The track and field events for the 2016 USATF Olympic Team Trials began today in Eugene, OR. Ladies’ events of the day were the prelims for discus, high jump, 800, long jump, and 400.
The women’s 800 started at 4:45 with 38 qualifiers broken into five heats. Sixteen advanced to two semifinal heats. The top two in each of the five heats automatically move on along with the next six fastest times. With big names in each heat, both veterans and new faces, some fast ladies would not get out of the opening round.
The men’s 800 ran immediately before the women and left the crowd a bit stunned as some fan favorites did not make it out of the first round. Solomon (a 2012 Olympian with a PR of 1:42.82) and Brazier (the young phenom who recently turned pro) ended their Trials much earlier than anticipated. Would that be true for the women?
The favorites going into the day were Alysia Montano, Chanelle Price, Ajee Wilson, Brenda Martinez, and Kate Grace. Fan favorites also included the U of O graduate Laura Roesler and current star Raevyn Rogers. In the first heat Montano moved ahead of Ludlow by 400 meters (57.72), but was caught by 600. The top two from that heat were Ludlow (2:00.30) and Montano (2:00.56). Heat 2 brought the third fastest time of the day from Brenda Martinez who won her heat over Chanelle Price. Ajee Wilson and Olivia Baker were the top two from Heat 3, the slowest heat of the day. Laura Roelser finished fourth in Heat 4 and did not advance; Chrishuna Williams and Cecilia Barowski took the automatic spots in that heat. Kate Grace looked smooth in her Heat 5 win over Mckayla Fricker. The last heat contained three of the runners in on time (Raevyn Rodgers, Olicia Williams, and Anima Banks.) Phoebe Wright also advanced on time from the second heat in a fast 2:01.35.
The 400 started with twenty-eight qualifiers in four heats. Sixteen would qualify to two semifinal heats with three from the four heats automatically getting a spot along with the next four fastest. Spots on the 4×400 are also available for some of these ladies (including those to run in the early heats at the Olympics), so more than the top three in the finals will be rewarded for their efforts in Eugene.
Favorites for Rio include McCorory, Hastings, Francis, Hargrove, Trotter, Okolo, and Felix. The sentimental favorite was Sanya Richards-Ross who announced her retirement from track and field earlier. Heat 1 saw McCorory (50.94), Hastings, and Spencer move on followed by Francis, Ellis-Watson, and Reynolds in Heat 2. The fastest time of the day came from Okolo in Heat 3 (50.78) which also sent Trotter and Stepter to the next round. Hargrove finished 5th in that heat while Richards-Ross dropped out after 200 meters. She bade her farewell to track and field as she jogged down the home stretch. The 4th and final heat saw Hayes, Felix, and Wimbley move on to the next round. Athletes in on time were Muscaro, Eutsey, Porter, and Roberson. Afterwards Trotter was happy to survive another day saying that she left her hotel room this morning telling herself that this could be her final race (she also plans to retire at the end of the season.) Trotter talked about what an honor it has been to race SRR and that the fresh young faces like Okolo remind her of ten years earlier when she, SRR, Hargrove, and others were dominant.
Two horizontal jumping events also held preliminaries throughout the afternoon.The high jump started with 24 qualifiers split into two heats run simultaneously. Cunningham, McPherson, Lowe, and Patterson tied for first after clearing 1.84 meters (6-0 ½ feet) with zero misses. Others moving on include Smith, Whitehorn, Pressley, Jackson, Pilgrim, Fagan, McCoy, and Boyer. Long time US star Amy Acuff did not advance after not clearing the final height and missing once at the previous height. Afterwards Lowe was pleased with her performance and confident about making the team for Rio. In fact she stated that while it was nice to see the competition, she would prefer to go straight to finals.
In the long jump, Brittney Reese was business as usual winning with a leap of 23 feet. All major contenders also advanced including Tianna Bartoletta. Jasmine Todd, who was not able to compete for the Ducks this past season, also advanced by finishing 12th. Todd has a lot of work to do to make the team as her 21.2 ¾ jump was almost a foot back from third place finisher Bartoletta. Saunders of the University of Kentucky finished second.
The usual suspects advanced in the discus with Ashley (200-8) and Brown Trafton (199-5) went 1-2.