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LetsRun.com's Recap of Monday of US Olympic Track & Field Trials, Oregon Sweep in Men's 800, Hazel Clark Hangs On in Women's 800, Lagat Easily Wins Hyped 5k
by: LetsRun.com
June 28, 2008

Men's 800 Final: Symmonds Leads Eugene Sweep
The atmosphere during this race was simply unbelievable. We said in our pre-race preview that any of the 8 could end up in the top 3 and with 250 to go, the field was tightly bunched. The race more than lived up to its billing.

Pre-race favorite Khadevis Robinson made sure he put his destiny in his own hands by setting a punishing early pace, going through 200 in 23.8 and the 400 in 50.0  After crossing 600 at 1:17.0, he seemed to accelerate ... but there was great drama brewing behind him.  Last year's runner-up Nick Symmonds and Oregon star Andrew Wheating, who had gone out in the back of the field, but still only half a second behind Robinson at 400, were charging, as was nearly everyone in the field.

While Wheating had begun to move wide with 300 to go (but was still in the back of the pack), Symmonds appeared boxed in lane one at 600 meters (as he was in the semifinal on Saturday) as he was in on the rail in 6th.  No problem, as the official LetsRun.com motto for the 800 proved to be true once again: "It always opens up." Coming up on the steeplechase pit, Symmonds assertively weaved through the field and moved to the outside. Coming into the homestretch, he kicked it into another gear and absolutely demolished the field down the stretch and ended up with a dominant victory. His winning time of 1:44.10 was a huge personal best (1:44.54 previous PR) and almost a full second clear of the rest of the field.

Nick Symmonds on His Way

The crowd roared with approval at Symmonds' move and although it didn't seem possible that the decibel level could go higher, it did whenWheating began his patented move from fifth into the top three, passing everyone but Symmonds to finish a decisive second (1:45.03)

The battle for third was epic as the veteran Robinson, a 4-time US champ, gamely tried to hold on and gave it absolutely everything he had to get a berth on the team. With 30 meters to go, it seemed as if there would be no way he'd hold on but those charging from behind started to tie up as well.  Lopez Lomong was moving up on Robinson's outside and a hard-charging Christian Smith (the guy who we rated as the"least likely" of the finalists to make the team, although we did say they all had a shot) was coming up the inside in lane 1. At the end, two bodies ended up sprayed across the track as the men dived for the finish (to be fair, it looked more as if Robinson was trying to keep himself from falling over and his arms came out and he hit Lomong and Smith in the process).

In the end, Smith, who somehow managed to pass on the inside in lane one and finished third, overtaking Robinson by only .06 (1:45.47 to 1:45.53).  Lomong, who was very upset after the race as he felt Robinson held him back at the finish (Robinson did make contact with both Smith and Lomong but it was clear from the replay it was unintentional) finished 5th in 1:45.58, only .05 behind Robinson and .11 behind Smith. USC's Duane Solomon wasn't too far behind in 6th (1:45.78).

The Carnage At the Finish

Glory at the Finish

All we can say is, "What a race!!"

The Oregon crowd certainly enjoyed the race and the Oregon sweep as hometown favorites Andrew Wheating of the University of Oregon and Oregon Track Club teammates Nick Symmonds and Christian Smith all made the Olympic Team. 

Smith's dive across the finish line to secure third place epitomizes what the Olympic Trials are all about. He entered the meet with 29th best seed time (he wasn't sure he was in the race until Alan Webb opted not to run the 800); his 1:45.47 was his best time since 2006 and got him under the Olympic A standard. It also made our pre-race prediction that he was the least likely to end up in the top three look quite silly. But after we stated that in our preview, we got an email from someone who knows Smith and the email made us immediately realize Smith had a great chance of doing well. Smith's story is truly remarkable as he had a burst appendix last year. Not appendicitis but a burst appendix.  Simply unreal. We're hoping to get permission to post the email soon.

Wheating's rise through the sport is a different kind of incredible. This is his third track season ever and he'll be on the Olympic team in Beijing. Four years ago he was hoping to make the World Cup in soccer, then he was dreaming of being the next Steve Prefontaine (a 5k runner), and then he slowly found out he had a lot of speed. He said, "I was convinced I was a 5k runner, but my high school coach saw that I could keep a steady pace through repeat quarter(mile)s. Then I tried the mile and then he saw that I could do some speed work, so we tried the 800 and it worked out."

