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By Dave Hunter
Yesterday at the Olympic Stadium as the USA women's 4x100 meter relay team was preparing to compete in their preliminary round, you could look around the stands and easily identify the American fans. They were the ones - in fearful anticipation - who were averting their gaze, shielding their eyes, afraid to witness yet another Team USA relay disaster.
The team the USA was sending out onto the track made sense. Tianna Bartoletta - fresh off her clutch, gold medal long jump performance the night before - was scheduled to lead off, just as she had done in the 2012 Games when the Yanks grabbed the gold with a world record performance. She would then hand off to the veteran Allison Felix who would race the backstretch before handing off to English Gardner to run the curve. The former Oregon star would then pass to Olympic newbie anchor Morolake Akinosun. Keen observers anticipated that when - or if - the Americans would make the final, a rested Tori Bowie would step in for Akinosun to run the anchor.
As the heat got underway, the seasoned Bartoletta got out well and flew around the curve. It was clear the Americans had the early lead. The first exchange between two veterans was just what you'd expect - conservatively scripted and carefully performed. Felix looked solid down the backstretch.
But then it happened.
As Felix was sailing toward Gardner who was just beginning to take off, the team on USA's outside - Brazil - was executing its exchange. Not uncommonly, Brazil's third sprinter was crouched in the left section of her lane to give her incoming teammate maximum room to perform the handoff. But Brazil's outgoing third athlete was too far left, stepping on the line between the host team and the US and causing her elbow to make contact with the incoming Felix on the inner lane. As the Brazilian elbowed Felix, the American athlete - still in full flight and preparing to hand to the accelerating Gardner - was jostled and thrown off stride. Slowed, Felix could not reach Gardner to hand off the baton. Understandably flustered and running out of exchange zone real estate, Felix attempted an awkward shovel pass - actually attempting to toss the stick into her teammate's open hand as Gardner - looking straight ahead - was tearing into the curve. As in football, forward laterals are not permitted in track & and field. Pandemonium resulted: Felix crashed into the halting Gardner, the baton went flying, and the USA women's relay hopes went down the drain. Or so it seemed....
After the baton was retrieved and the US loped in to cross the line in 1::06.71, the Americans filed a protest alleging obstruction by Brazil. "I got bumped coming into the exchange zone. It just completely threw me off balance," explained Felix afterward in the mixed zone. "I tried to hold it together to get it to English. Maybe, if I had one more step I could've, but I was falling as I was going through." Upon review, the host team was disqualified and - in a nearly unprecedented move - the U.S. women were granted an unusual remedy. They would be given a single-team re-run - a "do-over" as the kids would say - to be held before the start of the evening session later the same day. For the additional opportunity to be fruitful, the American women would have to run faster than the Chinese quartet which captured the last time qualifier with a 42.70 in the morning session. This time the Americans got it right. Running in the first Olympic race with only one entrant since 1908, the U.S. women got the stick around, clocking 41.77 - the fastest semi-final time - to unseat China and gain a Lane 1 spot in today's final.
Stick exchanges are an integral part of our sport. The baton pass is a relay race procedure which - if honed through practice - is not intrinsically difficult. Attend the Penn Relays and you'll witness hundreds of teams - many of them high school squads - execute precise passes all day long. The difficult element is the ability to coolly perform this maneuver in the heat of the battle. Baton exchanges are the track & field equivalent of the last-second field goal attempt to capture the Super Bowl trophy, the basketball foul shot with no time left on the clock to win a playoff game, the 8 foot putt to win the Masters.
So what does Team USA need to do to master this - as many other nations have? Two steps come readily to mind. First of all, Team USA must abandon the notion that the team's relay coach position can be treated like a ceremonial appointment to be conferred as a reward upon an aging American sprinter. Team USA needs to secure the services of a proven, no-nonsense sprint and relay coach. Our country is replete with experienced and knowledgeable individuals who have a firm understanding of sprint mechanics and exchange zone best practices. A case in point would be veteran coach Loren Seagrave, an international consultant, Director of Track & Field and Cross Country, and the Director of Speed and Movement at IMG Academy. After being retained by China to work with their young and promising sprinters and to harness their relay teams, Seagrave prepared China's sprinters to perform at the highest level at last August's World Championships in Beijing. Primed through Seagrave's guidance, sprinter Bingtian Su made the 100 meter final. And the Chinese men's 4x100 meter relay team crossed the line third in the Beijing final and were actually awarded the silver medal. How is that possible, you ask? The second team across the line - the US of A - was disqualified for passing outside of the zone.
A second, essential ingredient for relay team success is practice - and lots of it. Successful place kickers, basketball players, and golfers spend endless hours cultivating the poise and muscle memory necessary to ensure perfect field goal, foul shot, and putting execution when that big moment is upon them. Sprint squads from other nations do so as well - devoting countless hours perfecting timing and stick passing . It is manifestly apparent that our athletes to do not attend to this to the degree necessary to skirt disaster. To those who would yelp that our sprinters actually do devote sufficient time and attention preparing properly and religiously, the endless string of big stage gaffes suggests otherwise.
There is little reason to believe that USA relay team disasters can be averted until changes such as these - and others - are implemented.
As for the current United States' women's 4 x 100 meter relay team, they have been granted one of the rarest opportunities in track & field: a second chance. The American women responded with gusto last night by achieving a time qualifier in a most-unusual single team re-run. Tonight we will see if the women's sprint quartet can take full advantage of this second chance by performing under pressure and executing precisely in a filled stadium against 7 other world-class quartets. Resist the instinct to look away.
Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist.
Tuesday, 02 August 2016 00:34

