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MEET: U.S. Olympic Trials DATE: July 9 | 7:15 p.m. ET LOCATION: Eugene, Ore. | Hayward Field TV: NBC TRIPLE JUMP STREAM: nbcolympics.com FOLLOW: Schedule | Results
O’Neal Advances at U.S. Olympic Trials
The former USF student-athlete had the top jump in the field on Thursday
EUGENE, Ore., JULY 7, 2016 – Recent USF graduate Matthew O’Neal qualified for the finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials with the top triple jump distance in the field on Thursday at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
The Jackson, Miss., native recorded the second-best jump of his life with a wind-aided (+2.9) distance of 55 feet, 8.25 inches (16.97m) in his third and final attempt of the qualifying round. One month after fouling four of six attempts en route to a third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at the same historic facility, O’Neal was on top of his game Thursday. After fouling his first attempt, O’Neal jumped 55-0 (16.79) in his second try. His top jump was half of an inch better than Donald Scott, who finished second on the day (55-7.75, 16.96m).
“Coming in I felt a little more comfortable not being the number one guy in the competition,” said O’Neal, who was the favorite to win the NCAA Outdoor Championships on June 10. “I like having something to looking forward to. Coach (Kiamesha Otey) worked on my approach and getting more consistent in hitting the board so I won’t foul. I also worked with Greg (Byrd) our trainer in getting healthy.”
Despite O’Neal winning the 24-person qualifying round, the goal Thursday was to be one of the 12 to qualify for Saturday’s finals which begins at 7:15 p.m. ET (TV: NBC, online). None of Thursday’s jumps carry over to Saturday. It will be a new competition, with the goal of a top nine finish in order to receive three more jumps later that same day. The top three finishers, who also meet the Olympic qualifying standard of 16.85 meters, will represent the United States at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro.
“Most of the people take it easy and just try to get in to Saturday,” said O’Neal. “Saturday is when people turn it on and go for it.”
Among the talented field vying for Rio is Christian Taylor, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2015 World Champion. Taylor landed an opening jump of 55-4.25 (16.87m) and passed on his next two attempts. Also advancing was the 2012 Olympic silver medalist Will Claye.
“I am thankful to god that I made it through to the next round and it definitely gives me some confidence,” said O’Neal. “It give me confidence to run faster down the runway. It’s going to take a better jump to qualify so I’m looking forward to competing again. I’m going to rest my legs and hydrate. With God anything is possible so I’m going out there with that mind set.
USF’s last Olympian in track and field was Damu Cherry who placed fourth in the 100m hurdles at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.