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LetsRun.com's Preview of Thursday's Action at the 2008 Olympic Trials
by: LetsRun.com
July 3, 2008

*
Start lists

The action resumes Thursday at the US Olympic Trials.

Highlights include the men's and women's 400m finals, the women's steeplechase final, and round 1 of the men's 1500 which features a double World Champ Bernard Lagat and US miler record holder Alan Webb in the same heat.

We'll give a quick preview of the action below.

Men's 400: Merritt vs Wariner Round II
LaShawn Merritt turned heads on June 1st when he upset Jeremy Wariner at the Berlin Golden League Meet running 44.03 to Wariner's 44.07.

Wariner rebounded nicely with a 43.98 win in Oslo, Wariner's first sub 44 clocking prior to Nationals.

Round II is on Thursday in the Olympic Trials final, but barring an injury the rubbermatch will be August 21st for all the marbles in Beijing.

Jeremy Wariner
Jeremy Wariner

Wariner has received a lot of attention this year not only because of his loss to Merritt, his first loss over 400m in a race he finished since 2005, but also because he tossed long time coach Clyde Hart to the curb in favor of Michael Ford.

Hart
is regarded by many as being the best 400m coach in the world and he led Wariner to Olympic gold ain 2004 after guiding Michael Johnson throughout his fantastic career.

It was widely reported that they separated over a contract dispute, and Clyde Hart told Philip Hersh of the La Times that he has the contract to prove it. (Hart says Wariner tried to cut his base pay and percentage both by 50%).

Wariner is now saying, "I didn't do it to save a few dollars, to start off with. I did it because I felt like it was the time for a change." Yet in the next breadth he told Hersh that nothing has changed. He said, "My workouts are exactly the same. Nothing has changed."

We'll take Hart's version of events on this one. The pressure is on for Wariner to bring home gold in Beijing or his coaching change would appear to be "Penny-wise and pound-foolish"

Predictions: Everyone else is running for third. Although we've been critical of Wariner for kicking Hart to the curb we think he'll come out on top here as he's looked better in the rounds. The loss earlier in the year may have been just what he needed. 1) Wariner 2) Merritt 3) Witherspoon

Women's 400: The Sanya Richards Show
Clyde Hart is still coaching the top 400 female runner in the world in Sanya Richards (well she's at least the top 400 runner who will be running the 400 in Beijing as it's debatable whether Allyson Felix is better than Richards at 400).

Richards blew it last year at nationals going out too hard the first 200, rigging up and not making the team for Worlds. This year don't expect that to happen asRichards is 100% healthy entering the Olympic Trials whereas last year she missed some time with injuries.

Everyone else is running for second. There seems to be little drama in this race with Allyson Felix not able to do the 200-400 double.

Predictions: 1) Richards 2) Mary Wineberg 3) Dee Dee Trotter


Women's Steeple Final: Barringer vs Willard

This race would appear on paper to be a carbon copy of last year's nationals, which was a nail biter between Colorado's Jenny Barringer (this year's NCAA champ and the 2006 NCAA champ) and last year's NCAA champ Anna Willard.

Barringer with her 9:29.20, the #2 time in the US ever to win NCAAs, supplanted Willard atop the US steeplechase rankings.

Anna Willard
Anna Willard

On the surface the matchup appears to favor Willard.

At shorter distances, their PRs aren't even in the same ball-park as Willard's 800 pr is 2:02.72 to Barringer's 2:09.3. In the 1,500, Willard's PR is 4:06.26 compared to Barringer's  4:17.19.

Willard is much faster than Barringer and she has much better steeple and hurdling form. But that was true last year and Barringer found a way to win.  Barringer is super tough and the steeplechase is a lot more than just adding up someone's flat prs and looking at their hurdling form and picking a winner.

Last year's nationals certainly proved that. They entered the last barrier together and Barringer came out on top by the slimmest of margins .08. Willard, with her great form and all, was the one that lost a ton of ground to Barringer on the final water barrier. Willard did close on Barringer but it was too little too late.

Despite the fact American record holder Lisa Galaviz is in the race we expect it to be a two woman affair upfront. Galaviz has shown in the past at nationals she likes to hang back and try and kick at the end, but that strategy won't produce a win versus this field. Look for Lindsey Anderson to be very much in the battle for third as well.

Predictions: 1) Willard 2) Barringer 3) Galaviz

Barringer runs with a lot of emotion. If she gets the Hayward crowd behind her, she could do it.

Bernard Lagat
Bernard Lagat Winning the 5k

Men's 1500: Lagat vs Webb
Originally when first released yesterday, heat 1 of the men's 1500m looks like Sunday's final. World Champ Bernard Lagat, American record holder in the mile Alan Webb, NCAA Champ Leo Manzano, and world championship team member Chris Lukezic were all in heat 1.  

Then Andrew Wheating dropped out and the heats were redrawn. Manzano was placed into a different heat but Lagat, Webb, and Lukezic are all still in the same heat, making their heat, heat #3, the most interesting by far.

But with 24 of the 30 guys all making the final, any of the favorites would have to screw up big time to miss the semis.

Other Action: There also is round 1 of the men's steeplechase and women's 1500.
*Start lists


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