IAAF President Coe and the Rio Olympics

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The Summer Olympics are a week away, and many are scrambling. I'm scrambling to find housing that's not only secure but that doesn't take half of the day to get to the Olympic track stadium. I'm not at all worried about Zika virus. I'm worried about getting mugged, and making it back and forth to the stadium without losing phones and computers. I must say, in the previous Summer Olympics I have attended, being shived for a iPhone 6, has not been top on my list of worries. 

But all that pales in comparison to the 18 days that lie ahead for Sebastian Coe, the President of the IAAF.

Seb Coe spent much of his formative years as a high performance athlete who was coached by his father, and followed at a microscopic level by the British press. The skills he learned then, the friends he made, the hard learned impressions with media, are all there today.

They're the reason why he survives and, in fact, thrives in times of crisis.

I recall asking Mr. Coe at the Beijing World Champs about his plans for innovation. Seb was quite confident that he could change things rather quickly. Little did he know the maelstrom that would take over the sport, where Lamine Diack and his family would fill the media of the world, and Coe would be accused of everything but being responsible for global warming. Some, even his friends,  worried if President Coe could weather the storm.

But Coe was persistent and focused. His strengths are his weaknesses and his weaknesses are his strengths. His calm confidence annoys the hell out of some people, but it's that same calm confidence helped Coe weather the proverbial storm.

There are two major issues that Coe has to deal with, and that his legacy will be based on. One is the Russian crisis. Facts are that Seb Coe, in his leadership of the IAAF, has kept the Russian Athletics Federation out of the 2016 Summer Olympics because of their absolutely planned and focused system of doping for their athletes. This system was not done overnight, but is a well-thought-out, supported system of doping to keep Russian athletes at the top the sports world.

The pressure that Coe received cannot be underestimated. Russian president Vladimir Putin is a formidable adversary and he's not a happy camper. Many of his finest athletes will not be seen in Rio, and the IAAF is the one who, even as the athletics federation was being buried in the press, stood firm and kept Russia out of Olympic track & field. And, for the world—not NBC's world—track & field is the biggest draw of the summer Olympics.

As long as Coe stays firm here, and also provides the clear program for Russia to re enter the family of sporting nations, the IAAF will continue to improve its visibility in the world of sports and sporting sponsors.

The IOC has other issues to deal with, too deep and voluminous to discuss here. I will save that for my twenty hours of travel to Rio.

