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Tyson Gay keeps sprinting in memory of 15-year-old daughter

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — She ran the 100m and 200m — just like dad. She was so fast and would’ve been a college standout. This he has no doubt.

That’s why Tyson Gay nearly walked away from racing. It was too painful with his daughter gone. So painful that when he trains he feels the stress in his back and can’t shake it off.

Only, she wouldn’t want him to quit. So he keeps sprinting in the memory of his 15-year-old daughter, Trinity , who was shot and killed in October outside a restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It’s crushing and it never goes away. But you try to live with it,” said Gay , who competes in the first round of the 100m on Thursday night at the USATF Outdoor Championships. “You try to think about the good times.”

Like how she used to visit him in Florida for spring break or Thanksgiving. Or how they had the same teacher in high school and the teacher once playfully told Trinity how much better of a student she was than her father. Or how when he couldn’t spell a word, he would turn and ask her.

Out of habit, he still does that.

“I think about my daughter every day,” Gay said as he sat in a hotel lobby after a training session. “Every day.”

He didn’t hear the phone ring in the early morning hours on Oct. 16. His sister came downstairs and woke him up. Trinity was shot outside a Lexington restaurant after witnesses told police that gunfire was exchanged between two vehicles. She was hit by a stray round. There have been four charged in connection with her death.

“You’re upset you couldn’t be there to stop it,” Tyson Gay said. “It was just a group of honor students, going out to have a good time. And something like that happens? Crazy.

“I cried on the plane the whole way home. I was numb. I probably never cried that hard in my life.”

The tears keep flowing .

“The funeral, the wake, the burial, everything was unreal,” Gay said. “It’s been eight months and it still seems unreal. … I don’t think you ever have peace. I’ve learned to think about the good times, try to block that image of her death out of my mind.”

For the next month, it was hard for him to do much of anything, let alone return to track. After all, running was their thing.

Trinity was a sprinter at Lafayette High in Lexington and finished fourth in the 100m and fifth in the 200m at the state Class 3A high school track meet in May 2016. She also ran on a 4x200m relay team that finished fourth.

She never thought of herself as the daughter of Tyson Gay. She was Trinity Gay.

“I was so proud of her with that,” Gay said. “She was just a happy person. She was happy, loving and wanted to be herself. I never felt like she was in my shadow.”

He returned to training in late November more to “clear my mind and get out of the house,” he said. “You’re looking for closure every day and it doesn’t come. It’s just been tough in that sense.”

At 34, he’s not sure how many years he has left in the sprint game. This season for sure and then he will see how he feels.

Gay is the American record holder in the 100m (9.69 seconds) and he competed in the last three Summer Olympics. He was part of a team that won a silver medal in the 4x100m relay at the 2012 London Games, though that medal was ultimately stripped after Gay tested positive for steroids in 2013.

“I’ve been through every major upset and every major stresser that life can give you,” Gay said. “It’s very hard emotionally. It would’ve been easy for me to quit (track). I’m still fighting.”

She would’ve wanted him to keep running. She had a front row seat at some of his biggest meets.

“Track is something she loved. It’s something I loved,” Gay said. “I had a college coach tell me a year ago, ‘Hey man, we need your daughter to run for us.’ I told her about it and she got tickled. She thought it was so cool. That made me so proud.”

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Amy Cragg to withdraw from U.S. Olympic marathon trials

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Defending champion Amy Cragg will miss the Feb. 29 U.S. Olympic marathon trials with an illness, according to her social media.

“The Trials are the reason I have shown up every day for the last four years, so this has been an extremely difficult decision,” was posted on her social media. Cragg later said she had Epstein-Barr virus, according to multiple reports.

Cragg, 36, was among the favorites to grab three Olympic spots at trials in Atlanta, despite not having competed over 26.2 miles since the February 2018 Tokyo Marathon.

She withdrew from the 2018 Chicago Marathon with a hamstring injury and also scratched a month before the 2019 Chicago Marathon, citing signs pointing to needing more time after the previous year’s injury.

Cragg, fourth at the 2012 Olympic trials, relegated Des Linden and Shalane Flanagan to second and third at the 2016 trials. Linden and Flanagan went on to win the Boston and New York City Marathons, respectively, ending long U.S. women’s victory droughts.

Cragg went on to finish ninth in Rio and earn a 2017 World bronze medal, the first world championships marathon podium finish for an American woman since the first worlds in 1983.

Cragg could still make the Tokyo Olympic team in the 10,000m if she races at track trials in June. She won the 2012 Olympic trials 10,000m but hasn’t raced the distance on the track since May 2017.

“Right now my only goal is to get healthy so that I can train at the level needed to be competitive,” Cragg said in an emailed message from her agent. “That being said, the reason I am still in this sport is because of the Olympic Trials and Olympics. It is what excites me more than anything, so it is something I would still love to do.”

With Cragg absent and Flanagan retired, Linden is the only woman in next week’s field with Olympic marathon experience.

