The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 25, 2020 1:00 am

Area hopefuls taking delay in stride

AUBREE REICHEL | For The Journal Gazette

It was news that, at this point, wasn't a huge shock and inevitable: The Games of the XXXII Olympiad to be held in Tokyo this summer have been postponed until 2021.

The official announcement came from the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday and, while disappointing, provided a sense of relief for many athletes.

“I guess I would say I have mixed feelings about it,” 1,500-meter runner Lauren Johnson, 32, of Huntington said in a phone interview. “It's probably the right thing and needed to happen. With athletes operating on a four-year cycle, this was the big year.

“I'm a planner, I like to have things planned out so it's better to have the decision now before having to transition training into more track work. It helps to adjust the training better.”

Johnson was a World Championship qualifier for Team USA in 2015 but still required the Olympic qualifying standard (4 minutes, 4.2 seconds) and U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying standard of 4:06.

With many colleges canceling many of their high-level meets, it created many unknowns for athletes such as Johnson who needed one or both standards.

“Trying to find a meet to do that was difficult once colleges started canceling meets,” she said. “The ones that were still planned, we were trying to talk to the race directors who couldn't say yes or no. Even for late summer, meets are still up in the air.”

DeKalb graduate Rachel Dincoff, 26, achieved the discus standard of 58 meters, but still needed the Olympic standard of 63.5. Her personal best is 61.

Even if not chasing qualifying marks, though, the idea of opening a competitive season at the Olympic Trials wasn't ideal.

“We started a throwers and coaches group chat about 'Where can we hold meets?'” she said in a phone interview. “We were left in limbo and 'How we were going to pull this off?' It was stressful, but it was out of our hands. I'm blessed to have places to train. That was another thing that a lot of athletes were concerned about and asking about.

“We were scared that we'd be opening our season at the trials. We wouldn't have the quality that would be going into the trials and we weren't going to be prepared.”

Steeplechaser Andy Bayer, a Leo and Indiana University graduate, came off a 2019 season that resulted in his first appearance for Team USA at the IAAF World Championships in Qatar only to now be faced with a stall in momentum, but he is staying positive.

“When it comes down to it, the Olympics are great for the world,” he said in a phone interview. “It's a wonderful thing but it's good to focus on this (pandemic) to minimize the damage as a collective group.

“It's still disappointing. I had a really good year last year and was carrying good momentum coming into this year but I feel like barring something crazy, I should still be good for next year.”

Wayne and Purdue graduate Brionna Thomas also qualified to run the trials in the 400.

Carroll senior Tristan DeWitt was qualified for the Olympic Trials in swimming, achieving cut times in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke and hopes to use the next year to add the 100 butterfly, 200 individual medley and 50 freestyle to his trials schedule.

“I'm not too worried, as long as it happens,” DeWitt said. “It's disappointing it's not this summer but I'd rather know now than have it be up in the air for a few more weeks.

“(Without the trials) I'll just be going down to IU earlier. Originally, I would go in early July instead of right when school got out. It just turns it into a more normal year.”

DeWitt was looking forward to this year's trials having less pressure on him to perform well as opposed to having higher expectations after a college season.

“I'll definitely be a lot faster next year. I'll have more trials cut times, too,” he said. “At the same time, it might not be as relaxed as it would be for me this year. Right now, I'd rather it be more relaxed with not as much pressure. I think there's still going to be more pressure at college meets. I know I might not make it (to the Olympics) but I'll be closer. Still not there, though. I'm just being realistic.”

According to DeWitt, the delay also eases the stress on former Chargers teammate Jackson Kent (a junior at Missouri who mainly swims butterfly) as well as DeWitt's sister, Mya, a sophomore at Carroll, who are both chasing the trials cut times. The delay gives swimmers additional time to qualify as spring meets were canceled and it's too far out to determine the fate of the summer meets.

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