Oh, thank heaven for 7-Eleven!

What a way to end the 2024 US Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field with eleven finals packed in a 2 1/2 hour time window, and out of the eleven, there were seven meet records, with all but one coming on the track.

We can all argue whether or not the time schedule was drawn up this way or not by the television executives at NBC. Still, there’s no arguing that the “Hour of Power” packed a lot of punch for both the viewers and the crowd at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon.

NBC went on the air at 4:30 p.m. Pacific time, just in time for the start of the men’s 5000, with Grant Fisher and Abdihamid Nur waging war over the final half of the race.

Fisher, the former Stanford All-American who won the 10000 on the first night of the meet, needed to run 2:58.85 over the last 1200 to shake off Nur and win in a meet record 13:08.85 to Nur’s 13:09.01.

Twenty minutes later, Brandon Miller of the Seattle-based Brooks Beasts, who had set a personal best of 1:43.73 in Friday’s semis, doggedly pursued Bryce Hoppel in the men’s 800-meter final before letting go with less than 100 meters to go.

Brandon Miller, USATF Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Eugene, Oregon, USA
June 21-30, 2024, photo by Kevin Morris

Hobbs Kessler, already on the Olympic team in the 1500, made a late charge, overtaking Miller, but not enough to catch Hoppel. Hoppel set a meet record and personal best, running 1:42.77.

Kessler, who was the top qualifier out of Friday’s semis at 1:43.71, set yet another personal best, running 1:43.64, while Miller hung on to get himself over the line in third in 1:43.97, his second sub-1:44 performance of the Trials.

Hobbs Kessler takes silver in the 800, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun.

With only 30 minutes remaining in the Trials, the nine women lined up for the start of the 100-meter hurdles final. All nine in the field had the Olympic standard of 12.77 in their pockets, so there was no doubt that three were going to Paris.

Masai Russell won

in yet another meet record, running a world-leading 12.25. Alaysha Johnson was second in a personal best of 12.31, and Grace Stark was third in the same time.

Masai Russell, USATF Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Eugene, Oregon, USA
June 21-30, 2024. photo by Kevin Morris

“It was just confirmation that I’m exactly where I need to be,” Russell said. “I told myself that I deserve to win, I deserve to be here, I deserve to be an Olympian… I’m an Olympic Trials champion and ready to be an Olympic champion next.”

After the race, the buzz, both in the stadium and on social media surrounding the race, was, “How is it that three women run under 12.40, and NONE OF THEM are going to the Olympics?”

In what appears to be a changing guard in American women’s hurdling, 2019 world champion Nia Ali (12.37) and former world record-holder Keni Harrison (12.39) were fourth and sixth. It was the first time in history that six women have finished inside 12.40 in a 100m hurdles race.

Like the men’s 1500 finals last Monday, the women’s 1500 was historically deep, as the top eight all ran personal bests, led by Nikki Hiltz, who successfully defended the national title won last year.

One of the finest races of the trials was the women’s 1,500 meters, with Elle St. Pierre pushing the pace, and Nikki HIltz taking the win, 8 women sets PBs, all under 4 minutes! photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

Hiltz ran an excellent tactical race, staying out of trouble early but close enough to be in striking distance of the leaders.

Nikki ran a last 200 of 31.06 to beat New Balance-Boston teammates Emily Mackay and Elle St. Pierre and win in a meet-record 3:55.33.

Mackay ran 3:55.90, while St. Pierre was third in 3:55.99.

The top six women were under the Trials record of 3:58.03 set by St Pierre in 2021.

In the penultimate event of the meet, Olympic silver medallist Rai Benjamin ran a world-leading 46.46 to win the men’s 400m hurdles to set yet another meet record. The mark was Benjamin’s third fastest time and the fifth fastest in world history.

Rai Benjamin, USATF Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Eugene, Oregon, USA
June 21-30, 2024, photo by Kevin Morris

“Execution-wise, I’d give it a C-plus,” Benjamin said of his race. I hit maybe three or four hurdles because I was hot and too amped up in the warm-up. I was actually going for it today, and when I hit two on the backstretch, I had to back off and settle into this weird rhythm.”

