Brenda Martinez

Matthew Centrowitz
AP

Jenny Simpson, Matthew Centrowitz win Olympic Trials 1500m finals

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Brenda Martinez was laying on the track, her head buried in her hands.

She seemed prepared for heartache again at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials. She tripped after she charged around the final turn of the 800 meters on Monday, missing out on a top-three finish and a coveted spot on the Olympic team for Rio.

She had one more chance to make the team in the 1,500 meters. Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury grabbed the top two spots, and Martinez and Amanda Eccleston leaned for third before collapsing.

Martinez appeared to sob, unable to look at the results on the scoreboard at Hayward Field. But Simpson was watching intently.

Once it was official, Simpson ran to Martinez and scooped her into her arms.

“I’m so proud of you,” Simpson said. “I’m so proud of you.”

Martinez had edged Eccleston by .03 seconds.

“Maybe that can be my story,” Martinez said about finally making the team. “If I can help someone along the way: Don’t give up on your dream.”

Later, Matthew Centrowitz made his second Olympic team with a victory in the men’s 1,500 meters. Centrowitz finished fourth at the London Games.

Runner-up Robby Andrews and third-place finisher Ben Blankenship also are headed to Rio. Leo Manzano, the silver medalist in the London Olympics, finished fourth and did not make the team.

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After Trials chaos, it’s Caster; U.S. 800m Olympians get no break in Rio

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EUGENE, Ore. — Chrishuna Williams has never raced against Caster Semenya, but she has watched video of the dominant South African this year.

“I notice how her first lap, she like sits behind,” Williams said after finishing third in the turbulent U.S. Olympic Trials 800m final, earning a Rio berth on Monday. “Then her last lap, she just takes off. … That’s something I’ve never seen.”

Williams, a 23-year-old who shifted from the 400m to the 800m in 2015, is one of three U.S. women, and everyone else, who are overwhelming underdogs behind Semenya in the two-lap race in Rio.

Williams ran a personal-best 1:59.59 in Monday’s final at Hayward Field, getting on the three-woman team for Rio by .04 of a second over Molly Ludlow.

Winner Kate Grace also had a personal best, 1:59.10, after not racing on the track in 2015 due to tearing a toe-joint tendon. Grace had never made the podium at an NCAA or U.S. Championships and didn’t decide to run the 800m (in addition to the 1500m) at Trials until two or three weeks ago.

Ajee’ Wilson, the fastest woman in the world in 2014, was second to Grace in 1:59.51. Wilson, who turned professional after high school in 2013, grabbed third place at the 2015 U.S. Championships while running with one shoe on. She withdrew from the world championships team six weeks later due to a stress reaction in her left tibia.

The unlikely trio of Grace, Wilson and Williams emerged Monday from a chaotic last 200 meters that doused the hopes of six-time U.S. champion Alysia Montaño and Brenda Martinez, the only U.S. woman to earn an Olympic or world 800m medal since 1988.

The 800 meters is the shortest track event where runners (sprinters from the gun, in the case of some) are not separated by lanes for the entire race.

“There’s going to be casualties,” Wilson said. “It sucks when it’s you.”

Track and Field Trials: Daily Schedule | TV Schedule

Yet few expect Semenya to draw that kind of misfortune in Rio.

Semenya, best known for a gender-testing scandal after winning the 2009 World title at age 18, re-emerged this year with her fastest times in five years. The sudden revival came after a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years a 2011 IAAF ruling that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

Semenya, who was kept out of competition by the IAAF for 11 months in 2009 and 2010 while undergoing gender tests, has performed well at various times before the 2011 ruling, during the regulation period (2012 Olympic silver medal) and now without the regulation.

While the Americans ran in the 1:59s on Monday (and no faster earlier this year), Semenya has clocked no slower than 1:58.26 at her last four meets. Semenya is undefeated in 10 800m races this year and, in the higher-profile ones, has appeared to win comfortably without requiring full effort.

As Williams hinted, Semenya hangs back for the first lap (the first 700 meters, really) and shows her cards for, at most, the final 100 meters. In Doha. In Rabat. In Rome.

The world record of 1:53.28, set by Czech Jarmila Kratochvílová in 1983, is talked about as under threat. Semenya has also clocked personal bests in the 400m and 1500m this year, though they aren’t quite medal-caliber times. Her coach said in May there was no plan to add a second individual event in Rio.

Of Grace, Wilson and Williams, only Wilson has raced against Semenya. Wilson finished higher than Semenya in their first three races — all during Semenya’s down years in 2013 and 2014 — and then was dusted by the South African in Rome on June 2.

“I don’t really remember much of it,” said Wilson, who ran 2:03.33 (her worst international time as a pro) to Semenya’s 1:56.64 and was the last finisher of 11. “I was kind of off my game myself. It was kind of like, I was watching the race from second-hand anyway.”

The philosophy against Semenya is the same against anybody. Run to win, Wilson said.

