U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Hurdler McLaughlin beats nerves to make Olympic team at 16

By Keeler McJunkin

Sydney McLaughlin, a 16-year-old who just finished her junior year in high school, who doesn’t have her driver’s license because she lost her permit and likes to juggle in her free time, was so nervous when she got to the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials that she told her coach she couldn’t run.

She didn’t think she had the mental toughness to compete at such a high profile event. There were too many cameras and too many fans in the stands. She thought it was too much.

Ten days later, McLaughlin is headed to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after out-leaning a diving Kori Carter to take bronze by .03 in the women’s 400-meter hurdle final Sunday in a world junior record of 54.15.

She will be the youngest American track Olympian since 1972.

“The first day I got here I wasn’t going to run,” McLaughlin said. “My coaches pushed me through it and now here I am. I’m on the team. Sometimes I forget that I’m just 16, and I have to look away from all the cameras.”


Brenda Martinez redeems herself in women’s 1,500-meter final

By Hannah Bonnie

Brenda Martinez collapsed across the line in tears during the women’s 1,500-meter final of the U.S Track and Field Olympic Trials, finishing in third place and making the team for Rio six days after a fall prevented her from making the 800-meter team.

Jenny Simpson won with a time of 4 minutes, 4.74 seconds, while Shannon Rowbury finished in second in 4:05.39.

On Monday, during the 800-meter final, Martinez became entangled with another favorite, Alysia Montano, and they missed out on making the Olympic team in that event. Because of that, Martinez declared for the 1,500, hoping for a second shot at making her first Olympic team.

“My heart sings for Brenda,” said Simpson. “There’s only one woman in the 800 meters that can also make the 1,500-meter team, and it’s Brenda.”

Martinez was in the middle of the pack for much of the race, but during the final 200 meters, she found a space and sprinted to the finish line, unsure if she had made the team because Amanda Eccleston had dived across the line at the same time as she did. Martinez finished in 4:06.16, while Eccleston finished .03 seconds behind. (more…)

Lananna wants to wear yet another hat: USATF president

By Isaac Gibson

EUGENE, Oregon — Vin Lananna wears many hats in the track and field world. He is the president of TrackTown USA, the associate athletic director at the University of Oregon, the head coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic team. He has been the driving force behind bringing three Olympic trials to Hayward Field and securing the NCAA championships from 2013-2021.

However, there is one more hat that Lananna is seeking to add to his collection: president of U.S.A. Track and Field.

Lananna announced Sunday at a press conference that he would run for USATF president because he believes that it is his time. If elected, he will succeed Stephanie Hightower, who has reached her two-term limit. The new president will be elected for a four-year term during this year’s annual USATF meeting, Nov. 30-Dec. 4 in Orlando, Florida.

“I think that our federation has done an outstanding job,” said Lananna. “I think that I can add something to it. I think it is a chance for me to really play a role in the continuation of the rise of the federation.” (more…)

Female throwers work for female empowerment

By Zac Neel

DeAnna Price, Michelle Carter, Raven Saunders. If you are a fan of track and field, you probably know their names. If you care about body-shaming in women’s sports, you need to know their message.

These women are just some of the handful of female athletes who have taken to speaking out about the issue of body image in track and field, and all sports for that matter.

Each competes in a throwing event in their sport, and next to the distance runners or sprinters that they are often compared to, these women are different. Not petite; they’re strong. Not toned; they’re powerful.

And they are proud of it.

Price has always been a little bit bigger. It wasn’t until about two years ago that she finally started to accept it.

While competing in the hammer throw as a freshman at Southern Illinois University, Price noticed herself starting to gain more weight. She would constantly look in the mirror, uncomfortable with the person that stared back at her.

“I remember my freshman year, I went from 200 pounds and I dropped down to 170,” said Price. “And with that, my mark went from 62 meters down to 54.”

It was then that Price realized that if she wanted to compete at a high level, she had to turn her back on what society was telling her to look like.

“You have to be comfortable with yourself and comfortable with your body image,” Price said. “I have my whole life to be skinny, but right now, I need to love myself to be able to do what I want to do. If you are a little bit bigger, but you’re throwing it far, it really doesn’t matter at all.” (more…)

U.S. Olympic Trials: What Happened on Day 9

Bernard Lagat, age 41, outkicked the 5,000-meter field to make his fifth Olympic team. Photo by Dillon Vibes

Day 9 of the Olympic Trials was extraordinary in numerous ways. With 22,847 in attendance, it was a Hayward Field record. In the men’s 5,000 meters, 41-year-old legend Bernard Lagat proved age is just a number with his last-minute win. And as a finale, in the men’s 110 hurdles Oregon Duck Devon Allen became the first current UO student in eight years to make an Olympic team, his winning time the second-fastest in the world this year. Read our pieces on individual events and athletes below.

