Just as Saturday night, Day 9 ended, David Hunter sent me a note, saying, “Where do I begin. Did we see that?”
Yes, we did, and yes, he is writing about it.
David did a wonderful job on Day 9.
USA Olympic Trials / Track & Field University of Oregon / Hayward Field Eugene, Oregon
Trials / Day Nine: Hot Temperatures & Sizzling Performances
June 26th, 2021
Undaunted by the record heatwave gripping Eugene, the country‘s best track & field athletes soldiered onward in their individual quests to earn a berth on America‘s Olympic Track & Field Team and to represent the USA at the Tokyo Games. When you attend the Olympic Trials you expect to witness an outstanding moment here or there. But no one could have forecasted the abundance of record-shattering performances that made Day Nine truly memorable.
wHT / DeAnna = Priceless! After DeAnna Price‘s big throw of 77.82m in the qualifying round broke the Trials hammer record, many expected more fireworks from Price in the final. And the reigning world champion delivered big time. In what has to be one of the greatest performances in women‘s hammer throw history, Price assembled an astonishing series: 255‘4“/77.82m / 257‘7“/78.51m / 262‘5“/79.98m / f / 263‘6“/80.31m / 256‘5“/78.16m. Giddy and stunned by what she had done – Price broke her Trials record 4 times and re-set her own American record twice. Her world-leading 5th round mark of 80.31m is the 7th best throw of all time and makes Price the #2 all-time performer behind only the great Pole Anita Wlodarczyk. Afterward, Price took a moment to reflect on what she had done. “My husband and I worked on competing at the highest level you can. First one, get it in, get the meet, make the final. With each throw build from there,” explained the champion of her competitive mindset. “I threw over 80 meters,” DeAnna exclaims. “Oh my God. My mind is like mind-blowing.” In Tokyo, Price will be joined by her Olympic teammates Brooke Andersen (255‘0“/77.72m) and Gwen Berry 241‘2“/73.50m).
w10,000m / Emily = Punisher! In an effort, perhaps futile, to beat the heat, the start time for the women‘s 10,000-meter final was switched from 6:44 p.m. – when the forecast projected temperatures to be in the triple digits – to 10:00 a.m. Evoking memories of the Doha marathons, of the 44 listed entrants, three DNS‘d while an additional 4 – including NCAA cross country champion Weini Kelati – dropped out. Once the race got underway, it was clear that this event would be a war of attrition. Braving the elements, Lauren Hurley led the pack through the first kilometer in 3:07 while a bunched pack of favorites followed. After the second kilometer in 3:17, the new leader was Emily Sisson who then embarked on an 8-kilometer grind and was never headed. With metronomic precision, she cranked out the next 6K‘s with splits between 3:05-3:08 as she punished her fellow competitors and softened them up for the kill.. Sisson turned the screw even tighter over the final 2K‘s clocking 3:01 and a tick under 2:56 respectively to cross the line first in 31:03.82 – a clocking that broke Deena Kastor‘s Trials record. Over the final 2 kilos, the three athletes trailing Sisson and ultimately broken by her – Karissa Schweizer, Alicia Monson, and Elise Cranny – battled for the remaining 2 Olympic berths. Soon after 8K, Cranny – who earlier in these championships won the 5000 – cracked, ultimately faded back and finished 4th in 31:35.22. In the battle for 2nd , Schweizer began to lose contact in the 9th kilo but rallied with a sub-3:00 final kilometer to grab 2nd in 31:16.52. Monson, a former Wisconsin star and Millrose 5000m champion, finished 31:18.55 for 3rd earning the final Olympic berth. “It was hot, but we knew that it was going to be hot,” said the victorious Sisson afterward. “I talked to my coach beforehand and he said, ‘let’s play to your strengths.’ The plan was to go out running 76s, 77s. It was hard, it didn’t feel easy.”
wPV / Katie = Going Higher! There were many facets to the women‘s pole vault final. Highly-decorated Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic Champion, made one clearance at 15‘1” before bowing out to finish 5th . Pre-event favorite Sandi Morris cleared two bars – the highest being at 15’1″ – and her clean card clinched her a 3rd place finish and an Olympic berth. Longshot Morgan Leleux had a personal best clearance at 15’5″ to make the Olympic standard, grab second, and become an Olympian. Nike’s Katie Nageotte assured of the win with her clearance at 15’9″, eyed higher bars. Her second-round personal-best clearance at 16’2″1â„4 (4.95m) set a new Olympic Trials record and set the stage for Nageotte to take a crack at the world vault record. Her 3 attempts at 16″71â„4″ (5.07m) were all unsuccessful, but the winner – now the #3 all-time vault performer – can now focus on next month’s Olympic Games. To win, that’s the goal,” said Nageotte in the virtual mixed zone. “I want to bring some hardware home for Team USA. I think it may take 5 meters to medal and that’s how I’m going to train. The next thing is the Olympics.”
