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Yesterday morning, Erin Donohue ran in a big, BIG race: the 1500m qualifier. Maybe it was all the hype, maybe it was all the attention, or maybe she just wanted it too much. Regardless, her Olympic performance ended on the track in Beijing yesterday, as she finished eighth. She needed to be in the top three to advance.

After the race, it was clear that she was disappointed. As reported in the Baxter Bulletin,

“I really wanted to perform well here. Maybe that was part of the problem,” she said. “I really wanted it bad.”

She was in the top four, on the rail, but didn’t close as planned. She collided with Kenya’s Viola Kibiwott in the home straightaway. However, these type of things are to be expected.

At 5-foot-7 and 143 punds, Donohue is bigger than most other milers, so she said she doesn’t mind physical races.

She said,

“You can’t be surprised when all these girls come up on you,” Donohue said. “You’ve got to be ready to get out and go. I didn’t have it to go. Maybe I’m not as fit as I thought I was.“

Donohue will stay in Beijing until Sunday, but only for closing ceremonies. I think it’s important for Erin (and the rest of NJ) to focus on what’s important –  not winning. but taking part.

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This morning, Christie Rampone, captain of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, led our country’s finest soccer players to compete in the preliminaries against Norway at 7:45am ET.

But back in 1997, Christie Rampone was not the leader of Team USA. In fact, she was a senior at Monmouth University facing a very difficult decision.

Before attending Monmouth, Rampone had graduated Point Pleasant Borough High School as finest female athlete ever in Ocean County history and was named the New Jersey Female Athlete of the Year. She received a full scholarship to play basketball for Monmouth University, a small-division one school in West Long Branch, NJ. At Monmouth, Rampone competed in two sports, basketball and soccer. But she was a point guard, and basketball was her number one sport.

So why had she just received a fax from U.S. soccer inviting her to training camp?

Turns out then U.S. head coach Tony DiCicco had seen Pearce play in a college match, and he was looking for attackers that he could convert into backs. He decided to take a chance on the 5-foot-6 striker from the Jersey Shore.

But she was right in the middle of her conference basketball season as a senior captain. How could she abandon what she had been working hard on for three years?

She talked to a lot of people at Monmouth, who advised her that his is an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. So she went – and she hung in there with gold medalists. DiCicco called her two weeks later and invited her to travel with the USA to Australia that February.

She said,

“I was committed to two teams. One is your dream, and one is your scholarship, your senior year. Sometimes you are faced with life choices that have long-term consequences, but you just don’t know it at the time. It was scary going into that first camp, but to accomplish great things you have to be brave.”

And from there, she only got better and better.

Rampone went on to make the historic 1999 Women’s World Cup Team, which played its first match of that tournament in front of a sold out crowd at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Now, eleven years lated, at 33 years of age, Rampone has achieved more success than anyone back in NJ could have dreamed.

I couldn’t say it any better than Center Circle,

“[Rampone] is a mother to precocious three-year-old daughter Rylie and an excellent role model for her teammates and the thousands of girls and women playing across the USA, especially those who play at small schools on the New Jersey coast.”

Congratulations, Christie. New Jersey, Monmouth (and the rest of the country) are extremely proud of you.

(Last I checked on today’s game, it was 2-0 Norway, but I don’t have an official score yet).

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It’s extroadinarily exciting to see that someone from your hometown has qualified for the Olympics. On Monday, it was announced that Erin Donahue from Haddonfield, NJ finished second in the U.S. Olympic track and field trials to earn a trip to Beijing.

Erin is living proof that hard work can pay off in the end, and that someone from rural south Jersey can actually make their way to the Olympics.

(From the Philadelphia Inquirer) “I wasn’t one of those runners who sticks out, who you say, ’Oh, she’s going to be an Olympian,’ “Donohue said. “When I graduated (in 2005), I didn’t get a whole lot of attention from shoe companies or agents. I had to work for it. I’ve improved a little each year and it’s got me to where I am now.”

I have known about Erin for about eight or so years now. Erin is from Haddonfield, NJ, the town near where I grew up. I actually played against her in basketball a few times, and was friendly with many of her teammates, who were a part of my AAU basketball program, the Penn Jersey Panthers.

Erin was a GREAT basketball player. But she was always a better runner, a true stand-out athlete. In fact, I frequently saw her run by my house and through the neighboring park on her daily runs. In the end, running is what she pursued. That said, if she wanted to, she could have easily played for a small Division I basketball program.

But I’m sure she’s glad she didn’t do that. Erin went on from high school to run at North Carolina, and now she finds herself headed to Beijing, to run on the world’s greatest stage.

“It feels so good to go out there and execute your plan,” Donohue said. “It’s not like the NCAA or the NFL, where there’s always another season. In track, your focus for four years is the Olympic trials and the Olympics.”

And now she’s got her chance. It’s truly exciting to see this, and you can bet, everyone from south Jersey will be watching the women’s 1,500.

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