Litchfield vaults into finals at Olympic Trials

Bear River grad must finish in top three to earn a trip to Beijing
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
-A +A
For someone who almost didn’t get to compete in the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, Paul Litchfield is awfully confident that he’s got a shot at Beijing. He’s got reason to be. The 1999 Bear River High graduate earned a spot in today’s pole vault final after finishing in the top 13 during preliminaries Friday in Eugene, Ore. Litchfield cleared the qualifying mark of about 18 feet on his first attempt, then took the rest of the night off to “save (my) legs for (today).” Today’s final will take place at 2:40 p.m. Litchfield must finish in the top three to advance to the Olympics in Beijing. “We’re real proud of him, real pleased,” said Bob Litchfield, Paul’s father, who made the trip with his wife to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field to watch his son compete. “We’re just euphoric.” If anyone counted Paul Litchfield out before Friday’s preliminaries, it wasn’t him. “I knew if I got in (to the Olympic trials), I had a pretty good chance of getting into the final,” he said. “I’ve been jumping pretty consistently around 18 feet, 18-1. “Making the final is super exciting, but going into the preliminaries, I was confident that that was something I could do.” Like a college basketball team that was on the bubble but goes on a tear after making it to the NCAA Tournament, Litchfield is getting hot at just the right time. “I knew I had it in me to make the Olympic trials, but this is maybe the first time in my life that I thought I could actually make the Olympic team,” he said. “I feel like I’m jumping well enough to do that. “There are heights I’m capable of clearing. I just don’t have it down on paper (as an accomplishment) just yet.” His personal-best vault is 18-4½, but with his confidence soaring, “I feel like that’s an easy bar for me right now. I just need to prove it.” Litchfield was edged out of the 2004 Olympic trials by a centimeter, and he was on the bubble again this year. Only the top 24 were originally supposed to be selected, but with a four-way tie at the 24th spot, the field was expanded. What’s made Litchfield’s experience at the Olympic trials even more special is that they are being held in the city where he was born. Litchfield left Eugene with his family when he was about five and hadn’t been back since. “I was kind of hoping it would be mystical to come back to my birthplace (and compete),” Litchfield said. “People from my area were coming out during the regular season to check out the track. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to save some magic for the Olympic trials. “(Hayward Field) is one of the best facilities in the nation, with probably one of the best track and field crowds in the country. I didn’t want to waste that feeling in a regular meet.” The favorite to win today’s event, Brad Walker, set the U.S. men’s pole vault record at 19-9¾ June 8 at the Prefontaine Classic, also held at Hayward Field. While that’s considerably higher than Litchfield’s PR, Litchfield is not intimidated. “I’ve realized that this meet only comes once every four years, and that’s forced me to do things well,” Litchfield said. “This is my last shot for the next for years. I need to take every opportunity I get.” “It’s really possible for him to (make the Olympic team),” Bob Litchfield said. “He’s jumping better than he’s ever jumped in his life. But even if he doesn’t, the fact that he made the Olympic trials, we’re thrilled. “He’s our hero; what can we say?”