The Olympic Trials, which will decide which U.S. track and field athletes make it to the 2012 London Games, are just six weeks away.
As the high school season moves toward state championships from coast to coast, we have an eye on which preps may crash the party in Eugene and go head to head with professionals and collegians in competition for a spot in the U.S. Olympic team.
Making it to the Olympics as a high school student (or recent graduate) is exceedingly rare in modern track and field. Dwayne Evans made the team in 200 in 1976, shortly after graduating from Arizona’s South Mountain High School. The same year, Johnny "Lam" Jones, a legend from Lampassas High (Texas) made it in the 100 meters and won a gold medal in the 4x100 relay.
No high school male has competed in the Olympic Games in a U.S. uniform since then.
Sisters Sherri and Denean Howard of Kennedy High (Los Angeles) went 1-2 in the 400 meters at the 1980 Olympic Trials, but that year’s U.S. team didn’t get compete in Moscow, Russia because of a boycott. Denean was just 15 at the time, coming out of her sophomore year. (She would go on to make three more Olympic teams).
Before Title IX became law in the 1970s it was common for teenagers to make the U.S. women’s Olympic team. But the advent of college scholarships, plus professional opportunities, has made it exceedingly difficult for a high school athlete to make the team ever again.
However, the very best prep athletes do make it into the Trials on occasion, soaking up the experience of being one step away from their dream. The starts lists usually include 24-32 athletes per event.
Here is a closer look at where some of this year’s top high school athletes stand. Some of these athletes may choose not to do the Trials for scheduling reasons. The U.S. Junior Championships, which is the qualifying meet for World Juniors (and a trip to Barcelona) is just days before the Trials start at Eugene, Oregon's Hayward Field.
Marvin Bracy, Boone (Florida): A report in Monday’s Orlando Sentinel stated that there is hope that Bracy will be able to be at full strength for the Golden South Invitational on May 26. Bracy, who has a wind-legal best of 10.25 seconds (and 10.05 wind-aided), won the Florida state title in the 100 over the weekend, but had to pull out of the 200 with a slight hamstring strain. If he can get back to his best, Bracy should make the cut-off for the Trials. He would be a longshot to make the finals there.
Aldrich Bailey, Timberview (Texas): Based on the sizzling 45.19 he ran a little over a week ago, Bailey is a shoo-in to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 400 meters. And if he can bring the time down even further, as he has suggested that he will, he could have a realistic chance of advancing beyond the first round. Arman Hall (Florida) and Najee Glass (N.J.) could potentially make it into the Trials, too, but both of them would need to PR and dip below 46 seconds.
Sean Keller, Heritage (Vancouver, Wash.): With the US #2 all-time throw of 244-1 at the end of April, Keller moved into the top 10 nationally (including pros and collegians). His place in the Trials is probably secure, but if he chooses to throw at the U.S Junior Championships the preceding week he may not have a rested arm.
Jacob Blankenship (Ohio), Shawn Barber (Texas), Reese Watson (Texas): During the indoor season, there was a lot of momentum happening for the top boys pole vaulters. But outdoors, not one of them has made 17 feet since April 1. And time is running out. The standard to make the Trials is 18-0.50, which none of them has made yet. However, Barber is eligible to compete for Canada and will likely compete in that nation's trials.
Devin Field (Texas) and Jarrion Lawson (Texas): Field was not allowed to compete this spring in varsity events for DeSoto because of the UIL’s residency issues, but his goal for the spring was 26 feet in the long jump. If he can get close to that number, he could make the Trials field (it takes 25-7 to qualify). Lawson, of Liberty-Eylau, has a wind-aided best of 25-10.75. If he can go big at the Texas state championships (without the wind), then he has a chance of making the cut.
Tyler Sorenson (California): The record-breaking junior racewalker earned a spot in the 20-kilometer even last year as a 17-year-old, making him one of the youngest Trials qualifiers ever for this event.
Haley Crouser, Gresham (Ore.): Only a high school junior, Crouser joined her older brother Sam and cousin Ryan as a national record holder this spring when she threw her javelin 181-2. She is a lock to make it into the Trials (along with Sam and Ryan), but she would need a huge PR in order to make it to London. (The Olympic A standard is 200-1). She has a realistic chance to finish in the top five at the Trials. Avione Allgood (Nev.) has been hoping all spring that her surgically repaired shoulder heals in time to throw at the Trials. She threw 176-8 for fourth at the U.S. Championships last year and competed at the Pan Am Games last fall.
