Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tyson Gay Returns to New York in style

Tyson Gay was triple World Champion in 2007 winning the 100/200 and running on the gold medal 4x1 relay. Last year in New York he had his first set back on his way to Beijing - running second to Usain Bolt's first WR of the season (9.72) with his early season 9.85. Gay looked to have rebounded nicely from the loss at the Olympic Trials as he blazed an American Record 9.77, then the fastest ever 100 with a windy 9.68. But then he suffered his second, and most severe set back of the season when he pulled up in his first round of the 200 meters. After spending his summer trying to rehab, he only managed to take to the blocks for the first time in his first round heat of the 100 in Beijing, and found himself eliminated in his semi. Then got to watch Usain Bolt become triple Olympic Champion with three WR's in Beijing.

Since then Tyson has been back in training. So much so that the two races we've seen from him prior to today were both 400 meter races running 46.34 and 45.57. So there was much anticipation of his race today - and Tyson did not disappoint his fans. Running his signature blazing bend, he came off the turn with a lead that he extended in the straight. On his way to a personal best 19.58 - the third fastest time ever run! Only Bolt's WR 19.30 on the super fast Beijing track and Michael Johnson's 19.32 on the hyper engineered track of Atlanta are faster in history. Did I mention it was Tyson's FIRST race of the season? No one has ever debuted as fast, nor run as fast this early in the season - only in the Games themselves has anyone traveled faster! Wallace Spearmon ran 19.98 in second, which would have been the world leader had Tyson not been in the race. But all Spearmon got was the best seat in the house in the #3 race ever - and the best outside the Olympics!

As stunningly outstanding Tyson's Gay's debut was, former WR holder Asafa Powell was equally stunning in the 100 - stunning as in everyone was stunned at the level of his defeat. Yes defeat. Something that Powell is used to in Majors, but rarely happens in one off events. Fifth in the '04 Games, third in the '07 Worlds, and fifth once again in the '08 Games, Powell has only a handful of losses outside of Majors. And when he has lost he has taken second and only to the likes of Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt - until today. Today Powell finished in SEVENTH, and looked to be healthy in the process. But as in past majors, while Powell got out well, he did not bury the field. And, as in past majors seemed to once again crack under the pressure of running in traffic as at 60 meters a look of defeat entered his face, and at 80 meters he simply didn't look competitive. The result was a stunning seventh place finish as the race was won by unheralded Mike Rogers in 9.93 (+3.1)! Powell was well back in 10.10 finishing only ahead of MVP club mates Michael Frater and Nesta Carter. Powell has been known to rebound from his defeats in Majors, typically returning to the track to run a 9.7x race. We will see how he responds to this set back.

Also suffering a stunning defeat was Tirunesh Dibaba. Dibaba has practically owned the 5000 meters in recent years, and looked to be a rather certain winner in New York. But during a mid race surge Linet Masai (KEN) built up a lead over Dibaba that she refused to surrender late in the race as she held on for the win in a world leading 14:35.39! Dibaba ran well clocking a respectable 14:40.93, but on this day the Masai played the roll of spoiler and showed that she may be a force to deal with this year.

Overshadowed by these events was:

• Kristen Wurth Thomas' world leading 4:03.96 in the 1500 meters.
• Carmelita Jeter's mid race surge to win a close 100 in 10.85w.
• Anna Willard's upset win in the 800 in a world leading 1:59.29.
• Lauryn Williams 22.36 world leader in the 200.
• Leonel Manzano's gutsy last 150 meters to win the 1500 in 3:34.15.
• And a near world leading 13.12 win the 110H by Terrence Trammell.

This was definitely the best meet in the US so far this year. And will be followed up by the always quality Prefontaine Classic next week.

Full results can be found here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reebok Grand Prix - Preview

With one of the US's top meets on tap for tomorrow, I thought I would take an event by event look at the Reebok Grand Prix.

Women's Long Jump - We get a rare shot of Carollina Kluft (SWE) here in the US. Kluft is arguably one of the best female athletes in the sport as a former Olympic and reigning World Champion in the Heptathlon. The long jump is her best event, but she should have all she can handle from Grace Upshaw and Tianna Madison. Don't be surprised if Kluft's visit to the states is a successful one.

Women's Pole Vault - Jenn Stuczynski has only one peer - Yelena Isinayeva - and she won't be in New York. So this should be Stuczynski opening high, then taking some shots at 16ft. If the wind is right she could improve upon her AR of 16' 1.75" (4.92m).

Men's 400 - LaShawn Merritt has been running fast and easy so far this season at both the 200 and 400. Kerron Clement and Chris Brown are always tough competitors. But it is upstart Tabarie Henry (ISV) that sits at #4 on the yearly list at 44.77 - ahead of everyone in this race except Merritt. Until someone shows different, Merritt is the class of this field. The real race should be for second, and we will see if the emerging Henry is truly ready to run with the Big Dogs.

Women's 200 - A fairly balanced field with no dominant force in it. Add the fact that we haven't had a really top level race this year, and nearly anyone in this race could emerge with the win. Best bet is that the race should be waged between vets Lauryn Williams (US) and Shalonda Solomon (US) and youngsters Simone Facey (JAM) and Bianca Knight (US). My head says Williams will win, but my gut say Knight.

Women's 100 - Should be one of the highlight races of the meet. In this corner, from the United States we have Carmelita Jeter who has dominated every 100 race she's been in this year. Her mid race surges have been deadly. In the other corner from Jamaica we have Veronica Campbell Brown. A smooth turnover machine who just seems to know how to touch that line ahead of everyone else. Jeter's #2 on the world list at 10.96. Campbell Brown ran a windy 10.82 just last week. They are the class of the best field put together so far this year, with Allyson Felix (US), Lauryn Williams (US), Torri Edwards (US), Muna Lee (US) and Marshevet Hooker (US) all sub 11 sprinters. Edwards has the potential to steal the race at the start, but my money is on the pair of Jeter and Campbell Brown to duke it out in a nail biter.

Women's 5000 - Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) is in the race - so everyone else is running for second as no one else is in her class. It will provide an opportunity for the group behind her to try and run with her and PR - someone like Kim Smith (NZL), Carrie Tollefson (US) or Jen Rhines (US). But the real question here is how fast will Dibaba run.

Men's 200 - Tyson Gay (US) makes his seasonal debut in the sprints with this race. We know he is fit, as previous runs in the 400 of 46.34 and 45.57 attest. The question on the table is how much speed work has he put in - since he has bye's in both sprints to worlds he's been able to work longer on speed endurance. He'll be tested here by a deep field that includes sub 20 sprinters Wallace Spearmon (US), Xavier Carter (US) and Rodney Martin (US). Throw in quarter milers Jeremy Wariner (US) and Lionel Larry (US) and Gay will have to run fairly fast to win this race. If we see his patented blitzkrieg turn the season's first sub 20 could happen in New York.

Men's 100 - Two hot races back to back. A sizzling deuce should get the crowd ready for a deep and potentially fast 100 meters. There will be two heats and the breakdown of each one has not been identified as yet. But both should be burners. Most eyes, however, will be on which ever heat Asafa Powell (JAM) is in. Powell is the former WR holder, and does his best work in this type of meet. He has been injured most of the early season, however, so how well he will run in a mystery. If healthy we will see something well under 10.00 which would eclipse the current yearly lead of 9.99 by Daniel Bailey (ANT) - who is here and will be competing. Of course he will want to prove that he is a contender in the event after running Usain Bolt to the wire earlier in the season and running his world leader last week. And there are others that will want to prove that they are more than just added names in this field. Darvis Patton (US) and Travis Padgett (US) have shown the best early season form. But Nesta Carter (JAM), Michael Frater (JAM) and Mike Rogers (US) should also make things interesting. Look for Powell to run close to 9.90, however.

Men's 110H - Terrence Trammell should be the class of a very solid field. Antwon Hicks (US), David Payne (US) and Eric Mitchum (US) all faster times on the season, but Trammell does his best work when the competition heats up - and it should be hot on Saturday. Look for Trammell to surge mid race and run close to David Oliver's world leading 13.09.

