Here is Mark Winitz’s ninth column on the performances of the California athletes at the US Olympic Trials.
California’s Triple Jumpers Will Claye and Chris Benard Make Team on
Day 9 of U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials
On Day 9 of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, July 9 Californian Will Claye (Chula Vista, Calif./Nike) emerged as the men’s triple jump winner. California’s Chris Benard (Chula Vista, Calif./Chula Vista Elite) placed third. Both athletes made the U.S. men’s triple jump team headed for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. Several other athletes from the Golden State fared well in their respective events and progressed to their finals on Sunday. A crowd of 22,847 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field cheered them on–the largest single day attendance ever at the historic facility,
Claye’s winning 17.65 meter/57 foot-eleven-inch triple jump came in the fifth round. Benard turned in a 17.21m/56-05.75 best jump, also in the fifth round, for third place. Gainesville Florida’s Christian Taylor (Nike)– the reigning Olympic champion and current World Champion–placed second with a best jump of 17.39m/57-00.75.
Claye was the 2012 Olympic Games triple jump silver medalist and long jump bronze medalist. Benard’s berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic squad will mark his first trip to the Olympics. Both Claye and Benard train at the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Last February, the USOC agreed to transfer ownership of the training center to the city of Chula Vista with an official opening under the new ownership on January 1, 2017. The center has an $8 million annual budget.
Claye, who is originally from Arizona, referred to his triple jump victory as “a blessing.” Earlier this year, he had a sprain in his big toe that sidelined him for two months. He started training again last February. Last Sunday he took third place in the final of the men’s long jump competition at the Trials, but didn’t earn a berth on the Olympic team. Prior to the Trials he failed to earn an Olympic Games long jump qualifying mark of 26 feet, 9 inches. At the Trials he cleared the Olympic qualifying mark twice with jumps of 27-7 1/2 and 27-6 but both jumps were wind aided.
“Today was really refreshing. I’ve just been through so much with the long jump,” Claye said after his triple jump victory. “It was distressful. I just needed to get my mind together and focus on the triple jump. I’m happy I was able to go into it with a clear mind and execute. I was just visualizing what I had to do–making sure where my feet were coming through the board, keeping my legs as stiff as possible, and being aware of my foot placement through the phases. It already happened in my head before I did it.”
And what are Claye’s expectations for Rio? “The expectations are always to win, no matter what the event,” he said.
Third placer Chris Benard was also ecstatic about making the team on its way to Rio.
“I wanted to jump 57 feet coming in and that’s what I expected I needed to make the team,” Benard said after the competition. “Everything that I’ve done since I graduated from high school has centered around track. When you completely focus everything you have around something specific, validation comes with success. And this is the highest level of success I’ve ever had.”
Benard attended Santiago High School in Corona, Calif. and then Arizona State University where he was the runner-up in the triple jump at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships.
“I work on every specific aspect of the triple jump in practice. And, in the end, when I’m at the meet, I try to put it all together,” said Benard who occasionally trains with Will Claye at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center when their training schedules coincide. He more often trains with April Sinkler. Sinkler finished sixth in the women’s triple jump final last Thursday, July 7.
In other action on the ninth day of competition at the Trials among Californians, Brittany Borman (Fullerton, Calif./Nike/NYAC) placed fourth in the women’s javelin throw final. Her last throw in the competition was her best, a 56.60m/185-08 effort. Texas A&M’s Maggie Malone won the event with a 60-84m/199-07 fourth round throw.
Reining U.S. heptathlon champion Barbara Nwaba (Santa Barbara, Calif. /ABEO/Santa Barbara TC) turned in a first day personal best score of 3,903 points, leading the women’s heptathlon field into Sunday’s second and final day of competition.
In the women’s 200m semifinal, 2012 Olympic 200m gold medalist Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, Calif,/Nike) qualified for Sunday’s final with a fourth place 22.57. Felix is competing with an injured ankle which she is rehabbing
“I feel good,” Felix said after the semi “But, unfortunately, the turn (on the track) is an area that we haven’t had the luxury of working on. So we’ll just get through with what I have. It’s not so much dealing with the (ankle) pain, it’s just that we haven’t been able to practice that section.”
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.