2012 Olympics | July 27 - August 12
Posted: Tuesday June 26, 2012 1:41AM ; Updated: Tuesday June 26, 2012 1:41AM

Hightower would've chosen runoff option in 1984

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) -- Stephanie Hightower's Olympic fate once boiled down to an overblown photo.

The president of USA Track and Field didn't make the `84 Olympics squad in the hurdles because of a grainy photo finish after a three-way tie for second at trials that was simply too close to call.

The photo, she said, wasn't all that telling and she was the odd person out of the mix.

Hightower didn't have an option back then. She's glad that Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh at least have that chance now.

The training partners finished in a third-place tie in the women's 100 meters Saturday. USATF didn't have a procedure in place to determine the third and final spot on the Olympic team for the London Games until Sunday.

Now, the options are this: They can either decide who goes to London in the 100 by a flip of the coin or a through a runoff.

"Absolutely, I'd take the runoff," Hightower told The Associated Press. "But it's a little bit different for them. That was our only event. These ladies have another event they're competing in."

Bobby Kersee, who coaches both sprinters, said Tarmoh and Felix won't decide anything until after they run the 200, with the final scheduled for Saturday.

That's all they're focusing on at the moment.

"All we can do right now is understand what they're proposing," Kersee said. "We told them we're going to focus on the 200 meters and we'll deal with their proposal after the finish."

Felix echoed those thoughts in a statement she released late Monday.

"I appreciate everyone's support in dealing with this unprecedented situation," she said. "I am not going to discuss the 100M situation any further at this point as I need to turn my focus to the 200M. I'm looking forward to continuing my fight for a spot on the Olympic team."

Tarmoh was originally declared the third-place finisher in the race and the official scoring said she had edged training partner Felix by 0.0001 seconds. But the results were reviewed, and after a lengthy delay, the dead heat was announced.

They're looking to join winner Carmelita Jeter and runner-up Tianna Madison on the team.

This has touched off a wave of controversy, especially because the national governing body had no protocol in place at the time to decide such situations.

But any publicity, good or bad, is just that - publicity.

"I've seen this on everything from CNN to the Today show," said Max Siegel, the recently hired CEO for USATF. "We've got to capitalize on the attention they're giving us."

Like Siegel, Hightower has seen this situation explode. She's hearing from people she hasn't been in contact with in a long time.

"I'm getting text and voice mails from all over the world," she said. "They are stay-at-home moms to retired folks to business leaders in my community, texting me, saying, `They've got to do a runoff, not the coin toss.' It's becoming a media topic that I think is good for the sport. We're going to leverage it."

For a sport that really only attracts the spotlight every four years, this is generating quite a few headlines. And Hightower insisted this was a chance to push track forward - even if some have said it's actually a black eye.

"It's a chance to educate folks and get them engaged in a different way and at a different level," Hightower said.

USATF has said it wants the matter decided by Sunday when the trials end. Kersee has suggested he may wait until 11:59 p.m. if he has to, just to ensure more rest for the sprinters.

He's simply fearful of a quick turnaround between the 200 final - should both make it - and another round of the 100. That's quite a bit to ask of them.

"You don't have to bother us about this now," he said.

Hightower vividly recalls her disappointment in `84 at the trials in Los Angeles. Kim Turner won the event, while Benita Fitzgerald, Pam Page and Hightower all finished in 13.13 seconds. Technology being what it was back then, there was no real good way to decide the spots. So officials did what they could.

Fitzgerald wound up winning Olympic gold at Los Angeles.

"They kept blowing the photo up. Kept blowing it up as much as they could," Hightower said. "It was almost like a perfect storm - the last event of the trials, the last event of the evening, one of those things that people were ready to go home. With the naked eye, they made a decision. That one was second, that was third and I was fourth.

"Absolutely, I would've wanted a runoff."

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