Former USF track star Matthew O'Neal participated in U.S. Olympic triple jump qualifying this past weekend in Eugene, Oregon. In the first round on Thursday night, he automatically qualified for the final round with a jump of 55 feet, 8 3/4 inches, which ended up being good enough for first place.
Saturday night in prime time brought prime time competition as well. With only three spots available on the U.S. Olympic team, O'Neal's best jump of 55 feet, 9 3/4 inches (tying his lifetime best) wasn't quite good enough to qualify. He finished fifth, only eight inches behind third-place finisher Chris Benard. The first two positions went to Will Claet and Christian Taylor, the reigning Olympic silver and gold medalists in the triple jump, respectively. Claet's jump of 57 feet, 11 inches was over two feet longer than O'Neal's best-ever effort.
The good news for O'Neal is he has a few more cycles to make an Olympic team. He steadily improved his personal best jump during his USF career, and it took several older, more experienced athletes (including the two best triple jumpers in the world) to keep him from going to Rio. Matthew's story isn't close to over. Remember to follow him in the runup to Tokyo 2020.