“If I need to be in 1:56, 1:57 shape, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Wilson (personal-best 1:57.67 from 2014) said, pausing before adding, “regardless of who’s in the race.”

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Alysia Montaño falls, battles to finish Olympic Trials 800m

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The first thing Alysia Montano thought was, “Get up. Get up.”

By the time she finally did, everyone else was gone.

The 800-meter runner who has been victimized more than once by a cruel, unseemly side of her sport got the worst break of all at U.S. Track and Field Trials.

Cheated out of medal after medal by Russians who were later found to have been doping – including at the London Olympics four years ago – Montano saw her chance at an Olympic victory come up painfully short when she tripped over a competitor’s feet while lining up her last charge in Monday night’s final.

“It doesn’t really settle in in that moment where you’re thinking, ‘This is it,'” Montano said about the moment when she hooked shoes with Brenda Martinez, who had made contact with the leader and eventual runner-up, Ajee Wilson. “And then, you get up and they’re really far away. Your heart breaks.”

Montano did get up. She jogged a bit, then stopped, fell to her knees and began to wail as she kicked her foot to the ground in disgust. She got up again and ran to the finish line, then collapsed to her knees, put her head on the ground, looked skyward, clutched her right hand to her heart and let out a primal wail.

“All of a sudden, they came around the corner and she wasn’t there,” said her husband, Louis, who was watching from the side with their daughter, Linnea, who turns 2 next month. “It was heartbreaking.”

Officials reviewed the tape and deemed the smash-up a result of incidental contact. They did not disqualify anyone. Asked if she would protest, Montano replied: “What good would that do me?”

If anyone would know, it would be her.

The woman who showed her devotion to the sport by running on this track two years ago while eight months pregnant made herself the poster child for all athletes who’ve been robbed over the past several years by what investigators say is a state-sponsored Russian system that encourages doping among its athletes.

ZACCARDI: After Trials chaos, it’s Caster for U.S. 800m runners

She finished fourth or fifth at 2011 and 2013 world championships, and at the London Olympics, behind Russians who were later found to have cheated. She may get those medals someday.

She will not get one this year and the fact that the sport’s governing body, the IAAF, has called for the Russian track team to be banned from the Rio Games comes as small consolation for her.

“Eight years of my life as a professional runner, and my entire professional career has been a farce, basically,” the 30-year-old said.

“Now, people are saying Russians aren’t running in the Olympics, but they’re missing the whole point. The IAAF is a corrupt institution and it’s still running the games.”

She tried to set all that anger aside coming into trials, knowing she would have no platform, no way to get her fair due, if she didn’t perform over three days of racing in Eugene this week.

She cruised into the final and, for 600 meters, everything looked fine. Boxed in on the rail in years past, she did what she’d been practicing all spring – moving out to Lane 3 to stay out of trouble and make her final push. She was vying for third place when the contact started.

“I saw tripping. Brenda start to trip and Alysia start to fall,” said Kate Grace, who picked an inside route and coasted by all the trouble for the victory.

And Montano saw some dreams slip away.

“There’s a lot of healing,” she said, “that has to happen beyond this race.”

Other happenings at Day 4 of Olympic Trials:

WANT FRIES WITH THAT?: Less than two years ago, Boris Berian was flipping burgers at a fast-food restaurant. In less than two months, he’ll be running at the Olympics. Berian finished second in the 800-meter final behind Clayton Murphy to secure his spot in Rio. It’s been a long journey for the 23-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Last month, he didn’t even know if he’d compete here because of a lawsuit filed by his former sponsor, Nike, over what kind of gear he wears. Nike dropped the lawsuit and Berian made it.

POLE VAULT POWER: Perhaps it was only fitting that Army reservist Sam Kendricks won the pole vault on the Fourth of July. The second lieutenant proudly waved his red, white and blue flag after setting a U.S. Track and Field Trials record by clearing 19 feet, 4 3/4 inches (5.91 meters) to make the Olympic team. It was a big day for the Armed Forces all around, with U.S. Air Force pole vaulter Cale Simmons taking second on the holiday. Logan Cunningham was third.

BROKEN DREAMS: Pole vaulter Joey Uhle‘s chances for an Olympic spot all but ended when his pole broke on his first attempt. The pole smacked him on the kneecap and, though he lined up to jump again, he wasn’t quite the same. “It messes with your mind a bit, throws you off your balance,” he said.

RUPP ROMP: Galen Rupp, Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong all made it through qualifying at 5,000 meters. If Rupp qualifies at 5K, he’ll have to decide between that distance and the marathon. He’s already qualified for the 10K and plans on competing in that event.

LUCKY 11th: They don’t give any medals for 11th place. Javelin thrower Sean Furey didn’t care. In his case, 11th was good enough to make the Olympics. Because Furey was one of only three throwers in the final who had reached the Olympic qualifying standard, he earned a spot on the team. So did fourth-place finisher Sam Crouser and, yes, the winner, Cyrus Hostetler.

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