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Grunewald advances to 1,500-meter finals at U.S. Olympic Trials

EUGENE, Ore. – The Olympic dream of Gabriele Anderson-Grunewald is alive and kicking. She just hopes her fans will be alive and kicking when she finishes running in the 1,500-meter finals Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I think I gave my fans heart attacks,” the former Perham (Minn.) High School star said Friday afternoon after she came from w-a-a-a-y back for the second straight day to advance in the 1,500 at Hayward Field.

Not only was Grunewald forced to make another dramatic kick Friday, but she had to wait for the other heat to be completed to find out if she qualified for the 1,500 finals. The first five women in each semifinal heat advanced, plus the next two fastest runners. Grunewald came in sixth in the first heat in 4 minutes, 11.86 seconds.

“I didn’t even watch (the second heat),” Grunewald said. “I looked up a few meters from the finish, I looked at the clock, I looked at my husband, and I was like, ‘Yeah.’”

Grunewald, in a masterful understatement, said, “It was a tense moment. You never want to get in by time, but I’m just glad. I seriously had to fight for it the last hundred meters.”

One day after bombing in the 10,000 – the event she thought was her best bet for making the Olympic team – then charging from last place in the final 150 meters of her 1,500 heat to make it out of the first round, Grunewald says she has “redemption” on her mind. She came in fourth in the 1,500 at the 2012 Olympic Trials, and only the top three (provided they meet a time standard) make the Olympic team.

Grunewald acknowledged she has “some work to do” after posting the ninth-best time Friday. Former world champion Jenny Simpson led everyone Friday in 4:10.09, and American record-holder Shannon Rowbury was right behind. A crowd of 22,256 paid little heed to off-and-on rain, which did not fall during Grunewald’s race.

More than a dozen family members and friends – “my cheering squad” -- made their way to Oregon to support Grunewald.

“I’ll be buying them a round of beers,” she said. “But I’m going to tell them they’re getting their money’s worth, because instead of watching me race once, they get to watch me race four times!”

Grunewald said she was pleased her coach at Minnesota, Gary Wilson (now retired), was part of the entourage cheering for her.

“Honestly, I like hearing that guy yelling at me,” Grunewald said with a smile.

Grunewald’s listed sponsor is the Brooks sports shoe and apparel company, but Grunewald also took time to thank KLN Family Brands of Perham for helping sponsor her this year.

“I wanted to show some fight out here for my hometown, who is supporting me,” Grunewald said.

Grunewald’s Sunday performance will determine if Perham residents are going to be cheering her on at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next month.

“I’m going to go for it,” she promised. “There’s no reason not to.”