EUGENE, Ore. – Texas Ex Michelle Carter became the third Longhorn to qualify for Team USA at the Olympic Trials from Hayward Field as she put together an impressive performance that required a big throw on her final attempt.
Carter made her third Olympic team with a victory on Thursday evening as she also set a new U.S. Olympic Trials record with a toss of 19.59 meters (64-3.25).
“For me the goal is always to just make the team. I’m happy just making the team, but for me I really wanted to make the team and be on top,” Carter said. “Consistency is great because it lets you know your training is coming together and my goal is to peak big in Rio because my goal is to win gold.”
The win did not come easy for Carter as the women’s shot put was arguably the best it has ever been at this meet. This year was the first time the U.S. Olympic Trials had five women throw more than 60 feet.
Carter was in the lead throughout much of the competition but saw that lead disappear in the fifth round of throws. Felisha Jones moved from eighth up to first with her throw of 19.23 meters. Then, Raven Saunders took the lead with her toss of 19.24 meters in Round 5. A foul by Carter would keep her in third and allow the field another opportunity to climb during the final round of throws.
After Tia Brooks failed to improve on her final throw and hold her spot in fourth place, Carter was locked in as a member of Team USA, but she wanted more. Carter launched her record-breaking throw on the very last attempt of the competition and closing the door on one of the most exciting competitions of the Olympic Trials so far.
“Anything can happen in this competition,” Carter said. “Team USA is the hardest team to make so you can never take these meets lightly. You can never count yourself as on the team. Each spot is earned and I earned my spot tonight.”
The win also gives Texas a sweep in the event after Ryan Crouser won the men’s shot put on the first day of the Trials. Head Coach Mario Sategna said he was impressed with the poise Carter showed overcoming the elements and facing the best field the United States has ever put together for a women’s shot put competition.
“That was unbelievable,” Sategna said. “I think it shows where she’s at within her career because the conditions couldn’t have been worse with the rain. So that was awesome to see her advance. That was special.”
In her first action wearing Burnt Orange, javelin thrower Haley Crouser returned to her home state and former home track to compete in her second Olympic Trials. After transferring to Texas from Oregon, Crouser redshirted this season and competed unattached. On Thursday, she posted a throw of 52.45 meters (172-11) on her first throw of the competition.
That throw was good enough to place Crouser ninth during the qualifying round and advance her to the final. It also ranks her fourth in school history.
“I’m really happy making finals,” she said. “I think going into finals knowing that bigger throws are there will help to trying and stay relaxed and hit a good one in the final in the first three throws to make top eight.”
With Crouser setting the tone early for the Longhorns in their first event of the day, Marielle Hall kept the strong performances from Longhorns going. She finished fifth in her heat to automatically advance to Sunday’s final in the 5,000 meters. She crossed in 15:27.67 to rank fifth overall in the semifinals.
Morgan Goodwin-Snow followed suit by advancing to her respective semifinal. She crossed the finish line in 12.89 seconds in the first heat of the 100 meter hurdles.
That time would be good enough for fourth in her heat and eventually stand as the fastest time to advance based on time and not automatically by place. It ranked 11th overall in the prelims.
Sprinters continued to shine for the Longhorns despite the slight rain that began to fall during the men’s 200 meter prelims.
Aldrich Bailey Jr. out-leaned a pair of pros at the line to finish second in his heat of the 200 and automatically advance to the semifinals on Friday. He clocked in at a wind-aided 20.53 seconds, his second-fastest time of the year.
Texas continued to produce solid marks and advance runners through preliminaries and into semifinals as the Longhorns went 2-for-3 in the 400 meter hurdles.
Ashley Spencer grabbed the final spot for the semifinals with her time of 56.80 seconds. She came into the race after also running in the 400 meters the first weekend of the Olympic Trials. She got all the way to the final to finish in seventh place and now is trying to make the Olympic team in her second event of the meet.
For the men, Byron Robinson looked fresh and ready to roll as he ran the No. 2 time of the prelims and did it in Lane 2 in the rain. Robinson crossed the finish line in 49.62 seconds trailing only Johnny Dutch’s time of 49.56. It marks Robinson’s third-fastest time of the year.
“Byron looked very strong and that was great to see,” Sategna said. “When you look at the history of that event, it’s one of the deepest in the U.S. If he runs like that, he’s got a great shot at making the final.”
The third runner for Texas in the 400 meter hurdles was Ariel Jones. The back-to-back Big 12 champion was in the same heat as Spencer and finished 29th overall in her first Olympic Trials. The sophomore gained valuable experience in an event that saw a number of other current collegiate runners participating.
Texas then closed the night with more stellar runs as the trio of Texas Exes of Sara Sutherland, Kyle Merber and Leo Manzano all advanced through to the semifinals of the 1,500 meters.
Sutherland clocked 4:19.77 to post the No. 17 time overall in the prelims and move to the semifinals on Friday.
Merber clocked 3:50.07 and grabbed an auto-spot to the final by finishing third in his heat.
The most exciting heat of the 1,500 came in Manzano’s as the field was incredibly tight heading down the home stretch. Leader Matthew Centrowitz dropped to the back of the pack with a lap remaining to anticipate the kick, and the entire field let loose with 250 meters to go.
An all-out sprint to the finish line by all 10 runners saw less than half a second separate No. 1 from No. 8 in the heat. Manzano was second in 3:42.28 to help set the tone for the semifinals.
“We had some great stuff happen for us today in all our events,” Sategna said. “We’re expecting rain the next couple days but the thing is we have to keep things moving in the right direction.”
The Trials will continue on Friday with Day 8 of competition. In addition to the athletes who advanced during today’s action, Texas will have Kaitlin Petrillose in the pole vault qualifying round and Morolake Akinosun in the first round of the women’s 200 meters.