Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Christmas Wish List for US Track

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Three

With Christmas less than a week away I hope its not too late to send my Christmas Wish List to Santa. Of course my presents are already under the tree, so this list is dedicated to the sport of track and field. I'm looking forward to an exciting 2010, and with a little help from Santa it could be superlative. So without further delay here is my Wish List for Track and Field:

• Good health for Tyson Gay. In spite of his steady improvement, we haven't seen a full healthy season from Tyson since 2007 - the year he was double World Champion. Yet he enters 2010 with bests of 9.69 & 19.58 - making him one of the best sprinters the planet has ever seen. Even though there is no major this coming season it would be nice to see the Diamond League kick off with Tyson against Bolt with both at full strength.

• More 1500's from Jenny Barringer. Personally I think this could be her best event. So much so that I think she can break the American Record (3:57.12) and seriously challenge the world's best. Not that she doesn't have a future elsewhere in the sport, but typically in the distances one starts shorter and moves up with age, and I would love to see her be like a Gebrsellassie and rewrite the American Record book one event at a time - starting with the signature 1500 meters and working her way up the ladder.

• A better turn for Wallace Spearmon. Spearmon consistently finishes like a house a fire in the deuce, running 19.8's routinely while coming from several meters off the pace against the competition. A few years ago that won him many races - now it results in 3rd and 4th place finishes when the field is loaded. The one race that Spearmon seriously attacked the turn we saw him blaze a 19.65 in Daegu (site of the next World Championships) in 2006. I know he has had some difficulties with injuries in the interim, but I have to believe that the man that once regularly beat both Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt is still capable of running with them - if he would only attack the first half of the race!

• Continued improvement for Dathan Ritzenhein, Matt Tegenkamp, and Galen Rupp. It seems like an eternity since we saw American distance runners going toe to toe in major competitions against the best in the world with a shot at finishing among the leaders. But this past season we saw these young men begin to make inroads into that territory. No matter how well we do in the sprints and hurdles, America doesn't take notice until we bring home some hardware in the distances. So it seems crucial for the advancement of the sport in the US that we see this trio (and others) push themselves to their limits in the pursuit of their African counterparts.

• On that same note I'd like to see a return to health and form for Alan Webb. The 1500 meters is the 100 meter dash of the distances and the US needs a major presence here. We have some youngsters that are progressing nicely (Lopez Lamong, Leonel Manzano, German Fernandez) but we need a presence now, and Webb has shown the ability to be right there with the best in the world when he is at his best. And frankly I think we've only been teased by his talents to date - meaning that nearing what should be his prime he could be even better than in the past.

• Another trip to the fountain of youth for Dwight Phillips. It was nice to see Phillips reach out to 28'9" this year. The long jump is one of those field events that somehow elicits excitement in a crowd - especially when we have athletes soaring out over 28 feet. With sprint times dropping and the West Africans blazing in the distances, the field could use the excitement that a 29 foot jump would generate - and I believe that Phillips is the one to do it.

• A quarter miler, any quarter miler, to give the 800 a serious shot. We have fallen behind he rest of the world in the half mile - seriously behind. No disrespect to Nick Symmonds who has run well and given the event his all, but if we are to compete with the Rudisha's, Mulaudzi's, and Kaki's of the world, we need to bring more speed to the event! Surely there is a quarter miler stuck at 45-low that's tired of watching the back sides of Meritt and Wariner, and the group of 44 sec sprinters chasing them, that would love a shot at some personal glory of his own.

• More 400's for Allyson Felix. She finds herself in the position that many great 200 meter runners before have been in - to double in the 100/200 or double in the 200/400? She has moved down to the 100 and run 10.93, and moved up to the 400 and run 49.70 - making her a threat at both distances. But while she's a threat at 100, the event is getting increasingly faster as Jeter (10.64), Fraser (10.73) and Stewart (10.75) are beginning to separate themselves from the 10.9 sprinters of the world. And while Felix may be close to them on top end speed, her horrendous start leaves her with far too much ground to make up in most races. In the 400 though, she is showing the kind of promise once showed by one Michael Johnson as she not only runs the open event in the 49's but routinely splits 48's for the US 4x4. And watching the ease with which she does so it's clear that she is the one that could take the event down into the low 48 range once again given she gave it some serious attention.

• More 400's for Kerron Clement as well. Yes, Clement is one of the world's best over the hurdles. He's run 47.24, won two World titles and an Olympic silver. But anyone that has watched him hurdle and cringed watching him trying to negotiate the barriers in the final straight has to have wondered what he could accomplish if he would get the hurdles out of his way! Even though he runs sans barriers infrequently he still owns the WR indoors (44.57) and has cruised 44.48 outdoors. Having watched both his powerful finish at the end of hurdle races, and watched him run his share of relay legs, I have to believe that this man has 43-mid waiting inside him.

• More guts and consistency for Maggie Vessey. She is one of the world's best - on the clock. When you run 1:57.84 you've entered elite territory as a woman. Now "she" needs to believe it, stop running in the back of the pack like she doesn't belong, and attack the race. Watching her stay back there and then come charging up over the final 200 reminds me of so many high school runners that are afraid they will die if the go out too fast. Vessey has run enough now to know how good she really is. But I keep getting the feeling that she's not yet believing it. But like the lion in the Wizard of Oz, her courage is already there, and she will see that she has used it several times already if she will just look back at her accomplishments. I think she's an AR (currently 1:56.40) waiting to happen if she will just believe.

• A full, healthy, focused season from Walter Dix. We know he's a competitor - multiple titles in high school and college and he made the '07 and '08 World and Olympic teams, scoring double bronze in Beijing. We know he's fast - 9.91 & 19.69. But since he's gone pro we saw him skip the Euro season and the World Championships in '07 - the season he ran 19.69. Then suffer through agent problems and injury this past season. Sandwiched in between was the season of double Olympic bronze - and his 9.91. One has to believe that if he can just get healthy AND focused for a season or two, that at the very least he could become a strong #2 to Tyson Gay in the US sprint stable! And we need a one - two punch to attack the sprint forces that the rest of the world is suddenly unleashing upon us!

That's my list for Santa. I'm dying to see just what he delivers out of that red sack of his. With a little luck several of my wishes will come true. If so we'll get a lot of fireworks in 2010!

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