Day four was an amazing day of track and field. The 800 meter races alone were worth the ticket, but add into the men’s javelin, men’s pole vault, and 5000 meter heats for men, as well as steeple heats kept the excitement going! Here is Mark Winitz’s column on Day Four and the performances of the athletes from California!
California’s Cyrus Hostetler, Kate Grace, and Boris Berian Make Team
On Day 4 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
by Mark Winitz
Both exultation and hard-luck disappointment were experienced by top California athletes on the fourth day of competition at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus. Two Golden State competitors earned gold and another earned silver in finals events, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team headed to Brazil later this summer: Cyrus Hostetler (Chula Vista, Calif./Unattached) won the men’s javelin throw final. Kate Grace (Sacramento, Calif./NorCal Distance Project/Oiselle) topped a hard-fought women’s 800m final where two top U.S. contenders from California were accidentally knocked out of contention. Resurgent Boris Berian (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./New Balance) placed second in the men’s 800m final. All are on their way to Rio for their very first Olympic Games.
Hostetler waited until the fifth round of a compelling men’s javelin competition to unleash a 273-1/83.24m throw which his competitors couldn’t match. It is his first U.S. Championship win.
“I knew that I could throw far if I came out here and waited just a little bit longer in the competition for a big throw. The second I hit it I knew it was going to go far. When it landed and I took the lead I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been training for eight years for this moment. I couldn’t ask for a better day. Representing USA…I wouldn’t want to represent any other country. I love USA. I’ve been to a lot of other places and I just love what we have here.”
Hostetler grew up in Oregon and attended Lane Community College, the University of Oregon, and then joined the Oregon Track Club. Six years ago he moved to the USOC Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista to train in warmer weather with a group of talented, like-minded athletes.
“I had great benefits at the training center. Free housing, free food, free medical,” said Hostetler. But they let me go after one year. USATF repeatedly told me that I had no chance of winning a medal, so they told me to leave the center. But I said ‘I’m going to do everything I can to make the Olympic team. I’m not leaving. I’m going to continue training here.’ So, I pay monthly to stay there and train.”
Nike picked up Hostetler several weeks ago with a sponsorship arrangement.
In the women’s 800m final a mishap occurred that obliterated the Olympic Games dream for two Californians who were pre-race favorites and helped jettison another California contender to Trials gold. A tightly-woven group rounded the Bowerman Curve–the final turn of the two-lap race–and approached the finish line. Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif./Big Bear TC)–who was kicking home in the pack and and passing competitors–was clipped from behind, stumbled and inadvertently pushed Alysia Montano (Berkeley, Calif./NYAC) who had led much of the race. Montano fell to the track. Meanwhile, Kate Grace, who was running in the inside lane a few meters behind the collision, avoided trouble and sprinted home to a 1:59.10 victory. Martinez ended up 7th in 2:06.63 while Montano, crying and falling several more times, bravely finished last in 3:06.77.
Immediately following the race, USATF officials reviewed a videotape and ruled “incidental contact” two hours later when the results were made official.
Notwithstanding the incident, how did Kate Grace emerge as the Olympic Trials champion?
“The Olympic dream was always a small fire inside but it never was a reality until recently. But as I ran races, I continued to gain confidence,” said Grace who attended Marlborough High School in Los Angeles and was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American for Yale in track and field and cross country.
A year ago Grace drove to Sacramento from Oregon where she had been training with the Oiselle elite training group and began training with the NorCal Distance Project after calling coach Drew Wartenburg and requesting an invitation to join the team.
“I was pretty forward about asking to join the team,” Grace said. “I’m not usually that forward. And it’s been an incredible year. Drew is an incredible coach. We’ve had a ball this year. NorCal Distance Project is a great group and their name will only continue to grow. I thrive under a structured project and Drew’s program is very structured. Kim Conley and Lauren Wallace are incredible training partners. Now I look forward to races because I know I’ve put in my work in practice.”
“It’s been a long road in a way,” Grace explained about her progression to an Olympian. “I’ve never won a U.S. title. But I had confidence in my ability despite the fact that I haven’t been here before. And I’ve been training so well with Drew and the NorCal Distance Project that I knew that it could come together today. I knew if I could run my race I could make the team. It took me a while to develop but people believed in me and I’m so incredibly grateful to them.”
In the men’s 800m final, Berian controlled the race from the beginning and seemed surprised when 2016 NCAA Division I 1,500m champion Clayton Murphy passed him with yards to go. Murphy proceeded to a 1:44.76 victory. Berian followed closely for the runner-up slot in 1:44.92.
When asked how he’s going to prepare for his trip to Rio Berian briefly said “I’m going to stay calm and stay focused. I believe in my coach.”
Berian–whose story about rapid emergence from relative obscurity to one of the world’s top 800m runners is well documented–is guided by Big Bear Track Club coach Carlos Handler, the husband of Brenda Martinez.
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.