The 2014 U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships got underway Thursday in Sacramento, Calif., with preliminary heats in the sprints and middle distance races, and there were plenty of notable performances.
Most inspiring moment: Defending U.S. 800-meter champion Alysia Montano is six weeks away from delivering her first baby, but that did not stop her from racing on Thursday.
The five-time U.S. champion finished in last place with a time of 2:32.13 and will not advance to the semi-finals, but her run garnered plenty of attention and created plenty of buzz.
This was her first race of the 2014 season following a 2013 campaign in which Montano finished fourth at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow.
— ESPN Endurance (@ESPN_Endurance) June 26, 2014
Performance of the night: Kim Conley trains in Sacramento and graduated from University of California-Davis, and she used the the home field to her advantage Thursday night while to capturing her first 10,000-meter outdoor title. Going into the bell lap, Conley out-kicked a surging Jordan Hasay of the Nike Oregon Project for a 65 second final 400-meters. She threw her arms up in the air as she crossed the finish line in 32:02 for the victory.
Last year’s U.S. Champion, Shalane Flanagan, announced her withdrawal from the race earlier in the week as she continues to train for a fall marathon.
Least surprising moment: 2012 Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp captured his sixth consecutive national title at 10,000 meters. Chris Derrick of the Bowerman Track Club pulled ahead at the 5,000-meter mark, hoping to wear down Rupp’s kick, but with 500 meters to go Rupp unleashed his signature kick to win in 28:12.07.
Rupp broke his own 10,000-meter American record earlier this season at the 2014 Prefontaine Classic, finishing in 26:44.36. He is also entered in the 5,000-meter run at the championships, which is scheduled for Friday night. Coach Alberto Salazar has pointed out the Meeting Areva in Paris on July 5 as a possible target for Rupp's next fast 5,000-meter race.
Most surprising moment: Nike’s David Torrence failed to advance to the 1,500-meter final after an indoor season in which he set the American record at 1,000 meters. Torrence also split 3:36.6 running a courageous second leg for the United States against Kenya at the IAAF World Relays on May 25. Torrence told reporters afterwards that his legs could not respond to the fast pace in the second half of the race. He recently switched coaches and is now training under coach Jama Aden.
Elsewhere, Ford Palmer of the New Jersey-New York track club spends time as a lifeguard and bartender when he is not running in circles. Palmer ran for Monmouth University but never broke the four-minute barrier for the mile, yet going into the final 200 meters in Sacramento he managed to pass Torrence and other former NCAA stars to clinch a spot in the semifinals.
The 23-year-old ran a personal best of 3:41.68 for 1,500 meters to beat two-time Olympian Nate Brannen at the Halifax Aileen Meagher International Meet. With no plans to travel to Europe for the summer, Palmer aims to peak in the final.