Merritt & Robinson to represent Team USA at Rio Games

7/13/2016
 

ResultsMerritt_LaShawn-16OT_MikeScott

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field concluded Sunday with two Virginia members making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next month.  A total of nine Virginia athletes competed in the 10 day competition held on the campus of the University of Oregon in Eugene. 

Headlining the Virginia athletes at the Trials were LaShawn Merritt (Portsmouth, Va.) and Byron Robinson (Chesapeake, Va.) who both qualified for the Rio Games.  Merritt, 30, made the team in the 200m and 400m and Robinson, 21, made the team in dramatic fashion in the 400m Hurdles.

Merritt - Something old and something new
Merritt, the 2008 Olympic Champion, made the team in the 400m for the third time and the 200m for the first time.  He came to Eugene as the the heavy favorite in the 400m and one to watch in the 200m.  

In 2015 Merritt ran to his second world 400m title at the IAAF Championships in Beijing, China stopping the clock in a career best time of 43.65.  His entry time put him .74 seconds ahead of the #2 seed - 2013 George Mason grad and Lynchburg native David Verburg, who now lives and trains in Gainesville, Fla.

Merritt navigated the two qualifying rounds leading into the finals with ease, winning his 1st round heat in 45.55 and then winning his semi-final heat in 45.05.  In the finals he ran 43.97 to outrun Gil Roberts (44.74) and Verburg (44.82).  His performance marked the eighth time he has broken 44.00 in his career and is his sixth fastest ever.  It is also the fastest time in the world this year.

“I knew if I came off good, I was going to finish up good,” stated Merritt following the 400m. “I worked the last 50 a little bit more than I did in the previous rounds. I still feel like I had a little bit left so I'm pleased about it.”

Video: Merritt's 400m race can be seen 
here

Prior to the start of the 2016 season Merritt was not necessarily known as a 200m runner, having last broken 20 seconds in 2007 when he ran a then career best of 19.98 at the adidas Track Classic in Carson, Calf.  That changed quickly when he ran 19.78 in April at the Chris Brown Invitational in the Nassau, Bahamas.  That time made him the #10 American at the distance all-time.  

At the Trials Merritt easily won his 1st round heat in 20.09.  He followed that up with a win in the semi-finals running a career best of 19.74 (#8 U.S. performer all-time) which was the fastest time of all three semi-final heats.  In the finals he would be competing against short-sprint legends Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay as well as upstart high schoolers Michael Norman of California and Noah Lyles (Alexandria, Va. - note: Lyles is a member of USATF Potomac Valley).  Gatlin, the 2004 200m Olympic Champion and two time 200m world champion, won the finals over Merritt 19.75 to 19.79.  Lyles finished fourth in 20.09 missing the team by just .09 seconds but breaking the 31 year old national high school record of 20.13 held by Roy Martin.

​Video: Merritt's 200m race can be seen here.

Robinson - Longshot for the Longhorn
Robinson_Byron_16OTWhile Merritt is one of the most recognized track athletes in the country the same can not be said of Byron Robinson.  Despite his low profile coming into the Trials the Chesapeake native (2013 Western Branch H.S. grad),  who is a sophomore at the University of Texas, ran his way on to the Olympic team with a second place finish in the 400m Hurldes.

Robinson came to Eugene with the eighth best entry mark (49.10); which was almost a full second behind the #3 entry mark of 48.18 by Kerron Clement.

In the 1st round of qualifying on Thursday, Robinson finished second in his heat running 49.68 to automatically qualify (top 3 in each heat are automatic qualifiers) for the semi-finals.  The semi-finals were not as easy for Robinson.  In rainy conditions he ran 50.26 to place fourth in his heat.  He was just .01 seconds ahead of Eric Futch to secure the last spot in the finals.  The stage was set for Robinson who was the #8 seed before the meet started and the now the slowest of the eight finalists based on the semi-final performances.  Running from lane 2, he was in seventh place at 200m and moved up to sixth with 100m to go but still trailed third place by 10 meters. Over the next 40 meters he passed two runners to move into fourth place.  With just 8 meters to go in the race he simultaneously caught a fading Johnny Dutch, who went from first to fifth over the last 50m, and Michael Tinsley to finish second and make his first Olympic Team.  His time was a career best 48.79.

Video: Robinson's race can be seen here

“To be honest I don’t even have words, I cannot describe it. This is amazing and a lifelong dream at 21. It hasn’t sunk in. I was thinking, no matter what I have to get to the finish line; all the training that went into it, my background, where I’m from, all the people who sent me text messages, I kept that in my mind the whole race. Over the last two hurdles I thought, I’m getting over this and I’m going to make this team, even if I have to die for it. 

McCorory and Jones - Representing the Commonwealth with pride
Francena McCorory (Hampton, Va.) finished fifth in the women’s 400m finals running 50.37.  The 2010 Hampton University and 2006 Bethel High School (Hampton) grad was a mere .20 seconds behind third place finisher Natasha Hastings of Georgia.  The race was won by Allyson Felix in 49.68.

Avion Jones (Virginia Beach) qualified for the finals in the High Jump with a mark of 2.14m (7-0¼) in the qualifying round but did not clear the bar in the finals to finish tenth overall. 

All current Virginia members who competed in the Trials:

Place

Name

Event

City

Affiliation

Performance

1

LaShawn Merritt #

400m

Portsmouth VA

Nike

43.97

2

LaShawn Merritt #

200m

Portsmouth VA

Nike

19.79

2

Byron Robinson #

400m Hurdles

Chesapeake VA

Texas

48.79

5

Francena McCorory

400m

Hampton VA

adidas

50.37

10

Avion Jones

High Jump

Virginia Beach, VA

East Carolina

NH

13

Kiara Porter

400m

Yorktown VA

 

52.60

19

John Warren

Triple Jump

Prince George VA

Missouri

15.76m / 51-8½

21

Thomas Curtin

5000m

Leesburg, VA

Virginia Tech

13:55.5 7

23

Rex Parker

Triple Jump

Haymarket VA

 

14.47m / 47-5¾ 

24

Ricky Morgan

400m

Woodbridge VA

Southern Californi

46.46

-

Hoova Taylor

High Jump

Richmond VA

Norfolk Real Deal

NH

Q

LaShawn Merritt

200m (1st rd.)

Portsmouth VA

Nike

20.09

Q

LaShawn Merritt

400m (1st rd.)

Portsmouth VA

Nike

45.55

Q

LaShawn Merritt

200m (semi-finals)

Portsmouth VA

Nike

19.74

Q

LaShawn Merritt

400m (semi-finals)

Portsmouth VA

Nike

45.05

Q

Francena McCorory

400m (1st rd.)

Hampton VA

adidas

50.28

Q

Francena McCorory

400m (semi-finals)

Hampton VA

adidas

50.94

Q

Kiara Porter

400m (1st rd.)

Yorktown VA

 

52.10

Q

Byron Robinson

400m Hurdles (1st rd.)

Chesapeake VA

Norfolk Real Deal

49.62

Q

Byron Robinson

400m Hurdl (semi-finals)

Chesapeake VA

Norfolk Real Deal

50.26

Q

Avion Jones

High Jump (1st rd.)

Virginia Beach, VA

East Carolina

2.14m / 7-0¼

Q = Qualified for Next Rd.        # = Qualified for Olympic Team

media services by  
Stacked-2c