Jim Bush Championships become Olympic trials tune-up

NORWALK, CA-Tyson Gay handled his business in the men’s 200 meters. Allyson Felix looked relaxed and poised in taking the women’s 400. LeKeisha Lawson claimed the women’s 100 and 200 with a dominant performance. Lelonde Gordon made it a breeze in the men’s 400. Raquel Lamdin came on strong to win the women’s 800-meter race.

Some of track and field’s biggest names, and some not so big, all competed at Cerritos College on Saturday, June 4, for one or two things: qualify for the right to have an opportunity to make the Team USA squad or improve on past performances.

With the Olympic Track and Field Trials taking place a few weeks away in Eugene, Oregon, and just a shade more than a month from the 2016 Rio Olympics, staying sharp or meeting the qualifying standards was on the minds of most athletes competing in the USATF Southern California-sponsored So Cal Jim Bush Championships meet.

LeKeisha Lawson glides to the win the women's 100 meters with a time of 11.11 seconds. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
LeKeisha Lawson glides to the win the women’s 100 meters with a time of 11.11 seconds. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

For Felix, the 2015 world champion in the 400 meters, and a three-time Olympics relay gold-medalist, this meet was more or less about rounding into shape as the trials near. Felix outlasted the field in the 400 to clock a meet-leading time of 50.5 seconds.

“I felt OK,” Felix said. “Just getting back into it, trying to get a race under my belt and see where I’m at. Today, [I] was just trying to run a controlled race, and really more just getting back the feeling of racing.”

Coming off a recent ankle injury, Felix will be attempting to do at this year’s Olympics what Michael Johnson pulled off in 1996: win a gold medal in the 200 and 400, a definite stern test. But if there is anyone who can duplicate what Johnson accomplished in the Atlanta Summer Games, it is the mercurial Felix, without doubt America’s best overall female sprinter over the last decade.

Felix talked briefly about stepping out of her normal 100 and 200 comfort zone in meeting that challenge.

“After last year, I felt so encouraged in the 400. I’ve been blessed to run the 200 in the last three Olympics, so it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and test myself,” Felix said. “It’s a huge challenge, especially with the setback that I had, so [I’m] just focusing and trying to making the team.”

Tyson Gay wins the men's 200 meters in a time of 20.2 at the So Cal Jim Bush Championships. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Tyson Gay wins the men’s 200 meters in a time of 20.2 at the So Cal Jim Bush Championships. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

The So Cal Jim Bush Championships is one of the last Olympic trials qualifying track and field meets of the 2016 track and field season, so you had athletes either trying to improve their times or simply competing for consistency sake leading up to the Olympic trials.

Some of those entrants will also be competing in the 2016 San Diego/Imperial County USATF Association Championships, the absolute last track and field meet held to meet qualifying standards.

You might say that the Olympic dream is still alive and well. The aspirations of being showcased on the world’s biggest sports and humanitarian showcase is just as alive today as it was when Jesse Owens took home four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics.

The Olympic pulse is still beating with just as much of a rush as it did when Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field when the Tennessee State Tigerbelle legend pulled off the trifecta coup in 1960.

Somebody, somewhere, are having those same aspirations. Lawson, a former Victor Valley High School and ex-UNLV star, is certainly one of those individuals with the dream of making Team USA. During the USATF Outdoor Championships in 2015, Lawson made it to the semifinals in the women’s 100 meters.

So in preparing for the Olympic trials, Lawson is trying to stay as sharp as possible by entering in as many meets as she can.

Virginia Crawford heads home in the women's 100 meters. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Virginia Crawford heads home in the women’s 100 meters. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

She looked pretty sharp in the 100, coming across the finish line in 11.11 seconds, a slight .o5 off her personal-best time of 11.06. Lawson also recorded a 22.98 in the 200, tied for the meet best. In the 100, Lawson got a good push out of the blocks and cruised to victory with the meet’s fastest time.

“I just wanted to come down here and execute a good race because that’s what we’ve been working on in practice,” Lawson said. “I struggled with it a little bit during the season, but it felt good to finally actually do it. So I’m happy.”

Lawson is a little bit more ecstatic about the chance to keep running as long as she can. Lawson, nor her coach are interested in her staying down and coming out rusty at the Olympic trials.

“You don’t want to go in under-raced…I want to get in as many races as possible,” Lawson said.

Hurdler Virginia Crawford have that same thought process. To Crawford, who claimed the USA Outdoor championship twice (2006, 2007) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles, the more track and field meets she can participate in, the better it is for her.

In coming in with the top time (12.83) of the day in the short hurdles race, Crawford is just working on getting a consistent groove leading up to the trials.

“I just needed to get a race in,” Crawford said. “Me and my coach, we just talked about training and racing locally, so that I didn’t have to travel far to Europe or somewhere else. Every time you travel, it kind of takes away days of training. So I’m trying to get as many training days in and racing.”

In 2012, Crawford came within an eyelash of making it to the Olympics, finishing fourth in the 100 meter hurdles with a time of 12.9. Lolo Jones edged Crawford out of the third and final spot with a 12.86 clocking. That defeat was a tough pill to swallow for Crawford.

“It was such a close race for me. It was a hurtful defeat,” Crawford said. “This one would mean the world to me.”

But sometimes good things come to those who wait. In the last four years, Crawford has been working to achieve her ultimate goal: competing in the 2016 Olympics.

“My ultimate goal is to make the team,” said Crawford. ” I want to run fast times, for sure at the trials. But if I ran slow as hell and still made the team, then I’m fine with it. My goal is to make the Olympic team.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1057 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.