Brazier/Solomon bounced, Richards-Ross bids adieu, Rupp beats the heat
Kevin Sully | On 01, Jul 2016
The Olympic Trials give unfulfilling answers to perfectly legitimate questions. Here’s one: how does someone go from running 1:43 in the 800 at the NCAA Championships to not being able to muster a 1:47 in the qualifying heats?
Donavan Brazier was eliminated in the first round on Friday evening after slipping from first to fourth in the last 100 meters. The bounce in his stride evaporated as Clayton Murphy, Brandon Johnson and Harun Abda all went by and moved Brazier from Olympic medal threat to first-round exit in the span of 100 meters.
Sure, he felt tired after a long season and, yes, he was racing deeper competition, but the best answer for such a sudden drop in performance just seems to be: because it’s the Trials. Strange things happen and they happen quickly and by small margins. Duane Solomon’s Olympic journey ended just as hastily. Runners passed Solomon on the inside and outside of the first heat and he fell .05 short of an automatic qualifying spot. The only safe strategy for the 800m appears to be to do what Boris Berian did. Steer clear of everyone and — if they get close — go faster. Of course, that plan works when you are Boris Berian and in the prime years of your career. Solomon’s lead-up to the Trials (in which he was dealing with a hamstring injury) didn’t leave him any room for a tactical screw-up.
In all, the 800m preliminary heats for both men and women were competitive at the line. These were not processions that devolved into the leaders jogging down the homestretch. There were fewer surprises in the women’s 800m The sheer amount of American women around the 2:00-2:02 meant some couldn’t escape the first round. We all were aware of the math, but I didn’t think Laura Roesler would be the one on the outside. She entered with the sixth best mark of the year. Friday, she slid to fourth in the fourth heat and her time was not fast enough to qualify.
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In the night’s only final on the track, Galen Rupp won another U.S. 10,000m title. The 6:25 p.m. start time led to temperatures above 80 degrees and a haphazard race with runners strewn across the track. Rupp surged early in the race, moving out to a lead that the rest of the field was content to ignore. Just before halfway, Rupp folded himself back into the rest of the pack. When he surged again, the rest of the field came apart around him.
First, it was Bernard Lagat, who shadowed Rupp before dropping out with less than 3,000 meters remaining. Then Hassan Mead, who assumed the final qualifying spot when Lagat went down, stopping with five laps to go. Mead resumed — ran a couple of 90-second laps before spiking his sun glasses in front of the West Grandstand. It was that kind of day.
I’m assuming that Mead, as well as the others who were out of contention, forged on through the heat because of a rule that dictates that a runner must cross the finish line in order to remain eligible for a later event in the meet. Results show that Mead dropped out with one lap to go. Maybe he lost count of the laps. I don’t blame him. I was watching the race under the cover of shade and still had no idea what was happening.
Up front, Rupp and Kipchirchir kept chugging along with some 66-second laps and Leonard Korir assumed the ill-fated third spot, 20 seconds back. Kipchirchir surged past Rupp at the bell, but Rupp handled the move comfortably and opened up a six-second gap by the finish. Kipchirchir was second and Korir took third.
The fourth spot may prove valuable in the event that Rupp decides to just stick to the marathon in Rio. Scott Fauble finished behind Korir, less than two seconds ahead of Chris Derrick.
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Two big groans from the crowd at Hayward Field. One, when Bernard Lagat pulled up after losing contact with Galen Rupp in the 10,000. Lagat is still entered in the 5000m, so I think most people were upset that they didn’t get to see a dramatic ending between two rivals. Not the same for Sanya Richards-Ross. Her exit was definitive. Running in the heats of the 400m, she pulled up with just less than 200 meters remaining. The hamstring that Richards-Ross injured in a 100m race in Atlanta wouldn’t allow her to complete the second turn. She was wearing a large wrap around her right hamstring on Friday and said that she still thought she might be able to run fast enough to qualify out of the heats. But the hamstring didn’t cooperate and her 400m morphed into a good-bye lap as she waved to the crowd while jogging into the homestretch.
Richards-Ross has been a factor in women’s 400m running since 2003. During that time, she’s appeared in nine global outdoor championships, won four individual medals and set the American record of 48.70. She told me earlier this year that, because of the questionable performances above her on the all-time list, she considers 48.70 a top three mark all-time.
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Jeremy Wariner is rage, raging against the dying light of his career. Four years after what was assumed to be his final Olympic Trials, Wariner advanced to the men’s 400m semifinals.
Though 400m men at their end know dark is right,
Because their hamstrings had forked no tightening they
Do not go gentle into that good (Hayward) night.