Sunday, June 30, 2024

Day 10 - US Track and Field Trials

Lynne Winbigler Anderson

Oregon's Groundbreaking Discus Star

A Career in the Earliest Days of Title IX

by Mark Cullen

Lynne Anderson
at the University of Oregon's Knight Library

It’s the spring of 1976. I was in my first year in the job market and, a year after graduating from the University of Oregon, did not yet have a job my parents could tell their friends about.

I made contact with the publisher of the ‘76 US Olympic Trials Program and got a job writing features and event previews. I also covered these same events in the daily supplement to the Program throughout the Trials.

My interest was piqued by a recent University of Oregon graduate who was making a name for herself in the discus.

I went to South Eugene High School one evening early that June to watch Lynne Winbigler - now Anderson - being coached by “Multiple Mac” Wilkins, also a recent graduate.

Looking back on it now, each was on the cusp of a dramatically new and different life. For Wilkins, it was winning gold in the men’s discus in Montreal, and for Anderson, it was winning the only women’s discus spot available on the ’76 US Olympic team.

For each, before and after began at Eugene’s second Olympic Trials.

“It opened up a lot of doors for me, being an Olympian,” Anderson said, 48 years later, “and in fact, it got me my first job.”

That first job was coaching at the University of Minnesota, and the fit was so good that she stayed for 33 years.

“You're always an Olympian - you can't take that away. But it's something that I did a long time ago, and I've done a lot of good things since then.”

Anderson got started unusually early for a thrower in the 1970s; her good fortune was that her father was athletic director at Bend (OR) High School.

“I love to throw,” said Anderson, and she always has. She suffered mightily from shin splints when throwing the javelin in Middle School, but greatly enjoyed throwing a six pound weight plate in her backyard.

She qualified for shot and javelin at State her freshman year of high school but did not place; she told her Dad that throwing the javelin made her legs “feel like wood.”

Even though she initially envisioned herself playing basketball, softball, and field hockey in high school, Anderson started throwing discus her sophomore year; then it was shot put and discus the rest of the way.

During Middle School, “My Dad showed me how to throw – and my Dad was the athletic director… Lo and behold, when I got to high school there were full-fledged competitions. He started girls’ athletics with home and away meets in the conference.”

She recalls that she didn’t see her Dad as much as she would have liked.

“I didn’t see him very often because athletic directors are always at an event in the evening.”

Anderson finished second in State in the discus in both her junior (’69) and senior (’70) years, and was 5th in the shot put as a junior.

She attended Oregon State University as a freshman since she wanted to be an occupational therapist. OSU had a therapy program while the University of Oregon did not.

A year later her parents moved to Eugene, and as she was having second thoughts about occupational therapy as a career, she moved in with them and enrolled at Oregon, where her sister, Leslie, was a member of the club level field hockey, track, and bowling teams.

Anderson joined the Oregon track team, and in 1975 realized she would have to add weights to her workout regimen to find the distance and technique improvements she sought.

Her epic payoff came in the 1976 US Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, as an Oregon native and UO graduate who won with her last-round throw.

She had moved from 5th to 3rd place and was on the verge of being on the outside looking in when she uncorked her last-round winner.

“That's what helped jump-start my system in the old days,” she said. “I hadn’t lifted at all in high school. Or in college until my senior year. When I started lifting in January of my senior year, I started throwing better.”

Eugene Register-Guard/Tuesday, June 8, 1976

Article by Dave Kayfes with newspaper photograph by Steve Thompson

Nonetheless, in spite of having made the Olympic team, Anderson felt like a fish out of water.

“I feel like I was taken out of a PE class and thrown into the Olympics,” she said. The weightlifting payoffs started the next year when she set the American discus record of 189’6” (57.76).

Anderson won the AAU national title in 1976, ’77, and ’79, and was a dominant force in US throwing during this time.

A favorite to make the 1980 Olympic team, she did indeed - but traveled to the White House, not to Moscow, after President Jimmy Carter imposed a boycott.

There are few who appreciate the recent rise in US and North American women’s throwing more than Anderson. When discussing the fact that US women led three of the four throwing events in the world last year, she said a wistful, appreciative, “Isn't that something?”

It took years - and decades - to reach this level.

Title IX changes took – and still take – a long time to become the fabric of women’s sports. Title IX is often seen through a gauzy haze of reinvented progress.

Not so fast, says Anderson.

“We were not allowed on Hayward Field until the men were done,” she said, and in 1980, while working out in a weightlifting gym in California with Mac Wilkins, Anderson - the only woman in the room - approached her first lift.

The gym fell silent as all the men turned and watched.

Something that now goes without question was a novelty then; few men had ever seen a woman lift weights - much less in a weight room - before.