My other concern for Coe is this: CAS has provided the IAAF with a huge problem, which will be focused, quite unfairly, on Caster Semenya. Due to a lack of understanding and perhaps a bit of copping out, CAS no longer requires female athletes who have higher testosterone amounts than most of the women that they compete with, to take medication that supresses said testosterone. Caster Semenya will, more than likely, win the 400 meters and 800 meters. She may also break the 800 meter record. One year ago, she could not break two minutes.

How does IAAF deal with this?

In Rio, Coe must walk through some minefields while protecting Semenya from the hateful things and booing that punctuated 2009. He also has to, with his team, show CAS why, for sport to be both fair and clean, standards for testosterone in women's sports need to be reassessed.

With Russian athletes being banned and the women's 800 meters, and perhaps 400 meters, televised for all the world to see, Zika will be long forgotten in Rio.

For President Coe, he just needs to remember Moscow 1980. Most of what he needs to remember he learned there, in between his silver medal in the 800 meters and his gold medal in the 1,500 meters.

The sport—hell, the world of sport—needs his leadership.

Tuesday, 02 August 2016 00:32

Bolt in Rio

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RIO DE JANEIRO (BRA): Agencies are informing that World fastest man Usain Bolt touched down in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday night. The Jamaican sprinter arrived at Rio International Airport at 9.02pm local time, after a transatlantic flight from London, where he competed in the Anniversary Games last week. Bolt was greeted by a scrum of media, excited airport staff and members of the public. He briefly posed for photos but said nothing before being whisked off in a private car. "I know the sport needs me to win and come out on top,"says Usain Bolt. He joined with the rest of the Jamaican team members - including Asafa Powell and Yohan Blake - who are already at a pre-Games training camp, which is based at a nearby naval academy. (Alfonz Juck, EME News)

RunBlogRun opines: Usain Bolt is one of my favorites. He is a few years old than my son, Adam, and I get a kick out of how he comports himself. Usain has a sense of humor, as well as prodigious talent, and a work ethic. Anyone who thinks the guy has not puked along the side of the track in Jamaica, after he survives one of Coach Francis's workouts, is hallucinating. One does not run world records at 100 meters or 200 meters without a lot of hard work, talent and drive. Why does everyone love Usain? Because he has fun, and he shares his fun, his victories and his joy of life with his fans. Hell, in Glasgow, Scotland, the guy even tried Haegis (something I ate for seventeen straight days)! Keeping sport light is part of why he is so beloved. And in an Olympics where Zika virus, water pollution, muggings, Russian sports doping, IOC appeasement of said Russian sports federations, global politics has reared its ugly head, we will need some athletes with great smiles, huge talents and big hearts. 

We live in a world where the fingers on total destruction seem to be possessed, more and more by absolute madmen. For eighteen days, every four years, the world deserves those nearly three weeks of sports to be uninterupted by all the detritus I noted above. But, alas, we are human. When I feel really concerned, I think of Venuste Nyongabo, the 5000 meter champion from 1996, the first champion from his country, Burundi, which was in a civil war in 1995 and not much better in 1996. Venuste won the World Champs 1,500m in 1995, and then, won his country's first medal in 1996 in the Olympics. He had seen terrible things in his country, but his focus, his hard won victories and his smile afterwards said much to the world. 

Athletes like Usain Bolt remind us that sports should be fun. That is what I am looking forward to, August 12-21.

By Mark Winitz

If her past three track and field seasons are any indication, U.S. multi-event athlete Barbara Nwaba is poised to turn heads in an important Olympic year. The 2012 graduate of University of California, Santa Barbara, who competes for the heptathlon and decathlon focused Santa Barbara Track Club, won the heptathlon at the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships while scoring a personal record 6,500 points. That score ranked her #6 in the world last year, and #1 in the U.S. Only five U.S. athletes in history have turned in higher scores for the seven-event heptathlon competition composed of the 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin, and 800m. Of course, the U.S. and world all-time list is headed by legendary Jackie Joyner-Kersee who scored the current world record of 7,291 in 1988 at the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea.

