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Brent Ayer’s Blog #5 from the USA Olympic Trials - Track & Field
This is a relatively quiet day on the track. There are two finals, the women’s shot and the women’s steeplechase. In the shot, Jill Camarena-Williams wins with a throw of 62’ 10.5” after surviving a last throw scare from Michelle Carter. Carter unleashed a toss that must have travelled 65 feet; however, it landed just to the left of the sector line.
Emma Coburn of the University of Colorado did something no other distance runner has been able to accomplish this week. She took an early lead and made it stick. Coburn used her height to her advantage and was one of the few women capable of landing at the front of the water jump.
For those of have not seen the event often, it consists of clearing 28 solid,wooden barriers placed on the track, and seven water jumps; a total of roughly five barriers to clear per lap. The water jump is three feet deep at the base and slopes up to track level twelve feet out. The barriers for women competitors are 30” high and they are SOLID. If you hit one, you (and not the barrier) will go down.
For much of the race, Coburn floated 20-30 meters in front of the field. Behind her, the remaining 13 competitors fought it out for the final two spots on the Olympic Team. In the end, former Penn State All-American Bridget Franek finished second and Coburn’s Colorado teammate, Shalaya Kipp placed third. Corburn re-shirted this year in order to pursue her Olympic dream, after winning the NCAA Steeple title in 2011. Franek moved west to train with the Nike/Oregon Track Club Elite. Most surprising was Kipp, the 2012 NCAA steeple champ, who entered the day as a long-shot, having not attained the Olympic A Standard of 9:43. She easily beat the mark in the final.
The other distance entertainment on the day consisted of the semi-finals of the 1500. There were two sections each for women and men. The women by and large played it honest, if not terribly fast. The first section passing through 800 meters in 2:18 and the second in 2:17. In the end, most of the favorites made it through to the finals, with Morgan Uceny and defending world champion Jenny Barringer-Simpson placing 1-2 in the first section and Shannon Rowbury winning the second section. Jordan Hasay of Oregon, who electrified the Hayward crowd four years ago as a high schooler, was eliminated from the second section. Twelve women will go to the starting line for Sunday’s final.
On the men’s side in section one, everyone decided to play it safe. As a result, through the first 300 meters the men were running more slowly than either women’s heat. It sped up, but not by a lot, as the leader’s passed through 800 meters in 2:14. Of course, this set up a wild scramble over the final lap, with Will Leer prevailing in 3:51.27, a time almost eleven seconds slower than he had run in the qualifying round. The second section got after the task with a little more vigor, passing through 400 meters in 59.4. Favorites Matthew Centrowitz and Leonel Manzano placed one-two. Recently turned professional and NCAA 800 champion from the University of Virginia, Robby Andrews placed third. Most of the favorties advanced. In a mild surprise, German Fernandez and AJ Acosta were eliminated.
Action resumes on Saturday with finals in the men’s 20 kilometer race walk, the women’s heptathlon, the men’s triple jump, the women’s high jump, the men’s 110 meter hurdles, and the women’s 200 meters.
No distance races today, but still some pretty cool stuff.
Past RRCA President Bee McLeod and her husband, RRCA Virginia State Rep Goody Tyler, purchased VIP tickets to today’s events at the RRCA Charity Auction. When Goody could not attend the trials I became the unintended (but grateful) beneficiary. The seats are near the track at about the 300-meter mark and are in the section where you see the “legends” introduced to the crowd. Seated in the section were several current and former athletes, including three time world and 1996 Olympic Decathlon Champion Dan O’Brien.
The ultimate multi-tasker, O’Brien was coaching at least two athletes from the stands, providing commentary for NBC, introducing the top three to the Hayward Field crowd, and coordinating all this activity with his publicist, Jeff Easter, who sat nearby.
On the infield, Chaunte Lowe won the women’s high jump with a leap of 6’ 7,” which was equaled by Brigetta Barnett of the University of Arizona. Barnett’s previous best had been 6’ 4.75.” Finishing in third was Amy Acuff, who made her fifth Olympic Team. Blazing times characterized the men’s short hurdles, with world indoor champion Aries Merritt winning in 12.93 and world outdoor champion Jason Richardson second in 12.98. The former number one ranked hurdler in the world, David Oliver, was a non-qualifying fifth. There is a reason the U.S. Olympic Trials are sometimes called “The Most Competitive Track Meet in the World.”
The highlight on the day was a dominating performance in the women’s 200 final by Alison Felix. Joined in the finals by 100 meter champion Carmelita Jeter and 400 Champion Sanya Richards-Ross, Felix accelerated through the turn and was gone. Nike has advertisements all over town that feature pictures of Felix and the slogan “From Eugene to London in 22 Seconds.” It didn’t take that long.
Felix stopped the automatic timer in 21.69, a personal best for her, the fastest time run by an American in 14 years, and the third fastest time ever for an American. Jeter earned second in 22.11 and Richards-Ross third in 22.22.
It’s hard to believe because it has been so much fun, but Sunday is the final day. It should be a blast, it features the 1500 final for both women and men and, no doubt, a closing ceremony that will show-case the new national team uniforms for London. (A tip: shield your eyes. You’ve never seen so much red in your life).