Westbury's Freeman finishes eighth in hammer throw at trials

Kibwe Johnson competes at the men's hammer throw Kibwe Johnson competes at the men's hammer throw finals at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. (June 21, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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BEAVERTON, Ore. -- It wasn't Thomas "Jake" Freeman's best day in the hammer throw ring.

It wasn't even close.

The 31-year-old Westbury resident, who won the 2004 NCAA title for Manhattan College and the USA Track and Field national crown for the New York Athletic Club in 2010, settled for a subpar eighth-place finish Thursday in the men's hammer final, which capped the first day of action in the USA Olympic Trials.

"Call me very disappointed right now," Freeman said after his sixth and last throw (231-0) proved the best of his day but not good enough to get him higher than eighth in the standings of the 24-man competition.

Freeman threw 230-0 the first time he stepped into the ring, then 225-6 in the second round before fouling in his third and fourth efforts. He went 223-4 in round five.

"I never could get it together," Freeman said. "It just wasn't working for me."

The event was staged as a special open-to-the-public prelude to the balance of the trials, which get going full-blast at Eugene's historic Hayward Field Friday.

More than 3,000 hammer fans turned out to see the throwers whirl their iron balls on a chain around the Ronaldo Field on the Nike corporate campus.

NYAC's Kibwe Johnson led the way with a heave of 245 feet, 11 inches, with Texan Chris Cralle second at 243-11 and Iowan A.G. Kruger third at 242-6.

Fourth at 241-2 was Princeton student Conor McCullough, whose father was a two-time Olympic hammer thrower for Ireland.

Johnson and Kruger will go to the London Games because they've already reached the Olympic "A" standard of 255-11 (in other meets), but Cralle will stay home because he hasn't. It will be the third Olympics for Kruger.

This has been an abbreviated season for Freeman, who was out of the sport for a year -- after testing positive for a marijuana metabolite -- and never really reached his previous heights once he started competing again May 1.

His career best remains the 252-9 he reached in 2009.

"Just a bad day all around for Jake," said Dan Mecca, his Manhattan College coach. "Maybe he was trying too hard. Who knows? And injuries have slowed him down, too. I know he's had tendinitis in one knee, and that's led to back pain. So this wasn't the real Jake Freeman, the Jake Freeman we know."

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