Last March, at the 2016 U.S. Indoor Combined Events Championships in Portland, Nwaba, age 27, captured the win in the indoor pentathlon (composed of five events) with 4,415 points, a personal best. That was followed by a fourth place overall and top American performance at the IAAF World Indoor Championships with 4,661 points, another personal best. Then, switching to outdoors, on May 29 she placed fifth and top American with a 6,360-point heptathlon at the prestigious international Hypo Meeting in Götzis, Austria which is billed as the most prestigious meet for multi-event athletes outside of the Olympic Games. Canada's Brianne Theisen Eaton--a favored contender for a medal in Rio--won the event with 6,765 points.

How has Nwaba acquired the multiple, refined skills to sit near the top of the world in multi events? Where did she come from and where is she headed at the relatively young athletic age of 27? Let's find out.

Nwaba was born and raised in Los Angeles by parents who moved to the U.S. from Nigeria. She is the oldest in a family of six brothers and sisters. In elementary school, she was heavily active in an after school sports program organized by LA's Best which involves children in a different sports activity every month. She graduated from LA's University High School in 2007 where she competed in the California State Track and Field Championships as both a Junior and Senior, in the 300m hurdles and high jump. Nwaba was recruited by the University of California, Santa Barbara where she graduated in 2012 with a Sociology degree.

It was at UC Santa Barbara where Nwaba first met Josh Priester, the coach that guides her today. Following a successful multi-event athletic career at George Fox University, Priester was hired by UC Santa Barbara in 2008 to coach the sprints, hurdles, and combined events. Nwaba was in her sophomore year at UCSB after competing in the hurdles and high jump as a freshman. 

"I distinctly remembered our first coach-athlete meeting," Priester recalled. "I found that Barbara had done some high jumping in high school. I took one look at her and thought she was probably going to be able to take up the throws because she is a big, strong girl. I asked her 'what do you think about training for the heptathlon?' Her first question was 'what's the heptathlon?' So, I explained all the events and told her that there was an 800 at the end of it. She wasn't too excited about that. Ironically, Nwaba had the fastest 800m time (2:07.13) in the world last year for the heptathlon."

Priester served as the Associate Director of Track & Field at UCSB until the summer of 2012 when he left the college. That Fall, Priester and Nwaba formed the Women's Athletic Performance Foundation, a non-profit organization specifically to support U.S. female elite multi-event athletes. In 2013, the organization evolved into Women's Athletic Performance Foundation "doing business as" Santa Barbara Track Club, to include male multi-eventers. 

"The driving force behind the whole thing is to improve the heptathlon and pentathlon in the U.S.," Priester said.

And, what is Priester's general coaching philosophy that he employs to successfully develop Nwaba and some of the other finest combined event athletes in the nation?

"There's no cookie cutter approach to training for the decathlon or heptathlon," Priester believes. "Some athletes can handle a lot more volume than others. So, the most important thing is getting to know the person and not just the athlete. In my opinion, the athletics take care of themselves when you truly have the best interests of the person in mind. The nature of the decathlon is eliminating weaknesses over time. If you can eliminate weaknesses and have an even keel you can do really well in the multis."

Priester's club now includes 12 open division athletes. Watch for at least four of them at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials: heptathletes Nwaba (who is the top women's automatic qualifier) plus Lindsay Lettow and Lindsay Schwartz, and decathlete Tom FitzSimons (who will likely compete based on minimum field sizes).

Under Priester's direction, the organization also organizes a youth section of the club that currently has over 125 youth athletes who are guided and mentored by the club's elite/open athletes, plus track and field and cross country camps and clinics for youth and high school athletes, and private and group training programs. Santa Barbara Track Club also organizes the Sam Adams Combined Events Invitational--all at Westmont College in Santa Barbara where SBTC trains. Priester currently works as an Assistant Track and Field Coach at Westmont, an NAIA member school.

Both Ashton Eaton (the reigning world record holder in the decathlon and indoor heptathlon) and his wife, Brianne Theisen-Eaton (the Canadian heptathlon record holder) spend much of each winter and spring training in Santa Barbara, hosted by Westmont College and the Santa Barbara Track Club.

