EUGENE, Ore. — With water ponding on the track and the finish line in plain sight, 10,000-meter runner Galen Rupp waved to the crowd, smiled and stuck out his tongue.
Catching a bit of rain. And soon, he’ll be catching a plane to London.
“I wasn’t worried about it at all,” said Rupp, who often has to wear a mask when he runs to keep his allergies from acting up. “I’m from Oregon. I love running in this weather. It’s good for my allergies. I was excited to see it was really raining.”
His was the most impressive performance on opening day in rainy Eugene, save possibly for the effort decathlete Ashton Eaton put in. With Bruce Jenner watching from the stands, Eaton made it through the first five events on pace to break a 20-year-old American record held by Dan O'Brien.
Later, in the women’s 10K, Amy Hastings won in 31 minutes, 58.36 seconds to get the Olympic spot denied her when she finished fourth by 1:11 at the marathon trials earlier this year in Houston.
“Coming across the finish line today, it was night and day different,” Hastings said. “It was heartbreaking in Houston. I can’t even believe it right now.”
While the long-distance runners and decathletes were grinding, the sprinters used Day 1 to warm up — not a bad idea considering the wet chill that gripped Hayward Field all day long, leaving puddles on the track and turning parts of the infield mushy.
“Other than it messing up my hair, it’s OK,” Richards-Ross said after running her first 400-meter qualifier in 51.69 seconds.
Merritt, the defending Olympic champion at 400 meters, took to the rain-slickened track, sidestepped a runner who slipped and fell in the lane next to him and finished in 45.36 seconds, the best time in the men’s heats.
“I saw him and I had to do a little step more toward the inside of my lane, where I should’ve been in the first place,” Merritt said.
Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 Olympic champion, also advanced to the semifinals, though his race wasn’t quite such a breeze. He finished third in his heat in a time of 45.84.
“Just clearing the cobwebs out,” Wariner said. “I worked my turn pretty well. I saved a lot for the homestretch.”
David Neville, the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, finished last in his heat and won’t go to London unless he is chosen for the relay team.