wLJ: / Brittney = Legend! In the women‘s long jump final, 34-year-old Brittney Reese put on a clinic and schooled the younger competitors of the finer points of the horizontal jump. Reese sent an early message to the others with her opening jump of 22‘91â„4“/6.94m – giving the 2012 Olympic champion a lead she would never relinquish. Progressing through the rounds, the 7- time world champion ultimately authored a 5th round leap of 23‘43â„4“/7.13m – her best – to add an exclamation point to her performance. NCAA champion Tara Davis, sporting cowgirl warmup gear and a Stetson hat, was frequently gleeful while finishing 2nd with a best mark of 23‘11â„4“/7.04m. Quanesha Burks [22‘10“/6.96m] rounded out the trio which will represent the USA in Tokyo.
m400H / Rai = The Guy! Kevin Young‘s 1992 world record of 46.78 in the men‘s 400m hurdles has been under assault by a few competitors for several years now. And on Day Nine Young‘s record dodged yet another bullet, this time fired by Rai Benjamin. In the men‘s 400H final, Benjamin got out quickly, smoothly gliding over the hurdles with apparent ease. The race was over, coming into the homestretch with Benjamin lifting – but not straining – toward the finish line. The winner, who looked like he had more in the tank, winced crossing the line as he noted his finishing time of 46.83 – just missing the world record by a scant .05 seconds. Kenny Selmon (48.08) and David Kenziera (48.38) finished 2-3 to nab the other two Olympic team spots. Afterward, the Trials champion discussed his decisive victory and his near-miss of the world record. “I looked at it (the finish line clock) and I was like daaaang. .05 isn’t anything in the grand scheme of things. It hurts a little bit that it was right there and I couldn’t grab it, but it’s just more fuel for the fire. If I got a world record now would I be able to maintain that level of fitness,” asks Benjamin who notes there are positive elements to coming close to Young‘s record. “It reassures me that I can do it. I had to hold back a lot on that backstretch because the hurdles come faster than I anticipate them to come… I don’t wanna 12-step backstretch because that’s not what I practiced… I know that it’s there, we just gotta tweak some things. I think that was my 5th race of the season but we’re getting there.” Tokyo would be a great venue to finish the job, don’t you think?
w200m / Gabby = Wow! The final of the women‘s 200 meters provided several poignant moments: In the race itself, New Balance‘s Gabby Thomas got out extremely fast, powered around the curve, and gave, even more, coming down the homestretch. Separated from the rest of the field, the former Harvard star ran all the way through the line and gasped when she saw the time: 21.61. Her PR clocking established a new Trials record and is the new world-leading mark. The winning time makes Thomas the #2 all-time performer behind only Florence Griffith- Joyner. Puma‘s Jenna Prandini ran a personal best 21.89 for 2nd while Ohio State All-American Anavia Battle ran the race of her life – a personal best of 21.95 – to capture the final Olympic team berth. Sprint legend Allyson Felix – in perhaps her final appearance at Hayward Field – finished 5th (22.11). In the virtual mixed zone, the new Olympic Trials record holder revealed what this victory meant to her. “I have yet to process it. It means so much to me. I remember the first time watching a track meet, I watched Allyson Felix. I can’t believe it. I feel empowered. If I can do it, anyone can go out there and do it.” Thomas even took a moment to address the unexpected health scare she dealt with just before the Trials. “They found a tumor in my liver. At first, I wasn’t too worried about it, but the more I kept talking to doctors they kept saying cancer. Fortunately, they found out it was benign just a couple of days before I left. I remember telling God that if I am healthy, I am winning Trials.“
m110H / Grant = G.O.A.T. ? The session ended with the final of the men‘s 110m hurdles. After reigning world champion Grant Holloway won his semi-final heat in a world-leading and Trials record clocking of 12.81 – a mere .01 second off Aries Merritt‘s world record – you could feel the anticipation of the Hayward Field audience as the finalists got into the blocks. Holloway got out quickly and right into his crisply-orchestrated rhythm. Pulling away, the young professional hit the line in 12.96. Former Duck and Hayward favorite Devon Allen finished 2nd (13.10) while former Kentucky star Daniel Roberts rounded out the Olympic threesome heading to Tokyo by finishing 3rd in 13.11. Afterward, the Olympic Trials champion was asked if the world record is within his grasp. “We’ll find out,” smiled the winner. “I just think at this point it’s definitely possible. A lot of people said I could never run 12.9 again. I‘m just continuing to figure out ways to get better,” explained Holloway as he outlined his business-like approach to competing here. “No emotions at all, that’s what happens when you execute at a very high level. The main goal was to set me up and to let everybody know that I’m here to win. I didn’t come to this party to sit on the wall, I came here to dance. I’m very happy with what’s going on and also with what’s to come.” We can hardly wait. / Dave Hunter /