Men's 800 - A "pick em" race right now with David Krummenacker (US) Jonathon Johnson (US) and Khadevis Robinson (US) all looking like they were ready to become America's best at this distance at some point - but all not quite getting there. Without Nick Symmonds in the race, here's a chance for someone to step up and get noticed. At his best I would put my on Krummenacker, but you never know just how he is going to perform. Then again the same goes for Robinson and Johnson. Which is why this race will be interesting. I'll be flipping a coin a few times before this race starts to make my pick.

Women's 800 - Kenia Sinclair (JAM) has shown real good form so far this season and should be the one to push the pace. She'll be challenged by Alysia Johnson (US) and Hazel Clark (US). Johnson will push the pace, but Sinclair is strong and this battle within the race should determine the winner. Right now that should be Sinclair.

On paper this should be one hot and exciting meet. And with it being televised on NBC (1:30 PST) this is must see TV for any track fan.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

To Improve Performance

USA Track and Field filled its position of Chief of Sports Performance by hiring former hurdler Benita Fitzgerald Moseley last week. Fitzgerald Moseley will be responsible for overseeing USATF's High Performance and Sports Science Programs, and the person that will ultimately be responsible for seeing that CEO Doug Logan's goal of 30 track and field medals in London (2012) comes to fruition.

Not sure exactly what "High Performance" and "Sports Science Programs" really means, although her oversight will include USATF's athlete development, USA team management, national relay management, elite athlete services, sport science programs, coaching education, and management of meet officials. But the bottom line in plain speak, is that she is supposed to see to it that we win more medals in London than we did in Beijing! And staying in the mode of plain speak, I don't think that is as complicated as all the aforementioned might make it sound.

I would suggest to Ms. Fitzgerald Moseley that generally speaking if it ain't broke don't fix it - but in this case we know its broken so a major overhaul is needed! And I would start by breaking everything down and K.I.S.S. it (Keep It Simple Stupid)! Go back to square one and realize that what we are really talking about is the development of one very large track team. As such the same principles that apply to the University of Oregon, or the University of Florida, or previously successful club teams such as the Santa Monica Track Club or Hudson Smith International still apply.

Looking at things in this vein the development of Team USA should be very simple and based on the following premise: your two most valuable resources are the athletes and the coaches! They are the ones that ultimately have to get the job done. And they are the ones that deserve the benefit of whatever resources you have to bring to the table! Resources meaning dollars, facilities, training, etc.

So one of the first things I would look at is securing recourses for your athletes and coaches. First on my list would be securing facilities for both that are located where your athletes and coaches are located - or at the very least in close proximity! Having training centers in places like Chula Vista and Colorado Springs simply makes no sense. That's not where your athletes or coaches are - and therefore really don't contribute to your bottom line of winning medals - or improving performance.

For whatever reason, the majority of US track is currently based "Off Broadway", in places like Chula Vista, Colorado Springs, Indianapolis (the home of USATF), Eugene Oregon & Des Moines Iowa (two Visa Series locations) and Fayetteville Arkansas (home of our top Indoor facility and meet). No offense to any of the above, but I think this creates serious marketing nightmares for the sport which I will address in a post in the near future, but more importantly with respect to the issue of Performance and winning medals, that's not where the large majority of our athletes are! So basing performance centers, or training centers in these areas poses huge logistical problems when looking to "develop" national teams.

The majority of athletes in this sport, tend to come from, or reside in or near, California, Texas, and Florida. Not coincidently, these areas also have the best weather for training the majority of the year. So it would only make sense to have our training centers, or some of them, located very close to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, and Miami. Georgia and Arizona also both produce a fair amount of talent, AND have training conducive weather, so adding centers in or near Atlanta, Phoenix, and Tucson would also make sense.

Now rather than recreating the wheel, I would suggest that what USATF should do is look to pair up with colleges to develop training centers. And I would start with State subsidized four year schools AND community colleges - because over the years states have put a lot of money into developing outstanding facilities at their schools. At the same time, the economy has recently made life difficult at state run institutions so a "marriage" between USATF and state run schools regarding facility usage might fit a need on both parts! Providing additional revenue for state run schools while at the same time providing our athletes and coaches with excellent facilities for much less than the cost of construction for
USATF. These facilities are ready today and our athletes and coaches would not have to wait years for fundraising and construction - putting us right on target for that 2012 date!

Taking care of one of the most pressing needs - places to train - the next thing I would do is ensure that our athletes have the BEST coaches available! Ironically we have some of the best coaches in the world right here in the US. Unfortunately they DO NOT work for USATF! Instead they get some payment from shoe companies, and some payment from individual athletes, but only a few make the kind of money that you would think a world class coach should make. So a PRIORITY for USATF should be to secure funding to put High Level Coaches on its payroll and dispense them to our regional training centers.

Regardless of how you may have felt about previous programs run by the Soviet Union and East Germany, having national coaches gave them a continuity of program, to go with expertise and excellence that created outstanding performances and in turn medals. Having the expertise of coaches like John Smith, Bobby Kersee, Vin Lananna, Kevin Reid, and Alberto Salazar, among others, restricted to a handful of athletes almost seems a shame. Putting them on a "national" payroll would expose so many more athletes to their expertise.

I would also look at utilizing former coaches. Coaches that have retired and do not have the energy to coach on a day to day basis, but who would be great at running off season seminars. As a matter of fact there are some retired athletes that would be good at this as well. In short, putting together a team of "consultants" that would basically work the off season with both active athletes and coaches to provide them with insight and knowledge gained through years of competing and coaching. These consultants could be used to create off season camps and symposiums. The first such camp that comes to mind would be a Relay Camp during the offseason for those athletes looking to perform on National Relay Squads! Run at a time that doesn't interfere with an athlete's competition season, it would be a perfect time to get athletes together to work on relay skills and develop some semblance of familiarity and continuity. Of course, camps and symposiums could be put together on any topic related to the sport and would only be limited by the "consultants" recruited to put them on.

And while our fundraising hat is on, we need to look at developing some sort of Training Stipends for our athletes. Not an annual salary, though eventually that needs to be put on the table, but a stipend to hold them through the training period for those athletes that come to live and train at one of the aforementioned training centers. If we want athletes to come to a center and spend time to train, we need to look at footing, or assist in footing, that bill. At the very least provide room and board. Either in the form of a stipend, or via some deal worked out perhaps with a local college, hotel, or some other form of temporary housing.

Finally, in an effort to improve performance, we need to take a look at developing internal competitions that would give high performance experience to those athletes outside of the three per event that make our national teams. Back in the 1980's we used to have what were called "Olympic Festivals" where we broke our athletes up into four regions and ran our own National "Big Meet". Calvin Smith (9.93) and Evelyn Ashford (10.79) both set then World Records in Colorado Springs at such a "Festival". The increase in World Championships filled the gaps between Games and so the "Sports Festival" died. But I see no reason why it couldn't be revived and run annually using those athletes that did not make the year's Olympic or World Championships team.

Having such annual meets would serve several purposes. Primary it would give those athletes not competing on the Big Stage a similar performance. Yes, going through the Trials is one such experience, but being on a Regional Team brings new dynamics. Being part of a team, competing for points and towards a common goal with others from other parts of the country. Relay competition at this level. And the big one is going through a Trials meet and then having to come back, peak again, and compete once more in a high level Multi Day meet. Something that would prepare our athletes and coaches for the rigors required to do well at both the Trials and a Major competition.

These meets could be rotated around to the various training centers and used as a marketing tool for the sport. Giving fans and potential fans an up close and personal look at some of the best athletes we have here in the US. They would also help to prepare various locations around the country in the event that we put in bids to host World Championship meets - and we should. As a side note, we should look at regular rotation of our National Championships as well, for the same reasons.

These are some "basic" things that seem to be missing currently from USATF and our programs to prepare our athletes to win 30 medals in a Worlds or Games. Yet it is my belief that this simple focus on the needs of our athletes and coaches, at the end of the day is what will bring success to our athletes and likewise to our national teams.

I understand that what I am proposing will take money. But then just about any improvements in the sport are going to require greater amounts of money than currently exist in the sport. But the phrase "there's no free lunch" is as applicable in track and field as it is anywhere. So while Doug Logan has seen fit to hire a Chief of Performance, his next high level hire should be in the area of Fundraising and Marketing. Because ultimately those 30 medals are going to require a hefty investment. But then as the world's largest track power that is how we should be operating.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Update

The Memorial Day weekend is typically quiet on the elite scene, and was an off weekend for Division I colleges as they rested between Conference meets and Regionals, but there was a lot of action in the lower collegiate divisions, low level open meets and high schools.

