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2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Blog: Day 2

June 28, 2008  Eugene, Ore.  RSS
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Danielle McNaney (pictured holding the trophy from the 2006 U.S. vs. Germany Nike Combined Events Challenge) will aim to post a personal-best heptathlon score, this afternoon in steamy Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Pete Aiken)

Danielle McNaney (pictured holding the trophy from the 2006 U.S. vs. Germany Nike Combined Events Challenge) will aim to post a personal-best heptathlon score, this afternoon in steamy Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Pete Aiken)

From newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., will provide live updates from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. Stay tuned as current and former Liberty athletes Clendon Henderson and Danielle McNaney battle our nation's best athletes for a berth in the Beijing Olympic Games.

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5:50 p.m. - Danielle McNaney finished off the heptathlon with a very fine performance in the 800 meters. She took the pace out aggressively in her heat and led from wire to wire, much to the delight of the Hayward Field crowd. Her 400-meter split was 65.1, and McNaney's final time was 2:14.

McNaney's time would have won the second section as well, and boosted her to a 12th-place overall finish with 5,593 points.

Asics' Diana Pickler held on to third place by 10 points. So, she will accompany Hyleas Fountain and Jacquelyn Johnson to Beijing.

Here's how things wrapped up (and oh yeah, if you didn't catch it on NBC, Tyson Gay set a new American record with a 9.77 in the 100-meter dash quarterfinals).

Heptathlon Final Standings
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 6,667
2) Jacquelyn Johnson, Nike - 6,347
3) Diana Pickler, Asics - 6,257
4) Virginia "Gi-Gi" Johnson, Nike - 6,247
5) Elizabeth Roehrig, Unattached - 5,819
12) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 5,593

I had the chance to interview an emotional Danielle McNaney just minutes ago, who said she was able to fulfill a dream she's had since she was 7 or 8 by competing here this weekend. I'll include several telling quotes within my wrap-up, which will be available on shortly.

Thanks for your interest in Liberty track & field, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'll be back to document Clendon Henderson's participation in the men's discus on Thursday night.

4:40 p.m. - McNaney didn't move up as many places as I'd anticipated after the javelin throw. She now sits in 14th place, with only the 800-meter run left on the docket. However, she is in striking distance of several athletes just ahead of her on the overall standings.

The major drama will be the battle for third place. Diana Pickler is just 20 points ahead of Virginia "Gi-Gi" Johnson, which translates to about 1.5 seconds in the 800-meter run. It should be a battle royale at 8:24 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back after the race to wrap everything up. For now, though, I want to watch crowd favorite Andrew Wheating of Oregon run the semifinals of the men's 800 meters.

Heptathlon Standings (Through Six Events)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 5,945
2) Jacquelyn Johnson, Nike - 5,524
3) Diana Pickler, Asics - 5,387
4) Virginia "Gi-Gi" Johnson, Nike - 5,367
5) Elizabeth Roehrig, Unattached - 5,069
14) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 4,695

3:55 p.m. - Danielle McNaney has finished throwing the heptathlon, so I'll update her status as the athletes in the second flight warm up. She finished sixth in the opening flight, which contained the nine heptathletes with the best javelin personal bests. McNaney's third attempt sailed the farthest, marking 130-1 for 661 points. She boosts her point total to 4,695 and will likely move up several positions in the overall standings.

With only one event remaining, the 800-meter run, it will now be tough for McNaney to score a career high. She regularly runs between 2:13 and 2:15, but would need to pick it up to 2:09 or faster to set a new personal best. This oppressive heat won't help matters much, either. However, she appears to have a great opportunity to end up in the top 8 or 10 here at the Olympic Trials, which would be a great accomplishment.

Hyleas Fountain could almost make the Olympic team without even running the 800 meters. She notched yet another personal best in the javelin, demolishing her previous superlative effort with a 158-0 toss. Her score is now 5,945, and the Nike athlete is in complete control of the competition.

The heptathlon 800-meter run is slated for 8:24 p.m. Eastern, during NBC's live coverage of the meet, which comes on at 8. McNaney is slated for the opening heat, but the TV cameras will likely focus on the second heat, containing the heptathlon leaders. Fountain and Jacquelyn Johnson look to have two of the Beijing berths locked up, but it is a tight battle between Diana Pickler and Virginia "Gi-Gi" Johnson for spot No. 3.

I'll post updated heptathlon standings once the second flight of the javelin is completed.

