When you vomit in the warm-up, it’s rarely a good sign. But for Hilary Stellingwerff, it just meant she had to dig a little deeper to achieve her Olympic dream.

Stellingwerff emerged at the finish line of the Rome Golden Gala with a new personal best of 4:05.08, and more importantly, a time under the Olympic “A” standard of 4:06. She just needs  a top 3 finish at the Canadian Trials in June to secure her spot in London.

The Speed River 1500m runner from Sarnia, Ont., had to fight just to get into the world-class meet in Rome. Her agent received confirmation on Monday. Unfortunately, by Wednesday, the day before the race, another issue came up.

“She’s been having fever, chills and nausea,” said Speed River coach Dave Scott-Thomas. “We figure she probably picked up something [after her last race] in Morocco.”

It didn’t get any better on race day. She vomited in the warm-up and looked pale on the start line, but after the hassle she had to go through to get into the Diamond League race, Stellingwerff wasn’t about to withdraw.

As expected, the race was fast and unlike her two previous races, the pace was much quicker than the Olympic Standard. Ethiopia’s Abeba Aregawi won in a world-leading time of 3:56.54. Kenya’s Helen Obiri also broke four minutes in 3:59.68.

Stellingwerff let the pack pull her along to a solid 4:05 for eighth place. The top 9 were all under 4:06.

Back at the Speed River training base in Guelph, Ont., coaches Scott-Thomas and Chris Moulton were high-fiving each other, unable to contain their excitement. “She’s got unbelievable mental toughness. She’s dialed-in,” Scott-Thomas said.

“She realized these opportunities don’t come that often.”

Now that the standard is out of the way, Stellingwerff may try to help her teammate Malindi Elmore get the qualifying mark before the Trials. But the plans aren’t set yet, as Scott-Thomas wants to make sure Stellingwerff has some time to recover from the food poisoning and the best race of her life.

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