Longtime coach enjoys U.S. Olympic track trials

June 29, 2012 

EUGENE — Clay Lewis had always dreamed of competing at a U.S. Olympic track and field trials meet.

That dream was never realized, but this weekend he was able to go to a third consecutive trials as a fan.

Lewis, a longtime track and field coach at Hanford High, traveled to Eugene to watch Sunday and Monday at Hayward Field with his wife Kerry.

“You go to this event, this big venue and you are going to see world records broken,” Lewis said. “The best in the world are there. It is amazing, just knowing what they have to go through to compete.

“They are all my favorite events. We get so excited we don’t even want to head to the restroom when competition is going on.”

While Lewis wouldn’t specify a specific favorite event, he did enjoy watching the men’s high jump, which is his signature event.

Lewis is a Kennewick native, starting the high jump as a youngster for the Lions in 1969.

He then went to Columbia Basin College from 1970 to 1972 and holds the high jump record for the Hawks.

From there he moved onto Eastern Washington University, where he played basketball as well as participated in track and field for the Eagles.

“My earlier days of jumping were my best,” he said. “I wanted to get a couple more inches so I could get an invite to the Trials, but I never did.”

Lewis fractured one of his vertebrae in high school, which limited his ability during college.

He then left Eastern Washington to head back to the Tri-Cities to help out home, giving up both athletic scholarships.

Though he never got to compete at the pinnacle of track and field, he has influenced countless athletes at his coaching stops from Kahlotus to Richland to Hanford.

“I’ve been blessed to have a lot of great high jumpers,” Lewis said. “The last five years I’ve had (some) state champions. I’m lucky; I’m blessed. People ask me where I get all these good high jumpers and I tell them, ‘I dip them out in the Hanford waste tanks.’ ”

Lewis also worked with Prosser Olympian Kelly Blair-LaBounty before the 1996 Olympic trials, helping to fine tune her high jumping.

Blair-LaBounty knocked off Jackie Joyner-Kersee at the ’96 Trials, and took eighth in the decathlon at the Atlanta Summer Games.

w On to the semifinals: Washington State graduate Jeshua Anderson ran just his second race healthy in two months.

The 400-meter hurdler struggled through the preliminary round, finishing third in his heat to just squeak through to today’s semifinals.

But the time didn’t matter nearly as much as just finishing a race.

“(Thursday) was getting the jitters and the kinks out,” he said. “Now I know mentally how to run my race. It’s just great to get through.”

Anderson is the defending U.S. outdoor champion, but his London Olympics hopes were up in the air with his injured hamstring.

“There was a lot of worry if I could get back (in time),” Anderson said. “(Today) I’ll really run my butt off. I’m concentrating on getting into the finals and then I’m going to unleash, unleash hell.”

Anderson finished in 50.49 seconds, making a big charge in the final 50 meters to rally for the third and final spot from his heat. Kerron Clement had the top qualifying time at 49.37.

w Washington connections: UW graduate Katie Mackey and sophomore Katie Flood both advanced to the finals in the 1,500 meters. Mackey did so in 4:14.28, while the 2012 NCAA Division champion Flood crossed in 4:15.45. … WSU graduate Ian Waltz just missed out on an Olympic berth in the men’s discus. Waltz was in third place with a throw of 201-2 going into the final throw of the competition, but Lance Brooks, from Colorado, launched a personal best, and Olympic A standard throw of 213-9 to win the competition and knock Waltz into fourth place. Idaho graduate Russ Winger finished fifth with a mark of 200-11. Kentwood’s Will Conwell took ninth with a throw of 188-4. Conwell was a three-time champion at the Pasco Invite in 2000 and 2001. … In the pole vault, UW’s Scott Roth took third, clearing 18-4. He did not qualify for the Olympics, though, as he had not met the Olympic A standard. Spokane’s Brad Walker won the title, clearing 18-7.

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