Monday, June 28, 2010

Oliver & Spearmon End Nationals with a Bang

Jun 26, 2010; Des Moines, IA, USA; David Oliver runs 13.58 for the top qualifying time in the 110m hurdles in the USA Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium. Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

This year’s US Championships has been a nice display of both old and new talent, but Sunday’s closing day definitely belonged to the veterans. As time and time again familiar faces stepped up to bat and hit it out of the park.

The best of these was David Oliver who sped to a world leading 12.93 in the 110 hurdles. The mark was Oliver’s second sub13 of the season and moved him to =7th all time with none other than Renaldo Nehemiah. The mark is even more remarkable given that he blasted the very first hurdle before settling into his rhythm. Behind him collegiate champ Ronnie Ash was third in a PR 13.19 as he continues to improve and is looking like the future of the event here in the US. But Oliver has been on fire all season and is having the best season as he once again improved his season’s best, this time with a new PR. Right now he is arguably the best hurdler in the world. And while it is Dayron Robles that is the WR holder, Oliver has set himself up as the man to beat as the injury bug seems to be behind him.

Another vet whose injuries seem to be in the rear view mirror is Wallace Spearmon. Many forget that just a few years ago, Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay were chasing after Spearmon as he was the best of the young  trio in mid decade. Since then immense improvement by Bolt and Gay and injuries to Spearmon put him on the outside looking in at the sprint party that has become the Bolt and Gay show. But Wallace looked like he might be ready to get back into the fray with his performance in Des Moines – a sizzling 19.77 that was aided by an over the allowable 2.9 mps wind. Regardless of the wind what was impressive was the manner in which he ran the race. A notoriously slow starter and poor turn runner, he was actually with the field coming off the turn – a field that including Walter Dix fresh off his 100 meter win. Spearmon then went into his patented overdrive and the race was essentially over as he surged ahead and won going away. While he still has work to do on the turn – Bolt and Gay run the turn as if it were a 100 meter final – if Spearmon can stay close he can be dangerous. This race was a sign that he just may be ready to get back into the 200 meter wars in a big way.

Jenn Suhr also appears to be healthy once more. Her early season looked a tad shaky, but she looked back in form Sunday scaling the bar at 16’ .5” and taking a shot at the 5 meter barrier (16’ 4.75”). A healthy Suhr gives us a strong shot in the pole vault and strengthens our women in the field, where suddenly we are looking quite strong – at least on the top end.

Also coming up with big performances were Christian Cantwell and Dwight Phillips. Cantwell winning the shot at 71’ .5” – repelling new threats Ryan Whiting and Cory Martin as well as dispensing with old rivals Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson. Cantwell has been super consistent this year and seems to finally have his groove. Phillips won the long jump at 27’ 5” – demonstrating his consistency over 27 feet and that he has no challengers domestically.

Add these to the performances of Patterson, Fountain, Jackson, Dutch, Howard-Lowe and a few others, and we ended the weekend with a pretty solid showing. Very good when its taken into account how many of our top athletes were missing. Kudos to those that competed and gave us their best. We look to be putting together a nice base of talent as we look forward to the next championship cycle.

DES MOINES, IA - JUNE 27: Wallace Spearmon wins the Mens 200 Meter during the 2010 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium on June 27, 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Patterson Leads Charge as Nationals Finally Heats Up

BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  Kara Patterson of United States competes in the women's Javelin Throw Qualification during day two of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2009 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Dadswell/Getty Images)

The first couple of days was eerily quiet with this year’s National Championships suffering from the “off season” blues. With no Olympic or World Championship berths on the line, many of our top stars have deserted this meet like the plague for various reasons. No Tyson Gay, Darvis Patton, Carmelita Jeter, Muna Lee, or Lauryn Williams in the sprints. The distance events lacked  Dathan Ritzenhein, Chris Solinsky, Ryan Hall, and Matt Tegenkamp. So the early competition was lacking – oomph.  More like a development meet than a US Championships.

Now, let me start off by saying that even though there are no spots for the Olympics or World Championships on the line this year, there is MUCH work to be done by American athletes – and the National Championships should be used for that purpose. With other countries emerging in the sprints, bringing our best together to slug it out is the next best forum to competing in a major. There’s no better practice for maneuvering through sprint and hurdle rounds than the US Championships – IF we have all of athletes at the table.

And our distance runners could stand to hone their skills racing at high speed against one another in a championship type setting. Somehow I think that Steve Prefontaine would have relished the thought of coming to nationals to take on Solinsky, Ritzenhein and Tegenkamp for a National title – even without the lure of the Olympics or World Championships. And I know that the 5K & 10K events would have gone far below the winning times of 13:54.08 and 28:59.29 posted in theses finals had Pre been around to compete! Because Pre was always out to improve and get better – and if he left any legacy for future distance runners I would hope that his fire would be it!

Having said that, there are always those that show up feeling that they have something to prove – to themselves and the rest of the world. And it’s those athletes that truly embody the spirit of the National Championships. And it’s that spirit that began to show late Friday as some young stars began to shine and some vets began to reemerge.

It started with Kara Patterson in the javelin as she obliterated the America record. Patterson threw the spear 218’ 9”, a full eight feet further than Kim Kreiner’s old mark of 210’ 7” – with four of her throws over 200 ft! More importantly, only four women in the world threw further than Patterson’s mark last year – making Patterson truly world class in this event, and my new hero. We desperately need field event athletes to step up and compete and Patterson did just that! She improved significantly on her PR of 209’ 9” set last year after throwing 201’ 11” in ‘08. She’s been improving steadily and appears to be on her way to being one of the world’s best. It’s nice to see her make her mark in this meet and confirm herself as someone to watch.

Chaunte Howard-Lowe is another in the field that has been staking her claim to elite status this year. She came into this meet having already taking over the AR in the high jump earlier this season, and with some very close competitions against Croatia’s Blanka Vlasic under her belt. Chaunte upped the ante one more time with another AR as she soared over 6’ 8.75” in Des Moines! She’s become nothing if not consistent this year, and has become a solid medal threat for Daegu and London.

Another field eventer moving into elite status was Heptathlete Hyleaas Fountain who won the multi event with a score of 6735 points. Her score moved her into #3 all time American status. What’s really exciting, however, is that it’s 4 points better than Jessica Ennis’ (GBR) winning score from last year’s World Championships and 2 points better than Natalia Dobrynska’s (RUS) winning score from the Beijing Games! Once again it appears that we may have someone that can medal in the Heptathlon – potentially even win it. So it’s very exciting to see our women stepping up in the field!

Despite the hot temperatures in Des Moines the track had been ice cold the first few days of qualifying and distance finals. The distance times had been pedestrian as everything became “tactical”. and the sprinters and hurdlers faced headwinds throughout the meet (might I suggest that you simply run the sprints the other way when the wind is negative). The past couple of days, however, there were some athletes that were looking to prove themselves, and they did that in dramatic fashion.  One was Walter Dix, who seems determined to break into the top three of Bolt/Gay/Powell in the 100 meters. Dix, a notoriously slow starter, was with the pack early in the 100 final, and ran away in mid race to win the event in 10.04. Now in this time crazy world that doesn’t seem all that exciting when we see 9.8’s being run with regularity but when you consider that it was into a headwind of –1.5 mps AND he obliterated the field by .23 sec, the race becomes very impressive. Dix looked very sharp and I’m looking forward to see what he puts down in the 200 meters.

Both the men and women’s 400 meters had big ups and big downs. On the down side, Sanya Richards-Ross withdrew from the women’s event after feeling her quad tighten up during her warm ups. Richard’s did not appear very sharp during the rounds and doesn’t seem to be back from her injury earlier in the season. Jeremy Wariner did not finish the men’s race as he pulled up on the backstretch. He said during the interview after the race that he felt something in his hip but thought he would be ok in a couple of weeks, but Jeremy hasn’t been himself all season so we will see how that progresses. Somewhat of a downer for both, as they have been our best for several years now.

In their absence others stepped up and moved into contention on the world stage. Debbie Dunn lead the women with a world leading 49.64 – dropping her best from last year’s 49.96. Dunn won this year’s World indoor title and this race confirms that she can indeed bring it when the pressure is on. She ran a very strong race, looked good in all phases, and buried the field with second place a far back 50.52 (NCAA champ Francena McCorory). If we can get Richards-Ross back to good health we should have a very solid 1-2 punch in the 400.

On the men’s side, I’ve been looking for someone to emerge all season long. With defending World and Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt out of the sport and previous World and Olympic champion Wariner not up to standard, the question has been: who will step up and lead this event! Wariner looked like he might be ready to retake the throne until the backstretch of yesterday’s race. But as he went down the race continued with the first FIVE finishers all improving on their personal bests. None more so than winner Greg Nixon who won in a world leading 44.61! Nixon has been a journeyman sprinter for several seasons now running around 20.4x and mid 45 (45.20 best) in the 200 and 400 meters. Yesterday’s race was huge for Nixon, as it may have been his breakthrough race. If not the finish behind him may contain the future of the event here in the US as Lajerald Betters (44.71), Jamal Torrence (44.80) and Tavaris Tate (44.84) all set PR’s and looked good in the process. And the man I think many need to keep an eye on is St Augustine’s Josh Scott. Yes he finished 5th in 45.01, but he seems to be improving steadily and seems to have a lot of potential.

Speaking of potential, the men’s 400 hurdles was about potential, old and new. Veteran Bershawn Jackson has had some down seasons for him over the past two or three years. After running extremely well in ‘05 & ‘06 he had been struggling to find that same form. Getting healthy this year and going back to his old step pattern Bershawn came into the meet looking to prove he could get better. On the youth front, young Johnny Dutch was fresh off of his NCAA upset victory and looking to prove it was no fluke, and that he was as good as the 48.12 he had run earlier in the season. Both made their point in the 400 hurdle final as they waged a serious battle over one lap and ten hurdles with Jackson holing off the challenge of the youngster with a 47.32 world leading win. The time was just .02 off of his all time best 47.30 set back in 2005 and signaled that Bershawn may be able to go faster still. Dutch had much to be excited about in second place. His time of 47.63 was the second fastest time in the world – and over the past five seasons only Jackson and Kerron Clement have run faster! Dutch showed himself to be the future of the event here in the US!

One final bit of excitement for me was the women’s 1500 meters. The time wasn’t the best as once again the race became tactical. But it was nice to see our top women show up to compete as Anna Pierce, Shannon Rowbury, and Kristin Wurth Thomas were all in the field. And though the time was slow watching Anna Pierce come from WAY back on the final lap to run the field down and get the win, reminds me why she is one of my favorite middle distance runners. She’s got great endurance, has honed her speed, and is just one gritty, competitive athlete. If Patterson is my hero on the field Pierce is my new hero on the track.

So what started off as a rather ho hum meet, really stepped it up for me! It’s nice to see athletes taking pride in their performances and looking to make a move against the rest of the world. I hope we see more of that during today’s action.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sprinters, Now is Your Time

BERLIN - AUGUST 16:  Tyrone Edgar of Great Britain & Northern Ireland is disqualified for a false start in the men's 100 Metres Semi-Final during day two of the 12th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium on August 16, 2009 in Berlin, Germany.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Once upon a time (a long time ago) when I took typing in high school, there was a practice phrase that we used that said, “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country”. That phrase could be well suited to American sprinters as we seem to be a bit short on top of the line sprinters these days. As I sit waiting for the start of the national championships, I can count on one hand the sprinters that I know can make a global final and have the ability to medal once they get there – Tyson Gay (100/200), Wallace Spearmon (200) and Walter Dix (100/200). That’s not to say that we don’t have others capable of making a final, but the chance that they do is dependant upon the circumstances of the day – and medaling is a crap shoot.

Last summer, and through this spring, we’ve seen massive improvement in our middle and long distance corps. Jennifer Barringer, Anna Pierce, Kristen Wurth Thomas, Matt Tegenkamp, Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein and Chris Solinsky among others have made huge improvements in their races. So much so that some, primarily our middle distance women, have put themselves in a position to make finals and potentially medal – while the others are now within smelling distance of doing the same. Now it’s time for our sprinting counterparts on the men’s side to step up their game in similar fashion.

For decades we’ve taken it for granted that we will go into the Olympics and World Championships with enough fire power to take at least two, and sometimes three, medals in these events. Be it with dual medalists like Jim Hines/Charlie Greene, Carl Lewis/Calvin Smith, or Michael Johnson/Jeff Williams. Or complete sweeps as with Carl Lewis/Kirk Baptiste/Thomas Jefferson, and Shawn Crawford/Bernard Williams/Justin Gatlin. The US has always been in the gold medal hunt with the solid potential to pick up one or two more per event. The recent improvement of Caribbean sprinters has been marked by a similar decline in American sprinting. Putting us in a less advantageous position when attempting to make the medal stand.

Now I’m sure that some would say that saying we are declining in the sprints might be a stretch or misuse of words. Especially since we have as many sub10 sprinters today as we have had in the past, as well as athletes running in the 20.00 to 20.20 range. However, the standards have dropped dramatically over the past couple of seasons. Winning a medal in today’s sprints take efforts of 9.8x and 19.8x – to win bronze. The same efforts that three or four majors ago would have sufficed for gold! With our competition improving it is imperative that we improve at the same rate. And so far only a few of our athletes have been able to keep pace.

Ironically it was the last “off” season in 2006 that things began to speed up. In 2006 Asafa Powell (JAM) twice ran 9.77 to tie the then WR in the 100 and had seven races under 9.90. Tyson Gay had his first serious season in the 100 running a best of 9.84 – with three marks under 9.90. Xavier Carter (US) became the #2 man all time in the 200 at that point with his 19.63 – the fastest since the WR race of 1996 – and two others ran under 19.70 during the season ( Americans Wallace Spearmon, 19.65, and Tyson Gay 19.68). Since then we’ve seen Powell drop to 9.72, Gay to 9.69/19.58, Walter Dix(US) drop to 19.69 (20.25 in ‘06, 20.18 the season before) and Usain Bolt (JAM) leap frog over everyone to 9.58/19.19 (after no previous marks in the 100 and a best of 19.88 in ‘06).

So with this being an off season, I’m hoping that once again we can find a few sprinters that will step up their game and join the upper echelon in the sprint game – much the same way that we saw a rush of improvement in our middle and long distance runners last year. Anyone looking to jump start their career could get a head start in that direction this week in Des Moines. With Tyson Gay our only true gold medal threat at either sprint distance on the men’s side there is plenty of room for ambitious sprinters to make a move into a spot on the team for Daegu, London and/or Moscow. That path starts in Des Moines.

Monday, June 21, 2010

US Nationals – Keep an Eye on the Collegians

Jun 12, 2010; Eugene, OR, USA; Queen Harrison of Virginia Tech defeats Ti'erra Brown of Miami to win the women's 100m hurdles, 12.67 to 12.84, in the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

Without a World Championships or Olympic Games berth on the line, this year’s national championships could see a number of individuals choose to focus on things like making money, letting nagging injuries heal, or simply train through nationals while focusing on meets later in the season. If so we could see several top level athletes choose to skip the national championships with the only real gain being the title of “National Champion”. So it’s not surprising that we’ve already heard that Tyson Gay won’t be competing in Des Moines and names such as Kerron Clement, Sanya Richards and Lashinda Demus are missing from the preliminary start lists. 

With that being the case, this year’s meet could be a good time to keep an eye on young emerging talent. Athletes that could be the back bone of the US team heading into the global championship cycle of Daegu ‘11 / London ‘12 / Moscow ‘13. For example the last ”off” season of 2006 was Nick Symmonds’ big breakthrough season before he made the US teams for Osaka, Beijing and Berlin.

Prime candidates would be some of the athletes from the recently completed NCAA Championships that are looking to see how they stack up against their counterparts on the next level. So with that in mind here are some youngsters that I feel bear watching at this week’s meet.


Ryan Whiting – Shot Put

Whiting is coming off a double win in the shot put and discus at the recently completed NCAA Championships. His winning put of 72’ 1” was just shy of the collegiate record and makes him #2 in the world entering the meet. Whiting was very consistent as a collegian throwing the shot over 70 feet in 10 meets during his career. He will take to the field in Iowa against veterans such as reigning World Indoor and Outdoor Champion Christian Cantwell. Whiting could be the next in a long line of top floight shot putters from the US. This meet could give us a glimpse into his future.


Christian Taylor – Long Jump / Triple Jump

Christian Taylor is another collegiate champion who will be taking a shot against the big boys. Taylor won the NCAA triple jump title with a leap of 56’ 1”w and had a legal jump of 55’ 10.25”. He becomes an immediate contender in an event that has been suffering here in the US. With the world’s top jumpers leaping in the 57 to 58 foot range we need someone to step up and be competitive – Taylor could be the guy.  He has bests of 56’ 4.5”, 26’ 4.75” and is a 45.34 quarter miler – he has serious talent. Competing for Florida he’s also had relay duty, but here he will be focusing on the jumps so will be interesting to see just how far he may leap. I think he may be able to compete in that 57 foot range by the time the next set of championships comes along.


Johnny Dutch – 400 Hurdles

Dutch heads to Des Moines having pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the NCAA championships by defeating 2 time defending champion Jeshua Anderson. His defeat of Anderson came two weeks after improving his PR to 48.12 and becoming the #4 all time collegiate hurdler – giving validation to his recent improvement. He will get his toughest test to date going up against Olympic and  World Championship bronze medalist Bershawn Jackson as well as collegiate nemesis Jeshua Anderson who will be looking to avenge his NCAA loss. We are not lacking in this event internationally but it’s been a while since we’ve had some “new blood” enter the fray. We will see how Dutch matches up against the vets.


Queen Harrison – 100 / 400 Hurdles

Queen proved to be a fitting first name for Ms Harrison as she won BOTH hurdle events at the NCAA meet in sizzling fashion with times of 12.67 & 54.55. She stated during interviews in Eugene that she likes both events and is entered in both in Des Moines. Her toughest test may come in the shorter event where international vets Lolo Jones and Damu Cherry lie in wait. In the 400 hurdles she’ll get to go against veteran Sheena Tosta – whom she edged out at the Trials in ‘08. While we’re fairly deep in the short hurdles, it would be nice to see a bit of new blood in the 400 event.


Jordan Hasay – 1500 Meters

In 2008 Hasay competed in this meet as a high schooler and made the final. This year she shows up as a college freshman who took charge in the NCAA championships as the third place finisher after taking charge mid race and nearly pulling off the upset. Watching Hasay for me is less about seeing if she can win, than it is about watching her growth. I have little doubt that she is going to become a middle distance mainstay for the US. It’s not a question of “if” but a matter of “when”. This meet should be one more stepping stone for Hasay.


Ronnie Ash – 110 Hurdles & Jeshua Anderson 400 Hurdles

I put Ash and Anderson together because their stories are the same. Both were heavily favored in their events at the NCAA meet and both suffered upsets. They both bear watching because they have potential to be among out best in their events, and a single loss doesn’t lessen that potential. It will be interesting, however, to see how they respond to their upset losses here in Des Moines. How they compete will give us a glimpse at their character. We already know that both have talent. Now we will get to see how they respond to adversity.


Some combination of these youngsters will be representing us internationally over the next few seasons. This meet will be a chance for us to get to know them.

Friday, June 18, 2010

US Track & Field Needs to Regain it’s Swagger

BEIJING - AUGUST 21:  Torri Edwards of the United States and Lauryn Williams of the United States drop the batton in the Women's 4 x 100m relay Heats held at the National Stadium during Day 13 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 21, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The latest volley between the leadership of US Track & Field  and our coaches focused on the “embarrassment” that some coaches have brought upon the sport in this country – at least from the point of view of USATF. The one thing that they got right is that we should be embarrassed here in the United States – but not because of the actions of any particular coaches or athletes. I say that because when an athlete or coach “goes down” the embarrassment is on the individual. These are ADULTS making adult decisions – individuals that are responsible as such for the decisions that they make as well as the subsequent consequences.

No different than any other working environment when a colleague goes down for some sort of negative activity – embezzlement, harassment, DUI, etc. You don’t like the “company” name being associated, but you also know that the “company” was not responsible for the actions of the individual. In the event that the actions of the individual did real damage to the company (as in the case of let’s say embezzlement) you review the situation to see how/why it occurred and what you as a company could have done to detect/deter/prevent the action. But surely you don’t feel perpetually “embarrassed” by what occurred.

What should cause embarrassment, however, is poor performance by your company. If your company puts out an inferior product, you should be embarrassed. If your company puts out a product that is consistently outsold, you should be embarrassed. If your company is being out performed by smaller companies with fewer employees, fewer resources, and less access to capital, you should be embarrassed. And if your company was once a solid #1 world wide, but has slipped precipitously towards the middle of the pack, you should be embarrassed.

So USATF SHOULD be embarrassed, because we are putting out an inferior product. We are being consistently outsold by other sports when it comes to filling the stands. We are being out performed by Caribbean, African, and European nations in every aspect of the sport be it direct results on the track, the development of major world class events, the development of world class stadiums and tracks, or the hosting of global major events – yet we have more human & economic resources in this country.

We were once THE preeminent power in the world when it comes to track and field – now we’re just one of the bunch. We haven’t completed a relay in the last four tries in a global event – let alone won a race. We sent athletes out on the track in the last Olympic Games with “USA” handwritten on their bibs! It took us almost 40 years to go from the 28 minute barrier to the 27 minute barrier in the 10000 meters. We currently have ONE male sprinter guaranteed to make a 100 meter final in a major – if we can get him to the starting line in one piece. We are uncompetitive in half of the field events on the big stage and winning a medal on the track at anything above 400 meters is a crap shoot. THESE are the things that should be causing us (our leadership) alarm!

So while I can appreciate the continued mention of drugs and how embarrassed our CEO is that some things happened in the past, that is but one of MANY things that need his attention. And frankly that’s why WADA and USADA are in place – to weed out the drug riff raff. Perhaps those are the organizations that Mr. Logan should be employed by – as he can then focus on what seems to be his passion. Because the focus of the CEO of USATF should be on trying to restore the swagger back to US track and field. To that end here are some things that I think our leadership should be attacking with vigor:


Fundraising and Capital Development

This sport has become all about MONEY. If you have it you can run meets that can afford to pay the steep appearance fees that today’s athletes demand. It has become clear that individual meets have had difficulty in this area. Our governing body should be able to provide assistance to ensure that our meets have the caliber of athletes necessary to attract crowds and have international appeal. To that end we should be looking to develop a broader base of partnerships within the business community to assist in the growth and development of the sport in this country. If Visa can be a sponsor then so can American Express and Mastercard. Telecommunication companies should be a natural fit, as should technology companies. I can think of many others, but you should get the picture by now.


Meet Development

We have TWO meets in this country that truly qualify as “world class” – the New York and Eugene Diamond League events. No disrespect to the others out there, but the rest are primarily relay type “domestic” meets with a plethora of others involved outside of “elite” athletes – and we need those meets too. However, we’ve lost our global presence in the sport. We need events that bring in the best the sport has to offer to help sell the sport to the masses; present a higher profile to the world on the face of US track & field; and to give OUR athletes money making opportunities here at HOME as well as on foreign soil. So to that end we need at least another two to four world class meets with here in the US. Preferably in locations like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Berkeley (representative of the SF area) and somewhere in Florida (UNF or Miami) – covering the East and West Regions. In addition, we MUST look at the development of a facility here in the United States that is capable of hosting the World Championships. Probably in one of the aforementioned areas, because we need a major metropolitan area capable of hosting the athletes and media of the world. Since its inception in 1983, the US has NEVER hosted a World Championships while a country the size & economy of Spain has hosted two!


Coaching Development

We have some of the world’s best coaches residing right here in the US – IMHO. However, we are a large and diverse nation – a nation with lots of untapped human potential. We have a large high school program and a large youth program. But there is a disconnect between taking these young people from being teen athletes to moving them up to the next level. We rely on the college system to do that work for us. But these coaches – while among the best in the world – are beholden to their schools FIRST, and to the development of professional level athletes second. We need to be looking at ways to take the terrific coaches that we already have – the Salazars, Smith’s, Kersee’s, et al – and create programs where perhaps they can work with and mentor others so that we can multiply their knowledge across the country.


Athlete Development Programs

Once we get a sufficient number of coaches “trained” we need to take a look at how to get them together in some sort of regional/area training sites/centers. Yes I know we have a couple of “centers” already. But they are not nearly enough nor do they adequately serve the athletes in the way the athletes need to be served. We have to get to where the athletes are – not continually attempt to make them come to us. We also need to run “youth camps” taking high school level kids and putting them in touch with our elite coaches. For example, young sprinters with John Smith and Brooks Johnson or young distance runners with Alberto Salazar to begin mentoring them early and get them started properly. Just suggestions, but the basic premise is that we need to be providing our young athletes with top level coaching assistance early in their careers and in some sort of systematic environment.


National Relay Structure

Our failures in the past two majors in the short relays have been well documented – four relays, four incomplete events. While this is the worst set of performances we’ve had on the global stage in any single, let alone two year period, the handwriting has been on the wall for some time. Going back to the mid 90’s we’ve had several squads that have either botched handoffs and failed to get the stick around the track, or simply under performed dramatically. Gone are the days of simply taking the first four finishers at nationals and running the socks off the rest of the world. We now need to get the right individuals together and perfect the art of relay running. This means we must look at developing some sort of national relay structure – something more comprehensive than taking the first four Trials finishers and introducing them to each other upon arrival at the Olympic Village. We need to look at how the team is selected and put together, as well as getting them together with some regularity to work on relay technique.


Anti Drug Program

Simply put we need to accelerate and expand the “Project Believe” program that was started two years ago. It should become a mandatory program for all athletes that wish to participate on National Teams. I say “wish to participate” because we should not wait until an individual makes a national team to enroll them and get them started. Program enrollment should be made available on an ongoing basis and should be heavily suggested to anyone taking part in a national championship.


I’m not going to pretend that these are all the answers to our problems. I just put them out there as topics that are clear issues that the sport needs to address here in the US. We’ve lost our international swagger and need to get it back – and it’s not going to happen by pointing fingers at those that we feel have embarrassed us. I believe that if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem. So, I share my thoughts on how we can improve. Finger pointing isn’t going to win us any medals or regain our global stature. Gathering together the resources that we have will, however. So at the very least we need to take a good look at how we are using what we have, and look at ways to do things better. After all that’s supposed to be the American way – it’s how businesses regain their swagger.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Coaches Registry Latest Misstep of USATF Leadership

When discussing “Leadership” from a management perspective, it is often defined as the ability to motivate a group of people towards a common goal. Once again USATF management has shown that it is sorely lacking in this skill set. The latest drama emanating from the head office is the “’Coaches Registry” that has been dropped in the laps of America’s coaches.

Now, on the surface, the idea of a Coaches Registry I believe is a good one. As a matter of fact I thought that the lead organization of the sport in this country was already collecting this data on our coaches. I think that would be a tremendous aid in working towards the “30 medal goal” in major championships. Such a collection of data would be very useful in trying to match up athletes on the brink of success with coaches that possibly might be able to help them get “over the hump”. Especially in areas where we have been absent from the medal stand for some time.

So when individuals started to talk to me about this situation I was actually somewhat surprised to find out that such a “registry’ is not already in existence! Because my initial reaction was, “what is everyone so upset about, don’t we already have a coaches registry?”. What I discovered, however, is that a registry apparently doesn’t exist. So it’s clearly about time that the sport develop one. Unfortunately, it’s been the delivery of the concept to the coaches, and the rationale for the need of a registry, where “leadership” has dropped the ball.

For starters, I have to ask why this has taken so long to come to fruition given that apparently the idea for the registry was first presented in 2006 with the underlying goal of “weeding out” those coaches that USATF deems to be “bad actors”. A sentiment that was recently reiterated to the coaching community in a letter from the director of coaching which read:

“As a colleague,

I want you to be aware that credentialing at the outdoor championships is dependent on Coaches belonging to the Coaches Registry, new program started in 2010. Please go to the following site to expedite your membership to the Coaches Registry. While sign up will be available in Des Moines, I urge you not to wait if you anticipate having a coaching credential.

The  registry is an effort  to validate coaches who participate in USATF programs and to eliminate those coaches who have brought disgrace to our sport. It is the right step in the right direction. The program is still in its infant stage, but we must start to separate ourselves from the unethical characters who bring our great profession down in the eyes of the public. Hope to see you in Des Moines.”

Now, I’m against the use of PEDs and “bad coaches” as much as anyone, but everything that we do can’t be based on trying to eliminate “bad coaches”. Bad coaches will surface and should be dealt with accordingly. Especially if the sport is doing the kind of drug testing and monitoring of programs that it should be doing. Simply focus on running the sport properly and the wheat will be separated from the chaff – we don’t need a special program to get rid of coaches. Besides, there is no test to detect which coaches are giving their athletes PEDs! If a coach is providing athletes with “banned substances” the only test that will detect that is a drug test. And once a coach has athletes that begin to test positive EVERYONE knows! Putting coaches into a registry is NOT going to identify “bad apple” coaches. Nor is having coaches “register” on the eve of the National Championships. If we have a problem with a coach, we’re not going to find out until AFTER the meet is over! Which makes me question the whole methodology of USATF’s attempt at creating this registry. Especially when according to the leadership of the USTFCCCA they have not been invited to participate in its development.

More importantly, the development of a registry should be a “service” that USATF provides (and coaches shouldn’t be charged, we don’t charge athletes for their drug tests) not to identify “drug” coaches, but to protect the youth that the sport serves. Because USATF is not only responsible for our “elite” athletes but oversees all of our youth programs. And to discover that we have been allowing coaches to work with our kids WITHOUT having done background checks on them is the height of irresponsibility on the part of USATF and appalling. If we are more concerned with whether or not a coach might embarrass the US by coaching an athlete that comes up “positive” than we are about putting our kids in the hands of potential pedophiles, drug pushers or individuals with other unsavory backgrounds, then the priorities of our leadership is in serious question!

Given the size and breath of our youth program here in the United States a background check should be MANDATORY upon signing any documents related to coaching at any and every level of USATF programs! To discover that this hasn’t been the policy is simply appalling. THIS is why we need a registry, and this is what we should be talking to all of our coaches and program leaders about. It’s a service that is LONG overdue.

The leadership of the sport is supposed to be leading the our coaches and athletes towards a common goal. The only goal that I’ve seen stated from the Office Of USATF CEO Doug Logan since he took over the helm in 2008 was that he wants to see us win 30 medals in London (2012). Yet towards that goal we’ve dropped our relay program (and the baton in 4 out of 4 major races); we’ve gotten rid of coaching education programs; and now we’re attempting to created a quasi coaches registry whose intent is not the safety of our youth but the identification of coaches that apparently may embarrass our head office. We’ve had more comments about how appalled our CEO is that Trevor Graham ever coached for the US and how disgusted he is with Lashawn Merritt, than we have about how we are going to get the baton around the track in majors, how we are going educate our coaches, how we can help our athletes avoid the use of PED’s, how we can help collegiate athletes transition from college to the pros, or when where and how we will be able to host a World Championships!

The drug issue is important, but it is not the only issue that the sport is facing in this country. And if we don’t begin to solve some of these other issues, the issue of drugs will become a moot point – because the sport will have become a moot point within the sporting community of this country. Put together the Coaches Registry – our KIDS need it! But also take a look at all the other issues that are on the table – our SPORT needs it! A CEO is put in place to provide leadership to the whole. We need to see some leadership.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up – NC’s & DL

Jun 12, 2010; Eugene, OR, USA; The Texas A&M women pose with the championship plaque after winning the team title for the second year in a row in the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

Texas A&M Double Champs Once Again

Congrats to Pat Henry and the Aggies of Texas A&M as once again they pull off the double team championship! In a meet where rivals Florida and Oregon had the big time performers – Eaton, Taylor, Theisen, Demps, Wheating, et al, the Aggies ground it out and their athletes got points when they needed to. They started the meet out on the women’s side without multi point scorer Gaby Mayo, and began the final day of competition on the men’s side by not finishing the 4x1. Yet in spite of the adversity, they came through when they needed to and picked up double hardware once again.

Each of the top schools had their moments. Oregon’s men took advantage of a very slow early pace in the 1500 to pull out a 1-2-3 sweep as Andrew Wheating became only the 5th athlete in meet history to win the 800/1500 double. Florida’s men did what they’ve done all year in the 4x1 – win it. Giving Demps his second gold of the meet. And with A&M not getting the stick around the track it was the Gators who appeared to be in the drivers seat. Oregon’s women got a huge race from frosh Jordan Hasay in the 1500 getting up for third and big points and their 4x4 edged out the Aggies for the relay title.

But in the end the Aggies used the 200 meters to score big – 22 for the women with a 1-2-5 finish; 10 for the men with a 2-8 finish. The women won the 4x1 and the men got a huge win in the 4x4. The women had the title won before the 4x4 while the men had to wait out the results of the long jump. With Florida’s Taylor only scoring in 4th the men won by 1 point! I also have to give congrats to Mike Holloway (Florida) and Vin Lananna (Oregon) and their athletes, because their squads are always right there. Every year they are in the mix and just points away from the title. Sort of like watching the Lakers and Celtics – every year you know they are going to be in the mix. Clearly Henry, Holloway, and Lananna are three of the best coaches on the college scene. So a big shout out to all three.


The NCAA Shows the Value of Team in the Sport

Believe it or not two Diamond League events took place while the NCAA Championships were running – Rome and New York. And while I’m sure that true fans of the sport found time to watch the meets and check the results (I did) the NCAA was the draw that, at least for me, created the most excitement and kept bringing me back to follow! Yes there were faster times and further and higher marks in Rome & New York. But what the collegiate meet had in abundance was more excitement! There were more events with stirring match ups, sizzling head to heads.and exciting relay competition. But most of all there was the team competition. Every race, every jump, throw and vault had meaning. The results of A.J. Acosta were just as important as those of star Ashton Eaton. Okagbare won the 100 but we were just as tuned in to where Jeneba Tarmoh and Porscha Lucas would finish. Ryan Whiting won the shot title but behind him Kemel Mesic was fighting to win a title too. Fans were looking at form charts, adding & subtracting points, projecting what was needed in coming events and having FUN with the sport!

Four full days of competition and no one was BORED. All the events – men AND women. No gimmicks – no races were run down the middle of Eugene’s main street – just exciting competition. No world records were in jeopardy, nor was the meet sold based on the anticipation of records. But the fans in the stands and at home were thoroughly engaged. Not just for a couple of hours, but for four full days, for hours a day. So don’t tell me that fans will only sit for a couple of hours of track at a time. Or that we need to cut meets in half to attract people through the turnstiles. Or that we have have to have a world record attempt in every meet, or run odd distances or in strange prefab venues to make it exciting. What we need to do is get the best we have on the track. Competing against each other with some regularity. And perhaps throw in a team concept to tie it all together – because everyone loves to have something to rally around! The IAAF and those running the “elite” end of the sport need to pay attention.


The Diamond League

Speaking of the elite end of the sport needing to pay attention, what was the person that put the Diamond League schedule together thinking about? Rome on Thursday (in Europe) then New York on Saturday (in North America)! I’m thinking that someone may need to be tested for drugs – and not the performance enhancing kind. That’s not even adequate travel time, let alone time for athletes to recover from one meet to the next. So you’re guaranteed to dilute your fields for both meets – even running half a meet for each. Then to top it off there are three weeks until the next event. Which, oh by the way, is going to be run right after several national championships – including ours here in the US. So, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Prefontaine meet will either have several withdrawals and/or sub par performances.

It would have made more sense to give a week between Rome and New York. That would give athletes plenty of travel and acclimation time from Europe to North America as well as a meet closer to their national championships to be sharp. Then a week rest rest, nationals, and then give another week and restart the Diamond League the second week of July. But once again we have the elite side of the sport running as if there is no coordination – just a loose assemblage of meets. I almost get the feeling that the US leg of the “league” has been set up to fail.


Rome & New York

In Rome Lashinda Dumus continues on a tear this season as she ran the first sub 53 second 400H race of the year. Her winning time of 52.82 was the =11th best mark of all time and only .21 off her own PR set last year in Monaco. She’s having a great season. Chaunte Howard-Lowe is also having a fantastic season in the high  jump. Once again she pushed Croatia’s Blanks Vlasic to the limit with both jumping 6’ 8” – Vlasic winning with on fewer misses at the previous height. Howard-Lowe is becoming a force in this event – very refreshing to see. Lashaunte Moore is also emerging in the women’s 100. Her win here showing that her previous 10.97 was no fluke. The race was marred by two disqualifications as both Miki Barber and World & Olympic champ Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM) were tossed after false starts. This new rule is going to eventually bite the sport in the bottom when someone like Fraser gets tossed in a major championship.

American men faired well in Rome also. Walter Dix ran another sub20 in the 200, blazing the turn and running away from the field with a very nice 19.86. Dix is beginning to solidify his position as the #3 man in this event behind Bolt and Gay. And judging by the way he ran that turn is working at trying to become a serious challenger. We also finally got a pretty solid performance from Jeremy Wariner in the 400. Not sure what to take from the race however. On the one hand Wariner won in 44.73, taking the world lead in the process. On the other hand he was run down in the stretch by Angelo Taylor and only won after a review of the photo with Taylor running 44.74. Nice to see Wariner under 45 seconds, but the manner in which Taylor ran him down says that he still has a long way to go to regain his former form.

Two days later we got the New York meet. Which didn’t seem much different this year than before it became part of the Diamond League. Actually in some ways perhaps a bit less. From the telecast the stands were not as full as in past years – or at least it seemed that way. I think in part because the meet was built up around the participation of Usain Bolt who had to withdraw because he’s been nursing some sort of Achilles strain. Then there was all the “negative” publicity regarding the lack of a match up between Bolt and Tyson Gay, as Gay has also been nursing a sore hamstring. Though I have to say that unless there was some last minute deal that was struck that was never publicized Gay was never scheduled to run in New York! From everything that has been published plus their own postings on their web sites, the only place they’ve been scheduled to meet since the start of the season has been in Brussels in August. So all the talk of no showdown because of two injured athletes seemed to be erroneous and only served to provide negative publicity to a sport that really doesn’t need it. If the sport spent more time trying to develop more of its stars, New York would have been in fine shape.

For example, the best race of the meet on the track involved two rivals that the sport does little to promote. Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) v Allyson Felix (US) in the 200 meters turned out to be one barn burner of a race. Brown is the two time Olympic Champion. Felix the only three time World Champion (male or female). Both have pedigree, tons of gold between them, and always compete to the fullest. They did so again in New York with Campbell Brown getting her first ever win against Felix outside of the Olympics as they sizzled to a 21.98 to 22.02 finish. An awesome display of speed by both women – a possibility that was never sold to the public prior to the meet.

And since this seems to be “Rant Monday”, let me say that the sport seems to sell its soul to get televised, yet Saturday while New York was televised live we saw nothing of the two other events that were truly noteworthy. In the men’s pole vault, Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie sailed 19’ 2.5” over the bar. An outstanding early season vault and the #2 vault in the world this year. Even more significant was the 59’ 0” triple jump by his countryman Teddy Tamqho. Tamqho became only the third man in history to soar over the 59 foot barrier, and solidifies his claim as one of the best triple jumpers ever coming on the heals of his world indoor record earlier this winter. Both of these performances were missed by the television crew however, and thus by the viewing audience. We were treated to interviews of both Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay on the status of their current health. As once again this sport missed an opportunity to promote itself and its athletes in exchange for presenting a myopic view of the sport to a rare television audience in this country. I’m a huge sprint fan, but we’ve got to get beyond just Bolt and Gay – because there are so many more meets where neither will be competing.

At any rate it was one long, full weekend of competition. The season is in full gear. And believe it or not the national championships are less than two weeks away.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

NCAA Championships – Final Day Preview

Jun 11, 2010; Eugene, OR, USA; Johnny Dutch of South Carolina reacts after defeating two-time defending champion Jeshua Anderson of Washington State to win the 400m hurdles, 48.75 to 49.31, in the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

First the action that got us to the final day – Friday’s finals. I said at the start of the meet that the one lap races would be critical and among the meet’s best events, and Friday they were. All those that were supposed to be involved, were, with one common theme – discipline prevailed! There was no rain on Friday, but with tailwinds on the finishing straight and headwinds on the backstretch, one by one those that went out hard early gave way to those a bit more patient.

In the men’s 400H an early charging Jeshua Anderson (WaSt) gave way to the patient Johnny Dutch (S Car) who ran by the tiring Anderson in the final 70 meters of the race derailing Anderson's three peat hopes. Same story in the women’s event as Ti’erra Brown(Mia) went strong down the backstretch, only to give way to Queen Harrison (VaTech) down the stretch. Thus went the gold in two of the meet’s premier head to head confrontations. What could have been close races turned into runaway victories.

In the open 400, team hopes were bolstered and threatened. In the men’s race the early charging Tavarius Tate (MsSt) gave way to half the field in the stretch and finished 5th as the smooth striding Kirani James (Ala) cruised by the field to victory. Florida’s Calvin Smith also challenged early then slipped to 4th in the stretch, yet his 5 points managed to out pace Texas A&M as Demetrius Pinder and Tabarie Henry only managed 4 points for 6th & 8th. By meet’s end this race could be critical as it appears that the title hunt may well be between these two squads with Oregon appearing to be short on scoring opportunities.

The women’s race was surprising in that only winner Francena McCorory (Hampton) truly ran up to her potential. Oregon’s Keshia Baker looked very tired and never challenged falling back to 4th – and I believe with her Oregon’s team title hopes. Meanwhile Jessica Beard (TxA&M) got up for 2nd – giving the Aggies a boost in the title hunt. Because prior to the 400 the 100 meters had already been run and team points distributed.

The women’s event went to UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare who also ran away from her competition. But behind her Texas A&M went 1-2 behind Porscha Lucas and Jeneba Tarmoh. Texas A&M has recovered nicely from losing the services of Gaby Mayo and looks to have a strong shot at repeating as national champions. In the men’s race Florida’s Jeff Demps did his best Mo Greene imitation, separating mid race and cruising to victory in a slightly windy 9.96 – and becoming the first HS record holder to win an NCAA title in the auto timed era. A&M kept pace with a 4-6 finish that netted 8 points to Florida’s 10.

Oregon held pace with two victories on the day as Ashton Eaton just missed the collegiate record in the decathlon – 1.25 seconds faster in the 1500 and he would have gotten it. And teammate Andrew Wheating ran away from the field in the 800 for another 10 points for the Ducks. The runaway win by Wheating was a shocker of sorts, as chief challenger Robby Andrews ran in last the entire race until 150 to go, and just didn’t maintain contact with Wheating. His finish was strong but too little too late. As many athletes learned today, competing in this type of meet is as much about tactics and smart running as it is about talent!

So after all was said and done we head into the remaining finals this morning with the Texas A&M Aggies looking in control on the women’s side and locked in combat with the Florida Gators for the men’s title. Florida seems to be in the driver’s seat with scoring opportunities in both relays, the long jump and the shot put. A&M is in both relays and the 200. Oregon is in the 1500 and long jump. With the score after 13 events A&M (36), Florida (28), USC (26.5) and Oregon (20) it looks to come down to the head to heads in the relays and Florida’s LJ/SP points vs A&M’s 200 points! I still give Florida the advantage but look for the 4x4 to be a barnburner that may once again decide the title.

After the 400’s did me in yesterday I’m almost afraid to predict the remaining events – but it wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t. So here goes.

In the 4x1’s I think the favorite’s prevail – the Florida men and the A&M women. Florida has run well all season and has Demps on anchor. They pass, they win. Ditto the women Aggies who seem to be just fine minus Gaby Mayo as Jeneba Tarmoh has taken up that slack quite well.

In the 1500 meters Oregon’s Wheating is clearly on a mission. He was easily the most focused athlete in the 800 and I fully expect him to complete the double. The question is how close behind him will his teammates finish. They need a 1-2-3 sweep here to be anywhere near close to the Aggies and Gators – and that’s if Eaton can win the long jump and they get help from some other sprint squads in the relays. Gotta get points here first though. We will see what happens.

Same story in the women’s event. Oregon must pull huge points here to have a shot. Because the Aggies should once again get double points in the 200. I still think that Katie Follett (Wa) and Charlotte Browning (Fl) will be the top two – making it very difficult for Oregon to stay in the title hunt. But Jordan Hasay and Alex Kosinski are nothing if not gutsy, so they will make this a must watch event.

The Aggies’ presence in the 200 – men & women – now makes the deuce perhaps the pivotal event of the meet. Curtis Mitchell vs Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky) will be critical in the men’s race. I still think the smooth striding Sorrillo can pull it off, but a first or second here by Mitchell plus points from Gerald Phiri will fuel A&M’s title hopes. The big question is how many can they get? With Florida potentially getting a win in the long jump and a runner up in the shot, Phiri needs to be close to top 3 to keep pace. For the women if Lucas and Tarmoh go 1-2 the meet is pretty much over – and yes I’m switching from Tarmoh to Lucas on this one.

Ronnie Ash should come thru with a defense of his 110 hurdle title. Like Eaton in the decathlon and Demps in the 100, he’s just that much better than the rest. In the women’s event we’ll see how well Brown recovers from her loss in the long event, but I have to go with Harrison to complete the double.

Prior to the 4x4 the field event points should be in. Christian Taylor (Fl) still remains the long jump favorite in my mind as does Ryan Whiting (AzSt) in the Shot Put, and Blessing Okagbare (UTEP) in the women’s long jump. Particularly look for fireworks in the men’s long jump with Taylor, Ashton Eaton (Or) and Marquis Goodwin (Tx) all strong competitors, and Taylor & Eaton looking for valuable team points. With the field events complete we should know where the team title hopes lie and who needs to finish in what position by the start of the 4x4’s!

The women’s 4x4 could be run for pride by the time we get here. The Ducks will want to close the meet out with a win in front of the home crowd. The Aggies will want to close out a team title with a win in the final event. Oregon anchor Keshia Baker looked tired in the open event. Running both relays and the 400, and the corresponding semis, looks to have worn her down. Meanwhile winning does wonders and the Aggies seem to have gotten a second wind. Gotta go with the Aggies here, and watch out for the LSU Tigers would will simply be running for pride and a win – a lot to run for for a program with the tradition that they have.

The men will close out the meet with the Aggies and Gators potentially going at it for the team title. Florida has the personnel to go sub 3, while Texas A&M will have to run over it’s head to keep up. Normally I would rate this even as the 4x4 can bring out the unexpected in athletes. But the Aggies big closer, Tabarie Henry, has been a couple steps off all meet – so I think Florida keeps its edge. Mississippi State couple play spoiler however, with Tate, Mullings and Wilder all capable of big legs.

Regardless of the final outcome, it’s been a great meet. I’m dying to see how it all turns out. Below is Demp’s sizzling 100 win.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NCAA Championships – Day Three Preview

Jun 11, 2009; Fayetteville, AR; Brianne Thiesen of Oregon cleared 5-8 3/4 (1.75m) for 916 points in the heptathlon high jump in the NCAA Track and Field Championships at John McDonnell Field. Photo via Newscom

The second day of semi finals went off without a hitch – though the men looked a bit sluggish in their qualifying heats of the 200. Still, Texas A&M moved two men into the final – Curtis Mitchell & Gerald Phiri – and Mitchell and Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky) appear to be the men to beat at this point. The first sprint event without a Florida Gator in the final. The Aggie women lead the way in their qualifying as Porscha Lucas dropped a sizzling 22.49 in her heat to take over the collegiate lead. Teammate Jeneba Tarmoh lead the other qualifiers into the final. LSU also moved two into the final, but Samantha Henry & Takeia Pinckney were only able to garner the final two spots – and neither looked sharp – leading me to believe that at this point it is clearly going to be between the Aggies and the Ducks for the team title.

Speaking of the Ducks, the Oregon women moved two into the 1500 final – Hasay & Kosinsky – and just missed out on a third as Buckman was the next best time. Double points here could give them a slight edge in the team race. Hard to call a favorite for the final as the top athletes were clearly conserving, but Follett still looks like a good call to me. The Duck men also helped their cause in the 1500, moving three into the final – Wheating, Acosta & Centrowitz – keeping themselves on track in the team race.

Alas the hurdles, 100H & 110H are lacking anyone of stature that will matter in the team race, but Ronnie Ash showed himself to clearly be the class of the men’s field as he cruised to a 13.32 in his semi. Likewise Queen Harrison (12.68) & Ti’erra Brown (12.74) were clearly the class of the women’s event and are headed towards two showdowns in the finals.

And speaking of the class of the field, Oregon is dominating the multi events in this meet. Ashton Eaton set a PR for the first day with a huge score of 4500 to lead all qualifiers by over 250 points. At his current pace he could well set a new CR before the end of the day tomorrow. Meanwhile teammate Brianne Thiesen completed her heptathlon with a PR 6094 points – 412 ahead of runner up Kiani Profit of Maryland.

Otherwise 4x4 qualifying went as expected with all the anticipated suspects making it through – the Florida men and Texas A&M women looking particularly impressive.

There were four field event finals, with only the men’s javelin really affecting the team hunt. Sam Humphrey’s (Tx A&M) finished in 4th here which was off of most projections – and he really needed to finish higher to keep the Aggies close enough to the Ducks and Gators. The tile went to Craig Kinsley (Brown) in what most would consider an upset. Ditto the pole vault win of Jordan Scott (Kan) in a competition marred rain. Patricia Mamona (Clemson) in the triple jump and Nikola Lamnicka (Georgia) in the Hammer, rounded out the days field event winners.

Now with the qualifying behind us, its two days of finals. The easy call is the decathlon, where Eaton should guarantee the Ducks 10 points and a big start to their title chase. We also have team hopes riding in the balance on the field today. In the men’s long jump Ashton Eaton will be trying to get points for Oregon after finishing up his duties in the decathlon. A daunting task under any conditions, but he will have to do so against triple jump champion Christian Taylor of rival Florida and Texas footballer Marquis Goodwin. Krytonite finally hits Eaton in the form of Taylor and fatigue as Taylor and Goodwin should duel it out here with Taylor prevailing and keeping Gator title hopes alive.

Those hopes could be aided with a high finish by Gator shot putter Kemel Mesic. The individual title should go to Ryan Whiting (AzSt) as he wins the shot to go along with the Discus title he picked up on Wednesday. Whiting is the star of this event at the collegiate level and is threatening to become one of the world’s best. He nails this down early with Mesic looking for a top three finish to go along with Florida points in the LJ, 100 & 400.

And yes, I expect Eaton to finally hit Krytonite, but not until after he crushes the field in the decathlon. And on his current pace he could give Tree Hardee’s collegiate record (8465) a scare in the process. And if Eaton is trying to be Superman today, then Blessing Okgabare will be doing her Supergirl impression as she will be attempting to win titles in the 100 and here in the long jump. She should win this event as she has been the best jumper all season and her speed is sharp. Behind her look for Jamesha Youngblood (Or) and Vashti Thomas (Tx A&M) to battle it out for valuable team points.

on the track the 400 hurdles feature two of the meet’s premier match ups. The men’s event will pit two time defending champ Jesjua Anderson (WaSt) against yearly leader Johnny Dutch (S Car). Both have looked good of late, and their qualifying times were only hundredths of a second apart. Dutch is #4 all time college off of his performance at Regionals, but I’ve got to go with Anderson. He’s always come up big when he’s needed to from high school to now (former HS record holder). He’s a two time champion in this event, and he’s just stronger than everyone else at this level in the stretch. Dutch will give him a good race, but Anderson pulls it out in the end.

Another tough call for the women. Maybe tougher because neither woman has a storied history as both have really emerged this year. I picked Harrison early on, but lately have moved to Brown – mostly off the strength of how she’s run the 4x4. Harrison seems a bit quicker, Brown a bit stronger. So I’m giving Brown the nod here.

Next will come the 100 meters. And while this event can often come down to a lean and a photo, I think both have clear winners. Jeff Demps (Fl) has been the man in this event all season long and looked easy in his semi. Marcus Rowland (Aub) and Rondell Sorrillo (Ken) will provide the toughest competition, but look for Demps to have a Mo Greene like surge mid race and put it away while fueling Florida’s title hopes. Ditto Blessing Okagbare (UTEP) who seems to be just a cut above the others with her long finishing strides. The one caveat here is if Jeneba Tarmoh, who suddenly got hot at Regionals, can nail her start. If she does look for a lean and a photo at the tape.

With Demps winning the 100 the focus will immediately move to the 800 where Andrew Wheating will be looking to match points for Oregon. Wheating is the defending NCAA champion, having won a very close race with a .06 victory in 1:46.21 last year – this year’s race could end up being just as close. Virginia’s Robbie Andrews moved himself into the title hunt with a strong looking 1:45.54 win in his semi – dangerously close to Wheating’s PR of 1:45.03. Wheating needs a win here to keep Oregon on pace with Florida, while Andrews will be looking to add the outdoor title to the indoor title he won earlier this winter. I’ve been calling for a Wheating win here all spring, and will stick with it, with Wheating’s height giving him an advantage at the lean – but I won’t be surprised if Andrews pulls it off. The women’s qualifying went pretty much to form, and I still like Tennessee’s Phoebe Wright for the title. Don’t expect LaTavia Thomas (LSU) to give up the title without a fight – especially with the Tiger’s not performing up to par and desperately needing big points from her. Ditto for Oregon’s Anne Kesselring who will be trying to keep the Ducks in the title race against the Aggies of A&M.

The title races will heat up after the men’s steeplechase (I’m still going with BYU’s Nelson here) with two very hot 400 meter finals. The men’s race is very deep with several talented young men toeing the line. Calvin Smith (Fl), Demetrius Pinder (Tx A&M) and Tabarie Henry (Tx A&M) all need to come up big here for their teams. Joey Hughes (USC), Kirani James (Ala) and Tavaris Tate (MsSt) are all capable of winning the thing. Look for Tate and Hughes out early with the others chasing in the stretch. Watch the 300 mark. If the field let’s Tate get too far ahead, it’s a wrap. If any of the strong finishers is smart and stays close through 300 they can win it – especially James or Smith. My guess is that Tate heads out and says “catch me if you can”, and no one does. Keep an eye on the Florida and Texas A&M points behind him and the ground eating strides of Kirani James up the final stretch.

The women face a similar situation with Keshia Baker (Or) and Jessica Beard (Tx A&M) carrying team hopes along with individual. And Joanna Atkins (Aub) & Francena McCorory looking to nail down a national title. McCorory stunned indoors with a blazing 50.54 title run, while more recently Baker sizzled 50.76 to take the Pac10 title outdoors. Atkins won the title last year in 50.39 with Beard 2nd (50.56), McCorory 3rd (50.58) and Baker 5th (51.29) in tow – so there is history with these women. They all PR’d at this meet last year and I suspect they will again. This year I give the edge to Baker. She seems to be a more mature sprinter this time around and running at home she may find a bit of energy rounding the Bowerman curve that the others may not enjoy. The fight up the home straight will be fierce, however, as McCorory and Atkins looked hungry in the semis and Beard and Baker’s teams are in the title hunt. Should be one of the best races of the meet.

The meet will close the same as yesterday – with Sam Chalenga (Lilberty) looking to win another title. He looked ridiculously easy as he literally put it in cruise control and ran away from the field in winning the 10000 last night. He seriously looked like he was out for a stroll while everyone behind him was racing. I’ve had Northern Arizona’s David McNeill here all year and I’ll stick with it, but man he’s gonna have to get on his horse and go to keep Chalenga off the top of the podium.

It should be one exciting afternoon/evening of track and field. By the end of today we’ll be able to take a serious look at the team battles and see where things sit heading into tomorrow’s final day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

NCAA Championships – Day Two Preview

Jun 9, 2010; Eugene, OR, USA; Christian Taylor of Florida won the triple jump with a wind-aided mark of 56-1 (17.09m) in the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

Day one went pretty much according to script, with the weather providing the most drama with rain coming and going throughout the first day. On the track most of those expected to qualify moved through to the finals. The huge notable exception was Ahmad Rashad’s false start DQ in heat 2 of the men’s 100. I hate the no false start rule for many reasons, but watching Rashad get tossed for what appeared to be a minor flinch (if that) was just a sad testament to the rules of the sport. His loss could affect the final outcome of the team standings, as he was a returning medalist from last year and looked pretty good for a top 3 or 4 spot again this year. With Rashad out there will be some lower points that will move up in this event. We will see what happens in the final.

In the team race, the LSU men lost valuable team points when 800 meter runner Richard Jones failed to make the final after leading his heat until the final stretch then fading badly. And Texas A&M’s men got a scare when Tabarie Henry missed out on a top 2 finish in his heat finishing fourth and slipping into the final as the last qualifier on time. For the women, LSU’s Samantha Henry missed the final, which could affect their bottom line, and Texas A&M’s Gaby Mayo didn’t start the 100 and was missing from the 4x1. We will see how this affects the Aggies in their battle with Oregon.

In Day One finals, Lisa Koll had more difficulty with the rain than with the competition as she cruised to an easy win. Koll was able to lead an Iowa St 1-2 as teammate Betsy Saina got up for 2nd while Oregon’s Nicole Blood got up to 3rd for big points for the Ducks. Likewise Florida’s Christian Taylor got the Gators off to a solid start with a collegiate leading 56’ 1” in the triple jump with frosh teammate Omar Craddock picking up extra points with a 6th place finish. Texas A&M also picked up multiple points in the triple jump with a 2-3 finish behind Tryon Stewart & Zuheir Sharif. And showing the heart of a champion, shot favorite Ryan Whiting (AzSt) came up huge in the discus with an upset victory over favored Mason Finley (Kansas) with a big 193’ 9” toss on his 5th throw. And while it wasn’t a final, Oregon’s Brianne Thiessen was in perfect position in the Heptathlon at the end of day one trailing Alabama’s Chealsea Taylor by only 4 points.

Outside of Whiting’s victory in the shot, the biggest surprise for me was Robbie Andrews (Virginia) in the 800. Not that I’ve overlooked him this season, but with Andrew Wheating in the field, I had conceded in my mind that a Wheating win would be automatic. Not so much any more after watching Andrews in his semi. With his typical come from behind move down the stretch, Andrews ran an easy looking 1:45.54 – a PR making him the #3 all time American Jr in the event. If Andrews can keep contact with Wheating, we could see a fantastic finishing stretch between the two kickers – and Andrews has the leg speed to beat him. We will see how this match up develops as Wheating has 1500 qualifying today while Andrews gets to rest.

And speaking of match ups, both the men’s and women’s 400 hurdles had their prime combatants move forward looking very very good. So look for two outstanding hurdle races to start off Friday’s finals – Jeshua Anderson (WaSt) v Johnny Dutch (S Car) and Ti’erra Brown (Mia) v Queen Harrison (VaTech).

Day Two will feature 200 and 1500 meter qualifying. In the men’s 200 Texas A&M will be looking for Curtis Mitchell and Gerald Phiri to show up big. Florida State will be looking for the same from Maurice Mitchell and Brandon Byram. Florida will be looking for Terrell Wilks to get in the final and garner some points to keep their train on track. Both Mitchell’s (no relation to my knowledge) will be looking to win the race, but will have much to handle in Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky) who looked good in this event at Regionals and in his semi of the 100 here. For the women, Texas A&M is going to need both Jeneba Tarmoh and Porscha Lucas to score high here as they try to derail Oregon’s title hopes. Both young ladies looked good in the 100 semis, with Tarmoh looking more and more like a potential champion in my humble opinion.

While the sprint squads will be looking for their 200 meter runners to get in scoring position, Oregon will be looking to advance it’s 1500 meter runners. The men will need Matt Centrowitz and Andrew Wheating to show up big here. The women need Zoe Buckman to move forward and score well.

Perhaps the most key qualifying Thursday will be in the 4x4 as all the schools in contention for the team title will have a squad capable of making the final in this event – except for the Oregon men. Everyone will want to have a say come the end of the meet, and this event could be the one to decide a title – especially if other points are lost along the way. So keep an eye of the men’s  squads from Florida, Florida St, Texas A&M and LSU; and the women’s squads from LSU, Texas A&M and Oregon. The decathlon also starts today with Oregon’s Ashton Eaton a huge favorite, and Florida’s Gray Horn in the hunt for valuable team points.

There are finals today in the men’s pole vault and javelin and the women’s hammer and triple jump and heptathlon. The men’s javelin will have team implications as Cyrus Hostetler (Or) and Sam Humphreys (Tx A&M) are two of the top contenders for the individual title. Ditto the heptathlon with Oregon’s Thiessen looming large.

Checking the weather report it looks like more rain is predicted for today. It didn’t seem to affect the events too much – though the main live feed was down for several events. If the top qualifiers continue to move forward today we’re shaping up for a hot final two days of action on Friday and Saturday!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

NCAA Championships – Day One Preview

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 08:  Alan Webb of the United States runs the Bowerman Mile race during the Prefontaine Classic on June 8, 2008 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The NCAA Championships start today and it should be a doozy!

With the NCAA moving to a pair of Regional qualifying meets this year (East & West) the meet starts with semi finals in all the events. But with each Regional meet sending 12 athletes there will be three heats for each semifinal instead of two. The result is a rather brutal 2 + 2 qualifying system to the finals for all events 800 and under – first two finishers plus the next 2 fastest times.

This will have a profound effect on the outcome of the meet as making it out of the semis will be very tough. And those squads with multiple entrants in these events will find it harder to get athletes into scoring position. Traditionally these types of semis when run in major meets result in faster times in the semis than the finals – as everyone is running for their life and many have difficulty recovering and replicating their efforts in the final. This too can affect the over all outcome of the meet.

With that scenario laid out the meet opens up with the 4x1 relays and just about every major contender for the team title has a team entered. On the men’s side keep an eye on the teams from Florida (38.81 national leaders), Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State, and Mississippi State as all could be in the team hunt by meet’s end. Likewise on the women’s side of the ledger watch for Texas A&M, LSU, and Oregon as they begin to position themselves for runs at the team title.

The Oregon men won’t be involved in the 4x1 but minutes later will start their own qualifying with Andrew Wheating contesting the 800. Only LSU among the sprint oriented squads has an entrant (Richard Jones) expected to factor here.

On the team front also keep very close tabs on the men’s and women’s 400 and 100 meter events. In the men’s 400 Calvin Smith (Fl), Tony Mc Quay (Fl), Tabarie Henry (Tx A&M), Demetrius Pinder (Tx A&M), Tavarius Tate (MsSt) Dwight Mullings (MsSt) and Kevin Borlee (Fl St) will all be looking to move forward to secure valuable team points – as well as position for the individual title. While Kirani James (Al) won’t be involved in the team hunt he is a threat to win gold here. On the women’s side Keshia Baker (Or) and Jessica Beard (Tx A&M) will be looking to move on for team points. While Francena McCorory (Hampton) and Joanna Atkins (Aub) will be looking for solid lane placement in the finals, as this foursome should be battling it out for the title on Friday.

The 100 is also loaded with team title hopes. For the men, Jeff Demps (Fl), Terrell Wilks (Fl), Curtis Mitchell (Tx A&M) and Gerald Phiri (Tx A&M) will be looking to move on for those valuable team points. But keep an eye of Marcus Rowland (Aub) and Ahmad Rashad (USC) as they have the best shot at challenging Demps for the individual title. The women also have team title points looming here with Porscha Lucas (Tx A&M), Jeneba Tarmoh (Tx A&M), Samantha Henry (LSU), and Takeia Pinckney (LSU) in the mix. Watch Blessing Okgabare (UTEP) however, as she tries to get in position for a shot at a possible double here and in long jump.

Individually the 400H qualifying starts with a pair of potential champions trying to move into position as Jeshua Anderson (WaSt) – already a two time champion looking to defend – and Johnny Dutch who moved into the #4 position all time collegiately with his 48.12 at Regionals, run the first round of what should be one of the best head to head matchups of the meet. Meanwhile the women begin what should be a great double dual in the hurdles as Ti’erra Brown (Miami) and Queen Harrison (Va Tech) start round one in the long hurdles before moving on to the 100 hurdles later in the week.

There will be three finals today – men’s discus and triple jump and the women’s 10000. Keep an eye on Christian Taylor (Fl) in the triple jump. He’s the favorite in the event and could get the Gators started with big points in this event. More importantly watch the points of Florida #2 Omar Craddock. If Craddock can score here Florida begins the meet with a big advantage over Oregon and Texas A&M – forcing everyone else to potentially have to play catch up the rest of the meet.

Also keep an eye on Lisa Koll (Iowa St) in the 10000. She’s the collegiate record holder in the event, and with a day’s rest following before she takes to the track again for the 5000, look for her to lay down a very nice time in this race.

Opening day should be packed with action and drama. That 2+2 qualifying has the potential to wreak havoc on form charts and title hopes. The semis may be more important than the finals themselves when it comes to deciding the eventual team titles.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rotation Necessary to Build Fan Base

Recently during an interview about the upcoming NCAA championships, Oregon coach Vin Lananna stated “I think for the sport of track and field, and for every sport, you need a home,” he said. “I think it would be fantastic for Hayward Field to be the permanent home for the NCAA championships.” While I understand the motivation behind Mr. Lananna’s statement, I don’t think he could be more off in his assessment.

Certainly it would be nice for Oregon to have the NCAA Championships as a “home” meet to go along with the Diamond League Prefontaine Classic. And if he gets his wish he will also get the dual with UCLA as a permanent home meet as well. But the question then becomes, who else gets exposed to top quality track and field if everything is held in Eugene Oregon all the time?

I think it’s great when a community has a meet that it can call it's own. Something it can take pride in, develop a passion for, and create a long standing tradition. Meets like the Prefontaine Classic, Penn Relays, Arcadia Invitational, and Texas Relays are examples of what can happen when a community embraces and identifies with an annual track meet. The results are something magical. As a matter of fact I wish there were more “community” based meets throughout the US. Because there is no better way to strengthen the fan base in this country than to present a great meet to a community. Which is exactly why Lananna is wrong about every sport needing a “home”.

Major professional sports understand just how important it is to use signature “games” to market themselves. That’s why the NFL doesn’t have a permanent home for the Super Bowl. Or why the NBA and Major League Baseball don’t have permanent homes for their All Star Games. Because they understand the value of parading their top athletes around the country and giving as many people as possible the opportunity to see their product up close and personal. It’s also why both the NFL and NBA play preseason games outside of the United States – to broaden exposure and work on the development of a global fan base!

Track and field used to understand this concept as well, as during the “glory days” of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the majority of our top meets rotated throughout the country. The US National Championships and the NCAA Championships could be found in locations all over the country. Eugene, Sacramento, Knoxville, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, New York, New Orleans, San Jose, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston and Tampa are just a few of the locations where these major meets could be found. All hosted superb meets that were extremely well attended – and perhaps not so coincidentally the sport experienced a high level of recognition and attendance throughout meets all over the country.

Then we entered the New Millennium and some brilliant person decided that the sport would be better off if meets stayed in one place for a while. So both the NCAA and US Championships started to be “contracted” to single sites for multiple year runs. And perhaps not so coincidentally we began to see a rapid decline in attendance at meets throughout the country! Now obviously the decline of the sport in this country isn’t quite that simplistic. However, when the model of successful professional sports is to expand the reach of their signature competitions as a key marketing tool, I would think that a bit of imitation might be in order for a sport that has suffered throughout the past decade in this country in the area of attendance, recognition, and image.

It never ceases to amaze me that this sport will run half meets, hybrid races, retired professionals from other sports, and all other manner of gimmickry in an attempt to “attract new fans” to the sport. Yet cringes at the thought of doing something fundamentally sound like run a full meet with your best athletes and move it around annually so that people all over the country get to see you at your best! As my grandmother used to say, I guess that would just be too right.

I’ve said many times, and for many different reasons, that this sport doesn’t need gimmicks to gain a fan base. We just need to focus on getting our top athletes on the track (and field) and get them before the public! In the new sporting economy (something I’ll be talking about after the championship meets) getting a full complement of top level athletes together is extremely difficult. As a matter of fact, the only time this happens with any regularity any more is at our championship meets – NCAA, National Championships, World Championships, and Olympics – at the highest levels. Which is why these meets must be used as a tool to market the sport!

The global success of the Olympics (IMHO) is rooted in the fact that it travels around the world. Ditto for the World Championships. Here in the US we have taken the opposite approach by limiting the reach of the NCAA Championships and US Championships – and I truly believe we are suffering as a result. Those in charge of these meets shouldn’t be looking for permanent homes for these meets, but at a systematic rotation that would bring these meets before a wider range of the public. Rotating from Austin to Berkeley to New York to Eugene to Des Moines to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Boston to Greensboro to Phoenix over a ten year period for example would provide access to the NCAA meet to everyone all over the country. Combine that with a US Championships plan that would cover a different set of ten cities criss-crossing the country and I think we would truly begin to bring real exposure back to this sport.

Because what this sport needs is increased exposure – not limited exclusivity.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

NCAA Championships – Final Predictions

Feb 28, 2010; Albuquerque, NM, USA; Ryan Whiting of Arizona State was second in the shot put at 69-0 (21.03m) in the USA Indoor Championships at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

We’re just days away now from the start of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. With no World Championships or Olympics on the slate this year, this meet could be the best championship meet on the schedule this summer.

Both indoor team champions – Florida for the men and Oregon for the women – have arrived at this point in the season looking ready to produce strong efforts to add outdoor titles to their trophy cases. There have been relatively few injuries to the top athletes and squads this year, so we enter Eugene with a full complement of high caliber athletes ready to do battle – making it tough to predict exactly what’s going to happen because the competition should be fierce. None the less here is my attempt to predict how things will look by meet’s end.


Men’s Title – Florida Gators

The Oregon Ducks are strong as always in the distance events – and they have Ashton Eaton in the decathlon and long jump. The Aggies of Texas A&M are strong as always in the sprints and relays. But the Florida Gators bring the most balance – sprints, relays, and several field events including Christian Taylor in the long and triple jumps. I expect Florida to win both relays, the 100, and both horizontal jumps while garnering additional points in the sprints, the triple jump, decathlon, and shot put. They have more strong scoring opportunities than the competition, and if their athletes show up with their “A” game, they will win.


Women’s Title – Oregon Ducks

Every time I close my eyes I see a different outcome – that’s how close I think the competition between Texas A&M and Oregon will be. At the end of the day, I think the battle between the sprint oriented Aggies and the distance oriented Ducks is going to come down to a distance in the middle – the 400 meters. In this case that would be the 4x1, 400, and 4x4, as these two teams will battle it out over “400” three times – and the overall winner will take home the trophy. While the Aggies should easily take the 4x1, Oregon will score big points. On the flip side I believe the Ducks will out place the Aggies in the 4x4. Which leaves the meet in the hands of Keshia Baker (ORE) and Jessica Beard (A&M) and their head to head in the open 400. After careful consideration, I give the edge to Baker, and with it the team title.


Individuals to Watch

This meet will be full of outstanding individuals – which is why I think it will be one of the best meets of the year – and maybe one of the best NCAA championships ever. The Oregon and Florida men will be lead by supermen Ashton Eaton (ORE) and Christian Taylor (FL). Eaton will be competing in the decathlon and long jump, while Taylor will get triple jump, long jump, and possibly 4x4 duty. And while Eaton gets most of the attention at Oregon, look for a strong double effort from teammate Andrew Wheating as he attempts to win double gold in the 800 & 1500 meters. For the women, look for big doubles from Iowa State’s Lisa Koll in the 5000 & 10000 and BYU”s Blessing Okgabare in the 100 & Long jump. And for the best double head to head matchup of the meet watch Ti’erra Brown of Miami and Queen Harrison of Virginia Tech go at it in both hurdle events – 100H & 400H – as they should produce two real barn burners!

The 400 meters could end up being the real star of this meet! I’ve already stated that I think the women’s event could decide the team title, and the women’s 400H will be the second half of a great double head to head battle. But the best head to head matchup of the meet could be the men’s 400 hurdles, where Washington State’s Jeshua Anderson attempts to win his third title in a row. Standing in his way will be South Carolina’s Johnny Dutch, whose recent 48.12 makes him the #4 collegiate performer ever – and a serious threat to dethrone Anderson. Both could end up very close to the 48.00 barrier in what should be a hot final. Keeping to one lap, the deepest finish on the men’s side could end up being in the 400 where world leader Calvin Smith (Fl, 44.81) will go toe to toe with Tavaris Tate (MsSt, 44.86), Demetrius Pinder (Tx A&M, 44.93), Kirani James (Ala, 45.01), Dwight Mullings (MsSt, 45.12) and Joey Hughes (USC, 45.16) – six of the the fastest dozen quarter milers in the world so far this year! Likewise look for a deep and close finish in the 4x4, where Florida currently leads the world at 3:00.31 with Texas A&M (3:01.55), Mississippi State (3:02.10), Baylor (3:02.70) and USC (3:03.26) among the world’s top 10. On the women’s side  the Texas A&M women lead the world in the 4x1 at 42.49. While the Oregon (3:30.23), LSU (3:31.01), Arkansas (3:31.03), and Penn State (3:31.35) women are in the world’s top 12 in the 4x4. There will be some serious competition over one lap in Eugene!

Finally two other individuals to keep an eye on are Florida’s Jeff Demps and Arizona State’s Ryan Whiting. Demps was the indoor champion over 60 meters and has lead the way all season in the 100 meters. He is the high school and co-world junior record holder at 10.01 and could become the first high school record holder over 100 in the auto timing era to win an NCAA title. Whiting has been huge in the shot put all season for the Sun Devils and his season best 71’ 7.5” has him in the #2 position in the world so far this year and #6 all time collegiately. He’s in reach of John Godina’s (UCLA) collegiate record of 72’ 2.25”, and given his consistency this year is a threat to get it in Eugene.

This is one NCAA meet that should provide sterling competition from day one to meet’s close. It should be one outstanding meet. My predictions.



Event Athlete School
100 Meters Jeff Demps Florida
200 Meters Rondell Sorrillo Kentucky
400 Meters Tavaris Tate Mississippi State
800 Meters Andrew Wheating Oregon
1500 Meters Andrew Wheating Oregon
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 Clint Silcock Utah State
Pole Vault Jason Colwick Rice
Long Jump Christian Taylor Florida
Triple Jump Christian Taylor Florida
Shot Put Ryan Whiting Arizona
Discus Mason Finley Kansas
Hammer Marcel Lomnicky Virginia Tech
Javelin Sam Humphreys Texas A&M
Decathlon Ashton Eaton Oregon




Event Athlete School
100 Meters Blessing Okagbare BYU
200 Meters Jeneba Tarmoh Texas A&M
400 Meters Keshia Baker Oregon
800 Meters Phoebe Wright Tennessee
1500 Meters Katie Follett Washington
3000 Steeplechase Mel Lawrence Washington
5000 Meters Lisa Koll Iowa State
10000 Meters Lisa Koll Iowa State
100 Hurdles Queen Harrison Virginia Tech
400 Hurdles Ti’erra Brown Miami
4 x 100 Relay Tarmoh, Lucas, Duncan, Mayo Texas A&M
4 x 400 Relay Thiessen, Purvis, Williams, Baker Oregon
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