Jenn Stuczynski vaults at the US Olympic Trials (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Eugene, Oregon, USA

Stuczynski soars to 4.92m Area Record after 4.60 scare – US Olympic Trials, FINAL DAY

The speed returned to Hayward Field here at the University of Oregon on the eighth and final day of the U.S. Olympic Trials (6 July), an exceptionally windy day  which witnessed an Area record of 4.92m by pole vaulter Jenn Stuczynski.

It was a huge relief

There was high real-time drama in the women’s Pole Vault. With Erica Bartolina already assured of a place on the Beijing team with a 4.55m clearance (PBs at 4.45 and 4.55), and Jillian Schwartz tied for second at 4.50 with April Steiner – Schwartz had gone out at 4.55, and Steiner had passed 4.55 -- national record holder Jenn Stuczynski entered the competition at 4.60.

At best, swirling winds make vaulting at Hayward Field chancy, and they were swirling today. First, Bartolina missed, then Steiner. Everyone stopped to watch as Stuczynski made her first attempt; it wasn’t even close.

Bartonlina missed her second, but Steiner cleared. That put both of them on the Olympic team. Stuczynski came down the runway a second time. This time she barely got off the ground.

Could this 4.90 vaulter actually go out at 4.60?  After those two attempts it not only looked possible; it looked likely.

But somehow, Stuczynski pulled herself together and produced perhaps the biggest vault of her life – and it was a good solid clearance – to escape everlasting notoriety. Given the pressure, it was a magnificent effort.

In anti-climax, Stuczynski made first-jump clearances at 4.65 (where Steiner went out), and 4.76, and then asked for 4.92, two centimetres above her own American record. She made it on her third try, and took two reasonable attempts at a world-record 5.02.

"This is a huge relief. When I was finished, I was probably more relieved at making that (opening 4.60m) than the American record. It was a huge relief. It was exciting because I knew I was on the team at that point. And then I could just jump," confirmed Stuczynski.

"I think I was more happy to make the opening height than the record jump. We had some height progressions in between and that jump I just went with it. I just tried to let my technique carry me through and it worked out."

Dix out leans Crawford

The men’s 200 metres final led off the high-velocity portion of the day’s events – and what a race it was. 2004 Olympic champion Shawn Crawford ran a strong curve, and as they hit the straight he led from Rodney Martin and Walter Dix, with Wallace Spearmon nearly two metres back. Dix, his arms flailing, gained on Crawford with every step, and leaned at the line to win by perhaps 4cm in 19.86 (+1.7) -- to parse it, 19.852 to 19.857. Spearmon meanwhile, running fastest of all, fell just short of winning with …19.90! Pity poor Rodney Martin in fourth, running a wind-legal 19.99 and not making the Olympic team. Xavier Carter did not start.

Easy for Felix

The women’s 200 was extremely windy (5.6 m/s) and relatively easy for Allyson Felix, who came into the straight even with several others and drew away easily to win in 21.82 from Muna Lee’s 21.99. Behind them was a fierce struggle for third, as Marshevet Hooker, fourth in the 100 final and fifth coming into the straight, chased Bianca Knight and Lauryn Williams. And she did, with a last-gasp dive that put her ahead of Williams, 22.20 to 22.21, with Knight fifth at 22.25.

Startling flight for Jones

The women’s 100 metre Hurdles were also wind-driven (+3.8). Lolo Jones flew to a startling 12.29, three full metres up on Damu Cherry (12.58), with Dawn Harper edging Nichole Denby for the third place on the U.S. team, both in 12.62 (but 12.612 to 12.619). Reigning Olympic champion Joanna Hayes was seventh in 12.96.

The 100m Hurdles semi-finals were hot, too. Cherry won the first in 12.48 (+1.7), as two-time World champion Michelle Perry finished sixth and out of the final. The second semi was won by Jones in 12.45 (+1.7), the fastest in the world so far this year, with new PBs also posted by second-place Denby, 12.54, and Dawn Harper, third in 12.58.

The men’s 110m Hurdles final was another wind-aided race, but nobody had any trouble knowing who the top two finishers were. Terrence Trammell was off best and led most of the race, but big, powerful David Oliver came on strong to win in 12.95 to Trammell’s 13.00.  A distant third, but happy to make the Olympic team, was Osaka bronze medalist David Payne, who edged Aries Merritt, 13.25 to 13.27. Anwar Moore, picked by some to win, was a close third until he hit the tenth hurdle and did a face plant halfway to the finish.

In the women’s 1500m Shannon Rowbury took the field apart, breaking away after two laps to run alone and win in 4:05.48. Erin Donohue and Christin Wurth battled it out for second with Donohue’s finish carrying her across the line in 4:08.20 to Wurth’s 4:08.48. Tenth was 16-year-old Jordan Hasay, who will fly to Poland on Monday (today 7 July) to compete in the World Junior Championships. After her three 1500s here, she should be well prepared for Bydgoszcz.

Lagat through to Beijing double attempt

The men’s 1500m was the final event of the eight-day programme, and it was as exciting as it was slow – er, tactical. About 250 metres into the race, Bernard Lagat took the lead, briefly relinquishing it at times to Gabe Jennings and Said Ahmed, Leonel Manzanoo lurked on the outside, never worse than fourth after the first 300 metres. 

Down the back straight of the lap, Lagat took over, and with 200 to go, Manzano spurted into second. As they came into the home straight, Lopez Lomond chased them home. Lagat, with a 54.5 final 400, had no trouble winning, in 3:40.37, with Manzano and Lomong finishing in 3:40.90 and 3:41.00.  National record holder Alan Webb was fifth in 3:41.62, and Jennings faded to last in 3:47.92.

Lagat, the World champion at 1500m and 5000m has now qualified to attempt the same double in Beijing.

2005 World champion Davis misses team berth

The men’s Triple Jump was a close, exciting contest, won by a big sixth-round jump of 17.43m (+2.0) by Arik Wilson, which moved him from fifth to first. Kenta Bell’s opening round jump of 17.23w held up for second, while another last-ditch effort by Rafeeq Curry of 17.21 (+1.0) carried him past Walter Davis, who had entered the round seemingly safely in second with 17.20w. He came close with a last attempt of 17.11, but if left him in fourth, off the U.S. team he had made in 2000 and 2004.

Ian Waltz won the men’s Discus Throw rather easily, three of his six throws being long enough to win; the best was a fourth-rounder of 65.87. Michael Robertson was second at 63.73, and 1996 World junior champion Casey Malone squeezed into third with 62.67 ahead of Doug Reynolds’ 62.67. Jarred Rome, co-favoured with Waltz to win, finished eleventh with 58.95.

Finally, the men’s Javelin Final, sans Breaux Greer, was won by Bobby Smith with a winning throw of 76.06 metres. Since Smith has achieved neither the Olympic “A” nor “B” standard, the U.S. will send “A” achievers Mike Hazle (second here at 75.76) and Leigh Smith (fifth with 74.24) to Beijing.

James Dunaway for the IAAF

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