On a night when Allyson Felix cruised on auto-pilot in the 400-meter qualifying round to keep her chance at a 200-400 double alive, Sanya Richards-Ross bid a tearful adieu to the fans, after pulling up 250 meters into her lap around the track — her hamstring too tight to carry on. UT grad Courtney Okolo finished first with a time of 50.78.
“I’ve had an amazing career,” the 31-year-old Richards-Ross said. “To have my last race be here, at Hayward Field, in front of these fans, it’s incredible.”
In addition to her four Olympic gold medals, including the individual title at the London Games, Richards-Ross holds the stadium record in Eugene — better known as Track Town USA. It was here, five weeks ago at the Prefontaine Classic, that fans got their first true glimpse of what might be coming. Richards-Ross finished seventh that day.
In this one, her first 15 steps out of the blocks were smooth, but she quickly slowed from a sprint to a trot. By the time she hit the first curve on the backstretch, she was jogging. And then she pulled up completely.
“Let’s be honest, I hurt my hamstring real bad,” she said. “I worked with a great doctor just to get out on the track today.”
After she pulled up, Richards-Ross walked to the finish line. Fans rose from their seats and Richards-Ross blew kisses.
She earned as many of those fans through her failures as her successes — her long battle with illness and injuries, her third-place finish in Beijing that left her weeping underneath the stands, then, finally, the gold medal in London.
“Most fans have seen my heart through my running,” Richards-Ross said. “I don’t win every time I step on the track. I don’t deserve the ovation because I’m always a champion. But I think they see my heart, my determination, my desire to be a good person.”
Now, though, they’ll be watching Felix and others finish up the 400. Among the others is Okolo who could be America’s next big thing in track & field. Her qualifying time was just 0.03 better than second place Phyllis Francis. They’ll compete in the semifinals on Saturday.
Ashley Spencer also qualified in the event with a time of 51.28. That was the fifth best time of the first round.
On the men’s side of the 400-meter event, Longhorn Aldrich Bailey ran a 45.73 to qualify eighth and move into the semifinals.
Former Longhorn and shot put specialist Ryan Crouser qualified for the Rio Olympics with a mark six inches better than second place Joe Kovacs. Crouser, a 2016 Bowerman Award semifinalist, made a throw of 72 feet-6 1/2 inches on his second attempt of the finals. That held up for the top spot.
Jacob Thormaehlen’s throw of 65-7 1/2 earned him a tenth place finish.
Incoming Longhorn freshman Elena Bruckner finished 16th in the women’s discus with a throw of 179-3.
Kendra Chambers qualified for the women’s 800 semifinals after running her race in 2:01.07. Her time was fourth best in the field.
At the Jamaica Trials, Chrisann Gordon finished second in her heat of the 400-meter run with a time of 51.65. She’ll compete in Saturday’s semifinals.
Senoj-Jay Givans finished sixth in the men’s 100 with a time of 10.06. He’ll wait to see if he is chosen for the 400-meter relay pool. The event was full of drama as Usain Bolt had to pull out of the finals due to a hamstring injury and Yohan Blake was called for a false start.
Blake’s false start was overturned after review and he ended up qualifying for Rio with a time of 9.95. Meanwhile, Bolt’s status for the Olympics is up in the air.