The level of excellence on day 2 of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials had to be seen to be believed. Fortunately, for those not there, David Hunter provides some insight and appreciation of two of the finest athletes in our sport, Valeria Allman and Sha’Carrie Richardson, who dominated the discus and 100 meters and enthralled the limited by the pandemic crowd.
David Hunter focused on the thrower and sprinter on this, Day 2, column.
USA Olympic Trials / Track & Field University of Oregon / Hayward Field Eugene, Oregon
Trials / Day Two: Allman and Richardson Are Victors
June 19th / Juneteenth, 2021
It is obvious to all that success in track & field requires talent, dedication, and consistent hard work. But rising to the highest levels of achievement in the sport also demands attention to the details – the little things that if left unattended can in a moment lead to disaster. Valarie Allman and Sha‘Carri Richardson – winners in the discus and the 100m dash respectively – faced such critical moments in Day Two, addressed them properly, and now are Tokyo-bound.
Asics and NYAC athlete Valarie Allman came to Eugene as the heavy favorite in the discus: the American record holder in the event and ranked #4 on the world list. On Day One, the Stanford graduate survived a tense moment in the qualifying round when she fouled on the first of her three permitted attempts. Regrouped, she was visibly poised on her second attempt and unleased a terrific throw of 229‘8“. That mark – which ultimately was more than 27 feet further than the next best mark by any other discus athlete in the qualifying round – set a new Trials and Hayward Field record and elevated Allman to the #2 position this year‘s world list.
In the Day Two final of the women‘s discus, all finalists – as is the case in every Trials final – were somewhat anxious before the final got underway. On her first attempt, Allman – exhibiting the superior arm speed that has made her one of the world‘s elite performers in this event – uncorked a towering throw well beyond that of her earlier Round One competitors. Undoubtedly filled with joy and relief as she witnessed her magnificent opening throw, Allman undertook a few celebratory hops inside the ring. In an instant, Allman recoiled in horror as she realized how close she was to making an improper ring exit that would nullify her leading, opening throw. She promptly exited properly from the back of the circle. While the official lifted the white flag to signify a fair throw, the American record holder – along with those in the stands – waited nervously for what seemed like an eternity for the scoreboard to officially display Allman‘s result. Did the delay suggest the officials were discussing Allman‘s ring exit? Finally, the board lit up to proclaim a fair throw of 227‘10“. Disaster averted. The Olympic Trials champion went on to put together an impressive series – (227‘10“; 229‘9“; 217‘5“, 225‘2“, 224‘7” f) – each one of her legal throws bettering the top marks of the rest of the field.
Michael Hazelwood [2nd with the best mark of 205‘2“] and Rachel Dincoff [197‘6“] joined Allman on the podium. Since Hazelwood lacks an Olympic qualifying standard [208‘4“] it was announced that 5th place finisher Whitney Ashley [193‘11“] who posted a qualifying mark prior to coming to Eugene will join Allman and Dincoff on the USA Olympic team.
Afterward, the Trials champion shared her feelings with the media. “It’s impossible not to reflect on being here in 2016 and what that experience was like. Coming in I had the goal of trying to make the Olympic team,” explains Allman. “To now be here 5 years later after so much hard work, is the best feeling. I feel on Cloud 9, I feel so excited, and I cannot wait for Tokyo.”
Going into the semi-final round of the women’s 100-meter dash, the top performers were the three athletes who turned in sub-11 second clockings in the Day One preliminary round: Kayla White (10.99), Javianne Oliver (10.96), and Sha’Carri Richardson (10.84). In Heat One of the semifinal round, Richardson got out quickly and was never challenged, creating separation from the field and even pointing to the finish line over the final 25 meters. A pesky tailwind just above the allowable limit prevented her winning time of 10.64 from ranking #2 on the world list [Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce: 10.63]. Also earning big Q’s were Teahna Daniels [10.84] and Jenna Prandini [10.96]. In Heat Two, a perceived twitch in the blocks by adidas athlete Aleia Hobbs resulted in her disqualification. When the 2nd heat eventually got underway, Nike’s Javianne Oliver [10.83] was joined by Gabby Thomas [10.95] and the seasoned English Gardner [10.96] in earning automatic qualifiers.
According to informed sources and in the time period after the semis and prior to the final, officials revisited the disqualification. It was subsequently determined that Hobbs‘s twitch did not represent a “start commitment” warranting disqualification and should have been ruled as an “unfair start” meriting only a warning, not a DQ. As such, Hobbs was reinstated for the final.
In the 100m final, Richardson, as did Allman in the discus, attended to one of those little details: she stayed solid as a rock as the starter directed the finalists to assume and hold the “set” position. With a conservative start putting here at an early deficit, Richardson [10.86] remained calm, quickly recovered, and powered on to victory. Oliver [10.99] and Daniels 11:03] will join Richardson on the Olympic team with 4th place finisher Prandini serving as the alternate. Hobbs – the 11th-hour addition to the final – finished 7th in 11.20.
In the mixed zone, the Trials champion reflected on her post-race embrace of her grandmother. “My grandmother embracing me is honestly great. She was always in my corner. She is my heart. She is my superwoman,” offered the winner with a smile. “Being able to cross the finish line and run up the steps felt amazing after becoming an Olympian.” Before departing, Richardson offered the background and some forecasts on her signature hairdo. “It means to stand out so I am visible and able to be seen. My girlfriend picked this color [orange] because it‘s loud and, honestly, dangerous. She said you need to look the best and be the best.” The look for Tokyo? “There will be some switching. I got tricks up my sleeve. Stay tuned.” / Dave Hunter /