The hottest action, however was at the National Junior College Championships, as the young sprinters made their case for why they should be running for upper level schools. Rend Lake's Ryan Bailey set a new JCR of 10.05 in the 100 meters in the heats before winning the final in 10.07. He also ran 20.45 in his semi before returning to run 20.47 in the final of the 200. Unfortunately he was upstaged in the deuce by the 20.34 of Barton's Alonzo Edwards - which was also a Panamanian record. Not to be outdone the quarter milers went nuts with Latoy Williams (South Plains, and the Bahamas) eeking out a 44.73 win over Tabarie Henry's (Barton, and the Virgin Islands) 44.77. Only Lashawn Merritt and Jeremy Wariner have run faster this year.

Even though there were no "major" meets there were a slew of world leading efforts.

Daniel Bailey - 9.99 - ANT
Jacob Cheshari - 13:05.62 - KEN
Joseph Muchiri - 26:57.36 - KEN
Isa Phillips - 48.36 - JAM
Dan Taylor - 71' 5.5" (21.78m) - US
Nelson Evora - 57' 11.25" (17.66m) - POR

Laverne Jones Ferrette - 22.49 - Virgin Islands
Iryna Lishchynska - 4:06.22 - UKR
Stephanie Brown Trafton - 217; 2" (66.21m) - US
Christina Obergfoll - 224' 5" (68.40m) - GER
Brittany Reese - 23' 2" (7.06m) - US
Yargelis Savigne - 48' 4" (14.73m) - CUB

And in high school action, California's best began to gear up for State Meet action with some awesome Divisional/Section Prelim performances. Among the best:

Reggie Wyatt - 46.45/35.74/21.21w
Anna Jelmini - 51' 9.5"/182' 8"
Randall Carroll - 10.39/20.93w
Jordan Hasay - 2:09.64/10:30.04

This upcoming weekend should get even hotter with Collegiate Division I Regionals and the New York Reebok meet coming up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Difference Between Track and Field and Other Professional Sports

The buzz last night in the world of sports was not the NBA Playoffs, or even the Draft lottery to determine which order NBA teams will be selecting players in next months college draft. The buzz in the sports world was the release of Michael Vick from prison and just where he will fit in upon his return to the NFL! Sports announcers, analysts and others have been taking a look at his skills and how long he has been away, in an effort to estimate just which team he may fit best with, and what position may best suit him.

You see, the NFL, and the sporting world in general, is looking forward to the return of Michael Vick. He's talented, exciting on the field, charismatic, and people will pay to see him play - including the majority of those out there that are also track and field fans!

Oh, I did say he is being released from prison, right? But you see, that doesn't matter to the NFL, the announcers, or the fans - including those cross over fans of track and field. That's because other sports A) understand how important their athletes are to the success of their sports, B) believe that athletes can be rehabilitated, and C) believe that time served for whatever infraction is enough punishment!

Now, granted Michael Vick is an EXTREME case and situation. But that's why I bring him up, because nothing is more difficult to return from in our society than being an ex felon. Yet the attitude I have heard from those in the sport as well as those reporting on the sport is that he has been punished; he served his time; he lost everything; so he paid dearly for what he did. The question asked by many is: what else do we want from him.

A more normal situation would be the revelation over the past week or so that baseball's Manny Ramirez had a positive drug test and as a result will be suspended. Manny said fine and took his suspension. No appealing, no dragging the thing out in court. Why? Well, listening to those smarter than I about such matters the general consensus is that by simply taking the suspension without dragging it out, he will be back in time to take part in his teams playoff push, but if he fought the suspension it could last long enough that should he lose it could affect his ability to perform during the playoffs! Because you see, once Manny has served his time he will be brought back into the fold and his life and career will continue.

Compare this to track and field, where the goal is to get you out of the sport for life! Suspensions are measured in years, not meets (the equivalent of games for other sports). And even after you have served a suspension you have difficulty getting into meets or competing in Championship events. Just ask Dwain Chambers who has been fighting for his right to compete for a couple of years now. Or scan the Internet for the chatter about Justin Gatlin's impending return next year from his suspension. Already there is talk about how he shouldn't be allowed back - from the same people that are fans of the NBA, NFL, and/or MLB who cheer roundly for athletes in other sports that have either been convicted of the same offenses or are strongly suspected of the same!

But track and field has a very hypocritical stance in these matters. Now, I am not a "druggie" sympathizer. Far from it. Use drugs and face suspension, simple as that as far as I'm concerned. Where I have a problem with the sport is how athletes are treated once they have "done their time". As I referenced in my post on the false start rules, this sport takes a very punitive nature with respect to its athletes. There is this ideal of "purity" in this sport that is not human and unrealistic. Not that we shouldn't have standards. But there is a difference between having standards and pretending that we are the epitome of perfection.

There is also a difference between having rules and adhering to them. And therein lies the real difference between the other sports and track and field. We have rules regarding drugs, but we keep looking for ways to circumvent them. Don't have your Anti Doping Agency in place? Well, if we like you we will make allowances. Suspended for drug use? Depends on who you got your drugs from as to how we treat your return. Old time Stanozolol and you can quietly come back and do your thing. Modern designer drug handed out in the United States and we never want to see you again. Citizen of a small country and get convicted and the assumption is you needed the help and we'll see you when your time is up. Citizen of a large country and the attitude is "how could you" return at your own risk!

The most important commodity of any sport are the athletes. That's why other professional sports have salary caps that are based on a revenue sharing split between the owners and the athletes. That's why other sports have players unions that fight and advocate for the rights of the athletes. And that's why other sports have programs set up so that when their athletes have problems with performance enhancers, recreational drugs, alcohol, or other issues that the goal is to A) get them help, B) rehabilitate them to the best of their ability, C) and get them back into the fold. You see in other sports the athlete is a valued commodity.

Track and field treats its athletes as if they are a disposable commodity. Make a mistake and we don't want you any more. We'll find someone to replace you - as quickly as possible. So instead of working with our athletes to create a stable of stars, we toss out the ones we feel we can't use any longer and take one or two we like and run them down the middle of the street in side show events in an attempt to attract attention.

Now the last time I checked, ratings were up and doing well for baseball, in spite of Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and the Mitchell Report. Nor have football's ratings dropped because of Michael Vick, or Pacman Jones. You see the fans just want to see great competition, and they leave it to the sports to take care of their personnel issues. Most professional sports do this by attempting to do what they can to save the lives of its players. Track and field on the other hand seems intent upon destroying them. And therein lies the difference between the successful professional sports and one that continues to struggle.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jon Drummond Conducting Speed Clinic

Two Time Olympic Gold Medalist Jon Drummond is conducting a Speed Clinic in Clarksville, TN June 8th & 9th.

Monday June 8th 12-5pm
Presentation: Training Methodology
Presentation: Speed Training

Coaches & Athletes
Tuesday June 9th 10-4pm
Presentation: Drills Acquisition
Demonstration: Mechanics
Demonstration: Block work analysis

Registration: $200 for coaches if registered before June 1. $75 for students with proof of student id or drivers license.

Late registration: $225.00 after June 1.

Location: Kenwood High School, 251 E. Pine Mt, Clarksville, TN 37042
Clinic Director: Erin Walden,, 931-542-8018

For a registration form, and additional information contact Event Director Erin Walden.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up

The weekend's big meet on the elite side was the Adidas Classic in Carson. Great competition but the times were hampered by negative winds all day. In spite of the conditions, some athletes still distinguished themselves, and showed that they will play a factor on the road to Berlin.

The best on the day for my money was Lashawn Merritt who improved on his own world leading time in the 200 with a 20.07 win into a slight headwind (-0.5). Merritt dominated all phases of the race and won going away, with second place Xavier Carter a well back 20.71. Merritt chose to run the 200 here to work on his speed but got a close up look at his competition in the 400 as Jeremy Wariner competed here and won in 44.66. Like Merritt in the 200, Wariner dominated all phases of the race and he too won going away as Chris Brown was well back in 45.06.

Perhaps bigger than Wariner's victory was his announcement afterwards that he is going back to coach Clyde Hart after having left him last year. Wariner found the road a bit harder last year with Merritt's rise and his own performances slightly off from previous years. Its unusual to see an athlete leave a coach and return, but this is not your usual situation. And while last year's rift was reportedly over money, it would appear that Wariner may be prepared to pay to try and return to the top. Of course Merritt will have a lot to say about that.