Perhaps lost in the hoopla of the Trials, where third place often gets as much attention as first, was Nick Symmonds' dominating win and PR. Symmonds had shown in the past he could run well at Hayward (he stunned the world with his win at Prefontaine last year), but the PR and Olympic Trials win were pretty sweet. He said of  his move with 160 to go when he slipped between Jonathan Johnson and Duane Solomon, "That was a little hockey move I picked up in high school. I gave (JJ) a bit of a shoulder to get by. I wasn't even hurting, I just had to get through. Once I had that opening, I was able to just take off."

As for Khadevis Robinson, the three-time defending champ, he was left in the worst spot of all at the Trials for the second time, as he was also fourth in 2000. Khadevis is the most colorful interview in the sport and we hope to have a lengthy interview with him up soon. But when told afterwards that Lopez Lomong was upset and going to protest the race (Lopez was very matter of fact with the press and said he had to leave to go and file a protest) because he said Khadevis interfered with him at the finish, Khadevis acknowledged he was doing all that was possible to try and get in the top 3. He said, "We both fell and I was hoping anyone was there; if Jesus would've been there I would've grabbed him."

*Post race comments

1 Nicholas Symmonds OTC/Nike 1:44.10
2 Andrew Wheating Oregon 1:45.03
3 Christian Smith OTC/Nike 1:45.47
4 Khadevis Robinson Nike 1:45.53
5 Lopez Lomong Nike 1:45.58
6 Duane Solomon U S C 1:45.78
7 Jebreh Harris Reebok 1:46.21
8 Jonathan Johnson Reebok 1:48.11

Nick Symmonds and Andrew Wheating (12 Minutes)

Christian Smith's Incredible Story

Women's 800 Final: Everyone Dies But Hazel Clark Prevails

With 12 in the final, pre-race favorites Hazel Clark and Alice Schmidt wasted no time getting to the front, blitzing the first 200 in a ridiculous 26.5. With 7 in the first alley and 5 on the outside, the field converged quickly and even last place went through in 28 seconds. 400 was hit in a still crazy 56.89 (we had the split wrong earlier) and 600 in 1:27.3.

The incredibly fast early pace soon took its toll on Clark and the entire field.  Clark led the entire way and although it appeared she might tie up - well scratch that; she did tie up a ton - she managed to hang on for her fourth national championship and third Olympic berth. Amazingly, despite the 1:27.3 600 split, she was the only one in the field to break two minutes, running 1:59.82 with a 32.5 final 200 (editor's note: we had the 600 split wrong earlier). 

Schmidt ran her third impressive race of the weekend to earn her first Olympic team berth.  After the fast early pace and with lots of jostling, it was a war of attrition in the final 200 with Clark and Schmidt barely breaking 34 seconds.  Kameisha Bennett out-dueled Nicole Teter for third down the homestretch and ran a seasonal best 2:01.20.  But her seasonal best is only under the "B" standard, so despite Bennett's efforts, Teter claimed the third spot on the team. Bennett would have needed to go sub-2:00.00 and finish in the top three to make the team.

Teter finished 2nd in her opening round race, fifth in her semi (where she was advanced to the final because of a fall) and fourth in the final but her 1:59.91 from a May 2007 race in Eugene earns her a spot on the team.  It was a shame to see Bennett be left off the team as Bennett, the 4th placer in 2004, had a great meet, winning her first heat wire-to-wire, also falling in that infamous semi before staging a great effort in the final, just 16 months after the birth of her son. Despite not making the team she was upbeat afterwards. She said, "I knew this was my last opportunity to run the "A" standard and my goal was to break 2 minutes, but I have come a long way. My youngest son is 16 months, so for me to run 2:01.00 today, I am happy for that. To get into the top three is great."

Hazel Clark 4 Time US Champ

The 12-person final took its toll on the field as everyone went out super-fast trying to get out of trouble (and everyone ended up dying big time the second lap). Alice Schmidt talked about it. She said, ""I am not faulting anyone for being in the final. I would have clawed my way into the final too, so I don't hold anything against them. Knowing that there were 12 people there, I think my strategy was at least I just need to get out hard and push the pace early so that it stretched it out a little bit and hopefully the people that have run under two will sort of separate themselves and it won't be as packed up and too much jostling. It made a lot of sense to me expecting the race to go out quickly."

Teter was pleased to make her second Olympic team (after suffering a lot of setbacks since 2004), but was gracious to Bennett. She said, "It's tough to be in my position and I do feel for (Bennett) because we all deserve to make this team. Things happen for a reason and we are all here because we worked really hard."

