GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - Atlantic Coast Conference alumni delivered several memorable performances during the United States Track and Field Olympic Trials, and it came as little surprise that Brianna Rollins and Colleen Quigley set the pace.
In a span of 24 hours at Eugene, Oregon’s Historic Hayward Field, the pair showed why they are among the finest athletes to grace the ACC’s grand stage – and why they will be among those most closely watched next month as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad unfold in Rio.
It began with Quigley’s stirring qualifying performance in women’s steeplechase on July 7th, followed by Rollins’ near-meet record in the 100 hurdles the following evening.
Quigley, just over a year removed from Florida State, posted a lifetime best time of 9:21.29 – the 10th-fastest time in the world this year – to take the bronze medal in arguably the most competitive steeplechase final in US Olympic Trials history.
The St. Louis native, who has battled injuries much of the past year, made her push on the closing lap. Quigley climbed from sixth place to third over the final 200 meters to clinch the final Olympic qualifying spot.
“I knew that I was going to have to do that, or I assumed that I was run at least as fast as I ever have and probably faster,” Quigley said of her closing kick. “In my head, I thought it very well could take under 9:20 to make this team, and that was super scary coming into it. I ran like a 9:37 in the prelims and I said it felt good afterwards. That was all right, but in my head I was thinking ‘I have to run 20 seconds faster than that.’ That was pretty intimidating.”
Quigley said she let the flow of the race dictate her pace.
“Honestly I wasn’t looking at the clock,” she said. “My coach and I said there’s no use in looking at the pace. Just focus on competing against people and the time is there or it’s not there, it really doesn’t matter. That’s what I was focused on – competing – and the PR just showed up. It was kind of a surprise.”
Even to her former collegiate head coach, though Bob Braman saw some pretty incredible things from Quigley during her years in Tallahassee.
“Simply incredible race for Colleen,” Braman told Seminoles.com. “I don’t know how she was able to run that fast after months of injuries, but that shows you just how tough she is. I couldn’t be happier for her.”
The July 8th session saw Rollins, a 2013 Clemson graduate and winner of The Bowerman, set the pace in what USA Track and Field called “the greatest 100 meters hurdles in Trials history.”
Rollins’ blazing gold medal time of 12.34 seconds (1.2 wind) was the second fastest time ever in an Olympic Trials finals and fell just short of the meet record of 12.33 set by Gail Devers in 2000.
“When I got to the finish line and realized I was the first one to cross, I was so overwhelmed and so excited, and I was finally able to relax and start to prepare myself for the road to Rio,” said Rollins, who placed sixth in 2012 Olympic Trials.
The times for places second through seventh were the fastest ever in Trials history. That included a fourth-place time of 12.57 by former Virginia Tech All-American Queen Harrison that placed just shy of the qualifying threshold.
“We’re the best in the country and the best in the world,” Rollins said of the United States women’s hurdles group. “I’m so blessed and work hard at what I do, and I’m just going to continue to believe in myself and what I have. I look forward to competing with these ladies, and hopefully all three of us end up on the medal stand.”
Rollins is a former NCAA, World Champion and American record holder. She was asked if regaining the American record would be added incentive when she takes to the track in Rio.
“Maybe I can, but right now I’m just focusing on getting a medal,” the Miami native replied.
Rollins became only the second female in Clemson women’s track & field program history to make the U.S. Olympic Team. But she is the third confirmed women’s track athlete from Clemson to advance to the 2016 Olympic Games, where she will join Natoya Goule of Jamaica, Patricia Mamona (Portugal) and Joana Costa of Brazil.