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Olympic Trials Conclude With Unfinished Business For Track And Field Stars

By Karen Rosen | July 10, 2016, 11:55 p.m. (ET)

Kerron Clement competes in the men's 400-meter hurdles at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field at Hayward Field on July 10, 2016 in Eugene, Ore.

EUGENE, Ore. – Unfinished business.

That’s what Kerron Clement had going into the final day of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field.

So did Matthew Centrowitz. And Brenda Martinez and Kim Conley, victims of bad luck in their previous events.

And then in the 200-meter, Tori Bowie and Allyson Felix went head-to-head to take care of their own business.

All were successful in their quests except Felix, whose Road to Rio has only one lane now – the 400-meter – instead of two. She did not earn the right to defend her 200-meter title at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Clement won the men’s 400-meter hurdles on Sunday, making his third Olympic team so he can chase the elusive gold medal in his event. The two-time world champion was the silver medalist in 2008 in Beijing and made the final in London but did not medal.

“I’m going to Rio for redemption,” Clement said. “I’m really excited to have another shot.”

Centrowitz was the champion in the men’s 1,500-meter, giving him a chance to make up for his fourth-place finish in London four years ago, though he said he’s “moved on from 2012.”

“It’s a new field; I’m a new athlete,” said Centrowitz, whose winning time of 3:34.09 broke the Olympic Trials record of 3:35.15 set by Steve Scott in 1980. “Four years is a long time, but it’ll definitely be in the back of my head.”

Martinez got caught in the collision in the women’s 800-meter last week that took her and Alysia Montano out of the running to make Team USA. While Montano did not have another event, Martinez had a good shot in the women’s 1,500.

In a fierce battle for third place, she and Amanda Eccleston both dove for the finish line, landing flat on the track side by side. Martinez edged Eccleston 4:06.16 to 4:06.19 to make her first Olympic team behind soon-to-be three-time Olympians Jenny Simpson (4:04.74) and American-record holder Shannon Rowbury (4:05.39).

“I’ve suffered, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen like that,” said Martinez, the 2015 world championships bronze medalist in the 800. Despite the scrapes, she added, “It was worth it.”

Kim Conley had to stop and put her shoe back on in the women’s 10,000 final, dropping out with four laps remaining. She raced to catch up, but the gap was to great so she decided to concentrate on the women’s 5,000. She placed third to make her second Olympic team.

“My heart was set this year on the 10K,” Conley said, “but I felt like I turned the page really well.”

Bowie won the 200 to make her first Olympic team in her second event. She was disappointed to place third in the 100 last Sunday. Bowie clocked 22.25 seconds, with first-time Olympic qualifier Deajah Stevens second (22.30).

“I come in just like everyone else wanting to leave with a title,” Bowie said. “That didn’t happen, and it just motivated me a little more to win this 200 meters.”

And then there was Felix, who came up short in the event she has called “her baby.” 

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Felix, who won the 400-meter a week earlier, was gaining on Jenna Prandini at the finish when Prandini gave a final surge and crashed to the track just across the line. They waited for the third name to appear on the scoreboard.

When Prandini was listed at 22.53, Felix smiled graciously. She had finished fourth by one-hundredth of a second (22.54).

“Honestly, I’m disappointed,” said Felix, who suffered a severely sprained right ankle in April that kept her from running any 200s until the trials. “All year I planned for this race, and for it to end here, it’s disappointing. But when I look back and see everything that happened, I still think it’s quite amazing that I was able to make this team. I feel like everything was against me.

“I don’t think I need races at this point. I think I need some work, some rest and recovery, and to take the time that we have just to get back and try to perfect the 400 meters.”

Molly Huddle became the only female double champion of the trials, winning the 5,000-meter wire-to-wire just as she did in the 10,000.

But Huddle’s case is different from her fellow doublers. She’ll probably drop the 5,000.

“I’m like ninety-nine percent sure,” she said. “I’ll think about it one more day, but I’m almost positive I won’t be running it.”

The Olympic team will be named Monday.

