EUGENE, Ore. — The United States men’s track and field team was set Sunday evening, and Annapolis middle distance runner Matthew Centrowitz nabbed one of the final available spots. The women’s team, however, had one vacant position remaining as the U.S. Olympic track and field trials concluded Sunday with Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh still tied for third place in the 100-meter race.
After more than a week of controversy and uncertainty, the two sprinters are scheduled to return to Hayward Field on Monday to finally settle the matter. Felix and Tarmoh agreed to compete in an unprecedented nationally televised run-off race to break the tie and decide which sprinter will compete in the event at the Summer Olympics.
The stakes couldn’t be simpler and the circumstances couldn’t be more unique. “The first person across the line makes the team,” said Jill Geer, a spokesperson for USA Track and Field.
While much of the attention Sunday centered on a meeting between the runners at a downtown Eugene hotel, the final eight events of these trials took place at Hayward Field. In the men’s 1,500-meter race on Sunday, the 22-year old Centrowitz was neck-and-neck with Leonel Manzano as the two sprinted toward the finish line. Manzano edged the Broadneck High product by nine-hundredths of a second, finishing in 3 minutes 35.75 seconds. Centrowitz finished in 3:35.84 but is still headed to London.
“This is my first Olympic team so I’m very excited to represent the U.S. at the Olympics on the biggest stage in track and field,” Centrowitz said.
Centrowitz, whose father, Matt, is a two-time Olympian and the head track coach at American University, shrugged off the fast early pace and led for most of the final lap before Manzano, a member of the 2008 Olympic team, caught him from behind down the final stretch. Not long after, before making his victory lap, Centrowitz spotted his father in the stands.
“He came out a few days before the trials just to make sure my head’s in the right spot,” Centrowitz said. “Sometimes it wanders off with girls. . . . He focuses me up a little bit.”
Despite the high drama in the trials’ final events Sunday, nothing seemed to match the theater that surrounded the women’s 100 race at these trials. Felix and Tarmoh had been locked in a dead-heat tie for the past eight days. In last Saturday’s 100-meter race, a photo review showed that both sprinters crossed the finish line at the same time — officially in 11.068 seconds — an ending for which USATF officials were not prepared.
There were no rules in place to break the tie, and officials took nearly 24 hours to draft a new set of procedures to determine a winner, essentially coming up with two options, depending on the runners’ preferences: a run-off or a tie.
There was not a quick consensus, as the two sides met Saturday night and again for two hours on Sunday afternoon before settling on the Monday runoff.
USATF had hoped to have a resolution by the conclusion of the trials on Sunday evening, so they could forward the names of the men’s and women’s track teams to the United States Olympic Committee on Monday.
Geer said it was more “practical” to stage the race Monday and allow each runner nearly 48 hours of rest before putting them back in the starting blocks.
“The only thing worse than waiting too long to have a run-off is having it too soon and having one of your star athletes get injured,” Geer said. “That would’ve been a worst-case scenario.”
With both Felix and Tarmoh scheduled to compete in the 200 meters — and each scheduled to run a total of six races at these trials — neither was willing to discuss the matter until the conclusion of the Saturday’s 200-meter race. Neither runner expressed a preference to reporters Saturday night in how to break the tie.
Felix earned her spot on the Olympic team with the 200-meter win, but Tarmoh’s London hopes hinge on either qualifying in the 100 or being selected for a relay team.
Notes: Wallace Spearmon will return to the Olympics after decisively winning the men’s 200 meters Sunday in 19.82 seconds, the world’s fastest time this year. He was followed by Maurice Mitchell (20.14) and Isiah Young (20.16). Also Sunday, at the Jamaican track and field trials, Yohan Blake won his country’s 200 title with a time of 19.80, again topping Usain Bolt (19.83). . . .
In the women’s 1,500, Morgan Uceny finished first with a time of 4:04.59. Shannon Rowbury (4:05.11) was second and Jenny Simpson (4:05.17) a close third. . . .
Michael Tinsley won the men’s 400 hurdles with a time of 48.33, followed by Angelo Taylor (48.57) and Kerron Clement (48.89). . . .
After failing to qualify four years ago, Lashinda Demus, the American record-holder in the women’s 400-meter hurdles, had no problems winning Sunday with her time of 53.98 seconds. Georganne Moline (54.33) was second and T-Erea Brown (54.81) third. . . .
Brittney Reese, the four-time world champion long jumper, is headed to her second Olympics, topping the field Sunday with her final jump of the day, which measured 23 feet 5 ½ inches. Chelsea Hayes (23-3 ½) and Janay DeLoach (23-2 ¾) also made the Olympic team. . . .
In the women’s javelin, Brittany Borman threw a trials record 201 feet 9 inches on her final attempt. She’ll be joined in London by Kara Patterson (196-2) and Rachel Yurkovich (186-6). . . .
Former University of Virginia runner Robby Andrews finished fifth in the men’s 1,500 with a time of 3:37.45, more than a second behind third-place finisher Andrew Wheating (3:36.68).