When Anderson made her first Olympic team in 1976, it was the first time men’s and women’s teams were combined for a truly complete Olympic Trials. The ‘72 women’s Trials had been held on a high school track in Maryland, while the men competed in tonier surroundings at Hayward Field.

It is especially rare to find a woman of that era whose personal sports history parallels the awakening of a national consciousness regarding women in sports as closely as Anderson’s does.

For her 1970 and ‘71 high school junior and senior year placings at State, Anderson was pre-Title IX.

Title IX was signed on June 23, 1972.

So, for her collegiate career, which began at Oregon State in 1971, she was, remarkably, pre and post Title IX in the same year.

Even though the changes came slowly, the sea change she helped inspire caught up to her as more and more women were drawn to the throws. Anderson noticed taller, stronger competitors, many of whom had now started lifting in high school.

The early effects of Title IX were beginning to take hold.

“I couldn’t believe how short I had gotten!” she laughed. “All of these women came out of nowhere!”

“I think one difference now is that women are really focusing on speed,” she said. “And someone like Valerie Allman, who's a ballet dancer, is also very strong.”

Anderson is more than surprised to find the level of recognition accorded her for her groundbreaking career. She is grateful for the retrospective appreciation for what she and her throwing colleagues accomplished.

Anderson is a member of the inaugural class of the University of Oregon’s Athletic Hall of Fame, and is a member of the Minnesota Track and Field Coaches Hall of Fame as well.

Anderson served as the women’s throws coach for the 1997 US World Championships team, and it will come as no surprise that the Oregon track and field team’s highest honor for women is the Lynne Winbigler Performer of the Year Award.

Ever modest, she acknowledges that a few Coach of the Year awards may have come her way, but for her, “It was just the athletes out in front and that's the way I liked it to be.”

Anderson remains an active member of Eugene’s vibrant track and field community, and recently served on the organizing committee of a reunion of University of Oregon varsity track and field alumni.

“1980 was my best,” she said, looking back. “I was the strongest and most fit.”

She tried retiring after 1980, but it was not yet meant to be.

“I started dreaming about throwing again!”

Though she knew her athletics career was coming to an end, she persisted through injury and the ’84 Trials, and then retired.

She was married to Colin Anderson, the 1979 US national indoor shot put champion, and had their son at age 40. She retired in 2013 and moved back to Eugene. Sadly, Colin Anderson passed away the next year. Her son and his family live with her now.

Anderson’s inspiring legacy lives on.

 She says:

“It was a good experience, a good run, a very special time of my life and I enjoyed all of it.”

“There were no fears, just fun.”

Epilogue: Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Forty-eight years after that evening at South Eugene High School, Anderson and I met in front of a display case at the University of Oregon’s Knight Library at an exhibit honoring the eight Olympic Trials hosted by Eugene.

We were there at my request to take pictures of her in front of one of the cases that features her in a well-known photo.

What was expected to be a fairly brief meeting became forty-five minutes of an engaging, retrospective reflection of a place, an era, a time.

What did I do the next day?

Went to Hayward Field and covered the women’s discus.

Thank you, Lynne.

Special thanks to 

Lynne Anderson 

for her multiple contributions to this story.

Photos by Mark Cullen

Newspaper from the Cullen Collection:

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Day 7

US Olympic Track and Field Trials

by Mark Cullen

The men’s discus got the evening’s program started. Andrew Evans overcame a dicey first throw to take the lead with his third at 66.61/218-6.

Sam Mattis threw a season’s best 66.07/216-9 to finish second, though he doesn’t have the Olympic qualifier of 67.20/220-6. Joseph Brown and Reggie Jaegers were 3rd and 4th but do have the standard and are Evans’ likely teammates in Paris.

There were no surprises or upsets in the women’s 400m semis, with Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone leading all qualifiers in 52.48.

As expected, Tara Woodhall-Davis won the long jump at exactly 7.0 meters (22-11 3/4), though she did add considerable drama by missing her first two jumps. Less expected was that Jasmine Moore would be only 2cm/1” behind. See the end of this article for what happened with third place.

While I thought Gabby Thomas had a reasonable chance of winning the women’s 200m, I did not think that Sha’Carri Richardson was a reasonable pick for 4th.


Thomas ran 21.81 to win, while Brittany Brown scored a notable PB of 21.90 in 2nd. A hundredth behind her was McKenzie Long. What was especially surprising was the .25 margin that Long in 3rd had over Richardson in 4th.

This is why we run the races, folks.

While Tamari Davis did not start the 200m, so deep was this field that she and the other 8 finalists all had the Olympic standard.

First things first in the women’s shot put – or should I say third things. Like a bronze medal.

Oregon’s Jaida Ross took third and made her first Olympic team. Not that the hometown crowd noticed or anything. An impressive 8 US shot putters have the Olympic standard, indicating that in US women’s throwing, it is indeed a brave new world.

