IN THE WAKE OF THE WOMEN’S 800

Symmonds, Wheating and Smith (diving) make 2008 800m team.

Symmonds, Wheating and Smith (diving) make 2008 800m team.

Eight years ago in Eugene the men’s 800m final was the defining race of the U.S. Track and Field Trials. It’s stretch run showcased all that was right and electrifying about the sport as three Oregon locals stormed down the Hayward Field track to earn berths on the team heading to Beijing. No stadium in track had ever been as thunderous. Even the heart-broken fourth-place finisher Khadevis Robinson showed the heart and dignity of a true champion though he failed to make the team.

Today, two days of rest loom in Eugene after the opening four days of competition at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, giving the rabid Hayward Field fans a chance to rest their weary throats and salve their pounded palms. But it also allows two more days to analyze the What-Ifs of what surely promises to be the defining race of these 2016 Trials, the women’s 800m final.

Anyone who has ever run the 800 knows that it’s like walking a tight rope. You’re high on your stride, vulnerable to any break in rhythm, no margin for error especially in the last 150 when lactic acid is coagulating like tar, space is limited and hearts are at full gallop. In the panic, frenzy and fatigue of a closely contested final racers jostle, feet get clipped, and entire bodies and dreams can come crashing down. It is part of what makes trials’ racing so utterly compelling.

Montano in meltdown

Montano in meltdown

Yesterday in the women’s 800 Trials’ final Alysia Montano put on a Golden Raspberry Award worthy performance down the homestretch. Unfortunately for the Cal grad her over-the-top performance wasn’t athletic as she had tripped and fallen on the Bowerman curve in the last 150 meters of a highly competitive race and had to watch helplessly as her chances to make a second Olympic team disappeared down the track. Continue reading