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Olympic Trials Day 3 Preview

Olympic Trials Day 3 Preview

There will be many finals today: the women's pole vault, discus and 400 meters, and the men's long jump, shot put, 400 meters and 100 meters. These are among the USA's deepest and most popular events.

Live results
TV coverage: 7:00 to 8:00 on NBC

Today's schedule

5:20 PM ET National Anthem  
5:25 PM ET Women's Pole Vault Final
5:30 PM ET Men 100 meters Semi-Final
6:00 PM ET Men's Long Jump Final
6:05 PM ET Women's Discus Throw Final
6:30 PM ET Men's Shot Put Final
7:00 PM ET TV Coverage Begins  
7:20 PM ET Men's 400 meters Final
7:35 PM ET Women's 400 meters Final
7:48 PM ET Men's 100 meters Final

Women's Pole Vault

The Favorite: Jen Suhr (adidas / Churchville, NY)
When healthy, Suhr is head and shoulders above the rest of the Americans, and the only one capable of challenging for an Olympic medal. Her health issues have been related to achilles tendons, and it's not something you can just suffer through. With only one outdoor result--a win at the Drake Relays--it does make you wonder if something is wrong.

Who else makes the team? There are many contenders.

Consistent: April Steiner Bennett (Asics)
Steiner Bennett has cleared 4.50 meters (14' 9") four times this year, all in meets held at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. She was eighth at the 2008 Olympics but has not made a US team since then. Save that 2008 season, though, she's now just as good as she's ever been.

Good indoors, so-so out: Lacy Janson (Nike / Tallahassee, FL)
Janson had a very good indoor campaign, ending up 5th at the World Indoor Championships and coming up just short of her PR of 4.66 meters (15' 3 1/2"). During the outdoor season, her best result was still indoors: second at the Drake Relays mall vault competition. If the indoor Janson shows up, she's on the team.

Up and Comer: Mary Saxer (New York AC / South Bend, IN)
Saxer took second at the US indoors this year and went to the World Indoor Championships, her first national team. She's been on an upward trend and has the Olympic 'A' standard, having cleared 4.62 meters at the indoor nationals.

Defending Champion: Kylie Hutson (Nike / Pheonix, AZ)
Hutson won the 2011 USATF outdoor title, held in Eugene, and went to the Worlds but failed to advance out of the qualifying round. She was 4th at the US indoors and third at the Drake Relays mall vault (which brought together all the top Americans), and also has achieved the Olympic 'A' standard.

Other 'A' qualifiers: Becky Holliday (unattached / Chula Vista, CA), Katy Viuf (unattached)
Viuf never vaulted until well into college; she was a cheerleader during her freshman year at UCLA.

Men's Long Jump

The Favorites:
Will Claye (Nike / San Diego, CA)
Marquise Goodwin (Texas / Garland, TX)
These are not the only two US long jumpers who have achieved the Olympic 'A' standard, but they're the only ones in the final who have. Defending world champion Dwight Phillips dropped out with injury, neither Tyrone Stewart nor Trevell Quinley advanced out of the qualifying round, and Ashton Eaton is not competing in the long jump. Goodwin is the reigning USATF and NCAA champions and has shown bad-weather mettle at the Penn Relays. Claye, the reigning World Indoor champ in the triple jump, is a part-timer in the long jump but still a tremendous force to be reckoned with.

For any other athlete to make the team, they would have to achieve the Olympic 'A' standard of 8.20 meters. That seems unlikely given the bad weather forecasted. Who might be able to do it anyway?

The (other) Triple Jump Star: Christian Taylor (Li-Ning / Daytona Beach, FL)
The reigning World Outdoor champ in the triple jump would have to set a PR in the long jump just to get the Olympic 'A' standard -- his current PR is one centimeter short of the mark. It would be a tall order in such bad weather, but he's spent quite a bit of time exceeding expectations in the triple jump.

Women's Discus Throw

The Favorites:
Stephanie Brown Trafton (Nike / Galt, CA)
Aretha Thurmond (Nike / Opelika, AL)
Gia Lewis-Smallwood (Nike / Champaign, IL)
These are the only three Americans who have achieved the Olympic 'A' standard, so they're the Olympic team unless someone else hits it (62.00 meters) in the final. That seems unlikely given the slick conditions. Brown Trafton is the defending Olympic champion and broke the American Record earlier this year. Thurmond is a four-time US champion. Lewis-Smallwood made her first US national team last year for the Worlds.