Jackson and Raven Saunders both showed they are peaking at the right time with seasonal bests of 20-10/65-11½ and 19.90/65-3½ in first and second, respectively.

Few newly minted Olympians were happier to wear the crown than Chase Jackson. The two-time World Champion said she frequently is mistaken for an Olympian even though she was not. Until today. Before, she said, it was like a “dagger in the heart” but now, she says, “I don’t have to feel that way.”

Chase Jackson
The two-time World Champion is an Olympian at last.

Weini Kelati won a closely contested 10,000m over Parker Valby and Karissa Schweitzer. Kelati won in a time of 31:41.07, with Valby 2nd and Karissa Schweitzer 3rd.

Close was never like this as 4/1000 separated second from third. Calls to mind the women’s close 5,000m as well; the two one-hundredths margin there seems like a downright chasm.

Only Kelati among all Americans has the Olympic standard; it’s a bit of a mystery why the field did not go out faster in an attempt to have at least two more runners reach the standard and qualify automatically for Paris. The standard is 30:40, and with the top 32 in the world advancing to Paris, Schweitzer went into the race ranked #55 in the world with Valby 81st.

I don’t understand (and I’ve asked a couple of colleagues, who don’t understand this, either), but will keep you posted. July 7th is the scheduled date for announcing the Olympic qualifiers. It will be much more exciting than the 4th!

The men’s 200m featured Noah Lyles winning in a world leading and meet record 19.53, which he described in the post meet mixed zone scrum as “average for me.”

News of note is that he will be renegotiating his contract with Adidas. “I haven’t started negotiations yet… I’m going to let them know that I’m available and I’m ready to go.”

About that race. Kenny Bednarek set a PB of 19.59 and seems to have found his event. And soft-spoken Erriyon Knighton, a veteran at 20, ran 19.77 in third. Christian Coleman finished fourth for the second time this week.

Athlete of the Day award goes to Monae’ Nichols, who went into the long jump final needing at least third place as well as an Olympic qualifier of 6.86/22-6 ¼.

She got third.

Want to guess her distance?

6.86 meters.

22’ 6 1/4”

Olympic standard on the nose.

And get this.

On her 6th and final jump.

Meanwhile, the man and woman sitting to the left of me in the media tent tonight work for the IOC.

I’ll try to behave myself.

photo: Mark Cullen

Friday, June 28, 2024

Day 6 US Olympic Track and Field Trials

Hurdles History

by Mark Cullen

Day 6 was a day with only one final and a multiplicity of semi-finals and qualifying rounds. But it's the one final that will linger longest.

A remarkable 110 hurdles final as Grant Holloway scared the 12.80 world record with his #4 all-time performance of 12.86. For the first time ever, the top three finishers in a 110m hurdles race broke 13 seconds.

Freddie Crittenden was second in 12.93 with Daniel Roberts 3rd in 12.96.

Cordell Tinch - 4th in 13.03 - must be wondering what more it takes to make the Olympic team.

In the men's hammer, only Rudy Winkler and Daniel Haugh have the Olympic qualifying standard of 78.20/256-7. Haugh led his flight with a second round throw of 74.94/245-10 and finished 3rd overall.

“I’m in the best shape of my life,” he said. “What to do between now and Sunday’s final?”

“Go jump in the river down the street! Have some fun, cool off a little bit, and talk with my coach.”

As for why his season is going so well: “I’ve been 12 months injury free, so I’ve been able to compound and compound the training. It’s just consistency; you just show up every day without getting hurt.”

That he threw almost 75 meters today?

“You know it’s a great sign.”

Surprise 2nd place qualifier was Justin Stafford. Two years ago his PB was 73.07/239-8; now it’s 76.12/249-9. He is clearly focused and ready for Sunday’s final and has one goal and guiding principle: “Execute.”

Rudy Winkler had a surprise foul called on his first throw - one which he disputed and which was hard for observers to perceive - but he rebounded to lead qualifying in 77.08/252-11 with his third and final throw.

Winkler, too, feels confident about Sunday. “I think I’m in a really good place physically, mentally. I’m just excited to be here and to be competing.”

“I used to approach these meets and be very stressed out about them,” he said.  “And now it’s nothing but fun… It’s refreshing and nice. I feel like it’s easy to be mean to yourself in the sport. It was nice to just be nice to myself this year and enjoy it.”

Kara Winger is on the javelin comeback trail and led the first flight at 63.01/206-8; this stood up to lead the entire javelin qualifying process. Two-time national champion Maggie Malone Hardin is the only javeliner (it’s time for a new word) who has the Olympic qualifying standard of 64.00/210-0, and she finished 2nd today in 62.40/204-9.

