Nwaba, 5th in Olympic Trials, Still Looking for 6,000 Points

The throws of the heptathlon blunted Barbara Nwaba’s effort to make the U.S. Olympic team. The UCSB athlete was in good shape through five events, but a subpar mark of 124’ 3” in the javelin throw dropped her to fifth place, and that’s where she ended up Saturday, June 30, at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Hyleas Fountain posted her first big score in two years – 6,419 points – and pronounced herself ready to compete for a medal at the London Olympics after overcoming “neck injuries, back injuries, hamstring tears and pulls… .” Fountain, a 31-year-old Florida resident, was the silver medalist at the Beijing Games.

Sharon Day of San Luis Obispo took second with 6,343 points, adding seven to her previous high. She is going to the Olympics for the second time but in a new competition, having qualified as a high jumper in 2008. Third-place finisher Chantae McMillan was the big success story, pumping her best score from 6,003 to 6,188 – putting her over the Olympic qualifying standard of 6,150. She recorded personal bests in five of the seven events.

Bettie Wade (6,018) and Nwaba (5,986) rounded out the top five. Nwaba’s score equaled her best, which she tallied in April at the Sam Adams Invite at Westmont College. The margin by which she missed 6,000 points was the equivalent of one second faster in the last event, the 800-meter run.

“Six thousand is definitely there,” said Nwaba, who also had a score of 5,927 when she finished second in the NCAA Championships earlier in June. She hopes to get it at the Thorpe Cup, a multi-event competition between teams from the U.S. and Germany that will take place July 21-22 in Marburg, Germany.

While the javelin was Nwaba’s undoing, it gave McMillan a huge boost. The Nebraska graduate flung the spear 164’ 10”, leaving the next best thrower 22 feet behind. She trailed Nwaba by six points before the event and topped her by 236 points afterwards.

Nwaba had edged ahead of McMillan in the long jump. She went 18’ 5 ¾”. McMillan’s best jump of 18’ 1½” was two feet off her best, for good reason. Her left leg was surgically repaired last August after she ruptured the patellar tendon in her knee. That had been her stronger leg, but this year she switched her takeoff leg to the right.

Needing to run the 800 in 2:14.59 to hit 6,000, Nwaba tried to run down Day, the strongest two-lapper, in the final 200. She came close, but Day finished in 2:14.55, and Nwaba was a second behind. “I was shocked it wasn’t faster,” Nwaba said. “I didn’t give up. I kept going.”

McMillan had to beat a time of 2:20 to qualify for the Olympics. “My coach told me I had to run 2:17,” she said. “He fooled me.” She ran 2:17.71.

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