Marion Jones leaps to 7.11 - US Trials (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Sacramento, California, USA

US Olympic Trials - Day 5 – Jones leaps back into Olympic medal contention

The regenerating power of two days’ rest was evident last night (Thu 15 July) as the US Olympic Trials moved into its final four days after a mid-session break.

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7.11m - A totally different Jones

Marion Jones had garnered much of the publicity during the first weekend of the Trials, and she continued to hold it tonight, but for highly different reasons. 

Qualifying only seventh in the preliminaries of the Women’s Long Jump, a totally different Marion Jones showed up for the final.  The Sydney bronze medallist started strongly with 6.80, but then essentially ended the competition with her second-round 7.11, the second longest in the world this season and the best non-altitude-aided long jump of the year.  It was Jones’ best long jump performance since she won the 1998 Grand Prix Final in Moscow.

Impressive series

Jones could easily have packed her bags and ended her competition right then.  But tonight’s edition of Marion was a really trouper as she continued onward and ended the evening with six legal jumps, backing up her big effort with 6.84 and 6.81w in later rounds.

The eighth-placer at the Paris World Championships, Grace Upshaw, had her career-best day, posting four jumps in excess of her pre-Trials PB of 6.73, peaking with a 6.83 on her final jump, to finish in second place.

The leading qualifier from Monday, Ola Sesay, finished far back in ninth with 6.38.  As of now, only Jones and Upshaw have the A-standard for Athens.   

One would ordinarily have thought that this blockbuster jump might have been the catalyst to break Jones’ boycott of the media, but she strode past the media area and exited the stadium without a comment . . . again.   

400m – Wariner’s surprising year

With two-time Olympic 400 champion Michael Johnson looking on with great approval, this year’s NCAA champion Jeremy Wariner added to the rich US history in that event with a convincing victory in the one-lap race. 

Wariner and NCAA runner-up Kelly Willie took the early lead on the back stretch, with Derrick Brew holding close.  Willie accelerated on the curve but could not take the lead from Wariner, who led the eight runners coming into the final straight. 

Meanwhile Darold Williamson and Brew were running together step-by-step as the finish line approached.   

The lean Wariner powered into the tape in a PB and world-leading 44.37, his fifth time under 45 seconds this season, as Otis Harris accelerated well from his lane-eight position to steal second with a PB 44.67, ahead of Brew and Williamson, 44.69 and 44.70, respectively.

Calvin Harrison finished in fifth at 44.85, while Andrew Rock scrambled at the end to nip Willie, 44.95 to 44.97, presumably for the final relay position.
 
The stoic Wariner admitted that this entire year has been a surprise.  “I wasn’t expecting to go to the Olympics this season,” the 20-year-old said. “The Olympics was always a goal. But to go this early, it’s a dream right now.”

Quite evident is the strong bond between Wariner and his Baylor teammate Williamson, who missed out on an Olympic nomination by 0.01 second.   The two have trained together and raced countless times this year.  In fact, Wariner’s two losses this season - once indoors and once outdoors - were both inflicted by Williamson. 

“I wish me and Darold could have gone 1-2 or at least 1-3,” said Wariner. “He ran a great race. At least he’ll get a spot on the relay.”

Wariner is guided by Michael Johnson’s coach

The common thread uniting Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner is their coach at Baylor University, Clyde Hart.  Like his prodigious star, Hart also thought that perhaps the Olympics was something for the future, not for this year. 

“We thought maybe if we kept working there might be a relay spot,” said Hart. “But as the year progressed, nobody broke through to take charge of the event.”  Even Tyree Washington, the only 400 runner to post a faster time since Sydney than Wariner’s winning time tonight, fell out of the running before the final. 

In drawing a comparison between Wariner and his all-time ace runner Johnson, Hart observed, “Jeremy resembled Michael in one area, and it’s very significant.  It’s his ability to focus, and the fact that he enjoys running. He’s not afraid of anyone. Some kids sit around worrying all day. He’s ready to race.”

