EUGENE, Ore. – Struggling with his rhythm in a persistent rain, high jumper Jesse Williams’ spot on the team for London appeared to be washing away.
The reigning world champion bowed out of the competition in fourth place at the U.S. Olympic trials Monday night.
Only the top three earn spots to the Olympics — unless someone doesn’t make the Olympic “A” standard of 7 feet, 7 inches. And someone did indeed fail to hit that mark, third-place finisher Nick Ross.
Just like that, Williams backed his way onto the team in an event that Jamie Nieto won and Erik Kynard took second.
It wasn’t the way Williams wanted to make the squad. He vowed to train more in the rain because this just might be the type of weather he encounters in London.
“Not the prettiest way, but I did it,” Williams said.
While Williams made it to London through the back door, 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds finished in style. He won his fifth consecutive U.S. title by easily holding off 35-year-old Khadevis Robinson and Duane Solomon.
For Symmonds, there was nothing wrong with a little drizzle. He’s used to this type of inclement weather, since he went to college at nearby NCAA Division III Willamette University and was running for the Oregon Track Club elite. He started far back in the pack but surged into the lead in the final 100 meters for the victory.
As Symmonds crossed the finish line, he spread out his arms in celebration and soaked up the cheers from the fans.
“This crowd just doesn’t want to see me make the team,” Symmonds. “They want to see me win. That makes me run with a little more aggression.”
On a dreary night, Alysia Montano definitely stood out by wearing a bright yellow flower in her hair. The plastic decoration has become her trademark.
So has this: stepping up at big events. Montano earned her way to London in the 800, along with Geena Gall and Alice Schmidt.
In the javelin final, Sam Humphreys earned a win but not a spot on the team. His best throw of 268-7 failed to meet the required “A” standard. Same with runner-up Sam Crouser.
So that means Craig Kinsley, Sean Furey and Cyrus Hostetler will represent the team — the third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers.
Sean Keller, who graduated from Heritage High School earlier this month, finished eighth out of 12 with a throw of 246-5.
“I snuck into eighth place,” Keller told the (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian. “I was feeling pretty good that I was going to pop another (long) one. It didn’t happen. But getting eighth place is pretty amazing.”
But at least that event has three qualifiers going. The women’s triple jump will only send Amanda Smock to the Olympics because none of the others met the standard.
The trials will now take a two-day break, with the third-place tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the women’s 100 meters still hanging over the competition.
USA Track and Field came up with new procedures Sunday night designed to determine the third and final spot on the Olympic team for the London Games. Tarmoh was originally declared the third-place finisher in Saturday’s race and the official scoring said she edged training partner Felix by 0.0001 seconds. But the results were reviewed, and after a lengthy delay, the dead heat was announced.
This has touched off a wave of controversy, especially because the national governing body had no protocol in place at the time to decide such situations.
But any publicity, good or bad, is just that — publicity.
“I’ve seen this on everything from CNN to the ‘Today Show,’ ” said Max Siegel, the recently hired CEO for USATF.