- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2004

Time is running out to qualify for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials.

Those athletes who have not yet qualified for the trials or have provisional times know the deadline: July1, Thursday.

Some runners with area ties already have qualified for the trials, in Sacramento, Calif., July9-18. Former prep stars Ricky Harris (Centreville), Alan Webb (Reston), Allen Johnson (Burke), Tiombe Hurd (Upper Marlboro) and Suziann Reid (Greenbelt) are entered, as are former Georgetown star Bryan Woodward and current George Mason University athlete Alyce Williams.

Williams is on the cusp with a provisional “B” mark in the triple jump and a 25th ranking in a field limited to the top 24 in the nation.

Qualifying began Jan.1, 2003. Athletes still chasing qualifying efforts as of yesterday were George Mason coach Alisa Harvey and one of her athletes, Sheena Davidson. Harvey recently ran 2:05.10 for the 800 meters but needs a 2:04.90. Davidson has gone as fast as 53.09 for the 400 meters but must get down to 52.50.

Qualifying standards are confusing. There is one set to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials and another set for the Olympic Games.

Besides trying to keep the fields competitive and selective, the U.S. trials have a limited number of entries per event because a track can safely accommodate a certain number of athletes. Sprints can handle 32-runner fields. Because of the number of heats — qualifying, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals — distance events typically have fields of no more than 24.

The field events could be contested for days if there were dozens and dozens of athletes each having up to five chances to jump, throw or vault.

As for the U.S. trials, athletes who make the “A” standard will be included in their event automatically. Athletes who attain the “B” standard will be included in the event only if additional competitors are needed to fill the stated field size.

But athletes who place in the top four at the trials must have an Olympic qualifying time. Athletes without the Olympic “A” or “B” standard will have until Aug.9 to meet one to gain entry to the Big Show.

The trials will be on television throughout the competition. NBC will broadcast from 11 p.m. to midnight on July 10; from 10 to 11 p.m. on July11; 8 to 9 p.m. July 17; and 10 p.m. to midnight July 18. USA Cable will cover the Games on weeknights.

Webb on a roll — Alan Webb is finally back on track. After floundering for three years since his senior year at South Lakes High School, when he rewrote the national prep record book, Webb suddenly is on fire.

By laying down some sound strength training during the past six months, the 21-year-old Fairfax resident silenced the critics May22 by easily beating a competitive field in the men’s 1,500 meters (3 minutes, 35.71 seconds) at the Home Depot Track & Field Invitational in Carson, Calif.

His confidence continued to build when he ran a then world-leading 3:32.73 in the 1,500 on June8 in Ostrava, Czech Republic, against another stellar field.

And last weekend in Oregon, he lit up the crowd at the same meet where he broke Jim Ryun’s national prep mile record with a 3:53 in 2001. He torched the competition last week with a winning 3:50.85 at the Prefontaine Classic, becoming the fastest American 1,500-meter runner on U.S. soil and bettering his time last year by more than seven seconds.

That is a huge improvement very quickly, leading some critics to ponder whether drugs are involved. That’s doubtful if you consider Webb’s integrity and intelligence.

A better reason is Webb is going back to the strength training he did as a middle schooler, which laid the groundwork for his 3:53 high school time. And it is working.

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