EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) — The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials resume on Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., and El Paso will once again be right in the thick of it.
Former Hanks High School standout Kendra Chambers will be running for a trip to the Tokyo Olympics in the women’s 800 meters.
“That’s been my dream since I was a little girl, to make an Olympic team,” Chambers told KTSM before her first race at the Trials. “I’m blessed to get another shot at it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic that put the entire world on pause had a resounding impact on Olympic hopefuls like Chambers. When the 2020 Olympics were pushed back to 2021, Chambers was initially devastated.
“I am committed to training every day from the moment I wake up, so to have that taken away and told to relax for a year, it’s impossible,” she said.
Chambers quickly came to terms with the reality of the Tokyo Olympics getting pushed back to 2021, and went to back work. This season hasn’t been easy though, with a limited number of meets, COVID tests at every stop, and the pressure of putting together a qualifying time.
The former Texas Longhorn spent much of the season trying to achieve a mark of 2:02.50 in the 800 meters, the time needed to qualify for the Olympic Trials.
“There’s just been meets everywhere, everyone is trying to get a qualifying time, and you feel a sense of panic,” said Chambers.
The former Knight finally got a time that qualified her for her third consecutive U.S. Olympic Trials a few weeks ago. Chambers ran a season-best 201:01 in Portland at the end of May, and she’s been full steam ahead since then.
An 11-time All-American at Texas, the Sun City native will run the first round of the 800 meters on Thursday, and likes her chances.
“I literally dropped two seconds within three weeks, so if I keep going at that rate, I’ll be on the Olympic team,” said Chambers. “I have to believe that and know that, and every time I step on the line I know I can do better than the race before.”
Chambers has a personal best of 2:00.76, but still needs to run a time that would qualify her for Tokyo. The Olympic standard for the 2020 Games is 1:59.50; the idea is to run that time at the Trials, then qualify for Tokyo by finishing in the top three of the 800 meters.
These days, Chambers lives in the Houston area and trains in San Antonio with her coach, Rose Monday. When she’s not running, Chambers works in the Black Studies department at the University of Texas as an administrative associate. One day, she hopes to work in a collegiate athletic department.
Chambers has traveled the globe, but she’s an El Pasoan at heart. Much of her family still resides in the Borderland, and she carries the Sun City wherever track and field takes her.
“Any time I’m on a global or national stage, I’m able to say I’m from El Paso, these are my people, it’s where I grew up and I have such love and support from the city,” she said.
Ideally, the next place she reps El Paso after the Trials will be in Tokyo. First thing’s first, though; she must navigate a stacked 800m field in Eugene.
“I’m honored to be one of the top women in the 800, but it’s going to be a fight and I’m ready for it,” said Chambers. “You have to be firing on all cylinders.”
Chambers will run in heat four of the first round of the women’s 800m at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday in Eugene. The Her event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. MT at Hayward Field, and can be seen on NBC Sports Network.
The semifinals are slated to be held Friday, with the final on Sunday. The top three finishers in Sunday’s 800M final with the Olympic standard will punch a ticket to Tokyo.