The start list for Sunday’s women’s pole vault final warms the hearts of Pacific Northwesterners - especially those associated with the Moll sisters – twins Hana and Amanda. They will be jumping third to last and second to last in the order. Only Katie Moon will jump after them – lofty territory indeed.

Hana is the more decorated of the two with U20 and NCAA indoor titles to her credit. Not to mention the fact that she’s the national high school and American U20 record holder. For those of us from the Seattle area privileged enough to have seen their rise (they are from Olympia, WA), it’s hard to remember that they are only 19.

With 1:44.70 the men’s 800m Olympic qualifying standard, finding runners under that standard was no problem for athletes in the second heat. Hobbs Kessler and Brandon Miller separated themselves by only two one-hundredths of a second with stellar times of 1:43.71 and 1:43.73, respectively. Bryce Hoppel won the 3rd heat in 1:44.01. The boys are ready.

In the first heat of the men’s 200m semis, Noah Lyles ran 19.60 with Christian Coleman second in 19.89. ‘Nuff said.

The women’s 200m took shape with Gabby Thomas leading all qualifiers at 21.78, and Sha’Carri Richardson had the 2nd fastest time, 21.92. While Richardson is the favorite, never ever underestimate Gabby Thomas.

Expect a wholesale rewriting of the women’s and men’s 200m all-time lists on Saturday.

Gabby Douglas

In a rarity, 27 started the women’s 100m hurdles and 27 qualified for the next round. In short, a busful of qualifiers, led by Masai Russell in a scorching 12.35.

Only Donald Scott has the triple jump standard among the qualifiers, 11 men broke 50.00 in the intermediate hurdles with Rai Benjamin leading the way at 47.97, and Nikki Hiltz led the dozen women’s 1500m qualifiers to Sunday’s final.

All of the usual suspects advanced to the women’s shot put final - but there was a crowd-pleasing new suspect today. Oregon’s NCAA champion Jaida Ross finished 3rd and has the Olympic qualifying standard. 

Can you imagine Hayward Field if she makes the Olympic team? Oh, that’s right. Well, yes, you can.

Get ready for a wild weekend with 6 finals on Saturday and 11 – count ‘em! – on Sunday.


photo by Mark Cullen

Complete results:

Day 5 - US Olympic Track and Field Trials

Epic Discus for Valarie Allman

by Mark Cullen

After a first four days in which two one-time World Champions fouled out of the women’s hammer and discus, respectively, Valarie Allman restored order to the American throwing scene by opening the discus competition with a throw of 67.19/220-5, and then increased her best to 68.09/223-4 on her second throw.

At this point, Allman led by five and a half meters.

After a long foul to the left on her third attempt, and with a toss of 69.72/228-9 in the 4th round, Allman now had increased her margin to over 7m, 69.72 to 62.63.

She topped it off with a final round best of the entire competition, 70.73/232-0.

With her ultimate margin of victory an astonishing 8.1m/26’7”, Allman’s five fair throws averaged 68.66m/225’3”.

For reference, 26’ 7” is four inches short of the winning jump in the men’s long jump.

Jayden Ulrich was 2nd in 205’5”, and while she hasn’t made the 64.50/211-7 Olympic qualifying standard, she seems a likely qualifier based on World Rankings.

Or likely-ish.

Her Paris dream is hanging by a thread as she currently ranks 29th out of 32 in the Paris allocations.

Only Veronica Fraley has the Olympic standard among the rest of the field. She finished 3rd in 62.54/205-2, and will join Allman in Paris.

Props to Erika Beistle (62.50/205-1) and Shelby Frank (61.55/201-11). They finished 4th and 5th, respectively, and recorded personal bests while they were at it. No harder place to do it, and no better.

In the mixed zone afterwards, Allman and I had the following exchange:

MC – Your average of five throws today was 68.66 meters. Your margin of victory was 8.1 meters… and you threw 70 meters in both rounds of your contests here. First, to what do you attribute that remarkable level of high level consistency? And second, what does that do for your confidence going into the Games?

VA – I have to give credit to Zebulon, my partner and coach, just for his consistency and belief in me to help me realize that I can be a really strong competitor all the time.

I do think that it required – based on how the last two championships played out – breeding more of a sense of being fearless and leaning in and pushing myself rather than just waiting for someone to catch me, which is how the last two ones played out.

So, I feel like this year we’re going after it more and believing that these big throws are possible, and knowing that the work we’re doing is going to reveal a result that we feel really good about.

So, I’ve never thrown 70m in a prelim before, and I’ve never really thrown 70m in a final before, except in little meets. So, I really feel excited. And I’m really optimistic right now.

Hopefully that magic can happen in Paris.

