Excitement and drama. That’s standard when talking about the Olympic Trials. And while there were only three finals, Day Two just might be one of the most exciting and dramatic Trials days ever! Let’s start with the decathlon, since it did start the day off.
Ashton Eaton entered the day with a score of 4728 pts, putting him on WR pace as he, Trey Hardee, and Bryan Clay looked to be on their way to sending the greatest trio of decathletes ever to the Games. A 13.70 to open up things in the hurdles kept Eaton on pace. Unfortunately for Bryan Clay however, it all went wrong. First he hit hurdle 9, then knocked over hurdles 10 to finish over 16 seconds for the race. Then the judges decided that he "pushed" the final hurdle, earning Clay a DQ and his dream of a third Olympic medal was gone. Obviously not the way Clay wanted things to end – or we fans for that matter.
The day was just beginning for Eaton however, as after a so so discus, he came back with a PR 14′ 4.5" pole vault, and 1004 points, and the AR seemed to be in reach! After a 193′ 1" javelin suddenly Eaton needed a 4:16 1500 for the world record – within his reach as he had run 4:18 in the past. He went out and with help from sub 4 runner Curtis Beach, ran 4:14.48, good for 850 points and Eaton was the new WR holder at 9039 points! I have to give Eaton major props because I didn’t think he would come through in the field events – typically his weakness. But come through he did – especially in the pole vault and javelin. Now I wonder if he can do to the decathlon what JJK did to the heptathlon – put it out around 9100/9200 points? Time will tell, but he’s definitely the greatest talent the event has seen – and he’s got room to grow.
Before the other two finals closed out the meet, we got to see some more qualifying. The most anticipated being the first round of the men’s 100, as questions about the health of Walter Dix and fitness of Tyson Gay were waiting to be answered. The answers were, he’s fine (Dix), and he’s fit (Gay), as both men won their opening round races – Dix in 10.03, Gay in 10.00. But the big fireworks were turned in by Justin Gatlin who flew to the fastest opener ever with his 9.90! Six men broke 10.10 in the first round – this final will be fast.
The semifinal rounds in the 400′s and 800′s were uneventful as those expected to get through did and the times were only average. The one result giving me pause being the 4th place finish of Jeremy Wariner in his semi. Wariner did not look strong in the stretch as he entered even with LaShawn Merritt and gave up ground, going from second to 4th in the final 50. That’s just not the Wariner of Athens, or even Beijing, out there. And where just a few seasons ago the question was whether he could get MJ’s WR, now I think the question is "will he make this team"?
Making the team is what the women did in the 100 hurdles and 100 flat – sort of. In the hurdles a field that had been closely bunched all season, finally got down to picking three women to go to London. After semis that produced a final of still fairly even women, it was experience winning out in the end as Dawn Harper, Kelli Wells and, yes, Lolo Jones outran the youngsters to earn their tickets to London.
Then, just as the day started with the excitement and drama of the decathlon, it ended with more excitement and drama in the women’s 100. At the gun, there were three races.First Tianna Madison was out like a shot with Carmelita Jeter in hot pursuit. Then on the inside Jeneba Tarmoh was chasing after Jeter with Allyson Felix next to her in pursuit. The other four women were racing each other and never a factor. At 60 meters Jeter and Felix hit the gas and at 80 Jeter began to go by Madison while Felix closed on Tarmoh. At the line Jeter (10.92) was clear of Madison (10.96) as Tarmoh (11.07) and Felix (11.07) went through the line as one! Initially Tarmoh was given the nod, but further review and they could not separate the two women – down to the thousandths. As I write this a few hours later, they are still undecided how the spot will be decided. And now (waited til morning to post this) there is still no resolution. They discussed all manner of solutions but none has been decided.
I say, why decide now? First of all both women are obviously going to London, if for no other reason than relay duty as they will certainly be part of the relay pool. So both will need to stay fit and be ready to run at the Games. Secondly injury is always a factor in this sport. So if anything happens to either one between now and then the other is/should be ready to go. Finally, to me the most fair way to decide the spot would be based on fitness. Many many times we’ve had athletes get to the Games not nearly the same athlete that qualified at the Trials. So I would tell both that what they do between now and the Games matters, and that I would be looking at their average placings and times in the races they run before the Games to make a final decision. That way they themselves will determine who gets the spot. If you’re still hot going in to London you get the spot, if you’re not you watch the race! Let it get decided on the track!
Now that’s how you start and end a meet! Looking ahead to Sunday the 400′s and men’s 100 loom large. The format in the 100 semis is three heats with 2 plus 2 fastest to move to the final. That would make the first semi with Gatlin, Bailey and Patton the toughest. Tyson Gay gets Trell Kimmons in heat two, while Walter Dix and Michael Rodgers bump heads in heat three. Looks like there’s only room for one more in the final!
Then we get to fill the 400 squads – R-Ross & McCorory + 1, and Merritt & McQuay + 1 – before seeing if anyone can break up the trio of Gatlin, Gay, and Dix. Should be another hot day in rainy Eugene.