EUGENE — Kara Patterson essentially wrapped up a spot on the U.S. Olympic team Friday. Not that she’s breaking out the balloons and streamers while some business remains unfinished.
“I take that like it’s mine,” the Skyview High School graduate said of the national championship she has won the past four years. “It’s something that I want to keep.”
Patterson, 26, qualified for the finals of the women’s javelin at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials at Hayward Field. Barring hurricane-force winds or plague or locusts during Sunday’s final, that will send her to the Olympics for the second time.
The top three finishers in each event at the Trials advance to the London Games. But in events where the United States has few world-class competitors, athletes can be selected for the team if they don’t finish among the top three — as long as they have met the Olympic ‘A’ standard in their event.
Patterson and University of Oregon graduate Rachel Yurkovich are the only throwers who have met the ‘A’ standard during the qualifying period. The previous three years, Patterson — who set the American record in 2010 — has been the only thrower to reach that mark.
In other words, unless three throwers set personal records by some 20 feet during Sunday’s final, and Patterson has a disastrous day, she is headed to London.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Patterson threw a season-best mark of 198 feet, 5 inches in Friday’s qualifying, good enough to lead the competition by more than 13 feet. She passed on her final two throws, confident that her mark would be enough to advance to the finals.
That made up for what had been a difficult Olympic Trials to that point.
“I had kind of an emotional night last night,” she said. “My boyfriend, Russ Winger, just missed the Olympic team, and it was hard to see him miss that dream.”
Winger finished fifth in the discus, falling 3 feet short of an Olympic berth.
That shouldn’t be a problem for Patterson.
“It’s easier to throw far when you don’t have that pressure,” she said. “I really have been working on relaxing in practice.”
Patterson has struggled the past two seasons, at least by her standards. After shattering the American record with a mark of 218-9 in 2010 and finishing that season ranked sixth in the world by Track and Field News, she hasn’t quite been able to regain that form.
“Even though last season was really disappointing, I know the work I put in last season will pay off,” she said.
And she remains the preeminent U.S. javelin thrower, closing in on a second Olympic berth and having a shot at a fifth straight national title.
The goal for Sunday?
“I would like to be consistent at far distances,” she said with a laugh. “That’s always the goal.”
And then she can get busy updating her résumé.