EUGENE, Ore. - Another American record and some dramatic close calls highlighted the final day of competition Sunday at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, where a Hayward Field record crowd of 21,176 fans brought the eight-day attendance total to 167,123
The top three finishers in each event at these Olympic Trials, who have met Olympic performance standards, will earn the ultimate prize of a spot on the Team USA roster for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
American record holder and World Indoor silver medalist Jenn Stuczynski kept the track world on the edge of its collective seat in the women's pole vault, contested in swirling winds. Far and away the top American vaulter, with a best mark this season that is 8.5 inches better than her next-best compatriot, Stuczynski spent the first 90 minutes of competition sitting on the sidelines as other vaulters took attempts at lower heights. When she entered, at 4.60m/15-1.25, only two other vaulters were still jumping: April Steiner Bennett and Erica Bartolina.
But something happened on the way to the bar for Stuczynski: she missed her first two attempts at 4.60m. Were she to miss her third and final attempt, she would have made no height and would fail to make the Olympic Team. With a huge sigh of relief, the two-time USA outdoor champion cleared the bar by nearly a foot, setting Olympic spots for her, Steiner Bennett (4.60m/15-1), and Bartolina (4.55m/14-11).
Stuczynski was the only vaulter of the three to clear 4.65m/15-3.75, and she immediately had the bar raised to 4.76m/15-7.5 in an attempt to break Stacy Dragila's 2004 Olympic Trials record of 4.75m/15-7. She easily soared over it on her first attempt, then raised the bar to 4.92m/16-1.75, 1 cm better than her own American record of 4.91m/16-1.5. After a close miss on her first attempt and a less-close miss on her second, she easily made it on her third try. With all other competition concluded, the full house of 21,000-plus remained in their seats and Stuczynski took two unsuccessful tries at a world-record height of 5.02m/16-5.75.
Jones astonishes in hurdles; Oliver wins first title
In 2004, Lolo Jones had just completed her senior year at LSU and had been fourth at the NCAA Championships. At the Olympic Trials in Sacramento, she crashed a hurdle, dashing her Olympic dreams. Four years later in Eugene, she was dominant in all rounds and left no doubt that the 2008 Word Indoor gold medalist must be considered a contender for gold in Beijing. Jones was astounding in Sunday's final, executing flawlessly and winning in 12.29 seconds (+3.8mps), tying the #2 time ever run under any conditions (windy or not). Damu Cherry was a distant second in 12.58, with Dawn Harper third in 12.62 as all three made their first Olympic Teams. Nichole Denby was fourth in the same time, missing out on Beijing by .007 seconds. Defending Olympic gold medalist Joanna Hayes, visibly limping, was seventh in 12.96.
In the semifinals, Jones posted a 2008 world-leading mark by winning the second heat in 12.45 (+1.45). A favorite not advancing to the final was two-time world champion Michelle Perry, who has been struggling with a thigh injury and has competed with her left thigh taped. She was sixth in the first semifinal in 12.79 and did not advance.
The women's 200 had drama of its own. The world's dominant 200m runner, two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist Allyson Felix was a heavy favorite to win her specialty event entering the Olympic Trials, even though she had yet to run a 200m in 2008. But coming off the curve in Sunday's final, it was 100m champion Muna Lee, running in lane 6 to Felix's lane 5, who held the lead. A composed Felix pulled even with Lee, then kept pushing to win in 21.82 (+5.6mps). Lee finished in 21.99 as Marshevet Hooker lost her balance one stride before the finish and fell across the line third in 22.20, just .01 ahead of Lauryn Williams in fourth.
Shannon Rowbury likewise entered the Olympic Trials as the prohibitive favorite in the women's 1,500 meters, and she delivered in convincing fashion. Strong and swirling winds kept the field packed tightly through the first two laps as Treniere Clement handled leading duties through 400m in 68.17 and Lindsey Gallo paced 800m in 2:15.73. Just past 1,000m, Rowbury took off and put on an impressive display of confident running as only Christin Wurth-Thomas and Erin Donohue attempted to move as well. Rowbury crossed the finish line in 4:05.48 - a very fast time in unfavorable winds - as Donohue (4:08.20) passed Wurth (4:08.48) in the final straight for second and third, respectively. Beijing will be the first Olympic Team for all three women.
Waltz, Smith win throws titles
Ian Waltz won his third national title, and made his second Olympic Team, in the men's discus, as four of his five measured throws were farther than his next-best competitor. Waltz' best mark of 65.87m/216-1 put him well ahead of Michael Robertson in second (63.73m/209-1) and Casey Malone third (62.67m/205-7).
The men's javelin featured an upset as Bobby Smith won his first national title with a throw of 76.06m/249-6. Mike Hazle was second with 75.76m/248-7, with Brian Chaput third with 75.63m/248-1. Hazle and fifth-place finisher Leigh Smith (74.24m/243-07) are the only men's javelin finalists to have met the Olympic A standard, and they will be on the team for Beijing.
Fourth time the charm for Dow
2003 Pan Am Games bronze medalist Joanne Dow won her fourth career U.S. women's 20 km title and earned her first Olympic roster spot in four tries, over a 1 kilometer loop course adjacent to Autzen Stadium. In cool and blustery conditions, the 44-year-old Dow jointly held the lead with 2004 Olympian Teresa Vaill, 45, through three kilometers before breaking away and winning convincingly in 1:35:10, with Vaill second in 1:36:34. Vaill also placed second in the women's 10 km Olympic Trials in 1984 and 1988. Both competitors entered the competition holding the Olympic "B" standard, with Dow qualifying for the Olympic Team roster spot with her victory. Susan Armenta, 34, was third in 1:42:11.
Gay, Stuczynski crowned Visa Champions
The Olympic Trials also was the final event of USATF's Visa Championship Series. At the conclusion of the meet, Jenn Stuczynski was crowned Visa Champion as the athlete with the top individual performances of the Visa Championship Series. American record pole vault of 6.04m/19-9.75 at the Nike Prefontaine Classic.
Stuczynski's AR in the vault Sunday afternoon was worth 1,232 points and the win, while Hyleas Fountain's personal-best score of 6,667 in the heptathlon was worth 1,226 points, good for second place. She had led Stuczynski by 1 point in the standings up until the moment Stuczynski cleared her American record.
For complete coverage of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, including results, athletes quotes, photos, TV schedule and start lists, visit www.usatf.org
photo Getty Images
photo Getty Images