It was a big day for Arizona at Hayward, as 41-year-old resident Bernard Lagat won the men’s 5K with his trademark kick to make his fifth Olympic team. After failing to finish the 10K final earlier in the week, Lagat was on a mission to make his last race at Hayward Field one to remember. The veteran runner had previously announced that this will be his last year as a professional track athlete. Kylee O’Connor has the story for the Arizona Republic.

Romaine Soh covered the men’s 200-meter final, which included two high schoolers. Noah Lyles’ fourth-place time of 20.09 set a new national high school record and Michael Norman ran a PR. Justin Gatlin won the event in 19.75 seconds.

Oregon Duck Devon Allen won the men’s 110 hurdles wearing green and yellow in front of his home crowd. His race included one extra hurdle: the stands. Allen’s Hayward leap to embrace his friends and family made for a picture-perfect Olympic moment. His win was the biggest 110 hurdles margin in trials history. Hannah Bonnie has the story.

The best of Mississippi continued their Olympic bids, with Tori Bowie advancing to the final of the 200 with a semifinal-winning time of 22.27 seconds. In the heptathlon, Mississippi State senior Erica Bougard finished the first day of competition in fifth place. In a story by Emma Decker for the Clarion-Ledger, Bougard said she needs to win the long jump and stay competitive in the 800 in order to have a chance at Rio. Both Bougard and Bowie return Sunday to compete for the podium.

Isaac Gibson covered the men’s triple jump for DyeStat and wrote about how Will Claye redeemed himself after a disappointing performance in the long jump. Claye won the triple with a jump of 57 feet, 11 inches to make his second Olympic team, 10 1/4 inches ahead of second-place Christian Taylor, a fellow Florida alum.

Texas A&M senior Maggie Malone won the women’s javelin with a throw of 199 feet, 7 inches. Keeler McJunkin followed the competition for DyeStat as Malone beat her childhood idol, Kara Winger, with the three farthest throws of the finals. Winger, the American record holder, finished third.

And Kylee O’Connor pulled a double, writing a piece about javelin thrower Christine Rickert, who surprised herself by even qualifying for the trials yet was still a little disappointed in her 12th-place finish.



Double the fun: Gatlin and Merritt make Olympic team in 200 meters

By Romaine Soh

Even professional athletes like Justin Gatlin have pre-race jitters.

Before his 200-meter final on Saturday, he woke up at 4 a.m. and could not get back to sleep. He was worrying about the ankle and quad injuries he had been dealing with all season, forcing him to wear an ACE bandage on his quad each time he raced.

And before the race, he thought, “If my leg’s gonna give, it’s gonna give now.” He told himself, “At least I’m on the team – I got my ticket already.”

He turned on the jets off the curve to win the race at the U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials in 19.75 seconds. LaShawn Merritt, a quarter-mile specialist, was second in 19.79 seconds. Ameer Webb clinched the last spot on the U.S. Olympic team with his third-place finish of 20 seconds flat.

Though Gatlin was assigned the outermost lane, which meant that he could not see his competition, this did not stop him from pulling off a successful double. Last Sunday, he was crowned the 100-meter champion.

“With about 40 to 45 meters to go, I could start seeing LaShawn’s legs coming,” said Gatlin. “I just had a flashback of Beijing happening all over again. I was like ‘Oh, no, we not!’”

At last year’s IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Gatlin had seemed to be in the lead until world record holder Usain Bolt blasted past him in the final 50 meters. Gatlin settled for the silver. (more…)

Devon Allen dominates the 110-meter hurdles

By Hannah Bonnie

Oregon’s Devon Allen dominated the 110-meter hurdles Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, beating the rest of the field by .2 seconds, the biggest margin in trials history, with a time of 13.03, a personal record.

When Allen’s name was announced before the race, the crowd began cheering and screaming, showing him their obvious support. He reciprocated by throwing up the Oregon “O.” Then, he exploded off the starting line and kept the momentum going. After the race, he jumped into the stands and ran into the crowd to hug his mom and dad.

“I was just really excited,” he said.

Because he won both his semifinal heat and the final, Allen remained undefeated in the event at Hayward Field. He won his heat with a time of 13.40, the second fastest time overall.

