EUGENE, Ore. - It was a very short day for American record holder Keturah Orji in the women’s triple jump qualifying on Monday at the U.S. Olympic track & Field Trials.
Jumping third in flight one, the Georgia sophomore flew out to 46-6, one centimeter over the automatic qualifying mark for the finals, and called it good for the day. Her mark stood up as the best of the day, and she will go into Thursday’s finals as the heavy favorite.
Orji, who jumped a wind-legal 47-8 at the NCAA Championships last month to break Tiombe Hurd’s 12-year-old American record, is one of two triple jumpers competing at the Trials with the Olympic qualifying standard of 46-5 1/4. The other is Andrea Geubelle, a Tacoma, Washington product who was an NCAA champion for the University of Kansas.
Geubelle had a little longer day, needing to take all three qualifying jumps to ensure her spot in the final. After the second round of jumps, Geubelle had slipped down to ninth place – the top 12 from qualifying made the final – but she rallied on her third and final attempt. Her wind-aided mark of 45-05 bumped Geubelle back up to fifth place.
Geubelle might have to contend with Christina Epps, Imani Oliver, and Ciarra Brewer in the finals. All three had wind-legal jumps on Monday that were better than Geubelle’s best effort, which was wind-aided. Epps, Oliver and Brewer were all within seven inches of the Olympic standard, as well, setting up a potentially dramatic final at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, though jumps would have to be wind-legal to meet the standard.
“Not exactly how we wanted to come out today,” Geubelle said. “I wanted to do one and done, but (I was) dealing with some technical stuff right now and trying to figure it out, but I think we got it down towards the end and we’ll be ready to go in a couple of days.”
Geubelle lost her 2015 season to a partially torn patellar tendon, and said she is still shaking off some of the rust. She surprised herself by getting the Olympic standard – matching it exactly – two weeks ago in a meet at Chula Vista, California.
“I wasn’t really expecting to be here,” Geubelle admitted. “I’m just rolling with the punches, enjoying every moment, and seeing how it turns out.
“I’m going out to compete, though. Those girls were jumping today and they look awesome. I can’t really put it past any of them to not jump the standard. So top three go for sure (with the standard) and I’m going for that top spot.”
To take the top spot on the podium, though, Geubelle would have to get past Orji and that doesn’t appear likely. Orji’s breakout season – she was fourth at the World Indoors in March and is currently number eight on the world outdoor list – puts the 20 year-old at a different level and gives U.S. triple jump fans a reason to hope that Olympic medals in women’s triple jump are within her future reach.