Jayhawks in Rio: A Jayhawk saves the day

Posted on Aug 19, 2016 in Alumni News, News, and Sports

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Wait, haven’t I seen this before?

Nobody likes to watch a rerun, especially sports fans. But at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, we watched a rare rerun of the women’s 4 x 100 meter relay, and it was a first (in more ways than one) thanks to the fast efforts of a Jayhawk. Let’s rewind.

On Thursday night during their preliminary heat of the women’s 4 x 100, the U.S. team was bumped during the second exchange. The Brazilian team inadvertently made contact with American Allyson Felix, running second leg, while attempting to hand off the baton. Trying to recover, Felix awkwardly tossed the baton, which dropped to the track. Dazed and confused, unsure what to do next, Felix suddenly remembered what Tim Weaver, g’97, told her. She recounted to ESPN what happened next.

“At our technical meeting, Tim Weaver really emphasized that if something happens, you have to pick up the baton and finish in order to protest,” Felix recalled. So she did, turning around with sudden urgency to retrieve the baton and hand it off. Once convinced that all was not lost, English Gardner took off after the field that had left the U.S. team far behind. Once finished, the protest was filed.

As we shared on this blog previously, Weaver is working in Rio as a team manager with USA Track and Field, helping advocate for American athletes throughout the process of filing protests. As the former meet director for the Kansas Relays, Weaver has seen it all and understands the idiosyncrasies of international track and field. Once the team had finished and was officially disqualified, Weaver immediately flew into action.

Simply advancing the American team for getting bumped wasn’t possible because the final was based on the top times. And there could only be 8 teams in the final because the track only had 8 lanes around it. Since eight other teams had already established the fastest legal times, a run-off was required, and that left only one option.

A rerun for Team USA, against a single, unforgiving opponent: The clock.

If they could finish among the top 8 times, they’d earn a spot in the final. So, in a never-before-seen relay with one team on the track, running in the exact same lane, and in the exact same order, the four U.S. women ran their relay, turning in the fastest time among all qualifiers, earning them a spot in tonight’s final. The rerun, at least according to USATF, was unprecedented in Olympic history.

After qualifying, Felix gave credit to the Jayhawk who helped save the day by getting the team one more shot, which was all they needed.

“After the race, I was texting (Weaver) saying thank you. I was so grateful.”

Sometimes it helps to have a Jayhawk in your corner.

–David Johnston

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