His impressive win at the 2011 World Championships in South Korea made Jesse Williams the favorite for a gold medal at the London Olympics, but winning Olympic gold requires one being there. And Williams came perilously close to seeing his dream end in soggy Eugene, Ore., at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Monday.
He finished fourth in the event, clearing the same height as the top three — 2.28 meters (7-5 3/4), but he needed more attempts. But he was able to land a spot on Team USA because the third-place finisher, Nick Ross of Arizona, has not met the Olympic A standard. That meant that Williams would join 35-year-old Jamie Nieto and NCAA Champion Erik Kynard of Kansas State in London in August.
“I’m going to London. I got fourth and it’s not the best way to do it," said Williams. "Today I did a lot of things wrong. I became a jumper, not a high jumper, and that started to pull on my natural abilities, which only gets you so far…Ultimately it’s about getting on that team.”
The biggest events on the track were the men's and women's finals in the 800-meter runs. Hometown favorite Nick Symmonds defended his Trials' title before a wet crowd of 21,626 at Hayward Field, while Alysia Montano asserted her dominance in the event with an impressive win.
Symmonds ran 1:43.92 to finish ahead of Khadevis Robinson and Duane Solomon, while Montano went out quick to win in 1:59.08 and held off Geena Gall and Alice Schmidt.
Perhaps the best collective performance of the day came from the Ivy League, which had two athletes earn tickets to London while seven others secured a spot in coming Trials finals.
Javelin throwers Craig Kinsley (Brown) and Sean Furey (Dartmouth) — who were third (262-2) and fourth (255-5) — had hit the Olympic A standard in advance of the Trials while the top two finishers, Texas A&M’s Sam Humphreys (268-7) and Oregon’s Sam Crouser (265-1) had not. As a result, the 3-4-5 throwers each advance.
“These guys are 21, 20 years old and they’re out there throwing bombs,” said Furey. “I didn’t quite muster a PR, but it is probably one of the best meets of my life.”
The League’s two NCAA Champions from earlier this month — Abbey D’Agostino (Dartmouth) and Donn Cabral (Princeton) — each moved to the finals with impressive performances in their specialties.
In fact, D’Agostino’s 15:41.14 was the fastest qualifying time of the day in the 5,000-meter run. “The strategy was to stay up there and be a part of the top six the entire time and I just did it,” said D’Agostino. “It was great so fingers crossed and I plan on doing the same thing.”
Cabral actually was the fastest of two Ivy qualifiers for the steeplechase final, finishing his barrier-laden race in 8:30.64. Not far behind, in 8:33.43, was Max King (Cornell), who has made his name in endurance and mountain running.
Looking forward to the finals, Cabral said, “I’m ready for it. It’s hard not to be mentally and emotionally ready … I had a couple hard months of training, and I’m feeling better and better. The end of collegiate season set me up for now.”
The women’s steeple also saw three Leaguers advance. Ashley Higginson (Princeton) had a strong run of 9:45.21 while Carrie Dimoff (Princeton) and Delilah DiCrescenzo (Columbia) advanced in 9:49.03 and 9:49.15, respectively.
And the final Ivy runner to run into a final was Ben True (Dartmouth), who’s 13:43.12 was the third-best time of the night behind Lopez Lomong and Bernard Lagat.
The Trials shut down for the next two days before resuming on Thursday.