Monday, June 29, 2009

US Nationals - The Results are In, How Do We Look?

USA Track and Field National Championships Day 4

The US National Championships concluded yesterday and all the results are in. With the meet serving as the selection process for August's World Championships, the immediate question is - how will we do?

There are six weeks until the start of competition on August 15th - so relatively speaking its just around the corner. But plenty of time for those not yet sharp to get there, but also long enough to be difficult to perhaps hold a peak already reached. As we saw last year in Berlin running extremely well now, doesn't necessarily translate into superior performances a month and a half later in a global championships.

While I have seen several writers lamenting that some top athletes chose to use their byes (defending World Champions automatically qualify to defend their titles) and ran secondary events or single rounds; and others critical of the lack of "records" being set at the meet, I will say that athletes and coaches appear to have learned from last year's debacle in Beijing, and approached this year's championships as the key stepping stone to global titles that it truly is.

This meet closed with few casualties to injury; with those expected to make the team on the squad; and with what appears to be on paper as good a team as can be put together here in the US. Yes we have some holes to fill - some areas where we need to improve. But we will be strong and competitive in a majority of events and should do quite well in Berlin.

Following is my assessment of how the team looks leaving Eugene. Hopefully in six weeks we will look even better.

Men's Field Events

We look very solid heading into Berlin in the field. The shot put and pole vault have strong veteran performers. Christian Cantwell, Brad Walker, Reese Hoffa, and Derek Miles have all been on the big stage and have shown the ability to perform well when needed. Dwight Phillips has become extremely consistent in the long jump this year and has been regularly over 28 feet for the last month with a huge 28' 8.75" that put him in reach of the 29 foot barrier. Expect medals in Berlin in these events.

The loss of Bryan Clay put a damper on our decathlon hopes, though the young men that will go to Berlin should get valuable experience, and have the potential to get close to medal territory. Elsewhere in the field we are in growth mode and have a bit of work to do. Especially in the triple jump where we have fallen way off. Once a global power, 54' foot jumps made the team in Eugene making this one of our weaker events in the field now.

Women's Field Events

Jenn Stuczynski is a threat for gold in the pole vault. She and Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) could have a very strong battle in Berlin. Likewise discus thrower, Stephanie Brown Trafton showed that she is in form to potentially add a World title to the Olympic title she won in Beijing. Together they are our strongest hopes for medals in the field.

Though not as strong a bet, long jumper Brittany Reese has shown the potential to score in Berlin with a solid, consistent performance. Elsewhere in the field we are young and have a lot of growth ahead of us.

Men's Distances

Galen Rupp is the modern day Steve Prefontaine. He's running well right now and is showing the ability to shift gears - important in international competition. He appears to be in the best condition of his life which means we should see an improvement in his 10000 meter PR of 27:33.48. If he can cut 20 to 30 seconds off of that he can be in medal contention in what is usually a tactical race in a major.

In the 5000 Dathan Ritzenhein was a popular name prior to Rupp's emergence. Ritzenhein has experience, and is fast enough (13:16.61) to be in medal contention in Berlin as most majors often go in the 13:20/13:30 range. And Bernard Lagat is the defending champion. So we should be well represented here.

I don't see any such opportunity in the steeplechase - another event where we have fallen way off the pace compared to where we used to be.

Women's Distances

We appear stronger than we have in a while here. Jenny Barringer in the steeple; Kara Goucher in the 5000; and Amy Begley & Shalane Flanagan in the 10000 give us as strong a contingent as we have had in quite some time in the women's distance events. It is a stretch, but not impossible, that we could pick up 3 medals in these events.

Men's Middle Distances

Bernard Lagat is the defending champion in the 1500 meters. But after Lagat, this is an area where we were once strong, but now merely spectators after the first round. If the 1500 becomes tactical, perhaps one of our youngsters may have a shot to slip in. The 800 show little medal opportunity however. Symmonds and Robinson are veterans with plenty of experience. But neither seems to be fast enough to compete outside of the US. 1:44/1:45 is just not going to get us in medal contention with so many others running 1:43 and threatening 1:42.

Women's Middle Distances

Shannon Rowbury seems to be slowly rounding into form. At her best she can get in the 4:00 range and possibly medal. Kristin Wurth Thomas showed that she has a ton of heart. Another gutsy round of running in Berlin could put her in contention. And Anna Willard has the speed to be in the mix as well, having run 4:01 earlier this year and 1:59 for the half.

The 800, however, give us no such possibilities. Championship running goes around 1:56/1:57 to get into the medals and we are having difficulty getting runners under 2:00. When your miler/steeplechaser is also your leading half miler you have a problem - and we have a problem here.

Men's Hurdles

The bad news is that we lost David Oliver to injury in the high hurdles. Oliver has been among the world leaders all season. The good news is that we are very deep in this event so we will still send multiple medalist Terrence Trammell, and last year's Olympic bronze medalist David Payne.

In the long hurdles we return all three medalists from Beijing (Kerron Clement, Angelo Taylor and Bershawn Jackson) and add talented youngster Johnny Dutch. Three or four medals out of the two hurdle events is a strong possibility. We will be represented well here.

Women's Hurdles

Dawn Harper was a surprise winner in the short hurdles last year. She just won the National championship in a super time, so she won't be sneaking up on anyone this time around. Damu Cherry is a fast veteran; Ginny Powell seems to be back from injury; and Michelle Perry is the defending champion. We have a strong shot here at more than one medal.

The long hurdle race is also a strong suit. Lashinda Demu. Sheena Tosta, and Tiffany Williams form a very solid trio all of which are capable of getting to the medal stand. So we will be well represented in both hurdle events in Berlin.

Men's Sprints

After last year's fall off in Beijing our men appear ready to get back to their medal winning ways. Tyson Gay showed that he will be faster than ever as he ran a windy 9.75 in what he called a bad race (his first 100 of the season). He will be joined by Mike Rodgers, the National champion in Gay's absence and one of the hottest sprinters of the season having beaten all except Gay and Usain Bolt - including two wins over Jamaican Asafa Powell. And super vet Darvis (Doc) Patten appears to be rounding into form at the right time this year.

Speaking of super vets, Shawn Crawford did nothing short of putting on a clinic on how to run the 200 meters as he motored his way to a windy 19.73 in crushing the field for the National title. He will join Gay in the 200 in Berlin to form the hottest duo ever in the event.

Only Usain Bolt stands between Gay and a repeat of his double victory in '07. Their battles could be the most anticipated of the World Championships - and the most entertaining. Behind them Rodgers will be in strong contention for the bronze in the 100 meters and Crawford in strong position for the 200 bronze.

In the 400 there are only two questions. In what order will Lashawn Merrit and Jeremy Wariner take gold and silver, and who will take third behind them? Such is the strength of our 400 meter team. So expect a large medal haul in these events in Berlin. Three to six medals should be attainable.

Women's Sprints

Carmelita Jeter is undefeated over 100 meters this year and ran 10.72w and 10.78w at Nationals. Muna Lee was right with her in the final at 10.78w. Muna also ran well in the 200 taking second (22.13w) to defending World Champion Allyson Felix (22.02w). We'll be sending a very strong contingent in the short sprints.

In the 400, Sanya Richards looks to be as strong as ever. If she can execute after rounds in Berlin (something she has had difficulty with in the past) she a solid medal contender and is good enough to win the gold. Behind her we are young and unproven this time around. However, like the men, three to six medals is not out of the question between the three events.

With a return to strength of our sprint squads, we should see an improvement in the medal count over Beijing. We still have several areas that need to be addressed, however, if we are to reach Doug Logan's goal of 30 medals in London. Frankly I think the goal IS attainable. We've been strong in the jumps (men and women) in the past and I see no reason why we can't be again. The resurgence of Dwight Phillips is an example of just how quickly this can happen.

The middle distances baffle me. We have some excellent coaches here in the US. And if there is any area of our sport that is popular among the masses it is distance/road running. So you would think that producing the likes of Galen Rupp and Jenny Barringer would be routine. Instead they are the exception. There is no reason that our middle and long distance squads shouldn't be as strong and deep as our sprint squads. We need to work on that. If we do, 30 medals in London is definitely achievable.

This year in Berlin we will not get there, but we should be somewhere in the 20's, and that is where we should be. Berlin should see us get back to "normal". Then we can look to Daegu (2011) for improvement.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

US Nationals Day Two

2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Day 1

Day Two continued with lots of qualifying rounds, but there were several finals including the men's and women's 100 and 5000 meters.

In the women's 100 Carmelita Jeter remained unbeaten winning the title in a blazing 10.78w. The victory was not easy however, as last year's Trials winner, Muna Lee made a rush to the finish in the final 30 meters that brought her to within .001 of victory as she too crossed the line in 10.78w. They will be joined by super vet Lauryn Williams who, once again, brought her "A" Game when it mattered and ran her way onto the team after a somewhat average spring.

