Olympic Trials Day 8

On the busiest and final day of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials - Track & Field, it was impossible to pinpoint who stole the show as 10 days of competition came to a close Sunday. Between meet records by Matt Centrowitz and Dalilah Muhammad, the shattering of the Hayward Field attendance record (22,944), the improbable 5000m-10,000m Trials double by the incomparable Molly Huddle, and welcoming the youngest member of Team USA since 1972 in Sydney McLaughlin, Sunday’s nine finals showed no shortage of show-stopping performances.

Centrowitz shatters 36-year-old meet record in men’s 1500m

Two men broke the Trials record of 3:35.15 that had stood for 36 years, but only one of them, Matthew Centrowitz (Arnold, Maryland), ever looked like winning. Centrowitz, the World Indoor champion in March, positioned himself perfectly over the first two laps and moved up into second behind Ben Blankenship (Stillwater, Minnesota) with one to go. His 53.95 over the last 400 put him across the line in 3:34.09, and the second-fastest man over the last circuit claimed second as Robby Andrews (Manalapan, New Jersey) finished in 3:34.88, a tenth off his PR.

Blankenship held off a hard-charging Leo Manzano (Austin, Texas), the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, taking third in 3:36.18, with Manzano fourth in 3:36.62. The top four times were the best marks-for-place in Trials history.

Muhammad breaks Trials record as McLaughlin becomes youngest U.S. Olympic T&F competitor since 1972

A meet record and world-leading time of 52.88 secured the victory for Dalilah Muhammad, who bettered the Olympic Trials record of 52.95 set by Sheena Johnson in 2004. Only four U.S. hurdlers have ever run faster than Muhammad (Bayside, New York). Ashley Spencer (Indianapolis), running in lane 8, claimed second in 54.02, becoming the first woman in Trials history to run in the final of the 400 and 400 hurdles.

Finishing in third place was 16-year-old high school sensation Sydney McLaughlin, who broke the World junior record with her time of 54.15. The previous World Junior record of 54.40 was set by Xing Wang of China in 2005. McLaughlin (Dunellen, New Jersey) will be the youngest Team USA track athlete to compete in the Games since 1972 (Cindy Gilbert, 15 years and 75 days).

Bowie beats out field as Felix’s double hopes dashed

No one could beat Tori Bowie’s (Sandhill, Mississippi) top-end speed as she won the 200 meters in 22.25, adding her second individual event berth to the 100 spot she claimed with a third-place effort in last weekend’s 100 final. Oregon’s Deajah Stevens (Bayside, New York) ran an inspired straightaway to finish second in 22.30, and behind her an epic battle for the final team spot was won by Jenna Prandini in 22.53. Prandini stumbled across the line ahead of Allyson Felix’s (Los Angeles) 22.54 by a minuscule margin, denying the 400 champion her dream of an Olympic sprint double.

Huddle first woman to double her Trials victories in 5000m/10,000m

Molly Huddle, runner-up in 2012, won in 15:05.01 to become the fifth fastest performer with the fifth best performance in Trials history. Huddle (Providence, Rhode Island) is the first woman to win the 5,000/10,000 double at an Olympic Trials. Shelby Houlihan (Sioux City, Iowa) finished runner-up in 15:06.14, to become the sixth fastest performer with the sixth fastest time in the OT. Kim Conley (Santa Rosa, California) repeated her third-place finish from 2012, clocking 15:10.62 as she moved from fourth to third with 200m left in the race. Emily Infeld (University Heights, Ohio), who qualified for the Olympics in the 10,000m, placed fourth in 15:13.87.

Martinez runs for redemption to join fellow global medalists Simpson & Rowbury

Closing with a 59.97 last 400, Jenny Simpson (Oviedo, Florida) was a majestic winner in the women’s 1500 in 4:04.74, her third straight U.S. title. Simpson stayed in contention through the first two laps with Sara Vaughn (Gering, Nebraska) at the front of the pack before making a move to a lead that she would not relinquish. American record holder Shannon Rowbury (San Francisco) threaded her way through the pack to safety and finished second in 4:05.39 after a 60.51 final circuit.

Dramatic dives for the line saw Brenda Martinez (Rancho Cucamonga, California) come away with the third Olympic spot in 4:06.16, .03 ahead of Amanda Eccleston (Adrian, Michigan).