The other final of the day was the women’s steeplechase, and it did not disappoint. When you consider the fact that Val Constein’s winning time of  9:03.22 was not only a personal best but a meet record, think of who has come before, most especially Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs.

With Courtney Wayment (9:06.50) in second and Marissa Howard 3rd in 9:07.14, this event was almost the opposite of the discus. Here, the top 9 set personal bests, and all nine have the Olympic standard as well.

In a race of remarkable depth, there are all sorts of painful stats, most notably Gabbi Jennings’ 9:12.05 in 4th place, which did not get her on the Olympic team. The 9:14s of Kaylee Mitchell and Olivia Markezich netted them only 5th and 6th.

Before the race, it seemed improbable that 9:12 would not earn a trip to Paris.

Forgive the cliché, but Constein’s run was nothing but gutsy, and her take it to the field style and running from the front seemed fitting for a race like this at Hayward Field.

The usual suspects advanced in the men’s 800m. It was a ‘no harm, no foul’ series of qualifiers. The usual suspects include heat winners Bryce Hoppel and Stan Whitmarsh, as well as ’16 Olympic bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and Georgetown’s Tinoda Matsatsa, who brings PRs of 1:45.17 and 2:18.05 for the 800 and 1000 meters, respectively. Watch out for Matsatsa in Friday’s semi-finals.

10 of the 12 men’s high jumpers cleared 2.19/7 2¼ , which promises a dynamic final on Sunday. However, only JuVaughn Harrison and Shelby McEwen have the lofty Olympic standard of 2.33/7 7 ¾. Today’s prelims were beautifully staged with the crowd-engaging double pits generating quick sequences of cheers.

There were no particular surprises in the semi-finals of the men’s 110m hurdles – that is, it is never surprising when Grant Holloway leads the way at 12.96.

Sage Hurta-Klecker was one of the crowd favorites in the women’s 1500m first round; she was perhaps the runner who paid the highest price in the women’s 800m collision.

Sha’Carri Richardson ran the fastest time in the world this year in the opening round of the women’s 200m. She ran a magnificent, controlled textbook curve while powering away from the field in 21.99.

Tara Davis-Woodhall, Jasmine Moore, and Quanesha Burks are the only three US long jumpers who have the standard; they finished 1-2-4 in prelims today.

33 men ran the 400m hurdles prelims, and almost all of them qualified for the next round. No, really. Of 33 entries, 27 advanced.

Do what Noah Lyles did in the first round of the 200 and relax. In fact, he made it to the next round of the 200m in the most relaxed 20.10 I’ve seen in a long time.

The men’s 5000. Would everyone please calm down? Hometown favorites Cole Hocker and Cooper Teare qualified for Sunday’s final. Sorry to see Paul Chelimo not advance. At 33, is the three-time World/Olympic medalist nearing the end of his track racing career?

 Finally, veteran Reggie Jagers led all qualifiers in the men’s discus.

 Who holds the meet record in this event? You’ve got that right.

Mac Wilkins from 1980.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Day 4 - US Olympic Track and Field Trials

"Getting It Right on This Day"

by Mark Cullen

Current and past US World champions proved again that gold glitters for only so long.

Lawi Laulauga Tausaga-Collins became the second US thrower who is either current or past World champion to foul out of these Trials. 

On Sunday it was Brooke Anderson (Eugene 2022) in the hammer, and today it was World discus champ Tausaga-Collins (Budapest 2023) matching that result. 

In better discus news, defending Olympic gold medalist Valarie Allman out-threw the competition by over 7 meters with her 70.89/232-7 meet record and season’s best. One and done and on to finals.

There was a thrill a minute in the women’s high jump. The top two positions were hotly contested - as were 3rd and 4th, with a place on the Olympic team on the line.

Charity Hufnagel picked a terrific time to jump a PB. Her 1.94/6’ 4 ¼” put her stamp on this competition as she jumped cleanly and nailed her first 5 heights in a row. She won on the countback over Rachel Glenn, who scaled the same height. Vashti Cunningham, the winner of multiple indoor and outdoor US titles, was third.

For a country long known for its excellence in the men’s and women’s long jump, the men did little to uphold their part of the bargain today. Not a single athlete in the finals had the Olympic standard. The competition was won by Jeremiah Davis in a modest 8.20/26-11.

Cole Hocker returned to the scene of his college exploits and registered a mild upset over Jared Nuguse in the men’s 1500. Hocker’s 3:30.59 was a meet and personal best. In third was 21-year-old Hobbs Kessler, while the veteran 23-year-old Hocker made his second Olympic team.

USATF says that it’s the deepest US-only men’s 1500 in history. That’s for sure. 3:34.21 got Cooper Teare only 9th place. 3:31.53 did not get surprise 4th placer Vincent Ciattei on the team.