With Tyson Gay having run enough to secure his ticket to Berlin, Mike Rodgers continued his hot streak winning the men's event in 9.91w just ahead of fast closing Darvis Patton's 9.92w. The surprise was the 3rd place finish of Rae Edwards (10.00w) who ran solidly through the rounds and edged ahead of Travis Padgett (10.02) to gain a spot on the team. Both 100 squads appear to be strong and should form formidable 4x1 relay teams in Berlin. One of the events early favorites , Walter Dix, went down to injury in his semi and is out for the rest of the meet.

I had high hopes for the women's 5000, as several of our distance stars were originally entered. But Jenny Barringer opted to focus on the steeplechase, Shalane Flanagan was satisfied with her place on the 10000 team, and Shannon Rowbury opted to focus on the 1500. All of which left Kara Goucher as the Alpha Distance Queen in the race. Goucher went out and dominated the race, winning easily in 15:20.94 over the 15.26.92 of second place finisher Jen Rhines.

The men's race lost a bit of luster when Galen Rupp opted to just run the 5000, but Oregon Track Club members ran solidly in taking all three Berlin spots - Matt Tegenkamp (13.20.57), Chris Solinsky (13.20.82, Evan Jager (13.22.18).

Results for all events can be found here.

Today's events will feature long jumper Dwight Phillips who could be flirting with the 29 foot barrier before the day is done, and Olympic Champion Lashawn Merrit in the 400 meters. The sprinters will get right back on the track for the opening rounds of the 200 meters. And we should get a good battle between Shannon Rowbury and Anna Willard in the women's 1500 meters. Should be an exciting afternoon.

Track and Field: USA Track & Field Indoor Championships

Friday, June 26, 2009

Do They Really Understand Track and Field in Oregon Outside of Eugene ?

While scanning the internet for articles on this week's National Championships, I came across an article in the Oregonian that really took me by surprise. While host city Eugene prides itself as being "Track Town USA", the primary paper in the larger City of Portland talked about the National Championships and our top athletes as if this were the opening night of a theater production!

The writer, Ken Goe, calls several athletes "arrogant and short sighted" because they are not competing in their primary events, or in some cases only one round, because they have byes to the World Championships as defending champions! He says, sarcastically that "If the people who have packed into Hayward feel cheated, well, hey, the athletes have their own careers to think about".

Clearly Mr. Goe does not follow the sport, or does not understand it. Yes this is our National Championships, and will serve to select the team that will represent the USA at the World Championships in Berlin. But what Mr. Goe is missing is just that - we are trying to select a team for the World Championships, and it is those World Championships that serves as the bigger goal for every athlete in this competition! And THAT is what all of these athletes are pointing towards - to doing their BEST not in Eugene, but hopefully in Berlin!

Mr. Goe states that "USATF CEO Doug Logan has big plans to remake the USATF in time for the 2012 Olympics. How about starting by giving the ticket-buying public and the television executives who have slotted three days of live coverage a national meet in which the sport's biggest names give an honest effort?". Evidently Mr. Goe missed the report where Mr. Logan stated that the goal is to increase our medal count at Majors!

You see, the goal is NOT about putting on a show in Eugene, but rather about putting on a show in Berlin, or London, or wherever the Olympics or World Championships happen to be. To that end, that may mean that sometimes our best hopes in certain events focus on THAT meet and not the National Championships.

Tyson Gay ran his heart out for you last year and put on a great show. And for his efforts he suffered an injury and was unable to perform at his best in Beijing. The result was "failure" in Beijing for the American sprint squad and cries of "what is wrong with American sprinting"! All of our athletes put on a show for Mr. Goe last year, and many performed poorly as a result in Beijing. So yes, those that have the ability to adjust their seasons in order to PEAK in Berlin are doing that! And that doesn't mean that the fans in Eugene won't get their money's worth.

Tyson Gay gave the fans a show on Day One as he sizzled in his appearance on the track - 9.75w the fastest run ever witnessed in Eugene! Just because Jeremy Wariner is running the 200 instead of the 400 doesn't mean we won't see a world class effort from Jeremy in THAT event - he does have a 20.19 PR and is looking to try and improve upon that! Kerron Clement in the open 400 instead of the 400 hurdles? Mr. Goe must not be aware that Clement is one of the world's best in the open event, holds the World Indoor Record in it, and many feel it may be his better event! I don't think the fans will be cheated by having him run the 400 - not at all. As a matter of fact I would suspect that while Goe touts that Galen Rupp was running the 10000 final last night, I imagine that Rupp ran just enough to win, holding something for tonight's 5000! Does that mean that Rupp "cheated" the paying fans? Absolutely not.

Goe says that Gay, Wariner, Lagat, and Clement don't recognize that this meet is a Championship meet. Perhaps it is Goe that does not recognize that this meet is NOT the center piece of the season - only a step towards it - and is taking the title "Track Town USA" a bit too seriously. These athletes are all in town and will put forth world class efforts over the next few days. More importantly, they are doing what they and their coaches feel is best for each to achieve gold in Berlin. Perhaps Goe should consult with the people of Eugene before condemning the actions of the athletes. After all, he is writing about a sporting event, not a theater opening. Yes it is a National Championship - one whose purpose is to select our World Championship squad - not to simply provide entertainment to the people of Eugene. Last year's entertaining meet certainly didn't get it right. This year the athletes are working hard to correct that. Let them and the coaches do so in peace.

US Championships Day One

Track and Field: USA Track & Field Championships

The first day of any National Championship is full of qualifying rounds - and this year's US Nationals was no exception. The goal on Day One is to qualify and make it to Day Two. So typically the first day is very low key - and such was most of yesterday's competition, low key. A lot of the big news happened off the track as leading decathlete, Brian Clay, middle distance hopeful, Andrew Wheating, and leading hurdler David Oliver, were all forced to withdraw from the meet due to various injuries. Clay and Oliver were potential medal threats in Berlin, so their withdrawals will be especially missed.

With that done the focus went to the competition itself. And the spotlight was on Tyson Gay, as he came into the meet with the intent to run only one round of the 100. As the defending champion in both sprints, Gay is guaranteed passage to the World Championships and so only had to basically run here to show fitness - as rules state he must run at least once in the national meet.

In lane 2 of the first heat, Tyson's race was very interesting. A false start, caused the field to sit on the second go round and Gay was out cautiously. This was Gay's first 100 of the season and it showed for 50 meters as he ran just off the pace of the field. But like a Ferrari that's been in the garage for a while, once the carbon blew out of the pipes Tyson rocketed by the field and won going away in a sizzling 9.75w (+3.4) - 7th fastest time ever under all conditions, fastest ever seasonal debut! Gay described the race as horrible, saying "I ran a horrible race. Technically it was horrible. My focus was horrible,". And he was somewhat correct as it was far from a perfect race - though there was nothing at all horrible about the result. I can't wait for him to get sharp and "get it right"! With only two sprint races under his belt - 19.58, 9.75w - after coming back slowly from last year's injuries, its clear that Tyson will be a major force in Berlin. Video of yesterday's first round race can be seen here.

The rest of qualifying went according to form. The winds were strong most of the day, favoring the dashes, but giving some trouble to full lap races. As a result dash times were quick, others were held down a bit.

We did have four finals on the day. Brandon Roulac winning the Triple Jump (54' 8.25") and Stephanie Brown Trafton continuing her dominance in the discus (210' 9"). On the track Amy Begley upset Shalane Flanagan to win the women's 10000 (31:22.69), while Galen Rupp continued to show he is America's best hope with an easy 27:52,53 win in the men's 10000. Full results for the day can be found here.

Today's competition will feature finals in both the men's and women's 100 and 5000 meters. In the 100 meters, Carmelita Jeter will be looking to stay undefeated among the women, while we will get to see who gets paired with Tyson Gay in Berlin. Galen Rupp will be contesting the 5000, and going for a double victory. In the women's race we should be treated to a Jenny Barringer, Shannon Rowbury, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan battle!

Should be another good day of competition.

Track and Field: USA Track & Field Championships

Thursday, June 25, 2009

US Championships Start Today

U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials - Day Eight

The starting lists are all set and starting at 11:00am PST with the start of the decathlon, the US Nationals opens up its weekend run. With all final declarations being in the books and heat sheets done we finally have some answers regarding who is going to do what.

Tyson Gay is entered in both sprints - drawing lane 2 in heat 1 of the 100 and lane 6 in heat 2 of the 200. I don't expect to see him in the final of either event (he has byes in both to Worlds), but perhaps we'll see single runs in both. Which could make for the fastest first round runs in meet history.

Jenny Barringer will not be running the 1500 - a bit of a let down given that she has already run 3:59.90 in the metric mile. Instead she will be running a steeplechase/5000 double. So the showdown between Barringer and Shannon Rowbury (last year's 1500 leader) won't happen - not in the 1500 anyway. Both are entered in the 5000 as Rowbury is listed to double in the 1500/5000. Now the women's 5000 is loaded with Barringer, Rowbury, Shalane Flannagann and Kara Goucher all entered! Making it one of the women's hotter events.