Huddle’s winning time was 15 minutes, 5.1 seconds, with Shelby Houlihan second at 15:06.14 and then Conley third in 15:10.62.  At the 2012 trials, Huddle was second and Conley third.

The first finals of the day involved two field events with expected outcomes.

Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard won the men’s high jump to make his second straight Olympic team. He jumped 7-6 to defeat Kyle Landon, who cleared 7-5 on his second attempt and Bradley Adkins, who went 7-3 and took third on fewer misses. However, Landon will not go to Rio because he has not met the Olympic qualifying standard of 7-6. In his place, Ricky Robertson, who tied for sixth, also at 7-3, will join Adkins as a first-time Olympian.

Reigning Olympic champion Jenn Suhr made her third Olympic team by winning the women’s pole vault with a mark of 15 feet, 9 inches. Suhr also won the silver medal in Beijing in 2008. First-time Olympians Sandi Morris cleared 15-7 and Alexis Weeks vaulted 15-5.

Dalilah Muhammad surpassed her lifetime best by almost a second to take a convincing win in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

In winning by more than 10 meters, Muhammad clocked 52.88 seconds to break the trials record of 52.95 seconds set by Sheena Johnson in 2004 and post the fastest time in the world this year.

Ashley Spencer (54.02) and Sydney McLaughlin, a 16-year-old high school student (54.15), also ran faster than they ever had before, while McLaughlin also set a new world junior record.

All are first-time qualifiers and McLaughlin will be the youngest female Olympian since Carol Lewis, who was also 16 in 1980. McLaughlin will turn 17 on Aug. 7, which is during the Rio Games. Had the United States competed in Moscow in 1980, Lewis would have still been 16 when she competed in the long jump.

Shamier Little, who formerly had the fastest time in the world, shockingly did not make the final.

Barbara Nwaba won the heptathlon with a total of 6,494 points to make her first Olympic team. She will be joined as a first-time Olympian by Heather Miller-Koch (6,423 points) and Kendell Williams (6,402). Sharon Day-Monroe had the second-fastest time in the 800-meter, the final event, but fell short of making her second Olympic team by 17 points with a total of 6,385.

In the men’s 400-meter hurdles, Clement came from behind to win with a time of 48.50 seconds. Byron Robinson was second in 48.79 seconds to make his first Olympic team while 2012 Olympic silver medalist Michael Tinsley was third in (48.82). Johnny Dutch, who has the world-leading time of 48.10 seconds, was in the lead, but faded on the homestretch to place fifth.

The women’s 1,500 shaped up as another duel between Simpson and Rowbury in a furious sprint down the homestretch.

“That last lap was so terrifying and fun at the same time,” Simpson said. “I felt really strong and powerful and wanted to measure my energy so that I had a strong kick at the end. I felt like I had it, I really felt great. I felt like this was a very powerful run for me, not about the time, but about my confidence level. I’m as confident as I ever have been in my professional career.”

Simpson, who made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, won the 1,500 at the 2011 world championships and took the silver in 2013.

Rowbury won the bronze in the 1,500 at the 2009 world championships and was the bronze medalist in March in Portland at the world indoor championships.

The men’s 1,500 was a fitting finish to the Olympic Trials. It was the fastest in trials history, with the best times for place among the top four.

Centrowitz ran a blistering blistering last lap of 53.95 seconds. Robby Andrews placed second (3:34.88) and Ben Blankenship was third (3:36.18) as both became first-time qualifiers.

Reigning Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano challenged Blankenship for the third spot on the final stretch and almost pulled even before Blankenship surged away.

For Centrowitz, the win pulled him even with his dad.

“I was joking with my dad last night, he was a two-time Olympian and I am now,” Centrowitz said. “He can’t hold that over me. A cool stat is that his first team he made he got second and the second team he won (at the trials); just another step ‘like father like son.’”


Related Athletes

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Erik Kynard

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Heather Miller-Koch

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Jennifer Suhr

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Molly Huddle

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Kim Conley

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Kerron Clement

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Michael Tinsley

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Jenny Simpson

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Shannon Rowbury

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Tori Bowie

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Matthew Centrowitz

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Kendell Williams

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