Posted on March 20, 2020
hough sports at all levels are currently on a hiatus of uncertain duration due to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, there is one major international event that remains on the schedule: The Summer Olympic Games. As of March 18, the International Olympic Committee and the Local Organizing Committee are insisting that the Games, scheduled for July 24 to August 9 in Tokyo, Japan, will not be postponed or cancelled.
The U.S. Olympic Trials for Track and Field are still on as well, according to Tracktown USA, the local organizing group. The Trials will be held at Hayward Field—completely rebuilt at the estimated cost of $160 million—on the University of Oregon campus from June 19-28.
While it is far from certain that the Games and the Trials will take place as scheduled, Pac-12 track and field fans are hopeful they will get the opportunity to see the biggest meets of the year.
Here’s an early assessment of the Pac-12 athletes who have a shot to make the U.S. team going to Tokyo. We’ll focus on the men in this column and turn the spotlight onto the women in the next one.
(Note: These projections are limited to athletes who competed in outdoor track and field for a Pac-12 school in the 2019 season, even if they completed their collegiate eligibility last year.)
Harrison Williams — Decathlon
Williams is a near-lock to make the US team in the decathlon. He had an outstanding 2019 season, which saw him take second at the NCAA Championships in June and then make the World Championship team by placing third at the U.S. Track & Field Outdoor Championships in July.
Track & Field News ranked Williams second in his event in 2019, the highest ranking for any Pac-12 athlete. If Williams can surpass or get close to his PR of 8,188 points from 2019 he should place top three at the Trials.
The only glitch might be if he does not reach the Olympic Games qualifying standard of 8,350 points. However, the qualifying standards may be revised downward since the first part of the 2020 season has been curtailed, leaving athletes with no opportunities to compete.
Cravon Gillespie — 100 and 200 meter sprints
Earnie Sears — High Jump
His best mark is less than two inches from the best mark recorded by an American last year (7-7 by Shelby McEwen of Alabama). Two other Pac-12 high jumpers can be mentioned as contenders as well: Justice Summerset, an Arizona senior, and Sean Lee, a UCLA sophomore. Summerset brings a best of 7-4½ into the season while Lee recorded a best of 7-3 in his freshman year.
Isaiah Jewett — 800 Meters
The 800 is a loaded event for the U.S., with Donavan Brazier topping the world list in 2019 and two more athletes—Bryce Hoppel and Clayton Murphy—also cracking the Top 10 world list. That puts Jewett in the long shot category to make the team. But upsets happen frequently at the Trials, and Jewett’s steady improvement has been impressive.
Jewett won the Pac-12 800 and placed fifth at the U.S. Championships. His best time of 1:46.11 was only tied for 10th-best in 2019 national rankings, but miracles happen occasionally—can you say “Andrew Wheating?”
Jordan Geist — Shot Put
Geist was a beast at the Pac-12s last season. His winning throw of 69-2 eclipsed the second place mark by nearly three feet. And that wasn’t even his best throw of the season—Geist’s 70-10 was the sixth-best mark among U.S. throwers.
Any underclassman who surpasses 70 feet is going to get plenty of attention—Geist and Payton Otterdahl of North Dakota State both accomplished that in 2019. While definitely a star of the future, Geist’s chances to make the Olympic team this year are not great; keep an eye on him nevertheless.
Elijah Mason — Discus Throw
The discus competition at the 2019 Pac-12 meet was close and intense. Freshman Mason won it on his last throw—his 189-6 was nine inches better than UCLA’s Dotun Ogundeji’s mark and the top four were separated by just three feet. Mason’s PR of 198-11 is a few feet short of the 2019 U.S. Top 10 list, but given his youth and the poise he showed at Pac-12s, one has to at least give him longshot-status.
Brock Eager — Hammer Throw
Pac-12 hammer champ Eager had the 10th-best mark in the U.S. in 2019 at 235-11. That puts him about 15-feet, 20-inches short of the top hammer throwers in the U.S., so, like Mason and Geist, his Olympic dreams may be more suited to 2024 or 2028 than this year.
Cameron Samuel — 400 Hurdles
Samuel’s winning time of 49.09 at the Pac-12s, along with his sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, were enough to squeeze him into Track & Field News‘ Top 10 list of hurdlers for last season in 10th place. He probably needs more seasoning to survive the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the Trials, but the potential is clearly there.
—Recent Steve Ritchie Stories—
- Ritchie Mailbag: Ex-Duck Coaches Turning Dawgs into Distance Powerhouse
- Ritchie: History of Pac-12 Track & Field Championships
- Pac-12 Track & Field GOAT Series Wrap-Up
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part 6
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part 5
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part 4
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part 3
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part 2
- Greatest Pac-12 Track & Field Athletes of All Time: Part I
Ritchie Mailbag: Ex-Duck Coaches Turning Dawgs into Distance PowerhousePlus questions about "pop-up" meets, Olympic training schedules, and more - August 3, 2020
Ritchie: History of Pac-12 Track & Field ChampionshipsA brief overview of men's and women's Conference titles - May 17, 2020
Pac-12 Track & Field GOAT Series Wrap-UpA round up of the GOAT. and Honorable Mention choices in a six-part series - May 12, 2020