Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up - A Preview of Future Greatness

This weekend I think we saw several break through performances, starting with Reggie Wyatt of La Sierra High School in Southern California smashing the HSR in the 300H with a stunning 35.02! The previous record was 35.28 set by Jeshua Anderson back in 2007. Video of this outstanding performance can be seen here. Wyatt also won the 400 meters in 46.13. This young man is a raw talent with tons of room to grow. He reminds me of a young Kevin Young - tall, lanky, with lots of speed. London 2012 is easily within his reach - and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Daegu in 2011.

Wyatt's performance served as a prelude to the Prefontaine Classic where we were treated to some outstanding performances from several elite athletes. The best coming from Dwight Phillips in the long jump as he leaped to the equal #5 position all time with his huge 28' 8.75" (8.74m) blast. Amazingly this won done into a -1.2 wind - so its possible that we have much more to look for from Phillips! We haven't seen a jump that far since Erick Walder equaled that mark in 1994 in the altitude of El Paso Texas with the maximum +2.0 wind. Larry Myricks also equaled that mark at the US Trials in 1988. Only Carl Lewis, Robert Emmiyan, Bob Beamon and WR holder Mike Powell have ever jumped farther. This was Phillips second consecutive week over the 28' barrier, having jumped 28' 0.25" (8.54m) in Hengelo. He's also improved his 100 best to 10.06 this year, so appears to be in the best condition of his life at the ripe old age of 31. Phillips has had lots of international success in the past including winning gold medals in '03, '04, and '05. But now he appears to be ready to not just win, but to jump into rare territory in the process! It's possible we could see Dwight get over the 29' barrier - legendary territory!

At the other end of the age spectrum is Jenny Barringer (Colorado), only 23, who obliterated the collegiate record in the 1500 with her stunning 3:59.90 run! The previous record of 4:06.16 was set last year by Hannah England (FlSt). The time makes Barringer only the 3rd American woman ever under the 4:00 mark - the others being Mary Slaney (PR, 3:57.12) and Suzy Favor Hamilton (PR, 3:57.40). Barringer is far ahead of schedule, so to speak, as Favor Hamilton's best in college was only 4:08.26. Jenny has been on a tear this year. She ran 4:25.91, 8:42.03, and 15:01.70 for the mile, 3000, and 5000 meters indoors this winter; had run 4:08.38 previously in the 1500; and just ran 9:26.20 in her signature race, the steeplechase, at last weeks Regional meet. Jenny was strong in the stretch in Eugene. I think this is going to be a huge year for her. It's not often that American women are serious threats in the middle distances. Take Slaney and Hamilton and add Kim Gallagher, Jearl Miles Clark, and Regina Jacobs and you've covered the last 25 years! So to watch Barringer begin to emerge is very, very exciting!

Another who appears to be ready to emerge is Michael Rogers. For the second week in a row Rogers solidly beat a strong field in the 100 meters. And for the second week in a row he did it under 10 seconds - this time with legal wind. His 9.94 (+1.7) took over the yearly lead from Churandy Martina - who was in the race. More importantly it backed up his 9.93w performance from New York last week and for the second week in a row he beat Asafa Powell, Richard Thompson, and Michael Frater - all ranked in the top 10 in the 100 for 2008. He's also beaten Travis Padgett, Walter Dix, and Darvis Patton - all US Olympians in '08. Rogers is heading into Nationals on a roll, and at his current level should make the team - and has a chance to have a strong impact in Berlin. We'll see how it plays out.

The women's 100 was another important race as we look forward to Berlin as undefeated sprinters Kerron Stewart (JAM) and Carmelita Jeter (US) met each other for the first time this year. Stewart entered as the world leader while Jeter sat in the #2 position on the yearly list. Stewart had the better start, but Jeter the better finish as they went 1, 2 - Jeter 10.85w, Stewart 10.90w. These two have been the class of the event all year and did nothing to change that in Eugene. This may have been a preview of the gold medal race in Berlin.

The other truly exciting race in Eugene was the women's 800. The time was not exceptional, but the manner in which Maggie Vessey won was! Running last for the majority of the race, Vessey came off the final turn, swung wide, and sprinted up the stretch and ran past athletes that were supposed to be her superiors! She picked them off one by one until she put enough day light between her and the others to win by almost a full second! In her wake was Olympic Champion Pamela Jelimo, Kenia Sinclair, Tatyana Andrianova, and Hazel Clark - all sub 2:00 performers. As exciting as the race was, I think this may have been a break through performance for Vessey. Often when an athlete comes through in this fashion to win a big race, it serves as a confidence builder, and a launching pad to greater things. And that is what I think all of the above performances share - I think they were all launching pads to greater things this summer! Phillips, Barringer, Rogers, Jeter, and Vessey, keep your eyes on them I think we will be talking about them again at the end of the month at Nationals!

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