While we're looking at distance doubles, Galen Rupp is listed in both the 5000 and 10000. Another interesting matchup could occur in the 5000 as miler German Fernandez is listed to run the 1500/5000 double, bringing his speed up to the longer distance. Throw in Jonathon Riley (another former miler), Dathan Ritzenheim, Matt Tegenkamp and Anthony Famiglietti and the men's 5000 is as loaded as the women's. The only missing piece being Bernard Lagat, who is focusing on the 800 here for speed work, having byes in both the 1500/5000 - making Rupp a strong favorite here in my book. It could also spice up the 800!

Speaking of doubles, Allyson Felix has settled on a 100/200 double, adding some more spice to the shorter event. Long jumper Tianna Madison is also going to double in the 100 and the long jump. Felix and 400 leader Sanya Richards will meet in the 200 as Richards is listed in both the 200 and 400.

On the men's side we'll also see a 200/400 double as Xavier Carter is listed in both. But we won't see Wallace Spearmon in two events as he is focusing on the 200 this time around and is not entered in the 100. A move that could leave him a lot fresher than many other sprinters as a large number are running the 100/200 double. Could make his strong finish even more lethal! We will see 100 leader Mike Rogers among those running the sprint double - interesting as up to this year he has focused on the 100 and has had the reputation as a 60 meter man.

We'll also get an 800/1500 double as NCAA 800 champion Andrew Wheating is entered in both events.

We also get some vets that seemed retired that are entered in this meet, as I'm surprised to find Allen Johnson (110 hurdles) and Gabe Jennings (1500) entered in this meet!

At any rate we're just hours away from it all happening. Below are some links that will help you follow the meet. We should have a lot to discuss by the end of the weekend.

Meet Schedule

Start Lists

Live Streaming Video

The Inside Lane discussion forum

Track and Field News Twitter

Flotrack Twitter

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

US Nationals Preview - the Hurdles

Olympics Day 12 - Athletics

Willie Davenport, Rod Milburn, Greg Foster, Roger Kingdom, Edwin Moses, Kevin Young. The US has a long a rich tradition of hurdlers in international competition. Eugene will see some fierce competition among those who want to be next in line to continue that tradition. Along with the sprint events, the hurdle events provide us with a large majority of medals in the Major meets. In Beijing we garnered three medals in the 400H alone as American athletes swept the event. Expect to see medalists emerge from the squad that leaves Eugene at the end of the weekend.

Men's 110 Hurdles

The first name that jumped out at me as I looked at the most recent list of declarations was that of Allen Johnson - former Olympic and World Champion as far back as the mid 90's. Allen is declared and apparently will be running in this meet.

While he is a part of the tradition of American medalists, he will find tough going as several young hurdlers have made their way to the top of the world's elite. Among those will be Terrence Trammell who has developed his own legacy, by winning silver medals in several international competitions, including the World Championships in Osaka. A feat matched just last year by David Payne as he won the silver in Beijing. Trammell is extremely fast with 10 flat 100 meter speed while Payne is a solid technician with a smooth race. They will have to contend with David Oliver, a powerful hurdler who has lead the world on the clock for most of the year and is still #1 among Americans (13.09). While these men have all shown their worth, the pack behind them is only a hair off and moving up rapidly. Up and comers like Dexter Faulk, Ryan Wilson, Jason Richardson, and Ronnie Ash could on any given day have that one race that could slip them into the top three.

Trammell and Oliver would appear to have a slight edge as both have PR's under 13.00, but one clipped hurdle can take you from first to fifth in the blink of an eye. Running a clean race will be important in a field this tightly bunched. Consistency should earn tickets to Berlin:

1. Terrence Trammell
2. David Oliver
3. David Payne

Watch - Ronnie Ash. The youngster from Bethune Cookman was an unknown quantity at the beginning of the year. He's improved steadily all year running his way to a 13.27 win at the NCAA Championships. He's on a roll and at his rate of improvement a clean round could slip him into the top 3 in what should be a close race.

Men's 400 Hurdles

One of the real bright spots in Beijing, was the sweep of the hurdle medals by the trio of Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement and Berhawn Jackson. It appeared that this group would be back for Berlin but looking at the declarations just this morning Clement has scratched this event in favor of the open 400. A surprise, but perhaps fitting as Clement may be the most talented intermediate hurdler, but is often done in by poor step patterns.

This opens things up a bit for a group of young, talented hurdlers looking to break through. They will be lead by Jeshua Anderson, the former high school 300 hurdle record holder and twice NCAA Champions as a frosh and soph. Anderson is young talented and has shown to run well in big meets. Justin Gaymon is a former collegiate champ, and Johnny Dutch a medalist at this year's meet. Both are strong hurdlers with great potential. Also lurking in the field is James Carter, a strong veteran who once looked like he was ready to take the event over, but has had some down season's lately.

Jackson and Taylor should be leading the way in this event, with the race behind them fierce! The spots for Berlin could change 3 or 4 times in the final 50 meters. When the dust settles boarding the Berlin flight should be:

1. Angelo Taylor
2. Bershawn Jackson
3. Jeshua Anderson

Watch - James Carter. Carter has shown the talent in the past to be able to win this event. The question will be which Carter is entered in this meet. If it is the Carter of the past couple seasons, he'll be watching others cross the line. If it is a rejuvenated Carter (we saw a reemergence of Angelo Taylor two years ago after some down seasons) he could blow his way onto this team.

Women's 100 Hurdles

Lolo Jones was out front running away with Olympic gold - then she hit a hurdle. And just like that she was in 7th place - her outstanding season dashed by a single hurdle. Early this season she appeared to be on a path to replicate last year - minus that pesky hurdle. But cold weather at Drake resulted in a hamstring injury that has kept her off the track until this week.

While Jones hit a hurdle in Beijing, Dawn Harper came out of nowhere in that final to snatch the gold. In Lolo's absence this spring she has won several races on her own, while Beijing teammate Damu Cherry has run her way to the top of the yearly American list. This is one of the smaller fields of the meet based on the entry list, but one that is deep in talent with vets Ginnie Powell, Jenny Adams, and former two time World gold medalist and defending champion Michelle Perry all waiting to gain berths to Berlin.

Jones would be a prohibitive favorite were it not for the injury. Not having competed recently it will be hard to evaluate her until she takes the track. Harper was an unknown until she snuck onto last year's team and then won her surprise gold. The others are all hungry and looking for their break through. The crystal ball is cloudy on this one, but I can't cop out, so:

1. Lolo Jones
2. Michelle Perry
3. Damu Cherry

Watch - Ginnie Powell. Powell may be the most talented woman in the field. She has shown world class speed in the 100 when healthy - and speed is a premium in this event. She has been injured in the past season or two, but has been working her way back. If she shows up in her best form, she could put these women away.

Women's 400 Hurdles

An event that has been slow to develop this year, there are a lot of talented women entered. Lashinda Demus was in that 4th place slot last year - just missing out on a trip to Beijing. She was leading that race early and was passed very late in the race for what had appeared to be a sure ticket to the Games. She's currently leading the world this year and has run well. Vets Tiffany Williams and Sheena Tosta are two of the women that went by Demus as she faded at last year's Trials - Tosta eventually earning the silver medal in Beijing.

The best of the rest would appear to be NCAA Champion Nicole Leach - a talented hurdler that is just off the pace of the leading women. A strong race could net her a spot. It will take a bit of improvement for the other women in this field to mount a serious challenge - but its happened before. However, barring that type of improvement this week, this team should come down to:

1. Lashinda Demus
2. Sheena Tosta
3. Tiffany Williams

Watch - Nicole Leach. The NCAA champ is in a position to challenge. Chief question for her will be whether or not she has had enough rest from her exploits in Fayetteville.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

US Nationals Preview - Middle Distances

An area where we once could count on medals internationally, in recent years we've come up dry. Bernard Lagat becoming an American citizen provided us with 1500 gold in Osaka in '07, but prior to that we have to go back to the 1999 World Championships to find a World Champs medalist, or even finalist as Jearl Miles Clark was 4th in the 800 and Regina Jacobs won silver in the 1500. And back to 1997 to find a men's finalist or medalist - Rich Kenah, bronze in the 800.

This from the nation that produced Jim Spivey, Mark Everett, Johnny Gray, Steve Scott, Kim Gallagher, and Jim Ryun. Among our current crop of athletes are some up and comers that I think will be able to join with Lagat to give us a strong presence in these events again.

Men's 800

The clear favorite entering the meet is Nick Symmonds. A gutsy runner with a fairly strong kick. NCAA Champion Andrew Wheating backed up his Olympic Trials 2nd place from last year with a gut wrenching, come from behind, diving win, on a bum leg at the NCAA Championships. The man he defeated, Tevan Everett, has proven to be adept at taking out the pace, and could end up in the role of "rabbit" in this meet.

US list leader, Khavedis Robinson (1:45.67), has long been thought to be the next breakthrough 800 meter man, but just keeps missing the mark. With youngsters like Wheating, Everett, and Trials 3rd placer Christian Smith coming into their own, "KD" may find making this team a bit more difficult.

