Marks misses cut

The former Gopher competed with more experienced athletes.

by Kent Erdahl

It seems everyone likes a baby.

But for triple jumper Shani Marks, the word baby, taken both literally and figuratively, hurt her chances at the Olympic trials last week.

Despite finishing one place shy of an Olympic birth, Marks, a former Gopher, traveled to the trials in Sacramento, Calif., without her jumping coach Matt Bingle, who could not make the trip because his wife is pregnant with their child and past her due date.

Although she did not have Bingle by her side, Marks said she still had plenty of support from family, friends and Minnesota coach Phil Lundin.

“I thought she did a great job,” Lundin said. “(Marks and Bingle)

have a great relationship. It’s unfortunate he couldn’t be there, but she’s been around long enough to make decisions on her own.”

In Friday’s preliminaries, Marks felt the support, delivered the session’s fourth-best jump and qualified for the finals.

In the meantime, Bingle sat in suspense and waited for calls from Marks.

“I just kept wondering and wondering what was going on with Shani,” he said. “But family is just more important right now.”

At Sunday’s finals, Marks needed to find a way to get into the top three in order to make the Olympics, but she had her work cut out for her.

Marks, 23, could have easily been considered the baby of the group, and her competitors’ experience triumphed Sunday.

Marks finished with the fourth- longest jump – 44 feet, 5 1/4 inches – behind three veteran triple jumpers whose ages spanned from 27 to 30.

The first-place finisher, 30-year-old Tiombe Hurd, set a new world record.

Marks said the experience was invaluable, and she gained perspective about being such a young competitor.

“Age did come to mind,” Marks said. “It was Hurd’s third try at the Olympics, so that was definitely motivation for me. I realized it’s a process. There are very few that make it through on their first try,

and that got me excited for the future.”

Bingle echoed Marks’ thoughts and said he would like to see her keep chasing her goal of making the team.

“Anytime you finish fourth in the trials it’s an honor, but obviously you want to be in the top three,” Bingle said. “Hopefully she’ll come back with some fire in her belly next year.”

Three more down

Minnesota’s Trent Riter and former Gophers Adam Steele and Mitch Potter also ended their Olympic run at the trials this week.

Riter qualified for the semifinals of the 800-meter run Friday, but missed out on the final after placing 12th with a time of 1:48.45.

Steele failed to make it out of the quarterfinals in the 400-meter dash Sunday. He finished with a time of 46.06 – good for 20th.

Potter made the semifinal of the 400 with the seventh-fastest qualifying time Sunday. But he went on to place 13th with a time of 45.67, and missed a spot in the finals.

Potter’s finish might not quite put an end to his Olympic hopes this year. Lundin said the former Gopher might make the pool of runners that will compete on a spot for the 4×400-meter relay.

“They usually take the top 12, but I believe he’ll be a possibility because of some of the races he’s run this year,” Lundin said.

Three to go

Minnesota’s Karl Erickson and Travis Brandstatter and former Gopher Monica Stearns will compete in the trials Friday.

Erickson, who finished 13th in the shot put on Friday, will compete in the discus.

Brandstatter will participate in the decathlon Friday, and Stearns will compete in the pole vault.

Live coverage will be televised on Team USA from 10 p.m. to midnight Friday.