Finishing second was Washington State alum CJ Allen, who ran a season-best 47.81, but it was good enough to hold off the late charge of Trevor Bassitt in third at 47.82.

Before NBC switched its Olympic Trials coverage to gymnastics, there was one more race in the “Hour of Power:” the women’s 400 hurdles, which featured one of the faces of USA Track & Field, Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone.

Just as she did at the World Championships on this same track two years ago, McLaughlin-Levrone stunned with her time of 50.65, improving on the previous record by 0.03. Crowds have now witnessed her break the world record at Hayward Field four times throughout her career.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone sets WR of 50.65, USATF Olympic Team Track & Field Trials
Eugene, Oregon, USA
June 21-30, 2024, photo by Kevin Morris

“I would love to dip under 50 at some point,” she said when asked how fast she thought she could go. “I don’t know if that’s this year, I don’t know if that’s next year, but always chipping away, seeing what’s possible, and continuing to improve.”

Behind her, Anna Cockrell and NCAA champion Jasmine Jones ran PBs of 52.64 and 52.77, respectively, to punch their tickets to Paris. Shamier Little was fourth in 52.98, marking the first time four women have finished under 53 seconds in any 400m hurdles race in history.

The one meet record set on the field was by Maggie Malone-Hardin in the women’s javelin.

Malone-Hardin threw 211-10 (64.58m) in the first round to put away the field early.

The only drama remaining was whether Kara Winger, who elected to retire in early June, could throw 210-0 (64.00m) to make her fifth Olympic team.

She knew that her only chance of making the fifth Olympic team was to throw the Olympic standard of 210-0 (64.00m), regardless of placing in the meet.

Kara Winger lead all qualifiers in the Women’s javelin throw, photo by Chuck Aragon for RunBlogRun

In the final round, she launched her best throw of the day, 206-6 (62.94m), just over a meter short of the Olympic standard.

Madison Wiltrout finished third with a personal best of 200-8 (61.17m).

Currently, Malone-Hardin will be the only American in the javelin, though a second thrower may earn world ranking points when the final “Road to Paris” rankings are released on or before July 7th.

ON CJ ALLEN AND KARA WINGER…

The day eight column focused on two athletes I’ve been privileged to cover, Kara Winger and CJ Allen, who come from my home state of Washington.

Allen, a product of North Mason High School in Belfair,  was very emotional in the mixed zone after his second-place finish in the 400 hurdles final.

“When I was ten years old, I told myself, ‘One day I’m going to be an Olympian.’”

“This was my greatest dream- to make this team. I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet, and it won’t hit me for a couple of days. There’s been so much pressure and stress sitting in my hotel room for the last week and a half just knowing that I could be on this team and having to wait until the very end.”

On the race, Allen referenced an old photo from his college days at Washington State showing him and winner Rai Benjamin racing each other when Benjamin attended UCLA before transferring to cross-town USC.

“I took it out hard like I always do. I knew I had to stay focused on my race pattern (especially in an outside lane). For me, it was all about execution. I’ve trained by myself for the last five years.”

“I knew I was a heavy contender for this team. If I did what I was supposed to do, I would be on this team, whether or not people believed me.

When asked whether or not he’d change anything, he said he wouldn’t.

“It’s more than just a sport. I want to show people that I just finished my master’s and doctorate (in chiropractic) in September. I did all this (training and racing as a pro) while still attending school to get the highest degrees possible and compete at the highest levels.”

Winger, a native of Vancouver, said that she would retire after this meeting and told reporters, “I had a great time. It’s totally cool that I feel the way that I said I would; it’s totally good either way.”

 

“I’m really proud of trying. I’m proud of 63.22 (207-5 at the New York Grand Prix) with minimal training. This was more of an experiment of ‘can I be 38, believe in myself, and trust my technique, and execute at a high level?’”

“It was a success, but it wasn’t enough of a success. I didn’t prove what I needed to prove to myself, and I’m okay to be retired. Riding off into the sunset feels different this time, because I satisfied my curiosity.”

When asked if she could be curious next year, she didn’t think so, noting that her technique fell apart on her second-round throw.

“People don’t understand that in 2022, I left as the number one javelin thrower in the world. I was not number one for nineteen years. It felt strange to be done (after 2022).”

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