Shelbi Vaughan, Legacy (Mansfield, Texas): She is consistently in the 180s with her discus and hit a best of 191-6 for a new U.S. high school record. That puts her squarely inside the top 10 nationally. On a good day, she could even make the finals at the Olympic Trials. But in 2008, the three who made the U.S. team all threw farther than 205 feet.
Gabrielle Williams, Reed (Sparks, Nev.): Still a little shy of the Trials standard (6-0.50), the U.S. leader has cleared six feet once and has a little more time to make an improvement that could put her into the field. It’s a lot to ask of a high school sophomore.
Shayla Sanders, Boyd H. Anderson (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.): She has been the dominant high school sprinter this spring in the 100 (11.33) and 200 (23.25), but these are extremely competitive events in the U.S. What will it take for her lineup against the likes of Carmelita Jeter or Allyson Felix? Sanders has met the qualifying standard for the 100, but if a bunch of women run fast at the NCAA championships, it could bump her down the list. If she can improve her time by even a few hundredths, she’d have a good chance of making the field. In 2008, it took 23.12 to make the field in the 200, so that might be out of reach.
Robin Reynolds, Jackson (Miami): The US leader in the 400 (52.19) has the B standard for the Trials, but that’s not a guarantee of making the cut. In 2008, 52.58 was the last accepted entry (out of 27 in the field). Reynolds’ best time would have made the field (22nd). Reynolds also has a long jump best of 20-6.25, about eight inches short of the Trials qualifying mark.
Ajee Wilson, Neptune (N.J.), Mary Cain, Bronxville (N.Y.) and Amy Weissenbach, Harvard-Westlake (Calif.): These are three of the all-time best prep 800-meter runners and all three of them have credentials that could put them into the Trials. In 2008, the slowest woman in the field made it in with 2:04.90. This is becoming a deeper even in the U.S., so it could take something a little faster this time. Wilson ran 2:02.64 last July and has a best so far this spring of 2:05.28. Cain, who is only a sophomore, is coming on strong and has a best of 2:05.90, but split 2:03.7 on a relay last year. She is also very close to the Trials B standard in the 1,500 (4:17.00). Weissenbach, the California state champion, has a PR of 2:02.04, although she has not run a fast one yet this spring.
Trinity Wilson, St. Mary’s College (Calif.), Dior Hall, George Washington (Colo.), Traci Hicks, Long Beach Poly (Calif.): In 2008, Jacqueline Coward (Tenn.) was a prep elite who made the field, qualifying with her best time of 13.20. At the Trials, she ran 13.69 and was last in her prelim, demonstrating how massive the leap is to this level of competition. Wilson ran 13.41 on April 7, but also suffered a hairline fracture of her big toe and hasn’t competed since. If she can return in time to compete in the California state meet, and get back to her PR of 13.15, she could land in the Trials. Hall, a sophomore, is the indoor national champion and has a PR of 13.18 from last year. Hicks has a wind-aided best of 13.22 and could also be on the bubble for a berth. (In 2008, it took 13.24 to make it into the meet).
Brianna Nerud, North Shore (Glen Head, N.Y.): The senior has run a couple of 3,000-meter steeplechase races in order to see if she can make the Trials B standard of 10:15, but has a best so far of 10:24.95. It would take a startling improvement in order to make the field. In 2008, it took 10:09 to make it and this year will probably take something a few seconds faster.
Cayla Hatton, Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.): She ran an eye-popping 10,000 meters time of 33:17.28 at a low-key college meet – second-fastest in U.S. high school history. At the time, it seemed like she might be a lock for the Trials. Now, it appears that time won’t make the cut. In 2008, 33:24.10 secured the last spot in the field. This time around, it is much more competitive thanks to a couple of fast races this spring at Stanford (April 6 and 27). Twenty-nine women broke 33 minutes in those two races.
Kendell Williams, Kell (Marietta, Ga.): Has she gotten well-rounded enough to score 5,600 points in the heptathlon? That’s what it takes to make it into the Trials (at a minimum), and last year as a sophomore Williams was an age-group record-breaker with 5,170. Williams can compete with the best in the hurdles, high jump and long jump. She was reportedly working on her throws with the Throw1Deep Club in Georgia and that was a smart move. If her shot put and javelin are consistently superior to where they were a year ago, 5,600 is within her range.