Pole vault a Suhr thing for defending Olympic champion

Jenn Suhr (Fredonia, New York), who came into the competition at 4.60m/15-1, needed three tries at 4.70m/15-5, but recovered to claim her third Olympic Trials victory when she was the only vaulter to clear 4.80m/15-9. Sandi Morris (Greenville, South Carolina) recorded a miss at opening height and then was clean through the next five heights, topped by her clearance of 4.75m/15-7, which is the best runner-up height in Trials history.

Arkansas freshman Alexis Weeks (Cabot, Arkansas), the 2016 NCAA champion, had first attempt clearances through the first four heights and needed two attempts at 4.70m/15-5. Once she secured third place, Weeks didn’t contest any higher heights as she produced the best mark for third place in Trials history.

Best marks-for-place in the Olympic Trials were attained for second through 10th place. Opening height of 4.40m/14-5.25 eliminated three from the field of 14, which included Mary Saxer. The rest of the field navigated the next height of 4.50m/14-9 while 4.60m/15-1 pushed seven of the remaining 11 to third attempts. Only two, Katie Nageotte (Olmstead Falls, Ohio) and Megan Clark (Fort Benning, Georgia), were successful from that group while five were eliminated. The trio of Weeks, Suhr and Morris made 4.65m/15-3 on first attempt while three went to a third attempt with Nageotte, Morgann LeLeux (New Iberia, Louisiana) and Clark leaving the competition.

Clement stuns the field to become three-time Olympian

Coming off the final turn it looked like Johnny Dutch (Clayton, North Carolina) had secured a trip to Rio, but in the final 50 meters Kerron Clement (LaPorte, Texas) stormed past on the outside in lane seven to win his first Trials title and his first U.S. championship since 2006 in 48.50. The Olympic silver medalist in 2008, Clement also won World Championship golds in 2007 and 2009.

A huge lifetime best of 48.79 pushed Texas’ Byron Robinson (Chesapeake, Virginia) into second place, just ahead of 2012 silver medalist Michael Tinsley (Little Rock, Arkansas), who took third in 48.82. Another surprise came in the form of fourth-placer Ricky Babineaux (Breaux Bridge, Louisiana), who went sub-49 for the first time with his 48.88. Dutch ended up fifth in 48.92.

Kynard continues high jump reign

Reigning Olympic silver medalist Erik Kynard (Toledo, Ohio) was never seriously challenged on the way to his first Trials high jump gold and fourth straight national title, clearing 2.29m/7-6 after first-attempt makes at his previous three heights. His only misses came at his final height of 2.35m/7-8.5. Kyle Landon (Chester, Illinois) of Southern Illinois, the eighth-place finisher at the NCAA Championships last month, set a personal best of 2.26m/7-5 for second, and Texas Tech’s Brad Adkins (Idalou, Idaho), sixth at the NCAA meet, was third with a best of 2.21m/7-3. Kynard, Adkins and sixth-placer Ricky Robertson (Hernando, Mississippi) will be the Rio threesome.

Nwaba leads first-time Olympians in women’s heptathlon

Barbara Nwaba (Los Angeles) overcame a weak long jump to win her first Olympic Trials heptathlon title, scoring 6,494 points on the strength of a 49.19m/161-4 javelin throw and a 2:11.71 in the 800. A 149-point PR elevated Heather Miller-Koch (Columbus, Wisconsin) into second place with 6,423, and she sealed her spot with a win in the final event, clocking 2:09.97 in the 800.

A lifetime best in the 800 was also crucial for Georgia’s NCAA champion Kendell Williams (Marietta, Georgia), who crossed the line in 2:15.31 to end up with 6,402 points and the third Rio berth. Going into the final event Williams knew she had to stay within 5.5 seconds of Sharon Day-Monroe (Costa Mesa, California), and she did, finishing with a 17-point margin as Day-Monroe ran 2:10.87 and took fourth with 6,385.

Heptathlon leaders following each event:

First Day: Barbara Nwaba, 3903; Kendell Williams, 3892; Heather Miller-Koch, 3822

Long Jump: Kendell Williams, 4804; Heather Miller-Koch, 4771; Erica Bougard, 4757

Javelin: Barbara Nwaba, 5554; Kendell Williams, 5514; Heather Miller-Koch, 5458

800m: Barbara Nwaba, 6494; Heather Miller-Koch, 6423; Kendell Williams, 6402