What a treat it is to watch professional track and field athletes compete in the Olympics and be able to say, “Hey, I know her. She trains at the Olympic Training Center in my home town of Chula Vista!”
Locals should be very excited — and uniquely proud — when watching the 2012 London Games on television knowing that athletes from the OTC have put in countless hours in the gym and on the track to get there.
At the end of the day, standing on the podium means everything to these Olympians — to represent their country and to reward themselves for their hard work.
Here is a look at what to expect from the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center’s track and field athletes who will be competing in London:
Cosby set a new American record at this year’s Prefontaine Classic with a mark of 243 feet, 4 inches. Currently, she ranks 14th in the world and is competing against the Eastern Europeans who usually dominate the event. However, competition varies from meet to meet and motivation and determination can go a long way. Cosby has progressively gotten better each year and is America’s best chance to step on the medal podium in London. The women’s hammer throw final is Aug. 10.
A former Oregon Duck, Holliday was a gymnast before she became a pole vaulter. Both events complement one another as they require intense flexibility and core strength. Holliday is going into the Olympics with a personal best of 15 feet, 1 inch. She is also coming off a strong performance at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials after placing second with a final jump of 14 feet, 11 inches. The women’s pole vault final is Aug. 6.
Long jump, triple jump
Just 21, Claye has arrived in time to help preserve America’s long-standing tradition of great jumpers. Claye had a solid showing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in both the long and triple jumps, jumping 27 feet and 57 feet, 7 inches, respectively. Thus, Claye will be doubling in both jumps in London and is the first American to do so since Walter Davis did it back at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Claye is among the favorites to win both events; his greatest competition in the triple jump is former Florida Gator teammate Christian Taylor. The men’s long jump final is Aug. 4; the men’s triple jump final is Aug. 9.
At 35, Nieto, quite frankly, shocked the USA track and field community when he won the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Nieto surprised big time favorite Jesse Williams at the Trials in Eugene, Ore., by jumping 7 feet, 5.75 inches to become the oldest American men’s high jumper to compete in the Olympics. Nieto, who is also a talented actor, set his personal best of 7-8 at the 2004 Athens Olympics (where he took fourth). He hit the Olympic standard of 7-7 at the NYC Adidas Meet on June 9. The men’s high jump final is Aug. 7.
The current American outdoor record-holder in the event, Walker will be in pursuit of his first Olympic medal after failing to clear a height in the preliminary rounds at the 2008 Beijing Games. Walker has had a very consistent year thus far and has a very good chance of redeeming himself. He currently has the fourth best mark in the world (19 feet, 4 inches) and will be up against good competition from the Europeans who usually dominate the event. He won the U.S. Olympic Trials by clearing 18-7.25; his American record stands at 19-9.75. The men’s pole vault final is Aug. 10.
Coached by famous track and field athlete Joaquim Cruz, Schmidt, a 2008 Olympian, is going into the London Games as one of America’s best mid-distance contenders. She has a personal best time of 1:58.61 but might need to run another personal best in order to beat South Africa’s Caster Semenya. With the way Schmidt has been improving as her career progresses, there should be no surprise to see her standing on the medal podium. In her spare time, she serves as a volunteer coach for Coronado High School’s track and field team. The women’s 800-meter final is Aug. 11.
Furey is the top American contender in the javelin. He set a personal best of 271 feet, 5 inches earlier this year. In an event that has mostly been dominated by the Scandinavian countries, the United States will be looking to earn its first Olympic medal in the javelin since the 1972 Munich Games. Not much is to be expected from American javelin throwers, though anyone can have an “off” day. An “on” day for Furey could produce a surprise. The men’s javelin throw final is Aug. 11.
The discus throw is another event that has not seen an American medalist since the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Rome would like to change that. He finished second at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials with a throw of 207 feet, 10 inches, and will need to improve his personal best of 225 feet, 7 inches in order to be in medal contention in London. Rome coaches throwing events at San Diego Mesa College in his spare time. The men’s discus throw final is Aug. 7.
Patterson, the American record-holder, is on a mission to redeem herself after failing to pass the qualifying round at the last Olympics in Beijing. Patterson will need to trace back to her magical year in 2010 where she broke the American women’s javelin record with a throw of 218 feet, 9 inches. She finished second at the U.S. Olympic Trials to relinquish the national title she held the last four years. However, the javelin throw is a very technical event where anyone can be off their form on any given day. The women’s javelin throw final is Aug. 9.
Winner of the U.S. Olympic Trials 1,500-meter final, Uceny will be competing in her first Olympics. During last year’s 1,500 world final, an unfortunate event occurred when a Kenyan runner accidently tripped her and took her out of medal contention. Uceny has come back with a strong year thus far and gives the American women some hope against the dominant Kenyans and Ethiopians. She has run just one second off her personal best of 4:00.06 already this year. The women’s 1,500-meter final is Aug. 10.
What a story it has been for Hastings. At the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, she finished in the most dreadful spot a runner can experience: fourth place. As only the top three finishers qualified to go to London, this prevented her from making the U.S. marathon team. Hastings admitted in a media interview that she “cried about it probably every day for a month.” However, she quickly went back to work and answered back at the U.S. Olympic Trials by winning the 10K race. Ranked eighth in the world, Hastings gives Americans some hope to medal in London. The women’s 10,000-meter final is Aug. 3.
Chula Vista OTC alumni point way to London Games
Besides resident-athletes from the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center, the San Diego region will also be represented at the 2012 London Games by several CV-OTC alumni.
50K race walk
In winning the 2012 Olympic Trials 50K race walk in Santee, Nunn set a new personal best of 4 hours, 4 minutes and 41 seconds. Nunn has stepped up to the 50K distance after competing in the 20K at the 2004 Athens Games. His next goal will be to go under the four-hour barrier this summer in London. When he is not walking, he is selling cookies as a professional baker so he can bring his daughter with him to the Olympics. The men’s 50K race walk final is Aug. 11.
A 2001 Hilltop High School graduate, Davila has come a long way since she was a Lancer. After high school, she went on to attend Arizona State University where she placed third at the Pac 10 1,500-meter championship. She finished second among American women at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Houston with a solid time of 2 hours, 25 minutes and 55 seconds. Her most notable accomplishment was when she posted the fastest time ever for an American woman (2:22:38) at the 2011 Boston Marathon. The women’s marathon final is Sunday, Aug. 5
Meb, who starred at San Diego High School back in the early 1990s, does not seem to be slowing down with age. He was a silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Games where he finished with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 29 seconds. His autobiography, “Run To Overcome,” which was released in October 2010, talks about his life and obstacles he has had to face — one of them being his escape from his native country of Eritrea which was then in a violent war with Ethiopia. Meb is looking to return to the medal stand in London and improve his personal best time of 2:09.15. The men’s marathon final is Aug. 12.
Trent Warren is a 2011 graduate of Eastlake High School and an incoming sophomore at the University of Oregon where he is a journalism major. He won the Mesa League championship title in the boys 1,600-meter run his senior year at EHS.