Eugene, Oregon, USAAnother capacity crowd of 21,000-odd spectators, clapping their hands rhythmically for 15,000 metres worth of track racing, saw six American distance runners gain places on the U.S. Olympic team for Beijing on Friday. They also were shocked by Breaux Greer’s failure to qualify for the men’s Javelin Throw final.
With sizzling kick, Goucher takes 5000
But first, the winners. The Olympic places were decided well before the final lap, but individual places were hotly contested as they approached the finish. In the women’s 5000m Shalane Flanagan, winner of the 10,000m a week ago, broke up a six-woman group with three laps to go, and only Jen Rhines and Kara Goucher went with her.
They had been running laps of 75 seconds. Then the pace changed drastically: the last three went in 71.2, 67.0 and – in the case of Kara Goucher – 64.6. Flanagan led for almost all of those last 1200 metres, but Goucher and Rhines came flying by with 120m to go and finished one, two in 15:01.02 and 15:02.02 with Flanagan third in 15:02.81.
"I was more nervous for this race than the 10K,” said Goucher, who was second in the 10,000m on the Trials’ opening night. “I just knew it was going to hurt. The crowd makes you feel so good here. I don't want to race anywhere else after this.” Goucher added that she’s hoping to contest the double in Beijing, but, “If I had to choose, I'd choose the 10K."
“I really laid my heart out there on the track tonight,” said Flanagan, the national record holder in both the 5000 and 10,000m. “I just didn't have enough in that last 50 to 100 metres tonight." Flanagan said she has yet to decide if she will double.
Sara Slattery was a distance fourth in 15:18.88, with pre-race favorite Lauren Fleshman fifth in 15:23.18.
Abdirahman kicks to 10,000m title
The men’s 10,000, the piece de resistance for the distance-crazy Oregon fans, was even more decidedly a three-man race. Abdi Abdirahman took the lead almost immediately, and by halfway had led a three-man breakaway with local hero Galen Rupp and Jorge Torres. By the 7,000-metre mark they led the rest of the field by more than five seconds, a margin which never lessened. On the final lap, Abdi unveiled a sizzling sprint which brought him across the line in 27:41.89, nearly 10m ahead of Rupp’s 27:43.11, with Torres third in 27:46.33. Fourth was Ed Moran (27:52.10), with Josh Rohatinsky fifth in 27:54.41.
Adam Goucher, who successfully petitioned into the field, made a brief challenge late in the race, but ended up seventh, while Mebrahtom Keflezighi, short of training after an injury incurred in the U.S. marathon trials last November, was thirteenth.
Howard nabs high Jump win
The other finals were field events. The women’s high jump was won by 2005 World silver medalist Chaunte Howard, who was the only jumper to clear 1.97, after which she failed to make 2.00. Behind her, Amy Acuff got over 1.93 to make her fourth Olympic team, while Sharon Day edged Deirdre Mullen with fewer misses at 1.91.
“I feel stronger and faster,” said Howard, who returned to competition this season from maternity leave. “The year off wasn't hard, but getting my body back in shape was.”
A.G. Kruger, the only American with the Olympic “A” standard, won the men’s hammer throw with a throw of 75.81m, safely ahead or runner-up Kevin McMahon’s 74.49.
No casualties in 1500m semis
The two men’s 1500m semifinals were won by the expected, Bernard Lagat, and the unpredictable, Gabe Jennings. Lagat kicked home in 3:43.83 to Rob Myers’ 3:43.98, while Alan Webb, who led most of the way, faded to fifth in 3:44.32, although still qualifying for Sunday’s final. Jennings also finished strongly to win the second semi in 3:40.07, edging Lopez Lomong and Leonel Manzano.
The women’s 1500m semifinals were won by Shannon Rowbury in 4:11.75, and Lindsay Gallo in 4:12.54. Also of interest was 16-year-old Californian Jordan Hasay, who set an American high school record as she finished fifth behind Gallo in 4:14.50. She will run in Sunday’s final, then fly to Poland, and is scheduled to run at the World Junior Championships on Friday, a week from today.
Greer, hurting, biggest casualty of the day
The men’s triple jump trials were won by – who else? – Walter Davis, with a single jump of 16.84 (+1.8), and there were no casualties of note. The same can’t be said of the men’s Javelin Throw qualifying round, won by Barry Krammes at 78.97m, while American record holder Breaux Greer, his right (throwing) shoulder heavily taped, could manage only 67.20.
"You can sit here and pull out a bag of excuses,” said Greer, the bronze medallist at last year’s World championships. “I didn't expect to come out here and break any records. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't. I just want to go home and get healthy. If you know me, you know I'm not giving up."
In the 200-meter dash first rounds, only two men did not advance, and all the usual suspects had no problems. Reigning Olympic champion Shawn Crawford was much the fastest with 20.18 (+1.0), while Trials 100m winner and reigning World champion Tyson Gay won the second heat in 20.43.
The women’s heats were much tougher, with five not advancing. Shalonda Solomon’s 22.51 and Allyson Fellix’s 22.68, both wind-legal, were the two fastest women’s heat winners.
James Dunaway for the IAAF