Team USA advanced two men to the Olympic Steeplechase final for the first time in 16 years during a smooth first session of track & field Friday morning at the 2012 Olympic Games. In total, 12 Americans advanced to the next round of competition.
Evan Jager (Portland, Ore.) and Donn Cabral will both run in Sunday’s final of the steeplechase, duplicating the feat of Mark Croghan and Marc Davis in 1996. Jager who is coming off an American record, led for much of the first heat and eased up to finish second in 8:16.61 to automatically qualify for the final. After leading the first 2,600m of the third heat, Cabral (Glastonbury, Mass.) held on for fourth to take the last automatic qualifying spot in 8:21.46. First-time Olympian Kyle Acorn (Mesa, Ariz.) finished in 8:37.11 but did not advance.
It was one-and-done for Reese Hoffa as Team USA’s men’s shot put trio advanced to the final. Hoffa (Athens, Ga.) had the best throw of the field on his first attempt at 21.36m/70-1 to surpass the automatic qualifying standard of 20.65m. It was the second-farthest qualifying throw in Olympic history. Ryan Whiting (Port Matilda, Mass.) also advanced automatically at 20.78m/68-2.25. Christian Cantwell (Columbia, Mo.) finished with the ninth-best mark at 20.41m/66-11.5. The men will return to the field this evening for the final.
After two events in the heptathlon, defending silver medalist Hyleas Fountain (Port Orange, Fla.) sits in second place with 2224 points, behind Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis’ 2249. In the 100m hurdles, Fountain clocked 12.70 to place third in her heat, earning 1170 points with the third-best time of the day behind Ennis’ heptathlon world record of 12.54. Fountain cleared 1.86m/6-1.25 in the high jump for 1054 points. Sharon Day (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) is in 21st place with 1981 points, running 13.57 in the hurdles (1040 points) and clearing 1.77m/5-9.75 (941 points) in the high jump. Chantae McMillan (Rolla, Mo.) sits in 31st, running 13.49 (1052 points) in the hurdles and high jumping 1.68m/5-6 (830).
In the men’s 400 hurdles, Michael Tinsley, Kerron Clement and Angelo Taylor breezed through to the next round. Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas) won his heat in 49.13, Clement (Gainesville, Fla.) was second in heat 4 with a season’s best 48.48, while Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.) crossed the line in 49.29 to win heat 5.
In her first Olympic appearance, Amanda Smock (Minneapolis, Minn.) jumped 13.61m/44-8.0 on her third attempt, but did not advance to the final of the women’s triple jump.
Francena McCorory, Dee Dee Trotter and Sanya Richards won their heats in the women’s 400 meters. McCorory (Hampton, Va.) won heat 1 in 50.78, Trotter (Knoxville, Tenn.) crossed the line in 50.87 in heat 3, and Richards-Ross (Round Rock, Texas) had an easy 51.78 in heat 4 to make it through to the next round.
Kibwe Johnson (Sacramento, Calif.) threw a season’s best 77.17m/253-2 in the hammer throw to advance to the final as the fifth-best qualifier overall. A.G. Kruger (Ashland, Ohio) had a best of 72.13m/236-7 in the second flight to finish 25th.
Athlete Quotes, morning session, Day 1
Reese Hoffa, Shot Put: “I’m as prepared as I can be. I got the standard and I’m happy. I’m looking forward to the final. I’m going to get some rest this afternoon and get ready for the final.”
Ryan Whiting, Shot Put: “I qualified. I got through it and threw all I needed to do.”
Christian Cantwell, Shot Put: “I warmed up really well at the warmup track. I had a little grip issue, but I felt fine, I’m in great shape. Qualifying is a tricky deal. You want to get done early, you just never know. If anything I went a little too conservative.”
Michael Tinsley, 400m Hurdles: “With the track being so fast it made it real easy to come out here and get into your stride pattern and it’s an extremely fast track. The crowd made it easy, and I just wanted to get out here and establish my rhythm early and come home as controlled as possible.”
