Mark Winitz has been writing a daily column on the exploits of the athletes from the Golden State of California. Here is day six.
California’s Conor McCullough Places Third in Hammer
On Day 6 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
By Mark Winitz
Conor McCullough (Canoga Park, Calif./Unatt) had a productive day in the men’s hammer throw competition on Day 6 of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene Ore. on July 6. The longtime Californian progressed through the qualifying round and then followed with a 74.16 meter/243 foot-4 inch hurl on his first throw of the final which held up for third place. Rudy Winkler (Sand Lake, NY/Cornell Univ.) placed first in 76.76m/251-10 and 2012 Olympian Kibwe Johnson (Kamloops, Ala./Nike/NYAC) was second in 75.11mn/246-05. The competition marked the first time that the hammer throw was held inside Hayward Field in th4 venue’s 95-year history.
Unfortunately, none of the top three men have the 77m/252-7 Olympic qualifying standard, but the IAAF’s qualification period for the Games ends on July 11 when the IAAF will reallocate all unused quota spots for the track and field events in Rio. The top three male hammer throwers at the U.S. Trials will have to wait and see how they fare when the IAAF announces its list of approved unqualified athletes in field events and road events.
“On the first throw of the final I felt great. It was spot on. I really wanted to get it out of the gate,” said McCullough who won the hammer competition at last year’s NCAA Championships at Hayward Field while competing for the University of Southern California. “Then, when I tried to throw a 77 meter-plus on my second throw, I tightened up and had to work back from there for the rest of the competition. I was definitely hoping to nail the Olympic Games qualifying standard here.”
McCullough’s personal best in the hammer is 253-3/77.20m which he registered in 2014 in Edmonton, Canada. Last year, he was ranked second in the U.S. to A.G. Kruger with a mark of 76.91m/252-4. Kruger placed fourth in the Trials competition.
“It’s nerve wracking,” McCullough admitted about his current wait to see if he’s going to the Olympics. “It’s pretty annoying when the (IAAF’s) standard is so high for the hammer throw. Funding from (USATF) national is based on these standards. I’m in a good spot, but it’s going to be a long wait. I’m confident, but you never know what’s going to come out this last weekend of the Olympic Games qualifying period. People come out of nowhere. The European Championships are coming up and big throws always come out of there.”
McCullough competed for Chaminade College Preparatory School just north of Los Angeles where he set U.S. high school records in four high school hammer weight classifications and in the indoor weight throw. He won a silver medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Athletics.
Today, he trains at University of Santa Barbara under under the guidance of USC’s throws coach, Dan Lange while completing his studies in Mechanical Engineering. On top of that demanding schedule, he also works part time for an engineering contractor.
“They’re very supportive of my efforts. They’re very flexible with my hours,” McCullough commented about his employers. “They say just go do your thing.”
Hopefully, McCullough will be given a chance to do his thing on a complete U.S. men’s hammer squad in Rio.
In Wednesday’s women’s finals hammer competition at the Trials. Amber Campbell (Myrtle Beach, SC/Nike) , Gwen Berry (Oxford, NY/Nike/NYAC), and Deanna Price Moscow Mills, MO/Southern Ill.) emerged as the top three in 74.03m/242-10, 73.09m/239-09, and 73.09m/239-09) respectively. All three have the women’s 71.0m women’s Olympic Games standard.
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.