!:43 is the current standard to be a contender on the international level. Symmond's PR sits at 1:44.01. Would be nice to see one or two get close to that mark, or better, this week. My best guess is a replay of the Trials final:

1. Nick Symmonds
2. Andrew Wheating
3. Christian Smith

Watch - Tevan Everett. His form broke down on him as Wheating reeled him in in Fayetteville. If the fast starting Everett can find a way to hold form, he could hold on and make this team.

Men's 1500

Leonel Manzano is the current American list leader at 3:34.14. Bernard Lagat has been our best "competitor" and possesses a PR of 3:26.34 from 2001 (when he was still competing for his native Kenya). Oregon's Matt Centrowitz appeared to be the next great miler from Oregon until he was derailed at the NCAA meet and failed to make the final. A final that was won by the one of the most intriguing competitors in this meet - Oklahoma State freshman German Fernandez, the NCAA Champion.

Fernandez has proven to be a fierce competitor in the mold of Manzano and Lagat. Though is PR is "only" 3:39.00, his mile times (3:55.02i) indicate he is capable of running faster. The other intriguing entry is former "wunderkind" Alan Webb. The American Record Holder in the mile (3:46.91) Webb has just not run well the last couple of seasons. He comes into this meet at 3:40.66 run back at the Pre meet. But in what could end up being a kicker's race, a time in that range could make the team.

This race should give us a view of how the "mile" is going to look in the US for some time to come. My picks:

1. Bernard Lagat
2. German Fernandez
3. Leonel Manzano

Watch - Matt Centrowitz. Centrowitz was looking like a sure member of the Berlin squad prior to the NCAA meet. How well he rebounds from that "failure" will say much about him. In his pre NCAA form he will challenge Fernandez and Manzano for what I see to be close spots behind Lagat.

Women's 800

An event in transition, there is no dominant force in this event. Hazel Clark was supposed to be next in line in the Clark Clan but never really met the heights of sister in law Jearl Miles Clark. She is the fastest entrant on the season as yearly list leader Anna Willard (1:59.29) has opted to run the 1500.

Chief among the challengers for the team should be two time NCAA champ Geena Gall, who won this year's title with a PR 2:00.80. She's an aggressive runner, but will really need to improve to make the team and be a factor at the next level. The really interesting entrant is Maggie Vessey - a journyman who suddenly emerged at the Pre Classic with a stunning stretch run to win and set her PR 2:00.18! A finish of that nature this week could very well net her a spot on the team.

This is an event where flipping a coin is about as good as examining the stats. My coin says:

1. Geena Gall
2. Hazel Clark
3. Maggie Vessey

Watch - Treniere Clement - Clement has the chops to make this team, but has run poorly this year. If there is a time to shake off the cobwebs this is it. If she can find her form, she's on the team.

Women's 1500

This could end up being one of the most exciting events of the entire meet. It lost a bit of luster for me with the scratch's of Jenny Barringer (this years list leader at 3;59.90) from this event to focus on the steeplechase.

There is still a lot of talent here, however, and we still have last year's leader (4:00.33) Shannon Rowbury taking the track. Her main competition should be Anna Willard, this year's leader in the 800 (1:59.29) who was 4:01.44 in the fast Prefontaine race. Christin Wurth Thomas was also in that race and finished in 4:01.72. The rest of the field is a bit back of this group. They should make up our team barring an unseen emergence from someone else. The excitement, however, will be in how close they race each other and whether or not one, or more, can dip below 4:00! After shuffling the deck I come up with:

1. Anna Willard
2. Shannon Rowbury
3. Christin Wurth Thomas

Watch - Jordan Hassay. Hassay is a high school phenom that has dominated at that level. She's not quite ready to challenge these women, But watch her as she is the next phase and could be ready by London 2012.

Monday, June 22, 2009

US Nationals Preview - The Sprints

U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials - Day Three

When looking at the US medal count in the Olympic Games or World Championships one of the most critical areas is the sprints - along with the hurdles. We tend to be out matched in the middle and long distance events, but regularly garner medals in the shorter events. So performances in Eugene in these events will go a long way towards how many potential medals we will pick up in Berlin.

The sprints are volatile events. Injuries happen out of nowhere and in the blink of an eye - Xavier Carter blew a knee in '08, Tyson Gay a hamstring last year. One slip, a mistimed lean, or just an off day can mean the difference between making the team, or being in the 4th or 5th position. But trying to figure out how it's all going to play out is fun, so I'm going to give it a shot. So here is how I see our sprint team shaping up once the finish line has been crossed for the final time in Eugene.

Men's 100

Word is that Tyson Gay will be running here, but only in one round. He has a bye in this event, as well as the 200, as the defending World Champion, so only needs to compete in the selection meet - and running one round fulfills that requirement. All eyes will be on him to see just how fast he does run.

With that said, the race for the three teams spots should be fierce. Mike Rogers has run himself into the role of favorite. 10.01, 9.93w, and 9.94 WL in his last three races has earned him that distinction. Behind him is a horde of men within an eyelash of each other so far this year. Walter Dix (10.00), Travis Padgett (10.00), Trindon Holliday (10.00), Darvis Patton (10.02), Rae Edwards (10.02), D'Angelo Cherry (10.04) and Ryan Bailey (10.05) should all be in the mix. Dix and Patton were on last year's Olympic squad and Dix came hold with bronze. This year's squad should be:

1. Mike Rogers
2. Walter Dix
3. Darvis Patton

Watch - Ryan Bailey. Bailey has burst onto the scene late through the Junior College ranks. Tall and strong in the Usain Bolt mold, if he nails the start he will sneak onto this squad.

Men's 200

A veteran field here with a slew of men that have represented the US internationally before. Wallace Spearmon is currently #2 on the yearly list behind Tyson Gay and is the strongest finisher in the field. The question with Wallace is always the first half of the race where he tends to give up lots of real estate early. Walter Dix is the collegiate record holder, won the Trials last year, and got bronze in Beijing. Shawn Crawford won Olympic gold in '04, and silver last year in Beijing. And Darvis Patton cut his teeth on this event, winning silver in Paris in '03 before focusing on the 100 the past couple of seasons. Also in the field is Xavier Carter who started the 19.6 binge in 2006 and quarter miler supreme Jeremy Wariner who is looking to work on his speed.

This is perhaps the deepest event of the meet in terms of quality of entrants. Last year's Trials race was very close and I expect this one to be as well. The only man that can afford to be off the pace coming off the turn is Spearmon and even he can't give up too much to this field. No turn, no team! Having said that look for the following to head to Berlin:

1. Wallace Spearmon
2. Walter Dix
3. Xavier Carter

Watch - Mike Rogers. Rogers ran a very quiet 20.24 PR in late May. He is stronger this year than previous years and winning does wonders for one's ego. If he wins the 100, we could see a man on a roll coming into this event - which would make him dangerous with the right lane draw.

Men's 400

The most wide open sprint on the men's side this year. Defending Champion Jeremy Wariner is running the 200, leaving Olympic Champion Lashawn Merritt running almost solo here. Merritt was dominating last year, and has continued in that vein this year. Wariner is the only man capable of challenging him, so barring something completely bizarre, everyone else will be running for second and third here.

That run will be a crap shoot as no one else has really stepped up this year. Our third best quarter miler in recent years has been Angelo Taylor who will be focusing on the intermediate hurdles where he is twice Olympic Champion. Darold Williamson was once on par with Wariner (they were school mates and training partners) but has been down in recent years. Lionel Larry made the World Championships team in '07 then got injured before the meet and hasn't quite been the same since. Collegiate leader Gil Roberts was injured in the NCAA final. And former NCAA Champion Xavier Carter has spent more time the past couple seasons in the 100/200.

All of which makes this one very hard to call. Its quite possible we will see one or two new names emerge in a race like this. So going out on a limb I'm going to say:

1. Lashawn Merritt
2. Michael Bingham
3. Lionel Larry

Watch - Xavier Carter. NCAA Champion in 2006. He hasn't been seen in this event yet this year though he does have a qualifying mark from last year and is declared in this event. His speed is sharp and he did PR over 300 at Pre. If his endurance is there he will run his way onto the team in this uncertain field.

Women's 100

Two women have dominated this event this year. Jamaican Kerron Stewart and Carmelita Jeter. Jeter is undefeated and will be looking to leave Eugene undefeated! Her competition should come from those that finished ahead of her at last year's Trials - Torri Edwards, Muna Lee, Marshavet Hooker, and Lauryn Williams.

None have been able to beat Jeter this year, though Lee has run her close. Edwards typically runs very fast at Nationals and has the kind of blitzkrieg start that can devastate a field. Lee, Hooker, and Williams can all close well. But Jeter has developed a mid race surge that has put everyone away early. Which means that everyone else should be running for two spots. And the winners are:

1. Carmelita Jeter
2. Muna Lee
3. Marshavet Hooker

Watch - Alexandra Anderson. Anderson is the NCAA Champion and has shown an uncanny ability to run through a field late in the race. She did multiple duty in Fayetteville running the 4x1, 100, 200, and 4x4! She may be a bit tired in Eugene. If she is able to get her second wind, however, she could make things interesting and a slight improvement on her PR (11.02) could put her on the team.

