Friday, April 30, 2010

Who Steps Up in the 400 Now?

Olympics Day 8 - Athletics

At the end of ‘09, I viewed the men’s 400 as the sprint event with the most upside potential and room for an athlete or two to step in and make a name for himself. Now that it looks like we are going to lose Lashawn Merritt for a while, the event is more wide open than ever.

We’re into the first part of May and we have yet to see Jeremy Wariner on the track – which could mean that injury rumors are true. If so, that would mean the event’s only two gold medalists in the Olympics and Worlds going back to 2004 would both be off the track. The last major final not to have one of these men win gold was back in 2003 when the medalists were Jerome Young, Tyree Washington and Marc Raquil – none of whom are in the sport any longer!

With Merritt out, my Thirty Watch List will fall to 21, and if Wariner doesn’t return to ‘07 form it could be heading towards 20! Luckily the 400 is an event where we’ve always had a lot of depth. So hopefully we have enough talent that someone can step up and seize the opportunity. The question on the table is who will that be? Because both domestically and internationally the event has been a bit “soft” of late. Merritt was the only sprinter to run under 44.50 last year – a barrier that has traditionally been the dividing line between the very good and the truly elite. And not even Merritt ran under 44.00 in ‘09, and 13 of the 16 athletes that ran under 45.00 were bunched between 44.73 & 44.99.

Having said that, we have athletes that are capable of stepping up and filling the void. I classify them as “The Old”, “The Young”, and “The Wild Cards”.


The Old


Jeremy Wariner 43.45  

Any conversation on the 400 must start with Wariner. He’s won either gold or silver in every major since 2004. His PR makes him #3 all time in the event, and up thru 2007 it appeared that he was well on his way to making a serious attack on the WR of 43.18. Then came 2008 and two things happened. First there was a split with his long time coach, Clyde Hart - mentor to WR holder Johnson. Then there was Lashawn Merritt finally supplanting him as #1 after several years in Jeremy’s shadow. The loss in Beijing was followed by an ‘09 season that saw Wariner get back with coach Hart but running “only” 44.60 on the season and taking his second silver behind Merritt in Helsinki – his first season without a sub44 clocking since 2004. So the question for Wariner is, was ‘09 a blip on Jeremy’s radar or are his best season’s behind him? At 26 years old, Wariner is still young by 400 meter standards. So last season should be just a blip on the radar. And without a serious challenger, he should be able to run relaxed and get back into that rhythm that made him so hard to beat. If that’s the case, then Wariner moves right back to the head of the class and resumes ruling over the event.


Angelo Taylor 44.05  

Here is a talent that has shown he can do almost anything he wants in the realm of the 400 – when he’s on. In 2000 he won Olympic gold over the hurdles in 47.50 – out of lane 1! He had various levels of success between ‘01 to ‘06 including some time away from the sport before focusing on the 400 without barriers and winning bronze in Osaka (‘07). He then went back to the hurdles in ‘08 and won gold again in 47.25! Then was out in his heat at World’s in Berlin last year. Taylor has had a penchant for running 43 second relay legs going back to his collegiate days and clearly is a talent here. With the event seemingly “opening up” will he decide to focus here or the hurdles? His best in this event makes him #10 all time, but at 31 years old and the clock ticking he’s got to decide which way to go. Should he choose this event he could be a force.


Kerron Clement 44.48  

Talk about a talent. Here’s a hurdler that could possibly be better on the flat than he is over barriers. An odd comment to make about a man that has won 2 World titles, Olympic silver, and since ‘05 has had season bests of 47.24, 47.39, 47.61, 47.79, and 47.91. But if you consider that his times have gotten progressively slower each season, and add the fact that his hurdling often looks more like that of a steeplechaser than a hurdler, then you’ll begin to understand why I feel that way. Add the fact that Clement is the indoor WR holder for 400 (44.57) and has an outdoor PR of 44.48 in spite of running the event only occasionally, and one salivates at the thought of this 24 year old giving the open 400 some serious attention! Not to mention that when at his best he finishes strongly with an ease rarely seen over 1 lap. Clement has stated on more than one occasion that he wants to break the hurdle WR (46.78), but with bests of 10.23, 20.49, and 44.48 without taking any of them seriously, he might have a better chance of attacking the 400 WR as there are no hurdles to steeplechase over. He seems to be a sub 44 waiting to happen, but will he let the hurdles go?



The Young


Torrin Lawrence 45.03i  

If indoor times mean anything, then Lawrence could be the next great thing. He had a breakout indoor season where he became #5 all time with his 45.03 best. Of those ahead of him on the all time indoor list, three ran sub 44 outdoors (Michael Johnson, Lashawn Merritt and Danny Everett) and the fourth (Kerron Clement) has run 47.24 over hurdles – not bad company. It’s hard to judge him so far this outdoor season with a best of only 48.94, but with youth on his side, there is plenty of up side to this young man. His indoor times alone say he bears watching. As does his hard charging, run from the front mentality. If he can translate his indoor form to the outdoor oval, with his long stride he could easily become a low 44 performer – and potentially go sub 44.



Calvin Smith 44.81  

Smith appears to finally be coming into his own. No small feat considering that his father was THE Calvin Smith that set the 100 WR (9.93) back in 1983. The younger Smith has chosen to focus on the longer sprints and has had success making the US Olympic team in ‘08 as a relay member, and taking third at last year’s NCAA Championships and bringing a best of 44.96 into this season. But it was his world leading 44.81 win against Tyson Gay that has caught the attention of many, as he ran strongly and composed down the final straight to over take Gay just before the line for the win. Showing steady improvement each season since coming out of high school, this 22 year old appears ready to take the next step into the elite ranks. He has the genes, and lately he’s shown the determination. His come from behind style is admirable, but should he begin to stay up with the pace in the first 300, we could see a serious breakthrough from Smith.



Tavaris Tate 44.86  

Talk about youth, this 19 year old has already dropped his best from his high school best of 45.48 to 44.86 and its still early in his freshman season at Mississippi State. Right now there is nothing but “up side” to this young man. The #1 high schooler last year, he hasn’t missed a beat this year. He was a member of the US gold medal winning 4x4 squad at this winter’s World Indoor Championships and clocked his first sub 45 in late March. This kid is a gutsy runner, and I expect to see him around 44.60 this year. With no major championship it’s a great season to improve and get into position for the ‘11/’12/’13 trifecta of championships. My gut tells me he will be battling for a spot on these teams.



The Wild Cards


Xavier Carter 44.53  

Carter has shown that he has the potential to run any of the three sprints with bests of 10.00, 19.63, 44.53. In ‘06 Carter appeared to be on the verge of super stardom as he won the first ever 100/400 double at the NCAA Championships, then proceeded to go to Europe and beat Gay, Spearmon and Bolt with his 19.63 – at the time the #2 time in history! Since then a knee injury in ‘07, followed by an ankle injury and surgery in ‘08 have slowed him down – though he still managed 20.27 last year. Carter is a triple threat talent, but his start makes him extremely vulnerable over 100. His strength and power make him a constant threat over the long sprints. People forget that when he ran his 19.63 he ran down Tyson Gay who was in the process of running 19.70 – the only time in history that someone has been beaten from behind while running that fast!  Many also forget that he once cruised 44.0 while anchoring LSU’s 4x4 squad. The “X-man” could be a major player in this event if he chose to focus here – though my gut tells me that he prefers the deuce. But then Michael Johnson made a career of running both.  But with what I think is sub 44 potential, this is where he belongs.



Justin Gatlin 44.2r  

I said back in January, that I thought that Gatlin might best be served in his come back by giving this event a shot. I won’t go into all the details here, but simply put he has the skills to do well here. Decent height (6’ 1”), great speed (9.77), great speed endurance (19.85), and he’s shown that he can handle the distance running regular relay duty at Tennessee (44.2 relay best). Given his age (28) and where the 100 & 200 have gone in his absence, combined with the recent departure of Lashawn Merritt, this event could be his entry point back to elite status. I know that he wants to prove himself in the short sprints. But if things don’t pan out there, Daegu looms in 2011 and there are spots to be had for the taking at this point!


This event will an interesting one to watch this year. No Worlds or Olympics, just the opportunity to get better and get into position to make next year’s team for Daegu. One gold medalist gone and another in question. Medals appear to be locked down in the 100 and 200 by Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. If you’re running anything under 800 meters this event has got to look a bit appetizing if you’re someone with medal aspirations – especially if you aspire to gold! While anything can happen in the next 13 months (Trials for Daegu in June ‘11) as of today these are the athletes that I think have the best shot at making that team – should they decide to tackle this event.

