Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Proof of Mettle

The Olympic Track and Field Trials are taking place this week in Eugene, Oregon.  Among those who fell short in the quest for a spot in the London Olympics is a young Jersey boy named Travis Mahoney.  I know him only a little bit - through his folks - but I have paid enough attention to his career to know that what a tremendous season he had this year.  Travis attends Temple University in Philadelphia and competes for them in the 3,000 Meter Steeplechase.  This season he set the school record in the event.  Also, for good measure this season he finished 5th in the NCAA Men's 3,000 Meter Steeplechase and in the process became Temple University's first-ever First-Team All-American in his sport.  His mom Kathy and his dad Joe - both of whom I have become friends with through my wife and through a mutual love of running (although both of them are considerably better at it than am I) - kept Margaret and I well-advised during both his NCAA Championship meet and the Olympic Trials.  I know not what the future holds for him on the track but overall it looks quite golden.   

You might have missed it but earlier this week out in Eugene, two runners tied for the third and final spot on the Women's 100 Meter Team.  Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat in the women's 100 meter final.  Only the top three finishers make the Olympic team.  Amazingly (given the short distance being run) the folks that govern track and field in the United States apparently have no de facto tie-breaker procedure in place.  As I understand it these two runners - who are both coached by Bob Kersee - can either opt to (a) have a winner-take-all match race; or (b) have a winner-take-all....coin flip.  Yep.  A coin flip.  The choice belongs to the two women who have decided not to decide what to do with this event until they both finish competing in the 200 meter competition later this week. 

I hope like Hell since they are waiting to announce what they are going to do that what they are going to do is run against one another.  I would hate to think that all this banter about "focus", etc. is leading up to a hushed moment when one of them calls "Heads" or "Tails".  And how to they decide who gets to call the toss?  Great question.  Apparently they play "One Potato, Two Potato".  I know you are curious (as I was) so I checked out what the procedure is for breaking a three-way tie.   "Rock, Paper & Scissors".  Best two out of three

If you missed him in Eugene, then you might want to arrange your Olympic viewing schedule in such a way that you miss not one second of American Decathlete Ashton Eaton.  Eaton, 24 years young, set the world record in his event at the U.S. Trials in Eugene.  Defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay of the United States will not be in London to defend his title.  Clay fell during the hurdles, was actually disqualified from and then reinstated to the competition on a couple of occasions and fell out of the medal chase shortly thereafter.  He ultimately finished in 12th place.  But he finished.  In spite of his disappointment, his self-directed anger and his embarrassment over how things had gone for him, he competed until the end.  "I knew it was important to finish. I needed to finish," Clay said. "I didn't want to finish, but between my wife and my kids and everybody, I had to finish."

Reminders abound this week from the glorious Pacific Northwest that in athletic competition, often times, the winners outnumber the victors. 


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