Back to the meet, strong performances were the order of the day. Allyson Felix opened her season in the 200 with a decisive victory running away from the field in 22..66 (-1.9). In the women's 100 meters Carmelita Jeter surged mid race to run away from everyone in 11.09 (-0.9) after the race was marred by several false starts. While on the men's side Darvis Patton exploded late to get the win in 10.12 (-0.7).

One of the weird events of the day was the men's 400 hurdles where there were problems with the spacing of the hurdles between hurdles seven and eight. Winner of this race was Kerron Clement in a world leading 48.38 over an upset Angelo Taylor who was thrown off his pace by the mishap. Other outstanding efforts included Bernard Lagat running easy to a 3:3638 win in the 1500 meters; Jenn Stuczynski easily winning the pole vault at 15' 7.25" (4.76m) before taking some strong attempts at a new American Record; and Dwight Phillips winning the long jump at 27' 5.5" (8.37m) another strong effort in consecutive weeks.

The most hyped event of the weekend was the street 150 in Manchester England featuring Usain Bolt. And Bolt didn't disappoint running an all time world best of 14.35. In the rush to call it a world record however, it seems that most have forgotten that this race was run on a straight while others have been run around a curve. For those of you that remember the 180 low hurdles race that high schools ran before instituting the 300 hurdles in the late 70's, the 180 races that were run on the straight were approximately a second faster than those run around the turn - as turn running is more difficult. In fairness to Bolt his race is more comparable to all time great Tommie Smith and his WR 19.5 for 200 meters on the straight. At the time Smith's record around a turn was 20.0 - .5 slower than his straight time. Making a similar adjustment for Bolt's Manchester run puts this run around 14.85, still faster than the previous record of 14.93, but slightly inferior to the 14.75 run by Tyson Gay en route to his 19.62 200 meter time. Regardless, this shows that Bolt has no ill effects from his accident last month and that he is on course for superlative times once again this season.

As if Carson and Manchester weren't enough, we were also treated to several major collegiate conference meets Among the highlights:

Trindon Holliday (LSU) ran a national leading 10.01 (+1.1) at the SEC Championships in Tallahassee. Joining him under the 10.10 mark was Jeremy Hall (Florida) second in 10.08. Hall joined third place finisher Terrell Wilks (Florida, 10.15) to speed a nation leading 38.74 in the 4x1 to turn back an LSU team (38.86) anchored by Holliday. Hall then came back later in the meet to win the 200 at 20.51 into a stiff (-1.1) wind while another teammate on the 4x1, Calvin Smith, took a very close 400 in 44.96 over Dwight Mullings (Miss St, 44.98).

Those were the best 400 meter times in the country until the final of the Big12 400 where Gil Roberts (Texas Tech) blitzed a 44.86 for the win and the national lead. Also at the Big 12 meet, frosh distance phenom German Fernandez (Oklahoma St) took a 1500/5000 double in 3:42.80/14.21.05.

Not to be outdone, the Pac10 turned in some nice performances of its own. Among them was Charonda Williams (Ariz St) as she blazed an 11.14 (+1.4) to put herself in the NCAA Championships picture. And Oregon took both the men's and women's titles as they began to sharpen up for showdowns with their Midwest and Southeastern rivals come NCAA time. For full results of these conferences click below.




Sunday, May 17, 2009

Carson - The Poster Child for Changing the False Start Rule, Back

I settled down to watch the Adidas Classic yesterday. Always a great meet, this year it seemed that almost every event under 400 meters involved some issues with false starts. More irritating than the false starts themselves was the attitude of the announcers, as the First words out of the announcers mouth, repeatedly, was that we should go to a no false start rule. Which is indicative of why track and field keeps treading water in its attempt to become a major sport - we always look in the wrong direction to solve our problems in my opinion!

What's wrong with the false start rules? Well for my money there are three primary problems. For starters the rules are different in high school and college than they are on the open/elite level. Par for the course in track and field where the rules are not uniform between the various levels of competition. Second, they are purely punitive in nature. Violate and you don't get to compete - period, end of discussion. A recurring theme in track and field where it seems the only way to make people happy is for the athlete to be eliminated from competing. Finally, and in conjunction with my second problem, the rule has no relationship to the intended goal - ensuring that no one in the race gets an unfair advantage at the start!

And it is with the intended (or implied) goal of the rule that I will start, because that IS where one should start when trying to establish rules - i.e. just what is it that we are trying to accomplish. In the case of identifying false starts, that's an easy one - we simply don't want competitors gaining an unfair advantage, or even more simply, a head start! And whether there is a recall starter doing so by sight, or modern technology doing so by release of pressure on the starting block pads, we have the means to accomplish this. Someone gets a "flier" and we can call them back, reset the race, and start over again.

But as simple as that is it's at this point that things get all mucked up. For starters (pun intended) its always assumed that a false start happens because the athlete is trying to cheat! Those people that make that assumption have obviously never sprinted or hurdled. By making that assumption, the first response is to punish the athlete - as in "we'll show them for trying to cheat". Reality is that there are many reasons why a sprinter or hurdler false starts:

• Mondo gets hot! Depending on how long your hands are on the ground you just might move them in spite of yourself.

• Starters hold too long. The ideal is for the starter to get everyone in the blocks and settled, get them up into the "set" position and fire the gun on a 2 second count. I've been at meets where starters hold the athletes for several seconds - which is an eternity when you are in the blocks. Very easy for arms to give way or your balance to falter.

• Starters are often inconsistent. A lot of starters want to show that THEY are in control of the meet. Part of this control is the attitude that "no one is going to catch a flier" on them. So they are inconsistent in their count - in an attempt to throw the athletes off. Holding for less than 2 seconds - giving some athletes a very quick start. Then holding for much longer than 2 seconds and causing these athletes to be off balance.

• Crowd noise. When you are sitting in the blocks and waiting for the sound of that gun, you are so focused that you may go on the first sound that you hear. That sound can be the click of a camera, something falling to the ground, or even a cough.

• Off balance in the blocks. Perched in the set position with all of your weight against your hands, it can easy to simply twitch or flinch from being off balance.

• Movement along the starting line. I don't know how many times I've seen one athlete flinch and one or two others start to run - not wanting to get left behind!

These are just a few of the legitimate reasons why athletes commit false starts - and none of them have a thing to do with trying to cheat! Now a really good starter does control the race and takes notice of these things and has the where with all to reset the race. But there are few Tom Moore's out there - long time meet promoter and starter at the Modesto Relays. Tom realized that the athletes were #1, and that the fans came to see them compete! So he was very sensitive to making sure that no one got an unfair advantage, but also that the fans got to see everyone compete.

In the absence of ALL of our starters being cloned in the mold of Tom Moore, as long as they are part of the equation you simply can't just automatically punish the athletes when many occurrences of false starts are the result of poor "officiating"!

The other reason that the false start rule has gotten all screwed up is directly related. As I said, Tom Moore understood who the most important people at a track meet were - the athletes, followed closely by the fans. Unfortunately, that opinion is not shared by many of his contemporaries. Now the most important people at a track meet - as indicated by the decisions made by the leaders of this sport - are the TV people! We've become so preoccupied with pleasing the TV people - who only broadcast a handful of our meets a year - that we've short changed our athletes!

For example the reason that we have the false start rule that we have today is because we were concerned about meets "running over" for TV! Now, I'm sorry, when the majority of our meets are being televised and we are making NBA, NFL, MLB kind of money from television rights, then perhaps we should make some concessions to TV regarding how the sport is run. However, while we are holding our breath for that to happen our rules should be created for the benefit of our athletes! And we should stop selling our soul to someone who won't even give us fair market value for it!

This is why we have a false start rule that makes no sense at all and has no sense of fairness to it! I mean, I can false start, still run the race and be just fine. In the same race you can false start and have to pack your bags and go home! Ask a kindergarten child if that sounds fair to them! See, we've decided that whoever false starts the first time, gets immunity from prosecution. Instead, everyone shares in the blame - even though no one else did anything wrong! Now the next person that commits the infraction is dead meat! Confusing? Well, this is what happens when you take a perfectly good rule and try to make it fit someone else's needs!