Women's 200

Allyson Felix has dominated this event since 2003. She's had no peer in the US and only twice Olympic Champion Veronica Campbell Brown has been able to keep her off the top of the podium. Felix is the defending World Champion and does not have to run this event. And currently I'm unclear as to which event she will run in Eugene - because she qualifies for all three sprints. I'm going to assume she may run one of the other events - either for speed work or strength work - leaving this wide open.

Best of the rest could be NCAA Champion Porscha Lucas. Lucas PR'd her way to times of 22.52 and 22.38 on her way to the title. Lauryn Williams has always run this event well, though she is better known in the 100. She is the current world leader and if she is shut out in the 100 will be looking for redemption here. Several others in the mid 22 range - Shalonda Solomon, Carmelita Jeter, and Bianca Knight - could make this race interesting.

If Felix runs, Felix wins. If not look for:

1. Lauryn Williams
2. Porshca Lucas
3. Bianca Knight

Watch - Alexandria Anderson. Anderson was a very close 3rd at the NCAA Championships. More importantly she ran a sterling leg on the 4x4, her 50.93 being the fastest split of the final. She has the speed and she has the speed endurance. If fatigue doesn't get her we could see a break through performance here.

Women's 400

This event could be very interesting. Sanya Richards has dominated this event for a few years now, but has had some notable let downs in big meets. One of those let downs was at the 2007 version of this meet where she took 4th and missed making the team for Osaka. So no medal of any kind for Richards in '07 finds her needing to run here to make the team.

She could potentially have to face Allyson Felix - the one American woman that has shown the ability to beat Sanya convincingly at this distance. Felix typically is in the 200, but could pass that event here - or even double. IF she runs here it could provide the show down of the meet!

Once we stop talking about these two women there is a huge drop off this year. The top collegians - Joanna Atkins, Jessica Beard, and Francena McCorory - are young, new to this level, and inexperienced. And vets DeeDee Trotter and Natasha Hastings have yet to really step it up this year. Based on what I've seen this year, and a gut feeling, I'll say the team will be:

1. Sanya Richards
2. Joanna Atkins
3. Natasha Hastings

Watch - Allyson Felix. If she shows up here, and I think she could, we will get an awesome race that could approach National Record (48.70) level.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Six Stories to Watch at US Nationals

IAAF Golden League

What happens at Nationals doesn't stay at Nationals - it has a profound effect on what happens at Worlds. Look no further than last year's Olympic Games where the first round of last year's Olympic Trials 200 determined the fate of the men's sprints in Beijing.

This year's National Championships has the usual high number of stories but there are a half dozen that I think could have profound impact on the global scene. So here are the 6 stories that I will be following very closely:

1. Tyson Gay - The world's #1 sprinter in 2007 and this years defending World Champion in both sprints from Osaka will be making his 100 meter debut at the National Championships. Gay's injury at last year's Olympic Trials became a major issue for American sprinting at the Olympic Games. Gay spent this spring working on rehab and strength. He debuted over 400 with a PR 46.38, then lowered that to 45.57. He then debuted over 200 in New York with a PR 19.58 - the #3 time ever. Anyone else seeing a pattern here? We've seen the improvement in his endurance. We've seen the improvement in his speed endurance. Now we will get to see just where his speed is at. Tyson will be leading our sprint forces into Berlin. Nationals will show us where he is at in his training, and just who his supporting cast will be. If you want to drown out a lightning bolt it helps if you can bring a Typhoon to the stadium!

2. Jenny Barringer - Barringer has had an extraordinary season so far. Extraordinary times during the indoor season from the mile to the 5000. Outdoors she's improved her own collegiate record in the steeplechase and smashed the collegiate record in the 1500 with a stunning 3:59.90! Barringer has run herself into the position of America's #1 female distance runner this year. She's fit, tenacious, and very competitive as she displayed at Prefontaine as she ran the world leader to the wire in setting her 1500 PR (only the 3rd American under 4 minutes)! I know she loves the steeple, but I am so hoping that she runs the 1500. Its more of a signature event, and she would bring more attention to herself and American middle distance running with a medal in the event in Berlin - something I think she can accomplish. We need another Mary Decker Slaney or Suzy Favor Hamilton - that distance darling that can capture the attention of the American media. Jenny has the personality, and the heart. Now she just needs a little hardware.

3. Men's 200 Meters - An event where we have superb depth but a lot of questions. Tyson Gay answered one question when he opened up at 19.58. The real question is, will any of our other sprinters live up to their potential. Xavier Carter (19.63), Wallace Spearmon (19.65) and Walter Dix (19.69) are all in the top 10 all time in the event, and have shown the potential to compete with the likes of Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt. At their best, they along with Gay and Bolt, could create the greatest final in any event in the history of track and field! Spearmon ran 19.98 behind Gay in New York, so could be approaching form. Carter ran a personal best for 300 at the Prefontaine Classic, and could be ready. Dix opened his season with what was a world leading 10.00 into a negative wind early this spring. Their performances at Nationals will determine whether this event is ready to take lead billing away from the 100 meters this year, as it appeared it was poised to do back in 2006 when the 19.6 explosion began.

4. Galen Rupp - America has longed for a distance icon for a long time now. Not since Rob Kennedy in the 90's have we truly had an American (born and raised) distance runner that has been able to provide a serious challenge on the world stage. Rupp could be that long awaited runner. Not as locked into "pace" racing as most Americans tend to be, Rupp seemingly has the ability to change pace, as well as kick - attributes necessary to run with the various African runners that dominate the distance events these days. Rupp should make the team at whatever distance he chooses to run. More importantly, however, I will be looking to see how he runs - simply to win, or to prepare himself for the challenges ahead. America needs a distance runner that is competitive on the world stage - just as it needs a 100 man to do the same. Typically that runner is in the middle distances - the mile/1500 meters. Occasionally a Steve Prefontaine comes along in the longer distances and captures the imagination of the country. Rupp could be that guy.

5. Jen Stuczynski - Stacy Dragila was one of the pioneers of the pole vault. She raised the bar here in the US and was the winner of the World Championships back in 2001. Since then, however, Russia has taken over the event. First with Svetlana Feofanova, setting records and winning gold medals, then with the reigning queen of the event, Yelena Isinbayeva taking over and winning everything in site and taking the bar up to 5.05m! Stuczynski now appears to be nearing that level. More importantly is the consistency that she has achieved in the event. Nationals could be her opportunity to take the American Record near Isinbayeva's territory and in the process send word that she will be ready to challenge her in Berlin and bring the vault crown back to the US.

6. Dwight Phillips - Phillips won gold in the long jump in '03, '04 and '05 and it looked like he was going to be The Man for years to come. But flame can be fleeting in track and field. One day you are the talk of the town, the next an up and comer has arrived and stolen your thunder. And while Phillips was consistent in the high 27 foot range, Irving Saladino came along and got consistent right above 28 feet! And so '07 and '08 belonged to the young Panamanian as he won gold twice. During that time Phillips seemed to faulter, but this year a rejuvenated Phillips has taken to the track and the field. He's improved his speed to 10.06 in the 100 meters and his last 3 meets have seen him near 28 feet, just over 28 feet and at 28'8.75" approaching an area only four others in history have seen, 29 feet! Twenty nine feet is an area that creates legends - Bob Beamon, Carl Lewis, Robert Emmiyan, Mike Powell! Phillips could be flirting with legendary status in Eugene!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Robles Hurdles to World Lead in Ostrava

UPI POY 2008 - The Beijing Olympics.

Olympic Champion David Robles(CUB) and Bershawn Jackson (US) ran to world leading times of 13.04 and 48.32 in the men's 110 and 400 meter hurdle events to lead a handful outstanding performances in Ostrava.

Robles cruised to an easy victory on the track where he set the WR (12.87) in last year's meet winning easily over runner up Dexter Faulk's (US) 13.13 PR. Likewise Jackson won quite easily over former World Champion Felix Sanchez (DOM) who was second in 49.20. Neither was pressed as they handled their respective fields handily.

The same can be said for headliner Usain Bolt (JAM) as he attempted to take over the world lead in the 100 meters. Bolt got off to a shaky start before accelerating past the field to win in a windy 9.77 (+2.1). Bolt's performance was in stark contrast to his 10.00 flat of last week and gave notice that he will once again be a primary player in the sprints in Berlin. Bolt had virtually no competition in Ostrava as runner up Craig Pickering (GBR) was a far back 10.08.

Full results can be found here.

The next major competitions will be the various National Championships on tap within the next 10 days where we'll start to get our lineups for the World Championships in Berlin. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The US is Part of the Diamond League - Now What Happens in the Spring?