The SBTC and its athletes, including Barbara Nwaba, are sponsored by ABEO biomechanical footwear.



We caught up with Nwaba two weeks before the start of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and asked her some questions about her training, progress to date, and her outlook for the Trials and beyond. The interview is below.

Q: Barbara, how did the Santa Barbara Track Club come about with you and Josh?

During the last few months of my Senior year (at UCSB) Josh told me that he was thinking about starting his own non-profit and giving me and other athletes a situation where I could train and live without struggling too much. Luckily, my athletics at UCSB went well. Otherwise, I didn't know where I was going to go. Because, with the multi events, it's really hard to find a post-collegiate training situation. 


Q: Yes, you're certainly blessed in that respect--having other multi-eventers to train with. On any particular day, do you focus your training on one specific event as a group? Or, are you spread over the track in groups, working on different events?

In the Fall, we're pretty much all together. That's when we do a lot of our general conditioning work. We're not doing a lot of technical work yet. The wintertime is when we start doing a little more technical work and we usually do it all together at that point. In the spring, it gets a little harder because everyone is on different pages depending on their competition schedule.


It's great having a group that's pretty much all on the national stage. When we first started the club it was only me and it was really hard. I was asking 'Is this what professional track life is like? I want someone else out here with me.'


Q: Can you describe what a typical in-season training week looks like for you?

Yes, we have Sundays off. We come back on Monday where we have shot put. We start with a little longer warmup, going through a netball series of drills. After that we do some grass running to shake off the rust from the weekend--maybe some 200s combined with a couple of 100-meter striders. Tuesdays and Thursdays are a little harder where we do two technical events and work out up to four hours. Tuesday is long jump and sprints. Wednesday is our active recovery day so everything is non-impact. We can go on the bike, stationary bike, or ElliptiGO® (outdoor elliptical bicycle). Thursdays is hurdles, high jump, and a little bit of grass running. And, on Tuesdays and Thursdays we always go to the weight room and lift: A lot of Olympic lifting and cleans, bench press, inclines, netball, plus a lot of plyometrics. Fridays are javelin and our 800 or 1, 500 meter workouts. We also might lift on Fridays or have active recovery again.


Q: How important is it for you to work with other athletes during your workouts? How do the other athletes in SBTC support you during workouts?

It's definitely a huge benefit having other athletes with you. All of us have different talents and specialties. Like, my best event is high jump. The long jump is usually one of my tougher events. But Lindsay Lettow is an awesome long jumper. So, every now and then, when something my coach is telling me isn't really clicking, maybe she sees something and she might say 'Hey, Barb, maybe if you try this...' So, if you're willing to accept it, everyone can give you cues to help you get better. That's, definitely a huge benefit.


Even just watching other athletes, seeing how they go through the process--say, like wow, the way she turns her foot is something that I never do, That's definitely been a big help because I'm very much a visual learner.


Q: Coach Priester has guided you since your collegiate days. What are the key aspects of his guidance that have contributed the most to your development?

I think, a lot of it is his positive outlook. He was a multi-eventer himself, so he is very aware of the mentality that must have when you compete. Especially, if things go bad, he's, like, Hey, you're fine. Look at the bigger picture. He's the person that always believes more than I thought I was capable of. If sometimes I feel like this is it for me he'll come in and be, like: This is where I see you in the future. This is where you'll be if you just keep on the path you're going. I see you at this level. He's always upbeat. That energy, you just feed off it.


Q: You've experienced steady improvements over the past several years, to the point where you were ranked sixth in the world last year in the hep and first in the U.S. with a 6,500-point outing at the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Champs. Can you tell me what's contributed the most to these improvements?

It's definitely the time I've spent in the sport. Just learning the events is the biggest part for any multi-event athlete. For example, a single-event athlete, such as a long jumper, might hit the runway three or four times a week. Well, multi-eventers can only hit the runway once because we have other events to work on, The more time we spend at any particular event, the better we get at it. Most of my success to date is just patience and time and knowing that if you just keep at it things will get better.


