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'Pretty magical' | Sanford native Rachel Schneider reflects on her first Olympics with Team USA

Schneider, from Sanford, Maine, placed 17 in the 5,000-meter race, missing the final by 0.52 seconds.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Maine native Rachel Schneider returned to the United States on Sunday following her performance for Team USA running in the 5,000-meter race in Tokyo.

Schneider, a 30-year-old from Sanford, made Team USA for the first time. She finished 17th in the preliminary heat with a time of 15:00:07, missing a shot at the final by 0.52 seconds.

Schneider said that is the second-fastest time she's ever run that distance, and that she thought running in the second heat would give her an advantage of knowing the time she would need to make to qualify for the final.

She said the first heat went out very fast, with 10 runners finishing in under 15 minutes.

"I do better with a faster pace at the beginning rather than slow and then kick it in hard. The way my race played out, I put myself right into second position and with two laps to go the top eight of us really took off and separated and with one lap to go I just could not run quite as fast as those top girls ran," said Schneider. "It was heartbreaking, really heartbreaking. I’m still pretty sad about it, but I’m really proud of the way we ran and I’m holding my head high and I thought I executed well and ran with a lot of confidence and gave myself the best shot I could." 

Rachel's family gathered in Sanford to watch her run on TV.

"The stories my parents have been telling me from all around Sanford Maine, about how many people were watching and cheering me on and I felt that and that was part of the heartbreak because I so wanted to make that final for everybody back home," said Schneider.

She posted on Instagram, saying:

"Throwback to about a week ago: an Olympic dream coming true; followed by a roller coaster of thoughts & emotions; landing on peace, gratitude, & celebration.

After a week of processing, I’m feeling pretty at peace. Finishing in 15:00.07 - 7th in the more tactical heat, 0.52 seconds short of making the final, and 17th overall (top 15 advance) - felt pretty heartbreaking. Despite the outpouring of amazing love and support to the contrary, it was sometimes hard to not feel like a disappointment. Hard to not play the ‘what if’s’ game. Hard to have it over and head home so quick.

At the Tokyo airport I found this magnet that said “success in examination” - that deeply struck a cord. While at times more difficult than others, I always want to be focused on my personal definition of success. A year ago I was in the midst of a long Achilles injury, barely ran the whole summer, and the world had no idea if the 2020 Olympics would even happen. Making #TeamUSA and showing up fit, healthy, and happy is something I never want to take for granted. Regardless of result- the process to becoming an Olympian, pouring it all out there on the track, and soaking in the experience leaves me with a sense of peace, gratitude, and success.

Plus, even with the strangeness of these Games, my love for the Olympics has immensely grown! Watching the world come together to witness moments of artistic mastery in so many different forms; celebrate and more openly discuss the importance of prioritizing mental health; cheer on loved ones, teammates, and competitors; applaud beautiful moments of camaraderie, sportsmanship, and the ‘Olympic Spirit;’ and feel the raw emotions of triumphs and heartache on the grandest athletic stage (& from loved ones back home!) - it’s all pretty magical if you ask me✨ #tokyo2020"