A busy day for current and former Ole Miss track & field stars yielded some spectacular results for the Rebels, including two tickets to Tokyo and a handful of strong qualifying performances on Day Seven of the U.S. Olympic Trials on Thursday.
Hayward Magic was thick in the air around the shot put ring, as Ole Miss volunteer assistant coach Jessica Ramsey and former Rebel and Olympian Raven Saunders put on a battle for the ages to book passage to the Tokyo Olympic Games. Ramsey was hardly on anyone’s radar, ranking No. 8 on Track & Field News’ pre-meet formchart entering the Trials. It was a similar story for Saunders, who was slotted at No. 6 after becoming the youngest American to ever make the Olympic women’s shot put final in Rio, finishing fifth in 2016 at 20 years old.
The pair – who used to train together in Oxford during Saunders’ Ole Miss career – shredded that formchart in no time. Saunders held the top qualifying throw at 19.16m/62-10.50, with Ramsey right behind her in second at 18.82m/61-09.00. Come evening for the final, it was Ramsey who struck first with an eight-inch PR of 19.45m/63-09.75 in the first round, but Saunders stole the show in the third with an eight-inch career-best of her own at 19.96m/65-06.00 that broke the U.S. Olympic Trials record.
That didn’t last too long, though, as in the fourth round Ramsey uncorked a mammoth two-foot improvement on top of her eight-inch PR from earlier, taking the Trials record and ultimately the U.S. title at a whopping 20.12m/66-00.25. Ramsey’s fourth-round performance on Thursday now makes her the fourth-best American shot putter in history, with Saunders right behind her in fifth. Combined, it stands as the second-best same day pair of throws by Americans since Ramona Pagel recorded tosses of 20.18m/66-02.50 and 20.12m/66-00.25 on the same day on June 25, 1988. On the 2021 world list, they now rank second and third, respectively.
“I was counted out,” Ramsey said. “They had their top people. I was standing back, I’ll be the underdog. I focused on myself because I know how hard I’m working for the goal. I go to practice and I focus.”
“We are always rooting for each other,” Saunders added. “Going out there and being able to have (Ramsey) by my side, Team USA, we are going to make some magic happen. Looking to bring some hardware back to the U.S.”
Ole Miss freshman Jalani Davis wrapped up a stellar first year with the Rebels in the shot put qualifying, finishing 19th at 16.12m/52-10.75. Davis was the SEC runner-up in the shot put, and was one of just two athletes in the nation to triple at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The road to a fourth Olympic berth began tonight for Brittney Reese, who finished with the top mark of the day in the women’s long jump qualifying. The two-time Olympic medalist notched a wind-legal 6.86m/22-06.25 (+1.8) on her first jump, negating the need to even try her final two attempts as she was safely through to Saturday’s final. Reese is looking to join a select club of American women to qualify for the Olympics four times in the long jump. She would potentially be the fourth alongside Willye White (1956, ‘60, ‘64, ‘68, ‘72), Martha Rae Watson (1964, ’68, ’72, ’76) and Jackie Joyner-Kersee (1984, ‘88, ‘92, ’96).
It was an exciting day for Rebel All-American Waleed Suliman, who less than an hour before his race in the men’s 1500-meter announced he was forgoing his final year of eligibility and had signed a professional contract. Suliman did not disappoint in his debut, using his well-known racing acumen to earn an automatic spot into Friday’s semifinal. Suliman stuck to the hip of NCAA Champion Cole Hocker of Oregon, taking second in the heat at 3:39.92.
Fellow Rebel great and reigning world 1500-meter finalist Craig Engels was right behind him, earning an AQ spot to the semifinal himself at 3:40.03. Fellow Rebel and All-American Robert Domanic, who was a late addition into the Trials, ran in that same heat as well and finished 19th overall at 3:42.85, falling just short of the semifinal as the first one out of a time qualifier spot.
All-American thrower Brian Williams was down to crunch time in the men’s discus qualifying, but with his back against the wall he let one sail 61.07m/200-04 on his third attempt of Flight One, putting himself into contention for the final. After the completion of the second flight, Williams wound up safely into tomorrow’s final in fifth place.
Also competing on Thursday were NCAA runner-up Shey Taiwo and All-American Jasmine Mitchell in the women’s hammer. Taiwo fell less than two feet shy of the final in 14th place at 66.36m/217-08, while Mitchell took 22nd place at 62.50m/205-01.
Competition resumes for Ole Miss at the U.S. Olympic Trials on Friday beginning at 3:30 p.m. CT with Allen Gordon in the men’s long jump qualifying. For a full meet schedule and event previews, read our in-depth look at the Olympic Trials HERE.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports