USATF Championships, Eugene, Oregon
By Roy Stevenson
Very hot & dry – 95 degrees
The USA Track & Field team is considered the hardest track team in the world to make. Our runners, jumpers, and throwers traditionally bring back 30 medals.
So spare a thought for the athletes who made it here to Eugene, whether they win medals or not. Most of these finalists are good enough to win national championships in virtually every other country in the world.
In some world championship events, US athletes have won the first three places! This means that we often leave behind athletes who would, in all likelihood, make the world champs final.
Here’s my take on day one of the USA Track & Field Championships.
Men’s 800m Prelims
As predicted by your RunBlogRun experts, Duane Solomon, Nick Symmonds, and Erik Sowinsky all qualified for the semi-finals, to be held tomorrow (Friday) evening.
Clayton Murphy won heat 3 in the fastest time of the day, 1:46.35, just holding off the indefatigable world championship silver medalist, Nick Symmonds, who was 2nd in 1:46.37. Solomon took heat 1 in 1:47.39 from Mark Wieczorek, 1:47.72 and Erik Sowinsky won heat 2 in 1:47.80.
Solomon looked smooth, and Symmond’s sprint up the home straight didn’t look quite as blistering as he has in past races here at Hayward Field. The sprint between these two, in the final, will be one for the books. Symmonds says, “I think the semis will be quite a bit competitive tomorrow. I probably won’t goof around as much in those semis”.
Says Solomon of the upcoming final: “I was confident today and look forward to defending my title”.
Women’s 400m dash Prelims
In the women’s 400m prelims ten sprinters ran under 52.0, an indicator of the marvelous depth of this field. In fact, with Francena McCorory winning heat 3 in 51.25, the fastest time of the day; Quanera Hayes winning heat 2 in 51.31; Allyson Felix taking the first heat in 51.40, and Sanya Richards-Ross taking heat 4 in 51.93, the best I can guess for Saturday’s final is Felix, Richards-Ross, McCorory, and Hayes, maybe in that order. But with this talented field, in one of the US’s flagship events, I’m not going to bet on it.
Men’s 400m Dash Prelims
LaShawn Merritt looked promising in the men’s 400m prelims, giving a fine exhibition of controlled power sprinting, to win heat 2 in 44.95–the only sub 45.0 of the day. Next fastest of the day, and second behind Merritt in heat 2, was Bryshon Nellum in 45.12, with Mike Berry third in 45.13.
Every qualifier for tomorrow’s 400m semis was under 45.89! Other notable challengers for the semis are: David Verburg, who took the first heat in 45.20 from Tony McQuay, in 45.37, Marcus Chambers who took heat three in 45.27, and Vernon Nortwood who took heat 4 in 45.49.
Men’s 400m Hurdles Prelims
The men’s 400m Hurdles prelims saw five under 50.0 seconds, with Michael Stigler taking heat 2 in 49.66 from Jeshua Anderson, 49.80. Quincy Downing won heat 1 in 49.95 and Bershawn Jackson took heat 3 in 49.96. Our money is on Jackson, with Downing, Stigler, and Downing duking it out for the remaining medals.
Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase Heat 1
Leah O’Connor, Stephanie Garcia, and Nicole Bush established themselves as the lead pack, with Shalaya Kipp a few paces behind in 4th. At the half way mark, the field was spread over 60 meters and still rapidly spreading out, with O’Connor leading and Garcia right on her shoulder, with a 10 meter back to Courtney Frerichs who had moved up to 3rd.
Garcia and O’Connor had split the field wide open with aggressive front running tactics.
With 2 laps left, Garcia and O’Connor had 15 meters over Kipp. At the bell, Garcia had pulled away to a 10-meter lead from O’Connor, and maintained it to the finish. Frerichs, Johnson and Kipp finish 3rd, 4th, and 5th, in that order. Garcia’s winning time of 9:37.44 was only marginally slower than Coburn’s second heat solo winning time of 9:36.90. Garcia was pleased with her race, “We’re always nervous for the prelims–everyone is. It just feels great to get through it and feel smooth”.
Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase Heat 2
Emma Coburn took the lead early, opening an 8-meter lead after 3 laps. The field was spread out with a lead group Coburn, Colleen Quigley, and Ashley Higginson, and Bridget Franek, with Marissa Howard another 10 meters back to 5th.
At the 4-lap mark, Coburn had established a solid 20-meter lead over the other four, and appeared to be maintaining her lead with ease.
With 3 laps to go, Coburn had 20 meters over Quigley, Higginson, and Franek, with 45 meters back to the rest of the field.
This procession continued unchanged to the finish with Coburn easily holding her 20-meter lead to the finish in 9:36.90 from Quigley’s 9:40.97, Higginson’s 3rd place in 9:46.79, and Franek 4th in 9:46.97. Coburn says of the upcoming final, “I think there are a lot of girls whose fitness shows that in the right race and the right division they can run really close to 9:20, si I don’t think anyone can really count themselves out”.
Our predictions for the final: Coburn, Garcia, Quigley, and Higginson.
Womens 10,000m Final
After the field had dropped off by 4000m, the real race began with Shalane Flanagan, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, and Emily Infeld a long way ahead of the rest of the field. Huddle too the lead and seemed content to make the pace for several laps.
With 4 laps to do, Flanagan took over the pace-making duties from Huddle, and dropped in a 74 second lap. Hastings dropped off, and Flanagan put in a 75 second lap.
Huddle sped up at the bell, rapidly opening an 8-yard gap on Flanagan, with Infeld lurking in third, refusing to be dropped by these two speedsters. Huddle pulled steadily away to win in 31:39.20 with Flanagan regaining second place in the final 40 meters (31:42.29), after Infeld had temporarily taken away from her with 250m to go. Infeld’s 3rd place time was 31:42.60.
This race unfolded as we predicted; Flanagan needed a 30-meter gap at the bell is she was going to have a chance to beat Huddle. Huddle is to be commended for helping make the pace, especially in such hot conditions, and not yielding the lead until Flanagan wrested it away. A great tactical race!
Said Molly huddle afterwards: “I felt good during the 10k’s I did on the road, but they’re a little more intense on the track. I’m h appy with how it went. I was pretty confident in my kick”.
Men’s 10,000m Final
Galen Rupp put in his predicted pro forma performance to win the men’s 10,000m easily with a calculated push over the final 600m, in 28:11.61. At no stage of the race did Rupp look fatigued, tripping along with his distinctive high arm carriage and relaxed leg turnover.
If he had to take off with 3 laps to go, or with 4 laps to go, Rupp would have mechanically produced the same result. The Olympic silver medalist is in a league of his own in this event in this country.
What was surprising was Ben True’s refusal to accept Rupp’s apparent dominance. True stuck to Rupp, keeping the race–and Galen–honest. True even tried to match Rupp’s final 600m burst with his own countermeasures.
Although True’s leg speed is not as developed as Rupp’s, he was only a couple of seconds behind in 28:14.26, an impressive run in this hot and tactical race.
Hassan Mead was only a couple of seconds behind True, in third place 28:16.54.
Said Rupp after the race: “I just wanted to thank everyone for their continued support over the years and obviously I was happy to win too. I just want to get ready for the 5k on Sunday because it’s going to be a tough one”.
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