Former Western Kentucky University thrower Jessica Ramsey joined a growing list of athletes with ties to the commonwealth Thursday night who have earned a spot in this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Ramsey, who competed for the Hilltoppers from 2010-14, set a meet record for the U.S. Olympic Trials in winning the women’s shot put with a personal best throw of 66 feet, one-quarter inch at Eugene, Ore.
“What an exciting moment for everyone in the WKU track family, past and present,” said Brent Chumbley, the Hilltoppers’ director of cross country and track and field. “We wish Jessica the best as she takes on the world as part of Team USA. Go Tops!”
Ramsey joined three other athletes with Kentucky ties who have claimed spots on the U.S. track and field team for Tokyo during these trials — former UK standouts Kendra Harrison (women’s 100 hurdles) and Javianne Oliver (women’s 100) and former Ballard High School sprinter Ronnie Baker (men’s 100). Ex-Cat Jasmine Camacho-Quinn has earned a spot on Puerto Rico’s Olympic team in the 100 hurdles, and former Eastern Kentucky runner Thijs Nijhuis will represent Denmark in the men’s marathon.
Numerous other athletes with Kentucky ties are also headed to Tokyo in basketball, rifle, fencing, golf, softball and swimming, with additional trials still ahead.
Ramsey, a native of Boynton Beach, Fla., is a seven-time individual Sun Belt Conference champion. She won indoor and outdoor shot put in both 2013 and 2014, weight throw in 2014 as well as discus and hammer in 2014.
She currently serves as a volunteer assistant coach for Ole Miss.
Ramsey will be joined on the Olympic team by fellow shot-putters Raven Saunders (65-6) and Adelaide Aquilla (62-2 1/4).
Saunders, who competed in an Incredible Hulk mask, danced on the field upon making her second Olympic team. She also hugged Michelle Carter, the defending Olympic champion in the event. Carter could not compete after having surgery to remove a benign tumor from her ankle this month.
Aquilla, from Ohio State, won the NCAA title in the shot put just two weeks ago.
Ramsey became only the fourth American woman to crack 20 meters. The throw, the second-best in the world this season, broke the meet record of 65-6 set only minutes earlier by Saunders.
Thursday’s other highlights
▪ Emma Coburn set a trials record in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at nine minutes, 9.41 seconds. Joining the 2017 world champion on Team USA will be runner-up Courtney Frerichs, the 2017 worlds silver medalist, at 9:11.79.
The race also produced one of the most devastating moments of the trials. Leah Falland was in third and running strong with two laps to go before she tripped on her landing over a barrier. Falland tried to recover but missed out on qualifying for what would have been her first Olympics at age 29. At the finish line, as Coburn hugged the second- and third-place finishers, Falland cried, down on all fours.
▪ Teenage middle-distance runner Hobbs Kessler recently elected to turn professional and sign a deal with Adidas.
Kessler ran his first race in his new shoes during the first round of the 1,500 meters at Hayward Field. He finished in three minutes, 45.63 seconds to win his heat.
“It hasn’t sunk in, and I don’t know how long it will take,” Kessler said of being a professional. “It’s pretty amazing, and I’m very grateful.”
The 18-year-old Kessler from Michigan recently broke Jim Ryun’s American under-20 record with a time of 3:34.36 at the Portland Track Festival. Ryun’s mark had been on the books since 1966.
Kessler said the decision to turn pro was stressful.
“Weighed on me for a long time,” Kessler said.
▪ In other races, sprinter Allyson Felix finished in the top three of her heat of the 200 meters to advance to the semifinals.
When: July 23-Aug. 8
Where: Tokyo, Japan