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Weather adds difficulty to trials

EUGENE, Ore. -- Not to imply the weather has been brutal at the U.S. track and field trials, but it was raining javelins Monday night.

"I came around the corner at the back of the pole vault tent and I saw people running and I looked up and I saw a javelin coming our way," pole vaulter Jordan Scott said. "It landed right inside of our fence, about two feet off the runway. … That was crazy."

"Yeah, that was horrible," said Samuel Crouser, the man who threw that particular javelin. "I don't know what went wrong there."

"He's trying to get the javelin some attention," fellow competitor Cyrus Hostetler joked. "Next time, we'll get a runner."

June in the Pacific Northwest can often seem like March in Vermont, but this month has been one of the wettest and coolest on record. When the men lined up for the 100-meter preliminaries Saturday, several wore ski jackets and others wore gloves. It has been so wet and cool, even by Eugene standards, that the flower in 800 champ Alysia Montano's hair probably has root rot.

Eugene's rain is turning the Olympic motto from "Faster, Higher, Stronger" to "Glub, Glub, Glub." Although it could be good preparation for London.

The rain made Ashton Eaton's world record in the decathlon even more impressive because he had to do it in often miserable conditions. Running down a track while carrying a 13-foot or longer pole that you must plant in a specified area is difficult enough in ideal conditions. It's much worse in the rain.

"A big thing in the vault is our perception," pole vaulter Mark Hollis said. "As we come into the middle of our run, we're kind of making those adjustments to steer ourselves into the takeoff, and when you're having rain come into your eyes and the wind is blowing, it really kind of makes that difficult. And then just trying to keep your grip dry is hard. With the size of poles we're using, nobody wants to slip, so that's a real concern. And every time you land on the mat, it's like a big sponge so you just get soaked. The one jump I took, it was like I jumped in a pool."

Thus, the rain has been a particular issue for pole vaulters. The women's preliminary round was postponed due to steady rain and several athletes wanted the men's preliminary postponed for the same reason Monday.

"We were trying to get them to do something to either delay it or move it to tomorrow or go just right to a final [later in the week] like the women did," Hollis said. "But the judges were waiting around to see what the weather was going to do. We all thought they should have given us a little more time because of the rain pouring down, and we were all kind of huddled under the tent for 10 or 15 minutes. But they kept pushing on and got through it."

"It's not impossible; it's just more of a challenge," Scott said. "It's not who can jump higher, it's who can control themselves and stay focused under the conditions, and keep their pole dry."

The rain fell off and on early in the evening before finally stopping toward the end of the night's competition. Unfortunately, the rain fell during the events most affected by the rain -- the pole vault and high jump, which require sure footing.

None of the high jumpers used the rain as an excuse, but no one cleared the Olympic A qualifying standard Monday, either. Had that standard not been met in earlier meets, only one American would have advanced to London.

"I was probably the only person here who was happy to see it raining because I know I can jump in the rain," high jump champion Jamie Nieto said.

"There was a lot of luck about it," Hollis said of the pole vault. "If the wind was blowing the right way or if the rain drop hits you in the eye or not, it's a really tough thing to do. I'm just glad it's over and now I'm looking to [Thursday's finals]. It's supposed to be a really nice day."

Well, "really nice" by Eugene standards -- 74 degrees with partial sunshine. At least that's what the latest forecast says. The forecast has been constantly changing, however, with the promised nice days steadily decreasing and backing up further into the week. Oh, and the rain is supposed to be back by the weekend.

The lousy weather is in stark contrast to the trials four years ago, when they were held here in mostly sunny and hot conditions. Eugene, which calls itself TrackTown USA, so embraces the sport that there has been talk of making Hayward Field the permanent site of the Olympic trials, but this weather probably doesn't help the city's case.

On the other hand, it could possibly hold the swimming trials.