The Thrill of Victory

Sun, 29 June 2008 - 1:27 p.m. MT
Credit: Dave Watt - American Running Association

Live from Eugene—Sunday June 29
Another hot day in Eugene as the track competition heats up; Men's 100m Semis this afternoon; Day 1 of the Men's Decathlon underway

Hot weather has made its way to Eugene. Forecast high in "Tracktown USA" is 98 sizzling degrees.  No doubt today's competition will be heated too. Men's 100m semi-finals are slated for 2:30 pm PDT / 5:30 EDT.  The men's decathlon competition is ongoing since late morning.

ARA's Dave Watt and Bruce Gross arrived in Eugene after midnight and met up with YOUTH RUNNER's Dan Kesterson who had secured our comfy dorm rooms at neighboring NW Christian College. The laid back small town college atmosphere is the perfect backdrop for the ultimate track event, the USA Track & Field Olympic Trials. 

Duck Store on the edge of the U of O campus

It's easy to see why track & field historians have coined Eugene as TRACKTOWN USA.Everywhere you go, the TRIALS and running is the mantra.  This morning we ventured over to AUTZEN Stadium, home of the DUCKS football team to pick up our media credentials.  The stadium is adjacent to the Willamette River.  It is along this river that "PRE"s TRIAL" meanders for the 7+ mile run that the late Steve Prefontaine created during his days in Eugene.  Recently, the Oregon Track Club widened the trail and spread wood chip mulch along the trail. 


Entrance to Hayward Field

Hayward Field
Legendary track venue's renovation is second to none. 

Hayward Field has always brought out the best performances in track & field athletes.  Its multi-million dollar expansion and track renovation is a site unseen in U.S. track venues.  Temporary stands have enclosed the track creating a cozy atmosphere for the nearly 20,000 fans who will fill the stands for this evening's performances.

100m Semi-Finals to go at 2:30 pm PDT
Tyson Gay sets 100m American Record; HS star Jeff Demps sets national high school record

Normally, an American Record will dominate the buzz after the 100m prelims.   Florida high schooler Jeff Demps had something to say to match Gay's record setting performance.   A 10.1 sec performance set the national high school record and has Demp as the 2nd fastest competitor entering today's mens 100m semi-finals.

Mens's 100m Finals Set—Tyson Gay in Command
High Schooler Jeff Demps Olympic Dream ends in Semis

The heat of the track is fueling hot times in Sunday's "heats" in DAY 3 of the USA Track & Field Olympic Trials in Eugene Oregon.  Highs today are in the 90s and athletes are keeping their time in the sun to the minimum.   In the Men's 100m Semi-finals, Tyson Gay did yoemans work to secure the top spot in today's FINAL with a 9.85 clocking in the 100m first semi-final.  Gay burst out of the blocks to comfortably win his heat and head to the shade for the the finals later this afternoon.  In the second semi, the Olympic Dreams of Florida High Schooler Jeff Demps came to an end.  After setting a national high school record of 10.01 in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Demps was not a factor to make the Finals.  He finished last in 10.34 sec.

Tyson Gay is in command in the first of today's 100m Semi-finals
Patton wins 2nd semi as DEMPS' Olympic Dreams end

Finals are set for 4:49 PDT (7:49 EDT).  Live coverage on NBC starts at 7 pm PDT (10 pm EDT).

UPDATE:  400m Womens Hurdles:  VA Tech's Queen Harrison earns Olympic Berth with silver medal finish from lane 8!  Former VA high school standout runs tough race on the outside to take 2nd.  Tiffany Ross-Willams won the 400m Hurdles final and Sheena Tosta takes the final spot.

Decathlete competitor attempts to cross the bar during the high
jump phase of the 10 event competition

5:20 pm PDT
Tyson Gay blazes to 100m Win in 9.68 sec
Fastest 100m ever run in any condition (wind-aided 4.1 mps)

Tyson Gay looked relaxed yet determined.  It was a quick burst out of the blocks and a strong steady finish and the race was won.  9.68 seconds.  All of us lept to our feet---------World Record!   Then, we glanced to the Finish Lynx readout of the wind conditions.  It read 4.1+---------- a wind-aided time.   Gay's time is still the fastest 100m time ever run in the world in any conditions.  The other previous fastest wind-aided time was 9.69.   I'm sure Tyson Gay is not bothered or concerned.  He's the Trials Champion and USA Champion headed to Beijing to face what could be a record setting 100m Olympic 100m race.   Jamaiicans Bolt and Bolden will be waiting.  

