Will Claye took the triple jump title to secure his spot in Rio, while LaShawn Merritt and Tori Bowie each qualified in the 200m, setting each up for two events at the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.
The long jump brought a disappointing result for Will last weekend, but he made up for it with a terrific final in the triple. Will grabbed bronze in the long jump final—but he was left off the Rio roster because his Olympic standard jump came wind-aided. But the Nike jumper left no doubt in Saturday night’s triple jump finale, posting the second best jump in the world so far in 2016: 17.65 meters, to take the U.S. Olympic Trials crown.
But rather than seeing it as redemption for a long-jump snubbing, Will saw it as a blessing in disguise, that he can now put his full energy and effort into the triple.
“God works in mysterious ways. Maybe this is a sign that I need to focus on the triple that I have some big things coming in the triple,” Will said. “My injury put me out two months. I just started training back up in February, so just to be able to come out here and jump that distance is a blessing. It brought me to tears. I’m so thankful I was able to come out here and do that.”
Will is thrilled for the opportunity to make a return trip to the Games. He won silver at the 2012 London Olympics in the triple jump and added a bronze in the long jump. He finished second in the triple in London to his friend and rival Christian Taylor, and the American duo will be the favorites to finish one-two yet again. Taylor’s 17.76-meter jump at the Prefontaine Classic in May is the only mark better than Will’s so far this year. They’ll be joined by third-place finisher Chris Benard.
“When you put that USA across your chest, you feel like a superhero,” he said. “It gives you another type of energy to know that you have the United States, the best country in the world, backing you. I have a lot of work to do. I have a month to get myself together, and I know I’ll be ready.”
Tori certainly showed that she’s Rio-ready when she claimed the 200m national championship on Sunday.
A week after finishing third to earn a spot in the 100m event in Rio, Tori came back and put every ounce she had left into the 200m. She had a fantastic start but faced a vehement charge from Deajah Stevens down the back stretch. TB had just enough to hold off the Oregon Duck at 22.25 seconds. While catching her breath afterward, the adidas sprinter spoke about just how difficult the double was.
“This has been one long journey,” Tori said immediately after the 200m final. “This is my first time coming to a championship and trying to do a double. It’s been a long journey, but we came here and got the job done.”
LaShawn will run the double in Rio, albeit a bit differently. He won the 400m national championship earlier in the week, and he was just 0.04 seconds away from sweeping the 200m as well. At 19.79 seconds, he finished second to Justin Gatlin, but the Nike sprinter still clinched a second event in Rio.
The Virginia native said earlier this 2016 season that he wasn’t planning on doing the double, with his sights set on a 400m Olympic gold. But as the owner of three of the top four 200m times run in the world this year, he has reconsidered.
“I think I’ll do the double,” he said after the 200m final. “My coach and I will address training. But then I’ll just have one day in between instead of three. I’ll get there and handle the 400, because that’s my priority. So I’ll handle that, and anything after that is just fun and bonus. My body’s feeling good. Body-wise, after the race, I wasn’t that tired. My legs feel fine, so it’s just some fun.”
LaShawn waged an incredible battle with the 100m specialist, Gatlin. Their respective strengths showed, as Gatlin built an early lead, only to see LaShawn close the gap late. It looked like LaShawn might pull ahead down the stretch, but the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in the 100m put together a terrific close to hold him off in a thrilling finish.
Sarah Brown’s inspirational personal story unfortunately didn’t have the storybook ending. Sarah’s training regimen was changed drastically when she found out she was pregnant, but the New Balance runner kept on working.
“I hit some hurdles I wasn’t expecting—the low-bone density, the three fractures, it really was an uphill battle trying to get here,” Sarah explained. “I was able to start some workouts three weeks ago on the track, and I felt good with those. But it was just a constant battle trying to get here.”
She finished just one position and 1.17 seconds away from advancing in the first round of the women’s 1500m in Eugene. But even though her Olympic dream fell short, Sarah saw it as a personal win.
“It didn’t work out today, but I needed to get back out there. So for me, it was a win to just put myself on the line,” she said. “I’m obviously super disappointed, because I felt pretty good, and then my feet just weren’t really holding up and I just fell off. Getting back out there was a good thing. It’s heartbreaking, because I know I’m better than that, but you’ve got to start somewhere.”