“I was very happy with 6th place (in the 2021 Olympics),” said Hocker, “but now the goal is a medal.”

Cole Hocker wins the 1500m
Jared Nuguse (l), 2nd
Hobbs Kessler (c), 3rd
photo courtesy USATF

Six points separated Anna Hall and Chari Hawkins with one event to go in the heptathlon. But Hall outran Hawkins by over 10 seconds in the closing 800m, and won comfortably, 6614-6456. 

For Hawkins and third-placer Taliyah Brooks (6408), this was a near miss of the 6480 Olympic qualifying standard for both.

Quincy Hall won the men’s 400m in a blistering 44.17, with Eugene World champion Michael Norman second in 44.41. Chris Bailey equaled his PB in 44.42, with veteran Vernon Norman 4th in 44.47 and ready again for relay duty.

Prep phenom Quincy Wilson finished 6th in 44.94, the third time he has broken 45.00 in less than four days. It remains to be seen if he will be chosen for relay duty at the Olympics.

In a tribute rare for a 16-year-old, he was offered the stadium microphone. He addressed the crowd and thanked them profusely for their support on his epic Trials ride, and told them he looked forward to coming back to Hayward Field.

The denizens of Hayward can’t wait.

There’s really nothing like a 5,000m race at Hayward Field, and tonight’s women’s race was won by two one-hundredths of a second. There was, expectedly, steady attrition during the race. Parker Valby led the field in an apparent attempt to make the qualifying standard of 14:52 in addition to scoring a top three finish.

Valby ran 14:51.44 in fourth to achive the first part of her goal, but the more experienced trio of Elle St. Pierre, Elise Cranny, and Karissa Schweitzer pulled away from her and finished in that order.

Second by two-one hundredths of a second in 14:40.36, Elise Cranny said that the race played out the way she expected it to, “but I didn’t quite have that last little bit.”

Third-placer Karissa Schweitzer said, “I’m really excited about this; it just is really hard going into it (the Olympic Trials race), and I know I had the confidence of having made a team before, but this one – there’s  just so many obstacles going in and I felt like I really needed this one.”

Nia Akins of the Brooks Beasts won the 800m in a PB of 1:57.36. Juliette Whittaker picked a good day for a PR as she finished 3rd in 1:58.45.

Athing Mu suffered a terrible disappointment by falling and failing to make the team. The World and Olympic champion moved inside too quickly near the 200m mark and went down hard. She recovered enough to record a brave finish, albeit in last place.

Allie Wilson, who was second in a season’s best 1:58.32, summarized a meet in which three defending world champions have already failed to advance, like this:

“I definitely wouldn’t say that the season has gone the way I had wanted it to. And I just keep saying to myself it doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be pretty. You just have to get it right on this day.”

Monday, June 24, 2024

Day 3 - US Olympic Track and Field Trials

by Mark Cullen

It’s hard to reproduce the sound of a hammer hitting the net. It’s not at all like a tennis ball hitting its own kind of net, but it has the same disheartening effect.

2022 World Champion Brooke Anderson’s exit from the meet was simply astonishing. Three throws in a row – three fouls into the netting - and her Olympic dreams were gone.

“It seems to be contagious,” said one observer, as throw after throw rattled the cage. Indeed, 21 out of 60 throws in the competition were foul.

Emerging from the fray were Annette Echikonwoke with a winning 74.68/245-0, while DeAnna Price qualified for her 3rd Olympic team in 74.52/244-6. Erin Reese finished 3rd though she has not met the 74.00m qualifying standard, while Rachel Tanczos in 4th does have the standard. World Athletics will issue final Olympic qualifiers on July 7.

“I won on the first throw,” said Echikonwoke. “I didn’t expect 74 (meters) to win the whole thing because the field is so deep with some people throwing 78 and 77 meters… I think it’s my time.”

Janee Kassanavoid had a sub-par performance as the World silver and bronze medalist was 6th in a modest for her 69.46/227-11.

Anderson’s early exit had an effect on the other throwers.

 “Obviously, Brooke just raises the level of competition,” Erin Reese said, and that when someone fouls out, “it definitely affects the competition and so it affects all of us. We want to see the sport grow and so it is hard to watch that, but at the same time, it is independent of you and you have to focus on yourself and do what you can do to get to the next level.”

Price said, “Brooke is a sweetheart. It was hard to see that happen and not be emotionally tied to it. She is a phenomenal athlete and it was really hard to see.”

Thirteen one-hundredths of a second separated the top three women in the first heat of the women’s 800m qualifying. Athing Mu took the lead with mere steps to go, with the resurgent Kate Grace next in 1:58.79. Michaela Rose in 3rd won a spot in the final with a time qualifier in 1:59:00. Oregon graduate and World and Olympic medalist Raevyn Rogers advanced while winning her heat in a season’s best 2:01.08.

