US Olympic Trials: Felix-Tarmoh Runoff in 100M Is Exciting & Scary for USA Track

Blake Dorfman@blakedorfmanFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2012

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 30:  Allyson Felix (R) hugs Jeneba Tarmoh after Felix won the Women's 200 Meter Dash Final on day nine of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward Field on June 30, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Thank goodness the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will not end with the flip of a coin.

Sunday's announcement that the tie between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh in the 100-meter dash will be decided by a runoff means that an already exciting 10 days of competition will end with a nail-biting 10 or 11 seconds.

Forget about biting nails for Bob Kersee, who coaches both runners. He's liable to bite his fingers off completely.

The runoff has lots of elements that make it a must-see affair. The two runners are teammates and friends, and are also very contrasting figures.

The 26-year-old Felix is a savvy veteran who already has three Olympic medals and an arsenal of World Championship hardware to her her name.

Tarmoh, on the other hand, is a 22-year-old trying to make her first Olympics (she will likely go as a member of a relay team anyway). She is bubbly and likable, and she was beaming in front of the media on Saturday night even after failing to qualify in the 200.

Whereas Tarmoh is running with nothing to lose, Felix has made a risky decision by not conceding the spot in the 100. Felix, whose signature event is the 200, does not have an Olympic or World Championship medal in the 100, and her chances at the podium in London are underwhelming considering the strength of the field.

Felix was absolutely spectacular in the 200-meter final on Saturday, running the fastest time in the event in the last 14 years with a mark of 21.69 seconds. She crushed the meet record, proving that she is the woman to beat in London.

"It's very rare for me to come off the corner in the lead...I was thrilled with my race. Everything came together at the right time," she said afterward.

She's running the best she has ever run in the 200 meters, and she is still seeking her first Olympic gold medal in the event.

Her chances are remote in the 100. The 100 is contested before the 200 in London, and she will have her hands full with Tarmoh on Monday. The possibility of injury is doubled if she runs a second event.

Don't believe that?

Tyson Gay's injury in the 200 at the Olympic Trials four years ago is what kept him without a medal in Beijing. He wouldn't have beaten Usain Bolt's double world-record performance in both events anyway, but it showed that an injury this close to the Olympics can be disastrous.

Just a week ago, Walter Dix injured himself in the 100 and was not able to compete for a spot in the 200, his strongest event.

That's why Kersee will be tossing and turning while trying to go to sleep on Sunday night. His best runner, the United States' crown jewel in the women's 200 meters, will be taking a chance by putting her body on the line in another event.

Felix's competitiveness and desire just wouldn't allow for concession or a lame coin-flip. If Felix wins impressively, it may make a statement that she is ready to contend for both events in London.

If Tarmoh wins, it will be a feel-good end to a showdown among teammates. While this adds some danger for Felix, it's also putting a lot of extra eyes on a sport that, unfortunately, only catches the eyes of America every four years.  

Make sure your eyes catch it on NBC at 5 p.m. PDT Monday.