EUGENE, Ore. — Most guys clear 10 hurdles. Devon Allen took an extra leap.
The University of Oregon receiver and hurdler for the Ducks track team became a U.S. Olympian on Saturday.
Allen won the 110-meter hurdles at trials and celebrated by racing over to the seats and jumping into the stands to hug his family.
“It was a really exciting moment for me,” said Allen, who became the first man to win the 110 hurdles at trials and NCAA championships since 1956. “It’s something I wanted to share with my family. I’m glad they could be here.”
Allen won in a school-record time of 13.03 seconds, holding off runner-up Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter. The rest of the results were as surprising as the three qualifiers for Rio.
Defending Olympic champion Aries Merritt finished fourth, falling just short of making the team after a kidney transplant. Jason Richardson, 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was fifth, and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist David Oliver withdrew just before the final with a tweaked left hamstring.
“It seemed like age didn’t give you the experience factor that you’re used to,” the 30-year-old Richardson said. “It seemed like it was more of a handicap. Tried to will myself to this last Olympics.”
Merritt won a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships in Beijing on a kidney that was working at 10 percent capacity. After receiving a new one from his sister in September and going through another surgery because of complications in October, he hurt his groin five weeks ago and wasn’t in top form.
“For me to be where I am is a miracle,” said Merritt, the world-record holder in the event. “It’s a pity that I’m not going to the Games. I know in six weeks times I’ll be in much better shape and probably pull off something similar as I did in Beijing. However, that’s not the case.”
Still, his doctor said what Merritt pulled off is a medical marvel. To run so quick after the transplant was amazing. To run that quick and almost make the team? Indescribable.
“Every time Aries does something else, somehow gets to the next round, is one more thing to stand back and just say, ‘Wow,’” said Dr. Les Thomas, who treated Merritt at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and was on hand for the trials. “Just for him to be here is unbelievable.”
Oliver was understandably disappointed, issuing a statement after the race: “Devastated I couldn’t run the final, hurt left hammy in the semi, but that’s part of the game. Hats off to the great guys we’re sending!”
Indeed, in Oregon, where the fans love track as much as football, the day’s final race was all about the Ducks.
The cheers by the Hayward Field crowd were so loud that Allen almost felt like he was playing down the road at Autzen Stadium. It’s the sort of roar reserved for football games.
“Can’t hear yourself talk,” Allen said.
After the race, he tossed T-shirts into the stands that had a picture of Allen on the front and the words “Team Allen” on the back.
Could be a valuable souvenir someday, if the Olympics turn out as good as the trials.
More than likely, Allen will miss the start of football camp to make the trip to Rio. He had nine catches for 94 yards last season as he eased back into action after tearing a ligament in his right knee during the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2015.
Asked if he’s now a hurdler who plays football or the other way around, he just laughed.
“I’m just an athlete who likes to play football and run track,” Allen said. “Keep doing that while I can.”