As the United States began selecting its team at the US Olympic Trials in a place rightfully called TrackTown, there were as many goodbyes to heroes as there were hellos to new Olympians.
Sanya Richards-Ross, Jeremy Wariner, Adam Nelson and Reese Hoffa effectively retired from athletics after exiting their events in Eugene. Bernard Lagat did not retire, but neither did he finish Friday’s 10,000m.
Yet there were also holdovers such as Brittney Reese, whose long jump of 7.31m was best in the world since 2004, and Olympic silver medallist Galen Rupp, who won an eighth successive national title in the 10,000m.
Reese’s big jump came on Saturday in the fourth round, followed by two fouls that might have been even longer. She broke the Olympic Trials record of 7.21m set in 1988 by Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who was in attendance in Eugene and congratulated Reese.
“I’ve always looked up to her,” said Reese. “She’s a mentor to me, but just to have her in my corner and break records of hers, she told me I have a lot left in me. To break records that she’s broken is just a testament to my training.”
Reese’s national title was her seventh in nine years. She has done it all – three world titles outdoors, three indoors, two Olympic appearances – but would make history if she can repeat her gold medal from London four years ago. No woman has ever won successive Olympic golds in the long jump, although Heike Drechsler won two, in 1992 and 2000.
Reese’s jump was the longest since Russia’s Tatyana Lebedeva leaped 7.33m on 24 July 2004.
Tianna Bartoletta, shuttling between the long jump and the first round of the 100m, finished second to Reese with a wind-aided 7.02m.
Rupp, running at his home from college days, used unconventional tactics but ended up in the same place as he did at the seven preceding US Championships: first. Two mid-race surges shook up the field, but it still came down to the closing 200 metres. There, he easily sped away from Shadrack Kipchirchir and finished in 27:55.04.
“For me they are all special. Being able to run at the Olympic Trials is just a whole other level than a normal national championship,” said the 30-year-old. “I’m just so thrilled to be able to represent my country again, and you know personally just to have my kids here, my family. This was definitely a little extra special.”
Rupp, who has already qualified to compete in the marathon in Rio, intends to run the 5000m later in the trials. He will “definitely” run the 10,000m at the Olympics, he said, and will later decide between 5000m and marathon.
Kipchirchir and third-place finisher Leonard Korir are soldiers in the US Army’s world-class training programme. Lagat, now 41, said he “over-committed” during the race and dropped out to conserve energy for the 5000m.
Crouser joins 22-metre club
Ryan Crouser won the shot put with a distance of 22.11m – just two centimetres off Joe Kovacs’ world-leading mark – to become the 23rd man in history to throw beyond 22 metres outdoors. Kovacs was second with a last-round throw of 21.95m.
Hoffa, 38, was fifth and Nelson, 40, was seventh. “I’m going to take a couple of days to digest it, but I’m thinking this might be it,” said Hoffa, the 2007 world champion. Nelson recently came out of retirement and was honoured in a ceremony for his 2004 Olympic gold medal, which was awarded after the winner’s result was invalidated for doping.
Molly Huddle led every step in taking the women’s 10,000m in 31:41.62. Emily Infeld, who overtook Huddle just before the line to take the bronze medal at last year’s IAAF World Championships, was second in 31:46.09.
In the absence of injured Gia Lewis-Smallwood, the US record-holder, Whitney Ashley threw 62.25m to win the discus. Stephanie Brown Trafton, the 2008 Olympic champion, finished fifth. “The percentage of me throwing beyond this year is low,” she said. “I guess if I had to go out somewhere, Eugene is a good place to do it.”
Fast times in first rounds
Highlights of Saturday’s first round of the 100m were a 9.94 (1.2m/s) by world bronze medallist Trayvon Bromell, who has been recovering from an achilles injury, and a wind-aided 10.81 (3.6m/s) by Jenna Prandini. Bromell’s time is the second-fastest first round ever at the US trials, behind Justin Gatlin’s 9.90 from 2012. English Gardner’s 10.90 is fastest ever wind-legal performance in the women’s first round.
The most notable casualties of qualifying came in the men’s 800m. Neither Duane Solomon, fourth at the 2012 Olympics, nor US junior record-holder Donavan Brazier made it out of the first round.
Forty-year-old Amy Acuff, trying to become the USA’s first Olympian to compete at six Games, did not survive high jump qualifying.
The most poignant scene was that of Richards-Ross, who stopped shortly after the midpoint of her first-round heat of the 400m. The Olympic champion injured her hamstring a month ago. Aware what the moment meant, the crowd of 20,987 gave her an ovation.
“I’ve had an amazing career, and it means so much to me that these fans showed me such love,” she said. “It was really special.”
The 400m was likewise unkind to Wariner and DeeDee Trotter and Hardee; both jogged or walked to the line. Wariner, who won Olympic gold in the 400m in 2004 at age 20, stepped on a curb and fell in his semifinal.
Roy Jordan for the IAAF