The High Schooler: Shelbi Vaughan (Legacy High School / Mansfield, TX)
Vaughan has broken the national high school record on multiple occasions and has thrown farther than any collegian did this year. She was fourth in the qualifying round. She would need to add another five feet to her record to get onto the Olympic team, but who knows? Her improvement has been astounding.

Men's Shot Put

The Favorites:
Reese Hoffa (New York AC / Athens, GA)
Ryan Whiting (Nike / Port Matilda, PA)
Christian Cantwell (Nike)
Hoffa is the ultimate showman; he and Cantwell have been the best Americans this year. Whiting know how to pick his spots and is the reigning World Indoor champion.

Others with the Olympic 'A' Standard:
Kurt Roberts (Second Sole / Canton, OH)
Zack Lloyd (unattached)
Jordan Clarke (Arizona State / Anchorage, AK)
Joe Kovacs (Penn State / Nazareth, PA)
Roberts is part of Jud Logan's throws program at Ashland University and is a high school teacher in Canton, Ohio. Clarke is the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion.

Men's 400 meters

The Favorites:
LaShawn Merritt (Nike / Bradenton, FL)
Tony McQuay (unattached / Gainesville, FL)
Jeremy Wariner (adidas / Waco, TX)
Merritt is last years' Worlds silver medalist, an impressive feat given short turnaround time from a, um, forced vacation. McQuay won last year's USATF title in his absence and was impressive in winning this year's NCAA title. Wariner is the old war horse, first coming to prominence eight years ago (an eternity in the 400 meters), and looked very iffy in the semifinals.

The Inspirational Story:Bryshon Nellum (USC / Los Angeles, CA)
Four years ago, Nellum was one of the hottest prospects coming out of high school. That went out the window when he was shot in both legs in a drive-by incident after leaving a campus party. His recovery seemed unlikely, and it took a very long time, but he's now finally breaking PRs again.

The Other College Kids:
Josh Mance (USC / Pomona, CA)
Brady Gehret (Penn State / Altoona, PA)
David Verberg (George Mason / Lynchburg, VA)
The 400 meters is very much a young man's event. It should come as no surprise that five of the eight finalists ran at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago. After champion McQuay, the first of these across the line at that meet was Verberg.

Women's 400 meters

The Favorites:
Sanya Richards-Ross (Nike / Austin, TX)
Francena McCorory (adidas / Hampton, VA)
Natasha Hastings (Nike / Locust Grove, GA)
Richards-Ross looks basically unbeatable, with a seasonal best far faster than anyone else's and appearing to jog though a 50.81 semi. McCorory was a college star a few years ago and appears to be maturing into an Olympic contender. Hastings has been a solid competitor for all of the last four years.

The Challenger: Debbie Dunn (Nike / Norfolk, VA)
Dunn has been on the edge of stardom for a few years, with a gold medal at the 2010 World Indoor as her major accomplishment. She ran very well in her semifinal and is probably the most likely to upset one of the three favorites.

The Comeback: DeeDee Trotter (Saucony / Orlando, FL)
Trotter took fourth at the 2004 Olympics and made the team in 2008, but a major knee injury kept her off the top of this event for most of the time between then and know. Not only did she make it to the finals, she ran well enough in the semifinals to look like a contender.

Men's 100 meters

The Favorites:
Tyson Gay (adidas / Clermont, FL)
Justin Gatlin (Star Athletics / Orlando, FL)
Walter Dix (Nike / Los Angeles, CA)
Gay proved fitness at New York's adidas Grand Prix and, while not what he was five years ago, still looks like the best of the bunch. Gatlin's return to form after his long doping suspension is remarkable, and he ran a very good heat yesterday. Question marks surround Dix and his sore leg, but he came through yesterday's heats OK.

The Fast Starter: Mike Rodgers (Nike / Round Rock, TX)
Rodgers first came to prominence a couple of years ago on the indoor circuit, and it's still where he's had his best success. If Dix's leg keeps him off the Olympic team, Rodgers is your best bet to replace him.

The Elder Statesman: Doc Patton (Nike / Grand Prarie, TX)
Thirty-five years old is getting up there for a sprinter, and was a USATF runner-up as long as ten years ago. He has been on almost all of the recent US 4x100 relay teams, and you never know what he might be able to do.

The Local Kid: Ryan Bailey (Nike / Salem, OR)
Bailey is a Portland native and is a bit off the radar because he never ran in the NCAA, going pro after a stint at Rend Lake Junior College. His PR of 9.88 shows that he should not be ignored.
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