Trials Start in Portland

Once a year we anticipate what we might get for Christmas. Sometimes we know we will get something special. The anticipation for the 2012 Olympic Trials is over. The athletes say they compete better here, officials have put in hard work, and fans have been waiting for a group of Ducks that have had great success to now be expected to be among the nation's and world's best.

This competition is thick with current and former Ducks. In Portland the hammer throw has Olympic silver medallist Lance Deal insuring it is quality venue and his protege, Britney Henry, is attempting to make the Olympic team. Lucais MacKay trains in Oregon, Michael Mai has been connected to Oregon and Brian Richotte threw his senior year for Lance Deal at Oregon.

Jessica Cosby recently set the American Record at 74.19 meters (243-5) at the Prefontaine Classic (finshed fourth against international competition). Of great interest is the return of one of the best American hammer throwers, Brittany Riley. In 2007 she threw three of the four best all-time throws (best of 72.51m, 237-10). In her return to training after 3 1/2 years off, she has thrown a best of 68.96m, 226-3. Her training mate and fellow Southern Illinois alumnus is Gwen Berry and she is second on the US list at 71.95m, 236-0. Third on the all-time list is Amber Campbell at 72.59m, 238-2 (her pr set last year). She has thrown 71.57m, 234-9 this year.

The first three have made the Olympic "A" qualifying standard (71.50m) and the top nine have surpassed the "B" standard (69.00m). The US Olympic team can take up to three competitors with as many as three "A" qualifiers accepted but can only take one "B" athlete.

The men's Hammer Throw is much more limited. Only two have made the "A" standard (78m) and five have surpassed the "B" standard (74m) but the additional three athletes are almost all more than 2 meters off. Kibwe Johnson had a fantastic season last year and set a pr that moved him to third on the US all-time list (80.31m, 263-6) as he trains under 1972 Olympic Champion Anatoliy Bondarchuk in Canada.

Two-time Olympian AG Kruger (33) is motivated to make his first Olympic Final after he qualifies for his third Olympic Team. He is only six centimeters off his pr with his best throw in years (79.20m, 259-10).

Surprises do show at the biggest moments and there is talent behind the leaders. The most interesting talent is Conor McCullough, in his second full year with the 16 lb ball after winning the 2010 world junior championship and holding the American junior record. He will have to throw 78m (74.01m, 242-9 pr) if he wants to make the Olympic Team like his two-time Irish Olympian father (Conor Sr), and that will require a 13+ foot pr.

The hammer throw at the Beaverton Nike campus will get the meet off to a big start and anything can happen and it usually does.

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