You see, the original rule gave everyone in the race a false start to use, and disqualified anyone committing a second false start. This worked just fine for 100 years! Sure there were races where there were 3, 4 even 5 false starts. But no one gained an advantage over anyone else; the athletes got to compete; and the fans got to see great competition. As an athlete you were granted one mistake in an event where the slightest flinch can end up being a mistake. Compare this to field events where you get multiple attempts to "get it right" and distances over 400 meters where in many cases the goal is to let someone else get out and lead!

Now the common refrain I hear when it comes to a "no false start" rule is that the high schools and colleges have gone to it and it works just fine. Well, they've gone to it, and they are using it, but just because you are doing something doesn't mean it’s the best you can do - or that it is working just fine. In the case of the no false start rule, yes its being used, but annually there are severe casualties. Top level athletes that don't get to compete because of it - deprived of their shot at glory due to a glitch, a flinch, or the mistake of a starter. Here in California, the road to the State High School Championships is littered every year with individuals and relay teams that "should have been" at the State Meet. Eliminated at conference or sectionals or Masters meets, not by the competition, but by a split second of chance. Even at the State Meet itself there are those that are taken out due to no fault of their own. And not just here in California, because I read about athletes all over the country in high school and college meets that are done in by this rule!

I remember being at the California State Meet the year Steve Lewis (eventually a two time Olympic medalist) was called for a false start in the 400 meters. He was a full second better than anyone else in the field and was clearly NOT looking to cheat. A fan in the stands taking a photo cause him to come out early. The boos and hisses in the stands became deafening until finally the Clerk of the Course did the right thing - he let Lewis back in the race. Lewis did what he had been doing all year - he demolished the field. But then he was the best that the state had to offer and THAT is what the people came to see! We even had a similar incident at US Nationals a few years back, where after reviewing video footage an athlete was reinstated after being disqualified for a false start - and went on to win the event and later become World Champion.

You see, every once in a while we get it right. We do the right thing, for the right reasons. Not nearly often enough mind you, but every once in a while. After watching yesterday's debacle of poor starting exhibition its clearly time to revise the false start rule. Not to the no false start rule constantly advocated by Larry Rawson and other commentators, but back to the TWO false start rule employed by the sport for most of its tenure. Sprinters and hurdlers are no different than any other athletes on the track and shouldn't be treated as such. They compete in the most pressure packed events on the track yet they are the ones expected to make NO mistakes.

If we are so worried about TV time, then perhaps the better solution would be for TV to simply plan on giving us another 30 minutes for each meet. More relaxed for everyone concerned and enough time to get a few more events onto the screen. That way EVERYONE wins. But lets stop looking for ways to punish our athletes, because it seems that that is what this sport does best. After all, the rule is supposed to give everyone a fair and equal start - not eliminate them from competing.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Stars are Coming Out in Carson

The Visa Championship Series always hits its stride this time of year with the trio of Carson, New York and Eugene leading into the National Championships. This year Carson will kick this stretch run off in fine style with stars galore this weekend.

Previous Carson winners World Champion sprinter Tyson Gay and Olympic Champion sprinter Veronica Campbell Brown have both pulled out of the meet to spend a bit more time training and rehabbing from early season injuries, yet their absence should go unnoticed so deep is the quality of this year's meet.

Potential Highlights:

Men's 100 - The field includes the Olympic silver medalist (Richard Thompson) the most recent World silver medalist (Derrick Atkins), Olympic finalist Darvis Patton, and current world co-leader Travis Padgett. Padgett is the best starter in a field full of strong finishers. The best surge between 40 and 60 meters should secure victory. Look for Patton to pull it out in the seasons first sub10.

Men's 200 - Olympic gold ('04) and silver ('08) medalist Shawn Crawford, World finalist Marvin Anderson, and sub20 performers Rodney Martin (19.99) and Xavier Carter (19.63) take on Olympic 400 meter champion Lashawn Merritt! Merritt leads the world at 20.17 but that may not be good enough for top 3 in this field. Crawford will burn the turn and Carter will close late, but Merritt has looked effortless this year and rush off the turn and hold off any late rushes - and should better his PR of 19.98, which would give him the seasons first sub20.

Men's 400 hurdles - Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor v silver medalist Kerron Clement. Throw in former Olympic and World champion Felix Sanchez and tough as nails James Carter and we should see the year's first 47 second clocking. Taylor and Clement are the fastest quarter milers in the field and should have a slight edge. Clement tends to have trouble over the final few hurdles, Taylor won't falter and should win here with Carter making it tough with a strong close.

Women's 100 - Powerhouse and current world #2 Carmelita Jeter takes on last year's US Olympic squad of Torri Edwards, Muna Lee and Lauryn Williams. Add Marshavet Hooker who was 4th at last year's Trials and we have one hot race. Jeter has looked nearly unbeatable so far this spring, but Edwards has the skills to put this one away early and Williams always shows up to compete. Jeter has the added motivation of Jamaican Kerron Stewart having taken the world lead and running very well the last two weeks. I look for Jeter to continue her winning ways while throwing down the gauntlet to Stewart with a new world leader.

Women's 200 - Allyson Felix makes her season debut in an event she has dominated the past few seasons. Having lost the gold medal in Beijing after taking consecutive golds in the last two World Championships I'm looking for Felix to put the pedal to the medal here. She ran 49.7 in the 4x4 at Penn and took over the world lead in the 400 (50.75) in Doha last week. She should get a good run here from Sanya Richards, but Felix should easily surpass the current world leading time of 22.59.

Women's 100 hurdles - Olympic champion Dawn Harper takes on Michelle Perry, winner of the last two World Championships. Throw in burners Virginia Powell and Perdita Felicien and we should have one blazing race. This one is too tough to call as this is a very even, very tough group of young ladies. Perry is the most experienced which could give her a slight edge. But one wrong hurdle often decides this race. This should come down to the photo.

All of these races and I've missed stars like Jeremy Wariner (400), Dwight Phillips (LJ), Terrence Trammell (110H), Jenn Stuckzynski (PV), high school prodigy Jordan Hasay (1500), Shalane Flanagan (5000) and Bernard Lagat (1500). This meet should be as exciting and deep as Doha. So grab your popcorn and tune in to ESPN2 for what should be an entertaining meet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Road to the NCAA Championships Starts at Conference

The road to the NCAA Championship shifts into high gear this weekend as conference championships abound. The hottest meet should be the SEC Championships in Gainesville with Florida, Arkansas, LSU, and South Carolina competing, as all should play a roll in the National meet come June. The Pac10 meet won't be as deep but will feature the Oregon Ducks who should be in the thick of the National championship race. And in the mid west the Big12 will feature the Texas AM Aggies, another national contender.

Athletes to watch include:

Trindon Holliday - LSU - Trindon currently leads the collegiates in the 100 meters at 10.12. He is the most experienced sprinter on the collegiate scene and is an early favorite to win this event at the NCAA Championships.

Mathew Centrowitz - Oregon - This redshirt freshman is leading the nation in the 1500 meters at a swift 3:36.92. Distance oriented Oregon could use big points from Centrowitz come the NCAA Championships. Mathew is following in the footsteps of his father Matt who was a star in the distances for Oregon in the late 70's.

Christian Taylor
- Florida - This true freshman has been a do everything star for Florida this year. An AJR indoors in the Triple Jump he could be found in any combination of Long Jump, Triple Jump, 400 meters, and 4x4 relay. Should grab big points in Fayetteville.

Jenny Barringer - Colorado - This young lady is the American and Collegiate record holder in the steeplechase, but is leading the nation at 1500 meters at 4:08.38! Has anyone ever tried a 1500/3000St double?

Sarah Bowman
- Tennessee - Sarah can run everything from the 800 to 5000 meters and is expected to run those two very different events at the SEC meet. If Tennessee is to have a shot at either the SEC or National titles, Bowman will have to play a prominent role.

Porsha Lucas - Texas AM - AM figures to play a major roll at the NCAA championships. In order to do so Porsha Lucas will be a busy young lady as she will have to grab points in the 100, 200 and 4x1 relay. At 11.12/23.09 Lucas is #2 and #6 respectively in the 100/200.

Relays Relays Relays - The relays at the NCAA meet are always among the most exciting events and this year will be no exception. Watch Florida, Florida State, LSU, Texas AM and Baylor as they hone their skills in both the 4x1 and 4x4 this weekend. These schools will play a major roll in Fayetteville.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

When will we get Merritt v Wariner?

