Olympic Trials Day 7

EUGENE, OREGON -- The Hayward faithful were rewarded once again, as the greatest women’s shot put competition in American history took center stage on the seventh day of competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials - Track & Field.

It all came down to the final throw, when World Indoor champion and American record holder Michelle Carter (Ovilla, Texas) blasted a meet record 19.59m/64-3.25 to win her second Olympic Trials title. Collegiate record holder Raven Saunders (Charleston, South Carolina) had taken the lead with a 19.24m/63-1.5 in round five, one centimeter ahead of Felisha Johnson (Indianapolis).

Eight women threw farther than 18 meters, and seven surpassed 60 feet, with Tia Brooks (Grand Rapids, Michigan) ending up fourth and defending champion Jill Camarena-Williams (Woodland, California) fifth. Oklahoma State’s Chase Ealey (Los Alamos, New Mexico) ignored the wet conditions to join the 60-foot club with an 18.46m/60-6.75 in seventh.

In the qualifying round, eight women threw automatic-qualifying marks to advance to Thursday night’s final, including the Team USA trio of Carter, Saunders and Johnson. Four athletes were “one-and-done” Thursday morning, with Brooks leading all qualifiers with her opening throw of 19.06m/62-6.50. 

Coburn takes second title while Bowerman teammates PR for other Olympic spots
It was all Emma Coburn (Crested Butte, Colorado) in the women’s steeplechase finals, as the American record holder and 2012 Olympian led from the gun and pushed the pace early and often. The trio of Stephanie Garcia (Austin, Texas), Courtney Frerichs (Nixa, Missouri) and Colleen Quigley (St. Louis, Missouri) headed up the chase pack to stay within 15 meters of Coburn for much of the race. 

On the bell lap, Garcia, Frerichs and Quigley were still chasing Coburn, but a stumble over the final barrier for Garcia gave way for Frerichs and Quigley to make their move in the final 50 meters. Coburn closed in sub-60 form to finish in 9:17.48, registering the largest margin of victory (3.44) in Trials history. Turning in personal bests turned into Olympic Team spots for Frerichs and Quigley, finishing in 9:20.92 and 9:21.29, respectively. 2012 Olympian Shalaya Kipp (Salt Lake City, Utah) finished outside of medal contention in fourth (9:28.72), while Garcia picked herself up to finish fifth in 9:28.99.

Epps hits Olympic standard to join Orji and Geubelle in Rio
Coming into Thursday’s women’s triple jump final, only two athletes held the standard to compete in Rio: American record holder Keturah Orji (Mount Olive, New Jersey) and Andrea Geubelle (University Place, Washington). Beijing 2015 competitor Christina Epps (Morristown, New Jersey) rounded out the trio for the Games when she leaped a lifetime-best 14.17m/46-6 in the fifth round to place second. Only once before, in 1996, has Team USA had three women in the triple jump at the Olympics. 

Orji, the NCAA champion and a prohibitive favorite, had five jumps that would have won the competition, topped by a 14.32m/46-11.75 in round five. Geubelle’s top effort also came in that stanza, a 13.95m/45-9.25 that put her 12 centimeters ahead of fourth-placer Imani Oliver (Brooklyn, New York).

Stacked 100H shows no clear Rio trio in first round
Brianna Rollins (Miami, Florida) led the first round of the 100m hurdles with a 12.56 in the fifth of five heats while American record holder Keni Harrison (Clayton, North Carolina) posted a 12.57 to claim the first heat. Rollins produced the fastest time in an opening round of the Olympic Trials and becomes the sixth fastest performer overall in Trials history with the ninth best performance. Harrison ties for the seventh fastest performer and 10th best performance. 

Others with times under 12.80 included Jasmin Stowers (12.65), Nia Ali (12.68), Kristi Castlin (12.68), Queen Harrison (12.71), and Sharika Nelvis (12.79). 2012 Olympic Trials winner Dawn Harper-Nelson (East St. Louis, Missouri), who is attempting to make her third consecutive Olympic team, advanced with a 12.85.

Teens reign supreme in 200m prelims
In a field filled with Olympians, the two big wows came from high schoolers Noah Lyles (Alexandria, Virginia) and Michael Norman (Murrietta, California). Lyles stormed to a windy 20.04 in the first heat, the second-fastest time ever run by a prep in all conditions. Norman barreled away from his fourth heat competitors to clock a windy 20.06, making him the No. 3 all-conditions high schooler ever.

