USA Olympic Trials Recaps: July 7-8, Jump!

After a few days off for athletes (and writers), we’re back with more semi-knowledgable comments about Olympic Trials. 

STEEPLECHASE – THE ONLY CHASE YOU NEED!

Ah, it’s time to recap the finals of my favorite event, the 3000m steeplechase. There’s just something heart-palpitating about the sight of 14-16 runners trying to jump over a pool of water simultaneously. It’s also tremendously entertaining, a feeling likely brought on from the schadenfreude of not having to run the race yourself.

The Ten Commandments of Steeplechasing

  1. Thou shalt not use one’s hands to assist in getting over the barrier unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Thou shalt not push or impede someone whilst he or she is jumping over a barrier.
  3. Thou shalt not run into the barrier, because it hurts a lot.
  4. Thou shalt not attempt to hurdle all the barriers unless sufficiently skilled.
  5. Thou shalt not spend too much time in self-pity after a fall.
  6. If thou hast been lapped, thou shalt not get in the way of a faster runner trying to hurdle a barrier.
  7. Thou shalt not jump off a barrier with two feet like a broad jump, because thou looks like an idiot when doing that.
  8. Thou shalt not run around the barrier.
  9. Thou shalt not wear socks.
  10. Thou shalt not have any fun whatsoever after lap 2.

Men’s and Women’s 3000m Steeplechase

Despite my enjoyment, the two winners of this event were probably the most predictable outcome in the entirety of Olympic Trials. Evan Jager and Emma Coburn won both races and they didn’t even exert maximum effort, which shocks exactly nobody. Instead, we can talk about the other interesting contestants who managed to make the team. Hillary Bor, another U.S. Army runner with a cool name, ran the race of his life and PRed by 3 seconds. The U.S. Army distance team has had a really good showing at these trials with Kipchirchir and Korir in the 10K and now Bor in the steeple. Apparently the U.S. Army runners have done a great job of peaking at the right time.

I would still argue that the U.S. Army’s influence on the USMNT has been more effective, but the World Class Athletes Program has worked out well for everyone thus far.

Bor took the spot from Andrew Bayer of Bowerman TC, who has run sub 8:20 before but will not make the team. Bayer lost out to Domm Cabral, who will make his first Olympic team. Cabral is my kind of runner. He’s from the Northeast (Glastonbury, CT to be precise) and he specializes in cross-country and the steeplechase. Can’t get much better than that.

The top step of the podium was anticlimactic as Coburn powered to a Trials record. Coburn didn’t challenge the American record again, but she will have another shot to do that at Rio. Behind Coburn, two Bowerman TC runners placed second and third, capping a fantastic showing at the steeplechase for the club. Of course, all the times can’t fix the glaring typo on Bowerman’s website…

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But I digress.

Teammates Courtney Frerichs and Colleen Quigley both PRed en route to a stunning comeback after a late implosion from both Stephanie Garcia and Leah O’Connor. Garcia’s dramatic and desperate attempt to hang on to an Olympic spot was probably the most depressing thing I’ve seen all week. Garcia’s fall on the last barrier was just an example of why the steeplechase could be considered cruel and unusual punishment by a particularly sarcastic court system. Garcia’s collapse (literally and figuratively) was pretty easy to spot once she started slowing down with 400 to go. Turns out leading for most of the race for no real reason is not a long-lasting strategy. The two Bowerman runners were then able to use their consistency to take the race.

I thought O’Connor would challenge for the team and run well. My prediction just went completely off the rails on the last lap. She closed with a 1:44!! Ouch.

Women’s 100m Hurdles

This was a very surprising race. Keni Harrison, the presumptive favorite, was only sixth. Meanwhile, Brianna Rollins won the race despite nearly crossing into the lane next to her for the last 50 meters. Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali finished second and third.

Field Event Finals

Michelle Carter’s Trials-winning shot put was ridiculous, and she’ll be heading back to the Olympics with a chance at doing some damage.

I missed the men’s pole vault review in my last column, so I’d like to give a shout-out to Sam Kendricks, who could finish the summer with a gold medal after another solid performance in trials.

Qualifying Rounds for Various Distance Events

  • There were no major implosions in the women’s 1500m qualifiers, although Mary Cain was pretty close to missing the 1500m final. She’s had a bizarre season, and she needs to have a good performance in the final on Sunday to stop the 30 for 30-worthy narrative that is starting to build around her career. Not that there will be a 30 for 30 about Mary Cain unless I somehow start running ESPN Films, but I’m getting some serious “This Magic Moment” Shaq/Penny vibes right now.
  • High school phenom Kate Murphy got knocked out in the 1500m semi-finals with a 4:14.52, despite running a stunning 4:07 earlier this year.
  • Speaking of high school phenoms, ALLIE OSTRANDER WTF?! She had a stress fracture for four months and then she ended up 4th in qualifying with a 15:27. What? Seriously? How is this possible? She’s just that good, I guess. Or maybe it’s because she’s Alaskan and enjoying the weather. I really have no idea. Alaska’s not even that bad in summer.
  • The 1500m semi-final heats were horribly divided. The Centrowitz Heat was absolutely stacked with Centro, Blankenship, Manzano, Wheating and Jordan McNamara, leaving the first heat particularly weak. The entirety of heat 2 finished ahead of the 5th place finisher in Heat 1, which is shitty for determining the finals for an Olympic Trials race. Matthew Maton (yes, the guy who broke four in high school), Frezer Legesse, Dorian Ulrey and Dusty Solis all got screwed over. The fact that Maton should’ve made the 1500m final at age 20 (I think; he has some Thon Maker crap going on with his age) is terrifying.
  • The 200m semi-final was uneventful, Actually it was very eventful, (thanks to the reader who pointed this out). Two recently graduated high schoolers, Noah Lyles and Mike Norman, won their heats and advanced to the finals. Add them to the list of new generation sprinters I mentioned in my rant about Gay/Gatlin earlier this week. I would also like to point out the final finisher in the 200m semi was named Tevin Hester. Not Devin Hester. Tevin Hester.

Predictions for Today:

Well, I guess I’m obligated to pick the team for the men’s 5000m. Here we go:

  1. Rupp 2. Mead (He has to redeem himself after the 10K disaster, right?) 3. True

I’m going mostly chalk. Mead and True won’t have any other shots to get into Rio, so they’ll be going all-out. If I have to take a sleeper, it would be Jenkins. Also, I expect Lomong and Lagat will be right there, so my predictions will probably be completely incorrect.

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