Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh cruised to victory in their 200m heats at the US Olympic athletics trials on Thursday, showing no sign of being distracted by their recent controversy.
Five days ago, the training partners crossed the finish line in a tie for the third and last Olympic spot in the 100m.
Now, everyone is waiting to see what they will choose to break the dead heat — a runoff, coin flip or if one of them simply gives the spot to the other.
They were tight-lipped on Thursday about how the issue would be resolved, sticking to their plan of waiting until after today’s 200m final to address the issue.
In a thrilling finish to end the night, Galen Rupp caught Bernard Lagat in the 5,000m final, a scintillating race that came down to a sprint at the end.
Rupp finished in a time of 13 minutes, 22.67 seconds, significant because it broke the meet record set by the late Steve Prefontaine nearly 40 years ago.
Around these parts, Pre’s a folk hero, rising to fame in this very stadium.
“Never brought [Prefontaine’s record] up,” said Rupp’s coach, Alberto Salazar. “I told him, ‘The only way you can have the confidence you can kick it on the last lap, is to leave it to the end here. If you go early, we’re never going to know. In London, you’re going to have to do it in the last lap.’ That was the plan today, get it going a little bit.”
Rupp outkicked one of the best, too. Lagat is 37, but he still has the energy of a youngster.
“He’s 1-for-13 against Lagat now,” said Salazar, who said Rupp will run both the 5,000m and 10,000m in London. “I was going to joke afterward that if Galen had lost today, we still have another five years to beat Lagat. We figure we can get him when he’s around 45.”
Julie Culley (women’s 5,000m), Evan Jager (steeplechase), Lance Brooks (discus) and Brad Walker (pole vault) also won.
Felix won her heat in 22.82 seconds. Tarmoh clocked 22.90.
The 200m has long been Felix’s specialty, winning Olympic silver medals in 2004 and 2008. She has said that if she does not get a gold in the 200m, it would be considered a “failure.”
“Just because it’s not my first games, not my second, but my third time,” Felix said in a recent interview. “I’ve had eight years to think about being a silver medalist. This time I want to win.”
After six grueling rounds — provided, of course, they both make it to the 200m final — the two will get to pick how to break the tie. While Felix and Tarmoh technically have until tomorrow, when the trials end, to decide, there might be some wiggle room.
Kersee has been advocating for a Tuesday runoff race, should that be the option his sprinters decide to pick. That way, they have more time to recover.
Overlooked in the Felix and Tarmoh drama was the performance of Sanya Richards-Ross, who looked strong in her opening heat as she tries to make the team in the 200m after already earning a spot in the 400m.
“The first race is always the toughest, because you really want to go for it but you want to stay controlled,” Richards-Ross said. “I felt good today.”
There was a close finish for the third and final spot in the 5,000m as Kim Conley just edged a fading Julia Lucas. Leading late in the race, Lucas simply ran out of steam in the final 100m.
“I gave it away,” Lucas said. “It’s a cut-throat sport; it’s not five games. ... I was running underwater, felt like nothing I could do.”