EUGENE, Ore -- Sean Keller struck another blow for high school track and field on Saturday, firing his third attempt in the men's javelin 253 feet even at Hayward Field in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.
Keller, a Heritage (Vancouver, Wash.) senior, concluded the qualifying round ranked fifth out of the country's top 24 throwers.
Keller was still thinking about the nine-foot PR when he arrived in the mixed zone and fielded a question about making it to the finals. The second flight had yet to throw, but it was already a safe bet that he was in.
"Oh, I hadn't even thought about that yet," he said.
In semifinal rounds of the men's 400 meters and women's 800, Aldrich Bailey and Ajee Wilson had their shock-the-world dreams snuffed out. Bailey was relegated to Lane 8 for the second straight day and couldn't see anybody until 2008 Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt bolted past him with 160 meters left.
And Wilson of Neptune, N.J. gave a commendable effort in her race, boldly mixing it up with the leaders for 600 meters before she was overcome with fatigue. She went through the 400 in 59 seconds, just a couple of tenths of a second behind the leaders.
"(At 600) everyone started to go and I didn't have it anymore," Wilson said after jogging in the final 80 meters and still clocking 2:04.96. "I tried not to be scared about (the fast first lap) and I stuck with it for 600. Then everyone went past me and I got de-motivated after that."
It took a sub-2:03 time to advance to Monday's finals.
Bailey of Timberview (Arlington, Texas) was disappointed with his race and his seventh-place finish in a heat that included not only Merritt, but 2004 Olympic champion Jeremy Wariner. He ran 45.82 in the Eugene rain.
"It was fun," Bailey said of the experience. "But next time I'll be able to handle business better."
Bailey believed he could have made it to the finals, overcoming enough experienced and muscular pros and college stars to make it into the top eight.
"I thought I had a better shot than this. I knew I could perform better, but you get what you get sometimes," he said.
Wilson and Bailey gained valuable experience and their bodies will no doubt continue to develop become stronger over the next four years.
Keller stands to get stronger, too, but his success on Saturday had to do with speed he brings to the runway and nailing the technical aspects of the throw.
"I haven’t seen photos or video of it, but I think everything was almost perfect," Keller said of his 253-footer.
Keller had about 15 friends and relatives supporting him and the cheering section may have helped calm his nerves. He had thrown previously this season at Hayward Field and made himself right at home.
The only throw in prep history better than Keller's belongs to USR-holder Sam Crouser, who threw 255-4 in 2010. On Saturday, Crouser threw 248 feet in the same flight as Keller.
"It's a great throw for him," Crouser said of the prep star.
Scott Halley, Keller's javelin coach in Portland, was outside the arena and watching on a big screen in the fan festival area.
"He was smooth down the runway and he attacked it," Halley said. "In a competition like this you've got to come out and perform, and he performed."