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Death, Taxes, Molly Huddle: USATF Olympic Trails Day Two Recap

After a wild first day in Eugene, results stabilized a bit in day two, although action resulted in a looming 9-man final.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The early days of championship meets can be tests of motivation. Without many finals, it can be difficult to get up for a race in which the favorite is likely to smoke a bunch of, mostly literal, amateurs. Yesterday was the sort of day that validates our insistence on watching everything as weird stuff happened left and right. Today was a stabilizing day after the wildness, but there was still enough to make it worth tuning in.

Women's 10k:

You couldn't have constructed a more predictable team than Molly Huddle, Emily Infeld, and Marielle Hall, so, going in, I assumed that wouldn't be the team. It seems like of all the events, the 10k produces a wild card representative each cycle, so I went with a off-the-board selection of Emily Sisson for the third spot. That didn't work out as Molly Huddle.set a relatively aggressive pace early in the race, leading from the gun and bringing them through 2k at sub-32:00 pace. After Aliphine Tuliamuk and Jordan Hasay tried to hang with it for a while--to the point that I suspected this might be the breakout performance Hasay believers have been hoping for for the last year or so--the standard three hung on.

Women's 800m Semifinals:

There weren't any surprises here, but a couple notes:

  • In heat one, Kate Grace unleashed a great kick for the second day in a row. Lesser runners have made Olympic teams in the 800 on that skill alone. She's good enough to win a fast race and has the kick to win a slow race. She's looking like a clear favorite to make the team.
  • Ajee Wilson has clearly left her early-season struggles behind her. She led today seemingly wire-to-wire and, from across the track, it looked like she had a little bit of a surge to hold off Grace's kick at the end.
  • The second heat was wild as five runners who belonged in the finals lined up, so they needed a fast time for all of them to get through. Fortunately Alysia Montano was in the heat and was back to doing her thing today. It doesn't work quite as well as it did before there were other good American runners like Brenda Martinez and Molly Ludlow.
  • Raevyn Rogers certainly looked better today than she did yesterday, but still hasn't done anything to provide much hope that she can beat enough women in the final stretch to make an Olympic team. It's nice to see at least one of our college phenoms make it to the finals, though.
Men's 800m
One of the funny things about the early rounds of the trials is listening to the credentials of each runner in the field. Some have long histories of World Championships appearances and medals, while others finished mid-pack at their collegiate conference meets. Craig Engels' announced qualification is that he was a semifinalist in the 1500 at NCAAs. You may notice that he is not running the 1500 at the Olympic Trials. However, he seems to find himself better suited to the 800m at the professional level as he finds himself in the finals on Monday. Sure, he's only there because he fell in the last 100m and received an exemption, but he looked to be in the thick of things until he fell. To me, he's the most entertaining story of these Trials, and he got more interesting when his exemption opened up the occurrence of a 9-man final.

Everyone else advanced as well. Boris Berian won the first heat on 49.7-56.0 splits. That works when you're running against people who aren't as good as you, but Rio will be a different story.

Women's 400m
Note: In both 400m races, we didn't learn much that we didn't know yesterday, so these recaps will be brief. Everyone you thought would get through, got through.

No real surprises here, but some commented that Allyson Felix was limping. I'm not sure I saw that. She always has had a bit of a hitch in her stride that can be misinterpreted as a limp. That's what her form looked like to me today, but I wasn't able to get a good look after the finish. Everyone you predicted to be in the final is in the final, but Courtney Okolo certainly has some helium coming out of the first two rounds. She looked strong again today winning the second heat and seems like, in Felix's diminished state, the favorite going into the final.

Men's 400m
This is LaShawn Merritt's race to lose. He's looked stronger--both on the track and in physical stature--than everyone else in the field. He won again today and, again, made it look quite easy. Everyone else--Arman Hall, Gil Roberts, Najee Glass, David Verburg--is fighting for second.