Justin Gatlin (Pensacola, Florida) eased to the line in heat five to place second behind Ameer Webb (Tustin, California) and advance to the next round, while 400 meters champion LaShawn Merritt (Portsmouth, Virginia) was a convincing winner in the sixth and final heat in a windy 20.09. Trials long jump runner-up Jarrion Lawson (Texarkana, Texas) and 2012 Olympian Isiah Young (Junction City, Kansas) were the other heat winners.  

Eccleston and Engels turn in top times in 1500m prelims
With three runners not starting in the prelims and then only needing to eliminate three runners from the field of 27, the three prelim races provided little drama or strategy. The first heat produced the top seven times with Amanda Eccleston (4:13.82) leading the pack. Jenny Simpson (4:17.31) won the final heat after Brenda Martinez (4:23.48) and Morgan Uceny (4:23.48) were even across the line in the second heat.

Heats one and three of the men’s first round were the fastest, topped by a 3:41.92 from 800 fourth-placer Craig Engels (Pfafftown, North Carolina) in the opener. Eric Avila (Chula Vista, California) took top honors in the third heat at 3:42.27, edging 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas) by .01. World Indoor champion Matthew Centrowitz (Arnold, Maryland) made it safely through to the semis with his fourth-place effort behind comebacking two-time Olympian Andrew Wheating (Meriden, New Hampshire).

Heat two featured a mad dash over the final 400, with Ben Blankenship (Stillwater, Minnesota) and Colby Alexander (Strongsville, Ohio) going 1-2 after sub-53 laps. Kyle Merber (Clinton, New Jersey) was third, while Robby Andrews (Manalapan, New Jersey) used his trademark finishing speed to nab fourth after a 52.86 final circuit.

Huddle drops hammer to set up potential Rio double
The second heat was the faster of the two prelim rounds Thursday, with U.S. Olympic Trials 10,000m champion Molly Huddle (Providence, Rhode Island) easily winning in 15:26.33 after dropping the hammer on the field with 400m to go. Huddle was joined by Katie Mackey (Fort Collins, Colorado), who was just behind the 2012 Olympian in 15:26.64.

In the first heat, a more tactical race meant a faster final 400m to become one of the top six qualifiers to automatically advance. Kim Conley (Santa Rosa, California) overcame a disappointing DNF in the women’s 10,000m final to win the first 5000m prelim on Thursday in 15:40.04. 

Olympic champ Taylor only needs one to lead triple jumpers out of qualifying
World champion and American record holder Christian Taylor (Fayetteville, Georgia) took only a few seconds to nab a spot in the final, hitting a 16.87m/55-4.25 on his first attempt to surpass the automatic qualifying standard. Three other men met or surpassed the standard in round three, led by Matthew O’Neal’s (Jackson, Mississippi) windy 16.97m/55-8.25. Donald Scott (Apopka, Florida) had the second-best mark of the day at 16.96m/55-7.75, and Auburn’s Shawn Johnson (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania) rode a healthy tailwind out to 16.85m/55-3.5.

Will Claye (Tucson, Arizona), the Olympic silver medalist at London, moved on to the final in ninth with a best of 16.37m/53-8.5.

Winger leads qualifying in only second meet of 2016
2008 Olympic Trials winner Kara Winger (Vancouver, Washington) led the qualifying round with the only throw over 200 feet as she reached a distance of 61.42m/201-6, the second best distance in Trials history. Winger bettered her previous Trials qualifying best of 60.49m/198-5 set in 2012. 

Current U.S. leader and collegiate record holder Maggie Malone (Geneva, Nebraska) of Texas A&M followed with a 60.44m/198-3 mark. Olympic Trials meet record holder Brittany Borman (Festus, Missouri), who won the 2012 title, ranked fourth with a 58.06m/190-6 effort. Kim Hamilton (Cave Junction, Illinois), third in 2012, had the third best qualifying mark at 58.65m/192-5. 

Muhammad & McLaughlin, Dutch & Jackson highlight 400H rounds
Dalilah Muhammad (Bayside, New York) led qualifiers in the opening round of the 400m hurdles with a 55.33 while high school sensation Sydney McLaughlin (Dunellen, New Jersey) followed with a 55.46 heat win of her own. T’erea Brown (Hampton, Virginia), who placed third in the 2012 Olympic Trials, finished behind Muhammad in 55.47. Shamier Little (Chicago, Illinois), three-time NCAA champion and 2015 USATF winner, ran 55.83 as runner-up in the fifth and final heat behind a 55.64 from USC’s Jaide Stepter (Tucson, Arizona). It was Little’s first loss ever at Hayward Field.

