Leach in hunt for 400-meter hurdles spot

Evan Jager (front, right) Donald Cabral (center) and Brian Olinger compete in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase. AP
Evan Jager (front, right) Donald Cabral (center) and Brian Olinger compete in the men's 3000-meter steeplechase. AP
Posted: June 29, 2012

Former West Catholic High star Nicole Leach, who in 2007 took the NCAA 400-meter hurdles title for UCLA and represented the United States at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan, continued Thursday to bid for her first Olympic team berth.

Running in the first of four preliminary heats of the women's 400 hurdles, Leach, 24, advanced to the semifinals in 56.71. She had missed out in the prelims of the 2008 USA trials but repeated as NCAA champion in 2009.

Worried about home

For four minutes, Jenny Simpson was focused on a race and not a raging wildfire back home in Colorado.

The 1,500-meter runner was all business in her heat Thursday night at the Olympic track trials. But after crossing the finish line, all she could think about was the fire near Colorado Springs that has forced more than 30,000 residents from their homes. Simpson lives a little bit north, in Monument. She doesn't think her home is affected, but is only getting sporadic updates from a house-sitter.

"I'm suspicious everyone wants me to focus on my racing here. I'll find out the state of my home when I get home," she said.

Simpson, who last summer became the first American woman to win a world title in the 1,500 since Mary Slaney (Decker then) did it in 1983 - easily made it through qualifying. She finished in 4 minutes, 16.70 seconds, taking second in her heat behind Shannon Rowbury to advance to the semifinals.

""I really planned on holding back, but with 800 to go, I thought everyone was still there," Simpson said. "I thought, 'Just go to front and know you're in.'

"But [the fires], that's what we really should be talking about."

Tie still unresolved. Embarrassment or great PR move? Coin flip or runoff? Heads or tails? The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to steer clear of any grand pronouncements about the tie-breaking procedure - or lack thereof - that has dominated the talk at the Olympic track trials for nearly a week now.

What he will say, however, is that nothing like this will happen again.

"Next time," CEO Scott Blackmun said Thursday, "we'll have a process in place that addresses this that won't involve a delay in the decision."

On Saturday, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh crossed the line in a tie for the third and last Olympic spot in the 100 meters. Not even a camera shooting the finish at 3,000 frames per second could resolve the dead heat and America is still waiting not only to see who wins, but to find out how the runners will go about deciding that.

USA Track and Field had no tiebreaker in place, so it had to make one up on the fly. It gave the runners a choice between a runoff or a coin flip, but they have chosen to delay their decision until after they're done racing in the 200 meters. Heats for that race were scheduled for Thursday night.

Local flavor. Nicole Schappert, formerly of Villanova, and Princeton's Greta Feldman, a graduate of Haddonfield High, advanced to the semifinals. Schappert came in fourth in her heat with a time of 4:16.89, and Feldman's time, 4:14.89, was good for sixth in her heat.

Ryann Krais, a Methacton High alumna who took the 2011 NCAA heptathlon title for Kansas State, and placed second in the U.S. Nationals, opens competition in the seven-event heptathlon Friday morning.

Jamaican qualifying. Usain Bolt eased through his first qualifying heat at the Jamaican Olympic trials in Kingston on Thursday night, finishing the 100 meters in 10.06 seconds.

Reigning world champion Yohan Blake won his heat in 10 seconds flat - the fastest time on a calm, stress-free night at National Stadium - and former world record holder Asafa Powell also advanced in 10.19. The semifinals and finals are Friday.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.


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