Day 3 comes to an end.  Olympic berths were determined in several events today.  One Olympian stands out today for perseverence and longevity:  Jeff Hartwig, 2nd place in the pole vault finals needed the A standard and got it with a 5.7 meter vault.   Hartwig has been in the sport for some time and just loves the competition and sense of team with his fellow vaulters.  The other Olympic berths came up in the mens and womens 400m hurdles, the women's discus, womens triple jump and mens long jump.

ARA's team will relax in Tracktown tonight and sample some of the local fare including a few "Drop Tops."

Day 4 looks to be just as exciting with the 800m finals and mens 5000 sure to please track fans.

The photos below, in order, are:

1. Starters in the blocks for the mens' 100m final
2. Tyson Gay pulls away
3. Tyson Gay leads Walter Dix and Darvis Patton to Olympic Team berths in the 100m

Day Four in Eugene
Nike Running's "Magic Buses"
Vintage classic VW Microbuses bring back the memories of early days of Nike in Eugene

Up pulled four cool VW Microbuses right across the street from the U of O "DUCK Store" this morning. Check out the cool retro designs. ARA's own Geoff Hollister was the artist to some of the early Nike logos and designs. The pinwheel swoosh is a classic Hollister creation.

Exciting finals set to end TRIALS session one
Men's 5000 and both men's and women's 800m finals sure to bring out the fire on the track

With Galen Rupp scratched from the 5000m final, all eyes will be on Bernard Lagat and his pursuers Chris Solinsky, Josh Rohatinsky, Adam Goucher, Jonathon Riley and several others in the field of 15 finalists. Rupp's departure was expected as he has been pointing toward the Men's 10,000m final on Friday night. No doubt Rupp is resting and easing the stress on his Coach Alberto Salazar who is resting after feeling lightheaded the other night.

Lomong favorite in tonight's 800m Men's
Will the hometown U of Oregon crowd help pull Wheating and Symmonds into top three?

This race could really be all about hometown magic...

5:30 pm PDT
Decathlon competition set for 1500m final event tonight
Today's final 5 decathlon events got underway this morning with Bryan Clay leading the competiton after the pole vault. The javelin is taken place now and the results have not been posted. It appears that Tom Pappas and Clay were set for tickets to Beijing. Local U of Oregon sophomore Ashley Eaton made some noise this afternoon in the pole vault. The surprise NCAA decathlon champion had 3 consecutive PR vaults this afternoon to move closer to the 3rd position in the standings. More than likely, Eaton will fall short of the last spot for the Olympic Team. The home crowd was all attentive to his vaults and the rhythmic clapping seemed to motivate the young decathlete to new personal records in the pole vault.

U of O sophomore Ashley Eaton clears the
bar for a new personal record (PR)

Tom Pappas clears the bar for his new PR vault height

Decathlete heads down the runway

Seen and heard...

Nelson Farris and Geoff Hollister

Nike legends Nelson Farris and Geoff Hollister took some time to stop to "chill" on a warm day at Hayward Field. Nelson had joined Geoff at another successful book signing for Geoff's debut book, "OUT OF NOWHERE."

The Minister of Running "Bart Yasso" of Runners World was seen on Pre's Trail this morning as ARA's Bruce Gross and Jeff Harbison ventured out to the legendary 7+ mile trail. Bart is out doing more book signings on his debut book.

World Record holder in the Long Jump Mike Powell seen at Julie Bright's "GIFT LOUNGE" at the U of O Art Museum building Sunday night. Mike also was doing TV commentary for Yahoo Sports.

Men of Oregon, aka the "LAME DUCKS" are in attendance for the TRIALS. Dave Wilborn and others from the Bowerman Era were enjoying a cooling breeze in the East Stands near the Presidents Box. Dave relayed that that is where Bill Bowerman would gather his track team for words of instruction or "personal motivational chats."

Decathlete and former Gold Medal Winner Dan O'Brien looks like he could suit up and compete today.

