June 30, 2012
• USA Olympic Trials Results
EUGENE, Ore. -- As someone who set the standard for the University of Wisconsin, senior Jessica Flax was hoping to get a little more out of her final heptathlon in a Badgers uniform.
Of course, that makes Flax no different than any other multi-event athlete; rehashing where a few additional points could have come from in one event in the heptathlon, or how a slight misstep left a few points off the board in another.
In reality, Flax posted the third-best score of her career -- all of which came in the last 50 days of her outdoor career with the Badgers -- by tallying 5,763 points to claim a 12th-place finish in the heptathlon Saturday at the 2012 USA Olympic Trials.
Teammate Deanna Latham finished 17th with a total of 5,563 points, the second-best score of her young career.
"'I'm satisfied, I guess," Flax said. "It means I've still got something better in me for the future."
That future includes the opportunity to reach her goals wearing an even more recognizable uniform. She will compete for Team USA at the 2012 North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships next week in Guanajuato, Mexico.
"I'm glad I got another opportunity and I made it to Mexico," Flax said. "Still, I was hungry for something bigger."
Flax was gunning for a top-10 finish that would have secured her a spot in the Thorpe Cup, an annual combined events competition pitting the U.S. against Germany. She finished an agonizing 15 points short of 10th place.
Hyleas Fountain (6,419 points), Sharon Day (6,343) and Chantae McMillan (6,188) claimed the top three finishing positions to secure bids to Team USA for the London Olympics.
Starting the final day of competition in 11th place, Flax slipped all the way to 16th after jumping 17 feet, 8 1/4 inches in the long jump -- a mark that ranked 19th in the field.
"Long jump wasn't like I expected it to go," Flax said.
Fortunately for Flax, two of her best events were yet to come in the javelin and 800 meters.
"Things didn't go quite as I expected, but the javelin came through, which it usually does for me," Flax said. "It's kind of funny, when I don't practice javelin I do amazing at it, and when I practice `too much' I don't do as well."
She posted the No. 2 mark in the field by throwing 150-2 in the javelin, the second-best mark of her career. That performance vaulted her to eighth in the standings with only the 800 meters remaining.
Latham also was buoyed by the javelin, throwing a solid 138-2 that was fifth-best in the field. She finished off her day with a personal-best effort of 2 minutes, 20.27 seconds.
Flax clocked in at 2:17.58 for the two-lap event, well off the lifetime-best 2:15.97 she recorded en route to winning a second-consecutive Big Ten title in May.
"The 800 was just a tough race for me," Flax said. "I couldn't get placement, I couldn't get fitted in anywhere. It was just tough."
Tough is also a good word to describe Flax.
She finished second at the Big Ten indoor championships in the pentathlon and qualified for the NCAA championships only to no-height in the high jump, but she continued on in the competition anyway and was rewarded with second-team All-America honors.
Outdoors, Flax set the Badgers' school record three times, winning another Big Ten gold and All-America honors for finishing fourth at the NCAA championships along the way.
As for Latham, a 17th-place finish in her first U.S. championships event can certainly provide momentum into her junior season.
With three-time defending champion Dorcas Akinniyi exhausting her indoor eligibility for the Badgers, Flax and Latham will be the favorites to win a fourth-consecutive Big Ten pentathlon title for the Badgers.
Also Saturday, former Badger Megan Seidl competed in the final of the women's high jump. In her second finals appearance at a U.S. championship meet -- she was seventh in 2010 -- Seidl finished in a tie for ninth place.
As she did in Thursday's qualifying round, Seidl cleared the opening height on her first attempt, an important first step. After making it over at 5-10 1/2, however, Seidl was unable to clear the second bar in the progression at 6-0 1/2 -- a height only eight competitors could manage.
The Olympic Trials conclude Sunday for the Badgers, with former volunteer assistant coach Alicia DeShasier looking for an Olympics berth in the final of the javelin.