EUGENE, Ore. — Tomorrow at 5 p.m. Pacific time, Allyson Felix and training partner Jeneba Tarmoh will step into the starting blocks at the end of the track at Hayward Field. Less than 12 seconds later, one of them will be headed to London to compete in the women’s 100-meter dash.
The two sprinters tied for third in the final of the women’s 100 last Saturday. The following day, USA Track & Field announced that the dead heat would be decided by a runoff or a coin toss.
After a week of keeping the press at bay, the two sprinters, their agents, coach Bobby Kersee, three-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and USATF officials met for two hours at the Hilton in Eugene, Ore., on Sunday afternoon to decide how to settle the dead heat. Neither woman surrendered her spot, and they decided to do a runoff scheduled just under 48 hours after the women’s 200-meter final, in which both women competed.
“The first person across the line makes the team,” said USATF spokesperson Jill Geer. “If [the runoff] is a dead heat, then it is a coin toss at that point.”
If Tarmoh wins, then she will compete in the 100 while Felix competes in the 200 in London. If Felix wins, then she will race the 100/200 double. Tarmoh will make the U.S. Olympic team to compete in a relay.
The runoff will be televised live during NBC’s scheduled coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming on Monday evening.
The coin toss would have left the 100-meter team up to fate and seemed like a cruel way to decide who would compete in one of the Summer Olympics’ marquee events. But USATF added the toss to the dead-heat procedure in case neither athlete wanted to make a decision about how to settle the tie.
“We fully expected that the tie would be broken either via a runoff or if one of the two athletes decided that they weren’t going to pursue the 100,” said Geer. “But I don’t think anyone legitimately thought it would end in a coin toss.”
Going forward, USATF will look at the rules before its next annual meeting.
“The competition rules will be looked at and (changed to be) as specific as we can possibly get,” said Geer. “Obviously this has been a learning process. You can’t possibly be too specific or consider too many scenarios. There are a lot of scenarios. What if you have a three-way tie? There’s no three-sided coin.”
The 2012 U.S. Track & Field Olympic Trials officially end today after the men’s 200-meter dash today at 4:50 p.m. Pacific time. The USATF hoped that the 100-meter tie would be settled by then. But “you have to be practical,” said Geer.
“Allyson ran a 21.69 (in the 200) yesterday, that takes a little bit of a toll on your body,” said Geer, referring to Felix’s Olympic Trials record that she set yesterday evening.
Neither Felix or Tarmoh were immediately available for comment.
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.