Allyson Felix ran a lifetime-best 21.69 seconds in the 200-meter final on a rain-soaked track Saturday night in the U.S. Olympic trials. She easily pulled away, no signs of the stress from the last week weighing her down.
Still to be determined is whether she’ll be competing in the 100 after finishing in a third-place tie with training partner Jeneba Tarmoh last Saturday. They might have a runoff — a winner-take-all race — or flip a coin to decide the final spot in the London Games.
Another option is Felix simply surrendering her spot to Tarmoh, because she’s already going in the 200 and Tarmoh isn’t after finishing a distant fifth. Elyria’s Tianna Madison, who earned an Olympic berth in the 100 earlier in the week, finished sixth behind Tarmoh and will not compete in the 200.
A resolution is likely to come today.
For the moment, the Felix had the stage all to herself.
Wearing neon yellow compression sleeves on her legs, Felix was easy to spot as she settled into the blocks. She was even easier to detect once she flew off the starting line, jumping out to a commanding lead. Felix smiled as she crossed the finish line, then clapped her hands, before raising them high over her head.
Whew. She was in.
“I knew she was going to be fast,” her coach, Bobby Kersee said. “But I didn’t know she was going to roll out like this. That was very, very impressive.”
Carmelita Jeter finished 0.42 seconds behind and Sanya Richards-Ross even farther back in third to round out the London-bound team. No matter, it’s still a double for both of them as Jeter won the 100 and Richards-Ross captured the 400.
“My coach really didn’t want me to run, because I caught a little cramp after the100,” Jeter said. “I’m sure everybody is a little relaxed now.”
Kersee told The Associated Press that in the morning he and his athletes will sit down for breakfast and reach a decision.
Felix’s run was one for the ages as she turned in the fourth-fastest time ever by an American and best since Marion Jones nearly 14 years. The late Florence Griffith-Joyner had the two other, including the world record of 21.34.
“I just tried to keep digging and keep going,” Felix said. “It’s all a blur now.”
She was every bit a blur on the track — unlike the decision process for the 100.
In a race that’s usually over in 11 seconds, the outcome has lingered on for more than 168 hours.
It’s become the cloud over the trials — even more than the constant rain — because USA Track and Field had no protocol in place to deal with this sort of dead heat. USATF officials quickly scrambled to adopt a tiebreaking procedure.
The organization has been criticized for not having something in place long before the trials.
Every other sport has some sort of carefully worked-out plan. In swimming, there’s swim-offs to break a deadlock.
After six taxing rounds, Felix and Tarmoh will now turn their attention to breaking this tie. They have until the end of trials Sunday to officially make a decision, but there may be some wiggle room. The United States Olympic Committee doesn’t officially need the list of names for the squad until Tuesday.
That’s why Kersee, has been pushing for a Tuesday runoff race, if that’s how Felix and Tarmoh want to settle things.
This way, when they step back on the track, they’ll at least have fresh legs.
As it is, both are eligible to be selected to the Olympic 400 relay team.
The magnitude of the controversy has spread far beyond traditional sports circles, with the topic being discussed on “CNN” and even National Public Radio.
Former sprinter Jon Drummond thinks the attention is fantastic.
“You’ve got two great athletes at the Olympic trials, dead-heated, both pictures showing the same thing and now you have to decide a selection?” said Drummond, who coaches the men’s and women’s relay teams. “This is like a reality show you couldn’t script. This is great for TV, made for TV.”
Especially if they decide to participate in a runoff. Drummond would.
“I’m a junkyard dog. We’re going to the line,” he said.
Because of all the attention, these two sprinters will forever have a place in track lore. Felix is a familiar name to even average track fans. She’s one of the faces of track, the one trotted out on a routine basis to promote the sport.
She’s happy to do just that.
On the track, she’s even more graceful. Felix runs so effortlessly — her head hardly moving and her hands in perfect rhythm.
She’s more of a 200-meter specialist, winning silver medals in the last two Olympics. She wants gold, though, and her entire training routine is built around making that happen.
“I’ve had eight years to think about being a silver medalist. This time I want to win,” she recently said in an interview.
Fans are quickly learning about the 22-year-old Tarmoh, who burst on the scene last season when she finished third in the 200 at U.S. championships to earn a spot on the team bound for South Korea.
“We have a great relationship and I’m so proud of her,” Felix said. “She came out of college and I really wanted her to come and train with us.