Unexpectedly, Men’s Long Jump is One of Greatest in History
Olympic Champion Greg Rutherford has spent a lot of time since the London Olympics defending the long jump, an event which clearly has been in a slump since he struck gold in 2012.
Indeed, going into Sunday’s US Olympic Trials finals, it seemed as if the entire track and field universe was focused on the day’s other finals, especially the men’s and women’s 100m dashes. If not those, then Ashton Eaton in the decathlon. If not Mr. Eaton, then Allyson Felix and LaShawn Merritt in the 400m. If not the veterans, how about teenage sensation Vashti Cunningham – the World Indoor champion – in the high jump?
While pre-meet anticipation of those events was justly rewarded, no event was more compelling – or deeper – or more riveting - than the overlooked men’s long jump.
“Today's men's long jump competition was the greatest all-conditions (including wind-aided marks) in history with seven men over 27 feet,” said USATF. That ought to knock this event out of its doldrums. Nine men jumped over 8 meters (26’3”) and two over 28 ft.
Jeffery Henderson won the jump-fest at 28’ 2 ¼”, a scant half inch ahead of Olympic teammate Jarrion Lawson. “I put it all out there on the first jump and hit the board,” said Lawson. “I’m really happy to get the 28-foot barrier with a legal wind.”
Henderson was jumping in his sprint spikes as he left his jumping spikes at home. “I left my spikes at home by accident,” he said. “It worked out – I still made the team and I got first. I’m glad that I won and got a good mark out there.”
Will Claye and Marquis Dendy both jumped 27’ 7 ½” to tie for third, with Claye having the tie-breaking longer second jump.
So why does Dendy go to the Olympics but Claye does not?
Most unfortunately for Claye, all of his marks were wind-aided on a blustery day in Eugene, and since he didn’t have a legal qualifying jump in any other competitions coming into the meet, he will not make the trip to Rio in the long jump. He missed Rio by a centimeter, as his legal best of 8.14m just missed the 8.15 (26’9”) Olympic standard.
The triple may well be another matter. “This has made me more hungry,” said Claye. “I went out here and gave it my all but I didn’t have the “A” standard, so this has given me motivation for the triple jump.”
Meanwhile, Dendy, who had a legal qualifying mark in the 3rd round, becomes the third member of the Olympic Team. However, a re-injuring of his pesky ankle on his subsequent jump puts his status for Rio in considerable jeopardy.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s Ironman award goes not to Ashton Eaton but to Jarrion Lawson, the NCAA triple champion at 100m/200m/long jump. Lawson started his afternoon by sprinting the 100m semi-final in 10.01 and earning a spot in the final. Then he took four jumps until he was satisfied that his fourth-round 28’ 1 ¾” would stand up for landing him on the Olympic team, which it did. (Not incidentally, as it was not wind-aided, this jump is the longest legal jump in the world this year.) No sooner was the long jump over than Lawson found himself in the starting blocks of the 100m final, where he would finish 7th in 10.07.
Ashton, step aside.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Lawson. “This is what I’ve been working for since 8th grade.”
In what is surely the understatement of the day, Henderson concluded by saying, “The competition was stacked.”
And as for Rutherford?
“I know he’ll be surprised to see the results. This competition will probably go down in history.”
It already has.