On Thursday we got more rain, more qualifying, and more Rupp. I must admit I’m a bit tired of the rain. And I was hoping to get to see some of the 1500 heats – but NBC gave me nothing. But I’m starting to really like this Rupp dude!
I’ll probably get booed, but one of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of holding major meets in Eugene is the weather. Eugene and Des Moines get bad weather as often as not – and this Trials has been inundated with bad weather. I still have memories of Xavier Carter going down to a knee injury on a wet track at Nationals (Indianapolis) in ’07 and I worry about the fate of the athletes every time they compete in a national meet in the rain.
I don’t have any memories of the 1500 heats. I was hoping to see Uceny, Pierce, Rowbury, Simpson, Wheating, Manzano and Torrence, but that didn’t happen. They all moved through, but it would have been nice to see how they looked. So note to NBC, the 1500 is a signature race and usually has some of the sport’s more recognizable athletes. So giving them some face time is really a good idea. The women’s race should be one of the most exciting events of the meet and Thursday would have been a good time to start setting up the race.
I did get to see the men’s 400 hurdlers and the women’s 200 sprinters – and both went to form. In the hurdles, the usual suspects moved thru – vets Jackson and Taylor. Johnny Dutch looked most likely to challenge for London looking most comfortable on the day. I was surprised that Jeshua Anderson didn’t look as comfortable – but maybe it was the long layoff since his last race. And for the life of me I can’t figure out why Reggie Wyatt has yet to blossom into a star – I thought he would be the second coming of Kevin Young. That said this looks like 4 fighting for 3 spots – Jackson, Taylor, Dutch, and Anderson.
The women’s deuce, on the other hand is loaded! Felix, Jeter, Tarmoh, Madison, Solomon,R-Ross, and Duncan all looked easy as they moved on to the semis. Looking ahead there will be three semis and check out the match ups. Knight, Tarmoh and Madison in semi 1. Duncan, R-Ross, and Solomon in semi 2. And Felix and Jeter in semi 3. The hottest semis of the meet!
At the end of the day however, today was about the 5000 meters. The women’s race was always going to be Molly Huddle and a rush behind her. And with three laps to go Julia Lucas began a LONG drive towards home picking the pace up appreciably with the field strung out behind her. Heading into the bell lap, Molly Huddle and Julie Culley broke into a separate group behind Lucas with everyone else training. Heading around for the final lap it looked like that’s how they would finish, but down the backstretch Lucas began to fade and Huddle and Culley went by. Heading home with some 30 meters to go Culley did the unexpected and went by Huddle for the win. But the real action was behind them as Lucas’ legs were moving slower and slower and the field was getting closer and closer – and the question was which would get to Lucas first the finish line or the field. The answer was Kim Conley by .04, as she went by Lucas right at the line to secure the third spot AND get the “A” standard by .21sec! Tremendous for Conley, but I couldn’t help but feel for Lucas who clearly started her kick one lap too early.
Then came the spotlight event of the day – the men’s 5k. And while it was going to be difficult to compete with the dramatic finish of the women’s race, it didn’t disappoint. This race was always about Lagat, Rupp and Lamong. And coming into the bell lap that’s exactly what we got. So when Bernard set sail down that backstretch with Lamong and Rupp in pursuit everything looked like it was supposed to. Rupp challenged and temporarily took the lead, but as they came off that final bend and Lagat hit that gear of his the race was over – or not. Because Rupp came back on Lagat and did the unthinkable by out kicking the best kicker in the US – but with a 52 second last lap maybe Rupp is now the top kicker. Rupp’s win gave him the distance double and his time broke the meet record of none other than Steve Prefontaine! Rupp must own Eugene right about now!
So, what’s on tap for Friday? Well, we get the first round of the men’s deuce and it looks like Walter Dix may be lining up.Wallace Spearmon had the #2 time in the world to go with lots of experience. This pursueit will be joined by 100 winner Justin Gatlin, Maurice Mitchell, Mookie Salaam, and Darvis Patton – the top contenders in my opinion.
In addition to the women’s 200 semis we get the 1500 semis – and in the first weekend semi we get Jenny Simpson, Morgan Uceny, Anna Pierce, and Brenda Martinez – that could be a final! Let’s just throw Rowbury and Schmidt in there and get it over.
Oh, I almost forgot, the men’s 110 hurdlers take the track for their first round.That means we finally get to see David Oliver, Jason Richardson, Aries Merritt, and crew. So the meet will start picking up steam again as we head into what will surely be a very exciting weekend.