Meanwhile, in the men’s 400m semifinal, 16 year old prep phenom Quincy Wilson set another PB, which now stands at 44.59. He has been adopted by the Eugene crowd and will undoubtedly have a raucous welcome for the final on Monday night. Right now, it's hard not to see him on the US 4x400m relay team. 

There was impressive depth in the women’s 400m as all three Olympic qualifiers broke 50 seconds - and set personal bests while they were at it. Kendall Ellis led the hit parade to Paris in 49.46, with Aliyah Butler and Alexis Holmes 2nd and 3rd in 49.71 and 49.78, respectively. Kaylyn Brown was 4th in 50.07.

Can you say 4x400m relay?

In the remaining three finals, Sam Kendricks won the pole vault in a meet record 5.92/19’ 5”. The day before he created quite a stir in the mixed zone by saying that even if he made the team, he would consider not going to Paris over hard feelings left from when he was denied his 2021 Olympics - due to an ill-timed case of Covid and strict restrictions on entry to Japan.

After his win, he changed his mind.

Kenneth Rook won the steeplechase, and in 4th was none other than multiple-time US Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Evan Jager. In the men’s javelin, now four-time US champ Curtis Thompson made his second Olympic team.

Noah Lyles won the men’s 100m as expected – or should I say as he expected – and tied his PR of 9.80. Kenny Bednarek set his PB of 9.87, while Fred Kerley set his seasonal best of 9.88. So, three of the four favorites showed up and performed as expected. The trouble is, there were four showing up for three places, and Christian Coleman was a surprise 4th; he’ll be on the Paris relay squad.

Some thoughts about the 100m.

1. The crowd cheers for the event when it is announced. Many athletes would be delighted to get the same decibel level as this iconic event.

2. The press comes from the media tent behind the stadium to watch the 100m up on press row at the top of the stadium, an honor of a kind not offered to most other events – except, of course, the women’s 100m, which seemed to have drawn an even bigger crowd of reporters this year.

3. Tonight I finally put my finger on what’s been bugging me about Noah Lyles in the 100. Let me get into a lot of hot water when I say that for my liking, the term ‘heavy favorite’ needs a faster time to back it up.

9.80 is not it.

9.80 doesn’t put Lyles into the top 10 all-time, and even he acknowledged tonight that he needs to stop celebrating early. Doing so tonight likely cost him a substantial PR – my guess is by at least 3 one-hundredths of a second. That would put him 9th on the all-time performers list, and would strengthen his case as Olympic favorite considerably in my book.

Meanwhile, until he’s under 9.80, he’s a shaky and vulnerable choice for gold who has credible competition for the role as Olympic favorite. There are several international sprinters who might wear that mantle at least as dependably as Lyles. Nonetheless, kudos to him on his win tonight.

I will give him props for a less visible talent in his repertoire. This evening, as the celebrations continued after the race, he was given a packed t-shirt to give to someone in the crowd. He pointed to a woman on the second level and threw the t-shirt directly to her – and she caught it.

An impressive strike which, in the majors, would have resulted in the runner being called out at home.

Now that’s a gold medal performance.

Joie de Vivre!

Off to Paris they go!

DeAnna Price and husband and coach JC Lambert after Price qualified for her third US Olympic hammer throw team.

photo: Mark Cullen

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Day 2 US Olympic Track and Field Trials

by Mark Cullen

On a day on which much attention was rightly focused on the women’s 100m, the women’s triple jump was just as compelling.

Two-time NCAA champion Jasmine Moore pipped multiple national champion Kenturah Orji on her final jump: 14.26-14.22 (46 9 ½ - 14-8). Orji’s final attempt, in turn, fell 4cm short. Nonetheless, Orji made her third Olympic team, and they are joined by Eugene ’22 World bronze medalist Tori Franklin for a trip to Paris.

The women’s 100m semi-finals were brutal (3 semis with top 2 in each to finals, along with the next best two times). Imagine being in the first semi-final with Sha’Carri Richardson and Tamari Davis and trying to defeat one of the two to advance.

In the final, Richardson showed that she can’t be matched in the last 30-40 meters. In an astonishingly deep field in which the top 6 broke 11.0, Richardson stormed to the finish in 10.71, with Melissa Jefferson (10.80) just three one-hundredths behind in second and Twanisha Terry 3rd in 10.89.

Richardson described this as “a full circle moment” which “definitely confirms the the years we’ve been training,” and said she is “grateful and appreciative of the direction that we’re headed.”

The men’s shot put featured yet another clash between Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs; just a single centimeter separated them after the first round, and visions of the epic close finish at 2015 Worlds in Beijing came to mind.

