EUGENE, Ore. — Former LSU track star Lolo Jones will be making a return trip to the Olympics, as she finished third in the 100-meter hurdles final Saturday at the U.S. track trials.
Jones stretched at the finish to garner the last spot on the U.S. team with a time of 12.86. Dawn Harper, the defending Olympic champion, won in 12.73 seconds while Kellie Wells finished second with a time of 12.77.
At the Beijing Olympics, Harper ran a personal best 12.54 seconds to beat favorite Jones, who tripped on the second-to-last hurdle and finished seventh.
Disappointed after her heat finish a day earlier, Jones knelt on the track at Hayward Field after the final with a broad smile on her face.
“It just means a lot because my season was going so bad,” Jones said. “A lot of people counted me out. I’m just glad to have an opportunity to represent Team USA and fight for everybody out there who’s been cheering me on when it looked terrible.
“I surprised and shocked everybody. I was not supposed to make this team, so I’m honored. Very honored.”
In the other premier event of the day, Ashton Eaton set a personal best in the exhausting 1,500-meter finale and is now the world-record holder in the decathlon — the cream of the crop in the event that determines the world’s best athlete.
“This is just crazy,” Eaton said.
He finished the grueling two-day event with 9,039 points in the U.S. Olympic trials to beat Roman Sebrle’s 11-year-old mark by 13 points. Eaton joined the likes of Bruce Jenner, Dan O’Brien and Rafer Johnson among the Americans who have held the world record. He did it on the 100th anniversary of the first Olympic decathlon — and many of the American greats who have made history in the event were on hand to watch Eaton do the same.
“I knew this day was coming,” O’Brien said. “I really did.”
Eaton, the 24-year-old and a former NCAA champion for University of Oregon, needed a time of 4 minutes, 16.37 seconds in the 1,500 to break the mark. He finished in 4:14.48.
When it was over, he bent down and put his hands on his knees, then brought them up to cover his mouth. Tears were falling — elated and shocked all at the same time.
A few minutes later, he took the mini American flag he’d been handed as a newly minted member of the U.S. Olympic team and stabbed it into the turf near the scoreboard that displayed his accomplishment: “World Record Decathlon. Ashton Eaton. 9,039 points.” Photographers lined up for the historic shoot. Certainly, Eaton will own a copy or two by the time this night is over.
“I wanted it to be a special event because this is my home state, my hometown, my home university,” he said to the crowd at Oregon’s Hayward Field. “And just from the start, I just wanted to perform well.”
What to do for an encore?
We’ll see in six weeks in London, where he’ll go in as the favorite, along with the man he beat, defending world champion Trey Hardee, who finished 656 points back.
Chances for an American medal sweep in London, thought to be a good possibility, were vanquished when defending Olympic champion Bryan Clay fell during the hurdles. He finished 12th.
The women’s Olympic team in the 100 meters was called into question Saturday night when track officials declared a dead heat between Janeba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix for third place.
Carmelita Jeter secured a spot at the London Games by winning the event in 10.92 seconds, as did runner-up Tianna Madison, who finished in 10.96.
It was announced to the Hayward Field crowd that Tarmoh edged training partner Felix by 0.0001 seconds to finish third in 11.068, but the results were immediately reviewed.
Officials from USA Track and Field were meeting Saturday night to make a determination on how to resolve the issue for the third spot on the Olympic team.
Elsewhere, Tyson Gay made it through his first 100 heat cleanly, while LaShawn Merritt, Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards-Ross all advanced in the 400.
Nobody, however, covered more ground, or did it better, than Eaton.
He opened his pursuit Friday by setting world-best marks for the decathlon in his first two events, the 100 (10.21 seconds) and long jump (27 feet). He had a mark of 46 feet, 71/4 inches in shot put, cleared 6-83/4 in the high jump and ran the 400 in a driving rainstorm in 46.70 seconds to finish the first day in the mix for the world record.
He returned Saturday to equally dreary weather, but didn’t slip. The results: 13.70 seconds in the 110 hurdles, 140-5 inches in the discus, and 17-41/2 in the pole vault. His javelin throw of 193-1 meant he would need to top his personal best by at least 2.57 seconds in the 1,500.
The sun finally peaked out shortly before Eaton made it to the starting line, illuminating his green and black shirt and neon-orange shoes. He stayed on pace the entire time and crossed the line with nearly 2 seconds to spare.
Eaton also overtook O’Brien’s American record of 8,891 points, which he set in 1992 — nine years before Sebrle became the first man to break 9,000 points.