Ole Miss Track & Field Wraps Up at U.S. Olympic Trials
EUGENE, Ore. – Ole Miss track & field has concluded its 10-day stay at Hayward Field after four Rebels competed in finals at the last day of the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials on Sunday.
Oregon, and the entire Pacific Northwest, are in the midst of an intense heatwave, and the temperature got to dangerous levels on Sunday, prompting a delay of five hours for most of the scheduled finals. All three finals events the Rebels were slated to compete in on Sunday – the men’s long jump (Allen Gordon), men’s 1500-meter (Craig Engels, Waleed Suliman) and men’s 200-meter dash (Isiah Young) – were all affected.
First up after the lengthy delay was All-American senior Allen Gordon in the long jump, which was nearing the end of its warmups in 110 degree heat and a scorching track surface ranging at and beyond 130 degrees before the suspension of competition. Upon resumption, Gordon came up just short of making the final in the top-8, finishing just four centimeters shy in ninth place at 7.86m/25-09.50 (-0.1). This was the first career U.S. final for Gordon, who wrapped up a superb season as one of the NCAA’s all-around consistent jumpers across the long jump, high jump and triple jump.
The men’s 1500-meter final was shaping up to be one for the ages before the gun went off, and it did not disappoint after it did. The first lap came through in 58.50 before the usual 1500-meter tactics of jockeying and occasional bumping started to settle in. Craig Engels found himself in a similar position as he was in the semifinal, as he was surrounded by heavy traffic.
When the group started to make a move with 200 meters to go, Engels tried to repeat his semifinal performance, weaving his way to an opening. He followed Oregon’s Cole Hocker through a clearing and briefly took third place over Notre Dame’s Yared Nuguse with 100 to go, but Nuguse still had a gear left in the tank and held off Engels down the stretch for the third-place spot and a trip to Tokyo. Hocker, the reigning NCAA champ, wowed by tracking down four runners over the final 300 meters to win at 3:35.28 over 2016 Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz (3:35.34) and Nuguse (3:36.19).
Engels placed fourth at 3:36.69, an agonizing end after he had suffered several heartbreaking fourth-place finishes at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials and 2017 U.S. Championships before breaking through to make the U.S. team in 2019. Adding more heartbreak is the fact that Engels technically is one of the top-three Americans with the Olympic qualifying standard, since Hocker has yet to break the standard of 3:35.00 while Centrowitz, Nuguse and Engels have. However, Hocker is highly likely to take that spot on Team USA next to Centrowitz and Nuguse based on the combination of his world ranking score and his top finish at the Trials.
Waleed Suliman closed out a strong first meet as a professional runner, finishing 11th overall in his first U.S. final at 3:40.08.
Isiah Young, a 2012 Olympian in the 200-meter dash, was looking to make a return trip to the Games in that event, but ran against a blisteringly fast final. Young finished fifth at a strong 20.03 (+0.3), but he would have needed to better his season best of 19.99 by more than a tenth and he would have needed to also best his 2013 career PR of 19.86 in order to make the team.
After 10 days of competition, Team USA is mostly set for Tokyo – save for a few instances of waiting on world ranking quotas from World Athletics. Ole Miss has three former student-athletes qualified – Sam Kendricks in the men’s pole vault, Brittney Reese in the women’s long jump, and Raven Saunders in the women’s shot put – as well as current volunteer coach Jessica Ramsey in the women’s shot put. Ramsey competed collegiately at Western Kentucky but has trained in Oxford and been a volunteer assistant at Ole Miss since 2015-16.
The Tokyo Olympic Games start with the Opening Ceremonies on July 23, and the track & field portion is set to run from July 30-August 8. A full schedule for the Games can be found HERE.
Ole Miss Track & Field on Team USA
Sam Kendricks – Men’s Pole Vault
Jessica Ramsey (Volunteer Coach) – Women’s Shot Put
Brittney Reese – Women’s Long Jump
Raven Saunders – Women’s Shot Put
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