“The fans are amazing; everything about this place is amazing,” said Allen. (more…)

U.S. Olympic Trials: What Happened on Day 8

Lane Community College’s Dakarai Hightower clears 7 feet ¼ inch in the preliminary round of the high jump, advancing him to Sunday’s final. Photo by Dillon Vibes

Lane Community College’s Dakarai Hightower clears 7 feet ¼ inch in the high jump qualifying, which was contested in a steady rain. He advanced to Sunday’s final. Photo by Dillon Vibes

It was a real Oregon track meet Friday at the U.S. Olympic trials, with the majority of races accompanied by unrelenting downpours. Puddles formed in lane one and athletes walked off the track soaked to the bone, but it didn’t prevent another set of record performances and upsets at Hayward Field. Read our pieces on individual events and athletes below.

Kylee O’Connor covered the men’s discus for DyeStat, where Wyoming grad Mason Finley won the competition with a throw of 208 feet, 1 inch, followed by Travis Bailey in second, and Andrew Evans in third. Finley said the rain did affect his performance, and there were 28 total fouls out of 60 attempts for the field.

Tori Bowie of Mississippi advanced to the semifinals of the 200. The University of Mississippi alum already has a spot on the Olympic team after coming in third in the finals of the 100. Isiah Young, also from Mississippi, failed to qualify for the finals of the men’s 200 by .28 seconds, coming in third in his heat. Emma Decker covered the events for two Mississippi newspapers, the Clarion-Ledger and the Hattiesburg American.

Keeler McJunkin followed the women’s 100-meter hurdles final, where nine of the top 12 times in the world this year have been posted by Americans. Brianna Rollins came in first with a time of 12.34, and joining her on the Olympic team are second place finisher Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali in third. It was a finish that surprised the field, as Keni Harrison, who had posted the top three times in the world this year and was a favorite to make the team, finished sixth.

The Oregon Ducks put on a show on their home turf, with eight competitors in the men’s 1,500 semifinals either current or former Ducks. Six qualified for the final on Sunday. The ones who did not make it were current Oregon athletes Matthew Maton and Sam Prakel. Isaac Gibson has the story. 

The high schoolers came out to show what they’re made of on day eight, with four prep athletes competing, two of whom qualified for final rounds. Romaine Soh talked to Christina Aragon and Kate Murphy, who both failed to advance to the 1,500 final. In the men’s 200 semifinal, Vista Murrieta High School senior Michael Norman beat Justin Gatlin to the line by 0.02 seconds. Norman and fellow prep competitor Noah Lyles will run in the finals of the men’s 200 Sunday.

And away from the track, event organizers have worked hard to implement sustainable practices into the trials — reusable water bottles, compost bins and the like. Hannah Bonnie explored efforts to make the Olympic trials green.

Fast 100-hurdles final leaves American record holder off Olympic team

By Keeler McJunkin

The women currently running the 100-meter hurdles from the United States are the best in the world: Nine of the top 12 times in the world this year have been posted by Americans.

So at a top meet like the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, anyone in the final has a chance to win.

Brianna Rollins ran 12.34 seconds to take gold Friday and make her first Olympic Games. Kristi Castlin (12.50) and Nia Ali (12.55) finished second and third, respectively, to round out the team headed to Rio. It will be the first Olympic Games for all three.

With so many top hurdlers in the field, the strategy for Ali wasn’t just to try and make the team. She knew it would take more than that to secure her spot.

“My coach told me the easiest way to get fourth was to go out there trying for top three,” Ali said. “Anyone out there could do it, so why not me?”

Keni Harrison, who had posted the top three times in the world this year, including an American record 12.24 at the Prefontaine Classic, got off to a slow start and finished sixth.


Six Ducks Qualify for men’s 1,500-meter final

By Isaac Gibson

The men’s 1,500-meter final Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will have an unorthodox 13 men competing in it. And nearly half of those men have worn an Oregon singlet at one time in their careers.

Eight Ducks and former Ducks had advanced to Friday’s semifinals after the first round, and six of those eight Ducks made it into the final. The ones who did not make it were current Oregon athletes Matthew Maton and Sam Prakel.

“It really felt like a Pac-12 race out there,” said Andrew Wheating, who ran 3 minutes, 44.73 seconds to advance on time after becoming a late addition to the field. “In the back of our minds, we are all thinking, ‘We got to beat all of you.’”

Matthew Centrowitz, who qualified second behind Ben Blankenship, is the only Oregon athlete among the four runners with the Olympic standard. If no one runs under 3 minutes, 36.2 seconds in the final, he will be the only one from Oregon that has a chance to make the Olympic team. (more…)

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