The U.S. Olympic Trials are over and soon Hayward Field will be left empty again. The tent city set up on the turf fields will be dismantled, and the corner of East 15th Avenue and Agate Street will once again open to traffic. But, the events of the last 10 days have added another chapter to Eugene’s already rich track history. Here’s a look back at some of the best moments of the Trials.
Ashton Eaton: World’s Greatest Athlete
The Eugene portion of the 2012 Olympic Trials began with the decathlon 100-meter dash. In the third and final heat, Ashton Eaton exploded out of the blocks and covered the distance faster than anyone in decathlon history. Less than an hour later, Eaton leapt farther than any long jumper had in decathlon competition. In fact, Eaton’s leap would have placed him in a second-place tie in the overall long jump competition — and his mark came in grueling wind and rain.
His dominance continued through the rest of the first day of competition and into the second. With two events remaining, fans and media speculated that he was within striking distance of either the American or world record. After a near-PR in the javelin, Eaton still needed a personal-best time in the 1,500 meters — by nearly two seconds — to equal the world record. With 21,000-plus fans egging him on and 1,500-meter specialist Curtis Beach setting a brisk pace, Eaton drafted to the homestretch. With the finish line approaching, Beach slowed to a crawl in his last few strides, allowing Eaton to set the world record in a winning effort.
Dead Heat (and its aftermath)
With finish-line technology having taken great leaps in the past decade, a true dead heat is almost unfathomable at this level of competition — but that’s exactly what happened in the women’s 100-meter dash final. Unofficial results initially showed Jeneba Tarmoh edging out Allyson Felix by one one-thousandth of a second for the third and final spot on the Olympic team. But photo analysis of the finish using cameras shooting at 3,000 frames per second were unable to name a clear winner. The dead heat will be resolved by a run-off on Monday evening at 5:00 p.m. The unique, head-to-head match will be televised live by NBC (Admission to Hayward is free for fans).
Rupp outkicks Lagat
If there has been a criticism of Galen Rupp over the course of his illustrious career, it’s that he should devote more training to improving his finishing kick. In the men’s 5,000 meters on Saturday, Rupp silenced those critics by beating out Bernard Lagat — known as a strong finisher — on the final straightaway. Rupp had the lead on the last lap but started to fade around the Bowerman Curve before kicking it into high gear along the final straightaway. The 5,000-meter race came down to less than a quarter of a second difference between Rupp and Lagat, with Rupp prevailing in 13:22.67 — to barely eclipse Steve Prefontaine’s long-standing meet record.
Days earlier, Rupp set another Olympic Trials record, winning the 10,000 meters — and leaving absolutely no doubt — by clocking a 27:25.33, crossing the finish line more than eight seconds ahead of Matt Tegenkamp and bettering the Olympic “A” Standard by nearly 20 seconds.
Felix wins 200 meters
After their dead heat in the 100-meter dash, Felix and Tarmoh each qualified for the 200-meter final, meaning another potential trip to London was on the line. Felix, a 200 specialist, overcame a relatively slow reaction time out of the blocks to win in a meet-record time of 21.69 seconds. That time broke a mark set by one of the greatest female athletes in American history, Florence Griffith-Joyner.