Former Aggie Track Standout James Parker Has Qualified For The 2004 Olympics
July 13, 2004
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- James Parker was the clear favorite in the men's hammer throw at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
Naturally, that made his life miserable.
"I was nervous for the past week," he said Monday night. "I couldn't sleep for three days."
He can rest easier now. Parker came through, winning the competition with a best throw of 254 feet, 6 inches. The former Utah State multi-event thrower finished about 5 feet ahead of A.G. Kruger, earning his trip to Athens.
The stress level for Parker resulted from the fact that only one U.S. thrower -- Parker -- had reached the Olympic "A" standard of 258-0, which is likely to keep the Americans from fielding a full three-man hammer team in Athens. So with only Monday's winner guaranteed a spot, Parker knew that a bad day for him or one flukish throw from a competitor could spoil everything.
No wonder he said afterward, "It's just a big weight off my shoulders."
Parker improved on each of his first four throws in the six-round event.
But only his last two marks topped Kruger's best effort of 249-5 with the 16-pound ball that's attached to a 4-foot wire. Kruger's top throw came in the fourth round, temporarily putting him within 2 feet of Parker, before Parker immediately improved his mark.
"I knew James would probably throw close to 260, so I had to step up my game," Kruger said.
Travis Nutter finished third at 237-9. Kruger and Nutter have until Aug. 9 to reach the "A" mark -- a high standard that Nutter labeled "realistically . . . a joke."
Parker's victory rewarded his government-subsidized training efforts. He's a self-described "military brat," explaining how he arrived at Northridge High in Layton, not far from Hill AFB, before competing at Utah State.
While still an Aggie, he finished seventh in the 2000 trials at 222-2. He has improved
considerably the past two years while himself employed by the Air Force, stationed at Malmstrom AFB in Montana and allowed to train basically full-time during an Olympic year.
His military job description as a first lieutenant is as a services officer. "We take care of the pilots when they're not flying," he explained.
The pilots will have to do without him during the Olympics, but that's the whole idea of the Air Force's World Class Athletes Program, so Parker's Trials win is a big boost for the base and the government's investment in him.
"It's such a relief to have done well," he said.
Parker's emergence in the event over the last four years coincided with the retirement of Lance Deal, who had dominated the hammer in America. Deal had competed in the last five Trials.
For another hammer thrower from Utah, the '04 Trials ended prematurely.
In the women's qualifying event, 2000 Olympian Amy Palmer of Grantsville High and Brigham Young surprisingly failed to advance.
Palmer finished 17th among 24 women's throwers, missing Thursday's 12-athlete finals. Having made the Trials with a 221-0 mark, Palmer fouled on her first attempt Monday, then threw 199-4 and slightly less on her third attempt. She missed the finals by about 3 1/2 feet.
Palmer had finished eighth in Sydney and recently started training and competing again after having a child.
In the women's high jump final, BYU multi-sport athlete Lindsey Metcalf finished in a five-way tie for fifth place after being eliminated at 6-2 1/4.
Metcalf, who's also a Cougar volleyball player, had cleared 6-0 1/2 on her third attempt.
Late Monday night, former BYU athlete Nikki Hughes was scheduled to compete in the women's long jump qualifying.
After a two-day break, the second four-day segment of the trials will begin Thursday.