The Diamond League released its inaugural schedule for 2010. The 14 meet series will expand outside of Europe and include meets in Asia, North America and the Middle East. The 2010 Schedule:

Doha (QAT) – Fri 14 May
Shanghai (CHN) – Sun 23 May
Oslo (NOR) – Fri 4 June
Rome (ITA) – Thu 10 June
New York (USA) – Sat 19 June
Eugene (USA) – Sat 3 July
Lausanne (SWI) – Thu 8 July
Gateshead (GBR) – Sun 11 July
Paris (FRA) – Fri 16 July
Monaco (MON) – Thu 22 July
Stockholm (SWE) – Fri 6 Aug
London (GBR) – Fri 13 and Sat 14 Aug
Z├╝rich (SWI) – Thu 19 Aug
Brussels (BEL) – Fri 27 Aug
The good news for fans here in the United States is that we now get two world class stops during the summer - New York and Eugene. The BAD news is that New York and Eugene have been our most exciting domestic meets during the Spring! So while I am ecstatic that we will have some of the worlds best athletes coming to our shores in their pursuit of the Diamond League prize, it makes the task of building up our own domestic schedule even tougher.

Looking at this year's "Visa" series New York and Eugene were clearly the stars of the show. Carson had more empty seats than a theater between movies. And newly added Drake suffered from the horrible weather that typically affects meets in that part of the country. Outside of the Visa series the Modesto Relays was moved to Sacramento and renamed the California Relays only to be canceled and put off until next year due to lack of funding!

I'm sorry, but what does this say if these are the signature meets in the United States? I hope USATF is planning to meet on this topic - actually they should have met already, but that's asking for a bit much - because it is time to try and map out a legitimate series of high level meets in this country. And the Diamond League has actually done us a favor by absorbing New York and Eugene because it gives us the opportunity to start from scratch.

Losing New York as a venue hurts because it is one of our top media centers. But losing Eugene gives us the opportunity to build something in a larger, more media appropriate community. No offence to the fans of Eugene, but in order to build track and field in this country we need to get out to where the people and the media are located. Track Town USA is a nice title, but rings somewhat hollow when it's located out in the middle of nowhere.

We need to start developing meets in areas with high visibility, large populations, easy accessibility, history of sporting activities and active fan bases. In short, rather than reinvent the wheel, we should be looking at areas that already support professional sports - because they already possess the needed "infrastructure".

So instead of our signature meets being in Modesto, Eugene, Des Moines, and Fayetteville, perhaps we should be looking at places like Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. After all, if we consider Europe as the model since they continue to have successful meets annually, their meets are almost always in the hot spots in the country - Paris, Rome, Berlin, Zurich, Monaco, Moscow, London! And not so coincidently guess what cities they use when submitting their Olympic bids? Even those areas outside of Europe without the same type of "circuits" put their best faces on when hosting world class track meets - Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, Doha.

We're the largest, most successful, track power, yet the only one that tries to build the sport in its own country without using its primary cities. Not so coincidently, I believe, that's why we're having the least success in doing so!

We need to be smarter in building the sport here in the United States. I'm not saying that we can't have meets in smaller cities/towns. We need all the exposure we can get in this country for the sport. But our showcase events need the best exposure possible. Having a Visa meet in horrible weather in Des Moines, an NCAA Championship with long rain delays in the weather of Arkansas, or our national championships out in the woods in Oregon is just counter productive.

Now, how about a meet in Dallas Texas? Texas is a big track state. I bet you can work with the Cowboys and Mavericks on some promotional activities - especially with those that are former track and field athletes. A huge base of colleges and high schools rabid about the sport. Why can't we develop a Visa meet in Dallas?

Same with Atlanta. Georgia is huge in track and field as a state. Lots of local colleges, strong high school base. Pro teams available with the Hawks, Braves and Falcons to work some creative cross marketing opportunities. Or how about the San Francisco area with the Raiders, 49ers, Giants, Warriors, and A's. Tons of college and high school programs in the area - and the weather would never be a problem!

My point here is that with the Diamond League taking what have been our best meets and moving them to the summer, it opens up the opportunity to rebuild our own infrastructure of the sport. A chance to get back to track and field in the US like we had at our peak when sell out meets like the Coliseum Classic and the Pepsi Invitational in Los Angeles, or Jack in the Box in San Diego were showcases for the sport! A chance to take track and field and make it more main stream by placing it in our population centers, our showcase cities, our media centers. Put it side by side with other professional sports and athletes and place our athletes beside them and market them in the same manner. Let America see that our athletes are as good as those they are watching in other sports and that their performances can be seen in the areas that they are already used to seeing star athletes!

If we want track and field to grow in this country this must be done. Like any other form of entertainment, as long as we are only playing in small towns and out of the way places we will remain an unknown quantity. That's why eventually all performers (actors, singers, dancers) move away from Iowa, Nebraska and Mississippi and head to Los Angeles and New York - to get discovered! Its time for track and field to get rediscovered in this country. Its time for us to move to the venues with the bright lights so we can showcase what we do. Now is the perfect time.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Friedrich over Vlasic in Berlin !

DKB-ISTAF - IAAF Golden League

The European season started out with a reminder that even the seemingly unbeatable can be beaten as Ariane Friedrich (GER) defeated Blanka Vlasic (CRO) to win the first leg of the Golden League event. Friendrich's winning jump of 2.06m was a national record, meet record, and took over the yearly lead from Vlasic. Quite a feat as Vlasic has owned the event for the past couple of seasons.

The women were the top stars of the meet as Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) set a meet record of her own as she upped the world lead with her winning 4.83m vault and Sanya Richards (US) ran a world leading 49.57 in the 400 meters.

The men were lead by a hot 1500 meters as Augustine Kiprono Choge lowered his own world leader to 3:29.47 as no less than 10 individuals in the race set seasonal or personal bests! Ditto the men's 5000 meters as Kenenisa Bekele ran the #2 time on the season (13:00.76) while leading 9 others to seasonal or personal bests.

The rest of the meet was rather ho hum in comparison, as the lack of big names showed. The Golden League should be a bit more careful in scheduling its meets - especially as it expands next season. With several National Championship meets being held within the next two weeks, it might be prudent to avoid scheduling too close to these meets. Just food for thought.

Full results of Berlin can be found here.

It Doesn't Get Much Closer Than This

Track and Field: NCAA Championships

The final day of the NCAA Championships was everything that championship meet should be. Drama with Oregon's men and women's teams having done their damage early in the meet, the question is would they be caught by the Texas A&M squads who had lots of potential points on the final day.

And then there were the events themselves. There was the men's 800 meters with Andrew Wheating (1:46.21) fighting to the last step against Texas' Tevan Everett (1:46.27) to try and secure the final available points for his Oregon squad. Or how about the battle down the straight between Porscha Lucas, 22.81 (Texas A&M), Charonda Williams, 22.84 (Ariz St) and Alexandria Anderson, 22.88(Texas) Lucas looking to secure points towards their championship bid. Or the men's 110 hurdles where the University of Florida had two entrants that didn't win but scored significant points in 3rd (William Wynne) and 7th (Kallinka Pitt) pushing them into title contention heading into the meet's final event - the 4x4 relay.

Ah, the 4x4. Everyone dreams of watching a meet come down to the 4x4. And on this day heading into the final event there was the possibility that at the finish FOUR teams could be tied for the national title! In the end it was the Borlee twins of Florida State leading their squad to the #4 time in college history (2:59.99) to win the event, but Texas A&M (3:00.91) hanging in there for second place and the team title with 48 total points - just ahead of the 46 points scored by Oregon, Florida, and Florida State!

Almost as dramatic was the come from behind win for the A&M women as they went into their final scoring opportunity - the triple jump - cone point down to Oregon. Yasmine Regis' second place there securing the 50 to 43 point victory for Texas A&M over Oregon.

The meet started with several weather delays, but man did it close like a house a fire. It's this kind of competition - the varied events, close competition, battle for team points - that makes this type of meet as good as it gets in sports.

Full Results for the NCAA Championships can be found here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Collegiate Record & Rupp Double Highlight Third Day of NCAA Championships

Track and Field: NCAA Championships

Friday and Saturday of the NCAA Championships showcase the majority of finals in the meet. And the Texas A&M women got things going in fine style as they won the opening event on the track - the 4x1 relay - going away in a Collegiate Record 42.36! This shattered a 10 year old record set by LSU in 1989 of 42.50 - and is the current world leader. The squad of Khrystal Carter, Porscha Lucas, Dominique Duncan and Gabby Mayo, was fast and passed the baton flawlessly as they put on a clinic in winning by nearly a full second.

On the men's side, Florida did not set a record, but they too put on a relay clinic in outrunning the competition to win in 38.59. Florida was an early season favorite but lost top recruit and high school record holder Jeff Demps at the Conference meet to injury. Replacing Demps with hurdler Dennis Martin and shifting personnel, Florida still managed the gold in Arkansas. They started well and stayed just ahead of the competition with superb passing in the zones. In contrast, third place Texas A&M was disqualified for passing outside the zone. Losing valuable points and putting their bid for the team championship in jeopardy.

America's newest distance darling, Jenny Barringer (CO) kept things going by following up last weekend's 3:59.90 1500 with a meet record in the steeplechase as she cruised to victory in 9:25.54 breaking her own meet record of 9.29.20 set last year. The more I watch Barringer the more I'm convinced that she is our best hope, men or women, for a medal above 400 meters in Berlin.

