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Lagat Tops 5,000-Meter Trials At 41

Associated Press
The 34-year-old Justin Gatlin made his third Olympics team.

EUGENE, Ore. — A few more kids are on their way to Brazil after Saturday's racing at the U.S. Track and Field Trials.

In this case, they are 41-year-old Bernard Lagat's son and daughter, Miika and Gianna.

The American record-holder runner flipped the script on a youth-filled trials Saturday, running his final lap of the 5,000 meters in 52 seconds to charge from sixth to first and earn his fifth, and most surprising, trip to the Olympics, and third with the U.S. team.

Lagat, who won in 13 minutes, 35.50 seconds, will have his kids in tow on the way to Rio.

Joining them there will be 34-year-old Justin Gatlin, who made his third Olympics — holding off LaShawn Merritt and a duo of high schoolers, Michael Norman and Noah Lyles, who stood as the latest examples of the growing youth movement in American track.

Like Gatlin, though, Lagat isn't quite finished.

"There were people going, `You never know how he's going to perform.' They were saying I'm done and cannot make the team," he said. "That didn't sound right to me."

That talk picked up last year, when the Kenyan-born runner missed his first worlds or Olympics team since he became an American citizen in 2005 — a failure he said "crushed him" because his kids were pushing hard for him to make the trip. The murmurs came back after he dropped out of the 5,000 earlier this season at the Prefontaine Classic and only got louder when he pulled out of 10K qualifying earlier in trials.

But Lagat was far from finished in his own mind, and those competing against him felt the same way.

"We know Bernard Lagat will be done," said third-place finisher Paul Chelimo, "when he's not running anymore."

Nobody ignores Gatlin, the world silver medalist at 100 and 200 meters, though he may have been hard to miss early in the 200-meter final — stuck on the outside lane thanks to finishing behind Norman in the previous day's semifinals.

Unable to see the competition as he worked the curve, it turned the race into what he called "a glorified time trial."

It turned into quite a showdown along the stretch, with Gatlin finishing in 19.75 seconds and edging Merritt — the 400-meter specialist who's pretty good at 200, too — by a mere .04 seconds.

"I said, `You know what, if Lagat had the guts to go out there and do what he needs to do at his age, I can go out there and do what I need to do, especially from Lane 8,'" Gatlin said.

Like Merritt, Allyson Felix remains in the mix for the 200-400 double; she made it easily through her semifinal round. Like Merritt, Felix turned 30 in the past year. And like Merritt, she is an expert at pacing herself through the rounds in multiple races.

"Knowing you've been there before and know how to handle it, it gives you a chip on your shoulder," Merritt said.

Lagat certainly had one. It's great when a plan goes right.

"My daughter said, `I want you to win,"' Lagat said, "'So I can go see gymnastics.'"

In other events Saturday:

—London silver medalist Will Claye won the triple jump to earn a spot on the team. Christian Taylor and Chris Bernard will also head to Brazil.

—Aries Merritt will not get a chance to defend his Olympic gold medal. And Jason Richardson won't get a chance to defend his silver. In a surprise 110-meter finish, Oregon wide receiver Devon Allen won the event in 13.03 seconds. He was followed by Ronnie Ash and Jeff Porter. The trio will represent the United States in the Rio Games. Merritt, the world record holder in the event, finished fourth just .01 seconds behind Porter. Richardson was fift

—Maggie Malone can hardly believe that she is headed to the Olympics. Malone, who one month ago won the NCAA title at Eugene's Hayward Field, won the javelin throw at the U.S. Track and Field Trials on Saturday with a throw of 199 feet, 7 inches. Malone hails from tiny town of Geneva, Neb., a tiny town southwest of Lincoln. "I'm out of words," she said. "I'm from a town of like 2,000 with one stoplight."

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