Friday, June 28, 2024

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 clichĂ©, 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.

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