Day one of the Trials is in the book, and if today’s results are any indication this is gonna be a humdinger! Because in spite of the rain that came down during most of the competition, the athletes were nothing short of competitive! After all, THIS is the Olympic Trials – go big or go home!
Let’s start with the days’ two finals, the men & women’s 10,000 meters – which did and didn’t run to form. Following the script were the men, as Galen Rupp was in control from the gun running easy as you like while helping to pace Dathan Ritzenhein, who needed an "A" qualifier to go with a top 3 finish in order to book a flight to London. With Rupp helping him through much of the race Ritz did just that as Rupp (27:25.33), Matt Tegenkamp (27:33.94), and Ritz (27:36.09) ran the three fastest times in Trials history to send our strongest ever continent to London.
Rupp looked Africanesque as he was always in control; changed pace at will; and finally just eased away from the others as he flowed to his Trials record. It’s been some 48 years since we’ve gotten an Olympic medal at this distance – Billy Mills’ gold in 1964 – but Rupp is primed to give it a good shot.
Meanwhile, the women did everything but follow the script. For starters pre race favorite, Shalane Flanagan, decided to train through this race having decided to focus on the marathon in London. So Flanagan did a three hour run on Monday – which sort of made the race a bit more even for the rest of the field! The result was a much more competitive race than one would have expected. So much so that it came down to a sustained kick at the end with both Amy Hastings (31:58.36) & surprising Natasha Rogers (32:59.21) outrunning Flanagan (31:59.69) to the wire in gut wrenching races for both women. Trials running at its best.
These races were only the finish to a day of qualifying that was highlighted by the performances of Ashton Eaton in the first half of the decathlon. As expected Eaton, Trey Hardee and Bryan Clay were easily the top three men at the end of the first five events. Eaton, however, was competing like a man possessed, treating each event as if it might be his last. He started out with a 10.21 100 meters – a decathlon record worth 1044 points. A 27 foot long jump got him another 1120 points. Average shot put & high jump performances followed before he cruised to a 46.70 400 worth 973 points – and a day one total of 4728!
Outstanding, and potentially on a WR pace. But day two is less about speed and more about the field and technique, and looking at Eaton’s "average" scores on day two I come up with a PR 8761 – outstanding but not that 9000 point barrier. For that Eaton will need significant improvement in the discus, pole vault and javelin – and a gut wrenching 1500. So we will see if Eaton can come up with another Superman like performance for day two – that could be the big story on Saturday.
The other big final will be the women’s 100 meters, which began shaping up in the first round today. The early favorites to make the team – Carmelita Jeter, Allyson Felix, and Tianna Madison continued to look like favorites as all three won their heats. If anyone looked like they improved their position it might be Alexandria Anderson, who looked very good in the second half of her race as she defeated English Gardener and Octavius Freeman. Also lurking is super vet Lauryn Williams – second behind Felix in heat five. Williams is always dangerous because once in a final she knows her way to the finish line – and she is in the relatively easy 2nd (of 3) semi while Jeter & Felix get to go head to head in semi 1 before having to go at it again should both make the final.
Another big matchup could come in the semis of the men’s 400 where Jeremy Wariner will face LaShawn Merritt; comeback story Bryshon Nellum; and high school sensation Aldrich Bailey all in the same semi! This event saw the first big surprise of the meet in today’s heats when hometown favorite Michael Berry failed to get out of the round. Could Wariner be the Saturday surprise?
The other big story for Saturday will be the opening round of the men’s 100 meters. Of primary interest will be the condition of Tyson Gay who starts off in heat four. He’ll face Ryan Bailey, and Ivory Williams – so he should get a good test.
So day one was a star in spite of the weather and day two is shaping up as another typically exciting Trials day!