Harting, Acuff Survive Nervous Jump-Offs
Both the men’s pole vault and women’s high jump finals at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials went to overtime Sunday, with Chad Harting and Amy Acuff having to survive jump-offs to earn their spots on the Olympic team.
After Lawrence Johnson (19 feet 1 1/2 inches) and Nick Hysong (18-9 1/2) clinched the first two pole-vault berths, Harting had to outlast Derek Miles and Pat Manson in the first jump-off at the trials since 1936. The trio had tied for third place with third-attempt clearances of 18-5 1/2.
The jump-off lasted three rounds, with all three competitors missing at heights of 18-9 1/2 and 18-7 1/2. Finally, Harting broke the deadlock by clearing 18-5 1/2. Miles and Manson failed at the same height.
“I can’t believe I’m sitting here,” Harting said during an interview session with the other pole-vault qualifiers. “This is the best feeling in the world.”
In the women’s high jump, Karol Damon and Eric Aldrich earned Olympic berths when they became the only jumpers among the final four to clear 6 feet 4 inches. That sent Acuff and Tisha Waller into a jump-off for the third Olympic spot.
The bar was set at 6-4, which neither jumper cleared, then lowered to 6-3 1/4. Acuff cleared that height with room to spare but Waller knocked off the bar with a slight nick of the heel.
“Two years ago, Tisha Waller and I had a jump-off and I lost because I had noodle legs,” said Acuff, a two-time U.S. champion and member of the 1996 Olympic squad. “Today I felt confident in my short approach, but my long approach was not so short due to injuries and a car accident that I had three weeks ago.
“Ironically, the accident was on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, and I thought, ‘Is that an omen?’ ”
Another 400-meter final for Michael Johnson, another sub-44-second time, another U.S. championship.
How run-of-the-mill was Johnson’s winning run of 43.68 seconds? With it, Johnson, the world-record holder, now owns eight of the 11 fastest times on the all-time world list. It also gave the 32-year-old Johnson his fourth U.S. title in the event.
“My main objective was to make the team,” Johnson said. “Now the Olympic tickets I bought for my parents won’t go to waste.”
Runner-up Alvin Harrison finished nearly a full-second behind (44.63), with four-time national titlist Antonio Pettigrew placing third at 44.66.
Latasha Colander-Richardson won the women’s 400-meter final in 49.87 seconds, followed by 1993 world champion Jearl Miles-Clark (50.23) and Michelle Collins (50.29). Seventeen-year-old Monique Henderson, aiming to become the first high school runner to make the U.S. team in 24 years, finished last in 51.59 seconds.
Stanford’s domination of the men’s 1,500 meters at this year’s NCAA championships continued at the Olympic trials, with Gabe Jennings and Michael Stember finishing first and third Sunday.
Jennings, the NCAA champion, doubled as U.S. titlist with a time of 3 minutes 35.90 seconds, ahead of runner-up Jason Pyrah (3:36.70). Stember, who placed second at the NCAA championships last month, took third here with a time of 3:37.04.
Jennings and Pyrah automatically qualify for the Olympic team, but Stember still must run the Olympic “A” qualifying standard (3:36.80) to join them. Stember has until Sept. 11 to reach the standard.
“I’m not worried about it,” Stember said. “Today’s race, I was only a few steps away. It should be fairly easy to get it.”
As expected, Regina Jacobs and Suzy Favor Hamilton placed 1-2 in the women’s 1,500-meter final. Jacobs, a two-time world silver medalist, pulled away from Hamilton by running the final 400 meters in 57.3 seconds, finishing in 4:01.01. Hamilton’s time was 4:01.81. Third place went to Marla Runyan (4:06.44).
“In terms of strategy, it looked like Suzy and I both had the same idea,” said the 36-year-old Jacobs. “The race really started with a lap to go. That’s where I wanted to start winding it up and putting it down again [with 200 meters to go]. I think that’s something you’re going to see in the rounds in Sydney.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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