Local favorites headline wet day at Olympic trials
The rain began about noon, beat a steady rhythm most of the afternoon and then descended in buckets around the dinner hour, just in time...
Seattle Times colleges reporter
U.S. Olympic track trials, 8 p.m. (delayed), Ch. 5
EUGENE, Ore. — The rain began about noon, beat a steady rhythm most of the afternoon and then descended in buckets around the dinner hour, just in time for the men's 10,000-meter final.
If the weather on the first full day of the 2012 Olympic track trials wasn't exactly divine, at least it didn't dampen most of the Northwest competitors, who survived and even excelled in the dreary conditions.
The day's headliners at Hayward Field were local favorites: former Oregon decathlete Ashton Eaton of Bend, Ore., and ex-Duck distance standout Galen Rupp.
Eaton, whom most consider the favorite for the gold medal in the 10-event grinder at the London Games, ignited the day with decathlon world records in the 100 meters (10.21) and long jump (27-0) and sailed to a total of 4,728 points at the halfway point.
"Sorry, no questions," a smiling Eaton said to reporters as he hurried off to a rubdown. "I will say that what everyone is seeing is the culmination of everyone that supported me and got me to this point, and me fiercely trying not to let them down."
There appears little chance of that. Eaton blew away his first-day personal best of 4,604 points, and the 20-year-old American record of 8,891 by Dan O'Brien — here in a couple of different roles, including live field interviewer — is in jeopardy. No wonder Eaton's girlfriend, heptathlete Brianne Thiesen, told The Oregonian this week, "I know he would never say anything about it, but in my mind it's such a done deal it's ridiculous."
The decathletes had to slog through a torrential 400 meters to conclude the day. Eaton clocked a respectable 46.70, while Bryan Clay, 2008 Olympic champion who trains occasionally in Seattle, struggled in at 51.21. But Clay has 4,252 points and is solidly in third place.
Mostly, the weather was an annoyance but not a deal-breaker to those with state-of-Washington connections.
Aretha (Hill) Thurmond, the former Washington discus thrower who has lived and trained at Auburn University for about a decade, had a 197-6 toss on her third attempt to qualify easily for Sunday's final.
"You've got to be cautious," said the three-time Olympian. "You don't want to do something in these conditions where you get a bad fall or something like that. You don't have time for that this late in the season."
Ginnie Powell Crawford, the ex-Rainier Beach High and USC competitor, clocked 12.89 in the 100-meter hurdles to make Saturday evening's final after a dicey launch from the blocks. She's trying to make her first Olympics.
"It's going to be very cutthroat," she said, referring to a closely bunched field. "I feel my chances are good as long as I stay focused and execute my race."
At about the same time, ex-Husky Norris Frederick long jumped 25-8 ¾ to make Sunday's final.
"My coach (Pat Licari) told me to go out there, let your hair down and have fun," Frederick said. "I'm a competitor, and big jumpers have big jumps at big meets."
The rain late in the day was so heavy it canceled the women's pole-vault qualifying. But it didn't ruin the men's 10,000, even as the competitors labored through a driving storm.
Rupp controlled the race and won in 27:25.33, delighting the locals. But the performance of fellow Portlander Dathan Ritzenhein, a former University of Colorado runner, was as inspiring.
Ritzenhein had already had the supreme disappointment of finishing a non-qualifying fourth in the marathon earlier this year. And, lacking the Olympics "A" 10K standard of 27:45 entering this meet, he needed to do more than merely place in the top three.
The weather threw that prospect into question, but Ritzenhein came through famously, running 27:36:09 and finishing third.
In the women's 10K final to finish the day, Amy Hastings ran 31:58.36 to lead Natosha Rogers and Shalane Flanagan across the tape.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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