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July 21, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The drama is not yet over The drama is not yet over (July 21, 2004)for potential Olympians

While some berths are assured, a handful of local athletes have work to do, need things to fall their way

by Keith Peters

The curtain has come down on the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Sacramento. For Toby Stevenson, Grace Upshaw, Nicole Teter and Kristin Heaston, they have received their applause and taken their bows as members of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.

Stevenson, a Stanford grad, was second in the men's pole vault. Upshaw, a Menlo Park resident, was second in the women's long jump. Teter, a Palo Alto resident, was second in the women's 800 while Heaston, a strength coach at Stanford, was second in the women's shot put.

Not only did all four finish among the top three in their respective events, but all have achieved the Olympic "A" standard. Their trips to the Summer Games in Athens next month are assured.

For other local athletes like Jonathon Riley, Jill Camarena, Grant Robison and Jason Lunn, the drama for them continues on a different stage as they, too, attempt to become Olympians. All need a little help.

"I'm in an interesting position," said Riley, a 2003 Stanford grad who finished second to Tim Broe in the men's 5,000. "For me to qualify, he (Broe) either has to run under 13:21 to get the "A" standard or slower than 13:25 (the B standard), so he gets neither standard."

Riley is the 2004 U.S. leader at 13:21.11 and the only American with the "A" standard (13:21.50). Broe needs to run that by August 9 for he and Riley to go. If Broe runs 13:25.40 or faster for the "B" standard and current "B" runners Louis Luchini and Jorge Torres do not run the "A" standard, then Broe goes to Athens alone as the national champion.

"It's frustrating to get second and not know I'm going to the Olympics," said Riley, who can do nothing at this point but wait. And he is not alone.

Robison, who graduated this spring from Stanford, didn't even run in the finals of the men's 1,500 meters on Sunday before a crowd of 24,323 at the Spanos Sports Complex on the campus of Cal State Sacramento. Still, Robison is eligible to join 1,500 champ Alan Webb on the U.S. roster, since only they possess the Olympic "A" standard of 3:36.20 or faster.

If Trials runnerup Charlie Gruber and third-place finisher Rob Myers do not get the coveted "A" standard by the deadline, Webb and Robison will go to Athens and perhaps will be joined by Lunn, if he gets the qualifying time. Lunn was fifth in Sunday's 1,500 finale in 3:40.81 and seems the best candidate for the No. 3 spot on the U.S. squad.

"Lunn and Gruber are both capable of running it," Robison said of the Olympic standard. If I end up being one of the runners, that's great."

Robison has been bothered by a foot injury since January and failed to defend the NCAA championship he won in 2003. He also failed to advance from the semifinals on Saturday, still shy of being at full strength.

"I've been able to get in some training," Robison told reporters. "Hopefully, I'll be able to get in some races in Europe and get back into it. It was a little frustrating not being in there (for the final). It's part of racing."

For Camarena, her Olympic berth situation is fairly straightforward. All she needs to do is throw 60-10 1/2 or farther in the women's shot put to achieve the "A" standard. The recent Stanford grad put herself in position to make the U.S. team by throwing 58-2 and finishing third last Friday.

"It's back to work on Monday and I'll be looking for more meets," said Camarena, whose season (and career) best is 59-6 3/4. "I think I'm ready to hit the "A" standard. I want to join these girls."

Heaston, who finished second at 59-4 3/4 to Laura Gerraughty's 60-8 1/2, promised to help Camarena obtain her qualifying mark.

"I will go anywhere in the world to help her meet that mark," Heaston promised. "She will get it."

The 28-year-old Heaston knows about traveling around to get a qualifying mark.

"I drove all the way from Alabama to North Carolina and then I got on a plan for California," Heaston said. "I finally hit the 'A' standard at UCLA." Heaston threw 60-10 3/4 at that meet on June 30.

While getting the Olympic standard proved emotional for Heaston, it didn't match what she was feeling after making the U.S. team.

"This is a great moment," said Heaston, who wore the red, white and blue sweatsuit that her dad, Steve Heaston, wore as the assistant coach of the 1988 U.S. men's Olympic water polo team. He died five years ago this month, so Friday night was that much emotional for Kristin.

Family was also the focal point for Upshaw last week as she jumped on to the U.S. team in the women's long jump with a mark of 22-5.

"I just wanted to go to Athens," Upshaw said. "I got the job done. I couldn't be happier."

A large contingent of Upshaw's family was in attendance, including her sister Joy, who had election-sized pins made up with "Amazing Grace" printed on the front.

Upshaw, the 2003 U.S. outdoor champion, posted a mark of 22-2 1/2 on her second jump to move into second place behind champion Marion Jones. Upshaw stretched that out to 22-5 to put the finishing touches on her first Olympic team berth.

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