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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Harrison_KeniSF-USOlyTr16.jpGKeni Harrison (center), Queen Harrison (foreground), 100m hurdles, US Olympic Trials), photo by PhotoRun.net


World Record Diamond League Win Salves Trials Wound

August 7th, 2016

There's an old saying in track: You're only as good as your last race. And last month professional 100 meter hurdler Kendra Harrison arrived at the Olympic Trials riding a string of exceptional races. Coming in with the top 4 world-leading times in her back pocket and a jaw-dropping victory at the Prefontaine Classic where her 12.23 clocking took down Brianna Rollins American record, Keni Harrison arrived in Eugene as the high hurdles odds-on favorite. But they don't hand out berths on the U.S. Olympic team based an athlete's credentials coming into the Trials. That - if I may borrow yet another shopworn track expression - is why they run the races.

Fred Samara.jpgFred Samara, courtesy of of YouTube.com

 

Revered Princeton Coach and Olympian Embraces Balanced Approach

No Ivy League school has ever captured a men's or women's team title at the NCAA Div. I outdoor track & field championships. Never. And, by the way, don't count on an Ivy team to be placing that winning team trophy in its award case any time soon. The Ivies don't roll that way.

The eight universities [Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale] which make up the Ivy League do not constitute a sports confederation on a par with the so-called "Power-5 Conferences." They don't aspire to be. Comfortable in their own skin, these eight schools are unified in adhering to their shared credo of combining an exemplary education opportunity with a first rate environment of superb coaching, facilities, and support which can allow their respective undergraduates to achieve their fullest potential as student athletes - be it making the Olympic team or simply scoring a critical point as a senior at the Heps championships.

 

Huddle-Conley-Infeld-HoulihanH-OlyTr16.JPGMolly Huddle, Kim Conley, Emily Infeld, Shelby Houlihan, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

At the Olympic Trials, you can witness a myriad of emotions as track & field combatants pass through the mixed zone. From jubilation to despair - and every emotion in between - you will see it all as animated, joyful athletes celebrate achieving their childhood dream next to despondent fellow competitors whose life's ambition has slipped away.

Emotions among those who actually make the Olympic team can vary as well. For example, even though he made the team, Nike's Donn Cabral - whose 3rd place finish in the men's 3000 meter steeplechase will send him to the Games for the second time - was harshly self-critical immediately after his race, while first-time Olympian David Verburg was absolutely ecstatic after his 3rd place finish in the men's 400 meters ensured he would be competing in Rio.

On final day of these Trials, 16 women swayed nervously on the track just before the start of the women's 5000 meter final - no doubt wondering what their emotions would be less than 20 minutes hence.

 

 

 

Ageless Bernard Lagat Makes His 5th Olympic Team

 

A familiar theme at this and previous Olympic Trials has been the changing of the guard. Emerging new talent supplanting fading veterans is a recurring process that is often painful to witness. But an increasing number of long-serving sentinels are resistant to surrender their posts as advances in training, therapy, equipment, and nutrition aid maturing athletes seeking to prolong their careers. Shalane Flanagan, Allyson Felix, Jenny Simpson, Shannon Rowbury, Jenn Suhr, Justin Gatlin, LaShawn Merritt, Galen Rupp, Bershawn Jackson, and others doggedly stand guard, repelling the advances of the youngsters.

Bernard Lagat - an aging soldier - is yet another still defending his post. Earlier in these Trials, Lagat pulled up with 2600 meters remaining in the 10,000m final. Overcome by heat - and perhaps by daunting competition - Lagat lay prone on the backstretch pouring water on his torso. Would this 41 year old really come back to compete in the 5000 meters?

 

Donn Cabral, by PhotoRun.net

Princeton Steepler Makes Second Olympic Team

After Princeton steeplechase athlete Donn Cabral posted the fastest qualifying time in the preliminary round of the men's 3000 meter steeplechase earlier this week, I sent him a congratulatory text wishing him well in the final. In his prompt reply, he declared he was "ready to fight." Was he ever.