Other favorites include Olympic 10,000m runner Molly Huddle, world championships 10,000m runner Emily Sisson and Jordan Hasay, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in history.

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Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Galen Rupp
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As Galen Rupp bids for a fourth Olympics, and perhaps become the first man or woman to win the Olympic marathon trials twice outright, he found some rare familiarity these days on the roads Feb. 8.

“Feeling like my old self again,” Rupp said Wednesday of winning a low-key half marathon in Mesa, Ariz., his first completed race in 16 months and since parting from now-banned, career-long coach Alberto Salazar. “It’s obviously been a long year and a half.”

Rupp clocked 61 minutes, 19 seconds on a downhill course. It’s faster than any half marathon by an American recorded by World Athletics since the start of 2019. Granted the downhill, but Rupp also said he was instructed by new coach Mike Smith to make it a controlled effort.

“He didn’t want me to run all-out, didn’t want me to really push and put myself in a big hole,” Rupp said, noting he was still in heavy training. “You don’t want to break that [training] up and put yourself in a deficit by having a massive effort.”

Mesa answered questions about Rupp’s readiness for the Olympic trials in Atlanta on Feb. 29 (NBC, 12-3 p.m. ET). Even to the two-time Olympic medalist himself. Rupp said he started the half marathon with a little bit of doubt — given recent left ankle and calf injuries — but felt early on that everything would be fine.

“It really put my mind at ease,” he said. “I’m going to be good for the marathon.”

His last two marathons did not go well.

At the 2018 Chicago Marathon, Rupp dropped from the leaders around mile 19 and finished fifth in a title defense. An Achilles injury flared up near the end. He underwent surgery later that month for two tears. Doctors said the ankle had been “a ticking time bomb.”

“They said I was really lucky to have as good of health as I had and manage it as I did,” Rupp said.

He went a full year before racing again, at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13, 12 days after Salazar’s ban was announced. Even that was a rushed comeback, Rupp said after dropping out around mile 23 with a calf injury.

“I’m not going to say it was a wake-up call,” Rupp said, “but I think I was a little bit stubborn before Chicago.”

Rupp said he ran through pain in training to get to the start line four months ago. He had trouble walking for several days after the abbreviated race and focused on physical therapy for about two months. He resumed normal, pain-free training in December.

By early January, Runner’s World reported that Oregon-based Rupp found a new Flagstaff-based coach in Smith, who leads a Northern Arizona University program that won the last three NCAA men’s cross-country titles.

“The biggest thing to me was Mike’s philosophy in coaching was very similar to the program that I was under for so many years,” said Rupp, who was for more than a decade part of the Nike Oregon Project, which was shut down last fall after Salazar’s ban for doping violations (which he appealed). Rupp wasn’t implicated by USADA and has a clean drug-testing record. “What I love most about it was Mike’s honesty and how forthright he was about everything. You could tell he wasn’t just saying what I wanted to hear or say, ‘We’re just going to do whatever you’ve been doing and try and replicate that.’ You’ve got to keep evolving and trying new things.”

Smith declined an interview request through NAU until after trials. He agreed to coach Rupp after about a month of communication and hard questions, according to Runner’s World.

“Because of its timing and the headlines I was reading like everyone else at the time, this was not a road I wanted to go down,” Smith said, according to the report. “To be honest, it was just easiest to turn it down. I’m actually — as crazy as this sounds — really proud I did not.

“What I found out by getting to know Galen was that there was much more going on than the picture portrayed of him, and I wish the world knew that. I have never seen someone more all-in in my life.”

Rupp, asked his toughest moment of the last two years, said he moves forward.

“Throughout any hardships and setbacks, I felt a lot of gratitude that I had as good of a run as I did with my health and everything going well for as long as I did,” he said. “It can be easy to get angry and get down, like why me, but I do believe that things always work out. There’s a reason behind all this stuff.”

Which brings Rupp to Atlanta next week for the first time in his life, aside from airport layovers. The race is unlike any other he has contested. The course is unusually hilly. The format — Americans only, top three make the Olympic team — makes for different tactics than the World Marathon Majors that Rupp is used to.

In 2016, Rupp entered as a favorite but without any marathon experience. He won convincingly, pulling away from now-retired Meb Keflezighi by 68 seconds.

The field is deeper this year. Seven Americans broke 2:11 in 2019. Only one did in 2015. But Rupp, at his best, is in his own class.

His personal best 2:06:07, from his last healthy marathon in 2018, is 1:49 faster than the second-fastest in the trials field in this Olympic cycle (Leonard Korir). The next-fastest, Scott Fauble, is more than three minutes behind by personal bests.

“I can confidently go in and say that I’ve put in the work for this, just like I know that I put in the work in 2016,” Rupp said. “Of course, you want to go in and have good races, feeling confident and being on a roll like I was several years ago. But I think that’s why that race in Mesa was so important to show, more to myself, that hey, you’re ready to go. You can still run well. You haven’t lost everything. Surgery didn’t wipe you out.”

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