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The pressure at Track Town

I remember my Uncle Leo talking about going to watch big track meets at Madison Square Garden. He would talk about the majesty of the event, in almost reverent tones, discussing the competition among the runners and the atmosphere of the meet.

My experience with track and field remains a handful of high school events and the pre-packaged highlights that grace our television sets once every four years.

But this weekend's Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. will have a different sort of tone that will likely draw me to my couch for a few hours in between my own whirlwind of athletic events. The place proudly is known as Track Town and as Ken Goe of The Oregonian explains, the Olympic hopefuls in Eugene this weekend will be treated almost like rock stars.

And the track and field Olympic trials are even more exciting than other U.S. testing events. Unlike some other sports, like gymnastics and diving, there are no chances to get placed on the team if you have a bad trials -- even for injury or illness. The U.S. Olympic trials in track and field are a do-or-die meet where you have to finish in the top three in the final heat in order to make the cut. In some ways, the trials can be more stressful for American athletes than the actual Olympics.

There's a different kind of pressure for Western New Yorker Mary Lou Hoffman who won a spot in the Lake Placid Ironman in four weeks from the Cadence Kona Challenge. She was one of six semifinalists who won a coaching package in the hopes of getting a spot in a qualifying Ironman (such as Lake Placid) with the idea of attempting to qualify for the Ford Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

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