In Lashawn Merritt's recent entry on his IAAF diary he outlined his upcoming schedule:

• 200 this weekend at the Adidas Classic
• 400 at the Reebok Grand Prix
• 300 at the Prefontaine Classic
• 400 at Nationals

Knowing what Merritt was running I took a look at Jeremy Wariner's website to find out when we would get our first match up between the two. According to the schedule on Jeremy's site his upcoming meets will be:

• 400 at the Adidas Track Classic
• 200 at Nationals

Which would mean that we won't see these two compete against each other until perhaps some time in Europe!

Currently Merritt leads the world in both the 200 (20.17) and 400 (44.50) with Wariner #2 in the 400 (44.69). This weekend at Carson will give us our first view of the two of them at least on the same track this year - though in different events. Will be interesting to see how they each perform knowing that the other will most certainly be watching and taking notes.

Wariner has been known to run close to 44.00 this time of year, so I would expect a possible world leading performance from him in Carson. Merritt's 200 PR (19.98) was run coincidentally at Carson in 2007! If Wariner takes over the lead in the 400 I would expect to see Lashawn throw down something in this range, and possibly a new PR.

It appears we won't be seeing Wariner at either Reebok or Prefontaine, but these meets have not been standard stops for him in the past. As the defending World Champion he has a bye into the event in Berlin so it only makes sense that he will run the 200 at nationals. Thus Eugene will give us the reverse of Carson - Merritt in the 400 and Wariner in the 200.

So it appears that we won't get our first head to head race until some time this summer - unless we get a rematch of last year's Berlin race prior to Nationals since Berlin is June 14th and Nationals begin on June 25th. At any rate, we will get lots of "preview" races before hand, and hopefully we won't have to wait until Worlds to see these two go at it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up

Scanning through some meets there are more very good results from this weekend.

At the Georgia Invitational, long jumper Dwight Phillips set a new PR in the 100 meters with an excellent 10.06 (+2.0). Should bode very well for his long jumping this year. Later in the meet, 100 meter man Derrick Atkins (BAH), World Silver medalist in '07, moved up to the 200 and set a PR of 20.35 (+1.5). Atkins has been running a steady diet of 200's this spring, which should help his 100 - though he already had a strong finish.

At the Oxy Invitational in Southern California, long hurdler Felix Sanchez ran the open 400 in 45.82. The shocker, however, was 400 man Lionel Larry dropping down to the 100 meters and running a PR 20.23 INTO a -0,3 wind! He's into Lashawn Merritt territory speed wise, question is can he control it like Merritt for 400 meters?

And back to the preps, at the Mississippi state meet, Tavaris Tate ran a huge sprint triple going 10.48, 21.72, and 45.71 - the latter the best high school time in the country! Tate could be the second coming of Lashawn Merritt given time and good health.

And in Oregon Elijah Greer (1:48.97) and Nathan Matabane (3:50.48) ran national leaders in the 800 and 1500 meters respectively.

And it will only get better from here! Next up is the Adidas Classic in Carson California this weekend!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

High School Action Was Hot This Weekend Too

High Schoolers really kicked into gear this weekend as State Meets were run in some states and qualifying began in others.

In Georgia, Stephen Hill (Miller Grove) jumped a nation leading 25' 8.75" in the long jump. Seven jumpers in all went over 24' in various divisions. Jumping was good in in the high jump too as David Smith (Love Joy) cleared 7' 2" In the high jump.

In Florida Dentarius Locke screamed a sprint double of 10.32/20.70w and had a legal 200 of 20.58 (National Leader) in the prelims. His time broke state meet records of Jeff Demps (100) and Walter Dix (200).

Colorado pole vaulter Chase Cooper (Smoky Hill) cleared 17' 4.75" at his league meet to become the #2 vaulter in the country. And here in California Anna Jelmini (Shafter) took over #1 in the Shot Put with a 52' 3" throw at her league meet while Randall Carroll (Cathedral) took over the national lead in the 100 with his league win in 10.30 - best time in Cali in 17 years. Also in action this weekend was super hurdler Reggie Wyatt (La Sierra) running 36.06 in the 300H, 48.31 in the 400 and 21.81 in the deuce. He could give La Sierra a shot at the State team title all by himself.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Osaka Not Up to Doha's Standard

Tough to follow yesterday's Doha meet, but that was the position the Osaka Grand Prix was in this morning (at least this morning my time). Osaka had decent performances but only two one lap races stood out - Jeremy Wariner's 44.69 win in the open 400 and Kerron Clement's 48.60 win over the hurdles. Both efforts put them in the #2 position on the yearly list for the season, and Wariner's mark made him only the second person under the 45 sec barrier this season.

Update from Doha: The times I reported yesterday from the men's 100 were from the heats. A final was run later in the day and found Travis Padgett equaling the world lead with a 10.00 win. That makes him = #1 on the season with Walter Dix - further upping the quality on the Doha meet.

Full Results

Friday, May 8, 2009

Doha Reshapes the Yearly List

Today's meet in Doha got the weekend rolling like few meets do during the course of a season as 13 seasons bests were set in various events all over the stadium!

Where to begin? Well Kerron Stewart (JAM) demolished the women's 100 field in 10.93 (+1.3) but was just short of her own yearly leading mark (10.92). Second place was a far back Stephanie Durst (US) in 11.15. Similar story in the men's 100 where Travis Padgett (US) blitzed a nice 10.04 (+1.4) with second place well back in 11.14 (Michael Frater, JAM). Padgett was just off the 10.00 yearly leader of Walter Dix (US).

Those races aside, almost everything else that happened in Doha was a World Leading effort! The distance runners from Africa showed up and set World Leaders in the 1500 meters and steeplechase on both the men's and women's sides. In the hurdles David Oliver looked smooth and confident taking down his own yearly leader and is looking like he will be one to contend with in Berlin.

Young Sudanese half miler Abubaker Kaki, still only 19 years old ran an outstanding 1:43.09 to win a close 800 meters over Asbel Kiprotu Kiprop (1:43.17). Kaki set the WJR last year at 1:42.69 and is looking like he just might be the next half mile superstar. I wouldn't be surprised to see him scare the 1:42 barrier this year.

Field eventers got into the action in Doha too as American Reese Hoffa (71', US) and Norwegian, Andreas Thorkildsen (274' 7") had huge throws in the shot put and javelin. And high jumper supreme Blanka Vlasic scaled 2.05 (6' 8.75") in what could be a season where she finally gets that HJ WR.

Will be hard for Osaka to top this, but I hope they do!

World Leading marks set in Doha:

50.75 - Allyson Felix, United States
4:06.67 - Gelata Burka, Ethiopia
9:32.68 (st) - Ruth Nyangao, Kenya
12.52 - Priscilla Lopes, Canada
2.05m (6' 8.75") - Blanka Vlasic - Croatia
4.55m (14' 11")- Silke Spiegelbug, Germany
4.55m (14' 11") - Yuliya Golubchikova, Russia
6.99m (22' 11.25") - Brittany Reese, United States

1:43.09 - Abubaker Kaki, Sudan
3:30.88 - Augustine Kirpono Choge, Kenya
7:58.85 (St) - Ezekiel Kemboi, Kenya
13.09 - David Oliver, United States
21.64m (71') - Reese Hoffa, United States
83.69m (274' 7") - Andreas Thorkildsen, Norway

Full Results

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Five Matchups That Will Shape the Sprints in 2009

I know it's early in the season. There is lots of time for athletes to rise, fall, and even rise again. Already we have seen injuries, accidents, slow starts to training and other issues that could affect the final outcome to the season - which this year is the World Championships in Berlin. But somebody has to stick their neck out at some point and start looking ahead. I figure now is as good a time as any. So, following are the 5 matchups in the sprints that I think will shape the Berlin finals.

#5 - Walter Dix v Asafa Powell

I'm sure that sprint fans are immediately laughing at this one. After all, Asafa Powell runs fast with regularity and is closing in on Maurice Greene as the most prolific sub10 sprinter of all time. On the other hand, Walter Dix has just entered that realm and only has a handful of sub10's to his credit. So I'm sure many of you are asking how I can utter these two names in the same breath?

