Following her fourth place finish at Sunday’s U.S. Olympic trials at Oregon’s Hayward Field, Morgann Leleux was treated like she was part of the U.S. team bound for next month’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
She signed the exact paperwork and was fitted for the same uniforms that will be worn by the top three finishers representing the United States in the women’s pole vault competition.
Leleux’s status as an alternate to the U.S. team was of little solace, though, where she won’t travel to Brazil or actually get to wear the uniform she put on for precious seconds.
If anything, the fourth-place finish — or one spot off the U.S. team — was more excruciating for Leleux, who now has visions of securing sponsorships and embarking on a professional career.
“This is probably the hardest position to be in,” Leleux said. “If something happens, they’ll take me. If someone gets hurt and decides they can’t do it, they’ll take me.”
There’s a part of Leleux, the NCAA outdoor runner-up last month for Louisiana-Lafayette, that’s already set her sights on qualifying for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team that will compete in Tokyo.
She would rather secure a spot on that team by finishing in the top three at the U.S. Olympic trials than fill a void as an alternate on this year’s team at the expense of another competitor who incurred injury.
“Now that the trials are complete, I actually pray that it will not be my time to go to the Olympics this year,” Leleux wrote on her Facebook page. “The three girls that earned their spot truly earned their spot. I know they will make their country proud in Rio.”
Leleux overcame what she termed a “flat” performance in Friday’s qualifying to reach Sunday’s final.
Four years after making only one height and failing to advance, Leleux was one of 14 competitors to reach the final, tying for 11th place.
“I’m not sure what was going on Friday, but somehow I made it through,” Leleux said.
A day’s rest appeared to have made a big difference with Leleux clearing the first two heights — 14 feet 5¼ inches and 14-9 — on her first two jumps Sunday to establish some early confidence and that she could garner a top-three finish.
Leleux cleared a personal best 15-1 on her second try, leaving her a part of a group of six competitors remaining until she bowed out at 15-3 on three straight misses.
Defending Olympic champion Jenn Suhr won the event with a clearance of 15-9 followed by Sandi Morris (15-7) and Alexis Weeks (15-5).
“When I made my attempt at 4.60 (15-1), I thought for sure it was going to be my day,” Leleux said. “I thought I had plenty of height for 4.65 (15-3), but it just did not happen. I had the height (on final attempt) but went into the bar because I was too deep into the pit.
“It started to hit me how much of a chance I had,” Leleux said after clearing 15-1. “I really thought it was my time. It was a really good feeling. I’ve definitely come a long way. I’m definitely going to keep working and not give up my dream. I’ll be back in four years.”