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What was the crowd favorite of the day?
Ashton! Ashton! Ashton! If there ever was a chant reminiscent of Pre! Pre! Pre!, it would be for the defending trials champion Ashton Eaton in the decathlon. The final four of the 10 disciplines in the event happened today—Note: decathletes place based on points scored between 10 events on the track and on the field—and it was clear that Hayward Field and the Fan Festival were filled with Eaton fans. The Oregon native inspired rhymic claps and ominous “OOOHHHH!” reactions with every move; these reactions are a staple at Hayward Field no matter the athlete, but they definitely were louder for Eaton. And of course, when he won the decathlon after finishing fourth in the 1,500 meters, the stands were bellowing with cheers.
What were some of the other cool moments on the field?
Well the women’s high jump final! Spectators cheered loudly for the women competing for that spot to Rio. Perhaps it was the athlete’s ability to leap up and over a rising bar that was thrilling, or maybe it’s the way they can seem to contort their body in order to snake over with barely a centimeter between them and the horizontal bar. It’s an event that seems unattainable; anyone can run laps, not everyone can curl over a bar that rises as high as 6 feet, 7 inches.
We saw on Twitter that the 100 meters and 400 meters were tonight. How did the women fare? Did Allyson grab her first ticket to Rio?
She did, along with a world best mark this year in the 400 meters! The crowd always goes wild for short sprint races since they are often separated by fractions of a second. Phyllis Francis and Natasha Hastings finished second and third, and perhaps the highlight of this writer’s day was when Francis yelled: “OMG! I have that same phone case!” as she walked by.
Before her victory lap, Felix praised the fans. “I was saying, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ thank you for everyone in the stands, for cheering us on.” She’s been a bit banged up up until this point, so people were screaming in support of the veteran runner, as she punched her first of hopefully two tickets to Rio to go for the 200/400 double.
And the 100 meters? Those women are FAST!
Oh, and they were even faster today! The top-5 women in the finals broke 11 seconds, with English Gardner, favorite and University of Oregon alumni, winning it with .04-second breathing room. Incredible!
What’s it like sitting up top in press row for all of this action?
You meet a lot of really enthusiastic track fans, many of whom created their media career out of a lifelong passion for running and track and field. My spot is next to Trackerati, which Mark Cullen started out of a passion for the sport. Fun fact: He started coaching Oiselle’s Sally Bergesen’s husband when he was in seventh grade, so he’s definitely cheering hard for birds flying to Rio! (They sent Maria Michta-Coffey in the 20K walk, their first Olympian, already!) You also overhear conversations between old-time fans that have been coming to Hayward for years, they saw Pre’s magic first-hand, and they are real, true lovers of the sport. It’s incredible.
What is something that seems to be part of the “magic” of Hayward Field?
People clap as athletes get set to take off on field events. Nothing special, right? The thing that is so serendipitous about the clapping is it starts with a slow build, then gets quicker and louder without the clappers knowing when the athlete will actually run down the long jump runway or toward the pole vault field or curve toward the high-jump bar. But every single time, the sped-up clap is synonymous with the athlete starting to gain momentum and really take off. Does the clapping fire them up and signal them to go, or is it just a beautiful coincidence?