1 Hazel Clark Nike 1:59.82
2 Alice Schmidt adidas 2:00.46
3 Kameisha Bennett Nike 2:01.20
4 Nicole Teter Oregon TC Elite 2:01.30
5 Maggie Vessey unattached 2:02.01
6 Morgan Uceny Reebok 2:02.16
7 Geena Gall Michigan 2:02.35
8 Becky Horn Western Michigan 2:03.87
9 Katie Waits Reebok 2:04.60
10 Laura Hermanson North Dakota State 2:05.01
11 Latavia Thomas L S U 2:05.15
12 Nikeya Green Reebok 2:07.05

Top 4 Women's 800

Morgan Uceny

Men's 5,000 Final

Final 5

The much-hyped 5,000 final ended up a tactical affair.  With Brent Vaughn setting out to a 30-meter lead with a first lap of 63.9, Adam Goucher (one of two main contenders who had to hit the 13:21.50 Olympic qualifying time in this race if he wanted to go to Beijing) strangely did not go with him.  But a group led by Bolota Asmerom soon gave chase, not wanting to let a competitor who already had the Olympic A standard steal the race.  Catching him by 2K, the pace soon slowed to 68.1 and Goucher's hopes of making the team (he entered the race without the Olympic A standard and needed to average 64 seconds a lap throughout to get it) began to fade.  Taking the lead just before 3K, where the split was 8:17.24, Goucher needed to begin throwing down but he was unable to up the pace enough.  Putting in a string of 65 second laps, he was then passed by Asmeron with three laps to go.  And with two laps to go, Goucher just stepped off the track. Afterwards, he said he knew he wasn't going to hit the 13:21.50 time and that Alberto was waving at him to stop running. Goucher said, "There's no reason to run and finish in the top three if I run 13:25 or 13:24. I could have finished in the top three, but the math wasn't working out. I despise doing what I just did."

With 1,000 meters to go, Chris Solinsky made a strong bid for the lead and with Asmerom, Lagat, Ian Dobson and Matt Tegenkamp in tow, ran a 58.9 lap.  Putting in another 59.5 lap to bring the race to 200 meters to go, Solinsky was passed in a flash by Lagat, who closed in 28.3 to crush the field.  Waiting patiently all night, Dobson followed Tegenkamp into the top three, passing a fading Solinsky and holding off Asmerom, who ran a tough race but finished fourth.  Bobby Curtis, just off the lead group when they made their move with 3 laps to go, finished up a terrific season in sixth.

Lagat on the Final Bend

Afterwards, Solinsky said his coach Jerry Schumacher told him to save a little something extra for the final 100, but he had nothing left. He also said the plan worked out beforehand with training partner Matt Tegenkamp was for Solinsky to lead from 1,200 to go to 800 to go, for Tegenkamp then to lead the next lap, and then for it to be every man for himself. However, Tegenkamp never came to the front and acknowledged afterwards that he didn't feel great (he had a terrible cramp in warmups) so he didn't go with the plan. He said during the race his "right side kept tightening up" and that caused him to abandon the plan. He added, "Chris (Solinsky) and I talked before the race about what we wanted to happen. We had to run the race as individuals because our plan didn't work out. I tried to hang on to the lead pack, because I didn't want to get left behind. It was the toughest race I've ever run."

The day looked the easiest for the winner and smoothest runner on the planet, double World Champ Bernard Lagat, who won easily in 13:27.47. Up next after two off days for Lagat is his specialty, the 1,500. Lagat is feeling good heading into the 1,500. He said, "There is no pressure right now and I am going to go rest up and train again."


Ian Dobson surprised a few people with his third place finish. Dobson had a breakout year in 2005 to finish 2nd at NCAAs and make the Worlds team but has been inconsistent since. Dobson is coached by Terrence Mahon (Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor's coach) and gave credit to Mahon. Dobson said, "I'm really happy. This is just overwhelming. I have such a great coach who has invested a lot in me and it feels so good to make him proud"

1 Bernard Lagat Nike 13:27.47
2 Matt Tegenkamp Nike 13:29.68
3 Ian Dobson adidas 13:29.76
4 Bolota Asmerom Oregon TC Elite 13:31.24
5 Chris Solinsky Nike 13:32.17
6 Robert Curtis Reebok 13:35.00
7 Stephen Pifer Colorado 13:37.46
8 Matthew Gabrielson Reebok 13:38.06
9 Brent Vaughn Nike 13:39.15
10 Thomas Morgan ZAP Fitness 13:47.76
11 Kyle King ZAP Fitness 13:51.03
12 Ryan Vail Oklahoma State 13:54.77
13 Jonathon Riley Nike 13:57.58
-- Adam Goucher Nike DNF
-- Galen Rupp unattached DNS
-- Josh Rohatinsky Nike DNS