10:45 pm PDT
WOW!! 800m Final has Finish to Remember
Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating and Christian Smith stun the crowd and competitors to lead youthful charge for tickets to Beijing

One lap to go and the crowd was tense with excitement. A tight pack went through the first lap and local favorite Nick Symmonds was in the middle of the pack running 5th. Andrew Wheating was one place further back while Christian Smith was running on Lopez Lomong's shoulder as the moved out of turn 1 on the second lap. Down the backstretch, Nick Symmonds and Andrew Wheating move up. Could this be the moment that Symmonds puts the hammer down? Into the far turn the West Grandstand rises to its feet. Symmonds pulls to the outside and flies ahead of the pack. Down the stretch they race! Symmonds is in total command. His lead is now up to 8 meters. The roar of the crowd gets louder. A tall gangling runner moves up on the outside------Andrew Wheating in his Duck singlet with the big O is now in 2nd place. Twenty meters to go. Lomond and Robinson and Smith are dead even as the finish line looms. Symmonds crosses the line with fists pumping. Wheating knows he's an Olympian with a WOW painted on his face. Who is going to be the 3rd finisher and the final 800m ticket for China. Whoa--------here goes two runners lunging for the line. Robinson and Smith fly forward. Down on the track they go. Smith falls first on the inside lane with Robinson on his right side in lane 2. The roars of the crowd are deafening. Each of us gaze from our perch to the large high def scoreboard a the finish end of the field looking to see how grabbed 3rd place. Another roar goes up. Christian Smith's dive for the finish is just enough to outdive Robinson for the final spot. His finishing time is also under the "A" standard.

Everyone just was stunned. Nick Symmonds had followed up his strong race in the 800m semi-finals with a finish that conjured up feelings of a bygone runner from Eugene----Pre. In second place you have a young sophomore for the U of O who only started running track and cross country in Vermont his senior year of high school. His high school coach was none other than Jeff Johnson, Nike's first employee. Johnson had tipped Oregon's Vic Lannana that he had a huge talent and he needed to see him. Speed ahead two years and Andrew Wheating is going to Beijing.

Wow, wow, wow!

Midnight PDT—Tuesday July 1
Tegenkamp and Dobson take two remaining spots for 5K USA Olympic Team

Bernard Lagat cruises down final straighaway for a
comfortable 5K win

One runner went out for 3 laps at "A" standard 5K qualifying time, but no one went with him. In the latter stages of the race, it was clear that runners like Adam Goucher were clearly frustrated with the slow pace. The slower pace favored big kickers like Lagat. Now Olympic dreams were fading for Goucher and others in the 5K final who did not have the Olympic "A" standard time. Goucher figured it out and with 2 laps to go, he pulled off the track at the finish line, his Olympic dreams for the 5K done. The last two laps sped up considerably. Soon it was a 4-5 person race with Bernard Lagat moving to control the outcome. On the last lap and with 130 meters to go, Lagat put his feet in another gear and easily pulled away for a 30+ meter win. Former World Championship medalist Matt Tegenkamp and Ian Dobson grabbed the remaining spots.

Matt Tegenkamp looks back at Ian Dobson knowing that both men were Beijing bound

Final Day in EUGENE
Visit to PRE's Rock

Runners still leave personal running mementos and notes on the site of
the final moments of Steve Prefontaine's life

Last night's crowd noise brought back memories for many longtime Hayward Field track fans. It was undoubtedly louder than the days when Steve Prefontaine won the 1972 Olympic Trials 5K in a still standing Trials record of 13:21+. With the win by the new young gun Nick Symmonds, many fans immediately felt that the spirit of Prefontaine (aka, Pre) was alive in Hayward Field. As we prepared to leave Eugene, "Tracktown USA," we followed the map and road signs to PRE'S ROCK. This memorial is the site of the final moments of Pre's life. On May 30th after a victory party at Geoff Hollister's house following a great dual meet with the Finnish National team, Steve Prefontaine swerved on a tight curved and hilly road. His MG hit a large rock or boulder on the shoulder of the road. Within minutes, Prefontaine was gone.

Don Bowden talks to track enthusiasts at the
Eugene Running Company store

Seen on our way out of Oregon

Don Bowden: First American to break the 4 minute barrier in the mile
Our friend Don Bowden was in Eugene along with several other "track legends" to regale track and running fans with the days of glory of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Don was an honoree at the 2004 American Running Honors Gala that celebrated some of the greatest milers in World History.

Men of Oregon—Bowerman's Boys
From Phil Knight to Dave Willborn to Geoff Hollister, all of the Men who established the tradition of OREGON TRACK & FIELD were all visible with wide grins of Joy. This Olympic Trials was one for the ages.

Congratulatons to the Organizers of EUGENE 08, Coach Vin Lananna of the U of O, PHK and countless others who had the vision to bring back and transform Eugene and Hayward Field into the greatest track town and venue in the world.

Here are some additional photos to remember this great event....

Thanks for reading and viewing our LIVE FROM EUGENE reports!

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