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Olympic Track and Field Review – Day 1

Morning session

Women’s 400 Meter heats

Nothing much to report here. In the first heat, Francena McCorory was incredibly slow off the blocks but still managed to nudge 2008 Beijing gold medalist (and hometown favorite) Christine Ohuruogu. It was a two person race, though, as third place was a full second behind Ohuruogu. In the third heat, Deedee Trotter won easily in a time of 50.87 and did Sanya Richards-Ross in her fourth heat (51.78). Defending world champion Amantle Montsho of Botswana had the fastest time of the morning in 50.40. The semifinal will be Saturday at 2:05 PM (CST).

Men’s 400 Meter Hurdles

All three American men advanced with Michael Tinsley and Angelo Taylor winning their heats and Kerron Clement coming in second to Olympic gold medal favorite Javier Culson of Puerto Rico to advance to the semifinal on Saturday at 1:00 PM (CST). Culson ran the fastest time of the morning in 48.33.

Men’s 3000 Meter Steeplechaser

Heat 1 featured new American record holder Evan Jager. The race went out with an honest pace and Jager look quite comfortable. Jager took the lead with 2 laps remaining and led until the finish when he wisely let Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad coast by him for the victory finishing in 8:16. He was easily in the top 4 which automatically qualify from each heat. The second heat featured American Kyle Alcorn. The pace was quite slow in the second heat as no one seemed to want to take the lead. With a few laps remaining, Alcorn found himself in the worst place any runner can be – no man’s land. The lead pack of about 6 emerged and he found himself a few meters back struggling to try to latch on to the back of the pack. He didn’t have enough at the end of the race and wound up 9th place in what has to be a disappointing 8:37. Kenyan Brimin Kiprop Kipruto looked effortless in victory (8:28) hurdling the last water pit without even making contact with the barrier. The third and final heat featured 2012 NCAA champ Donald Cabral. Cabral jumped out to the lead at the gun and led the first 2750 meters of the race, but unfortunately for Cabral, he hadn’t outrun the field as a pack of seven runners where just meters behind. With 150 to go at the last water barrier, it looked as though Cabral was going to wind up outside of the top 4. He had a real gutsy kick left in him, though, and wound up in the last automatic qualify spot. Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi eased in the last 20 meters finishing in lane 8 allowing Ethiopia’s Roba Gari to have the victory. It was, to say the least, interesting given many are questioning where Kemboi’s head is at (he was recently arrested for allegedly stabbing a woman). Evan Jager has the 4th fastest time of 2012 among the finalists while Cabral’s currently 11th among the field of 15. The favorites will be Kenyan’s Brimin Kiprop Kipruto and Ezekiel Kemboi – the only runner’s in the field who have ever run under 8:00. The final with be on Sunday at 3:25 PM (CST).

Afternoon Session

Women’s 100 meter heats

Men’s 1500 meter heats
The men’s 1500 featured 3 heats of 15 runners. Top 6 from each heat + next 6 fastest times advance to the semis. Heat 1 featured Leo Manzano of the USA along with the fastest man of the year this year Asbel Kiprop of Kenya. Florian Carvalho of France and Egor Nikolaev of Russia took the race out fast – 58.6 and 1:57.3 at the 400 and 800 split. The second lap in particular was 4-5 seconds faster than the next two semis. Manzano hung out mostly near the middle to back of the pack. With one lap remaining, though, he put himself into contention and wound up grabbing the last automatic qualifying spot (6th) just getting out-leaned at the tape by a runner from Qatar. Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria won in a speedy opening heat time of 3:35.15.

The second heat featured former Oregon Duck and two time Olympian Andrew Wheating. The pacing was very off in this heat going out the hardest of any of the three heats (57) but then slowing way down in the second lap (63). Through the first two laps, Wheating was in a real good spot right off the leaders in the front. Around the third lap, though, he seemed to get lost in the pack. It reminded me a ton of Alan Webb’s 1500 in the 2004 opening round when he failed to advance. He was in about 10th place with about 150 meters to go. He got to the 7th runner, but the gap was just to big to get to number 6 and he sat just one spot out of the automatic qualifers. If any of the non-automatic qualifiers (7th place and above) in the third heat were to run faster that 3:40.92 (a time which all 44 competitors had bettered at one time or another in 2012), his Olympics would be over. Advancing along were Canadian Nathan Brannen (former Michigan Wolverine) and second fastest 1500 in the world this year Silas Kiplagat. Surprisingly not advancing was Dawit Wolde of Ethiopia who had the 5th fastest time among the 15 runners in his heat.

The third heat went out so slow. Nixon Chepseba of Kenya went right to the front of the race and sat. Knowing that the time qualifier was under 3:40, I’m surprised no one in the field took a chance to push the pace a little bit. The 2:03 split at the 800 was a full 6 seconds slower than the first heat almost ensuring no time qualifiers would advance from this field. With 400 meters remaining, defending silver medalist Nick Willis of New Zealand overtook Chepseba for the lead. With just under 300 remaining, Chepseba – one of the clear medal favorites – tripped and nearly fell over. American Matt Centrowitz darted out wide to avoid Chepseba and went from 6th place to 4th in the process. A strong finish allowed Centro to shut it down a little in the last 20 meters easily qualifying and advancing to the semis. The shocker was to see one of the early medal favorites – Nixon Chepseba – out in the first round after he couldn’t recover from his fall. Willis, who is looking as fit as ever, waltzed to victory in 3:40.92 – the exact same time Wheating ran as the last time qualifying. Having not won a medal in the 1500 since 1968 (Jim Ryun), America is the only country with three runners advancing to the semifinal. The three Americans will next run in the semifinals at 2:15 PM (CST) on Sunday.

