During the past decade, Utah has placed a number of athletes on the U.S. Olympic track and field team - almost all of them distance runners. During the next 10 days, eight athletes with Utah connections will try to make that team again. They will compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials in New Orleans, hoping to claim one of the top three places in their event to qualify for the Summer Games in Barcelona later this summer.

Here is a look at Utah's qualifiers for the Trials and their prospects for making the Olympic team (excluding Ed Eyestone, who has decided to skip the Trials 10,000-meter run - where he would be the fastest entry - to concentrate on the Olympic marathon):DOUG PADILLA (1,500-meter run). He has been a fixture on the U.S. distance running scene for more than a decade, winning 11 indoor and outdoor national championships and both the 1984 and '88 Olympic Trials at 5,000 meters. But, plagued by allergies and fatigue, he has been wildly erratic in recent years and this year has been no exception.

Padilla won another indoor national title last winter, but outdoors this spring he has been at the back of the pack. He has failed in several attempts to meet the Olympic Trials qualifying standard in the 5,000. At the suggestion of a friend, he tried the 1,500 at the Mazda meet last week in Indianapolis and clocked 3:41.29, which qualifies him (barely) for the Trials. Padilla, 35, has a best of 3:37 in the 1,500 and at his best could very well make the team in this event, but his fitness at the moment is suspect. He probably needs another three weeks to reach peak form, but the Trials won't wait.

JASON PYRAH (1,500-meter run). Pyrah, a BYU sophomore who trains with Padilla, arrived this spring, clocking breakthrough times of 3:39.22 and 3:39.44 and finishing fourth in the NCAA meet. A former national high school mile champion, Pyrah is a name to remember for the future and actually has an outside shot of making the Olympic team this time around. Other than Joe Falcon, who has run 3:36.3, no other American has run under 3:38 this spring. There is a crowd of entries in the 3:38-3:39 range.

"I've got about as good a shot as anyone," says Pyrah. "Everyone has run about the same time, and the races will be tactical, at least the first two rounds."

BRAD BARTON (3,000-meter steeplechase). Barton, who was raised in Utah and Idaho, finished his collegiate career at Weber State last year with a third-place finish in the steeplechase at the NCAA championships. He has continued to run well this spring, clocking times of 8:33 and 8:31. His coach, Weber State's Chick Hislop, considered an expert on the steeplechase, believes Barton is a contender.

"I think 8:26 will make the team," says Hislop. "Brad's in the top eight, and so he certainly has a chance."

JULIE JENKINS (800-meter run). After being struck by a van in a New York crosswalk last summer, Jenkins was unable to resume training until three months ago and didn't run her first race until the end of April. Nevertheless, despite continuing health problems, her times have dropped dramatically in five races - 2:09, 2:08, 2:11, 2:05.11, 2:03.15.

"I've come a long way," says Jenkins. "Three months ago I was going to bag the season."

Jenkins, a Plains City native and former national champion for BYU, believes she'll have to run in the 1:58-1:59 range to make the Olympic team. Don't write her off yet. She ranked seventh in the world in 1989, running 1:57.82 - the fourth fastest time ever by an American.

"I'm not in a position to go in (to the Trials) with expectations," she said recently from her home in Faxetteville, Ariz. "I've got to be happy just to be running again."

TRACI STEVENS (high jump). A senior at the University of Utah and a graduate of Granger High, Stevens has cleared 6-1 several times this spring and managed to win her second Western Athletic Conference championship. The WAC record holder indoors and out, her career best is 6-1 7/8; she'll probably need a 6-3 clearance to make the team. "She's probably the most prolific woman high jumper to come out of Utah," says Utah coach Mike Jones.

BRENT PATERA (discus). A BYU senior, he has finished fourth in the last two NCAA meets and has won two WAC championships. He threw a personal record of 197-10 early this spring, and since then has thrown consistently in the 190-foot range. He'll need another big PR to make the team.

KURT BLACK (3,000-meter steeplechase). A junior at Weber State and another in a long line of outstanding Wildcat steeplechasers, he was fourth in the recent NCAA championships. He has run consistently in the 8:38-8:44 range this spring.

"Our goal with Kurt is to get out of first round and get to the semifinals," says Hislop. "He'll need a PR to get to the final."

WES ASHFORD (3,000-meter steeplechase). A former BYU miler who now lives in California, Ashford qualified for the Trials with a time of 8:34.62 last year. He hasn't broken 8:40 this year. He'll need to run the race of his life to make the team.


(Additional information)

Utah's entrants

Wes Ashford 3,000m steeplechase 8:34.62

Brad Barton 3,000m steeplechase 8:31.45

Kurt Black 3,000m steeplechase 8:38.8

Julie Jenkins 800m run 1:57.82

Doug Padilla 1,500m run 3:37.9

Brent Patera Discus 197-10

Jason Pyrah 1,500m run 3:39.22

Traci Stevens high jump 6-1 7/8