Familiar first: Flax puts together strong opener at Olympic Trials


ON WISCONSIN
<b>Jessica Flax posted an opening-day score of at least 3,459 points for a third-consecutive meet.</b>

ON WISCONSIN
Jessica Flax posted an opening-day score of at least 3,459 points for a third-consecutive meet.
ON WISCONSIN

June 29, 2012

USA Olympic Trials Results

EUGENE, Ore. -- Jessica Flax has been here before. Statistically speaking, at least.

While competing in a U.S. championship meet was new territory for Flax, the number next to her name after the first day of competition was certainly familiar.

The University of Wisconsin senior finished a single point off her best-ever opening-day score Friday at the 2012 USA Olympic Trials, using a pair of personal-best performances to tally 3,459 points and stand 11th halfway  through the seven-event competition.

Her teammate, sophomore Deanna Latham, is 19th with a first-day score of 3,294. Hyleas Fountain leads the way at 3,948.

Flax’s total was just off the 3,460 points she accumulated on the first day of the NCAA outdoor championships heptathlon three weeks ago. It also matched the four-event score of 3,459 she tallied en route to claiming a second-consecutive Big Ten championship in May.

That’s an amazing level of consistency over her last three competitions.

“I didn’t know I was in that good of shape right now,” Flax said. “I’ve been staying focused and believing I could do it. I’ve been praying real hard lately, too.”

She was also running hard to open the day, clocking a time of 13.70 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles to finish just three hundredths of a second off her lifetime-best mark in the event.

Flax followed with her best-ever performance in the high jump, clearing a personal-best height of 5 feet, 7 3/4 inches.

“I was super happy,” Flax said. “I wanted one more bar, but I’ll take it. Little by little.”

She nearly had the next height in the progression, 5-8 3/4, but nicked the bar on a very close third attempt.

 “I felt good. I can get it the next time, and I hopefully will have two more chances,” said Flax, who will represent the U.S. at the 2012 NACAC Under-23 Championships in July and also hopes to position herself for a bid to the annual Thorpe Cup competition, which pits Team USA against the German national team in the heptathlon.

“I think I can get it before the year ends, that 5-8, that’s what I want.”

An effort of 38-9 1/2 in the shot put somewhat derailed Flax’s progress, but she rallied with a lifetime-best run of 24.75 in the 200 meters.

“I was really angry about my shot put,” Flax said. “I told myself I couldn’t be too mad and to put my anger into something positive, which is into the track, and try to get a PR in the 200.”

The second day of competition offers Flax plenty of opportunity to climb the standings, especially given her strong track record in the javelin.

“I’m expecting big things from myself tomorrow,” she said.

Latham, meanwhile, is just looking to gain experience as the second-youngest athlete in the field.

“I had a good time,” Latham said. “This has been a great experience. I think that’s what this day was.

“I surprised myself in some places and just kind of held on in others.”

The biggest “surprise” was likely Latham’s personal-best effort in the shot put. She improved by a foot on each of her three attempts, finishing with a mark of 41-6 1/2 that ranked No. 6 in the field.

For Latham, the longest season of her career is one day away from completion. As a freshman, she had an extended outdoor campaign that saw her score a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan Am Junior Championships, but she had redshirted the indoor season.

The grind of her first full season was evident Friday.

“This season has been much longer and I think my body is kind of ready to be done,” Latham said. “I’m kicking it trying to keep it going and it’s revolting against me a little bit.”

Still, Latham says she is using the competition as a learning experience.

“Even though I’m not having my greatest meet, I’m happy,” Latham said. “These girls are so amazing and I can’t help but think that in four years I could be one of those big guns.”

Former Badgers volunteer assistant coach Alicia DeShasier is certainly one of the big guns for the U.S. in the javelin. The Madison resident backed up her No. 4 seed for the event by throwing 174-10 in the qualifying round to advance to Saturday’s final.

DeShasier, the gold medalist at last year’s Pan Am championships, seeks an impressive fifth-consecutive top-five finish at the U.S. championship meet. In order to make Team USA for the London Games, she would have to finish third and hit at least the Olympic “B” qualifying standard of 193-7.

DeShasier throws in the final at 6:15 p.m. (CT) Saturday, while former Badger Megan Seidl competes in the final of the women’s high jump at 5:30 p.m. The final three events of the heptathlon begin for Flax and Latham at 5 p.m.

ON WISCONSIN
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