Olympic Trials Day 4

Absolute Madness in the Women’s 800: Alysia Montaño Falls Down In Tears As Kate Grace Wins a Wild Race

EUGENE, Ore. — For the first 550 meters of the the women’s 800 final at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, everything proceeded exactly as expected: Alysia Montaño was in her familiar position at the front of the pack, with Ajee Wilson in her familiar position on Montaño’s shoulder.

Then all hell broke loose.
Bodies clashed and dreams were dashed as a tangle of limbs on the final turn robbed Brenda Martinez of her momentum and left Montaño on the ground in tears. As the two women’s Olympic hopes melted to the Hayward Field track, Kate Grace, Ajee Wilson and Chrishuna Williams saw theirs realized, Grace pulling away for the win in a personal best 1:59.10, Wilson second in 1:59.51 and Williams coming from way back for third by .04 over Molly Ludlow, who was fourth for the second consecutive Trials.

Here’s what happened, as far as we can tell — though after reviewing the video umpteen times, it’s still not entirely clear. With 150 meters to go, Wilson was leading a tightly-packed group of six women. Martinez was moving up hard on her outside, but before she could pass Wilson, she was contacted slightly from behind by either Montaño or Raevyn Rogers of Oregon (Martinez’ agent Hawi Keflezighi told us it was Rogers). Martinez was thrown off her stride, windmilling her arms as she careened to the outside, away from the pack. Martinez was slowing down as this was happening, and that caused Montaño run into her from behind. Montaño went down and her Olympic chances went with her.

It was a wild, wild race, the heartbreak of the Olympic Trials laid bare for all to see. For three women — first-time Olympians all — it was a dream come true. For the others — Martinez, Montaño and Ludlow, an agonizing fourth once again — it was devastation. For everyone, it was chaos, grand spectacle on a grand stage.
The result will be debated again and again. Should there have been a DQ? USATF has already decided that there is not, citing incidental contact. The first three women past the post made the team. Fair or not, that’s the way it is.

Oregon’s Raevyn Rogers, normally content to hold back, was at the front with Montaño as they hit 200 in 27.73.  The pace continued to be hot as Montaño came through one lap in 57.46.

Ajee Wilson was third at 400, while Ludlow, Martinez and Kate Grace were 4-5-6. Grace, normally a good closer, appeared boxed but in no hurry to change positions.  

Things got interesting on the back stretch. Wilson closed down on Montaño and at 600, Martinez and Rogers jumped Montaño as she was swallowed by the pack and all the contenders were still in place. Then the chaos began.
With seven of the eight finalists still in it (Phoebe Wright was off the back), there was jostling at 150 to go and Martinez stumbled while Montaño was knocked to the track.
Grace, boxed in on the inside midway through the turn, took full advantage. Rogers hesitated as Montaño went down, and that was enough to create a lane for Grace to move up on the rail. Grace struck immediately and was in second with 100 to go, where she then darted to the outside to move by Wilson. She used her patented final 100 to move by Wilson to claim victory. Grace crossed in 1:59.10, two steps ahead of Wilson in 1:59.51. Chrishuna Williams, seventh entering the final turn, eight meters behind Wilson, kept her poise and moved up as lane one opened up for her over the final 100, passing Rogers and holding off Ludlow for third in 1:59.59. Rogers faded to 2:00.59 in fifth; Phoebe Wright took sixth in 2:02.55.
An emotional Martinez jogged across in 2:06.63 while a visibly distraught Montaño fell to the track several times before finishing in 3:06.77, greeted at the finish by her husband and young daughter, Linnea.

EUGENE, Ore — 21-year-old Clayton Murphy used his patented late-race surge to gun down world indoor champ Boris Berian to win the men’s 800 at the 2016 US Olympic Track and Field Trials in a new personal best of 1:44.76 to Berian’s 1:44.92. 2012 NCAA champ Charles Jock was the best of the rest and snagged the third Olympic spot by running 1:45.48.