Women's 400 Semifinals

No big surprises here as three-time U.S. champion Sanya Richards dominated the field through 300 and then shut down over the last 50 meters to claim an impressive victory in semifinal two.  Mary Wineberg continued to look strong in winning the first semifinal in the fastest time of the two heats, 50.57.  Dee Dee Trotter closed well behind Richards to break 51.00.  The only major surprise was the inability of NCAA Champion Shana Cox of Penn State to advance; two-time Olympian and world championship 4X400 gold medalist Monique Hennagan also did not make the final.  The only controversy was Shareese Woods, who was DQed for running over her lane line (in finishing third she would have made the final).  As they take the top four in each heat, this advanced Indiana assistant coach Monica Hargrove to the final.

Heat  1 Semi-Finals
1 Mary Wineberg Nike 50.57Q
2 Natasha Hastings Nike 51.04Q
3 Debbie Dunn unattached 51.79Q
4 Monica Hargrove unattached 51.88Q
5 Shana Cox Penn State 51.90
6 Moushaumi Robinson unattached 52.48
7 Jessica Cousins Nike 52.64
-- Shareese Woods adidas DQ run over line 3 diff
Heat 2 Semi-Finals
1 Sanya Richards Nike 50.75Q
2 Dee Dee Trotter adidas 50.90Q
3 Monique Henderson Reebok 51.07Q
4 Ebonie Floyd Nike 51.49Q
5 Monique Hennagan Nike 51.99
6 Brandi Cross South Carolina 52.25
7 Ashlee Kidd Nike 52.37
8 Kenyata Coleman Ole Miss 53.97

Men's 400 Semifinals

Olympic champ Jeremy Wariner and LaShawn Merritt, the young sprint sensation who defeated Wariner earlier this season, were matched up in semifinal two.  Although no major statements were made, Wariner did prevail, holding a lead he established with 100 meters to go.  Merritt, outside of Wariner in lane five, was out faster, but Wariner appeared to measure him through the first two turns before prevailing 44.66 to 44.76.  Reggie Witherspoon took the first heat in 44.99.  No big upsets here although the pre-race fifth and sixth seeds, Jordan Boase and LeJerald Betters, did not advance.

Heat  1 Semi-Finals
1 Reggie Witherspoon Nike 44.99Q
2 Darold Williamson Nike 45.16Q
3 Calvin Smith unattached 45.43Q
4 Lionel Larry U S C 45.55Q 45.545
5 Jamaal Torrence Nike 45.76
6 Quentin Iglehart-Summers Baylor 45.84
7 Jordan Boase Washington 46.60
8 Fernada Blakely unattached 46.72
Heat 2 Semi-Finals
1 Jeremy Wariner adidas 44.66Q
2 LaShawn Merritt Nike 44.76Q
3 David Neville Nike 45.03Q
4 Greg Nixon Asics 45.20Q
5 LeJerald Betters Baylor 45.55 45.547
6 Miles Smith South East Missouri 46.32
7 Erison Hurtault RIADHA 46.34
8 Obra Hogans Shore A C 46.37

Women's 3,000 Steeplechase Semifinals:  More Celebrations

The drama in women's steeple semis came in heat two as the two premier American steeplechasers lined up against each other in the second semifinal.  Anna Willard did all the pacing duties through 2,500 meters with Jennifer Barringer right on her shoulder.  Willard set a consistent pace of 78 to 79 per lap and Barringer opened things up, to the approval of the crowd, with 500 meters to go. 

Barringer and Willard

Willard seemed content to let her go as the top four from each heat (plus the top six times) advanced to the final.  Barringer pulled away and kicked things in for a 3.5 second victory and then did her best Galen Rupp impression as she raised both arms to celebrate her win in the semis.

Despite the ease with which Barringer pulled away, we're not so sure it will go that easily in Thursday's final.  Willard was clearly the technically superior hurdler and water jumper, gaining a step on each barrier and handling the water jump with much greater authority. Given Willard's significantly better personal bests at 800 (7 seconds better that Barringer) and 1,500 meters (over ten seconds better than Barringer), we're expecting another exciting battle in the final. 

Afterwards Willard told us that the race felt easier than her tempo runs - she'll be ready for the final. 

In heat 1, 2007 World Championships qualifier Lindsay Anderson led the entire first heat before Nichole Bush of Michigan State passed her with 20 meters to the finish (but no fist pump). American record holder Lisa Galaviz also easily advanced and told us she's very pleased with her training. She changed some things up this year as she obviously didn't peak at the right time of year last year.

