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Brent Ayer’s Blog from the USA Olympic Trials - Track & Field

Day 1 - Redemption

Anyone who watched Dathan Ritzenhein and Amy Hastings finish fourth at the US Olympic Marathon Trials held back in January could see how obviously painful it was to miss the Olympics by a single place after such a demanding race.

Ritzenhein entered Friday’s 10,000m race needing not only a top three finish, but also the Olympic A Standard, a mark already attained by eight runners in the field.  As with most championships races, the field moved out in a slow, tactical fashion.  It became apparent early that if Ritzenhein was going to run under the standard of 27:45 he was going to shoulder the majority of the pace-setting.  He received some early help from Oregon’s Luke Puskedra, but still carried the field for most of the first 5,000m. He had a time of 13:56; a time that if duplicated over the second half of the race would have left him well short.

Enter Galen Rupp.  Rupp moved to the front just past the half-way point.  The pace dropped from 67 to 65 to 63 over the course of three laps with Matt Tegenkamp and Ritzenhein hanging gamely on.  With just 1,000m to go, the three moved away from the field and Rupp moved away from Tegenkamp and Ritzenhein to win in 27:25:33.  The mark set a new Olympic Trials record and produced a remarkable 13:56/13:29 negative split.  Tegenkamp finished second with a time of 27:33.94 and Ritzenhein had his third Olympic bid with a third place finish in 27:36.09, well ahead of the A Standard.  The men’s race was contested in a miserable, 60-degree down pour that only let up in the final stages.

The women’s 10,000m was even more compelling with the weather conditions improving.  Only three runners in the field had the A Standard and a slow early pace seemed to guarantee that only those who had run 31:45 or faster would compete in London.  Hastings was one of the three, but she was leaving nothing to chance.  Driving the pace from 5,000m on, she gamely held the lead most of the second half and matched furious closing sprints from Natosha Rogers and Shalene Flanagan. Hastings finished first in 31:58.36. Rogers notched a personal best by nearly 40 seconds, but lacked the A Standard and will not compete in the Olympics. Flanagan came home third, but had previously announced her intention to skip the 10,000m in London in favor of the marathon.

From there, the unique calculus of the IAAF (the international governing body of track and field) got interesting.  Lisa Uhl, who finished fourth had the standard and will go to London.  The runners who finished fifth and sixth did not.  This left the final spot to the seventh place finisher, Janet Cheroban-Bawcom, the 2011 RRCA Female Runner of the Year.  Also acquitting herself well was RRCA 2009 Roads Scholar recipient Stephanie Rothstein, who finished eighth in 32:24.25. 

Day 2

On what was expected to be a relatively quite day, a world record was set, a dead-heat was declared for the third and final spot on the women’s 100m team for London, and a former Olympic champion narrowly made the final of the men’s 400m run. 

Alysia Montano took her section of the women’s 800m semi-final through 400m in a scorching 55.65 before notching it back to coast in.  Tyler Mulder and Nicholas Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club brought the home crowd to its feet with a 1-2 finish in their 800m semi-final. The 800m final takes place on Monday.

World Champion Carmelita Jeter easily captured the women’s 100m, followed by Tianna Madison.  From there, events turned murkey.  Jeneba Tarmoh was originally declared the winner of the third and final spot to London by a margin of 1/1000th of a second over Allyson Felix.  Officials later declared the third spot a “dead-heat” and are presently meeting to decide how to break the tie.  The US willl send three very solid, accomplished hurdlers to London in Dawn Harper, Kellie Wells, and Lolo Jones. Former Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner faded in the homestretch of his semi-final heat of the men’s 400m and qualified seventh for Sunday’s final.

The story of the day was Ashton Eaton.  The recent Oregon graduate won seven of the ten events against a stacked field and was forced to gut-out a personal best in the final event, the 1500m, in order to take down the world record.  Needing a two second personal best to break the eleven-year-old world record, Eaton received some help.  Curtis Beach, a national caliber middle distance runner competing in the decathlon representing Duke, took the field out but remained just head of Eaton to set up the needed pace.  Urged on by stadium announcer Frank Zarnowski who provided splits, Beach and fellow competitor Joe Detmer remained just in front of Eaton and after setting the desired pace stepped aside at the finish to let Eaton take the tape. The Hayward Field crowd, on its feet for most of the race, exploded. 

Day 3

While the distance runners return in earnest tomorrow (Monday) with steeplechase qualifying, 5000m qualifying, and the 800m final, today was not without interesting moments.  Stephanie Brown-Trafton, the defending Olympic champion is the discus won her specialty.  Justin Gatlin and LaShawn Merritt returned from bans to win the 100m and 400m respectively.  Sanya Richards-Ross destroyed a talented field to win the 400m in 49.28, a new Trials record and the fastest time in the world this year. Four male long jumpers traded positions throughout the competition before Marquise Goodwin of The University of Texas prevailed with a leap of 27’ 4”.  The “big boys” put on a show in the men’s shot put, with Reese Hoffa throwing the 16 lb. ball a staggering 72’ 2.25”.

In RRCA notes, I ran into Gary Morgan sitting in the press tent with a small entourage of friends, including former Olympic racewalker Curt Clausen.  It is good to see Gary out of the hospital and, as always he was engaging and positive.  However, he severely dislocated his hip and has a pretty impressive series of bruises and abrasions. I also ran into the RRCA delegate to the USATF board, Jeff Darman.  Cumberland Valley Athletic Club president Mike Spinnler and his family are in town.

Finally, a huge shout-out to 2011 Roads Scholar recipient Bobby Mack for a great performance in Friday evening’s 10,000m final (27:58.07) held in a driving rainstorm.  He was the first “unattached” runner to finish. So, hopefully that will change his sponsorship status.  Best of luck, Bobby.  You and Stephanie were great and you justified our faith in you! 

 

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