Hurdles-USout11.JPGHurdles at Tracktown, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

World Record Just A Tick Away For Kendra Harrison

If you look around, occasionally you can find countries that dominate a particular event. How about Kenya in the men's 3000 meter steeplechase? Forget about it! But the talent pool of that East African nation in the barrier event pales in comparison to the quality and depth that the American women bring to the 100 meter hurdles. Consider this: Currently, 5 American athletes - Kendra Harrison, Jasmin Stowers, Brianna Rollins, Sharika Nelvis, and Kristi Catlin - have combined to produce the top 11 marks on this year's outdoor world list in the women's high hurdle event. But wait, there's more. The red, white, and blue presently has 17 of the world's top 20 performances in the w100mH as well.

 

Murphy-Berian1a-OlyTr16.JPGClayton Murphy and Boris Berian battle over 800 meters, photo by PhotoRun.net


Racing Styles Collide In Men's 800m Final

"If they're going to run themselves out in the first 400,
I'll just catch them in the last 100." - Clayton Murphy

We should have known. The pre-race scoreboard video was a premonition of the excitement to come. Minutes before the start of the men's 800m final - with 1972 Olympic gold medalist Dave Wottle waving from the medal podium at the south end of Hayward Field - the stadium scoreboard displayed a montage video of Wottle's career highlights, including the final strides of his electrifying last step Olympic win over highly-touted Yevgeny Arzanov in the Munich 800m final. Many consider that final the most exciting race of all time. Perhaps until tonight.

Cunningham_VashtiR-USOlyTr16.jpGVashti Cunningham, photo by PhotoRun.net

Lowe_Chaunte1a-USOlyTr16.jpGChaunte Lowe, photo by PhotoRun.net


Lowe, Cunningham Stage Epic High Jump Final

An undercurrent running through these Trials - as in all preceding Trials - is the ceaseless transformation in the cast of elite performers. New talent is constantly emerging while accomplished veterans battle to hold their ground. No one is disappointed when young athletes sprout up and step forward - fresh new talent is always embraced. But there is more than a tinge of sadness - a reminder of the temporal nature of athletic success - when revered, experienced performers on the track and in the field finally succumb to Father Time.

Never was this theme more evident than in the finals of the women's high jump - a spirited competition that produced one of the 8 world-leading performances on Day Three of these U.S. Olympic Trials for track & field.

 

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Huddle_MollyLeds-USOlyTr16.jpGMolly Huddle leads the 10,000m, photo by PhotoRun.net

Resilient Athlete Captures 10,000 Meter Crown

Everyone makes mistakes. They can't be avoided. But it is the manner by which a person reacts to the inevitable mistakes - their demeanor; what they learn; how they move on - which can provide genuine insight into one's character.

Last August in Beijing - in the final of the women's world championship 10,000 meters - American distance star Molly Huddle committed a horrible gaffe. Only strides away from the finish line and what should have been a sparkling bronze medal performance, Huddle initiated a premature, pre-finish line celebratory arm-lifting display of joy. But there was no joy. That brief, regrettable gesture proved to be just enough to allow Emily Infeld - her hard-charging teammate - to barely slip by Huddle in the final stride to claim the medal that Huddle surely thought would be hers.

Rupp_Galen1a-OlyTr16.JPGGalen Rupp just does it, photo by PhotoRun.net


Champion Savors Win

Back in March during the first round of the men's 3000 meters at the U.S. Indoor Championships, a good number of spectators - not all - shook their heads as Galen Rupp struggled through a ragged outing - finishing 8th in a field of 16. Was this the beginning of Rupp's slide into mediocrity? These very same fans most certainly had overlooked the fact that Rupp, still in recovery mode, had recently triumphed in the Olympic Marathon Trials - his first attempt at the 26 mile 385 yard distance - just 4 weeks earlier.

It's quite a different story now. On a day when a number of celebrated American athletes - revered veterans Sanya Richards Ross, Duane Solomon, Reese Hoffa, Adam Nelson, Amy Acuff, and youngsters Vernon Norwood, Donovan Brazier, and Laura Roesler - saw their dreams for this Olympics vanish, Galen Rupp did what he has done each of the last 7 years: he won the national championship 10,000 meter run.

RunBlogRun Some photographs on this site have been reproduced with permission from runblogrun.com.