Johnson also offered some thoughts about what had transpired tonight.  “There will be a time when Jeremy's a lot faster. There are strength issues we can help him with. He did a great job not being intimidated by the fact  that this was the Olympic Trials. He ran just the way he did at the Big 12 Conference championships, the regional and the NCAA Championships.  When he gets to Athens his strategy will be to just go in and do what he's been doing.  After all, Jeremy just ran against the best in the world.”
 
Johnson continued, “He runs the same strategy that coach [Hart] has been teaching all the time.  Jeremy's got the strategy down. He knows his pace. He's knows 21.3. He knows the difference between running 21.3 and 21.8 for the first 200.” 

Steeplechase – Trials Record

The top three competitors in the men’s 3000m Steeplechase - Daniel Lincoln, Anthony Famiglietti, and Robert Gary - had separated themselves with two laps remaining before US leader Lincoln took over the lead from Anthony Famiglietti just prior to the penultimate water jump.  Lincoln put on a hard finish over the remaining 500 meters to win in a PB 8:15.02, an Olympic Trials record and the fastest steeple performance by an American in three years. 

Behind Lincoln, a duel for second place was heating up between Famiglietti and Atlanta Olympian Gary.  Gary attempted to catch Famiglietti but encountered step problems at the backstretch hurdle.  A second attempt by Gary off the last water jump was also futile as Famiglietti took second in a PB 8:17.91, to Gary’s 8:19.46.   

Unheralded Isaiah Festa moved up to a new level as a steeplechaser, as his fourth-place 8:20.66 was a PB by almost ten seconds. 

Defending US champion Steve Slattery was fifth in a season-best 8:23.60, while NCAA champion Jordan Desilets finished sixth in 8:24.62, also a year best.

Disqualification costs national record in women’s Steeple

Although not an Olympic event, the women’s 3000m Steeplechase competition was held as a National Championship event. 

Briana Shook led the race from the gun, and she built up her advantage to as much as fifty meters as the race developed.  First to cross the finish line in an apparent national record (9:31.98), Shook was later disqualified when it was reported that she had not run the hurdle at the first water jump.

Defending US champion Shook had done such a good job at pacing the others, despite her big lead, that even after being elevated to first after Shook’s disqualification, Ann Gaffigan’s 9:39.35 also bettered the existing US standard of 9:41.94. 

Kassi Andersen finished second in 9:45.52, with Carrie Messner third in 9:50.70.  Elizabeth Jackson, the former national record holder, watched her tenure come to a close from her fourth-place position in 9:52.11. 

Gilreath – 70.42 Hammer

Erin Gilreath reconfirmed her position at the top of the US year list in the women’s Hammer with a 70.42 win, a new Olympic Trials record. 

Gilreath took the lead in the first round with a 69.27, and extended it in the fourth round with her winner.

Paris finalist Anna Mahon momentarily found herself only in an “Athens-less” fourth place during the third round, but she quickly recovered with a 68.90 and had her best of the day with 69.23 in the penultimate round as she finished second.

Amber Campbell’s 65.98 took third, while at the other end of the standings, Sydney seventh-placer and 2000 Trials champion Dawn Ellerbe finished only tenth at 63.11. 

Because Campbell does not yet have the A-norm, as do Gilreath and Mahon, a provisional team position has been taken by Jackie Jeschelnig, who finished fourth with 65.15.

Women’s 400m final qualification
 
The women’s 400 metres moved eight ahead to tomorrow’s finals with two semifinal races last night.   

Monique Henderson took a commanding lead through the 200 of the first semifinal, with Crystal Cox and Monique Hennagan staying well within range.  This trio was virtually in a dead heat coming into the final straight, with DeeDee Trotter lagging at least five meters behind.

As the leading three lumbered toward the finish, Trotter ran spectacularly over the final eighty meters and overtook everyone to win in 50.53, as Henderson, who had pulled away from the others right at the end, registered a PB with the same time in second. Hennagan was third in 50.59 while Cox faded to fourth, but in a PB 51.23 which took the last spot for the final. 

In semifinal two, Sanya Richards and Demetria Washington ran strongly for the first 150m, as did Tonette Dyer.  Off the curve, Richards had a three-metre lead, with Suziann Reid having accelerated well into the number-two spot as Dyer began to fall back. 