Simple. One of my favorite sayings is: "It ain't how fast you run, it's when you run fast". And that is very applicable to this matchup because Asafa Powell has never run near his best times in Majors, while Walter Dix has proven over the years to be a great big meet performer. So this matchup will be a battle of attitude vs aptitude for what I believe will be the bronze medal in the 100 meter dash. More importantly I think this matchup will be very important in defining these athlete's careers. The winner could join the current two headed monster that has dominated the 100 over the past two seasons and make it a three headed beast. For Powell it could be make or break, because if he is once again shut off the medal stand in a major he will become an historical footnote - very fast but not a "winner". Both need to win this match up for the respect factor.

Powell is the fastest starter on the planet. He looks like a dragster, simply blasting away from the competition and holding to the finish. Only the super finishers have a shot at running him down. But Dix is that anomaly - the short man who doesn't start fast but finishes like a freight train. Dix has crazy top end speed, but can he stay close enough early in the race to use it? The answer to that question will decide this matchup.

#4 - Carmelita Jeter v Kerron Stewart

The women's 100 has been anyone's race for most of this decade. Multiple champions in Majors, and most races that matter being separated by hundredths of a second between 3, 4 even 5 individuals. That "parity" appears to be in danger this year though, as two powerful women look to be ready to emerge.

Jeter and Stewart bring power to an event that has seen the finesse of sprinters like Christine Arron, Veronica Campbell, Lauryn Williams, and Torrie Edwards taking center stage. These two, however, bring power like Maurice Greene and Shawn Crawford. And like those two athletes in their prime Jeter and Stewart are threatening to use that power to separate themselves from the pack. These young ladies have mid race surges that can destroy a field, and early on both have shown improved starts to go with their closing speed. So it's no mystery that first Jeter (10.97), then Stewart (10.92) ran under the 11 second barrier to lead the world.

There are a lot of fast young ladies out there - last year a dozen ran under 11.00 - but only two have the kind of power that could separate them from the rest. Their mid race surges and finishes being far superior to the rest of their contemporaries. But as with the fast finishers among the men, the question becomes will they be close enough when they fit their turbochargers to take over the race? Based on what I have seen of both early on the answer is yes. As both have improved their starts to go with blitzkrieg finishes. That is why I believe that the matchup between these two young ladies will decide the gold in Berlin AND set the pecking order in the women's 100 for the next several years.

#3 - Allyson Felix v Veronica Campbell Brown

Its real simple. Veronica Campbell Brown has won the last two Olympic gold medals in the women's 200 meters. Allyson Felix has won the last two World Championships gold medals in the women's 200 meters. Berlin will be the rubber match!

Campbell Brown is the faster of the two, having a gold medal in the 100 to her credit and a faster PR (10.85 to 10.93). Felix has the best speed endurance, however with a 49.70 best in the 400 to go with several 48 sec relay legs. Their previous races over 200 have been memorable. Campbell Brown fast over the first 100 meters, Felix blazing over the second 100. This matchup is for 200 meter supremacy - Queen of the Curve! Will it be the speed and gritty drive of Campbell Brown, or the smooth acceleration and relentless finish of Felix? Keep your eye on the last 20 meters of the curve and the first 20 meters of the straight, as the transition here will determine who gets crowned. She who transitions best will be Queen. I want to see a few runs by both before I will even consider making a call on this one!

#2 - Lashawn Merritt v Jeremy Wariner

Jeremy Wariner was the undisputed King of the Quarter from 2004 through 2007. A long reign in any event in this sport. During that reign the "Human Metronome" (as I call him) just kept knocking out the times and victories. So much so that entering 2008 the conversation was whether or not he would add the world record to Olympic gold in Beijing.

During Wariner's reign, however, Lashawn Merritt had been just under the radar, steadily improving after being somewhat of a prodigy himself having run 44.93 indoors as a college freshman in 2005 and immediately going pro. Merritt had spent the years since taking his lumps but finally last year he emerged from Wariner's shadow! Merritt won the Olympic Trials and the Olympic Games as well as several other competitions against Wariner.

But Wariner is a champion and you can see in his face already this year that he wants to be back on top. Merritt has given every indication however, that he likes being The Man, and has no intention of relinquishing the title of best quarter miler on the planet. The result should be a series of hard fought races between the two - and a matchup that will blossom into a true rivalry! Wariner runs his race as if he has a metronome in his head - his ability to stay on pace is uncanny and unwavering. Merritt's speed, however, enables him to run relaxed at paces that strains others. Both can surge at 300 meters and both can finish strong in the stretch. This is a matchup where a single mistake can mark failure and where a quarter mile after the start the race could be determined by hundredths of a second . Look for high drama in Eugene and Berlin as these young men go at it to prove just who is best in the 400 meters.

#1 - Tyson Gay v Usain Bolt

My number one matchup takes me back to the mid 1970's when American Steve Williams and Jamaican Donald Quarrie were clearly the best two sprinters on the planet. Their matchups lead to several world records and several very memorable races - at both the 100 AND 200 meters.

Today Gay and Bolt bring the same kind of dominance and excitement to the track - and they too do it in BOTH the 100 and 200 meters. As such this will be the most important matchup in the sprint world in 2009 because they are the cream of the crop in TWO events - and they are the face of the US vs Jamaica sprint rivalry!

Tyson Gay beat all in his path in '07 on his way to double gold in Osaka. His mid race surges laying waste to field after field in the 100. Leading up to his running down of Asafa Powell in full flight in the World Championships. In the 200 he simply put everyone away before he came off the turn.

In '08 Bolt emerged to beat all in his path on his way to double gold in Beijing. He came out of no where in the 100 to first run close to the World Record before beating Gay in New York with a new WR. He continued to beat all in his path until he took gold in Beijing in another WR. His 200 runs were less frequent but no less lethal displaying improved strength on his way to another WR with his gold medal run in Beijing.

In spite of their Mutt and Jeff appearance stature wise, the two are eerily similar race wise. In the 100 meters both are average starters who can occasionally catch a good one. Bolt has great early acceleration and mid race lift. Gay great mid race acceleration and closing burst. In the 200 both burn the turn and simply outrun you to the finish.

The most intriguing aspect to this matchup is that they met only once in '08 due to injury to Gay - in New York. A month later in Eugene at the Olympic Trials Tyson set an American Record of his own and fans thoughts went immediately to Beijing. A few days later, however, Gay went down to injury in the 200 - and Bolt was left alone to run rampant in Beijing. So this year will bring them back together to decide just who is the fastest man on the planet - in not one race but two!

Being so close style wise it will be the first thirty meters of the 100 that should decide their fates - the man that can separate here will win. In the deuce it will be the final thirty meters - he who holds on best after what will be a torrid 170 meters will become champion. They are so well matched that we could even see a split - one winning the 100, the other the 200 - making future races just that much more exciting.

Of course so much can happen during a season. As stated above, Tyson Gay was injured at our Trials after a phenomenal display in the 100 meters, putting an end to a Beijing matchup of titans. Already this season Asafa Powell (injury) and Usain Bolt (accident) have had to withdraw from some early season races. So the odds are great that all five of these matchup may not come to fruition. But if they do, and I'm crossing my fingers that they will, these five matchup will shape the sprint scene not only for this season, but quite possibly for seasons to come. Buckle up and grab your popcorn, this is going to be one exciting season!

Monday, May 4, 2009

NBC in Long Term Deal with the IAAF - Good or Bad for US Track Fans?

A press release issued today outlines a new deal between NBC and the IAAF to broadcast the World Championships in 2011, 2013 and 2015. It is an extension of the deal that NBC has to broadcast this year's World Championships in Berlin. The agreement also includes some future telecasts of Golden League events during the same time period.

On the surface this is exciting news. Just a few years ago (2003) we only had one day of Major network coverage (ABC) of the Paris World Championships - a definite travesty. By the same token, however, last year's telecast of the Olympics by NBC was also a travesty. Promising more hours of Olympic coverage than had ever been provided, we were treated mostly to tape delayed coverage of events almost a day later than they were originally contested. In the age of the Internet this was most horrific.

After all, we are now treated to LIVE RESULTS being fed to us from the website of every Major competition on the planet - and a few even provide free LIVE streaming of their events. I knew the full results of the men's 100 meters in Beijing almost instantly after the race was completed. In addition to the website there were cameras all over the stadium broadcasting to countries around the world. Fans in Europe and Australia were treated to instant video of the race as well as instant results. Even the rabid fans in Jamaica saw Usain cross the line in real time. But we fans here in the US had to wait for NBC's prepackaged Prime Time coverage before we were able to see what we had known to be true for some 24 hours!