Women’s 10k Final

Since this is such a live race, I’m just going to do it liveblog-style:

Prerace – This definitely has the making of a two person war between Vivian Jepkemoi Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba with the two other Kenyans and Ethiopians seemingly battling for the bronze. I don’t think any of the three Americans have a shot to medal, but I’m hoping they show well. Top 5-10 for any American runner would certainly be a nice showing. I’m picking 1) Dibaba, 2) Cheruiyot, & 3) Oljira. I’m hoping former Texas Tech star Sally Kipyego surprises me and sneaks a medal, though.

24 laps remaining – The three runners from Japan take the lead 200 meters into the race and take it through the first 400 in 73 seconds.

23 laps remaining – Another runner has joined the three Japanese runners who run 74 for the second lap. The rest of the pack is 3 seconds back.

22 laps remaining – Pack is starting to stretch out. Good news for fans of fast times. US’s Amy Hastings is right behind Dibaba. Stick right on her should for the next 22 laps and good things will happen. Easier said than done, of course.

21 laps remaining – And the field has caught up with (but not passed) the three Japanese who are going through the mile in a shade under 5 minutes.

20 laps remaining – Pace is staying steady. Hastings, Uhl, and Bawcom between 2.5 – 3.5 seconds back of the leader.

19 laps remaining – All of the expected contenders are just stalking in the second pack behind the Japanese trio and Britton from Ireland.

18 laps remaining – A little surprised the Japanese are still out front. If you aren’t going to try to run away from the pack and you aren’t sharing the lead, it seems like you’re just waiting to get picked off in the last mile.

17 laps remaining – Hastings in 11th 1.7 seconds back. Bawcom 15th. Uhl 19th. Hastings looks strong but Bawcom and Uhl look to be in danger of losing touch.

16 laps remaining – I seriously don’t know what the Japanese are doing. If you are going to go out to the front as a team, why not share the lead? Niiya has been doing all the work. While I’m typing this, Niiya throws in a surge.

15 laps to go – Niiya still leads followed by the two Kenyans, two Ethiopians. Amy Hastings looking fantastic!

14 laps to go – Two Kenyans go by Niiya. Dibaba and Oljira right behind. We’ve got a pack of 11 runners still in touch with the lead with four runners struggling to barely hold on.

13 laps to go – Kipyego makes a strong move passing her two Kenyan teammates. Kidane of Ethiopia goes with her. Hastings has fallen back to 12th place but still is only 1.3 seconds off the lead. She’s at the very end of the lead pack, though. 71.32 is the fastest lap of race so far.

12 laps to go – Kipyego’s move really has stretched this field out. I think we’ll see a lot of separation over the next few laps and a contending pack will emerge.

11 laps to go – Kidane makes a move. The three Ethiopians and three Kenyans occupy the top six spots.

10 laps to go – And just like that Hastings is getting dropped. She seems to be stuck in no man’s land. A lead pack of 6 seems like it is going to emerge.

9 laps to go – Hasting fighting hard to try to regain the tail end of the lead pack. They’ve got about 10 meters on her, though.

8 laps to go – 76 seconds for that last lap. They are surging and slowing constantly. After that slow lap, Kidane makes a real strong push. The runner from Great Britain is only 2.6 seconds back. Could be interesting to see if she can stick around long enough to get the crowd behind her and maybe sneak a bronze. Hastings has fallen nearly 6 seconds off the back of the pack and is now right ahead of Bawcom and Uhl.

7 laps to go – Dibaba in to second after a 68 second lap by Kidane. That’s 8 seconds faster than the previous lap. The biggest news is Joyce Chepkirui of Kenya has dropped out of the race. We are down to six runners in contention for the medals.

6 laps to go – Pace slowing a little once again. Kidane, Cheruiyot, Kipyego, and Dibaba are your top 4. It appears that’s where your medalists are going to come from.

5 laps to go – 72 second lap. Bawcom, Uhl, and Hastings are all within a second of each other 12th – 14th.

4 laps to go – We’re lapping all kinds of runners now. Kidane’s form is starting to look a little sloppy. Kipyego is making a move and goes to the front. Kidane seems to be working hard. Dibaba is scary looking relaxed in 4th place. And just like that she goes to 2nd.

3 laps to go – Still 4 runners left in the pack. Kidane appears to be laboring the most.

2 laps to go – 72 second last lap. It’s Kipyego, Dibaba, Cheruiyot, and Kidane. Kidane looks like she’s getting dropped. Dibaba makes a move with 550 meters to go to the lead.

1 lap to go – Dibaba’s opened a huge gap of about 10 meters with a 68 seconds second to last lap. I don’t see how she gets caught. She won’t. It’s closer to 25 meters with 200 to go.

Final – Your gold medalist is Tirunesh Dibaba in 30:20.76 with a 62 (!!!) second last lap, Kipyego silver, Cheruiyot bronze. Hastings (31:10), Bawcom (31:12) and Uhl (31:12) all run personal best times to finish 11th, 12th, and 13th. Good showing for the Americans but the night belonged to Dibaba.