Heat  1 Preliminaries
1 Nicole Bush Michigan State 9:49.53Q
2 Lindsey Anderson Nike 9:49.71Q
3 Lisa Galaviz Nike 9:52.66Q
4 Kara June Asics Aggie 9:53.01Q
5 Delilah DiCrescenzo Riadha/Puma 9:56.44q
6 Sariah Long unattached 9:56.72q
7 Kristin Anderson Nike 9:59.62q
8 Lesley Higgins New York A C 10:02.88q
9 Dawn Cromer Brooks 10:21.77
10 Brittany Somers unattached 10:22.34
11 Liz Wort Brooks 10:29.37
12 'A Havahla Haynes Wisconsin R R T 10:48.81
Heat 2 Preliminaries
1 Jennifer Barringer Colorado S 9:48.50Q
2 Anna Willard Nike 9:52.06Q
3 Carrie Strickland Bowerman A C 9:53.43Q
4 Carrie Messner-Vickers Asics 9:53.78Q
5 Ann Gaffigan New Balance 9:55.24q
6 Amanda Lorenzen Team Indiana Elite 9:58.92q
7 Lindsay Allen Stanford 10:04.47
8 Bridget Franek Penn State 10:11.56
9 Kelly Strong Asics 10:13.70
10 Sarah Madebach Georgia 10:14.10
11 Lindsay Sundell Florida 10:19.57
12 Kathryn Andersen Nike 10:37.23

Jenny Barringer

Anna Willard

American Record Holder Lisa Galaviz



Women's 5,000 Semifinals: No Surprises 

Semifinal 1:
Lauren Fleshman and American Record holder Shalane Flanagan led the first five laps and after Mandi Zemba took over pace-setting chores for a couple laps, Flanagan moved to the lead and never relinquished it. After two opening miles at 5:05, she closed in 4:49 and 33 for the last 200 to easily pull away from the field.  Fleshman looked well within herself and Molly Huddle, who seemed to struggle in the 10K on Friday night, looked much stronger tonight.

Semifinal 2:
After earning a spot in the U.S. team in the 10K on Friday night, Kara Goucher showed up to try earn a spot in another event.  Sara Slattery, with Jen Rhines tucked in right behind, brought the field through the 1,600 in 5:01.2.  Ari Lambie made a strong move to the lead at 3,000 meters as the field went through 3K in 9:29.4.  Rhines and Goucher immediately responded as the threesome moved clear of the field. With three laps to go, Rhines made a move to the lead, bringing the pace down to 72 seconds a lap.  Goucher would not let her get away and eased into the lead down the homestretch as all three women looked very strong coming across together with Goucher just in front.

With key players Flanagan, Goucher, Rhines, Fleshman, Huddle and Lambie in the final, this should be another great distance final on Friday evening.  It is a good thing they ran these preliminary heats as a grand total of four women were eliminated in today's action. Emily Brown, who had a great early 2008 (15:19 5k, 9:45 steeple, led the US team at World Cross) failed to advance, but we understand she's been banged up as she pulled out of the steeple as well.

Heat  1 Preliminaries
1 Shalane Flanagan Nike 15:35.86Q
2 Maureen McCandless New Balance 15:36.52Q
3 Lauren Fleshman Oregon TC Elite 15:36.79Q
4 Melissa Cook New Balance 15:37.07Q
5 Molly Huddle Saucony 15:37.60Q
6 Tasmin Fanning Virginia Tech 15:37.73Q
7 Renee Metivier Baille Nike 15:44.44q
8 Angela Bizzarri Illinois 15:45.78q
9 Emily Brown T USA Minn/N Bal 15:57.34
10 Mandi Zemba New Balance 16:15.72
-- Nicole Blood Oregon DNF
-- Katrina Rundhaug Wisconsin DNS
Heat 2 Preliminaries
1 Kara Goucher Nike 15:32.22Q
2 Jennifer Rhines adidas 15:32.31Q
3 Arianna Lambie Nike 15:32.56Q
4 Julie Culley New York A C 15:36.50Q
5 Rebecca Donaghue New Balance Boston 15:38.95Q
6 Sara Slattery adidas 15:40.24Q
7 Teresa McWalters Stanford 15:49.54q
8 Amy Hastings adidas 15:53.90q
9 Catherine Ferrell Oregon TC Elite 16:23.04
-- Julia Lucas Reebok DNF
-- Amy Rudolph adidas DNS
-- Amy Begley Nike DNS

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