Tomahawk grad shares Olympic experience

Haley Nemra - File photo
Haley Nemra
— image credit: File photo

What is it like for a recent high school graduate to compete in the 800 meters about a half a mile against the world's fastest women?

"My main strategy was not to think of the times, because I can't control that. Basically I took it 200 by 200," said Marysville Olympian Haley Nemra, who will depart Beijing directly for San Francisco to begin classes there this fall. "The 800 is already is a very hard race to run and is hard to pace, so I just wanted to go out there and run as best as I could and focus on myself and soak it all in."

For anyone who hasn't already heard, Nemra was selected by the Marshall Islands to represent their first-ever contingent of athletes to the Olympics. Although she has never visited the island country in the South Pacific, Nemra's father was born there and maintains correspondence with his Marshallese relatives.

Nemra arrived in Beijing Aug. 6, nine days before her track and field contest. Despite word that the city's famously smoggy skies hadn't cleared as much as Chinese authorities had intended with their traffic control efforts, Nemra put racing conditions out of her mind and stuck to the daily training regimen prescribed by her University of San Francisco coach.

"My preparation was just not to think about it too much," she said, adding that she figured, "I would get used to it and I have. It's gotten a lot better since I've been here."

Although Nemra said she was a little disappointed not to run a new personal best in the 800, she described her opportunity as one about the complete experience than how she performed in the contest.

"The actual race was amazing," she said. "Just being there and walking into that stadium meant so much more at the time. I got a piece of the Olympics and its just another motivation."

And Nemra used her trip to China as more than just an opportunity to run.

Although there were no formal Marshall Island team events outside of the opening ceremonies, Nemra said she watched her four teammates compete in their events, which varied from track and field to tae kwon do. She planned to catch some basketball and see some sights as well.

But most of all, it seems, Nemra's journey to Beijing has left her with one lesson she won't forget anytime soon.

"Now I know what it takes and I loved just seeing and experiencing what the best women in the world go through," she said.

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