Saturday, June 28, 2008

They Showed Out Tonight!

The crowd in Eugene may arguably be the best U.S. crowd ever assembled to watch track and field in this country's history. The athletes paid back the favor by really showing out today.

The women’s heptathlon usually runs in front of half-packed stands. Normally just friends, family, and a few other enthusiasts come out to watch—not this time around. A Hayward Field record crowd of 20, 964 packed the stadium today to watch the first day of the Olympic Trials.

Can Marshevet Hooker keep producing 10.79s through the rounds? As I reported on, although the wind-aided time (+3.4) was with a huge wind, the time has only been surpassed by Flo Jo, Marion Jones, and Merlene Ottey.

One the highlights of the day for many track fans was the honoring of the 1980 Olympic Team that did not go to the Olympics to boycott the 1980 Moscow invasion of Afghanistan. Some of the attendees included: Carol Lewis, Willie Gault, Renaldo Nehemiah, Alberto Salazar, and Mary Slaney to name a few. The attitudes of the former greats ranged from anger to happiness. It is sad thinking back that they were robbed of their Olympic glory. The Winter Olympic team attended the games. It was a very classy moment to honor the group with a lap around the track.

It was a pleasure speaking with former Olympic decathlete gold medalist, Dan O’Brien. He talked about missing the sport and competing at the highest levels. The Portland, Oregon native is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes ever. O'Brien also said that he is happy coaching current heptathlon athlete Jacquelyn Johnson, who is in strong contention to make the Olympic squad.

If Johnson performs within her capabilities, O'Brien expects Johnson can finish second overall. Jacquelyn has been recently signed with track legend and agent Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson also shared with me that he felt Jacquelyn could also finish second if things go her way.

Fan favorite, Matt Scherer of Eugene, made it through the first round of the 800-meters by finishing fourth in his round. He spoke with me during my work at after the race. "The name of the game today is not time, it's qualifying," said Scherer. "Fourth today is as good as first" he went on to say.

I spotted a very relaxed looking Al Joyner near the track area. There was not time to track him down today, but he was definitely on the scene.

It was purely amazing to watch Bernard Lagat pull a Michael Jordan moment tonight in the 5,000. You remember when MJ would play 18 holes before heading to the NBA court to dominate his competition... Lagat appeared as relaxed as a morning jog when he rolled through the first round of the 5,000-meters.

The men’s 400-meter hurdles was quite interesting. Kerron Clement and Angelo Taylor appear to be favorites to go 1-2 in the finals.

In the last race on the track tonight, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Amy Begley are officially heading to Beijing in the women’s 10, 000 meter run. The final event was brought home by a standing ovation for the top three finishers.

By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jay,

    I put together a couple sites about Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher. They'll need some tweaking, but they're already the best biographies on the web as near as I can tell.

    Hope you'll tell me what you think!