The 100 meter finals followed similar form, as the semis best performers came through in the finals. For the women, Alexandria Anderson (Texas) stormed past the field in the final 20 meters to claim her first ever title in the event. Anderson had a horrible start but held form throughout the race and burst through in the final meters. For the men, Trindon Holliday (LSU) has been a prohibitive favorite all season. And though several threats have arisen throughout the season, in the end it was Holliday running away from the field in the second half of the race to record his second 10.00 of the meet to win over USC's Ahmad Rashad's 10.10.

Sophomore Jesua Anderson (WSU) gave us another highlight with his repeat victory in the 400H. Anderson entered the meet as the defending champion having won this meet last year. He did not disappoint, running a well paced race that found him leading entering the final stretch and holding off the determined drive of Johnny Dutch (S Car) 48.47 to 48.62.

And Galen Rupp (ORE) closed out the day with his second victory of the meet as he followed up last night's 10000 win with a title in the 5000 winning the event in 14:04.12. Rupp's double wins have propelled Oregon to 36 points and the overall team lead heading into tomorrow's final day of competition - with LSU (30), Southern California (22) and Florida (21) in hot pursuit.

For the full results of today's events click here.

Tomorrow should be a real barn burner and can be watched live on CBS starting at 10am Pacific.

Track and Field: NCAA Indoor Championships

Golden League Begins Sunday in Berlin

The Golden League Circuit begins Sunday with its first stop in Berlin. This year's "golden" events are:

Men - 100, 400, 3000/5000, 110H, Javelin
Women - 100, 400, 100H, High Jump, Pole Vault

The individual(s) that can win their event at every stop of the tour will win or share in a $1,000,000 prize. The stops are Berlin (6/14), Oslo (7/3), Rome (7/10), Paris (7/17), Zurich (8/28) and Brussels (9/4).

Berlin will not only be the first stop of the Golden League, but will also give individuals an opportunity at something of a dress rehearsal for the World Championships as this year's Worlds will be held in the same venue. The meet's Preliminary Start List can be found here. Notable competitors are:

Kerron Stewart (JAM) - women's 100
Sanya Richards (US) - women's 400
Damu Cherry (US) - women's 100H
Yelena Slesarenko (RUS) & Blank Vlasic (CRO) - women's high jump
Yelena Isinbaeva (RUS) - women's pole vault

Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) - men's 5000
Andreas Thorkildsen (NOR) - men's javelin

Missing a lot of names on the men's side, but still enough competition to keep the meet interesting. Perhaps a bit too close to many National Championship meets - something the Golden League needs to consider.

NCAA Update, and Toronto

Track and Field: NCAA Championships

No weather delays during Thursdays NCAA action as a handful of finals were mixed in with more qualifying in preparation for the barrage of finals coming our way today and tomorrow. Though the weather was more cooperative than Wednesday, the results were pretty tame in comparison. The one standout being Texas A&M speedster Porscha Lucas.

Porscha lived up to her name Thursday as she hit her gears around the track in the 200 meter rounds. First with a collegiate leading 22.58 in the first round - taking over the top time from Baylor's Tiffany Townsend. In her semifinal heat she really opened up with a blazing 22.38 - just missing the 22.34 world leader run by Lauryn Williams last week. Lucas set herself up to be the strong favorite to win this event in tomorrow's final.

The rest of qualifying went pretty much to form, with the key teams advancing athletes into scoring position. The one huge exception being Oregon's Matt Centrowitz' non qualifying run in the 1500 meters. This will keep Oregon from scoring key points in the event, for a team that is depending heavily on distance points in its bid to win a national championship. We will see how this plays out for the other teams in contention - Texas A&M, Florida, and Florida State - as they all are more sprint oriented and will spend time canceling each other out in several events. The men's team title could come down to the closing 4x4 relay.

Oregon did begin its quest by winning one of the days first finals as Galen Rupp won the 10000 meters in 28:21.45. The other track final on the day was the women's 10000 won by Danette Doetzel of Providence in 33:25.71. The other finals were all on the field in the men and women's long jump and shot put. All Thursday results can be found here.

The other big event on Thursday was the Tornoto Festival of Excellence featuring the 100 meters. The race was won by Usain Bolt (JAM) in 10.00 over Shawn Crawford (US) 10.25 and Ivory Williams (US) 10.28. The meet, and race, was conducted in the rain, making conditions less than ideal. Other winners in Tornoto included Lashawn Merritt (US) in the 400 in 44.83, and Priscilla Lopes Schliep (CAN) in the 100H in 12.86. Full results of the meet can be found here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

This Week is Heating Up!

Track and Field: NCAA Championships
The NCAA Champs started yesterday, and although there were just rounds of qualifying, they were some of the hottest rounds since the Olympics themselves.

The distance runners conserved energy in their prelims of the steeple, and 5000 meters for men and women. Running just enough to get through. But the short sprinters went nuts in the first round! In the 4x1 Texas A&M's women blew it out with yet another sub 43 second clocking cruising to a 42.93 and showing that they are clearly the class of the field. Similarly on the men's side the Texas A&M men screamed a school record 38.51 to win their heat while the Florida men won theirs in 38.57 - the top two times in the country! They've been among the leaders all season and appear headed for a show down in the finals.

In the heats of the 100 meters the track stayed hot as Alexandria Anderson (TX) flew to a nation leading 11.02 - making her #3 in the world! Five other sprinters had clockings between 11.14 and 11.18. On the men's side Trindon Holliday (LSU) 10.00, Jacoby Ford (Clem) 10.01 and Deangelo Cherry (MsSt) 10.04 became #'s 7, 8 and 11 in the world with their blazing runs. A three hour weather delay stopped qualifying at that point however and when they returned to the track later for the semis they found themselves running into a headwind resulting in slower times. Still, these three made it to the final which should be sizzling hot!

The final lost another hot sprinter, however, when Jeremy Hall (FL) who entered the meet with a 10.08 best, was DQ'd for a false start. Hall flinched, causing Trindon Holliday to come out of the blocks. Hall was DQ'd for the flinch. I point this out to show the lunacy of the false start rules. The race should have been reset by the starter when he saw movement in the blocks before anyone came out. Instead the event lost a potential headliner. Just as the California State meet did less than a week ago when state leader Ashton Purvis (who later won the 200) was DQ'd in the heats. Anyone that believes "one and done" works needs to take these two into consideration.

But back to the heat . Qualifying continues today in Fayetteville with hurdles (short and long), 200's 1500's, 800's, 4x4s, discus, long jump, and shot put. The first final will take place in the 100000 meters. Expect more hot times.

Speaking of hot times there is anticipation of another hot 100 in Toronto Canada, as Olympic Champion Usain Bolt takes to the track for his first 100 meters since his windy 9.93 in Spanish Town back on Mar 14. Among his competitors will be Americans Shawn Crawford and Bernard Williams. They will be taking aim at Michael Rogers' world leading 9.94 run in Eugene this past weekend. The women's 100 hurdles should also produce a quality race as Perdita Felicien, Priscilla Lopes Schliep, Damu Cherry, and Jenny Adams take to the track. Other top names that will be competing in Toronto are Bryan Clay, Lashawn Merritt, and Saif Shaheen.

So lots of hot mid week action on tap for today.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

NCAA Championships Start Tomorrow

Penn Relays
The quest for NCAA Championships starts tomorrow in Fayetteville Arkansas. And as usual there are stories aplenty when trying to figure out who will win titles.

On the Men's side the teams to watch should be Florida, Oregon, Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU. On the Women's side the teams to watch should be Oregon, LSU, Texas A&M, Arizona State and Tennessee. The US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association maintains an ongoing ranking of schools. The current rankings can be found below.

There are several hot athletes heading into the meet. Galen Rupp (OR) is perhaps the hottest distance runner on the men's side and will be key to Oregon's championship bid. Rupp will be doubling in the 5000 and 10000 meters. On the women's side no one is hotter than Jenny Barringer (CO) who is coming off her collegiate record setting performance at the Prefontaine meet in the 1500 meters - becoming only the third American woman to break the 4:00 barrier (3:59.90)! She was already the collegiate record holder in the steeplechase and will be contesting that event in Arkansas where she starts as a heavy favorite.

The hottest races could well be the relays. Especially on the Men's side as Florida, Texas A&M and LSU are within .12 of each other in the 4x1 and Florida, Florida Sate, Baylor and Texas Tech are within a second of each other in the 4x4!

But the individual race of the meet should be the Men's 400 meters with Gil Roberts (Tx Tech) 44.86, Calvin Smith (FL) 44.96, and Dwight Mullings (MsSt) 44.98 among the top 10 in the world in the event and East Regional champion Michael Bingham (Wake Forest) 45.05 on a roll lately.

Following are links to all the information you should need to follow the meet including live internet streaming.


