NEW ORLEANS -- She never thought she would get this far. Not after being hit by a van in midtown Manhattan last June. Not after undergoing back surgery in December. And certainly not after walking through 10-minute practices in February.
But there was Julie Jenkins yesterday, sprinting through the heat and humidity at Tad Gormley Stadium, running down the stretch in the women's 800 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
Joetta Clark was in front of her and Meredith Rainey was behind her, but she wasn't going to let anyone else get close and take her Olympic berth away.
"I've tried to put these last few months out of my mind," Jenkins said, wiping tears from her cheeks. "I've been really up and down emotionally. I keep having memories of this time last year, of what happened. I just want to forget about it."
Jenkins, 27, of Ogden, Utah, finished second in the 800 in 1 minute, 59.15 seconds and made the Olympic team. The race and the result marked the high point in her comeback from her close encounter with New York traffic.
"I think I'm still in shock," she said. "I never thought this could happen."
Last June, Jenkins was one of the favorites in the women's 800 at the TAC Championships in New York. But she never made it to herpreliminary. Trying to catch a bus from her hotel to the stadium, she was struck by a van and rushed to a hospital. She was bruised yet determined to run, and was petitioned into the semifinals, where she finished eighth.
It was only later that Jenkins learned she had a hairline fracture of her left fibula. Her back ached, too. Doctors finally determined she had a herniated disk, and she underwent an operation in December.
"I still have problems with my left hip," she said.
Her first practices after the surgery were arduous. She could barely walk, let alone run. By April, though, she was racing.
"I was ready to quit," she said. "Everything seemed too hard, and the Olympics seemed so far away. But I had to work toward the Olympic trials because I didn't want any regrets."
Jenkins progressed through the preliminaries with a controlled style. But in the finals, she held nothing back. Before the race, she was struck by the words of 100-meter women's champion, Gwen Torrence.
"Gwen said that the last 40 meters of her race hurt, but she kept saying, 'No pain, no Spain,' " Jenkins said. "I adopted that as a motto. I may have lacked a lot of confidence. But I remember coming down that final straightaway and just picking up my legs the last 70 meters. And I just kept thinking, 'get on the team,' And I did."
The accident victim is an Olympian.