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U.S. Olympic Trials: Nine athletes from the Pac-12 lock up Rio berths

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EUGENE, Ore. – At the conclusion of the first half of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon, nine of Team USA’s latest Olympians are from the Conference of Champions.

In the first day of action on Friday, Oregon alum Galen Rupp won the 10,000m in 27:55.04.

That momentum carried through to day three of the trials on Sunday, when six more Pac-12 athletes qualified for the Olympic Games.

Cal alumna Inika McPherson met the Olympic high jump standard of 1.93m (6 feet, 4 inches) and finished third to earn her berth.  While at Cal, McPherson was an All-American multipletimes and set the Golden Bears’ school record in the high jump.

Following McPherson, two of the three women representing Team USA in the 400m at the Olympic Games hail from Pac-12 schools. Track & field legend and USC alumna Allyson Felix won the event in 49.68 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. Right behind her was Oregon alumna Phyllis Francis, who placed second to earn her spot in a personal best 49.94 seconds.

Although Felix never wore the USC uniform, she graduated from the university and doesn’t consider herself any less of a Trojan. Felix is a four-time Olympic gold medalist and Rio will be her fourth Olympic Games.

While at Oregon, Francis was a two-time NCAA champion, a five-time All-American and a three-time Pac-12 champion. This is her first Olympic Games.

Two more Pac-12 athletes own two thirds of the tickets to Rio in the men’s decathlon. World Record holder and Oregon alumnus Ashton Eaton set a new world-leading mark with 8,750 points to win the U.S. Trials. Washington alum Jeremy Taiwo was right behind Eaton, finishing second with 8,425 points.

While at Oregon, Eaton was a five-time NCAA Champion, eight-time All-American, five-time Pac-10 champion, two-time Pac-10 Field Athlete of the Year and the 2010 Bowerman Award winner. He still lives and trains in Eugene.

At Washington, Taiwo was the No. 2 decathlete in school history and qualified for the 2013 World Championship team following his final season as a Dawg. Taiwo was also the male recipient of the Pac-12 Tom Hansen Conference Medal, awarded to one male and female senior at each Pac-12 school based on the greatest combination of athletics, academics and leadership.

To wrap up the Olympic qualifiers on Sunday was Oregon alumna English Gardner. She blazed a 10.74 second 100m to win the meet and secure her spot to Rio. Gardner was a five-time NCAA champion, six-time Pac-12 champion, eight-time All-American, the Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year, and set five school records while a Duck.

Monday's action saw two more Pac-12 alums named to the Olympic team – both in the men’s javelin and both Oregon Ducks. Cyrus Hostetler set a new Olympic Trials meet record and won the event with a best throw of 83.24m (273 feet, 1 inch).

Sam Crouser had a best throw of 78.06m (256 feet, 1 inch) to finish fourth. While it is traditionally the top three finishers who make the U.S. Olympic Team, the two men ahead of Crouser had not hit the Olympic qualifying mark (83.00m) and are ineligible for spots on Team USA.

While at Oregon, Hostetler was a two-time Pac-10 champion and two-time All-American. Crouser was the 2014 NCAA champion, 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials runner-up, three-time All-American and three-time Pac-12 champion. An interesting note: Crouser’s brother Ryan, who attended the University of Texas, has also qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games. The Crousers' sister, Haley, who also attended the University of Texas, is competing later this week for a spot on the Olympic team as well.

Outside of Olympic qualifiers, the Pac-12 Conference saw a multitude of its current and former athletes place in the top ten. A race of note was the women’s 100m final, which saw three current or former Ducks toe the line. English Gardner, as mentioned above, won the race, but recent Duck Jenna Prandini finished fifth in 10.96 seconds, and current Duck Ariana Washington finished sixth in 11.01 seconds.

The action continues for many Pac-12 athletes on July 6 in Eugene.

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