Stuczynski breaks American Record; hurdlers impress as Olympic Trials conclude
EUGENE, Ore. - Another American record and some dramatic close calls highlighted the final day of competition Sunday at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, where a Hayward Field record crowd of 21,176 fans brought the eight-day attendance total to 167,123.
The top three finishers in each event at these Olympic Trials, who have met Olympic performance standards, will earn the ultimate prize of a spot on the Team USA roster for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
American record holder and World Indoor silver medalist Jenn Stuczynski kept the track world on the edge of its collective seat in the women's pole vault, contested in swirling winds. Far and away the top American vaulter, with a best mark this season that is 8.5 inches better than her next-best compatriot, Stuczynski spent the first 90 minutes of competition sitting on the sidelines as other vaulters took attempts at lower heights. When she entered, at 4.60m/15-1.25, only two other vaulters were still jumping: April Steiner Bennett and Erica Bartolina.
But something happened on the way to the bar for Stuczynski: she missed her first two attempts at 4.60m. Were she to miss her third and final attempt, she would have made no height and would fail to make the Olympic Team. With a huge sigh of relief, the two-time USA outdoor champion cleared the bar by nearly a foot, setting Olympic spots for her, Steiner Bennett (4.60m/15-1), and Bartolina (4.55m/14-11).
Stuczynski was the only vaulter of the three to clear 4.65m/15-3.75, and she immediately had the bar raised to 4.76m/15-7.5 in an attempt to break Stacy Dragila's 2004 Olympic Trials record of 4.75m/15-7. She easily soared over it on her first attempt, then raised the bar to 4.92m/16-1.75, 1 cm better than her own American record of 4.91m/16-1.5. After a close miss on her first attempt and a less-close miss on her second, she easily made it on her third try. With all other competition concluded, the full house of 21,000-plus remained in their seats and Stuczynski took two unsuccessful tries at a world-record height of 5.02m/16-5.75.
Jones astonishes in hurdles; Oliver wins first title
The men's and women's hurdles races delivered impressive performances and two new national champions.
In 2004, Lolo Jones had just completed her senior year at LSU and had been fourth at the NCAA Championships. At the Olympic Trials in Sacramento, she crashed a hurdle, dashing her Olympic dreams. Four years later in Eugene, she was dominant in all rounds and left no doubt that the 2008 Word Indoor gold medalist must be considered a contender for gold in Beijing. Jones was astounding in Sunday's final, executing flawlessly and winning in 12.29 seconds (+3.8mps), tying the #2 time ever run under any conditions (windy or not). Damu Cherry was a distant second in 12.58, with Dawn Harper third in 12.62 as all three made their first Olympic Teams. Nichole Denby was fourth in the same time, missing out on Beijing by .007 seconds. Defending Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes, visibly limping, was seventh in 12.96.
In the semifinals, Jones posted a 2008 world-leading mark by winning the second heat in 12.45 (+1.45). A favorite not advancing to the final was two-time world champion Michelle Perry, who has been struggling with a thigh injury and has competed with her left thigh taped. She was sixth in the first semifinal in 12.79 and did not advance.
Like Jones, David Oliver completed a sweep of the 2008 U.S. indoor and outdoor titles in the men's hurdles. Though slow out of the blocks, Oliver rallied past two-time Olympic silver medalist, defending Olympic Trials champion and 2007 World Outdoor silver medalist Terrence Trammell to win the 100H in 12.95 (+2.5). Trammell was second in 13.00 and World Outdoor bronze medalist David Payne third in 13.25, a beneficiary of an untimely fall by Anwar Moore, who was in third but fell over the final hurdle and finished eighth in 16.64.
Oliver also ran an outstanding semifinal race, crossing the line .01 under the American record, in 12.89, but aided by an illegal 3.2mps wind. It was the fourth-fastest time ever run under any conditions. Trammell won the second semi in 13.08 (+2.0mps).
Lagat completes double
In perhaps the most tactical race of these Olympic Trials, world champion Bernard Lagat withstood a relaxed pace, pushing and shoving to win his second title of the Olympic Trials. The two-time Olympic 1,500m medalist for Kenya and the 2007 world champion at 1,500 and 5,000 for Team USA, Lagat will compete in both events in Beijing.
Lagat went to the lead at the gun, but 2000 Olympic Trials champion Gabe Jennings sprinted to the lead after 200m. Running 60-second laps, the tightly packed field came through 800m in 2:00.70 with Jennings, Lagat, Said Ahmed, Leonel Manzano and Lopez Lomong at the front. Approximately 1,000m into the race, Ahmed literally pushed his way between Jennings and Lagat to take the lead, and the race was on.
With 300 to go, it was Ahmed, Lagat and Manzano, and 100m later Lomong had moved up to third. That finishing order remained the same as the three men, all of whom are naturalized U.S. citizens, will represent the United States for the first time at the Olympics. Lagat won in 3:40.37, with Manzano second in 3:40.90 and Lomong third in 3:41.00. William Leer was fourth in 3:41.54 and Alan Webb fifth in 3:41.62.
A graduate of Washington State University, Lagat has lived in the United States for 12 years and became a citizen in 2004. The 2005 and 2008 NCAA champion, Manzano was born in Mexico but raised in Texas. A Lost Boy of Sudan, Lomong fled the country in 1991 and spent 10 years in a refugee camp in Kenya. He was relocated to Tully, N.Y., where he graduated high school in 2004 before attending Northern Arizona University, for whom he was the 2007 NCAA 1,500m champion.
