With this season heading into the final month or so of competition, it’s time to start looking forward to next season. After all the World Championships are literally just about one year away.
US forces have had some nice surprises this year. Andrew Wheating, Leonel Manzano, Morgan Uceny, Phoebe Wright, and Alysia Johnson have emerged to bolster a growing middle distance corps. Jeremy Wariner is regaining form and Tyson Gay has found good health in the later stages of the season. Marshavet Myers seems ready to join Caarmelita Jeter in the sprint wars, and Allyson Felix is showing that she is a threat over 400 as well as the deuce. David Oliver and Bershawn Jackson are solid gold medal threats in the hurdles as are Lolo Jones and Lashinda Demus for the women. Chris Solinsky and Bernard Lagat, have added to what Dathen Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp started last year in the distances. And Kara Patterson (Discus) and Chaunte Howard Lowe (HJ) have emerged as serious medal threats to go along with Christian Cantwell (Shot), Dwight Phillips (LJ), and Brittney Reese (LJ).
But, aside from this handful of stars, it’s the field where we seem to continue to underperform, and where we have so much more potential to improve our medal count in Daegu, London and Moscow. Very surprising since we have produced some of the greatest names in history in events where we currently are sorely lacking. In the triple jump for example, we are the country that produced Willie Banks, Mike Conley, and Kenny Harrison. Not too long ago, Hollis Conway and Charles Austin were as good as it got in the high jump. And while it’s nice that Phillips is in contention in the long jump, once upon a time we could boast being three deep with 28 footers – or at least a third that was 27 high! Similar story in the discus where we were once as deep there are we are currently in the discus with athletes like Ben Plucknett, John Powell, Anthony Washington and John Godina (in his second event).
If we are going to get anywhere near our stated goal of thirty medals in a major , we must get improved performances from the field. We will have to get some of our young talent like Christian Taylor (TJ), Dusty Jonas (HJ) and Andra Manson (HJ) over the hump and injured stars like Jenn Suhr (PV) and Breax Greer (JAV) back to good health. But most of all we have to find a way to improve our overall development in areas like the triple jump, discus, and hammer where we’ve just stopped being competitive.
I don’t expect to see any new talent emerge in these final few meets, but hope that our leadership at USATF can find a way to pull together our resources – monetary and coaching wise – to get our down events back up to a competitive level. It’s a challenge that must be met if we are to improve our medal count in the upcoming trifecta.