Sprinters to Highlight Jamaica Invitational

With Penn in the rear view mirror it’s now time for things to start truly heating up. The Diamond League will debut in just about 2 weeks time in Doha, Qatar on May 14th. But the sprints will get a head start as several top sprinters will take to the track this weekend in Kingston Jamaica. While many were on the track at Penn stretching out in various relay events, this time the action will take place in individual events, as the season now begins in earnest.

Kingston will give us out first look at both Tyson Gay (US) and Usain Bolt (JAM) in the same venue – although in different events. Gay will run another 400 while Bolt will run his first 200 of the season. Be sure that even though they are in different events, the comparisons will start here as I’m sure both will lay down significant marks. Kingston will also see the first 100 of the season for Carmelita Jeter, who became history’s #2 all time in the event last year.

Following is a look at what should be the hottest races in Kingston.

Men’s 200 – WR holder Usain Bolt will make his season’s debut in the deuce. Bolt will be the odds on favorite but look for strong races from American’s Wallace Spearmon and Ryan Bailey. Spearmon, who has been battling with injuries the past couple of seasons has looked good early with a strong relay leg in Texas and a world leading 20.20 in this event at Drake. Spearmon’s PR 19.65 makes him the 5th fastest man ever in the event and he’s always a threat to run sub20 when in form. Bailey is the new kid on the block looking to make a name for himself as he takes on the big boys in his first season as a pro. An early 10.09/20.40 double in Texas followed up by a strong relay leg and 10.15 100 win at Penn say this young man should hold his own in this field. Look for a new PR from Bailey. The race should go to Bolt however. Expect a new world leader in the 19.80/19.90 range.

Men’s 400 – While Bolt runs the deuce Tyson Gay will take another crack at the quarter. Gay opened last season with two 400 meter races before running the shorter sprints and seems to be taking the same approach to this season. Tyson’s first 400 in Florida dropped his previous best from 45.57 to an eye opening 44.89. Running a sprinters races pattern, Gay lead from the gun barely losing in the final strides to a hard charging Calvin Smith down the final straight. He will once again face strong opposition in Kingston as World Indoor champ Chris Brown (BAH, 44.40) and World Outdoor bronze medalist Renny Quow (Tri, 44.53) are sure to give him all he can handle. If Gay can execute a more quarter miler like race it’s possible he could see something in the 44.50 range.

Women’s 100 – While the top 100 men will be running the long sprints, this event features an early season showdown between two of the world’s best in Carmelita Jeter (US)  and Kerron Stewart (JAM). Stewart won silver in this event in both Beijing and Berlin, while Jeter won bronze in Osaka and Berlin. Jeter’s bronze in Berlin, however, was a blip on what was a stellar season that saw her with six races under 10.90 headed with two (10.64 & 10.67) under 10.70. Stewart had three races of her own under 10.90 (10.75, 10.75 & 10.84) and although countrywoman Shelly Ann Fraser has twice beaten both for gold in majors, Stewart and Jeter may just be the two fastest women in the world. With no major on the docket this year this race could be the start of a major matchup on the season. Certainly the potential exists for a sub 11.00 Saturday.

Women’s 200 – Another hot head to head matchup comes in this event as Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) and Sanya Richards (US) go toe to toe in Campbell Brown’s pet event. Veronica has twice won gold in the Games and twice silver at Worlds. She and Allyson Felix (US) are easily the event’s premier competitors today. Richards is the World Champion over 400 meters and runs this event well (PR 22.17) when she does. And with no title to run for this year, Richards has said she will run the 200 a bit more, so I would expect her to be ready to run this race well. A classic matchup pitting Campbell Brown’s speed (10.85 100 PR) against Richards strength (48.70 400 PR). Campbell Brown already leads the world this year at 22.32 so the time should be a bit faster – perhaps 22.20ish. Not sure who else is entered but with Kerron Stewart confirmed in the 100, if she ends up in this event she could potentially help push the early race faster and a faster time could ensue – and she could possibly beat both.

Sprint wise, Kingston should be a great prelude to the Diamond League clashes that lie ahead. It will be nice to see these athletes begin to open things up a bit!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anti Doping Program Needs Transparency

Once again we have had a doping issue arise in the sport of track and field. And I agree with those who say that doping is a major PR problem for the sport. I disagree, however, as to why doping is such a PR nightmare. While most would contend that it is the announcements of the positive tests that is the problem, I believe that the real problem is that positive tests are the ONLY thing we hear about when it comes to doping!

The story that ISN’T told is that, to my knowledge, we test our athletes more than any other sport in the world! We have in competition testing, out of competition testing, random testing, and we’ve even begun a pilot blood testing program here in the US (Project Believe). The only thing that we tell anyone, however, is who we are suspending because of a positive test!

Now from a PR standpoint that would be like an automaker only making public announcements when they have a recall issue! Fortunately for them they provide information on customer loyalty, performance reviews, safety reports and other information on just how good their products are. Unfortunately for track and field, when it comes to drug testing, we only let people know when someone has been caught breaking the rules! When all the public hears is that people are getting busted “cheating” they develop the attitude that the sport is filled with cheats!

Speaking with people familiar with the sport, and reading what writers who cover the sport have to say it would appear that that is the impression that just about everyone is getting – that the sport is filled with cheats. Not the image that track and field WANTS to have – but it is the one that we are presenting. Because that’s the only information that we provide! Even watching the telecast of the Penn Relays – one of the few meets televised here in the US – the announcers just had to do a segment highlighting Lashawn’s positive test. So that anyone watching track and field on TV for the first time is left with the impression that the few reports they’ve read in the news about track and field are true – track people cheat!

That’s why it’s time for track and field to be open and transparent about our anti doping programs. I “hear” that we test a lot – but I have no idea how many tests we conduct. I have no idea who’s been tested or how many times they’ve been clean. I don’t know if the US is tested the most or proportionate to population or to our competition. I have no idea how many tests were conducted last year in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Caribbean. All I know is when a press release comes out telling me “officially” who is being banned! And I say “officially” because secrecy breeds rumor and innuendo – and this sport is full of rumor and innuendo about who’s tested positive and who’s being covered up.

All of the above is why track and field needs to create a website, or sections on existing sites like USADA, WADA, et al, that provides information on the results of our anti doping program – and not just a few random numbers. If we are the most tested sport, then let’s tell people. If our top athletes are being tested regularly, then let’s tell people. If we’re testing our stars as much as we say we are and they are repeatedly coming up clean then THAT is GOOD NEWS! Going back to the auto industry those would all be very good consumer reports!

Withholding that information and only providing info on who tests positive just gives the impression that doping is a NEGATIVE issue in the sport – that our athletes are dirty not clean. When the reality is that if only a small percentage of our tests come up positive, then the rare “dirty” athlete is not that bad at all! It would also get rid of the veil of secrecy that testing has in this sport. The feeling that something is always being “hidden” – because we know from the past that things HAVE been hidden. That the sport only releases the information that it “wants” to release. Sort of how the public feels about government – that there is some hidden agenda and they only tell us what they want us to know and that Roswell, Area 51, and the truth about the assassination of Kennedy is still out there but being kept from us! When an athlete like Merritt can have THREE positive tests and not even know then we really have a problem – because it seems the information is being withheld from EVERYONE including the athletes themselves.

I understand that there are privacy issues. Those issues can easily be overcome by having athletes sign waivers – and I would think that anyone clean would have no problem with such a waiver. We have the ability for test results to be up online within days of the tests being conducted. Since we won’t know who’s been tested until the results are “up” if there are pending positives they can simply be held pending testing of the “B” sample and notification of the appropriate individuals – but those are the only results that should be withheld – with the final results made available following the conclusion of proper notification procedures.

Transparency would also create greater accountability across the board. We would know who is conducting a fair amount of tests and who isn’t. We would know who is being over tested and potentially targeted and who isn’t being tested enough. We could determine if “random” is truly random and if enough out of competition testing is being conducted. We would be able to see where there are holes in the system and shore them up. And we could finally get rid of the whispers and innuendo that run rampant in this sport.

Questions about a region, look it up. Questions about an individual, look him/her up. The testing history of Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Carmelita Jeter, Allyson Felix, Asafa Powell and Shelly Ann Fraser, et al would be there to simply look up, just as the results of their races are. In competition, out of competition, random, when, where, and what. As they said in Dragnet, “just the facts”.

