Californian's Stand out and Progress on Day 1 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials


M-10000b-OlyTr16.JPGMen's 10,000 meters, photo by

Mark Winitz will be writing a column a day on the happenings of athletes from the Golden State. This is the column for Day 1 plus Race Walks.

Californian's Stand Out and Progress on

Day 1 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

By Mark Winitz

In front of 20,987 fans on Day One of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., Californians fared well in their bids to make the U.S. Olympic track and field squad headed to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games.

In the men's shot put final, World champion Joe Kovacs (Nazareth, Penn. who trains in Chula Vista, Calif./Nike)) sealed his spot on the Rio squad with a clutch 21.95m/72-0.25 throw in the final stanza to take second place behind winner Ryan Crouser (Boring, Oregon) who became the latest American to top 22 meters, with his 22.11/72-6.5.

Big Bear Track Club teammates Boris Berian and Brenda Martinez of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. both progressed from their initial rounds of their respective 800m events to the semi-finals. Martinez won Heat 2 of five women's 800m preliminaries in 2:00.85 while Berian won his men's Heat 2 in 1:46.03, the fastest men's 800m time of the day. Alysia Montano (Berkeley, Calif./ASICS/NYAC) recorded the seconded fastest women's 800m time of the day with a second place 2:00.56 in Heat 1 behind Molly Ludlow's winning 2:00.30, also advancing to the semis.

"My confidence level was kind of neutral coming into the Trials," said Berian, the 2016 world indoor 800-meter champion who settled a lawsuit regarding his sponsorship agreement with Nike just prior to the Trials and was wearing a pair of new New Balance shoes. "You've got some great competition out here and you can't really let off too much. You can't count anybody out."

Martinez commented: "We saw the times after the first heat, so we knew the kind of time we needed to hit to be safe. I didn't want to race to just be in the top few, but wanted to race to win. I know my strengths pretty well, and I believe I can cover the athletes pretty well. I was pretty confident coming in. I've done this so many times it doesn't scare me, but I've trained harder knowing the depth of this field."

2012 Olympian Duane Solomon (Lompoc, California) got caught in a slow opening men's heat and finished fourth in 1:48.71, missing out on a spot in the semifinals.

In women's discus throw qualifying, Whitney Ashley (Moreno Valley, Calif./Nike) was the top automatic qualifier Friday, tossing 61.1m/200-8 on her first attempt to go one-and-done on the day. Just behind her was Beijing Olympic champion Stephanie Brown-Trafton (San Luis Obispo, Calif./Nike) with a best throw of 60.79m/199-5. Rachel Varner (Bakersfield, Calif./Unatt) also progressed to the final with a 58.81m/192-11 6th place qualifier. Liz Podominick (Chula Vista, Calif./Unatt) also progressed with a 55.7m/182-1.

Windy conditions plagued the field in the women's long jump, but reigning Olympic champion Brittney Reese (Inglewood, Calif./Nike) wasted no time in nabbing the top automatic qualifying mark for the next day's final, riding a 2.7 mps breeze to a 7.01m/23-0 on her first attempt. Whitney Gipson (Chula Vista, Calif./Unatt) also qualified for the final with a 6.65m/21-10, the sixth longest prelims jump of the day.

Diego Estrada (Salinas, Calif./ASICS) came into the men's 10,000m final with the second fastest qualifying time, 27:30, behind Galen Rupp's 27:08. Estrada, however, stepped off the track midway through the race, recording a DNF, as Rupp made history as he won his eighth consecutive USATF 10,000m title in 27:55.

On Thursday John Nunn (U.S. Army, Bonsall, Calif.) won the Trials men's 20K Race Walk conducted in Salem, OR in 1 hour, 25 minutes, and 36 seconds. Earlier this year, Nunn also won the Trials 50K Race Walk, qualifying him to complete for his third U.S. Olympic team. Nunn competed in the 50K event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as well as in the 20K at the 2004 Games in Athens, and will do so, again, in Rio. Nick Christie, 24, (Unatt, El Cajon, Calif), who is coached by two-time Olympian Tim Seaman, finished second in 1:27:28, making his first Olympic team. Emmanuel Corvera (Unatt, San Diego, Calif.) was fourth in 1:30:31.

In the women's 20K Race Walk, Miranda Melville (San Diego, Calif.) and Katie Burnett (El Cajon, Calif.) finished second and third, in 1:34:11 and 1:41:12, respectively, making the women's team headed for Rio.

The Opening Ceremony on Day 1 of the Trials featured a parade on the track of past U.S, Olympic Track and Field Trials and Olympic Games star performers.

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, CA.

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