The curtain falls today at Olympic Trials | NevadaAppeal.com

The curtain falls today at Olympic Trials

SACRAMENTO – The curtain is going to drop today at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

A sellout crowd of 26,300 is expected to turn out at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium, in addition to a television audience viewing on NBC, and there figure to be some outstanding events.

Among the most anticipated events may well be a star-studded men’s 200 in the day’s next-to-last race.

Shawn Crawford ran a world-best 19.88 in Friday’s opening round and was impressive in winning his quarterfinal and semifinal heats Saturday with respective times of 20.09 and 20.0.

“I’m blessed just to get there,” Crawford said. “There are a lot of other guys who weren’t able to make it, but I’m blessed to be there and I’m going to run my best.”

Justin Gatlin and NCAA champion Tyson Gray posted impressive marks of 20.06 and 20.07 respectively in qualifying on Friday. Gatlin also ran 20.09 in the quarterfinals and seemed to just cruise to a 20.50 for second-place in his heat of the semifinals.

So, how fast will the final be?

“Fast race and it’s going to be a 19,” Gatlin said after signing autographs and posing for photographs with fans. “I don’t know who else will be there, but I am going to try and run 19.”

In the first event of the afternoon, all eyes will be on defending Olympic champion Stacy Dragila in the women’s pole vault. Dragila will be a threat to reach 16 feet and perhaps reclaim the world record during competition against a field that includes former Reed High School star and NCAA champion Becky Holliday.

Alan Webb, who might be the best-known American miler since Jim Ryun more than 30 years ago (he broke Ryun’s long-standing national high school mile record when he ran 3:53.43 in 2001), is regarded as the man to beat in the finals of the men’s 1,500 meters. But Webb will be tested by a field that includes Sacramento favorite Michael Stember (Jesuit High and Stanford), who edged Webb to win in the semifinals on Friday night.

Within a span of 12 minutes, the women’s 100-meter hurdles and men’s 110 highs will showcase Olympic champions Gail Devers and Allen Johnson.

Johnson won Olympic gold in 1996 but then sustained a hamstring injury and placed fourth in 2000. Since then, Johnson has been ranked No. 1 in the world each of the last three years and has posted five of the seven fastest times in the world in 2004.

Devers, 37, is bidding to qualify for her fifth Olympics. She has won two Olympic gold medals in the 100 meters, but has never won an Olympic medal in the hurdles even though she holds the American record of 12.33 set at the 2000 Olympic Trials in Sacramento.

Contact Dave Price at dprice@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1220.