The action at Hayward Field on Friday seemed to finish before it really got going. The women’s steeplechase final was a competitive race, but paled in comparison to the incredibly dramatic 5,000s that closed out Thursday night. In the end, Friday proved to be more about setting up for the final two days of the Olympic Trials. Here are some stories to keep an eye on:
Men’s 200 Vacuum
The men’s 200 has developed into a story more about who is not running than who is. Walter Dix, Justin Gatlin and Mookie Salaam all scratched from the first round today. If he wasn’t before, Wallace Spearmon is now the clear favorite and probably the only medal hope for the Americans. Who benefits from all the scratches? NCAA champions Maurice Mitchell and Jeremy Dodson looked good, but perhaps this leaves an opening for one of the veterans. A pair of 34 year olds, 2004 Olympic gold medalist Shawn Crawford and 2003 World Championship silver medalist Darvis Patton, now have a realistic path to London. Not sure many would have predicted that at the beginning of the year.
Women’s 200: Best Event of the Meet?
As Ato Boldon mentioned on Thursday’s podcast, the women’s 200 features the most interesting and competitive sprint field of the entire meet. After today, that is now very clear. The top four women (or is it three?) in the 100, the 400 champion and the NCAA 200 champion are all in the final. This field is so tough that last year’s silver medalist, Carmelita Jeter, will be in lane 8 for the final. Adding an extra layer of drama, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh were separated by only one one-thousandth in the semifinals. Sound familiar?
Dead Heat Drama Moves to Mixed Zone
In their four combined appearances in the mixed zone since the 100, Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix are undefeated: In not talking to the media. This approach (both walked straight through accompanied by their coach, Bobby Kersee, and a USATF representative with nary a glance to the side) only seemed to create more interest in the dead heat. In a moment of levity, a journalist shouted a question to Kersee about Felix’s form to which Kersee offered a useful, “she looked good,” without breaking stride.
The two words that no track athlete or fan wants to hear have yet to make a substantive impact on these trials. Today, however, we did see it crop up in two races. In the semifinals of the women’s 400 hurdles, 2008 Olympian Queen Harrison false started and was initially disqualified before running under protest and being reinstated. I’m not sure how much of an effect it would have made as she finished last in her heat and was running in lane one, but the fairly lengthy conversation she had with the official after the first gun certainly did not help. In the fourth preliminary heat of the men’s 110 hurdles Fredrick Townsend false started by a mile. He was not expected to be a factor by any means, but it was a good reminder how quickly one mistake can end an athlete’s meet.
The A Game
The elimination of Alice Schmidt and Russell Brown in the women’s and men’s 1500 semifinals, leaves the women’s field with just four “A” standard holders (Morgan Uceny, Jenny Simpson, Anna Pierce and Shannon Rowbury) and six for the men (Andrew Wheating, Jeff See, Matt Centrowitz, Leo Manzano, David Torrence, and Robby Andrews). The chances that either gender runs fast enough in the final to add any new “As” is very small so the three tickets to London should come from those groups, regardless of their overall place in the final.