Amanda Smock, Triple Jump: “I’m doing my best to try to not let the performance overshadow the Olympic experience. I definitely need to go back to the drawing board and fix a few things on the jump. Moments to remember: walking out into the stadium and seeing how packed it was here and how electrified the crowd was, it was absolutely amazing. I’m here until the closing ceremonies, so I’m really looking forward to cheering on my teammates and experiencing the closing ceremonies, marching through that, and taking it all in.”
Kerron Clement, 400m Hurdles: “It was good. It is a very fast track. I just came out here focused on myself, focused on my steps. I’ve had a rather interesting season; I’ve had a few races under my belt, so I’m just happy to make my second Olympic team and just running really well at the Olympics.”
Angelo Taylor, 400m Hurdles: “It went very well. I did exactly what I wanted to do for a first round run. I wanted to take it out and take advantage of the race and really concentrate on my first half of the race. The plan is always to run the first six hurdles, then settle in, relax and make sure I attack the hurdles, and I did that. I got a feel for the track, and ran very easy coming home and didn’t push it at all.”
Francena McCorory, 400 meters: “My main goal was to work on my race pattern, so I felt really, really good.”
On what it will take to win a medal - “It’s gonna be rough, so hopefully there are a lot of great girls. It’s gonna take hard work and a lot of effort.”
Dee Dee Trotter, 400 meters: “That race couldn’t have been better. We prepared for this (weather) in Eugene. Our Olympic Trials prepared us for any kind of weather. Bring it on! Rain, wind, throw a tornado in there, USA is ready to run.
“I’m really excited about my race today. I’m ready to get out here and do it again tomorrow. I had a great day, I’m ready to shine.”
On the crowd — “I’ve never seen anything like this. Everybody came out this morning. I’ve been to three Olympics and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Sanya Richards-Ross, 400 meters: “It felt good. My coach and I wanted to come out in the first 200, control the turn and come in as easy as possible to conserve energy. I did that and I feel good.
“I’m 100 percent healthy, my fitness is phenomenal.”
On the crowd — “We expected the crowd. The British love athletics and I expected a big crowd today. It was exciting, I heard them cheering for me when I came out.
“This track is definitely fast. I wasn’t giving 100 percent and I could feel my turnover. There are going to be some phenomenal performances here.”
Donn Cabral, 3,000m steeplechase: “It was pretty fun. You know I was thinking I was going to be the one to take the pace if no one else was; I was completely okay doing that. On one hand it is kind of cool to lead an Olympic race, even a lap of it would be cool, never mind 2,600 meters, and then on the other hand international races get really crazy, there is a lot of pushing and shoving and I didn’t want to ruin my Olympic dream because I was getting shoved by someone, or hitting a barrier, or running slower because I was worried about hitting a barrier.”
Evan Jager, 3,000m steeplechase: “The plan was to run as easy as possible, possibly staying in the top four or five guys and staying in that pack as easily as possible. With two laps, I just kind of accidentally found myself passing [other guys] and at that point I didn’t want to slow it down and let those guys back into the race, so I just started making a gradual push to the end.”
Kyle Alcorn, 3,000m steeplechase: “It played right into my strengths to sit and kick, and when it came to the kick I just didn’t have it, my legs weren’t ready to turn over, I don’t know, it’s a little disappointing. I was ready for a fast race, and it ended up being kind of relaxed for the first mile. I was waiting for it to pick up, and it did with 500 to go, but I just wasn’t ready to go with it. It’s been a huge honor to be an Olympian; I just wish I could have represented the U.S. a little better.”
A.G. Kruger, hammer throw: “It was a little frustrating. Without a doubt, my potential is there to hit that 75 meter mark to be able qualify, but I didn’t. Every meet I’ve had this year, if I don’t hit that throw, my timing is off. That is something I need to make sure I get that first round throw I have to be able to get in and get my confidence up.”
Competition resumes this afternoon with the finals of the men's shot put and the women's 10,000m.