The Trials begin today with the hammer throwers getting the stage all to themselves. So the spotlight will be on athletes that normally toil in obscurity – Jessica Cosby, Jeneva McCall, Kibwe Johnson and AG Kruger will get their own shining moment in the sun as they kick off one of the world’s greatest track and field competitions.
Then tomorrow things move into high gear with the start of the decathlon; qualifying rounds in several events; and the finals of the 10,000 meters. I’ll try and preview each days action as well as updates via the Twitter feed on the right.
This opening weekend will be huge. In addition to the hammer and 10k, there will be nine other finals, perhaps none bigger than the men and women’s 100 meters. Because it is the short sprints and the 4×1 relay, that have come to define the rivalry between the US and Jamaica.
I’m not sure if anything will ever top the rivalries that once existed between the US, the Soviet Union, and East Germany, as some of those “Cold War” battles were the stuff of legend especially on the women’s side with Ashford v Gohr/Koch, and Joyner Kersee v Drechsler producing some of the sports most memorable moments – at least for me. But in today’s sport it doesn’t get any more fierce than Kenya v Ethiopia in the distances and the US v Jamaica in the sprints. Especially during the last Olympic cycle with the rise of Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, as the Jamaican duo has taken the last three 100 and 200 global titles.
So with the Jamaican Trials not scheduled to begin until late next week, this weekend’s sprint races will be phase one in this year’s battle for the world’s fastest humans (men & women) as we select our combatants in the fray – and I have no doubt that Jamaica’s sprinters and their rabid fans will be focused on this weekend’s US sprint finals to see where the US sprinters are on the clock and who they will be facing, just as we will be doing the same a week from now!
But first after selecting the Hammer throwing team today, the highlight for tomorrow will be the first half of what should be a sterling decathlon competition and the selection of the 10,000 meter team.
The decathlon has become one of our strongest events and this time around we could be selecting the strongest team in history! We start with defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay, the senior member of the field who enters as the #2 American of all time with a PR of 8832 pts, set while winning the last Olympic Trials. Bryan has struggled with injuries in recent seasons but all indications so far this year are that he is fit and ready to compete. He’s smart, athletic and a fierce competitor.
He will face two time defending World champion Trey Hardee, the #3 all time American at 8790 pts set in his victory at the ‘09 World Championships in Berlin. Hardee, like Clay, is a pretty solid competitor across the board, which makes him difficult to beat because he’s always in contention during the two days.
That’s a bit of a contrast to the 3rd stud in the event, Ashton Eaton, the #4 American all time with his PR 8729 victory at last year’s national championships. Eaton blows it out of the water in the speed oriented events, as he’s nearly world class level in the 100, 400, 110 hurdles and long jump. He should score big points in these events, possibly creating separation from the rest of the field – including Clay and Hardee. But there are TEN events in the decathlon – and you’ve got to do well in them all to win. And THAT is what’s going to make this one exciting competition.
I’m not sure just how much this trio will “compete” against each other here, as they may be able to put enough distance between themselves and the rest of the field that “going head to head” may not matter as far as making the team, but surely Day One will require serious efforts to accomplish that. So tomorrow could produce a classic first day in the decathlon. We’ll know how day two will need to go after the close of things tomorrow – that opening 110 hurdle race on Saturday could become a big event!
Aside from all the early qualifying rounds the 10,000 finals should provide some fireworks to end the day, especially in the men’s race where we are perhaps the deepest we’ve ever been. American Record holder Galen Rupp (26:48.00) is the clear favorite in my mind. Rupp is one of those high school distance sensations that has truly blossomed as an elite athlete. I have to give credit to coach Salazar who’s brought him along slowly, and now he’s not only the best we have, but can truly compete on the world stage against the Africans.
There are some other runners with outstanding PR’s entered for tomorrow’s race however, led by Dathan Ritzenhein (27:22.28, #6 Amer), Bobby Curtis (27:24.67, #7 Amer), Tim Nelson (27:28.19, #9 Amer), and Matt Tegenkamp (27:28.22, #10 Amer). Making for potentially the best 10,000 final in US history – at least on paper. Health has been an issue for several individuals over the year’s, especially for “Ritz” and “Teg” – and Rupp has had allergy issues of his own in Eugene. All of which means that anything is possible – but then that’s the nature of the Trials. Bottom line is this should be a great race and I expect the final seat on the plane to London to be filled by a homestretch kick.
On the women’s side this is Shalane Flanagan’s race from start to finish. She’s easily the best we have here – and possibly in the marathon too – as the American Record holder (30:22.22) is nearly a minute better than anyone else in the field. The field behind her is bunched, however, which should produce a good race for London tickets. Look for Amy Hasitngs and Lisa Uhl to lead the charge behind her.
So look for an exciting Day One – that’s what tomorrow is on the schedule with today just being Hammer Day – to lead us into the weekend!
Tags: olympic trials