If testing data was as available as competition data all the whispers, speculation, innuendo and rumors would go away. Because you control the conversation by being open with the information. In turn we would also get rid of the notion that track and field is a dirty sport. After all we say that we are conducting an“anti doping” program through WADA and the various local anti doping agencies. So let’s tell everyone how GOOD our anti doping efforts are performing. Anti doping should be a positive PR talking point, not a negative one. We should be highlighting our successes not our failures.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend Review – Penn

Track and Field: 116th Penn Relays

As excited as I was that Penn was finally here, I feel somewhat let down now that it’s over. Yes, there was a Bolt sighting. And yes there were huge crowds. But there were several things that I found disappointing.

There were highlights. The Tennessee Lady Vols picked up where they left off last year winning three titles this year taking the 4 x 800, 4 x 1500 and distance medley relays. A tough feat to achieve at any meet, let alone Penn. The men’s distance medley relay had one of the closest finishes of the meet as American’s David Torrance (4:00.47) and Leonel Manzano (4:00.04) gave serious chase after Kenyan Josephat Kithii (4:00.61) as Kenya (9:24.97), USA Blue (9:25.02) and USA White (9:20.04) finished closer than most of the sprint relays!

Which is where my disappointment starts – our sprint relays. The big attraction at Penn is supposed to be USA v World with a big focus on the 4x1 and 4x4 relays. Yet I found myself very disappointed with what we put on the track. As I stated prior to the meet we put a lot of effort into “balancing” out our squads. With Usain Bolt in attendance this year “balance” wasn’t what was needed! Nor was the manner in which we put our teams together, as neither 4x1 was put together to win in my humble opinion.

Two men’s squads, and on both squads we placed athletes on the second legs noted more for their starts than their finishes (Travis Padgett & Mike Rodgers)! Then for an odd sort of consistency both squads started individuals more noted for their finishes than their starts (Walter Dix & Ryan Bailey)! The result? We looked good coming into the first handoff, then got blitzed down the backstretch. Our weak finishers had trouble pushing the third legs through the zone making for poor exchanges. Third legs couldn't catch up and Bolt received the baton slightly ahead and the race was over! Running 8.79 on the anchor the last thing that Bolt needed was for us to hand him victory on a silver platter! So we got waxed by a Jamaican team starting Mario Forsythe (bests of 10.16/20.84) and with no Asafa Powell (more MVP v JAAA issues)!

The women won their “showdown”, but only because injury to Sanya Richards moved Allyson Felix from third leg (she’s a HORRIBLE turn runner) to second leg where she’s one of the best in the world – because from what I hear she was originally slated for third leg duty! Call it fate, but Allyson did what she does – blazed the straight and gave us a solid lead. From there it was a matter of holding the lead and giving it to Carmelita Jeter who was NOT going to be caught by anyone. So, yes a win, but what are the people in charge of our relays thinking? We have gone the last two majors without setting foot in the 4x1 final for either the men or the women. Yet we invite our chief competition here to compete against us and treat it like a pick up race on a playground. We have some serious work to do, and I didn’t see it being done at Penn.

For example, Jamaica beat us in the women’s sprint medley. But could we not find two 200 meter runners for the first two legs? We ran two quarter milers Natasha Hastings and Dee Dee Trotter and it showed as Jamaica’s Kerron Stewart – Olympic 200 bronze medalist – wiped us up on the second leg. Then to add insult to injury we anchored our most competitive half miler (Anna Pierce) on the “B” squad. So while Sheena Tosta put us back in the game on the third leg 400, Jamaican anchor Kenia Sinclair had no challenge and ran away and hid.

And while we won both 4x4’s, our men’s squad looked almost like a “B” squad as we had no Lashawn Merritt and no Jeremy Wariner. We won with two 400 hurdlers (Bershawn Jackson & Angelo Taylor) leading the way on the final two legs. Not how you want to go against “The World”. I’ll be looking at our 400 situation later this week. We have work to do or we will suffer again come Daegu and London. Unfortunately we don’t get many opportunities to work on it so we can’t afford to waste any of them. But Penn seems like an opportunity wasted.

I was also very disappointed in the telecast by ESPN. We got TWO hours – a biggie for track and field. But we got maybe an hours worth of track. We got a segment on Sanya Richards and her off season marriage though she didn’t compete. We got a segment on Lashawn Merritt’s suspension and Doug Logan’s comments – does the average or casual fan need to hear this, I thought we were trying to ATTRACT people to the sport! And we got to see the Jamaican victory in the 4 x1 about 4 times! As I have said before, if we can only sell our competitions based on a single individual then we have lost the battle for fans and viewers. We have to start to sell the public on multiple stars or we are doomed! I mean, quiet as it’s kept, Allyson Felix was the only elite athlete to take home two wins at Penn (4x1 and 4x4). And where was all the collegiate action?

I will end my conversation on Penn on a high note. The coverage from Flotrack was AWESOME! Thanks Flotrack I got to see the college competition and the high school competition. I actually got to see Tennessee complete their triple win. I got to see Ryan Baily pick up another win (10.15) – out of lane 2. I got to see Mississippi State and Florida go toe to toe in the 4x2 with Tavaris Tate (MsSt) just out leaning a hard charging Calvin Smith (Fl) for a .04 win! I got to see all the heats of the 4x1’s and 4x4’s and distance and sprint medley’s – high school, college and elite!

An outstanding job that was only interrupted when they had to shut down temporarily for the USA v World events as they were prohibited from showing them. If you haven’t seen their web casts check out they stream several meets live and then have event by event archives. Next best thing to being there. They and Universal Sports have become two of my favorite weekend stops when I can’t be there!

May is around the corner and the sport will be changing gears. Collegiate conferences and regional meets. The Diamond League will get started with the Doha meet. Some smaller invitational meets, and high school state meets. So we will start to see the best of the high school and collegiate athletes, and the elites will start to show up for some individual work – finally!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Not Another Mistake !

Once again we get the report of another positive drug test. This time it’s Lashawn Merritt who according to his press release inadvertently used a product that contained DHEA. While it depresses me that, yet again, we have an individual testing positive in this sport it’s more depressing that this is a situation that clearly could have been avoided with a little knowledge.

Judging from the reports, this is a matter where Mr. Merritt clearly wasn’t using a product to improve his performance on the track. However, with the sport having a policy of strict liability when it comes to substances that one puts into their body, it is imperative that he, or any other athlete, be completely knowledgeable about any and all substances that they ingest. It doesn’t matter if they are over the counter or prescription medications, vitamin supplements or foods that one is not familiar with. Athletes MUST be aware of what items contain before putting them into their bodies!

I am disappointed with the response of USATF CEO Doug Logan who has chosen to castigate Merritt and focus on the negative when instead this is a moment that should be used for educating Merritt, and in turn the rest of our elite athletes on just how perilous the day to day use of ANY substance can be without proper knowledge! Throwing Merritt or any other athlete under the bus does not fix this problem! Clearly the programs in place at USATF are not getting the job done, and that is where our CEO should start. Merritt is not the first to make such a silly mistake, nor will he be the last, unless we find a way to make sure that our athletes are armed with all the information they need to make the correct decisions.

So my message to the athletes and coaches is this. Let’s stop making foolish mistakes! Not only is your reputation on the line, but so is that of USA Track and Field as both an organization and a sport. We already have a reputation that has been sullied by drug scandals and innuendo. We can ill afford any further negative publicity OR the loss of critical potential medal earners.

Make sure that you are completely aware of the chemical make up of anything that you eat, drink, or even rub on your bodies. Make sure that you have the most current list of banned substances in your possession. Clear ANY items you may intend to put into your body with your physician and USADA. When you are travelling and in unfamiliar locales make sure you check ALL items for what they may contain before ingesting. Your livelihood, your career, is constantly at stake.

This Week’s Big Meet – Penn Relays

Track and Field: 115th Penn Relays

The Penn Relays are on tap this weekend, and while the focus is on the return of Usain Bolt to Penn and the USA v World events the collegiate competition could be the most exciting with high powered programs from Florida, Oregon, LSU, Florida Sate and Texas A&M on hand.

The whole concept of “USA v World” is great in theory but has not lived up to that billing. For the most part it has been a showcase for US squads as we’ve dominated most of the events over the years. Recently it has become “USA v Jamaica” in the 4x1, but historically neither country has put its best team on the track. Jamaica has had ongoing issues with the MVP track club while the US works too hard at trying to balance our squads. The result is that we don’t get the squads that we would see either country enter at Worlds or the Olympics. So it’s USA v Jamaica, but not at either’s best.

