Walker, Lagat bound for London
EUGENE, Ore. — Brad Walker won his fourth U.S. pole vault title, clearing 18 feet, 71/4 inches at the Olympic track trials Thursday night for a spot on the U.S. team for the London Games. Jeremy Scott was second at 18-41/4.
Walker, a four-time NCAA All-American when he vaulted for the University of Washington, set the American record of 19-93/4 at the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field in 2008. He finished third in the Olympic trials that year before no-heighting in Beijing.
Later in the evening, Galen Rupp caught former Washington State Cougar Bernard Lagat in the 5,000 final, a scintillating race that came down to a sprint at the end.
Rupp finished in a time of 13 minutes, 22.67 seconds, significant because it broke meet record set by the late Steve Prefontaine nearly 40 years ago.
Around these parts, Pre’s a folk hero, rising to fame in this very stadium.
“Never brought (Prefontaine’s record) up,” said Rupp’s coach, Alberto Salazar. “I told him, ‘The only way you can have the confidence you can kick it on the last lap, is to leave it to the end here. In London, you’re going to have to do it in the last lap.’ ”
Rupp outkicked one of the best, too. Lagat is 37, but he still has the energy of a youngster.
“He’s 1-for-13 against Lagat now,” cracked Salazar, who said Rupp will run both the 5,000 and 10,000 in London. “I was going to joke afterward that if Galen had lost today, we still have another five years to beat Lagat. We figure we can get him when he’s around 45.”
Looking so smooth and exerting little effort, Allyson Felix glided to an easy heat win in the 200 meters.
Minutes later, appearing just as smooth and expending just as little of energy, Jeneba Tarmoh cruised to a victory in her heat as well on a drizzly night.
If controversy was weighing the sprinters down, they didn’t show it on the track.
Five days ago, the training partners crossed the finish line in a tie for the third and last Olympic spot in the 100.
Now, everyone is waiting to see what they will choose to break the dead heat — a runoff, coin flip or if one of them simply gives the spot to the other.