Women's 100m hurdles: What a difference 24 hours made, by Elliot Denman, note by Larry Eder

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Dawn Harper, Kellie Wells, LoLo Jones, 100m hurdles OT,
photo by PhotoRun.net

The 100 meter hurdles was one of the toughest events on which to make a team. Dawn Harper, the 2008 Olympic champion, won the final. Kellie Wells, the fastest American in 2012, was in second. In third, LoLo Jones, the athlete who looked to be winning in 2008 in Beijing, and tripped over hurdle nine, took third.

Jones has become quite popular over the past several years, and in truth, no one was a guarantee in the 100 meter hurdles.

We have a superb team at the 100 meter hurdles. We asked Elliott Denman to write a piece about the 100 meter hurdles and here is what he saw:


By ELLIOTT DENMAN

EUGENE, OREGON - What a difference  24 hours made.
And four hundredths of a second.

Last Friday, Lori "Lolo" Jones' spirits had sunk to a point so low-low-low you'd think she'd was ready to run her way over the nearest cliff in the nearest Cascade.

She'd just run the 100-meter hurdles in 13.01 seconds, simply goshawful by her decade-long, world-class standards.

The Iowa-reared, Louisiana-trained track and field celebrity - who'd gained as much recognition for her modeling ventures and commitment to pre-marital "purity," as she had for her on-track deeds -  - had been breaking 13 seconds every year since 2002.

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LoLo Jones, photo by PhotoRun.net

Check it out, check it out, she'd clocked a 12.84 in '02, 12.90 in '03, 12.77 in '04, 12.76 in '05, 12.56 in '06, 12.57 in '07, 12.42 (and even a wind-aided 12.29) in '08, 12.47 in '09, 12.55 in '10, 12.67 in '11, and 12.75 in '12, heading into the USA Olympic Trials.

So 13.01 basically spelled d-i-s-a-s-t-er.

Fourteen others runners had broken 13 in the qualifying round. But Lolo was also in luck. They still took 21 to the Saturday semifinals (top three in each of the five heats plus six more on a time basis.)

Don't know what happened overnight but a new Lolo - or was it really the "old" Lolo? - showed up at Hayward Field on Saturday.  Sure she'd been battling injuries - back, spine, hamstring - for over a year. Sure she was 29, going on 30, no spring chicken in this what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport . Sure she was filled with self-doubt.  Sure, she feared that "the kids" had passed her by.

You'd never have guessed any of that by 3:15 p.m.

Now, Lolo was sizzling - running 12.75 in her semifinal.
But she was still in apparent hot water.

That 12.75 gave her only second place in her semi, back of Christina Manning's 12.72.  And, in the other two semis, four others were quicker - Dawn Harper at 12.65, Brianna Rollins 12.70, Manning 12.72 and Kellie Wells 12.74.

Now, with the final another two hours and a half away, Lolo again went on retreat and prepared to run what could be  the second most important race of her life.

The most-most-most important, of course, was the 2008 Beijing Olympic final when, in the lead and the Olympic gold medal within tantalizing sight, she skimmed the ninth hurdle, crashed the 10th, and limped over the finish in a shocked/distraught/oh-my-gosh-how-could-this-have-possibly-happened seventh place.  The gold - that coulda/woulda/shoulda have been hers - instead went to USA teammate Harper.

Now, heading into Saturday's final - her personal moment of truth - Lolo knew she'd have to dig down into her deepest reserves of fortitude.  And maybe even deeper than that.

Sure enough, Lolo dug and dug and dug....and delivered.

She did it after a mediocre start but one heck of a finish.

Midway through, she was out of it. But soon enough she was on the move, passing people, looking like the "old" Lolo, moving up-up-up.

And the finish line appeared just in time.

She got there in 12.86, not her best and not good enough to catch 1-2 finishers Harper (12.73) and Wells (12.77) - but definitely good enough to edge fourth/fifth -placers Ginnie Crawford (12.90) and Manning (12.92.)

With this turn of events and the four hundredths of a second cushion, Lolo's outlook on life immediately turned high-high-higher.

She'd be bound for London after all.

She'd have a crack at the world's best, after all - such ladies as world champion Sally Pearson of Australia (12.49 this year), Brigitte Foster-Hylton of Jamaica (12.55) and Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada  (12.65.)

She knows she'll  have to rise to the absolute heights just to make the final eight in London. She knows that teammate Harper is intent on a successful title defense. She knows that teammate Wells, another vet of 29, who has had a string of her own past disasters, will be as ready as anyone in the field. She knows that reigning world champion Pearson will be one of the hottest of gold medal candidates in the Games.

But she also knows that she is going, and that's what these Trials are all about.

It's been a difficult journey for all three Olympic hurdlers.

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Dawn Harper, photo by PhotoRun.net

"The crazy part was that I cramped up two or three times before the race," said Harper.

Harper and Jones at least got to Beijing in 2008. Wells never even got to run the '08 Trials final, crushed mentally and physically by the hamstring tear that sent her to the sidelines after a 12.58 second-place semi.

"I was filled with doubt and fear," said Lolo. "It's been a constant uphill battle, and to have the confidence to get through this...I'm just thrilled, thrilled to have another shot.

"Once my name popped up (listed third on the giant Hayward screen), I fell on the track. It was crazy."

Again, four hundredths of a second slower for Lolo and she'd be no-no, no-go.

But it wasn't. It was the craziest kind of high in a sometimes-crazy sport.

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