Also, having the experience at big meets. I've been competing at the U.S. Championships since my junior year in college when I redshirted. Also, learning how to just step back, be yourself, relax, and do your own thing...and the points will just happen.


Q: In a seven-event competition such as the heptathlon how do you keep your focus on the event that you're competing in, without thinking about what happened in the previous event or what's coming up next?

No matter what the outcome in a specific event, I have to process what happened and park it. You need to reflect on what happened in any particular event when the meet is over. You can't waste energy on events that are already finished. Plus, in practice, we go through a progression for each event. For example, I know the specific warm-ups I need to do for every specific event. If I just go through those steps, I know I'll be fine. I'll know my mindset has changed to 'OK, now I'm specifically a 200-meter runner,' or 'now, I'm just a long jumper and nothing else matters.' If I constantly practice this in training I know I'll be OK. 


Q: Do you want to talk about your experience at the outdoor World Championships in Bejiing last year? You recorded new PRs in the javelin and shot put, but the hurdles posed a bit of a challenge. What did you learn from your experience?

Editor's Note: Nwaba had a heartbreaking hurdles race--the hep's first event of the day. She mis-stepped hurdle one, then hit hurdles two and five going down both times. She did not finish the race, lost valuable points, and ultimately finished 27th in the hep competition.


It you're talking about experience, that was pretty much the biggest stage I've ever been on. I was seeing all these amazing athletes all around me. So, I almost felt that I was out of my element when I went into the hurdles. I was nervous. I think I just pressed too much in that race. I'd never taken an eighth step into the first hurdle. It just came out of nowhere. But continuing on to complete the competition was essential. I knew that it was the best practice that I could get going into an Olympic year. I was very proud of myself about everything else I was able to do at Outdoor Worlds.


Q: Moving ahead a little, to this year's big outdoor season, you had an excellent opener outdoors at the Hypo meet in Austria among a number of the best heptathletes in the world. That fifth place performance must now give you a lot of confidence going into the U.S. Olympic Trials and, hopefully, beyond to Rio.

Definitely if I repeat that kind of performance in Eugene I should be fine. Last year, winning USA's and then competing in the World Championships, I was in awe. Now, I feel like, yes, I belong. There's no need to be in awe, or be afraid. I just need to trust in my abilities. Now, I'm ready to go and just do my own thing.


Q: At this point, are you looking a little bit past the Trials? Do I dare ask, if you are competing in Rio, who your biggest competition might be? Brianne Theisen-Eaton?

Definitely. She's just a monster. As far as I can see among the top spots--who really wants it and has been working hard--it's Brianne for sure. She's been at the top for so many years now. It's always been a blast competing against her. Then there's Laura Ikauniece-Admidiņa from Latvia. She placed third at Worlds last year and had a huge PR (6,622 points) in the hep this year (at the Hypo Meeting in Austria). Also, Carolin Schäfer from Germany. So, if I want to get up there on the podium in Rio those are the girls I'll need to contend with.

But right now I'm not focused so much on that moment. Right now, it's just getting through the U.S. Trials and just making sure that I execute there.


Q: Barbara, what are your other goals this year besides that big, ultimate goal of representing the U.S. at the Olympic Games?

Yes, the ultimate goal is to make my first Olympic team. I'd also love to go out there, pull it all together, and PR. It would be great to keep climbing up there on the U.S. (all-time) list.


Q: And, what are your long-term goals in the sport?

Hopefully, to go another four years and, hopefully, to make two Olympic teams. And, hopefully, to reach the podium at the Olympic Games. Also, to make a lasting impact on the sport. If I can inspire anyone to even try the multi events once, it's an accomplishment because I feel like there is just so much talent in the U.S. and it's definitely growing. You can see that compared to the qualifying standards for the 2012 Trials, and what it takes now to qualify. The women's multis have absolutely exploded, which is awesome for our sport.

