grande had claimed another national accomplishment.
This time, she broke the high school record in the women's 1,500 meters at the 2008 U. S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Joining in the celebration at Hayward Field were some of track's most passionate fans, residents of Eugene, Ore. -- otherwise known as Track Town USA.
For those who have worked with Hasay since she began competitive running in 2004 at Mission Prep, her accomplishments at the Olympic trials (she finished 10th) weren't surprising. But along the way there has been a lot of work developing and polishing Hasay.
Never miss a local story.
"It was apparent from the first time I saw her she was very, very competitive and gave it her all, " said Jim Barodte, who coaches the San Luis Obispo Distance Club youth program. "She left nothing on the track. The amazing thing was she could finish a race and was breathing hard, but it's not like she would fall down or be exhausted or even put her hands on her knees."
Barodte, who worked with Hasay for a year before she enrolled at Mission Prep, had an eager young runner on his hands. She had plenty of raw talent, as evidenced by her world-record time in the mile for a 13-year-old at 4 minutes, 51.58 seconds. But she needed to develop technique, strategy and most importantly, pacing.
"(Pacing) was a very hard trait to try to control, especially at that age, " Barodte said. "If it was a race or even a workout, she would put 100 percent in.
"She could do the workout and I wouldn't let her go crazy, but during a race she left everyone in the dust after the first 200 meters. There was no contest. When she was with me, she would go out really quickly and maintain that for as long as she could."
That speed combined with endurance set her apart -- and still does.
At 13, it was all she relied on to win the 1,500 and 3,000 meters at the 2004 USATF Junior National Olympics. Getting her first taste of Eugene--home of the University of Oregon where she'll attend college next month--Hasay set national age-group records in both races.
"She would take off like a rabbit, " Hasay's high school coach, Armando Siqueiros, said about his initial impressions. "You just showed her which way to go and she would go as hard as she could and as long as she could.
"It's been a very long process of trying to teach her what the best racing tactics were and to give her confidence in all the athletic ability she had. At that level it was easy for her to win races by running as hard as she could. Against tougher competition, that tactic didn't work all the time."
It has been against tougher, older and more experienced competition that Hasay has found herself against for most of her racing career. The push began with Barodte and continued with Siqueiros, but it's been Hasay's desire for bigger and better that's enabled it to happen.
"That's why it's good to do these international races, " Hasay said about racing in last month's Pan- American Junior Championships in Trinidad, "because then it prepares me for the Olympics, which are even going to be a huger scale. You have to do it to get used to it."
At meets of that caliber, Hasay is forced into using her growing arsenal of tactical training, such as pacing and relying on her kick, that Siqueiros has spent the past few years developing. The pair saw her training pay off in spades in spring 2008 as a junior.
In a stretch of two months, a strong kick helped Hasay win three high-profile races.
"The turning point was my junior year when I had a bunch of races where I won in a kick finish, " Hasay said. "Those races gave me more confidence in my finish."
It was the type of effort Siqueiros knew his pupil was capable of. It just took her winning in come-from-behind fashion to realize it, too.
Here's the breakdown.
Trailing heading into the final 100 meters, Hasay beat Christine Babcock in the 3,200 meters at the Arcadia Invitational. Not cutting it as close, Hasay made a similar move in the 1,500 meters at the USA Junior Outdoor Championships, where she came from third place on the final lap.
Sandwiched between the two was the 3,200 meters at the CIF State Track and Field Championships. There, Hasay ran side-by-side with Laurynne Chetelat of Davis High but pulled away just enough on the final lap to win by 0.18 seconds.
"Jordan and Laurynne ran the last 1,600 meters at a sub-4:50 pace, " Siqueiros said. "They would have finished second and third in the open 1,600 in their 3,200 race if you just timed the end. I tell people Jordan can finish very, very well off a good pace. Jordan was able to out-finish her.
"Babcock ran 400 meters in under 60 seconds but couldn't out-kick Jordan off a fast pace because that's where one of Jordan's greatest strengths is."
Strategy and tactics aside, at the root of everything is an athlete who loves nothing more than running.
Hasay said that she's never been pressured by family or coaches to run.
"It's really nice since it's more self-driven, " Hasay said. "(My family) never interferes with my training or what Mando (Siqueiros) wants me to do. It's just really nice because I don't have a lot of people telling me what to do, which could be really hard at times. It's mostly me doing my training and Mando."
Under Siqueiros' guidance, Hasay's typical training day includes a morning run and an afternoon workout -- either more running or going for a swim. It consumes between three and four hours of her day, yet doesn't deter her from seeing friends, hosting "Guitar Hero" parties and studying (Hasay was class valedictorian with a 4.53 grade-point average).
With just a month of summer separating her high school and college racing seasons, Hasay is reluctantly taking a break. She's still sneaking in some "fun runs" but that will quickly end once she arrives in Eugene in a couple weeks.
Once there, she'll enter Oregon's cross country training camp and her training will be turned over to coach Vin Lananna.
"We'll see her develop. That's coach Lananna's job now, " Siqueiros said, "to take her to the next level so when she goes to pro races she doesn't wonder what to do. Instead, she just does it and goes out there and performs. That will be his job, to take her over that next hurdle."
Under the tutelage of her new world-renowned coach who has coached numerous Olympic runners, Hasay will receive her first constant dose of tough competition. With it, she hopes to test herself in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters and try to become the next Duck to qualify for the Olympics.
"I think about (the Olympics) a lot, but there are smaller baby steps I want to take, " Hasay said. "My track goals are more concrete. Each year I want to try to improve and keep moving up so that, by 2012, I'm hopefully up in the top three (U. S. qualifiers)."