EUGENE—It wasn’t easy, but Jeremy Taiwo (left/photo by Paul Merca) scored a personal best to finish second in the decathlon to conclude day 3 of the US Olympic Track & Field Trials at Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon to make his first Olympic team.
The University of Washington and Newport HS alum, who competes for the Brooks Beasts, finished the two-day event with a final score of 8425 points, 325 behind defending Olympic champion and Oregon alum Ashton Eaton, but 12 points ahead of the University of Wisconsin’s Zach Ziemek.
Taiwo started day 2 by running 14.22 in the 110 hurdles, just 6/100ths off of his personal best. He then followed up with his third best discus toss, throwing 138-1 (42.10m), worth 707 points.
In the pole vault, he had a minor scare, as he needed two attempts to clear his opening height of 14-11 (4.55m), before clearing 15-7 (4.75m), worth 834 points on his first attempt. He then passed at 15-11 (4.85m) to take three shots at 16-2.75 (4.95m), which had he cleared,would have given him 61 additional points.
The javelin was the one event that put him in the hole, as he dropped to fourth place in the overall standings, behind Zach Ziemek of the University of Wisconsin, and Garrett Scantling of the University of Georgia, who won the ninth event with a toss of 227-7 (69.37m), while Taiwo threw a best of 173-3 (52.82m), despite throwing out of the sector a mark that would have exceeded his personal best of 176-2 (53.71m).
In the 1500 meters, knowing that he needed to beat Scantling by at least 15 seconds to get the third spot, he ran 4:17.35 to claim 830 points, while Ziemek ran 4:48.21(629 points) and Scantling couldn’t break 5 minutes, running 5:02.32 (546 points).
By clinching a spot on the US Olympic team, he joined his father Joseph in becoming the family’s second Olympian, as Joseph competed in the 1984 and 1988 Games in the triple jump for Nigeria.
Going into the final race, Taiwo put it in perspective. "I had a wonderful support system, my coaches, my mentors, telling me this is a moment you're going to remember. I had to take it upon myself—I love everyone that supports me—but this is something that I had to do for myself. I kept telling myself, 'this is for you, Jeremy, do it.'"
Taiwo, who raised $17000 via a GoFundMe account he set up at the beginning of the year to help pay for training, coaching, and technical support, said that moving back to Seattle to work with UW multi-events coach Atanas Atanassov was a key to his success.
"I knew that I was going to have many moving parts," said Taiwo about leaving the Olympic Training Center in southern California. "I just had to keep hoping that even though I've had to deal with so much, so many injuries and surgeries, all my hard work and my faith in my abilities, and the love and support I get from my family, I was just hoping that would pay off and that would make my dream come true."
He also credited his girlfriend, French 800m runner Justine Fedronic, for his success, noting that she understood the struggles he was going through, as the Stanford alum battled injuries before making the French Olympic team last week. Fedronic, who trains in Seattle with the Brooks Beasts, is currently preparing for the European Championships in Amsterdam later this week.
In other events involving Washington athletes, Rainier Beach HS graduate Michael Berry finished eighth in the 400 meter finals, running 45.90, as LaShawn Merritt won in a time of 43.97.
Former Husky Norris Frederick finished ninth in the finals of the men’s long jump, with a season’s best mark of 26-4.5 (8.04m), as Jeffery Henderson won with a wind-aided mark of 28-2.25 (8.59m).
On Monday, Cas Loxsom of the Brooks Beasts will run in the finals of the men’s 800, while Phoebe Wright of Seattle will run in the women’s 800 meter finals.
Washington’s rising redshirt senior Carson Fuller will throw in the finals of the men’s javelin.
Washington alum Mel Lawrence, Seattle resident Jamie Cheever, and Washington State grad Collier Lawrence, all of whom are sponsored by Seattle-based Oiselle, begin competition in the women’s 3000 meter steeplechase.
University Place resident Andrea Geubelle and Washington State graduate Blessing Ufodiama will compete in the women’s triple jump qualifying round.
Finally, Washington State alum and two-time US Olympian Bernard Lagat will try to rebound from dropping out of the 10000 as he begins his quest for a third Olympic berth in the 5000 meters. Also running in the 5000 are Garrett Heath and Riley Masters of the Brooks Beasts.
The complete schedule of when Washington athletes are competing Monday is listed below.