Bringing in Bolt as the headliner should help with the excitement of the 4x1 however – regardless of what group takes the track with him because this year Jamaica will be running two squads as well (Black & Gold) and adopting the US “balance” approach by separating Bolt and Asafa Powell as each will anchor a squad. While I know that that is the US plan (balance) I would really like to see us put our best squad on the track. Right now I think that would be a team of Ivory Williams to Wallace Spearmon to Tyson Gay to Ryan Bailey. Williams has been our best starter indoors and is at 9.95 already. Spearmon looked good in anchoring his team in Texas and a relay veteran. Tyson is fit and a superior turn runner. And Bailey is #2 American on the clock in the 100 and a superb closer – and he and Bolt together on anchor could be a preview of the future. Unfortunately the relay pool doesn’t have either Tyson or Wallace so that grouping won’t happen – and we lose an opportunity to get our best together. Something we can’t afford to keep doing given our recent history in major championships.

Reportedly our pool consists of Darvis Patton, Mike Rodgers, Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Shawn Crawford, Mark Jelks, Rae Edwards, Ryan Bailey, Ivory Williams and Leroy Dixon so I say we go with Dix and Crawford on the interior and give it a go with a squad of Williams to Dix to Crawford to Bailey. Dix has tremendous acceleration on the straight and Crawford is a turn veteran who is second only to Bolt and Gay. I’m guessing that Bolt will run with a Racers Lions Club squad of Mario Forsythe to Yohan Blake to Marvin Anderson to Bolt. While we could see a pairing of Dwight Thomas to Michael Frater to Nesta Carter with Powell anchoring – pairing together MVP club mates. With the Jamaican squads having some passing history between them we could get a time somewhere in the 37.50 – 37.75 range – taking down the meet record of 37.92, and finally giving Penn a respectable 4x1. So putting the best available in our pool together will be imperative if we are to have a shot at winning this weekend. Balance will not win it for us.

It’s also time to make an assault on the 4x2 record. Tyson Gay (19.58), Wallace Spearmon (19.65), Walter Dix (19.69) and Xavier Carter all have 200 PR’s that say a record attempt is possible. While it’s too late for this year, If we could ever get them together at Penn the WR of 1:18.68 could possibly take a beating. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a really fast 4x2 at Penn, yet the 4x2 was once one of Penn’s hottest events. The meet record of 1:19.11 was a WR when set at Penn in ‘92, and 5 of the 8 fastest times ever were run at Penn. We’re overdue for another big run! Perhaps a squad of Walter Dix, Darvis Patton, Shawn Crawford and Ryan Bailey could get under the 1:20.00 barrier. Patton and Crawford have been there before, and Crawford just keeps churning out 19.8’s every year like clockwork. Dix certainly has the potential. And Bailey is improving rapidly and is the best 200 man available in the pool.

Best Ever 4x2’s

Time Group Place Date
1:18.68 SMTC (Marsh, Burrell, Heard, Lewis) Mt SAC 4/17/94
1:19.10 World All Stars (Drummond, Mitchell, Bridgewater, Regis) Mt SAC 4/17/94
1:19.11 SMTC (Marsh, Burrell, Heard, Lewis) Penn 4/25/92
1:19.16 USA Red (Crawford, Clay, Patton, Gatlin) Penn 4/26/03
1:19.38 SMTC (Everett, Burrell, Heard, Lewis) Koblenz 8/23/89
1:19.39 USA Blue (Drummond, Crawford, B. Williams, Greene) Penn 4/28/01
1:19.45 SMTC (Deloach, Burrell, Lewis, Heard) Penn 4/27/91
1:19.47 Nike (Brokenburr, A. Harrison, Greene, M. Johnson) Penn 4/24/99

Since I’m talking about things I would like to see at Penn, I would also like to see an invitational 100 and mile – the 100 could even be a 100 “yard” dash to make it different and exciting. These are two of the biggest headline events at any meet and bringing in stellar fields in both would certainly help to spice things up.

This year, though, I think the spice just might come from the colleges. Florida’s men’s team has already entered the all time top 10 collegiate lists in the 4x2 (1:20.38, =9th) & 4x4 (3:00.31, 8th), and last week had an “A” 4x1 run 39.06 while the “B” team went 39.31! Florida is a threat to go under 39.00, 1:20.00 AND 3:00.00 this weekend, weather permitting. The Penn Records are 38.68 (TCU, ‘01), 1:19.67 (TCU,’00), 3:01.10 (Florida, ‘04) – the 4x2 mark also being the national college record.

On the women’s side Texas A&M has last year’s collegiate record setting 4x1 foursome back and healthy. They’re a threat to run better than their 42.36 mark at some point this year. And given that the squad ran 1:30.28 last year in the 4x2, there is the possibility of a sub 1:30.00 run by this group – the collegiate record is 1:29.78 by LSU.

Throw in squads from schools like Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU, Florida State, and TCU and the college events should be both fast and deep. Including the distance oriented relays. Last year Tennessee’s women went nuts with a CR & AR of 8:17.91 in the 4x800 and a WR of 17:08.34 in the 4x1500! So as usual there will be much to cheer about when Penn opens the gates. Should be another stellar event.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Thirty Watch List

Track and Field: IAAF World Indoor Championships

USATF CEO Doug Logan has set a goal of 30 medals at the London Olympic Games. A mark we have yet to achieve in any Games or World Championships to date. Most recently we won 23 medals in track and field at the Beijing Games and 22 medals at last year’s World Championships in Berlin. So in the past two global championships we have been at about three quarters of goal.

The question is where do we pick up the other seven or eight medals? Not as easy as it might sound when you consider that there are approximately 200 other countries with the same thought in mind – to improve their medal counts! When you look at recent championships there are several “gaps” where we are missing medals. A good start would be in the running events above 400 meters. There is also much improvement to be made on the field in areas such as the triple jump, high jump, hammer, javelin and discus. These are all areas where we could pick up additional medals with improvement.

As a matter of fact most are events that, not too long ago, we earned medals and were among the best in the world with athletes like Charles Austin (HJ), Kenny Harrison (TJ), Johnny Gray (800), Regina Jacobs (1500), and Louise Ritter (HJ) just to name a few. But over the past couple of decades the world has become a lot more competitive and we’ve lost ground in several events. The African nations have grown to dominate the distances. The Caribbean nations have grown stronger in the short sprints. And the European nations have gotten stronger in the field. So we have a lot of work to do to regain our “mojo” in several areas.

THAT is the task at hand. Maintaining excellence where we currently earn medals, while improving in events where we know we have the ability to be competitive. To that end we need a plan, a road map if you will, of how we are going to get there. Putting that road map together is the role of USATF. I would hope any such plan might include putting our most promising athletes together with our best coaches by area of expertise. At least I think that would be the place to start. Luckily we have another year before the next championship (Daegu, 2011) and two years until the next Olympics (London, 2012). So there is plenty of time to put something workable in place.

While we are waiting to see the results of our labors in Daegu and London however, I am going to start a list of those athletes that I feel are in the best position to medal. Looking at factors such as performance marks, competitive results, health and age I will try and gauge where we are with respect to reaching the elusive thirty medals. Hence I will call it my “Thirty Watch List”. As we head into Penn and what is traditionally the time of year where athletes begin to blossom I decided to start the list now, so the first version will appear below and I will update it periodically during the season. I’m hoping that by season’s end we are above the 22/23 medals that we have earned in the past two championships. I would love to see athletes like Jenny Barringer (1500), Galen Rupp (5000/10000), Matt Tegenkamp (5000/10000), Dathan Ritzenhein (5000/10000), Andra Manson (HJ), Anna Pierce (800/15000), et al can begin to move into medaling position.

Of course this list is simply one of opinion, mine, and the real proof of our improvement will be gauged by the results we achieve in the championships themselves – starting with Daegu. But every goal needs a plan, and every plan needs a method of evaluation – this will be my evaluation tool. I have started by taking a look at our results the past couple of seasons and those athletes that have had the most success – along with such factors as age, health and the status of our global competition. I will add and delete as athletes rise and fall in performance, retire, or get injured – and as athletes around the world do the same. Athletes will be listed with the event that I think they will be able to medal in in Daegu.

