Rest Days Well Deserved

Trial & Era

Since the 1968 Summer Olympics and a few before that, our Olympic Team has been chosen through some type of trial system. The system is fraught with pitfalls and potholes and is not as easy as 1-2-3 as it looks, at least to the more casual fan.

It is especially convoluted these days—World Athletics seems to be going out of its way to make it so with its system of points toward a ranking and Olympic Qualifying times.

Very few seem to entirely understand the process. In any case, there was a time when the United States could send three per event regardless of any Olympic standard. Then, the minimum standards were created, and one of our top three in a variety of events—every Olympic Trials—is chasing a qualifier.

Is our current system, regardless of the points system, the fairest? Is it the best way to give our most accomplished athletes the best opportunity to compete at their best at the Games, even when we inevitably leave some of our best at home?

My unofficial polling indicates that most embrace the idea that the top three in each competition’s final should be our representative, having earned the right—even though this is becoming more of a rarity and a myth.

The marathon trial proved to be superfluous as the top two—Conner Mantz and teammate Clayton Young—were the only athletes to secure the standard, and it was extremely unlikely anyone else would achieve it, especially in the Florida warmth.

Clayton Young (left) beats Conner Mantz for the 2023 USATF 20-K title at the Faxon Law New Haven Road Race (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

You can ponder all this to your heart’s content while viewing all the trials and tribulations here:

“And here’s another indication that regardless of how good we are, we can leave some better athletes ‘home, than other countries have. It’s part of our American way.” Bobby Kersee

The quote is in response to Olympic Champ Athing Mu’s fall in the W800M.

Athing Mu, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

Moving on…

One sensation at this trial’s competition has been young 16-year-old Quincy Wilson. Holy Cow! He is a very cool, calm, and collected athlete mature beyond his years. Quincy not only made the M400M Final—he finished sixth.

Somehow, at least for me, his innocence and young boyishness were a breath of fresh air in all the calculations, posing, and posturing—as much of a man among boys as a boy among men. It brings us all back to our roots in the sport—pure joy.

Quincy Wilson, all of sixteen, ran sub 45 seconds 3 times in 4 days, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

The M1500M lived up to expectations—exceeded them—with Cole Hocker making the same decisive move he made in the rounds—taking command and beating the American Record Holder in the process in 3:30 classy time. Yared Nuguse was second and seemed content the young Hobbs Kessler got the third spot—a potent squad and an example of our flawed trials system working out well.

The Thrill of Victory, Cole Hocker takes his second Oly Trials 1,500m title, June 24, 2024, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun.

W5000—Parker Valby once again moved quickly to the lead when the pace slackened. I assume that needing the Olympic qualifier that she narrowly missed at the NCAA Championships, she wanted a crack at it here and a place on the team. It looked like her awfully long season caught up with her against the absolute best here at the trials. Ellie and Elise put on a show, burning through the last lap:

In the first heat of the 5,000m, held on Friday, Parker Valby, Elle st. Pierre and Karisa Schweizer took heat 1, photo by Chuck Aragon, for RunBlogRun

W800M—Once again, disaster strikes in this event at the trials, an unfortunate fall for Mu. Nia Akins looked like she would have been extremely hard to beat. “Accidents will happen, but only hit and run.”

Nia Akins wins 800m, with Allie Willson taking silver and Juliette Whitaker taking bronze, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun.

The men’s Steeplechase went out in a dogtrot the first half mile. Kenneth Rooks, one of the stables of BYU athletes coached by an old friend and marathon Olympian Ed Eyestone, licked his chops until the last few laps when fellow BYU’er James Corrigan grabbed the third spot. This caused Coach Eyestone to lose it, flying out of his seat, spilling his neighbor’s beer, and rushing to greet his athletes. Nice job, Ed!

Corrigan still has the task of running the standard, which he will attempt to do at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on Saturday. He will have to improve his current PB of 8:21 to 8:15. Godspeed, James.

Kenneth Rooks takes the 2024 US OT Steeplechase! Photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

The Wild Duck establishment has seen plenty of action as well as pre-meet and meets into the night, Allie Wilson showing some unbridled joy, Hobbs Kessler, Yared Nuguse, and the agony of the top three being just beyond your reach after many years that flew right by him –Craig Engels wearing his heart on his sleeve. Happy to get a high-five from him on my way out the door and back to my garage bungalow. Time to leave it for the twenty-somethings streaming in around midnight.

Today, I am gearing up for more action. I spent the first half of my rest day yesterday running with my old friend, competitor, and 1980 Olympian Benji Durden. I am feeling sore around the edges today.

And finally, I am remembering –reminded of my long-ago last race in the trials of 1988 on the verge of that terrible day when you hang em up for good. I ran my last race, the 10,000M, in the heat of Indianapolis and walked back to my hotel, where I was approached by a meet promoter from Japan who offered me $3 Grand to race there. As I pondered this, got cleaned up, and later met my wife for dinner, I related to her this offer, to which she replied, “I’ll give you three thousand dollars to stay home.”

And that my friends were that. Adios Amigos.

All Fall Down: