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Going for Olympic Gold in Rio

If Haley Augello would have attended King this year, she would have been a junior. Instead, Augello took an Olympic redshirt year to chase her dream to compete in the Olympics. On April 10, her dream appeared to be coming true when she won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 48 kilograms. Dreams turned to reality on April 23 halfway around the world in Mongolia. Haley Augello punched her ticket to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

"It has definitely been a long journey to the top, and I feel like this year is the hardest I've ever worked for something in my life," said Augello. "Leading up to Olympic Trials, I felt confident in my training and conditioning and felt that if I didn't make any mistakes, I should win."

The Lockport, Ill., native has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., all year in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials that were held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa on April 9-10. Augello's 48-kilogram weight class competed on April 10, and she entered as the fourth seed. After winning her first two matches of the day, she matched up with top seed and seven-year Team USA member Alyssa Lampe in the semifinals. The match was tight, and Augello earned a takedown late in the match to jump ahead and take the match 7-6. 

The finals were held later that night as Augello squared off with four-year Team USA member Victory Anthony in the best-of-three championship series. Augello trailed 4-2, but again came back, scoring four straight points, taking the bout 6-4. Anthony then answered with an 11-6 win in the second match, setting up a winner-take-all third bout. Augello took control early in the third bout, and played defense late, taking the 8-2 victory and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials gold medal.

"When I won Olympic Trials, I remembered to smile for a quick second and then it all hit me at once the responsibilities I would face. I needed to qualify the weight. I didn't celebrate or praise myself too much for the win at trials, because I knew that I had to turn around and qualify the weight in two weeks. I needed to prepare mentally and physically." Despite the title, there was still work to do as the United States hadn't qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games at 48 kilograms, meaning Augello then had to travel to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on April 23, 2016, to qualify and make her dream come true. Knowing she had to finish in the top two, Augello made quick work of her competition to earn her Olympic spot.

In the three matches leading up to the final, she defeated her three opponents by a combined 32-1 margin, taking three technical fall victories. She defeated Viyaleta Chyryk of Belarus 12-1 before topping Finland's Sarianne Savola 10-0 and Mariya Lavich of Ukraine 10-0. Augello fell to Hyon-Gyong Kim of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in the final; however, she had indeed realized her dream of qualifying for the Olympics.

"When I won my semifinal match in Mongolia, I felt really blessed. In a moment when you reach a goal of yours, it's almost surreal. I felt happy for myself and my family and all the people who have given their time to me. I felt really thankful that I was the one able to go represent America and qualify the spot for the Olympics.

"I'm lucky enough to have two girls on the team who have been to the Olympics before in 2012 and they've been prepping me on what to expect and how to handle the craziness of it all," Augello continued. "Also, other teammates like Adeline [Gray] and Helen [Maroulis], who have been around and have been super successfuI in the sport, will guide me on how to prepare myself. I expect a lot of excitement and good energy and just a lot of people battling for the same thing, GOLD!"

The 48-kilogram weight class will compete at the 2016 Olympic Games on Aug. 17, beginning with the elimination rounds starting at 9 a.m. The medal rounds are scheduled to start at 3 p.m. that same afternoon. The action will be streamed live online at http://NBCOlympics.com and on the NBC Sports Live Extra app.

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