EUGENE, Ore. – With water pounding 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.
Running in the pouring rain Friday, Rupp still set an Olympic trials record, finishing in 27 minutes, 25.33 seconds to make his second Olympics.
His was the most impressive performance on opening day in rainy Eugene, save possibly for the effort decathlete Ashton Eaton put in. Eaton made it through the first five events on pace to break a 20-year-old American record held by Dan O’Brien.
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.
Sanya Richards-Ross, LaShawn Merritt, Allyson Felix and Carmelita Jeter all made it through their opening heats with minimal problems.
Merritt, the defending Olympic champion in the 400, took to the rain-slickened track, sidestepped a runner who slipped and fell in the lane next to him and finished in 45.36, the best time in the men’s heats.
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.”
In the women’s 100 hurdles, Dawn Harper, the defending Olympic champion, won her heat in 12.79 – a victory she earned even though she didn’t have the ideal, track-grabbing spikes in her shoes.
“I actually change spikes” when it rains, she said. “Usually, the pointier ones grab the track. It was on my mind out there because I had the older ones in.”
Jones also qualified, finishing third in her heat for the last automatic qualifying spot after running 13.01.
Meet organizers scrubbed women’s pole vault preliminaries, meaning all 29 athletes, including 2008 Olympic silver medalist Jenn Suhr, will move to finals Sunday.
In the decathlon, Eaton was ahead of a world-record pace for two events. His shot put throw of 46 feet, 7 3/4 inches slowed him down, but he still ended the day with 4,728 points – 322 ahead of Trey Hardee and 17 ahead of the pace O’Brien’s was on when he set the record of 8891.
Washington State Cougars graduate Joe Abbott finished fourth in his heat in the men’s 800 and failed to qualify for the finals. He finished in 1:48.16.