Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh finished in a dead heat for third place in the 100m dash at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday. With the top three runners going to the Olympics, the tie has to be broken. Shockingly, USA Track and Field does not have tiebreaker procedures in place. Officials are meeting now to decide what happens next.
The best option is a run-off. Turn off the clocks, and have the two women line up and run it out. The winner represents the United States in the 100m dash. The loser becomes a footnote in Olympic history. It's the only option that requires the tie is settled by running, and it's in the tradition of U.S. track and field. Team USA is not chosen by a committee or by looking at accolades. It's chosen by the athletes' performances during the trials, and it's a crucible that has worked in making the U.S. a track and field powerhouse.
A terrible, horrible option that has been bandied about is a coin flip. Place all the hopes and dreams of Felix and Tarmoh on the flip of a coin. Though it may work to settle ties in draft orders or who gets the ball in the NFL, it is not appropriate for the Olympic Trials. Too much depends on the decision for it to be settled by chance.
Another option would be for track and field officials to decide based on Felix and Tarmoh's records. Though more fair than a coin flip, it would open the door for favoritism and politics. Felix and Tarmoh deserve better.
Let them settle it on the track, put it on live television, and stick with what works.
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