There are a couple of spots taken up by athletes that didn’t medal recently due to injury or other mishaps, but who otherwise are clearly in medal position. There are also a couple of spots where I did not place athletes based on age and I am waiting to see if they can bypass Father Time and continue at their recent levels.

It should be a lot of fun. So without further delay here is my first “Thirty Watch List”.


The Thirty Watch List

  Athlete Event
1. Tyson Gay 100 Meters
2. Carmelita Jeter 100 Meters
3. Tyson Gay 200 Meters
4. Wallace Spearmon 200 Meters
5. Allyson Felix 200 Meters
6. Lashawn Merritt 400 Meters
7. Jeremy Wariner 400 Meters
8. Sanya Richards 400 Meters
9. Terrence Trammell 110 Hurdles
10. Kerron Clement 400 Hurdles
11. Bershawn Jackson 400 Hurdles
12. Lashinda Demus 400 Hurdles
13. Lolo Jones 100 Hurdles
14. 4x1 Men Relay
15. 4x1 Women Relay
16. 4x4 Men Relay
17. 4x4 Women Relay
18. Brittney Reese Long Jump
19. Jennifer Suhr (nee Stuczynski) Pole Vault
20. Christian Cantwell Shot Put
21. Brian Clay Decathlon
22. Trey Hardee Decathlon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Track Heating Up Heading into Penn

Calvin Smith started things with his 44.81 WL in Florida, but several athletes put up world leaders and outstanding marks yesterday as the season began to hit it’s traditional stride heading into Penn Relays weekend!

As I thought it might, the Kansas Relays produced a world leader in the 100 and the year’s first sub10. It wasn’t by previous world leader Churandy Martina however as the Kansas 100 went to Ivory Williams (US) in a near PR 9.95. Williams had an outstanding indoor season and seems to be continuing the pace outdoors. Also sprinting well in Kansas was super vet Veronica Campbell Brown who scorched the track for a 22.32 200 meter victory and world leader.

On the west coast the 400 was the hot event as two one lap leads were set in Mt SAC. In the women’s 400 long hurdler Lashinda Demus (US) went 51.40 with barriers to climb to the top of the world list, while Jeshua Anderson (US) went 49.11 over hurdlers to climb to the top of the 400 hurdles list. Mt SAC also saw world leaders in the women’s 5000 and men’s hammer throw as Sally Kipyego (KEN) ran 15:02.83 and Libor Charfreitag (SLO) threw 80.59m (264’ 5”).

Meanwhile in Australia Fabrice Lapierre (AUS) let loose a windy (3.1 mps) jump of 8.78m (28’ 9.75”)! Though windy it still makes him the 6th best performer under any conditions behind Mike Powell (8.95m, 29’ 4.5”), Bob Beamon (8.90m, 29’ 2.5”), Carl Lewis (8.87m, 29’ 1.25”), Robert Emmiyan (8.86m, 29’ 1”) and Ivan Pedroso (8.79mw, 28’ 10.25w). Pretty solid company! Lapierre began to emerge last year with legal 8.35m (27’ 4.75”) and windy 8.57m (28’ 1.5”) jumps and appears to be continuing his improvement. He could be heading towards being the new face of the long jump and a threat to 8.84m (29’ 0”)! he definitely bears watching.

As does Tyson Gay after yesterday’s stellar 400. If you want to see what I mean, take a look below!


Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Calvin Smith 44.81 WL, Tyson Gay 44.89 PR in Florida

Tyson Gay started this season the same way he started last season, with a 400 PR at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic at the University of Florida. Running in his “training” event Gay went toe to toe with US Olympic relay team member Calvin Smith and World 400 finalist Renny Quow with stellar results as he and Smith set new PR’s. Calvin Smith took the win in a world leading 44.81. Smith’s PR was also a collegiate leader giving Florida another collegiate sprint leader (Teammate Jeff Demps leads the 100 at 10.11).

Right with Smith at the wire, however, was former 100/200 World Champion (Osaka “07) Tyson Gay with his own PR of 44.89 – making him #4 on this year’s current 400 list! Last year Gay opened at 46.34 before setting his previous best of 45.57. Gay then opened over 200 meters in 19.58 before opening in the 100 at 9.75w. Tyson suffered from groin issues through most of last year, however, though he improved his 100 AR to 9.71 and 9.69 and won silver in the event in Berlin. Gay had the groin repaired during the off season and today’s race sends a message to the world that Tyson may be more fit than ever. And if last year is any indication we should see new bests this season in the 100 and 200.

Also sending a message today was host Florida. Along with Smith’s world and collegiate leader they ran two 4x1 squads winning in 39.06 over their own “B” squad’s 39.31 with Kentucky a well back 39.82. Florida is the defending National Champion in the event and clearly have the horses to go for another title. They also had wins all over including the 100 (Demps 10.22), long jump (Taylor 24’ 7.75”),

Meanwhile on the other side of the country Oregon was making short work of UCLA with an easy 92 – 71 victory. Lead by super decathlete Ashton Eaton’s 10.52/21.03 sprint double Oregon notched wins all over the track and field for the win. Ironically former Bruin hurdle recruit David Klech, won today’s high jump for the Ducks with a PR 7’ 0.5”. At any rate, Oregon and Florida seem to be on a collision course for NCAA supremacy. They will be interesting to watch as the season progresses.

Likewise Tyson Gay seems to be on a collision course with spiriting history and Usain Bolt. For the record Tyson’s race today makes him the first sprinter in history to run sub 9.70, sub 19.60 and sub 45.00!

Still a lot of track and field going on all over the country. Should be more to talk about by morning.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gay to Open Season in Florida

Adidas IAAF Press Conference

I confirmed with Florida Head Coach Mike Holloway this morning that Tyson Gay will be opening his season tomorrow in Florida running the 400 meters at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic in Gainesville. Tyson opened similarly last year when he ran a 400 in Arizona (46.34) then ran another in Texas scooting 45.57.

Tomorrow Tyson will get a good test as he will be competing against NCAA indoor finalists Tony McQuay (FL) & Calvin Smith (FL) as well as Beijing finalist Reny Quow (TRI). Gay had surgery on last year’s groin injury, and from what I’ve heard has been training well. So tomorrow should give us a good view of his fitness.

The 400 meters has become the standard early in the season as the top sprinters look to hone their strength and speed endurance. It served Gay well last year as he had multiple entries into the all time lists – turning in an AR 9.69 (as well as 9.71 and 9.77 efforts) in the 100 and a personal best 19.58 in the 200, in spite of the groin troubles.

I’m looking forward to Tyson’s opening tomorrow and am sure that it will bode well for an outstanding season.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mt SAC, Kansas, Freedom and a Dual

Track and Field: NCAA Championships

Each weekend things seem to be getting a bit more exciting. This weekend we have a couple of solid relay meets and one of those collegiate rarities – a hot dual meet – as Oregon hosts UCLA.

Of all the collegiate programs out there, Oregon seems to be the one that is most “old school” in its philosophy. Their schedule seems to have more “head to head” type match ups where they are taking on other high level programs as opposed to spending a lot of time at invitationals prior to the end of season run of conference/regionals/nationals. Last week they took on the high powered Texas A&M program in a multi team meet and came out on top. This weekend they will be going head to head with the rebuilding UCLA program. Hard for me to bet against the Ducks this week. Especially since top hurdler Kevin Craddock has left school and is now working with coach Darrel Smith and hurdlers Jason Richardson and Ryan Wilson as training partners. UCLA will be vulnerable in both hurdles with his loss and Oregon is too strong to give points away. Having handled the Aggies last week, I’m not sure if Oregon will have another real test until nationals in June.

An athlete that will be tested this week will be current world 100 meter leader Churandy Martina (AHO). Fresh off his world leading 10.03 from last week, Martina heads to Lawrence KS for the Kansas Relays where we will see if he can become the first sprinter to run under 10.00 this year. Also headlining the meet will two time Olympic 200 meter champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (JAM) who is slated to compete in her specialty here.

Heading east the top event should be the Freedom Games in North Carolina which routinely attracts top talent. This year’s meet will feature a strong group of hurdlers lead by current 110 hurdler world leader David Oliver and long hurdlers Bershawn Jackson and Johnny Dutch.

Fans on the west coast will be treated to the Mt SAC Relays. Always an exciting meet I see some interesting names as I scan through some of the relay heats with Virginia Powell, Allyson Felix, Carmelita Jeter, and Miki Barber on various 4x1 relay squads. Also looks like we’ll see Bryan Clay in the invitational 110 hurdles.

I expect we will see some nice results coming out or Oregon, North Carolina, Kansas and California this weekend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

100 Yard Attack

Track and Field: 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics

I just read that Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell is going to be taking a run at the decades old 100 yard dash best. I say best because the book was closed on yard records back in 1976 (all save for the mile). The race itself will be over 100 meters, but meet organizers are planning to set up timing to catch Powell’s time at the 100 yard mark as well.

This should be quite interesting. One because the race has virtually been non existent since the mid 70’s when the book was closed on yard marks and the metric system (and records) became the standard. Ironically it was approximately the same time that automatic timing started becoming the standard, so that most 100 yard marks were hand timed with auto timing being implemented only on rare occasions. As such the accepted (legal) record for 100 yards was 9.0 sec. Set first by Ivory Crockett in 1974 and later tied by high school star Houston McTear in 1975. After 1976 the event stopped being run in all but high school meets – and by 1980 was discontinued at that level as well.

The best auto timed mark for the event was set way back in 1967 when Charlie Greene ran 9.21 (9.23 in a heat) in winning the NCAA Championships. Ironically the time was actually a back up time and not the official time. The official time was 9.2 as Greene won in a squeaker over Lennox Miller, also 9.2 (back up time of 9.32). Ironically Greene’s “slower” 9.23 in the rounds was a WR equaling 9.1 based on the hand timing!. Such was the state of timing during that era – hand timing was official, new automatic timing systems were starting to be used as “back up”! As a result, most of the events best times never had automatic times associated with them. Though Houston McTear’s 9.0 was caught by back up timing in 9.30 – the third best auto time on record.

The most recent runs on the books were made in 1994. In Edinburgh Linford Christie won the following race:

1. 9.30 Linford Christie 1.6 mps
2. 9.36 Sam Jefferson 1.6 mps
3. 9.40 Calvin Smith 1.6 mps
4. 9.41 Slip Watkins 1.6 mps
5. 9.46 Jason John 1.6 mps

In another race in ‘94 in Philadelphia Jon Drummond was victorious:

1. 9.33 Jon Drummond 1.2 mps
2. 9.36 Andre Cason 1.2 mps
3. 9.48 Rodney Lewis 1.2 mps

With the event basically dead for nearly 35 years it will be interesting to see just how fast Powell can cover the distance. Using some basic math and calculating average speed over 100 yards and applying it to 100 meters, Charlie Greene’s 9.21 equates to 10.07 – very close to his actual PR of 10.02 set in the “68 Games in Mexico City. Using the same math principles Asafa Powell’s PR of 9.72 equates to 8.89 for 100 yards – a hefty improvement over 9.21. Similarly Tyson Gay’s AR 9.69 and Usain Bolt’s WR 9.58 convert to 8.86 and 8.76 respectively.

I’m curious to see what time Powell actually puts up in Ostrava. More so it might lend some excitement to the sport to see a few 100 yard dashes run. With the 100 meter mark being where it is the likelihood of seeing many races in that range are not good (though Gay did run 9.69 in Shanghai towards the end of last summer). The 100 yard dash would be “fresh” and so would be any new set of marks the athletes would put up. Making for a bit more excitement in the chase of a “new” standard - sort of like changing up between the 1500 and mile.

Something for the sport and meet promoters to consider as they look for ways to draw attention to the sport.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Better False Start Rule

Watching the early part of this season it’s clear that the new False Start Rule (none allowed) is a major problem waiting to happen. Already we’ve seen a 60 meter final at Nationals and a 4x1 at the Texas Relays run under protest. In a meet earlier this year in Australia, their #1 400 hurdler, L.J. van Zyl, was tossed out of the hurdle final at Australian Nationals – a race he would easily have won – because of a false start infraction. Now all we need is to have a Usain Bolt, Allyson Felix, or Dayron Robles thrown out of a race after being the featured draw all week!

While field event athletes get multiple opportunities to get things right, and distance races are often called back and reset so that the start is “fair” for everyone (excess jostling, tripped athletes, etc), sprinters and hurdlers dare not flinch for fear of being told that they will not even be allowed to compete! I’ve stated previously how unfair I think this new rule is, so won’t repeat it here. Simply put we have the ability to reset the race and make sure that the start is fair for all – and THAT should be the reason for implementing any false start rule.

But the sport has decided that the start of sprint and hurdle races really isn’t about “fairness” but about keeping meets running on schedule and not creating problems for television. What they don’t seem to understand is that any time you call a false start the action STOPS and the race has to be reset ANYWAY! So why punish the athletes unfairly?

However, if the sport is set on keeping things “on track”, and is so worried about how many times we may have to restart a race, then let’s do like we do in the distances and simply let them run. That’s what I said, fire the gun and let the race go. And then, just like in the distance events, if a “foul” (in this case a false start) occurred disqualify the culprit(s). After all we do have the technology.

Here’s the deal. We’re calling false starts primarily off the readings of the sensors on the starting blocks. They read that someone came off the blocks too quickly and they are dinged for a false start. The race is called back. The athletes are reset. And the race is restarted. Since we have the reaction data regardless of whether the race is stopped or not, why stop it? Let the race go and then sort out the disqualifications as the results are presented. If there are reaction times that are below the allowable then those athletes are disqualified. Everyone is allowed to run. The fans get to see everyone compete. They get an exciting race. And those in charge of the meet get races that are run only once with little delay. I say little delay because the starter will still maintain the right to restart a race. After all, using the electronics does not eliminate all the distractions at the start. So the starter can still call the athletes up should he see excess movement, hear too much crowd noise, see someone moving in the blocks, etc. But the starter will not be able to eliminate anyone from the race – false starts can only be based on reaction time.

This gives everyone what they want. A clean race. Meets running on time without undue delays. And all athletes that show up to a meet are guaranteed to compete. And compete without undo stress. Races like the 1996 Atlanta Olympic 100 final will no longer occur. Instead of Linford Christie protesting his false start ad nausea and holding up the race, the race will have already been run! Any protesting by Christie or any other athlete dissatisfied with the results will be done via normal appeal channels - same as we do if someone steps over the line on the turn.

Which means that rather than running a race under protest, if there is a question about a disqualification it can be appealed and a protest levied just like in any other event. The one caveat to this rule is that in the event that an RT reading is unavailable due to equipment malfunction then the results of the race cannot be considered valid – as there always exists the potential that someone “left” early. But that is no different than any other equipment malfunction issue – with the wind gauge, timing equipment, etc.

Personally I prefer giving the athletes a second chance, but if we are going to have a false start rule that says we have “zero tolerance” then I believe this is the best way to enforce the rule. I would rather see athletes run and have to be disqualified than not have the opportunity to see them compete at all. And I think most fans of the sport would feel the same way. After all that’s what we do with all of the other events – you’re disqualified AFTER you’ve performed!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hot Sprinting in El Paso

Track and Field: 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics

(Martina in Berlin)

Saturday’s action has been highlighted by some stellar sprinting coming out of El Paso Texas. The matchup of Churandy Martina and Ryan Bailey turning world leading performances twice today. In the 100 meters it was Martina (10.03) over Bailey (10.09) with a legal 1.6 mps wind. Excellent season opening times for both, with Bailey’s just .04 off his PR. The times bode well for both athletes this season. I’m sure some will say the altitude helped (3,762 ft), but clearly both athletes are in good shape and ready to roll. They proved as much when they took to the track again in the 200 with Bailey turning the tables with a 20.40 win over Martina’s 20.48. Bailey’s time was a PR and current world leader.

Also turning in a hot, world leading sprint was UTEP’s own Blessing Okagbare. The Nigerian triple jump record holder at 46’ 4.25”, she’s also long jumped 22’ 8” and run 11.16 in the 100 meters. Today she blasted a hand timed 10.7 in El Paso. Though hand timed 9I’m assuming a malfunction in the auto timing equipment for that race) it is still “worth” 10.94 on conversion. So though not an automatic time it still says much about the sprinting abilities of Okagbare – a legitimate threat come NCAA time!

Elsewhere, most of the top marks coming in today have been in the sprint events. In Tallahassee, Walter Dix was the highlight of the day debuting over 200 meters with a nice 20.44. What makes the time special is that it was nearly a world leader in spite of Dix running INTO a –1.4 mps headwind.

Also some interesting results in speed events coming out of the Pepsi Team Invitational in Oregon. As expected Oregon and Texas A&M were the top two schools. What was surprising was the sprint double turned in by Oregon’s Amber Purvis. Twice Purvis beat her A&M counter parts; First with an 11.38 to 11.57 victory over Porsha Lucas. Then again with a 23.00 to 23.61 win over Dominique Duncan. If Purvis can consistently provide this kind of sprinting for Oregon their women will be hard to beat come nationals! Today could be a preview as they handily defeated A&M’s women. as Purvis’ sprinting went nicely with the running of Nicole Blood (4:19.67/16:20.60), Anne Kesselring (2:06.90) and Jordan Hassay (16:16.02).

The Oregon men followed suit as they turned in solid middle distance wins with Matt Centrowitz (3:46.29) and Mac Fleet (1:49.19). But it was the 13.64 (2.4) turned in by Ashton Eaton that caught my eye. One it’s a near world level time for the hurdles, but two it bodes very well for his decathlon prospects as the season unfolds. A&M countered with Gerald Phiri (10.30), Curtis Mitchell (10.50/20.69) and Demetrius Pinder (46.76) but with Oregon running well in both hurdles and piling up the distance points it was an easy win. With Oregon handily defeating Texas A&M on both the men and women’s sides it could give them some mental strength when they meet again at Nationals.

Some interesting running by quarter milers in Los Angeles at the JJK/Johnson Invitational. World silver medalist Intermediate hurdler Lashinda Demus turned in solid long sprint efforts with a nice 32.62/51.88 double. Former World and Olympic champion 400 hurdler Felix Sanchez added a lap with a solid 1:50.04 half mile effort. And quarter miler Greg Nixon worked on speed today with a 10.43 (1.1), 20.46 (1.4) sprint double.

All in all a good day of track.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Hot Weekend of Match Ups in Store

Track and Field: NCAA Championships

A lot of action on tap this weekend as the season begins to hit stride with several interesting match ups and possibly the top in season high school invitational of the year scheduled all over the country.

In Eugene we get two of the country’s top collegiate programs as Oregon and Texas A&M will both be competing in the Pepsi Team Invitational. Oregon will take to the track with men and women’s programs that are both very strong in the distance events and multis. Texas A&M will counter on both sides with strong sprints and relays. This should be a mini preview of the NCAA Championships as both squads are among the nations best.

Oregon will be lead by multi event performers Ashton Easton and Brianne Theisen and middle and long distance runners Andrew Wheating, Jordan Hassay, Michael Coe, and pole vaulter Mellissa Gergel. A&M will be lead by sprinters Curtis Mitchell, Gabby Mayo, Porsha Lucas, Gerald Phiri, and Jessica Beard and their relay strength. As much as the competition will be a test of strength of the two programs, it will also be a test of philosophy – sprint power vs distance power. The interesting anomaly on the women’s side will be the fact that Oregon has put together a national level 4x4 relay – which could be interesting if the meet is close at the end.

The Florida State Seminoles are another top 10 program playing host this weekend as they put on the Seminole Invitational in Tallahassee. While FSU should provide some top level results, the main attraction will be the seasonal debut of Olympic double bronze medalist (100/200) Walter Dix. Dix, a former Seminole standout, will open his season here in the 200 meters. Dix was injured last year at our Nationals and didn’t make the World Championships team. A young man that has almost always performed at his best in the big meets, he missed the super hot sprints in Berlin – perhaps missing a chance to improve his PR’s of 9.91 & 19.69. Dix should be an important weapon in our sprint arsenal heading into the championship meets of 2011, 2012, and 2013, so hopefully the outcome this weekend is that Dix is healthy and ready to move forward. Would be nice to see something in the 20.30 range or better from him at this stage of the season.

Another young sprinter that I have hopes for will also open up this weekend as National JC sprint champion Ryan Bailey opens his season in Texas at the UTEP Invitational. In an email exchange with his coach John Parks yesterday he indicated that Bailey has been doing well in workouts and quite possibly could double in the 100/200 in this meet. Whether he runs one or both sprints, this meet should give a good indication of Bailey’s fitness as he should face Churandy Martina (AOH), fourth place finisher in the Beijing Olympics in the 100 meters. Martina has bests of 9.93/20.11 and will be a good first opponent for Bailey. Bailey is a tall sprinter (a la Usain Bolt) with a strong build. He’s young and still learning how to sprint – yet has run 10.05 / 20.45. I believe he could be a part of the future of our sprint corps. This weekends performance should give us a glimpse.

Speaking of youth, the Arcadia Invitational will take place out here in Southern California this weekend. One of the nations premier high school invites, it has maintained that status while running in the middle of the season as opposed to most that run after the end of the competitive season. None the less Arcadia has produced some 24 national records over the years and is a good preview of the many of the state’s top athletes. There should be many national leaders come Saturday night!

These meets are the tip of a big weekend of action with the Sea Ray Relays in Tennessee, JJK/Johnson Invite in Westwood, and Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, all meets that provide solid results each year. There should be a lot to talk about before the weekend is over.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ranking the Collegians

Track and Field: 83rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays

With the springtime being dominated by collegiate athletes and programs there are many college rankings out there. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) does a weekly Top 25 ranking of collegiate programs that can be found here. I like both of their current top 5’s. For the men they they rank: 1. Florida, 2. Texas A&M, 3. Oregon, 4. Texas Tech, and 5. Florida State. For the women they rank: 1. Texas A&M, 2. Oregon, 3. LSU, 4. Florida State, and 5. Florida.

These should be the programs that we watch battle it out for the national championship this June in Eugene, Oregon. I’m going to give you my listing of those individuals  that I expect to garner national championships at this year’s championships. This is a very early prediction that I will update periodically as the season progresses. There will be those rising stars that appear, as well as injuries that take their toll on title hopes. But these athletes, I believe, have what it takes to take home the gold come June.



Event Athlete School
100 Meters Jeff Demps Florida
200 Meters Curtis Mitchell Texas A&M
400 Meters Torrin Lawrence Georgia
800 Meters Andrew Wheating Oregon
1500 Meters German Fernandez Oklahoma State
3000 Steeplechase Richard Nelson BYU
5000 Meters David McNeill Northern Arizona
10000 Meters Sam Chalenga Liberty
110 Hurdles Ronnie Ash Oklahoma
400 Hurdles Jesua Anderson Washington State
4 x 100 Relay Rankin, Hall, Wilks, Demps Florida
4 x 400 Relay Anderson McQuay, Taylor, Smith Florida
High Jump Ryan Fleck Auburn
Pole Vault Jason Colwick Rice
Long Jump Alain Bailey Arkansas
Triple Jump Christian Taylor Florida
Shot Put Ryan Whiting Arizona
Discus Ryan Whiting Arizona
Hammer Marcel Lomnicky Virginia Tech
Javelin Sam Humphreys Texas A&M
Decathlon Ashton Eaton Oregon




Event Athlete School
100 Meters Gabby Mayo Texas A&M
200 Meters Porsha Lucas Texas A&M
400 Meters Francena McCorory Hampton
800 Meters LaTavia Thomas LSU
1500 Meters Jordan Hassay Oregon
3000 Steeplechase Mel Lawrence Washington
5000 Meters Nicole Blood Oregon
10000 Meters Lisa Koll Iowa State
100 Hurdles Queen Harrison Virginia Tech
400 Hurdles Queen Harrison Virginia Tech
4 x 100 Relay Tarmoh, Lucas, Duncan, Mayo Texas A&M
4 x 400 Relay Hall, Tate, Thompson, Thomas LSU
High Jump Amber Kaufman Hawaii
Pole Vault Melissa Gergel Oregon
Long Jump Blessing Okagbare UTEP
Triple Jump Deanna Young New Mexico
Shot Put Mariam Kevkhishvilli Florida
Discus Simone du Toit SMU
Hammer Nicola Lomnicka Georgia
Javelin Anna Wessman UTEP
Heptathlon Brianne Theisen Oregon

Monday, April 5, 2010

All Time Collegiate Relay Bests

Track and Field: 115th Penn Relays

With the relay season getting under way and several collegiate squads looking to be strong early, here are the performances that these young people will be targeting this year.

Men - 4 x 100

38.04 - TCU - '98
38.23 - TCU - '89
38.24 - LSU - '98
38.32 - LSU - '02
38.35 - Florida - '00
38.42 - LSU - '08
38.44 - LSU - '06
38.45 - South Carolina - '00
38.46 - TCU - '86
38.48 - LSU - '02

Women - 4 x 100

42.36 - Texas A&M - '09
42.50 - LSU - '89
42.55 - LSU - '03
42.59 - LSU - '08
42.59 - Texas A&M - '08
42.61 - LSU - '04
42.63 - LSU - '03
42.69 - Texas A&M - '08
42.73 - LSU - '03
42.76 - Texas - '98
42.76 - LSU - '96

Men - 4 x 200

1:19.67 - TCU - '00
1:19.71 - TCU - '01
1:19.99 - TCU - '01
1:20.20 - Tennessee - '02
1:20.20 - TCU - '86
1:20.26 - USC - '78
1:20.32 - Texas A&M
1:20.37 - Arizona St - '81
1:20.38 - Florida - '10
1:20.39 - TCU - '00

Women - 4 x 200

1:29.78 - LSU - '03
1:30.07 - LSU - '03
1:30.28 - Texas A&M - '09
1:30.42 - LSU - '04
1:30.54 - LSU - '04
1:30.67 - Texas - '03
1:30.73 - South Carolina - '03
1:30.93 - Texas - '99
1:30.96 - Texas A&M - '08
1:31.01 - South Carolina - '00

Men - 4 x 400

2:59.59 - LSU - '05
2:59.91 - UCLA - '88
2:59.95 - Georgia Tech - '92
2:59.99 - Florida St - '09
3:00.04 - Baylor - '07
3:00.22 - Baylor - '08
3:00.26 - Oklahoma - '97
3:00.31 - Florida - '10
3:00.55 - UCLA - '87
3:00.57 - Arizona St - '05

Women - 4 x 400

3:23.75 - Texas - '04
3:25.26 - LSU - '04
3:25.28 - Texas - '04
3:25.78 - LSU - '06
3:26.46 - South Carolina - '02
3:26.76 - Texas - '03
3:26.96 - Texas - '03
3:26.98 - South Carolina - '02
3:27.05 - Texas - '02
3:27.08 - Texas - '99

Men - 4 x 800

7:08.96 - Arizona St - '84
7:11.17 - Penn St - '85
7:12.29 - Villanova - '82
7:12.62 - Georgetown - '82
7:12.81 - Richmond - '82
7:13.48 - Arkansas - '82
7:13.75 - Georgetown - '04
7:13.87 - Arkansas - '99
7:13.8h - Kansas St - '70
7:13.95 - Georgetown - '85

Women - 4 x 800

8:17.91 - Tennessee - '09
8:18.78 - Michigan - '07
8:20.22 - Tennessee - '84
8:20.66 - Villanova - '84
8:21.13 - Tennessee - '04
8:23.35 - Florida - '86
8:24.02 - Kentucky - '86
8:24.25 - Florida - '01
8:24.27 - Arizona St - '94
8:24.34 - Villanova - '86

Saturday, April 3, 2010

University of Florida Sets Several World Leaders at Florida Relays

NCAA: Div 1 Indoor Track Championships Mar 13

The University of Florida's men's program won their first indoor national championship just last month. They've wasted no time establishing that they will be a factor outdoors as well blistering the track at this weekend's Florida Relays that just closed this afternoon.

Indoor 60 meter champion Jeff Demps wasted no time getting the Gators started as he blazed a collegiate and world leading 10.11 in winning the 100 meters. Demps is the high school and co-world junior record holder in the event off of his 10.01 mark set at the US Trials in 2008. Last year was a harder road for Demps as injuries from football slowed him considerably. The young man appears to be healthy and back in form this year, however, as he won the collegiate indoor title and with the season very young has already sped 10.11 in the 100 meters. A healthy Demps appears ready to set a new PR in the event this year.

Today he turned his attention to the 4x1, an event in which Florida is the defending national champion - a title they won last year WITHOUT Demps. With Demps on anchor they merely blitzed 38.93 as the team of Jeremy Rankin, Jeremy Hall, Terrell Wilks and Demps crushed the field by a huge .84 sec.! They then came back and replaced Rankin and Demps with Tony McQuay and Calvin Smith (both finalists indoors in both the 200 and 400) as they set sail around the track for two laps of the 4x2. Again they crushed the field as their world leading 1:20.38 was 2.22 sec. ahead of the next squad! The time was the =9th performance ever by a college squad and made Florida the #6 school ever.

Florida's speed demons weren't finished however, as they made one more personnel change, this time replacing Hall and Wilks with R. J. Anderson and Christian Taylor for 4 laps of the 4x4. Once again Florida ran a world leader with a 3:00.31 that once again demolished the field - this time by 1.10 sec.

Florida's exploits show that they are ready to make a run at their first outdoor title against rivals Texas A&M and the University of Oregon - the teams I consider to be the other squads in the running for this year's title. Oregon is distance strong with field event back up. Texas A&M, like Florida, is sprint strong with field event back up. This weekend's performance, in my opinion, says that Florida has the current edge in sprint strength.

If the season plays out as it normally does we should get a glimpse of both teams at the Penn Relays in three weeks. The University section could upstage the "USA v the World" segment this year if we get some head to heads with Florida, Texas A&M and squads from Baylor, TCU, LSU and Florida State.

For full results see the link on the right.

Looks like we're in for an exciting spring!

Texas Relays Shines Light on the Dumbest Rule in Sports

Watching the live streaming of the Texas Relays - thank you CBS Sports. The Invitational Section of the Men's 4x1 just completed. At the initial start of this race the USA Blue Team in lane 4 was called for a false start and thrown out of the race. The fans reacted by booing vehemently, and stomping their feet for several minutes. Finally to satisfy the fans who had paid their hard earned money to see this event - among others - they inserted the team back in the race to run "under protest". To the delight of the crowd, the Wallace Spearmon anchored team WON the event in 38.81!

The infield announcer has interviewed Spearmon as the anchor of the winning team. Unfortunately the "live" online scoreboard has stopped updating, and there has come just come word from the announcer that "while the winning time appears to be 38.81 we will have to wait approximately a half an hour while the "protest" is reviewed.

The sad thing is that, as with the women's 60 meter final at the US Indoor Championships where a false start was called on Lisa Barber, the second start of the race went off without incident. And Ms Barber - who also ran under protest - got no advantage over the other athletes and finished in third position. Which based on her performances over the course of the season was where she should have finished. Unfortunately in that instance, Barber was not awarded third as her original false start was upheld - even though she got NO advantage in the final!

This has to be the dumbest rule in all of sport. This meet reminds me of two high school instances that were very similar - one of them happened at THIS same meet. At the Texas Relays of 1985 one of the biggest high school sprint showdowns in history never occurred as Henry Thomas of Hawthorne High School in California was tossed out of the race for a false start after the starter held them for some 3 or 4 seconds - an eternity in sprinting and clearly the starter was at fault. Roy Martin went on to win the final in a blistering 10.18 (#2 time ever at the time) over Joe Deloach at 10.26. Thomas himself was defending California Champion and a 10.25 performer who went on to run a blazing 44.5 anchor on the winning 4x4 that set the still standing national high school record of 3:07.40. With Thomas in that race there is no telling what the final outcome - and time - may have been.

The other instance that comes to mind is the boys 400 meter final at the California State Championships of 1987 where Steve Lewis - one of the biggest favorites in meet history - was tossed out for a false start. Like in Texas today the crowd went nuts, until finally the starter reinserted Lewis in the race. Lewis simply went out and beat the field by a country mile in 46.7 over second place 47.2. Again the second start of the race was even for all with no one getting an advantage.

Which I THOUGHT was the idea of calling false starts! Not to eliminate individuals but to ensure that no one athlete gets an unfair advantage. As I've said on more than one occasion this rule has simply become punitive in nature and is nothing about the races themselves any more. I watched Usain Bolt commit a false start in a race last summer, I can only imagine what will happen if he does so again with the current rule in effect!

Crowd noises, being off balance, catching a glimpse of your neighbor moving, the click of a camera, there are so many reasons why athletes false start. It's rarely about "trying to cheat"! The recent change to the false start rule is just as dumb as the recent change in the wind requirements for the decathlon. This sport is hurting its athletes and doing damage to its fan base with rules that make absolutely NO sense. The fans in Texas had it right today - just as they did in California in '87 - let the athletes compete, just make sure they all get a fair shot! Lewis was the right winner in Cali. USA Blue was the right winner today even though as I get ready to post this it says online that their protest was denied - just as Jeter was the right winner indoors. We need to worry less about throwing athletes out of the race and simply make sure everyone starts equally. Then let the athletes sort out who is best!