Tuesday, March 16, 2010
What I'll be Watching this Spring
Temperatures here on the West Coast are entering the 70's, and with the close of the indoor season that means that the spring portion of the track season is getting under way. I say the spring portion because that's the time of year dominated primarily by relay meets and the collegiate season - the summer being dominated by the Grand Prix Circuit in Europe.
Since there is no major global championship this year, the season should be one of high level competition as athletes will not be "saving" themselves for the Olympics or Worlds. As such "off seasons" tend to see a lot of athlete development - and we begin to get a glimpse of some of those athletes that will make an impact in the next string of majors - Daegu/London/Moscow.
That road begins this spring, as the collegiate athletes begin to make names for themselves and the elite athletes start to warm up for the battles to come in Europe. So following are some things I'll be watching as the spring portion of the season unfolds.
The above dozen athletes are a mixture of old and new that I think bears watching. Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon have been two mainstays of the short sprints for several years now and both are coming off injuries. Both have a history of competing well during the spring. I'm looking forward to Tyson's first 200. If it is anything like last year (19.58) we'll see more fireworks from Mr. Gay this year. Would also love to see something under 20 seconds from Spearmon, He's consistently run 20.0x in the past during the spring, but if he wants to run with Gay and Bolt we need to see something under 20 before June.
If we are to have any shot at regaining the top of the sprint podium these two will have to be at their best. In the deuce Curtis Mitchell could be one to join them. Mitchell is one of the new breed of tall sprinters that I feel will be taking over the sport. Mitchell and quarter miler Torrin Lawrence both showed indoors that they may be ready to run with the big boys by the time this year is done.
On the women's side of sprinting Francena McCorory and Allyson Felix could both be ready to make major global impact in the 400. McCorory just broke the American Indoor Record in the event and appears to be capable of running in the 49's. Felix has run the event "on the side" yet has run 49.70. She's supposed to run the event more this off season and if she gives the event a hint of focus I have no doubt she can run in the 48's - then watch her 200 drop!
Hurdler David Oliver is another coming off injury from last year, but his recent bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships indicates that he may be ready to get back to running sub13 - meaning he could indeed be a force.
Pierce, Barringer and Wheating are the young guns in the middle distances in my opinion. Pierce (800/1500) and Barringer (1500) on the women's side, Wheating (800/1500) on the men's side. All three show a strong competitive nature and grit that I think will take them far. Ulrey is one of those athletes that has yet to step in the lime light, but like the previous trio seems to have a competitive nature that I think is going to serve him well in the 1500 - an even where we are looking for someone to step up to give Bernard Lagat some needed help internationally. Galen Rupp is supposed to be the next big stud in the distances, but was overshadowed on the clock last year by Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp. This should be Rupp's year to join them in that elite area and give us a very strong distance trio to replace Lagat when he retires.
Doha Grand Prix
With New York and Eugene joining the Diamond League this year, Penn could be our most elite domestic meet this year. Either way it typically serves to kick off the competitive season for many of our elite athletes who get their feet wet with some hot relay action.
The California Relays is the new incarnation of what used to be the Modesto Relays. The meet was supposed to change locales last year, but had financial difficulty and is scheduled to go off in late May this year. It will be interesting to see if the meet can regain its once lofty status after both a year off and a change in venue. The US really needs another major global meet during the spring with New York and Eugene moving to the summer, so this needs to go off well. It had a long and strong pedigree in Modesto, let's hope it can regain that in Sacramento.
Doha, which just hosted the World Indoor Championships is going to be the first stop of the new Diamond League. Much has been said about the efforts the league is making to put top name talent on the track. Doha will give us an indication of just how well the league has done in its signing of talent.
As we saw with the NCAA Indoor Championships, there is a ton of talent being developed at the college level. Two of the hottest programs to watch will be those at the University of Florida and the University of Oregon. Both squads are loaded and should be battling it out for the outdoor title come the end of spring.
Oregon will lead with its strong distance corp which boasts Galen Rupp, Andrew Wheating, Mc Fleet, AJ Acosta, Nicole Blood, and Jordan Hasay in addition to multi event stars Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen. Florida will counter with a strong sprint corp lead by Calvin Smith, Jeff Demps, Tony McQuay, Terrell Wilks and Jeremy Hall, as well as super jumpers Christian Taylor and Shara Proctor.
These two programs should be at the head of what should be a hot collegiate season. And no where will it be hotter than the SEC and the sprints! The conference that has recently given us Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, and Xavier Carter is brimming with sprint talent this year. Jeff Demps (Florida) is the HS and co World Junior Record holder (10.01) in the 100 meters and appears healthy after some injuries last year. Several sprinters should be under the 10.10 mark this year including Jeremy Hall (Florida), D'Angelo Cherry (Miss St), Marcus Rowland (Auburn), and Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky). But it's the 400 that could be extremely competitive with Torrin Lawerence (Georgia) leading a group that should include Calvin Smith (Florida), Kirani James (Alabama) and Tony McQuay (Florida). Add this group to the 100 meter group and this also be the strongest conference in the country in the 200 meters. Somewhere in this group sits the next set of global medal winning sprinters.
I expect this spring to be quite exciting and interesting. Lets get it started!