Richards easily won in 50.34, with Reid holding second in 51.14.  Running the final straight well was Moushami Robinson, who took third in 51.72, with Debbie Dunn fourth with 51.84.  Washington could not keep pace and finished fifth in 52.27, as Dyer faded badly at the end and finished last in 53.70.

Webb barely breaks sweat in easy qualification

The main interest in the heats of the Men’s 1500 Metres came mostly from those interested in seeing this year’s version of Alan Webb, the 21-year-old standout who was the world leader in that event for almost a month. 

Webb did not disappoint, but he also did not have to work hard, barely breaking a sweat while winning the slowest heat of the evening in 3:47.10.  The slow pace allowed many to kick hard at the end, and five other runners finished within two-tenths of a second behind Webb, including defending US champion Jason Lunn (3:47.29) in fifth.

Of the other two US runners besides Webb who possess the A-standard for Athens, David Krummenacker chose not to compete as his entire season has been formulated around the 800 metres, and Grant Robison, despite lack of recent training due to plantar fascia problems, took one of the last time qualifiers with his ninth-place 3:43.79.

Bell’s 17.47 heads Triple Jump qualifiers

There were qualifying rounds in four field events, the most noteworthy being that of the Men’s Triple Jump. 

Kenta Bell, the US year leader and currently third on the world list at 17.49, opened with a meek 16.86 but came back with a big 17.47 against a 0.7 wind to lead all qualifiers.

Walter Davis similarly needed two attempts, but his second was a season-best 17.36 as these two jumpers expectedly controlled the competition.

Tim Rusan, fifth at the World Indoors last year and two-time US indoor champion, was fifth in the qualifying with 16.80.  Ahead of Rusan were 2001 World indoor fifth-placer Melvin Lister (17.08) and Von Ware (16.86).

Also making the final cut was former World indoor and outdoor finalist LaMark Carter, who was eleventh at 16.36.

Greer - one throw is enough for final

American record holder and the prohibitive favourite in the men’s Javelin, Breaux Greer, needed only his single throw of 79.19 to surpass the automatic qualifying mark of 75.00.

The top American in last month’s NCAA championships, Brian Chaput, threw 76.28, and two-time Olympian Tom Pukstys came up with 75.46 to complete the trio of competitors achieving the automatic mark.

Three-time SEC champion Leigh Smith took all three attempts to arrive at a 74.06 best and become the fourth qualifier.  Others advancing to Saturday’s final are Brian Kollar, fourth in the 2000 Trials, with 73.20 in fifth, and 42-year-old Roald Bradstock, who finished seventh in the Atlanta Games, at 70.27 in eleventh. 

14 qualify for High Jump Final

Three of the competitors in the men’s High Jump -Henry Patterson, Tora Harris, and Paris world championship finalist Jamie Nieto - had perfect records for three heights up through 2.24, and this trio led the fourteen qualifiers for Sunday’s final.

NCAA champion and 2002 World Junior champion Andra Manson, 2000 Trials fourth-placer Charles Clinger, and another Paris finalist, Matt Hemingway, also negotiated 2.24 to stay alive in their Athens quest.

Eight times a World Championships or Olympic team member, 36-year-old Charles Austin - the Atlanta gold medallist - also moved forward to the final with 2.24, as did two-time US champion Nathan Leeper.

The most notable casualty was the NCAA runner-up, Kyle Lancaster, who was only able to clear 2.15 after a PB 2.29 a month ago.

Heaston and Gerraughty dominate Shot qualification

Kristin Heaston, who sneaked past Laura Gerraughty for the US lead in the women’s Shot Put only days before the Trials, also took another step to defend her national title with a 17.93 throw.  NCAA champion Gerraughty was not far behind at 17.75 as these two set the quality standard for the qualifying round.  Both surpassed the automatic qualifying mark of 17.50.

Jillian Camarena, second to Gerraughty at the NCAAs, was a distant third at 16.95, while last year’s NCAA runner-up, Stephanie Brown, was fourth at 16.66.

Ed Gordon for the IAAF 

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