Californians Advance on Day 7 of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials

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Martinez_BrendaSF1a-OlyTr16.JPGBrenda Martinez, photo by PhotoRun.net

This is Mark Winitz's seventh piece on the exploits of athletes from California!

Californians Advance

On Day 7 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

By Mark Winitz

A number of Californians advanced in their rounds on the seventh day of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials amidst occasional showers at Eugene, Oregon's Hayward Field. 2012 5,000m Olympian Kim Conley (West Sacramento, Calif./New Balance) won heat #1 of the women's 5,000m prelim in 15:40.04. Conley recorded the second fastest time in two heats as Molly Huddle won heat #2 in 15:26.33. Last Saturday, on Day Two of the Trials, Conley dropped out of the 10,000m final midway through the race with a partially dislodged shoe.

"I really wanted this first round of the 5,000 to go really smoothly, not have any drama, and just really feel good coming through it," Conley said after the race. "I just wanted to get out and make it feel really controlled. I was really happy with it. I felt really relaxed early and just made a push with 800 to go. I started at the back so there would be nobody behind me for a while when it was really crowded. Then I worked my way up through the field and felt confident. The goal was just to place in the top six today."

Dawn Harper Nelson (Westchester, Calf. /Nike) advanced in the women's 100m hurdles by recording a 12.85 in heat 1 of the prelims. Harper Nelson won the 100m hurdles gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the silver medalist in the 2012 London Olympics.

"In the first round, Bobby just wanted me to go out there, loosen up, and just get a feel for this Trials," said Harper Nelson, referring to her coach, Bob Kersee. "The 100 meter hurdles are always loaded. In 2008 I narrowly got third at the Trials and the girls were really rolling."

Brianna Rollins and Keni Harrison--Harper Nelson's key rivals for a 100m hurdles slot on the 2016 Olympic squad--turned in the fastest qualifying times of the day in 12.56 and 12.57 respectively. Harper Nelson still maintains a home in Illinois but also lives in Westchester (Los Angeles area) because she trains at UCLA.

In five preliminary heats of the women's 400m hurdles, Dalilah Muhammed (Glendale, Calif./Nike) had the fastest time of the day, winning heat 3 in 55.33.

"It really felt good out there," said Muhammed, the 2013 World 400m hurdles silver medalist who owns a 53.83 personal best in the event. "I just wanted to do enough to win, so I'm really happy with it. I'm just looking forward to tomorrow's semifinals. Technically, everything went perfect. My hurdling could have been a little better in some places, but that's an easy fix."

Jaide Stepter (Santa Ana, Calif./University of Southern Calif.) will also advance to the women's 400m hurdles semi-finals on Friday, July 8 after winning heat 5 in the prelims with a 55.64, the third fasted time of the day.

Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./New Balance) bounced back from Monday's women's 800m final--where she was knocked out of a potential medal by an incidental contact incident--by winning heat 2 in the first round of the women's 1,500m in 4:23.48. She advances to Friday's women's 1,500-meter semifinals.

"Now, I just need to control the variables and I know that I can do something good. The 800 was just another bump in the road and now I just need to keep moving on," said Martinez who placed fifth in the 1,500 at the IAAF World Indoor Championships last March,

Two-time Olympian and San Francisco native Shannon Rowbury (Nike Oregon Project) who now lives in Beaverton, Ore. will also advance to the 1,500 semi after running 4:17.80 in heat 3 of the first round where she placed second to Jenny Simpson

"It was good. I always want to qualify automatically," Rowbury commented. "I knew I just needed to run 4:24, I think, and I was going to qualify on time. I just tried to stay out of trouble so I just ran a little wider than normal. I was able to shut it down a bit in the last 20 meters. I knew I was well in the top six, so that was the goal for today."

Mark Winitz has written about running and track and field, organized programs for runners, and served as a consultant and publicist for road races for almost 40 years. He is a longtime activist within USA Track & Field and is a certified USATF Master Level Official/Referee. He also assists road racing events through his company, Win It!z Sports Public Relations and Promotions in Los Altos, Calif.

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