I'll leave you with one more tangent. The action taking place here in Eugene is just too good not to write about. Torri Edwards just won her semifinal heat of the women's 100-meter dash in 10.78 seconds, the eighth-fastest performance of all-time and a Hayward Field record. The women's 100-meter dash final will be one of NBC's featured events tonight.

3:05 p.m. - We now have updated heptathlon standings. It took the results service a bit longer to get them updated, because we just completed the first round of the men's 100-meter dash. I can't help myself, so I'll type a couple sentences about the men's 100 before posting the standings.

Florida State's Walter Dix had the most impressive performance of the first of four qualification rounds. Running in the opening heat, Dix blazed to a 9.96.

Defending world champion Tyson Gay suffered some unanticipated moments of trepidation during his heat. He had a huge lead on the field and eased up in the final 20 meters. However, this allowed a good portion of the field to pass him. Gay, quickly realizing his error in judgment, picked up the pace again and snuck into the next round with a fourth-place finish.

Here's how the heptathlon looks now. McNaney is now 15th, but has a great chance to leap upward in the standings in the remaining events.

Updated Heptathlon Standings (Through Five Events)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 5,121
2) Jacquelyn Johnson, Nike - 4,708
3) Virginia Johnson, Nike - 4,652
4) Diana Pickler, Asics - 4,649
5) Fiona Asigbee, Unattached - 4,435
15) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 4,034

2:50 p.m. - The considerable tailwinds out of the north have returned to Hayward Field this afternoon, delighting both the fans and competitors. Unfortunately, Danielle McNaney endured her first disappointing event of the heptathlon in the long jump, despite the natural assistance.

McNaney's opening attempt, aided by a 2.7 m/s tailwind, was her best effort. It reached 17-9.75, good for 680 points. Her updated point total is now 4,034, with the javelin and 800-meter run remaining. She is just eight tallies off her personal-best pace at this point.

Overall leader Hyleas Fountain continued her successful run, posting her fourth personal best of the two-day competition. Fountain notched the afternoon's best long jump, 22-7, to extend her lead.

I'll post updated standings shortly. Until then, I'll note that McNaney is one of the best javelin throwers in the field. Her personal best of 145-9 came during the 2006 U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships. We're looking at a 3:20 p.m. start time.

1:30 p.m. Pacific – We're back at Hayward Field for day two of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. In a few short hours, we will know the identity of the three heptathletes who will represent the United States at the Beijing Olympics.

2005 Liberty graduate Danielle McNaney is definitely a longshot to make the Olympic team at this juncture, residing in 13th place with only three events left. However, she has a great opportunity to set a new personal best. With 3,354 points, the Kansas native is 62 points ahead of her personal-best pace. She recorded a score of 5,673 at the 2006 U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships, where she finished sixth.

McNaney will get her day started in 30 minutes with the long jump, which she admitted will be a key event for her. If she can put up something longer than 19 feet, it should propel her into arguably her two best disciplines, the javelin throw and the 800-meter run.

Yesterday, McNaney used a strong first-event performance to springboard her to a good day of competition, setting a personal best in the 100-meter hurdles at 13.80. Today, she hopes to use the same strategy on another 90-plus degree afternoon in Eugene.

The trio of favorites entering the meet—Hyleas Fountain, Diana Pickler and Jacquelyn Johnson—hold down the top three positions after day one. Fountain in particular is having a sensational meet, as her first day included three personal bests and an American record for the heptathlon 100-meter hurdles. Here's how things look at this juncture.

Heptathlon Standings (Through Day One)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 3,989
2) Diana Pickler, Asics - 3,750
3) Jacquelyn Johnson, Unattached - 3,717
4) Virginia Johnson, Nike - 3,671
5) Bettie Wade, Michigan - 3,633
13) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 3,354

I will again be providing blog updates after each of today's three events. NBC will also provide live television coverage of the Olympic Trials from 8-9 p.m. Eastern. McNaney's final event of her Olympic Trials debut, the 800-meter run, should fall within that time window.

Two other featured events on today's docket are the finals of the men's shot put and the women's 100-meter dash. Both promise to bring this raucous and extremely knowledgeable crowd to a crescendo.

Speaking of the crowd, yesterday set a Hayward Field record with 20,964 spectators. Add in 6,000-plus visitors to the Olympic Trials Festival, and it was a happening joint late into the Eugene night.

And today should be another fun, action-packed day of track & field, to say the least. There are already thousands of people braving the heat in the bleachers, just to see the women's javelin prelims. I will return in a bit to wrap up the heptathlon long jump.