Kovacs’ first put of the day would prove to be his best, however, and Crouser pulled away to win in 22.84 (74-11.25) to Kovacs’ 22.43 (73-7.25). Payton Otterdahl (22.26-73 ½) joined them on the Olympic team.

“This is the hardest meet of the year,” said Kovacs. “Right now, all eyes are on Paris. This (qualifying) is just part of the plan.”

Ryan Crouser
photo: Mark Cullen

There were no huge upsets or surprises in the men’s 100m first round. Only three broke 10.00, with Noah Lyles leading the charge in 9.92. Sorry to see Cravont Charleston not advance; the 2023 surprise national champion has been off form since getting injured in relay camp before the ’23 World Championships.

The women’s 400m semi-finals caused the track to melt a bit. The slowest time of the nine qualifiers to finals was 50.48, while Kaylyn Brown led all comers in 49.71.

Heath Baldwin PRed in the javelin, the next to last event of the decathlon, to secure his win with 8625 points, his personal best by 155 points, over two-time Olympian Zach Ziemek. Baldwin cited his opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best through the NCAA system, and said of his approach to competition, “I don’t like to think about points. I like to think about competing.”

Meanwhile, the Census Bureau estimates the combined male population of Washington and Oregon at 5,991,000. Fortunately, most of them qualified for Monday’s 1500m final.

It helped a lot if your name was Cole Hocker, Cooper Teare, or Elliott Cook (the Oregon delegation) or Henry Wynne, Nathan Green, or Joe Wascom, (the Washington delegation, including Brooks Beasts).

The second heat was significantly faster than the first; Cole Hocker won the first in 3:37.89, while Yared Nuguse won the second in 3:34.09 to tie the Trials record.

In social media news, NBC Olympics correspondent Snoop Dog was in the house on Saturday, while a well-known Olympics commentator has been in for an online razzing. When asked to name his favorite track and field events, he included triathlon on his list. As one of three events in the triathlon is running, I would give him partial credit.

 It’s an uphill battle, folks.

 Carry on.

In a reflective, expansive interview with the gathered media, two-time Olympic gold medalist, Ryan Crouser, distilled track and field and his place in it to its elemental best when he said, “That’s best thing about being the world record holder. When you get a PR (personal record), you get the world record!”

Friday, June 21, 2024

Day 1 US Olympic Track and Field Trials

Big Dog

by Mark Cullen

After a buildup to a competition that gained national attention, Eric Gregory’s dream of advancing to the next round of the men’s 400m at the US Olympic Track and Field Team Trials came to an end on Friday.

But not by much.

Gregory, a recent graduate of Washington D.C.’s Gallaudet University for the deaf and hard of hearing, missed his personal best by just six one-hundredths of a second as he concluded his season with his 45.79.

The three-time Division III 400m champion and US Deaf Collegiate outdoor record holder finished a non-qualifying 7th in a heat that interviewer Blake Timm described as the “Heat of Death” – so deep were the results and so outstanding his fellow competitors. In fact, each of the other six competitors in his heat qualified for the next round based on place or time, and 16-year-old Quincy Wilson set the world U-18 record with his astonishing 44.66.

The last seed of 35 entrants, Gregory finished 27th overall among the first round racers – a substantial and noteworthy improvement.

We’ve by no means seen the end of Gregory – or his coach, Byron Moore. In fact, this was just the beginning of Gregory’s career against the very best in the world.

“It was a good race,” Gregory said. “Everybody pushed me through the race.”

“It was the first race I ever had anyone faster than me, so that’s something I learned. That’s something I really appreciate from the opportunity I had.”

“I feel right now exactly like I did when I won my first national championship,” he said, beaming.

Gregory Signing "Love"

Gregory will move into his future with current coach Byron Moore, who said, “It’s really been a great experience for me. Personally, I’ve always wanted to see this great stadium since it was built. I saw the tour on You Tube and I (said) I’ve got to get there, need to be there, and to be here for this special reason,” he said, gesturing towards Gregory, “is really special to me.”

Gregory has clear perspective about where he is headed and how he can fulfill his enormous potential. He is grateful for the experience gained in Eugene today, and knows that “the last 100m is my greatest weakness,” and that that’s what he will focus on in the future.

They will continue to work together as athlete and coach.

“For sure,” said Gregory, almost incredulously, as if the answer was the most obvious he could give.

“You can’t get rid of me that fast!” replied Coach Moore.

“If you want to come out here (to Hayward Field),” concluded Gregory, “you’ve got to put your faith in it. You’ve got to really work for it."

In order to succeed here, he said, “you’ve got to be a big dog.”

“I will be back greater than today for sure.”

Special thanks to Blake Timm for his generous assistance in the preparation of this article.

Photo: Mark Cullen