Collegiate record holder Kori Carter (Claremont, California) led the time qualifiers with a 55.79 while Ashley Spencer (Indianapolis), who placed seventh in the 400m final on Sunday, was the last time qualifier with a 56.80.

On the men’s side, it was a sub-50 battle as six men went below the 50-second barrier to qualify out of the first round. Johnny Dutch (Clayton, North Carolina) edged Texas Longhorn Byron Robinson (Chesapeake, Virginia) in the first heat, 49.56 to Robinson’s 49.62, while Cal State L.A.’s Khallifah Rosser (Fontana, California) bested Quincy Downing (Cleveland, Ohio) (49.94) and two-time Olympian Kerron Clement (LaPorte, Texas) (49.97) in a swift 49.89. 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson (Miami, Florida) won the second heat in 49.91.

Finley leads the field in men’s discus qualifying
Mason Finley (Buena Vista, Colorado) led the field with the only throw over 200 feet, hitting a mark of 66.72m/218-11. Finley becomes the fourth best performer in Trials history with the eighth best performance. His throw is third best ever in the qualifying round at the Trials, behind a 67.16m/220-4 by Mac Wilkins during 1980 OT in Eugene and a 66.90m/219-6 from Anthony Washington in Sacramento at the 2000 OT. 

Current U.S. leader Sam Mattis (East Brunswick, New Jersey) of Penn produced the second best mark in qualifying with a 60.93m/199-11. Casey Malone (Fort Collins, Colorado), who placed third at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Trials, missed the final qualifying position by one foot with his best effort of 57.97m/190-2.

Track & field events continue July 8 and run through July 10 at Hayward Field in Eugene. The NBC family of networks will be broadcasting action from the Olympic Trials live on NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra. USATF.TV will then air The Cool Down live from Hayward Field each day after the end of the NBC broadcasts. Fans can follow along with the U.S Olympic Trials - Track & Field on social media 

Felix overcomes injury, doubts to win USATF Athlete of the Week

INDIANAPOLIS — After recording a world-leading mark in the 400 meters and becoming a four-time Olympian, Allyson Felix is USATF Athlete of the Week for the first week of July.

At the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field in Eugene, Oregon, Felix (Los Angeles) finished first in the 400m with a time of 49.68, which now tops the world standings in the event this year.

“It’s been a tough year and it was a relief,” Felix said after the final. “I have put in so much work and to see it all come together when two months ago I was barely walking. To be at this moment is pretty unbelievable.”

She came into the Trials after recovering from an ankle injury. Following the semi-final, where she finished second, Felix said she did not feel like herself. But the next day, Felix raced to a gold medal and a spot on her fourth Olympic team.

“For me, I’m a fighter,” Felix said before the Trials began. “It was going to take a whole lot not to get me here.”

Felix is only the second American woman in history to qualify for the Games in the 100m, 200m and 400m. She is the defending Olympic champion in the 200m and has accumulated 14 gold medals on the Olympic and World Championship stage throughout her career.

She will race again on Friday in the first round of the 200m as she attempts to add another event to her Rio schedule.

“A lot of times you do feel like [Trials is] this bigger thing than even the Olympic Games,” Felix said. “A lot of other people from other countries, they don't have that pressure that you have to go through here. It's the hardest team to make and everything has to click on that specific day.”

Other notable performances of the week include the following:
Tianna Bartoletta (Elyria, Ohio) qualified to represent Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games in the long jump with a 7.02m/23-0.5 leap, while competing in the first round of the 100 meters between jumps. The next day she qualified for the Olympics in another event with a second-place finish in the 100m.
Justin Gatlin (Pensacola, Florida) notched the world’s best time of the year in the 100 meters with a 9.83 in the semi-finals. In the final, he finished even faster in 9.80 to earn a spot to compete in Rio de Janeiro.
Chaunté Lowe (Atlanta) became a four-time Olympian after winning the high jump with a 2.01m/6-7, the best mark in the world this year. It was her 10th USATF title overall and her eighth outdoor crown.
Clare Martin (Newton, Massachusetts) stood on the podium three times at Hershey Youth Outdoors to take home three gold medals. She earned titles in the 17-18 women’s 2000m steeplechase, 800m and 1500m.
Brittney Reese (Inglewood, California) broke the Olympic Trials meet record with a world-leading 7.31m/23-11.75 in the long jump to qualify for her second Olympic team.
Galen Rupp (Portland, Oregon) won his eighth consecutive USATF 10,000m title en route to another spot on the U.S. Olympic team, after already qualifying in the marathon in February.