Four Rebels have advanced after another hot day of competition for current and former Ole Miss track & field stars at Day Eight of the U.S. Olympic Trials on Friday.
The professional Rebel duo of Craig Engels and Waleed Suliman navigated a difficult first heat of the 1500-meter semifinal, and both were able to punch their ticket into Sunday’s U.S. final with a trip to Tokyo on the line. Engels wound up with the top qualifying time at 3:38.56, but that was far from assured after getting boxed-in and remaining on the rail at the bell. Engels was still packed in tight with 200 to go, but coming around the final turn and into the last 100 he wove his way through traffic, found a clearing and burst through to take the lead, the heat win and an automatic qualifier spot to Sunday’s final.
“I just went for the win and got it,” Engels said. “I felt good about my position coming off the last turn.”
Suliman, meanwhile, remained on the outside and displayed a gutsy move at the bell, leapfrogging seven spots to take the lead at the 1200 split. He was able to hold onto that lead until the final 200, as the pack kicked as one into the final curve. Even though he missed an AQ spot to the final by three hundredths of a second, his sixth-place time of 3:38.78 was good enough to grab one of two time qualifier positions – giving him a spot in his first U.S. final just one day after signing a professional contract.
Olympian Isiah Young returned to the track on Friday in the first round of the men’s 200-meter dash, his second event of the Trials after advancing to the semifinal of the 100-meter last week. Young used that rest to perfection, clocking a season-best and Olympic standard 20.21 (-0.1) to win the second heat and earn an AQ spot into the semifinal on Saturday. Young’s trip to the Olympics came in the 200-meter dash in 2012.
“(Today) gives me a lot of confidence,” Young said. “I knew coming in my time was slower than last year. Once again, I am just taking it day-by-day and I’m just looking forward for the final.”
Current Rebel senior and All-American jumper Allen Gordon had a career day against the best long jumpers in the United States, securing a spot in his first career U.S. final at a new PR of 7.93m/26-00.25 (+1.3). Gordon recorded that leap on his second attempt of three in the qualifying round, putting him into elite company as one of just four jumpers in Ole Miss history to have leapt 26 feet – now standing alongside Olympian Savante’ Stringfellow (8.47m/27-09.50, 2001), NCAA Champion Ralph Spry (8.17m/26-10.00, 1983), and Kermit Jackson (7.95m/26-01.00, 1985). He was fifth at the time he recorded his PR, but was able to hang onto a coveted top-12 spot after sliding down to 10th following a strong final round of competition.
Also competing on Friday was former Rebel All-American Brian Williams, who was looking to make his second U.S. team in the men’s discus final. Williams, who made Team USA for the 2019 World Championships in Doha, was in strong position early, but ultimately finished fourth at his first-round effort of 62.19m/204-00. To make the team, Williams would have needed to finish top-three and he also would have needed to inch his PR up to the Olympic qualifying standard of 66.00m/216-06 after falling just short of that throughout the season. This was already the fourth U.S. final in five career tries for Williams, who entered the Trials ranked fifth in the highly-competitive United States and 20th in the world in the discus.
Ole Miss now has five remaining chances at punching tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games. On Saturday (June 26), three-time Olympian Brittney Reese will look to make her fourth team in the long jump at 8:30 p.m. CT, while Isiah Young will run in the men’s 200-meter dash semifinal at 9:33 p.m. CT. On Sunday, Gordon will hit the runway in the men’s long jump final at 3:30 p.m. CT, before an electric evening of finals on the track with Engels and Suliman in the men’s 1500-meter at 7:10 p.m. CT and Young the 200-meter dash right after at 7:22 p.m. CT.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports