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.

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