But it gets worse! Because just as there were cameras and broadcasts all over the globe of the Games, some of them actually had live internet streaming to go with their broadcasts! Now, NBC had promised "us" live video streams of events too! This was part of their "unprecedented" coverage of the Games. What they didn't tell us however - hidden in the fine print - was that there was no live streaming of anything that they were holding for their Prime Time telecasts! So while I could watch all the ping pong I wanted to see live, I couldn't watch any track and field live.

But it gets even WORSE! How could it get worse you ask? Well, as I mentioned above, there were live streams of track and field on the Internet. I even caught a glimpse of a couple of heats of some races this way. But our friends at NBC found them and cut off access to Americans! That's right, they cut off access to Internet streams of live Olympic coverage from us here in the United States. Several times sites popped up, and the Internet community said - in hushed tones - "Americans try this link". And we would, and it would work, and NBC would find them and quickly shut off access to the US!

So, in the end, with NBC's cyber cops on the case, we here in the United States were forced to wait approximately 24 hours at a pop to see what NBC would "allow" us to see. So while the rest of the world, including undeveloped nations, were watching ALL the rounds of ALL the races, and ALL the jumps and attempts on the field, we here were treated to NBC's hit and miss coverage of the Games. I say hit and miss because track and field was interspersed with swimming and gymnastics and a whole lot of beach volleyball, among other sports, in its made for Prime Time three to four hours of coverage!

So, am I excited about the press release that was issued today? Not really. Not if it means that NBC is in total control of what you and I get to see. Because that means waiting for NBC's Prime Time package so that they can cash in on their "rights" with their advertisers. That means that they will NOT be setting up any LIVE video streams, and they will cut access to any video streams from other countries! And I have to take a time out to give a shout out to the Bahamians because their live stream (when I could see it) was the bomb! Exactly what SHOULD be taking place in the New Millennium.

Instead, here in what is supposed to be the most developed country on the planet, we get the 1960's version of global telecasting - taped delayed, severely edited, hope I make a buck from my advertisers, and the fans can't do a thing about it, programming! Sort of Aldous Huxley's "Big Brother" come to life! Of course this is no Brave New World that NBC is residing in, but the crappy old world that modern technology was supposed to improve - and has for the rest of the world!

So if, as the press release says, the IAAF is looking for this to improve track and field in the United States, I suggested they rush back to the negotiating table. Tell NBC that there should be LIVE Internet for the real fans, and they can save the montages and such for the casual fan watching during Prime Time. And NO, selling some service to us (via Universal Sports) is not the same. Not when you are making a killing on advertising - that's called double dipping and I HATE when they do that! Also, tell them that they can NOT limit or restrict access to what others provide on the Internet! That's weak and cowardly - make them RAISE THEIR GAME instead.

Like it or not, the Internet has created a Brave New World when it comes to the media. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has access to an entire world of media, and NBC shouldn't be allowed to restrict it, but rather be forced to grow with it. It's time for NBC to raise its' game, not impinge on others. They can either make this a good thing for American fans, or continue to make press releases like today's a reason for real fans of the sport to cringe.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Turns Up the Heat on the Track

The weather wasn't always cooperative this weekend, but that didn't stop an onslaught of athletes turning up the heat on the season this weekend. The meet I was most looking forward to was the Texas Twilight. Put together at the last minute it still put together some solid fields and had Tyson Gay once again taking on the 400 meters as he prepares to defend his sprint titles in Berlin - and neither Texas nor Tyson disappointed!

A lot of races benefitted from the favorable breezes one usually finds in Texas and there were some great times albeit windy. The best being barely windy times by Alonzo Edward in the men's 100 (9.97, +2.3) and Brendan Christian in the men's 200 (19.98, +2.1). Outstanding races from two young men that could end up having an impact on this season. If so it started here in Texas.

But the race of the day for me was the 400 meters where Tyson Gay took his second shot at the distance in two weeks and set another PR of 45.57 while finishing third a very decent field. Just ahead of Tyson was Lionel Larry who qualified for the World Championships in this event in '07. And Tyson finished ahead of sub 45 quarter milers Kelly Willie and Lajerald Betters. Tyson's recent runs bode well for improvement later this season in his regular events (100, 9.77, 200 19.62) as his speed endurance appears much improved over previous seasons.

Video of Tyson Gay's 400 here.


While the winds were a benefit in Texas, in Guadaloupe negative winds hampered the times all day. None the less Lashawn Merrit flew around the oval to take over the world lead in the 400 at 44.50. Merritt now hold the world lead in both the 200 (20.17) and 400. Everyone else spent the day fighting for decent times, though Carmelita Jeter continued to show her dominance in the 100 with a .17 win in 11.16. Not a great time, but a nice margin of victory over a field that included Lauryn Williams, and Torri Edwards.


Jeter lost her world lead in the 100 on this day however as Kerron Stewart blitzed a 10.92 (+1.2) in Kingston at the Jamaica International Invitational. Stewart also had a large margin of victor (.22) in beating Marshavet Hooker and Olympic gold medalist Shelly Ann Fraser. Like Jeter, Stewart is a powerful sprinter and we could be in for a treat when these two square off against each other.

In the women's 400 Novalene Williams-Mills handed Sanya Richards a rare defeat outside of majors as she ran a world leading 50.98 over Richard's 51.12. Another world leader was run around the oval as Javier Culison took the 400H in 48.42 setting a Puerto Rican National Record in the process.

And in the men's 100 Darvis (Doc) Patton was just off the world lead as he won a very competitive 100 meters in 10.02 (+0.1). Patton was just ahead of Daniel Bailey (10.02), Yohan Blake (10.07) and Olympic silver medalist Richard Thompson (10.07). Patton came back to take the 200 as well in 20.49.


At Stanford steeplechaser Jenny Barringer (Colorado) took over the world lead in the 5000 meters as she set a new Collegiate Record with her 15:07.64 victory. Her mark broke the old record of 15:09,72 and is also an "A" standard for the event - giving her the option to compete here or the steeple in her search for a World Championship berth . This is Barringer's second world leader in consecutive weeks, as last week she ran 4:08.38 in the 1500 meters. Jenny is having a very nice spring and her early season bodes well for great things in her pet event, the steeplechase, later in the season.

The 5000 meters saw another record broken in this meet as Stanford's Chris Derrick set a new American Junior Record in the event at 13:29.98 breaking Galen Rupp's '04 mark of 13:37.91. Frosh mile star, German Fernandez was also under the old mark with an outstanding 13:31.78 of his own.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Track Shorts - including Tyson Gay v Wallace Spearmon

Usain Bolt was in a car accident in Jamaica this week. No broken bones, but word from his manager yesterday is that he will be out the month of May, which means he will not be competing in Kingston this weekend. While Bolt said he was fine this is a smart move on the part of his people. Auto accidents can often result in spinal and back injuries even when no such injuries are apparent. I am taken back to the early part of this decade when Ato Boldon was in an auto accident that basically lead to the end of his career, as his performances were never quite the same. Hopefully such is not the case for Bolt.

Speaking of Kingston, information has been hard to come by, but I do know that along with Bolt the meet will be missing Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell Brown, and Tyson Gay. We should see Olympic medalists Kerron Stewart and Shelly Ann Fraser in the women's 100, and Olympic medalist Richard Thompson along with early list leaders Marc Burns and Yohan Blake in the men's 100. Sanya Richards is reported to be in the women's 400 as is Kerron Clement in the men's 400H. And the shot put is reported to have Dan Taylor and Christian Cantwell. More on this meet as it becomes available.

Another meet stepping into prominence this weekend could be the Texas Invitational, which was put together at the last minute when a meet in Houston was canceled. The meet has drawn several Olympians including Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Muna Lee, and Lopez Lomong. The most interesting matchup will be Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon - not in the 100 or 200, but in the 400! Both ran 400's last weekend - Gay the open 400 in Arizona in a PR 46.34, Spearmon a relay leg at Penn in 45.5. Would be interesting to see two sprinters square off in what could be a 45 second battle over a quarter mile! This race could spice up the weekend.