Sunday, March 14, 2010

Championship Weekend - Great Finish

2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Day 2

This was how the indoor season was supposed to be - closed in personal setting with lots of excitement. Give me eight to ten weeks of this every winter and I would be one happy camper. As a matter of fact, this is what track and field is supposed to be about - loaded fields and top notch competition competing in ALL of the available events! All available track event, all available field events and fans will stay glued all weekend long (let alone a full single day) as long as the competition is there!

Plenty of articles out there covering all of the action, so I will hit what were the highlights for me - starting with the NCAA Championships.

First off, let me give a shout out to the coach of the national champion Florida Gators. Because my check of things says that Mike Holloway is the first African American coach to win the men's indoor championship! As he and Vin Lannana split the championships with the Oregon Ducks winning the women's championship. Congrats to both programs, and that special shout out to Holloway. Both programs will be major factors outdoors - on both the men's and women's side.

The collegians put their best feet forward all weekend and in many cases were right there with their elite counterparts half a world away in Doha. Highlighting the NCAA Championships was the only World Record of the weekend as Oregon's Ashton Eaton claimed a new WR in the indoor heptathlon scoring 6499 points to take down the 17 year old record of 6476 previous held by one Dan O'Brien! Awesome performance.

Another record was set when Hampton's Francena McCrory blitzed two laps in 50.54 to take down Diane Dixon's 19 year old 400 meter American Record of 50.64. McCrory's mark was the fastest mark in the world and sets her up as a potential major player in the 400 this year.

While on the subject of long sprints, the men's 200 and 400 lived up to expectations as Curtis Mitchell won the 200 in a sizzling 20.38 - moving to =15th all time indoors. The event was hot all weekend as six individuals ran under 20.80 in the rounds - Marcus Rowland (Auburn) running a WL 20.59 - to set up the hot final. Dropped along the way were defending champion Trey Harts (Baylor) and Olympians Charles Clark (Florida St) and Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky)! Talk about a hot event. The final had no less than the top 5 times in the world between the two final heats!

The 400 was another burner, as once again Torrin Lawrence (Georgia) stamped himself as a prime contender this year in the event with another blazing final in 45.23. Lawrence went out in 21.08 putting pressure on the field and putting the race away. He was chased valiantly by frosh Kirani James (Alabama) in 45.63, but that first 200 was just too much to overcome. Of course the pressure was on as another frosh - Tony McQuay (Florida) had run 45.74 in the first heat putting pressure on Lawrence and company to put up or shut up!

While the rest of the meet was also exciting both Distance Medley relays showed that close exciting races can come in the distance events as both came down to close stirring anchor legs. In the men's relay Oregon's Andrew Wheating, an 800 man by trade, went toe to toe with Arkansas' Dorian Ulrey - a double gold medalist in this meet. Wheating (4:01.23) out dueled Ulrey (4:03.79) to edge him over the final lap and keep Oregon in the title hunt. In the women's relay Oregon frosh Jordan Hasay (4:32.55) valiantly tried to run down Tennessee anchor Brittany Sheffey (4:35.98) but just ran out of steam in the final stages. But these anchor legs capulized the efforts that all of the collegians gave over the weekend as every point was critical towards the team championships - one of the things that makes the collegiate events so exciting!

Over in Doha, the elite athletes were also strutting their stuff this weekend - with some outstanding results of their own. The most outstanding occurring in the field after all of the running events were completed as Teddy Tamgho of France triple jumped a huge 17.90m (58' 8.75") to take down the previous mark of 17.83 (58' 6") co-held by Cuban Aliecar Urrutia's and Swede Christian Olsson - who competed this weekend. Tamgho came through late in the competition to upset Cubans Yoandris Betanzos and David Giralt.

Speaking of "upsets" there were several in Doha. On the positive side, Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM), noted more for her sprinting over 100 and 200, set a new PR of 7.00 in taking gold over season long leaders Laverne Jones Ferrette (ISV) and Carmelita Jeter (US). On the "down" side we saw rare defeats for two legends as Fabiana Murer (BRA) turned back Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) in the pole vault and Nadezda Ostapchuk (BLR) upset Valerie Vili (NZL) in the shot put. Isinbayeva and Vili spent most of the last decade winning everything available to them and perhaps as we head into a new decade the winds of change may be blowing!

But one event that lived up to both expectations and avoided the "upset" bug was the men's 60 hurdles as Dayron Robles (CUB, 7.34) edged out Terrence Trammell (US, 7.36) and David Oliver (US, 7.44) blazed to a great finish.

Speaking of great finishes, the IAAF set one humdinger of a finish for the meet with the final 5 events being the men's triple jump, women's 4x4, women's 60, men's 60H, and men's 4x4. Now that's how you keep em in their seats!

Now if we can just get this kind of competition going for about eight weeks a winter indoors will be well worth the price of admission. In any case it was an awesome end to the indoor season, and a great way to send everyone outdoors! Can't wait to see everyone stretch out over the 400 meter ovals!

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