Day 5 at the US Olympic Team Trials in Eugene was a distance fan’s dream. Several prelims and an inspiring Warrior Dash were on the schedule, but the stands slowly filled as people awaited three finals: the Men’s Steeplechase and the Men’s and Women’s 5,000. The fans were in for an amazing show.
First, the Men’s Steeplechase took the track. The three spots for London were wide open due to the incredible parity of the field. Finalists included Evan Jager, 2012 NCAA steeple champ Donn Cabral, 2008 Olympian Kyle Alcorn, 2010 USATF runner-up Ben Bruce and 2010 USATF champion and 2011 runner-up Dan Huling. Olinger and Huling were at the front in the early going, passing the mile in 4:32. Soon thereafter the race opened up with Cabral, Jager, Alcorn and Bruce closely followed by Donnie Cowart. In the end, Jager separated himself, winning in 8:17. He will be joined by Cabral and Alcorn in London. A hard charging Donnie Cowart out of Charlottesville, VA and VMI grad finished 4th.
The penultimate event of the evening was the Women’s 5,000 meter race. Alisha Williams led the charge for a few laps, coming through 800 meters in 2:29. Kim Conley took over on the third lap with a still modest 75 second split and through the mile just under 5:00. A large pack stayed together for the next few laps, with Huddle and Culley joining the front and passing two miles in 9:59. Just before 4,000 meters, Julia Lucas of the OTC blasted to the front with a 69 second lap, which she followed with a 68, giving her a several second lead with two laps to go.
It was not to be as Molly Huddle caught and passed Lucas with one lap to go, as did Julie Culley. Culley ran a superb last lap to take the win (15:13), US Championship and first spot on the Olympic Team. Huddle crossed the line in second (15:14). The race for the third spot had the Hayward Field crowd on their feet. Dartmouth’s Abbey D’Agostino was closing quickly on the fading Lucas. Just when it looked like Lucas would hold on to the third spot, Kim Conley blast by both and with a lean at the line grabbed the last spot to London with an A standard time of 15:19. Heartbreak for Lucas, but a breakthrough performance for Conley, a coach at UC Davis.
The Men’s 5,000 meter race picked up where the women left off. Mo Trafeh developed a large lead early as he needed the A standard if he was to go to London. The pack was content to let him stay out with Lagat leading the train. Trafeh rejoined the pack but then took off again at two miles. At 3600 meters Trafeh moved to lane two and waved the pack forward for help, but no one responded. With two laps to go the race began. The pack swallowed Trafeh around the turn and Lagat and Rupp battled over the final meters. A searing 25 second last 200 put Rupp just ahead of Lagat, followed by Lomong. Rupp’s time, 13:22.67, bested hallowed Steve Prefontaine’s 1972 meet record by .13 seconds.
Another performance of note, taking place in the midst of the distance events, was Lance Brooks flinging the discus just beyond the A standard on his final attempt to take the win and a trip to London.