Gay Misses 100-meter Final by One Spot
BY ANDRES FOCIL
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Junior NCAA champion Tyson Gay had a good race, but it was a bad luck of the draw that kept him from advancing to the finals of 100-meter dash at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Gay recorded a time of 10.13 in the very fast second heat and crossed the line in fifth, just one place from moving on to the finals. His heat was full of rising sprint superstars, including Shawn Crawford who took the tape with a time of 9.93, the third-fastest time in the world this year. Justin Gatlin was second with another sub-10 time (9.96) and Leonard Scott grabbed third with 10.01. Olympic gold medalist Bernard Williams captured the fourth position with a time of 10.04.
“I felt like I was in a fast heats since the prelims, but I think I handled the pressure pretty well,” Gay said. “It just so happened I was in a real fast heat this time and those guys ran faster than me. The experience was fun because I wasn’t really nervous I just got beat pretty much.”
Even though Gay’s time was fifth in the second heat, had he been competing in the first heat he would have finished second and prepared for the finals with a chance to go to the Olympics. With eight athletes allowed for the finals, his performance was sixth overall. Gay’s time was even better than current world-record holder Tim Montgomery (10.23).
“He ran fast enough to make the final heat, but he just happened to be fifth in the fastest heat,” Arkansas sprints and hurdles coach Lance Brauman said. “The way the race was set up they took the top four finishers from each heat and he just got an unlucky draw the way it turned out. It’s unfortunate. He still made a great run and ran really fast. It was a good showing.”
Not all of the Lexington, Ky., native’s Olympic hopes are dashed. Now that the 100 meters has concluded he will turn his attention to the 200-meter dash with teammate Wallace Spearmon, Jr. The first qualifying round is on Friday, July 16 at 8 p.m. CT. The semifinal is on July 17 at 4:17 p.m., and the finals are July 18 at 7:38 p.m.
“Before he starts getting ready for the 200 he’s going to get a good massage and get some rest first of all,” Brauman said. “It’s been a good weekend and he was the only collegian to make the semifinals. He’s a talented guy and he runs well in both the 100 and 200. He just has to get ready for that 200 now.”
In the quarterfinals of the 400 meters the top two finishers of the five heats and the next six fastest times were eligible to advance to the semifinals. Junior Terry Gatson was fourth in his heat with a time of 46.47, while UCLA’s Craig Everhart was the heat winner (45.46). Overall, Gatson’s performance was 24th. Entering the event Gatson had a personal best time of 45.36.
In the finals of the long jump former Razorbacks Erick Walder and Melvin Lister both turned in marks of 25-8.75 to finish sixth and seventh, respectively. The duo had returned to competition after fighting off injuries and were both disheartened with finishing so close to the U.S. Olympic Team’s top three.
“I’m disappointed because they both work so hard and they both made a lot of sacrifices this year,” Arkansas field events coach Dick Booth said. “They’re both working full time and then coming to practice and doing all they can do. If they both weren’t even close you could kind of accept it, but Melvin had two or three fouls that I think any of them could have made the team. That’s just the way it happens. Sometimes it happens bad for you and sometimes it happens good.”
Walder’s best jump came on his third attempt and he recorded three fouls out of six chances. The 10-time national champion was aiming for his final shot for the Olympics after being plagued by injuries at the 1996 and 2000 Trials.
“I’m really disappointed,” Walder said. “I feel like I ran out of time as far as conditioning. I wish I had another month to train. I felt great through the rounds, but I couldn’t get my hips underneath me on the takeoff board. I started to get it going on the last two jumps, but I ran out of time.”
Lister put up his best showing on his opening jump and after that he had only one other legal mark (25-2.50). He was entering the Trials as the defending long jump champion and was hoping to make a return to the top of the award stand in 2004. Lister still has the triple jump competition that will begin on Thursday, July 15 at 5:45 p.m. CT.
“This was mine and I let it go, there’s no excuse for it,” Lister said. “It seems like the more I adjusted my steps the more the adrenaline was running and I just kept fouling.”
During Monday’s competition former Hog Daniel Lincoln will be the only athlete with Arkansas ties competing. He will take to the track in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with the nation’s top time. The steeplechase is set to start at 9:55 p.m. CT.
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