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Brent Ayer’s Blog #2 from the USA Olympic Trials - Track & Field
It is raining, again
No one cares. Twenty one thousand people are in the stands for the second straight day, on a Monday. While the men’s javelin and women’s triple jump take place on the infield, the distance events resume.
There are three pieces of business at hand: the qualifying rounds of the women’s and men’s Steeplechase, and the women’s and men’s 5,000, and the finals of the women’s and men’s 800.
Qualifying rounds can be tricky. There are two sections with the top six in each section, plus those with the next four fastest times qualifying for Thursday’s final. This makes running in the first section problematic. You have no idea how fast the second section will be. This places a premium on finishing in the top six so that your fate is not left in the control of others.
Most of the big names in distance running are at the top of the 5,000 meter qualifying list. The top five women’s qualifiers come out of section #1, with 2008 Roads Scholar Julia Lucas finishing as the third fastest qualifier in 15:42.82. (2003 Roads Scholar Nicole Aish finished 10th in section #2 in 16:02.84). Georgetown All-American Emily Infield qualifies for the final, as did Molly Huddle, Lisa Uhl, and Lauren Fleshman. Amy Hastings finished 17th overall, but the 5,000 must have seemed anti-climatic after her dramatic win in the 10,000 two nights before.
Lopez Lomong, Bernard Lagat, and Galen Rupp leave nothing to chance. The eight fastest qualifiers come out of section #2, where they have had an opportunity to observe the relatively relaxed pace of section #1. Mo Trafeh and Alan Webb were eliminated.
The highlights of the evening are the 800 finals.
On the women’s side, Alysia Montano of Nike goes out screaming. She hits 200 meters in 26.5 and 400 meters in 55.8 (29.3), leaving the field trailed out 25 meters behind. At 600, reached in 1:26.6 (30.7), she still appears to have a 15 meter lead. She is reeled in down the homestretch as her pace slows to 32.1. Five women break the 2:00 barrier, finishing within .64 seconds of one another. Two will be left home. Montano, Geena Gall, and Alice Schmidt will go to London.
Similar tactics were tried on the men’s side by Charles Jock. Jock dragged the field through the 400 in 49.5 and anyone who stayed close to him would pay the price. At 600 meters, Nick Symmonds sat in fifth. By the top of the turn (“Bowerman Corner”), he was in third. Closing in 27.09, he sailed past the field to win in 1:43.92, followed by Khadevis Robinson (1:44.64) and Duane Solomon, Jr. (1:44.65).
The 800 had to be particularly sweet for Robinson. Ranked in the top four in the nation 13 of the last 14 years, he was leaned out of a spot on the U.S. team in this same race in 2008 by a diving Christian Smith.
The American track world rests the next two days.