EUGENE, Ore. - In a race that truly captured the essence of the Olympic Trials, three fast and determined women became the first athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games from Friday's opening day of competition at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field.
The top three finishers in each event at these Olympic Trials, who have met Olympic performance standards, will earn the ultimate prize of a spot on the Team USA roster for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. The need for that Olympic A standard was writ large in the women's 10,000m, run at 9:20 p.m. on a humid evening.
As she did at the Women's Marathon Olympic Trials April 20 in Boston, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet took the early lead in the 10,000 and paced the field through 10 laps. But 13 minutes into the race, American record holder Shalane Flanagan decided the pace wasn't to her liking and led World Outdoor bronze medalist Kara Goucher and Amy Yoder Begley away from the pack, dropping the pace by nearly 10 seconds per lap, down to 71 for one quick lap.
A Nike Oregon Project athlete who was a two-time NCAA champion and 16-time All-American while at the University of Arkansas, Yoder Begley entered the Olympic Trials lacking the Olympic "A" qualifying standard of 31:45:00 - a time she needed to beat in order to ensure a place on the team. Knowing a ticket to Beijing was on the line, Yoder Begley took the lead with seven laps to go, in pursuit of the A standard. Flanagan and Goucher again took over with three laps to go, and with 300m to go, Flanagan turned on the speed and pulled away to win in 31:34.81, a Hayward Field record, with Goucher second in 31:37.72.
But it was Yoder Begley's solo race for third that was most inspiring. Running alone and visibly digging for every available bit of energy, she needed to cover the final 800 meters in 2:20 to beat the 31:45 standard. It took minutes after she crossed the finish line for her time to be displayed on the scoreboard, but when it did, it was cause for celebration. 31 minutes, 43.60 seconds. Yoder Begley made it to Beijing with 1.40 seconds to spare.
Hot hot hot women's 100
As expected, the women's 100 is shaping up as one of the toughest competitions on the card. In Friday's quarterfinal heats, the second round of 100m action on Friday, Marshevet Hooker became the fifth-fastest woman in history, under any conditions, when she ran a wind-aided 10.76 (+3.4) to win the first heat, leading Olympic silver medalist Lauryn Williams (10.86) across the line. Only Florence Griffith-Joyner, Marion Jones, Christine Arron of France and Merlene Ottey of Jamaica have ever run faster than Hooker, either wind-legal or wind-aided. In the second heat, World Outdoor bronze medalist Carmelita Jeter ran a personal-best 10.97 (+0.7), with Allyson Felix second in 10.98. 2003 world champion Torri Edwards easily won the third heat in 10.85 (+2.3), easing up significantly in the final meters, with Muna Lee second 10.89. All told, eight women ran under 11 seconds in that round.
Hooker also ran the fastest overall time in the first round, with a wind-aided 10.94 (+2.2), as Lee had fastest with a legal wind (11.00, +1.8).
Two-time USA outdoor champion Hyleas Fountain was in the driver's seat of the heptathlon after day 1 of competition, with three personal bests, three records and three first-place event finishes in four events. The 27-year-old resident of Dayton, Ohio, got the Olympic Trials off with a bang in the first event of the meet, the women's heptathlon 100m hurdles. Her time of 12.65, worth 1,178 points on scoring tables, broke three records: American record, heptathlon 100m hurdles (12.69, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 1988, Seoul); Olympic Trials record, heptathlon 100m hurdles (12.71, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 1988, Indianapolis); and USA National Championship record, heptathlon 100m hurdles (12.77, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, 1991, NYC).
Fountain cleared 1.81m/5-11.25 in the high jump for 991 points (tied for 2nd), threw a personal-best 13.67m/44-10.25 in the shot put (772 points, 1st) and ran another personal best, 23.31 (1048 points, +1.3 mps) in the 200m to win that events as well. She ended the day with 3,989 points. Diana Pickler was in second with 3,750 points and Jacquelyn Johnson was third with 3,717.
Favorites move on in 400 hurdles
Winning their heats in the first round of the women's 400 hurdles were 2004 Olympic Trials champion Sheena Johnson Tosta (56.07), 2005 World Outdoor silver medalist Lashinda Demus (56.98), 2008 Visa Champion Tiffany Ross-Williams (55.47) and Miriam Barnes (56.23). In a surprise, 2007 NCAA champion Nicole Leach hit the seventh hurdle in the fourth heat and did not advance.
Winning their heats in the first round of the men's 400m hurdles were Terry Thornton (49.54), Bershawn Jackson (49.63), Reuben McCoy (49.87) and Jeshua Anderson (49.05). Among the favorites easily advancing were world champion Kerron Clement (49.13) and 2000 Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor (49.34).
Field event qualifying
The men's shot put qualifying round brought no surprises, with the "big three" of Adam Nelson (21.03m/69-0), Reese Hoffa (20.99m/68-10.5) and Christian Cantwell (20.82m/68-3.75) all advancing to Saturday's final on their first throws.
Two-time defending U.S. outdoor champion Shani Marks led qualifying in the women's triple jump with a mark of 14.34m/47-00.75 (+2.1mps). The final will be held on Sunday. 2005 USA outdoor champion Miguel Pate had the top mark in men's long jump with 8.24m/27-0.50.
American record holder Brad Walker led men's pole vault qualifying with a first-attempt clearance at 5.60m/18-4.5. All other top contenders advanced through, including Olympic gold and silver medalists Tim Mack and Toby Stevenson, but local favorite Tommy Skipper failed to clear a height. The field will compete in the final on Sunday. The women's discus final also is set for Sunday, with Stephanie Brown-Trafton the top qualifier on Friday (63.61m/208-8).
800m rounds feature a few surprises
With the favorites advancing, it was a teen-ager in the women's 800m who most caught the eye of the Hayward Field crowd. Laura Roesler, a 16-year-old high schooler from North Dakota who was running in a uniform purchased at Target, advanced to the semifinal by placing fourth in the first heat in 2:04.03. Winning their heats were two-time Olympian Hazel Clark (2:03.65), 2006 USA Indoor champion Alice Schmidt (2:03.58) and Kameisha Bennett (2:04.85). Defending national champion Alysia Johnson was ninth in the third heat and did not advance.
Lopez Lomong ran a speedy first heat in the men's 800, finishing in 1:46.91, while Eugene resident Nick Symmonds slowed things down in heat 2, winning in 1:49.01. Another Eugene favorite, the University of Oregon's Andrew Wheating, won heat 3 in 1:47.85.
Easing through the 5000s
The men's 5,000m semifinal rounds were slow and tactical in preparation for Monday's final. Matt Tegenkamp, fourth at the 2007 World Outdoor Championships, won a first heat that included world champion Bernard Lagat and 2000 Olympic Trials champion Adam Goucher in 13:54.62. University of Oregon student Galen Rupp won the second semi in 13:59.14.
1980 Olympic Team honored
Members of the 1980 Olympic Team, who qualified at the Olympic Trials held on this track 28 years ago, were introduced in a ceremony prior to the start of the women's 100m heats. The group, including National Track & Field Hall of Famers Mary Slaney, Steve Scott, Chandra Cheeseborough, Alberto Salazar, Madeline Manning Mims, Edwin Moses, Renaldo Nehemiah, Mac Wilkins, Larry Myricks coach Stan Huntsman and many others, was honored earlier in the day in the Eugene 08 Fan Fest and received a standing ovation from the fans at Hayward Field.
For complete coverage of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, including results, athletes quotes, TV schedule and start lists, visit www.usatf.org