Monday, 01 August 2016 23:32

Triple Jumpers Claye, Benard Make Team on Day 9

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By Mark Winitz—On Day 9 of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, July 9 Californian Will Claye (Chula Vista, Calif./Nike) emerged as the men's triple jump winner. California's Chris Benard (Chula Vista, Calif./Chula Vista Elite) placed third. Both athletes made the U.S. men's triple jump team headed for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil. Several other athletes from the Golden State fared well in their respective events and progressed to their finals on Sunday. A crowd of 22,847 at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field cheered them on--the largest single day attendance ever at the historic facility,

Claye's winning 17.65 meter/57 foot-eleven-inch triple jump came in the fifth round. Benard turned in a 17.21m/56-05.75 best jump, also in the fifth round, for third place. Gainesville Florida's Christian Taylor (Nike)-- the reigning Olympic champion and current World Champion--placed second with a best jump of 17.39m/57-00.75.

Claye was the 2012 Olympic Games triple jump silver medalist and long jump bronze medalist. Benard's berth on the 2016 U.S. Olympic squad will mark his first trip to the Olympics. Both Claye and Benard train at the U.S. Olympic Committee's Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. Last February, the USOC agreed to transfer ownership of the training center to the city of Chula Vista with an official opening under the new ownership on January 1, 2017. The center has an $8 million annual budget.

Claye, who is originally from Arizona, referred to his triple jump victory as "a blessing." Earlier this year, he had a sprain in his big toe that sidelined him for two months. He started training again last February. Last Sunday he took third place in the final of the men's long jump competition at the Trials, but didn't earn a berth on the Olympic team. Prior to the Trials he failed to earn an Olympic Games long jump qualifying mark of 26 feet, 9 inches. At the Trials he cleared the Olympic qualifying mark twice with jumps of 27-7 1/2 and 27-6 but both jumps were wind aided.

"Today was really refreshing. I've just been through so much with the long jump," Claye said after his triple jump victory. "It was distressful. I just needed to get my mind together and focus on the triple jump. I'm happy I was able to go into it with a clear mind and execute. I was just visualizing what I had to do--making sure where my feet were coming through the board, keeping my legs as stiff as possible, and being aware of my foot placement through the phases. It already happened in my head before I did it."

And what are Claye's expectations for Rio? "The expectations are always to win, no matter what the event," he said.

Third placer Chris Benard was also ecstatic about making the team on its way to Rio.

"I wanted to jump 57 feet coming in and that's what I expected I needed to make the team," Benard said after the competition. "Everything that I've done since I graduated from high school has centered around track. When you completely focus everything you have around something specific, validation comes with success. And this is the highest level of success I've ever had."

Benard attended Santiago High School in Corona, Calif. and then Arizona State University where he was the runner-up in the triple jump at the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championships.

"I work on every specific aspect of the triple jump in practice. And, in the end, when I'm at the meet, I try to put it all together," said Benard who occasionally trains with Will Claye at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center when their training schedules coincide. He more often trains with April Sinkler. Sinkler finished sixth in the women's triple jump final last Thursday, July 7.

In other action on the ninth day of competition at the Trials among Californians, Brittany Borman (Fullerton, Calif./Nike/NYAC) placed fourth in the women's javelin throw final. Her last throw in the competition was her best, a 56.60m/185-08 effort. Texas A&M's Maggie Malone won the event with a 60-84m/199-07 fourth round throw.

Reining U.S. heptathlon champion Barbara Nwaba (Santa Barbara, Calif. /ABEO/Santa Barbara TC) turned in a first day personal best score of 3,903 points, leading the women's heptathlon field into Sunday's second and final day of competition.

In the women's 200m semifinal, 2012 Olympic 200m gold medalist Allyson Felix (Los Angeles, Calif,/Nike) qualified for Sunday's final with a fourth place 22.57. Felix is competing with an injured ankle which she is rehabbing

"I feel good," Felix said after the semi "But, unfortunately, the turn (on the track) is an area that we haven't had the luxury of working on. So we'll just get through with what I have. It's not so much dealing with the (ankle) pain, it's just that we haven't been able to practice that section."