Courtney Wayment, the BYU collegiate champion from Kaysville, ran the race of her life in the finals of the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials Thursday night in Eugene, Oregon, but it wasn’t enough. The top three finishers qualify to represent the U.S. in the Olympic Games; Wayment was fourth.
Facing the immense do-or-die pressure of the Olympic trials for the first time, she didn’t wilt under the challenge and ran a smart, courageous race. It took world champion and Olympic medalist Emma Coburn and world silver medalist Courtney Frerichs to beat her, as well as 25-year-old professional Val Constien.
At the outset of the week, Wayment’s best time was 9:31.37, which made her the fifth fastest collegian of all time. In the first round of the Olympic trials last Sunday, she clocked 9:27.17 more than three seconds under her previous best. In Thursday’s finals she clocked 9:23.09, hacking another four seconds off her best time.
That time makes her the ninth fastest American in history.
Coburn was timed in 9:09.41, Frerichs 9:11.79, Constien 9:18.34. With two laps to go, Leah Falland was running stride for stride with Coburn and Frerichs as they gapped the field and appeared to have a sure spot on the Olympic team, but she fell and finished ninth.
For Wayment, the race was the exclamation point on a brilliant season. She hadn’t run a steeplechase race for four years when she entered the event on April 30 and set a school record. Given the fact that she struggles with the water jump and is relatively new to the event, she appears capable of running much faster and is bound to be a future American star. Her showing in the Olympic trials was a big comeback after her disappointing fourth-place finish in the NCAA championships, a race in which she nearly fell coming off the final water jump.
Meanwhile, Grayson Murphy, a former University of Utah All-American from West High, finished sixth in the steeplechase with a time of 9:25.55. Weber State’s Summer Allen, an Orem native, was 11th in 9:40.22.
The steeplechase was the lone final event held on the track Thursday. The rest of the competition consisted of first-round trials.
Talem Franco, a senior at BYU who grew up in Heber, advanced to the semifinals of the 1500-meter run based on time, as did former Utah State star Dillon Maggard. Twenty-nine athletes ran in the first round; only four of them were eliminated. Franco finished seventh in his heat — the top six automatically advanced — and 15th overall with a time of 3:40.58. Maggard was ninth in the same heat, 17th overall, with a time of 4:40.93.
Abraham Alvarado, a former BYU runner, finished 29th overall in 3:49.88 and did not advance.
BYU teammates Casey Clinger and Conner Mantz qualified for the final of the 5,000-meter run. With a lap to go in their first-round heat they were running with the lead pack, but faded to eight- and ninth-place, respectively, after a mass sprint down the final homestretch. They qualified for the finals on the basis of time — 13:39.27 and 13:39.31.
BYU teammates Lauren Ellsworth and Claire Seymour did not advance out of the first round of the 800-meter run. Ellsworth was seventh in the fourth heat, 28th overall, with a time of 2:05.59; Seymour was seventh in the third heat, 30th overall, with a time of 2:06.67.
BYU’s Colten Yardley, a senior from Syracuse, was running with the leaders coming off the final turn of the 400-meter hurdles, but he caught his foot on the penultimate hurdle and could not regain his momentum. He finished sixth in his heat, 23rd overall, with a time of 52.32.