Walter Dix once again made good on the tremendous promise he has shown as a collegiate athlete at Florida State. The 22-year-old won his first national title in the 200 on Sunday, coming from behind to overtake the defending Olympic gold medalist by the smallest of margins.
Gold medalist Shawn Crawford came off the turn running powerfully, with Dix and Rodney Martin trailing him slightly. Roughly 70 meters from the finish line, two-time World Outdoor medalist Wallace Spearmon launched his late-race push as Dix gained incrementally on Crawford. At the finish, Dix and Crawford both were timed in 19.86, a Hayward Field record, as Crawford leaned so severely he nearly fell. Dix was given the win by .005 seconds in the photo finish, with Spearmon third in 19.90. The 2007 NCAA 100 and 200 champion, Dix was runner-up in the 100 meters at the Olympic Trials and will compete in both events in Beijing.
The women's 200 had drama of its own. The world's dominant 200m runner, two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix was a heavy favorite to win her specialty event entering the Olympic Trials, even though she had yet to run a 200m in 2008. But coming off the curve in Sunday's final, it was 100m champion Muna Lee, running in lane 6 to Felix's lane 5, who held the lead. A composed Felix pulled even with Lee, then kept pushing to win in 21.82 (+5.6mps). Lee finished in 21.99 as Marshevet Hooker lost her balance one stride before the finish and fell across the line third in 22.20, just .01 ahead of Lauryn Williams in fourth.
Shannon Rowbury likewise entered the Olympic Trials as the prohibitive favorite in the women's 1,500 meters, and she delivered in convincing fashion. Strong and swirling winds kept the field packed tightly through the first two laps as Treniere Clement handled leading duties through 400m in 68.17 and Lindsey Gallo paced 800m in 2:15.73. Just past 1,000m, Rowbury took off and put on an impressive display of confident running as only Christin Wurth-Thomas and Erin Donohue attempted to move as well. Rowbury crossed the finish line in 4:05.48 - a very fast time in unfavorable winds - as Donohue (4:08.20) passed Wurth (4:08.48) in the final straight for second and third, respectively. Beijing will be the first Olympic Team for all three women.
Men's TJ raises pulses
The men's triple jump saw multiple lead changes and a final-round bomb that shook up the Olympic Team roster and left a world champion without a spot in Beijing. 2004 Olympian Kenta Bell, 2005 world champion Walter Davis, 2007 USA indoor and outdoor champion and '08 indoor champ Aarik Wilson, 2006 NCAA champion Rafeeq Curry, Allen Simms, and Brandon Roulhac traded the first six positions throughout the competition as Bell opened the jumping with a big mark of 17.23m/56-6.5, a jump that kept him in first for most of the competition.
That is, until Wilson took to the runway for his final attempt. The Indiana University grad exploded with a mark of 17.43m/57-02.25 (+2.0) to move from sixth to first, setting a Hayward Field record and knocking Davis from third to fourth. Bell was displaced from first to second with his 17.23, and Curry ended third with a best mark of 17.21m/56-5.75, just 1cm - or .5 inch - ahead of Davis in fourth (17.20m/56-5.25).
Waltz, Smith win throws titles
Ian Waltz won his third national title, and made his second Olympic Team, in the men's discus, as four of his five measured throws were farther than his next-best competitor. Waltz' best mark of 65.87m/216-1 put him well ahead of Michael Robertson in second (63.73m/209-1) and Casey Malone third (62.67m/205-7).
The men's javelin featured an upset as Bobby Smith won his first national title with a throw of 76.06m/249-6. Mike Hazle was second with 75.76m/248-7, with Brian Chaput third with 75.63m/248-1. Hazle and fifth-place finisher Leigh Smith (74.24m/243-07) are the only men's javelin finalists to have met the Olympic A standard, and they will be on the team for Beijing.
Fourth time the charm for Dow
2003 Pan Am Games bronze medalist Joanne Dow won her fourth career U.S. women's 20 km title and earned her first Olympic roster spot in four tries, over a 1 kilometer loop course adjacent to Autzen Stadium. In cool and blustery conditions, the 44-year-old Dow jointly held the lead with 2004 Olympian Teresa Vaill, 45, through three kilometers before breaking away and winning convincingly in 1:35:10, with Vaill second in 1:36:34. Vaill also placed second in the women's 10 km Olympic Trials in 1984 and 1988. Both competitors entered the competition holding the Olympic "B" standard, with Dow qualifying for the Olympic Team roster spot with her victory. Susan Armenta, 34, was third in 1:42:11.
In youth exhibition races, Jordon Berstrom won the boys' 400m dash in 51.62, and BryAnne Wochnick won the girls' 400 in 57.62.
Gay, Stuczynski crowned Visa Champions
The Olympic Trials also was the final event of USATF's Visa Championship Series. At the conclusion of the meet, Tyson Gay and Jenn Stuczynski were crowned Visa Champions as the athletes with the top individual performances of the Visa Championship Series. Gay's wind-aided time of 9.68 in the men's 100m final on June 29 was worth 1,311 points using IAAF scoring tables, comfortably ahead of Brad Walker's score of 1,279 for his American record pole vault of 6.04m/19-9.75 at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.
Stuczynski's AR in the vault Sunday afternoon was worth 1,232 points and the win, while Hyleas Fountain's personal-best score of 6,667 in the heptathlon was worth 1,226 points, good for second place. She had led Stuczynski by 1 point in the standings up until the moment Stuczynski cleared her American record.
For complete coverage of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, including results, athletes quotes, photos, TV schedule and start lists, visit www.usatf.org