In fourth place by 2 inches after five of six rounds, Rome let loose a toss of 207 feet, 10 inches, to finish in second place and earn a spot on the London-bound U.S. team. It came on a damp night at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., site of this year's Trials.
It will be the second Olympics for Rome, a 1995 graduate of Marysville Pilchuck High School. He was also on the 2004 U.S. team in Athens.
“It's amazing,” said the 35-year-old Rome, speaking by telephone from Eugene. “But if you've ever heard the expression athletes sometimes use, 'It hasn't really set in yet,' well, that's kind of how it feels.
“Right after I knew I was going to be on the team, I was going crazy on the field,” he said. “I was so happy. But now I'm just trying to sort it all out. It's a great feeling, but I'm sort of numb.”
Rome opened the competition with a mark of 201-0, which put him in fourth place. The 12-man field would be trimmed to eight after three throws, and the remaining throwers would then receive three additional attempts.
Rome fouled on his second and third throws, but was still fourth and still 2 inches behind longtime rival and two-time Olympian Ian Waltz.
With three more throws, Rome fouled on his fourth try and then reached 198-4 on his fifth. Still trailing Waltz by 2 inches, Rome's Olympic bid was coming down to his final attempt.
And he ended up with the heave that will take him to London.
Rome admitted he felt pressure on Thursday night, “and it wasn't just pressure on my last throw,” he said. “This has been the most stressful week of my life. I never even felt this much pressure going into 2004 when I was trying to make that team.”
But after failing to make the 2008 U.S. Olympic team after being ranked first in the nation and fourth in the world, “I knew if I didn't make this team I'd be thinking, wow, what a failure,'” he said. “So I wanted to get the monkey off my back.”
Rain started to fall in Eugene just as the discus competition was beginning, “and I could only throw about 75 percent,” he said. “So I was not throwing like I wanted to. ... No kidding, as soon as the competition started it started raining. And for a discus with a metal rim, it can slip out of your hand.”
Yet there was, ironically, still another way for Rome to get on the Olympic team. Every discus thrower headed to London has to have achieved the Olympic “A” standard of 213 feet, 3 inches in the past year, which Rome has done. But event leader Lance Brooks had not, and if he failed to throw 213-3 on his final toss Rome would have made the Olympic team in Brooks' place.
“But I knew I couldn't bank on him not throwing the 'A' standard,” Rome said. “So going into my last throw I was going to go as hard as I could. And if (the discus) slipped, it slipped.”
As it turned out, Brooks surpassed the “A” standard by throwing 213-9 to win the event. Third place went to Jason Young of Lubbock, Texas, who was in second place much of the night, but was bumped to third by Rome's final throw.
“Realistically,” Rome said, “I'd like to have thrown further and won. And I felt like I was in a position to throw further. But the No. 1 goal was just to make the team.”
Missing the Olympic team was Waltz, the 2008 Olympic Trials champion. A former Washington State University athlete, Waltz fouled on his final attempt and finished fourth at 201-2.
Former University of Washington track athlete and football player Will Conwell, formerly of Kent, threw 188-4 on his third throw and ended up 10th.
Another Snohomish County athlete will try to earn a place in London today. Brittany Aanstad, a 2007 graduate of Lake Stevens High School and the 2012 NCAA Division II women's javelin champion, will throw in the qualifying round this afternoon. The top nine move on to Saturday's final.
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