Men's Yearly List

Women's Yearly List

Men's Heat Sheets

Women's Heat Sheets

NCAA Live Stream

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!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Prefontaine Blog

Men's 400 Hurdles - Bershawn Jackson wins a deep hurdle field by making a strong move down the backstretch after hitting hurdle #2. Winning time of 48.38 was close to the yearly lead but still a bit from the 47 second range that we would expect from this level of hurdlers which included yearly leader Isa Phillips in second, Kerron Clement in third and Olympic Champion Angelo Taylor in fourth.

Women's 1500 - The field went out in 2:08 behind the pace setter with no one really wanting to make a move in the first half of the race. Geleta Burka (ETH) took over before the bell lap and Shannon Rowbury followed her at the bell. Burka really began to extend the lead with 200 to go with Jenny Barringer coming off the final turn and turning it on down the stretch. She gained on Burka with each step right up to the line with Burka just holding her off in 3:59.89! Barringer was only .01 behind and murdered her own PR as well as the collegiate record as she ran her first sub 4 with an outstanding 3:59.90! The two Anna's (Alminova of Russia and Willard of the US) ran to a pair of 4:01.44's with Alminova wtaking 3rd by .007). Kristin Wurth Thomas set a huge PR in 5th in 4:01.72. Fantastic race.

Men's 3000 Steeplechase -The race separated early as Luke Watson set the pace with Paul Koech (KEN) and Roba Gary (ETH) tucking in behind and putting 25 meters between them and the following pack in the first couple of laps. With a mile to go, Koech and Gary ran away from the field and Koech put 10 meters between he and Gary. Koech ran away from Gary in the next half mile putting about 80 meters between he and Gary. And finished well clear of the field in 8:13.44 over Gary's 8:21.22. Total domination.

Men's Long Jump - On his first jump Phillips jumps 27' 8" to Saladino's 27' 2.5". Both fouled in the second round before Phillips hit a huge 28' 8.25" to move to +#5 all time! Saladino responded with a 28'.75" jump of his own. Saladino jumped out to 28'4.25 in the fourth round, but Phillips big jump was good enough here for the win.

Men's 100, Section I - An unspectacular race unless you paid attention to the start. Junior College Champion and Record Holder got a horrible start in lane one - almost as if he was not expecting the gun to go off at all! He ran the field down and still nearly took second in 10.18 - the same time as 2nd place Leroy Dixon and 3rd place Ivory Williams (winner was Rae Edwards in 10.10). Bailey is tall and smooth and ran a sub10 quality race to get back in this one. He could be a threat to make the US team in at the end of the month and get a spot on the team to Berlin.

Women's 100 hurdles - Damu Cherry was out fast. Olympic Champion Dawn Harper flinched came out late and hit the first two hurdles before going down to the track. Cherry continued on down the track with first Priscilla Lopes Schliep (CAN) then Michelle Perry in hot pursuit. The three went into the line together with Perry (12.74) getting the narrow win over Cherry (12.74) and Lopes Schliep (12.75)

Men's 3000 - Pacemakers Julius Achon and Steve Scherer took the pace out with Eliud Kipchoge and Bernard Lagat tucking in behind them. Achon dropped off after half mile as Scherer took the field through the mile in 4:03. From there it was Kipchoge and Lagat with Saif Shaheen (QAT) joining them with Craig, Tegenkamp and Solinski in tow. The string of 6 headed into the bell lap and continued in line until they hit the backstretch. Lagat took over down the backstretch then was challenged going into the turn by Shaheen. Coming off the turn Bernard Lagat battled back then ran away down the stretch to victory in 7:35.92 . Shaheen continued on to take second in 7:36.87 with Solinski charging to third in 7:37.05. Only the times from the big Doha race earlier in the season are faster this year.

Women's 400 - Sanya Richards out very fast in the first 200 easily making up the stagger to her outside. She lead by 10 meters coming off the turn and ran alone down the stretch to a world leading 49.86 victory. Shericka Williams (JAM) was a far back second in 50.72. This race was never in doubt from the gun.

Men's 800 - Matt Scherer took the field thru 400 in 51.65 with the field 5 meters back. With 200 to go Nick Symmonds made his move. Christian Smith gave chase for about 30 meters before Symmonds continued on for a 1:45.86 win without too much trouble.

Women's 100 - Kerron Stewart (JAM) and Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM) were out quick from the gun. Stewart began to pull away from Fraser on the left side of the track as Carmelita Jeter began moving up on the right side of the track. Jeter's final 50 was superb as she edged away from world leader Stewart to clock 10.85w ahead of Stewart's 10.90w. Jeter gave Stewart her first loss of the season while remaining unbeaten herself. Muna Lee closed well to take 3rd in 11.02 as she went past Fraser's 11.10.

Men's 100, Section II - Mike Rogers got an excellent start and lead this race from start to finish in a world leading 9.94 (+1.7)! Asafa Powell (JAM) was out well but never pulled away as is his trademark. Beside him Walter Dix was out a hair behind but pulled up on Powell mid race as these two ran together to the line in 10.07 with Powell getting second and Dix third. Rogers has confirmed that he is going to be a factor at Nationals in a couple of weeks and could threaten for a medal in Berlin!

Women's 800 - Pamela Jelimo(KEN) followed the pacemaker through a 56 second first lap as the rest of the field trailed far behind. With 200 to go the rest of the field came on strong as Jelimo went into reverse. Coming off the turn Sinclair took the lead until Maggie Vessey ran by her in the stretch to win going away in 2:00.18. Jelimo is clearly lacking in endurance as she was looked good for 500 meters before fading badly here.

Women's 2000 - Sarah Vaughn took the field through a 2:12 800. marina Muncken took over to continue the pace with Maryam Jamal (BAHRAIN) settling in to 2nd. With 2 laps to go Muncken dropped out and Jamal took over. Jamal continued through the bell lap with Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) taking over down the backstretch.Off the turn Jamal challenged one more time but Cheruiyot held her off in 5:31. 52 - fastest time ever run in the US.

Men's 300 - Merritt out fast from the gun making up the stagger on two athletes outside him. Merritt entered the final 100 with a huge lead and maintained down the straight to win in 31.30. Incredibly the quarter miler went out faster than the sprinters as he ran the #2 time in history. Xavier Carter was stronger than everyone else in the stretch as he took second in 31.93 ahead of Wallace Spearmon's 32.14.

Men's Mile - Moise Joseph took the first lap went out in a blistering 55 seconds and continued through 1:52 at 800 meters! At that point a string of Kenyans 5 deep headed to the bell lap with Haron Keitani (KEN) and Asbel Kiprop (KEN)heading off on the final lap. These two pulled away from the rest of the field at this point as they raced to the final 100 where Kiprop took over and passed the line waving in 3:48.50! Keitany also finished well in 3:48.78. Nate Brannen of Canada was a far back 3rd in 3:52.63 - an excellent time but not enough today. Great finish to an outstanding meet.

Full results can be found here.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Prefontaine Preview

Prefontaine and Reebok have become the two preeminent meets in the US. Just as we saw some outstanding performances last week in New York I expect that there will be a few events that should be outstanding in Eugene. I'll be most looking forward to:

Women's 800 Meters - This should be one hot race as we get to see defending World Champion Janeth Jepkosgei (KEN) vs Olympic Champion Pamela Jelimo (KEN)! No mark so far this year for Jepkoskei, Jelimo has only run 2:02.46, but both have the ability to run away from a field and tend to do their best running from the front. If both are in shape they could push each other to something in the 1:56 range or better. We don't get to see that kind of running on US soil very often.

Men's 300 Meters - Not often you see a 300 in track and field. Half way between the 200 and the 400 it becomes endurance work for the short sprinter, speed work for the long sprinter. In this field we have a fairly equal mix of short and long sprinters but three that do well at both the 2 and 4 in Wallace Spearmon, Xavier Carter and Lashawn Merritt. Spramon and Carter have run 19.6 for 200, Merritt has run 43.7 for 400 meters. Merritt has been hot and has appeared unbeatable so far this season, but Spearmon too over the #2 spot on the yearly 200 list last week with his 19.98. And vet Shawn Crawford is almost guaranteed to take it out and make everyone run. The safe bet is probably Merritt, but Spearmon has shown a lot of improvement the past couple of weeks.

Women's 1500 Meters - Another HOT middle distance race for the women! Geleta Burka (ETH) won the sizzling Hengelo race at 3:58.79 with Anna Alminova (RUS) in hot pursuit at 4:01.54. Anna Willard won 800 in New York with her PR 1:59.29, so is showing improved speed - which she will need to run with these women. Last year's top American at this distance, Shannon Rowbury is also in the race. These are the headlliners in a field that includes Jenny Barringer and Shalane Flannagan. Sub 4:00 is definitely possible in this race.

Men's Long Jump - Irving Saladino and Dwight Phillips battled over 28 feet in Hengelo. Its been a while since we've watched a battle over 28 feet here in the states, I think these two are going to end that draught.

These are what I think will be the highlight events of what should be a meet filled with outstanding performances. Tom Jordan has done an outstanding job of putting together a very solid meet. Complete start lists can be found here. The meet will be televised on NBC starting at 11am Pacific Time. There should be highlights galore. Set your TIVO!