Two events build to pressure-packed finales

Harting, Acuff survive to qualify for 3rd spots in pole vault, high jump


U.S. Olympic Trials

July 17, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - There had never been anything like it at the U.S. track and field trials for the Olympics.

At one end of Cal State Sacramento's Hornet Stadium, Chad Harting, Derek Miles and Pat Manson engaged in a jump-off to see who would get the third and final American berth in the pole vault. At the other end, Amy Acuff and Tisha Waller jumped off for the third spot in the women's high jump.

It was the make-or-break system of the trials crystallized. Survive, and go to Sydney, Australia, for the 2000 Olympics. Wilt, and you go home.

Harting and Acuff made it.

To add to their misery in the pole vault, Miles and Manson had to keep jumping to see who would be the first alternate.

"This is the best feeling in the world," Harting said.

He joined Lawrence Johnson and Nick Hysong as the U.S. entry with a second clearance of 18 feet, 5 1/2 inches. But Harting's real break came Friday when world leader Jeff Hartwig no-heighted in the qualifying round.

In the women's high jump, Karol Damon and Erin Aldrich earned berths with clearances of 6-4, while the more accomplished Acuff and Tisha Waller missed there.

Acuff has cleared 6-6 3/4 and Waller 6-7, but the pressure in their jump-off was palpable. Both missed an additional attempt at 6-4. Acuff then cleared 6-2 3/4 and closed her eyes while Waller tried to focus through the nearby set-up of the women's 400-meter hurdle semifinals. When Waller missed, it was Acuff who burst into tears.

"I didn't want to watch Tisha jump, because I didn't want to wish her to miss," Acuff said. "I was either going home or going to Sydney, and I am so glad that I made the Olympic team."

Stanford stars

The 1,500 finals were a cause for celebration down Interstate 80 at Stanford University. As expected, Cardinal product Regina Jacobs took the women's race, while two-thirds of the men's team will come from Stanford.

Gabe Jennings took control on the third lap and cruised home in 3:35.90. Michael Stember was third, after their 1-2 finish at the NCAA championships last month was one of the keys in Stanford's team title. They were broken up by Jason Pyrah, as favorites such as Seneca Lassister and Steve Holman came on too late.

"I've been doing that all season, running from the get-go," said Jennings, 21. "I didn't see any reason why I should change my game plan in the biggest meet of my life. The season was hard; winning the first championship for Stanford in 57 years was big. After such a big finish at the NCAA, it was hard to get up for this."

Jacobs broke Suzy Favor Hamilton with 260 meters left, and maintained a 5-meter lead to the line, finishing in 4:01.01. Favor Hamilton, who was 13th at the 1,500 trials in 1996, came in at 4:01.81. Marla Runyan, who is legally blind and has competed in both the heptathlon and disabled competitions, gained the third spot in 4:06.44.

Slow start for Holthaus

Matt Holthaus passed several men in the final 200 meters but a slow start doomed him in the 1,500 as the former Wilde Lake High star finished eighth in 3:39.85.

"You're always disappointed when you feel that you didn't run the best race you have to offer," Holthaus said. "I came home strong, but I was a little further back in the pack than I should have been. This isn't the end of my running career, but next year may be my last."

Holthaus will stay in town and run in the men's 800, which opens Thursday.

More Michael

There was little suspense at the front of the men's 400, as world record holder Michael Johnson ran a seemingly effortless 43.68 to secure a spot on his third Olympic team. It gave Johnson eight of history's 11 fastest times.

"My main objective was to make the team," Johnson said. "Now the Olympic tickets that I bought for my parents won't go to waste."

Double pleasure

The drama in the men's 400 was provided by Alvin and Calvin Harrison, who were attempting to become the first twins to make the Olympics in the same event. Alvin was second in 44.63, just ahead of Antonio Pettigrew. Calvin came in fifth, but Alvin talked as if his twin would be a shoo-in for the six-man 4x400 relay squad.

"It's good to make the team together," Alvin said. "I couldn't be more happy."

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