Utah's Doug Padilla and Julie Jenkins advanced to the finals of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials as expected Thursday night in Indianapolis.
Jenkins, running against the redoubtable Mary Slaney, finished sixth in her semifinal heat of the 1,500-meter run, and Padilla finished third in his semifinal heat of the 5,000-meter run. Both ran just hard enough to qualify for their finals. Jenkins and Padilla will rest Friday and then race in the finals Saturday.In the meantime, Henry Marsh, another Utahn, will try to win a place on his fourth U.S. Olympic Team tonight when he competes in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. It might be the last race of Marsh's long career. At 34, he says he will retire after this season - either after the Olympic Games or, if he doesn't make the team, after the Olympic trials.
Marsh, the two-time defending Olympic trials champion, faces his stiffest challenge ever to make the Olympic team. After battling a lingering virus this winter, Marsh concedes he is not in top condition at the moment. What's more, he will have at least four formidable opponents in Brian Diemer, Brian Abshire, Ivan Huff and Jim Cooper.
Marsh spent a couple of hours on Thursday reviewing video tapes of Wednesday's semifinal race, in which he fell over a barrier in the last 200 meters but still managed to advance to the finals.
"I lost 21/2 seconds after I fell, and I still ran 8:31, so that shows me I'm getting close to where I need to be," said Marsh. "But whether that's close enough now, I don't know." Marsh escaped from the fall relatively unscathed except for two gashes in his right hand that required seven stitches to close.
Thursday's competition at the trials was devoted largely to trials. Padilla and Jenkins survived the heats, but Wes Ashford, the former BYU miler who lives in Provo, failed to advance from the first round of the 1,500-meter run. He finished last in his heat with a time of 3:47.42.
"I just haven't recovered," said Ashford, who recently completed a six-week, 10-race tour of Europe. "I'm tired. I just didn't have anything tonight."
Jenkins, BYU's 1987 NCAA 800-meter champion from Plain City, ran the last lap of her 1,500-meter race in a swift 63.3 to place sixth with a time of 4:09.61, a personal record by five seconds.
"Yeah, I can go faster," said Jenkins. "I was just counting places (to ensure advancement to the finals). I don't know how to run this race. I haven't run one in a year." Jenkins decided to run the 1,500 only after failing to make the Olymic team in the 800. The question now is how much three 800-meter races (two rounds, plus the final) have taken out of her.
"I'm a little sore, but we get a day to rest and that will help," said Jenkins. "A lot of us are in the same situation."
Jenkins' time was the sixth fastest overall (just one second behind second place) and was faster than the winning time of the other semifinal heat. Slaney had the day's fastest time, 4:04.27.
Padilla, the defending Olympic trials 5,000-meter champion from Orem, lagged behind the pack until the final 600 meters of his semifinal heat, then swung wide on the turn and made a big move to join the leaders. He sprinted down the homestretch, but eased in the final 20 meters, needing only to place in the top six to qualify. He finished third with a time of 13:50.63.
"I felt OK, but it's hard to tell with the nerves," said Padilla, who is anything but confident these days. "The last three years haven't exactly boosted my confidence," he said, referring to a lengthy slump. Nevertheless, in Saturday's final, Padilla says, "I'll be running to win. It's too much of a risk just to go for place."
Padilla's top rivals figure to be Sydney Maree, Terry Brahm and John Gregorek.
In one of the night's two exhibition events (competition that won't be held in the Olympic Games), Celsa Bowman finished eighth in the 5,000-meter run. Bowman, who recently completed her athletic career at the University of Utah, stuck with the leaders for two miles, but faded over the final 3 3/4 laps. She finished with a time of 16:52.96. Andrea Ward won with a time of 16:25.50.
Another former University of Utah athlete, Heinz Hinrichs, withdrew from the decathlon competition just before the 10th and final event. He had a nine-event score of 6,051 points.