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Triumph and Heartbreak at Olympic Trials

 

It’s been another busy week for the Longhorns as the Olympic trials began to wrap up across the world. Texas track and field stars Leonel Manzano, Sanya Richards-Ross, and Michelle Carter all claimed spots on the U.S. team at trials in rainy Eugene, Ore., while the group of UT swimmers found success and disappointment at the swimming trials in Omaha, Neb.

Richards-Ross secured her spot in London last week by winning the women’s 400-meter dash, but she wasn’t done there. she competed this week in the 200m event and stepped up to finish with a time of 22.22 seconds.

Though the 400 is still her best chance at the gold, that performance earned her third place and another spot on the U.S. team. This is the first time Richards-Ross has qualified for two events in the Olympics, and she will be on the same team as other U.S. stars like Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter.

Manzano, who competed for the U.S. in Beijing, became the only Longhorn ever to qualify for the 1500-meter dash in the Olympics after finishing first with a time of 3 minutes, 35.75 seconds. His finals time was six seconds better than his semifinal time, but the first place finish didn’t come easily. In third place rounding the final 200, Manzano kicked it up a notch and caught the two runners in front of him.

UT is more than just speed, however, as Michelle Carter showed over the weekend. Finishing second in the shot put with a distance of 60-11 1/4, Carter was named to her second Olympic team, as well. She never fell out of the top three during the competition.

The final results out of Eugene left no major surprises, but junior Shanay Briscoe almost caused an upset. Needing to place in the top three to be drafted onto the high jump team, Briscoe posted a career-high 6-3 1/2 jump, coming up just short with fourth place. While Briscoe’s performance didn’t make this year’s cut, she looks as though she will be a force in the high jump for years to come.

While things went relatively smoothly for the Longhorns in Eugene, the swimming trials in Omaha were a different story. Most notably, Garrett Weber-Gale, who won two gold medals in the Beijing games, failed to qualify for the Olympic team in both the 50 and the 100 freestyle.

Because of his recent history, Weber-Gale had been considered a heavy favorite to make the team going into the trials. Two poor showings, however, left the former Olympian looking for answers and Longhorn fans as heartbroken as the day Matthew McConaughey tied the knot.

Another Longhorn, Austin Surhoff, just missed the cut for the team with  a  fourth place finish in the 200 freestyle. Pitted against American heavyweights Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, Surhoff had an uphill battle from the sound of the gun and still almost made the team.

All was not lost in Omaha, however. Beijing relay gold-medalist Ricky Berens will be swimming for the U.S.  in his second Olympics in the 400 and 800 relays after a strong showing across the board this weekend. Kathleen Hersey finished second with a time of 2 minutes 7.72 seconds in the women’s 200 butterfly. After just missing out the team for the 100 butterfly, the second place finish in the 200 afforded Hersey her second chance at Olympic gold. She finished eighth in the 200 in Beijing. Swimmer Jimmy Feigen will compete on the 400 freestyle relay team after finishing fifth in both the 50 and the 100 freestyle.

Longhorns, of course, aren’t contained to the U.S. Olympic trials. Christy Udoh will be competing in the women’s 200-meter dash, Melanie Walker qualified for the women’s 400 hurdles, and Christian Schurr will be swimming in the men’s 200 breaststroke for Nigeria, Jamaica, and Mexico, respectively.

Top, Kathleen Hersey; Middle Leonel Manzano; Bottom, Ricky Berens. Archival photos courtesy UT Athletics.

 

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