One of the benefits of taking a vacation in Eugene, Oregon at this time of year was being able to watch some of the Olympic track and field trials. Eugene is called “Track Town USA” and for good reason. With top notch facilities and an enthusiastic crowd, the conditions were right for some outstanding performances. And despite some rainy weather, that’s exactly what happened. It was special for me to watch the trials because it reminded me so much of NFL playoffs. The athletes put so much work into their preparation and it often comes down to one performance, do-or-die, to make the team. And so often this past week, those athletes came up with personal-best performances at the crucial time.
Some were especially gratifying to me. I met Ashton Eaton last summer here. He is a really talented athlete who had been world class in the decathlon for several years but was looking forward to making his first Olympic team. We talked a little bit about training hard but relaxing and having confidence God would allow you to do your best. Ashton did that in setting a world record before his home crowd. Allyson Felix is one of the premier women’s sprinters in the world. I got to meet her parents before the qualifying heats and my daughter Jade really looks up to Allyson because of her strong Christian beliefs. Allyson won the 200 and set a meet record on the next to last day.
I had the privilege of presenting the medals to the 110 meter hurdles winners. It was a great race–in fact the fastest hurdles race ever from 1-7. Aries Merritt ran a personal best to win but the real thrill for me was being in the awards tent with gold medalists Roger Kingdom, Carl Lewis, Dan O’Brien and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I was able to take a picture with Roger and Carl but missed my chance with Jackie. We were about to take it when the women’s 200 started and we all got caught up watching Allyson run.
With all that happened maybe the most impressive to me was 36 yr old Amy Acuff clearing 6’4″ in the women’s high jump to make her FIFTH Olympic team. All in all it was a wonderful week with so many outstanding performances. We are going to have a great track and field team representing us in London.