Team USA Being Stocked With Northwest Athletes At Olympic Track & Field Trials
The U.S. Olympic Team bound for the Rio Games will be well stocked with Pacific Northwest runners and throwers judging from the first weekend of action at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials in Eugene.
An Oregon-Washington duo will take on the world in the decathlon this August. On Sunday, defending Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton finished the grueling two day, 10-event decathlon at the Trials comfortably on top of the leader board. The Oregon native and former University of Oregon standout scored 8750 points. That is the top decathlon score in the world this year, all the more remarkable in that Eaton is not 100 percent recovered from some leg injuries suffered in the spring.
"I’d like to point out that most decathletes are dealing with something. It’s just the nature of the event, so it’s not surprising," Eaton said after the competition. "My training was what took the biggest hit. You just have to alter it, but other than that I feel good."
Jeremy Taiwo of Seattle punched his ticket to the Olympics for the first time with a Herculean effort in the decathlon's final event on Sunday, the 1500-meter run. The 2013 University of Washington graduate surged to second place overall with a personal best score of 8425.
"This year, I didn’t know how it was going to be, but I’m happy to make it. I’m an Olympian now!" exulted Taiwo in a statement from the Brooks Beasts Track Club. "I said I’m either going to remember today as the worst time of my life or the best time of my life, and I’m glad it was the latter."
Taiwo becomes the second Olympian in his family. His father, Joseph, competed in the triple jump for his native Nigeria in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics.
Also on Sunday, former University of Oregon star English Gardner qualified for the Summer Games in Brazil by sprinting to victory in the women's 100-meters. She clocked 10.74 seconds. Gardner will be joined in Rio by another ex-Oregon Duck, Phyllis Francis, who placed second in the 400-meters with a time of 49.94.
Earlier in the weekend, Portland-based distance runner Emily Infeld made the U.S. Olympic Team with a gutsy second-place finish in the 10,000 meters. After her race, a beaming Infeld described the pre-race pep talk she had with her coach Jerry Schumacher of the Nike Bowerman Track Club:
"We were kind of having a chat before the race and he’s like, 'You’ve dreamed of this since you were a little girl.' And I was like, 'I know. I don’t even want to think about that now. I just want to think of this as any other race," Infeld recalled. "But, it’s crazy, because I feel like I just got in race mode of doing that and then crossed the finish line and it’s like, whoa, it really happened. Doing it. We’re all going to Rio!”
On Friday night in the men's 10,000 meters, 2012 Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp punched his ticket to Rio de Janeiro for a second time. Rupp had already made the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team by winning the marathon trials in February. He led the 10K at the Olympic trials from wire to wire.
Close behind Rupp in the sprint to the finish Friday was Shadrack Kipchirchir, a U.S. Army recruit who was born and raised in Kenya. Kipchirchir now trains in Beaverton, Oregon with coach Dan Browne (not coincidentally a former Olympian from Oregon too) as part of the U.S Army's World Class Athlete Program. That program combines soldiering with competition in a variety of Olympic and Paralympic disciplines. It has offered a number of Kenyans a path to U.S. citizenship.
The men's 800-meters was the final Olympic selection event of the holiday weekend. Charles Jock, who trains with the Oregon Track Club Elite in Eugene, sprinted into third place to secure a spot on the plane to Rio with a time of 1:45.48. Former University of Akron standout Clayton Murphy won the race in 1:44.76.
Rounding out the the Northwest contingent who have secured places on the Rio-bound Team USA so far are Eugene-based javelin thrower Cyrus Hostetler and two cousins raised in the Portland suburbs, Ryan and Sam Crouser. Ryan Crouser won the shot put competition on the first day of the Olympic trials on Friday while Hostetler and Sam Crouser qualified in the javelin on Monday.
The Olympic Trials continue at historic Hayward Field through next weekend.