O'Connell falls short in bid to make team

Westminster runner, 22, finishes 5th in 800 meters

Jones not jumping for joy

Track And Field

July 13, 2004|By Elliott Denman | Elliott Denman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Jesse O'Connell plans to run for years and years.

He acknowledges that Beijing in 2008 is a more realistic travel destination than Athens in August 2004.

But the long-striding, 6-foot-6, 22-year-old redhead from Westminster, a recent Georgetown graduate, still felt a twinge of disappointment with his fifth-place performance in the men's 800 meters yesterday at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials.

As Texas Tech's Jonathan Johnson (1:44.77), Texas Christian graduate Khadevis Robinson (1:44.91) and Missouri alumnus Derrick Peterson (1:45.08) were on their way to a 1-2-3 finish in a rousing final at Sacramento State University to claim their tickets to the Athens Games, O'Connell was unleashing his typically powerful homestretch move that lifted him from eighth place and last off the final turn to fifth in 1:46.55.

O'Connell wasn't the only one who was disappointed last night. Marion Jones' struggles continued as she finished a shocking seventh in women's long jump qualifying.

She made the final in the event, but her best effort was still a quarter-inch short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 21 feet.

On Saturday, Jones, who won an unprecedented five medals at the 2000 Sydney Games, failed to make the U.S. squad in the 100 meters, an event in which she was the defending Olympic champion.

Jones never smiled during her three jumps. She took off well before the foul line on each of her attempts, but never seemed to soar. As in the 100 meters, she seemed to lack an extra gear.

She walked across the field after her three attempts, wearing a white cap and carrying a black and blue backpack. She did not come through the "mixed zone" where reporters awaited her.

As for O'Connell, he said, "I really thought I had an opportunity to be in the mix and make that team.

"The guys out front really took it out and I thought some of them might die at the end, but they didn't.

"I let myself drift too far back early in the race, but I still was able to come back."

O'Connell's time was just 18-hundredths of a second off his career best and clinched an invitation to the North American under-23 championships coming up in Sherbrooke, Ontario. Sherbrooke is not Athens.

Screaming encouragement from the stands were his parents, Pat and Martha O'Connell of Westminster; his high school coach, Jim Shank, and a legion of Georgetown athletes, friends and staff.

"He definitely wasn't going to finish eighth," said his father, smiling. "That's not Jesse. He can close with the best of them, and that's exactly what he did."

The shock of the race was three-time U.S. champion David Krummenacker's non-qualifying fourth place in 1:45.67. To some of the sport's analysts - none of whom ranked O'Connell in their top 10 - the Westminster runner was a stunner, as well.

"I knew that nobody was picking me to get that far, and that might have been a little bit of motivation," O'Connell said.

"Really, though. I was thrilled to make the final.

"I came out here just hoping to do my best.

"I couldn't tell you what I came through 400 - maybe 51 seconds high, 52 low - or around there.

"Krummenacker, the guy's an accomplished professional. He's run so well the past couple of years [including a world indoor 800 title] and I'm sure he'll bounce back.

"But that's the way it goes with our completely democratic selection system. Sometimes it's not the guys who are in the best shape; sometime it's the guys who get lucky."

Texas Tech's Johnson had lost just one 800 race all year, and O'Connell know all about running in his slipstream. In the NCAA final four weeks ago in Austin, Texas, Johnson prevailed in 1:46.39, and O'Connell was the runner-up (1:46.79).

"I know I can get a lot faster," O'Connell said.

"Just give me a little more time."

In the women's 800, Jearl Miles-Clark earned a trip to her fifth Olympics by winning in 1:59.06, but it was her sister-in-law, Hazel Clark, the third-place finisher, who got the real surprise.

Immediately after the finish, Clark received a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Winston Riley.

NOTE: The arbitration hearing in Regina Jacobs' doping case is scheduled for Sunday, the same day she may be trying to win her 13th national title in the 1,500.

Her lawyer, Edward Williams, said in a phone interview with the Associated Press that the hearing before three arbitrators will begin in the morning and, if necessary, break for the 1,500 final at 8 p.m. (EDT).

If the American Arbitration Association hearing has not been completed by that time, Williams said, it will resume after the race.

The Associated Press contributed to the article.

U.S. track trials

What: U.S. Olympic track and field trials

Where: Sacramento, Calif.

When: Through Sunday

TV: Chs. 11, 4-Saturday, 5 p.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

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