Simply put, there is nothing I've experienced in watching a sporting event that tops watching a distance event at Hayward Field in Eugene.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Olympic Trials Monday night, which IMHO was the best session of the entire meet.
The highlights of the session were:
Women's 400 meters semifinals
This event went pretty much as expected with Sanya Richards, Mary Wineberg, and Dee Dee Trotter leading the way. Monique Henderson and Natasha Hastings were close behind and will be a threat to make the team.
Men's 400 meters semifinals
This also went as expected but the treat was having Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt in same semifinal. Wariner came off the turn slightly ahead and held it but neither was putting in a full effort. The final should be great.
Women's 800 meters final
The favorites were Hazel Clark and Alice Schmidt, but the stories were Kameisha Bennett needing the A standard and Nicole Teter on her comeback having the A standard and just needing to finish in the top-3.
At the start, Clark and Schmidt took it out hard going through 200 in about 26 (!) and 400 in around 56. There was no way they'd hold that pace but they remained in the lead with Teter in third with 100 to go. But Bennett made her move and got half a meter on Teter and held it most of the way eventually holding her off. However, only Clark got under 2:00 (the A standard) and so Teter still makes the team.
Men's 800 meters final
In what appeared to be the best event of the night on paper both competitively and based on the anticipation of the crowd, Khadevis Robinson looked to retain his U.S. title but he had Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating and Christian Smith (all Oregon trained) as well s 1500 specialist Lopez Lomong and former NCAA champ Jonathan Johnson looking to spoil things.
The race got out well with Robinson in his traditional lead going through in just over 50 seconds. Symmonds was in his usual position near the rear as were Smith and Wheating. With 200 to go Robinson led Lomong and Symmonds had moved up a bit but was now boxed in and Smith was on the rail as well. Somehow Symmonds saw a gap and bounced it outside and came storming around everyone surging into the lead with 90 meters to go. He clearly had a gear no one else had the crowd was going crazy for the local.
But the excitement wasn't nearly over as also making a move around the outside at this point was Wheating with his green Oregon O on his yellow singlet only stirring the local fans further into a frenzy. He made his move into second dropping Robinson to third, but again, the excitement was not complete.
As Symmonds and Wheating held onto their places the race for third began. Somehow Smith had stayed on the rail to run the shortest distance but made his way through into fifth then fourth and with a final dive attempted to get third. Robinson also dove with Lomong right there with them. The crowd didn't know who had gotten third but when the places appeared on the big screen it showed Smith in third and the crowd erupted once again.
In the end, third through fifth were within 0.11 seconds but the crowd got their preference of the Oregon trio all making the team.
Decathlon 1500 meters
In the final event of the Decathlon, the top-3 were pretty much finalized but Bryan Clay still had a shot at breaking Dan O'Brien's American Record if he were to run around 4:40 which was doable. Unfortunately 2 days and 9 events had taken too much out of him, and a couple of sub-par events on day 1 had him running 4:50 and missing the record by 59 points.
Women's 5000 meters semis
The story here was the top 2 in the 10000, Flanagan and Goucher, doubling back in the 5. Both ran perfect tactical races winning their semis respectively setting up another duel in the final Friday night.
Men's 5000 meters final
In the last event of the night, a packed field looked to fight it out for the 3 spots on the Olympic team. Well, ok, it was pretty much a given that Bernard Lagat would win given the likelihood that it would be at least somewhat tactical so they were fighting for 2 spots.
In addition to Lagat, the field included Matt Tegenkamp (4th at Worlds last year), Chris Solinsky, Ian Dobson, Bolota Asmeron, Brent Vaughn (set PR right behind Lagat in Stanford a couple months ago), and Adam Goucher (big race runner that needed the A standard too). And it could have had Galen Rupp as well but he chose to skip the 5000 final and focus on Friday's 10000 final.
At the start after only 200 meters Brent Vaughn raced to the front and got a 10-15 meter gap to push the pace. Given that he had the A standard it wasn't clear why he was doing this and the field let him go for a bit, but eventually pulled him back in. At mid-race they were behind A standard pace and Goucher began to push it but with a mile to go a sub-4 minute mile was going to be required to get the standard and with 2 laps to go Goucher dropped out knowing it was hopeless to also now focus on the 10000.
Right before Goucher dropped out Solinsky had taken the lead to try to push from 1000 meters out knowing that a prolonged kick was his best shot. Lagat was there the whole time and with 200 to go he kicked as expected and brought it home with a comfortable lead. Tegenkamp was also able to get a bit of a gap for second but in a bit of a surprise Dobson was able to get third ahead of a dying Solinski. Dobson being a native Oregonian also brought cheers from the raucous crowd to top the night of many native sons and daughters confirming their tickets to Beijing.
All in all, an outstanding evening of track and field and well worth the 11 hours of driving over the course of several days.
Other interesting links: