It was not the race Shalaya Kipp wanted to run.
But the experience of racing for her country exceeded her expectations.
"They take you out on the track, and the minute they open the doors, you hear the sound," she said of the crowd at Olympic Stadium in London, where she raced to a 12th-place finish in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase Saturday. "At first I thought it was the wind, but then I realized it was the crowd. It's huge. It's nothing I've ever experienced before."
In fact, the entire race was nothing the Skyline graduate had experienced before.
"The race itself, I got boxed in early," said Kipp. "I'd never actually raced in an international meet. The Olympics was kind of a scary first one."
And now the University of Colorado junior understands just how much more competitive international meets are.
"Those girls are all phenom racers," said Kipp. "Everyone was jockeying for position. I wasn't used to that; I kind of got shoved into the back."
An overwhelming atmosphere and an unfamiliar style of racing proved to be too much for the 21-year-old to overcome.
"It's all going by so quickly," she said. "All of a sudden you have three laps to go and you're trying to catch up. So maybe in a couple of more years I can come out and be at the other end of that pack."
Her teammate Emma Coburn qualified for the finals by finishing third as the top four from each heat plus the next three fastest times from all three heats advance to the finals.
Kipp ran about 13 seconds slower (9:48.33) than her personal best, but she was still thrilled to be running for the USA.
It was, for the former ski racer, an experience unlike any other.
"You don't realize how much pride you have for your country," she said, "until you walk out onto the track wearing the USA logo and the flag on your back."Comment on this story
She was grateful her parents were in the stands cheering her on, as well.
"It's fantastic that both my parents were able to be here," she said. "They're the ones who drove me to practices every day. It's awesome. I can't explain it."
Kipp said she learned a lot from her experience in London, and she hopes that will translate into future successes on the track.
"It was a good experience," she said. "I wish the race could have gone better, but I'm still going to leave London with a smile on my face."