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By David Monti, Race Results Weekly
EUGENE, Ore. (25-Jun) — With a neck-snapping surge from the middle of the backstretch to the finish, Nick Symmonds repeated as USA Olympic Trials 800m champion here, clocking his fastest time ever at Hayward Field and the fastest Olympic Trials winning time since 1992: 1:43.92. His victory tonight marked his fifth consecutive national 800m title.
“Maybe we can do something special tonight,” Symmonds recalled thinking when he took to the track and noticed that despite the chilly and damp conditions there was almost no wind.
Symmonds was running well behind the fast first-half pace set by Charles Jock, who hit 400 meters in 49.86. Jock was followed by Duane Solomon –one of only two men in the 8-man final who didn’t have the Olympic Games “A” standard of 1:45.60– and Oregon’s Elijah Greer. Symmonds briefly appeared to be losing contact back in fifth place, but said later the he was confident that he had enough left to catch up and finish well.
“We get our speed from our strength,” he told reporters, reminding them that he trained more like a miler under Oregon Track Club Elite coach Mark Rowland.
In the middle of the backstretch, Symmonds made his move, coming around the outside of Solomon and taking a clear lead. He flew to the finish, and after crossing the line stretched his arms to the side, and stuck his tongue out in jubilation. It looked easy, but the former NCAA Division III champion said he was at the limit.
“I started to rig-up with 50 to go,” he later admitted.
Solomon was passed in the final few meters by 35 year-old veteran Khadevis Robinson, who took second in 1:44.64, just 1/100th of a second ahead of Solomon who achieved the “A” standard and locked in his place on the team.
“This is my first Olympic Team,” said Solomon, who missed running at the IAAF World Indoor Championships this year despite winning the USA indoor title because he failed to achieve the qualifying standard. ”It feels just amazing.”
Alysia Montano, who broke her foot in the first round of the Olympic Trials in 2008 and had to be carried off of the track, won tonight in commanding fashion. The former California Golden Bear, running with a bright yellow cloth flower in her hair, hit the half-way in a swift 55.87, and held on to win in 1:59.08.
“That flower represents strength to me,” a delighted Montano told reporters. ”I’ve always put a flower in my hair since I was a little girl.”
Behind Montano, there was a fierce battle for the final two team spots. Geena Gall, who runs for the Eugene-based Oregon Track Club Elite, managed to pass both Alice Schmidt and Molly Beckwith in the last 20 meters to take second and punch her ticket to London in 1:59.24. Beckwith, who had looked so good in the first two rounds, fell apart in the final meters and was passed by Schmidt just before the line.
“Things always open up at the end of an 800,” said Schmidt, who didn’t panic when she was trying to get through traffic in the homestretch. She added: “It sort of loosened up at the end I broke through.”
In 5000m qualifying, neither Matt Tegenkamp nor Chris Derrick started –their coaches both said that they needed to rest– setting the stage for all of the favorites to advance. Andrew Bumbalough and Galen Rupp finished 1-2 in heat 1, 13:46.80 to 13:46.82 on the strength of a 55.4-second last lap. Alan Webb finished 11th –and last– and failed to advance.
In the second heat Lopez Lomong and Bernard Lagat ran 64.6 then 57.7 for the last two laps to take first and second, respectively, in 13:42.81 and 13:42.83. Ben True, who finished 12th in the 10,000m on Friday, finished third and also advanced.
In the steeplechase events, the University of Colorado’s Emma Coburn looked best amongst both the men and women, and glided to victory in the first heat in 9:43.19. Her Colorado teammate and 2012 NCAA champion, Shalaya Kipp, finished second in 9:46.17.
“It was good,” Coburn said, her uniform soaked from the rain. ”It was fun being with Shalaya and we’re looking forward to the final.”
Two other Olympic Team contenders, Bridget Franek and and Sara Hall, finished 1-2 in the second heat. Both have the Olympic Games “A” standard.
“I’ve been working hard,” said the plain-spoken Franek who lives and trains in Eugene. ”It was a pretty controlled effort. I was definitely thinking about Friday (and the final) out there.”
Dan Huling (8:29.00), Ben Bruce (8:29.11) and Kyle Alcorn (8:29.27) were the three fastest qualifiers from the men’s steeplechase heats all running in heat 2, but Evan Jager looked very smooth winning the first heat in 8:30.60 over NCAA champion Donn Cabral (8:30.64).
“It was good,” Jager said of his heat, emphasizing that he stayed near the front to avoid trouble. ”Just wanted to have a clear sense of where I was.”
The USA Olympic Trials continue here on Thursday with the preliminaries of the men’s and women’s 1500m, the men’s steeplechase finals, and the finals of both the men’s and women’s 5000m.
(c) 2012 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission