Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No Power, No Levers, No Hope

12th IAAF World Athletics Championships - Day Two

As I sit in anticipation of the action warming up on the track here in the next few weeks, I'm wondering if we will see anyone rise up to challenge the "Dynamic Duo" of Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay in the men's sprints. After all, this is an off season and it's not uncommon to see athletes make major strides when all they have to do is train and compete without the confines of worrying about being ready for one particular competition - like the Olympics or World Championships.

Of course to answer that question, one has to realize that the sprint game has changed dramatically over the last several years. The barriers of 9.80 and 19.70 which were rarely breached just as recently as the 2005, are have been run with regularity by Bolt and Gay these past few seasons.

While we have seen others making their own moves into the 9.90 and 19.80 ranges, that still leaves them gasping in the exhaust of Bolt and Gay. As I scan the annual lists of the past couple of seasons looking for potential challengers, I wonder if the rest of the world has truly been watching what has been going on in the sprints, because as happens periodically in this sport, there has been a shift in what it takes to be "elite"!

Yes, the benchmarks have changed - but has anyone asked "why"? Well I'm going to give you my assessment. You see, for the longest time speed was real easy to assess. There was a simple formula: Speed = Length x Turnover. Simply put that meant that if you wanted to run faster you either needed a longer stride to go with your leg turnover, OR you needed faster leg turnover to go with your stride. If you could somehow improve both you probably went to the head of the class!

That formula worked for eons. If you go back to my post on "fast starters" during the indoor season, they were almost all of the fast turnover variety. Rapid turnover gets up to top speed much quicker - so sprinters like Houston Mc Tear, Ben Johnson and Jon Drummond were almost always easily ahead of the competition through 60 meters - the indoor sprint. The key for them was being able to hold that turnover while holding off the sprinters with greater stride length!

Because after 60 meters the long strides of sprinters like Steve Williams, Carl Lewis and Donovan Bailey were able to eat of larger chunks of ground with much rapidity late in the race once these guys got up to speed!

So it went for decades until technology changed things. Two creations added another factor into the equation. As Mondo and PED's made "Power" a more desirable commodity! Not that power wasn't always there. Oh no. Bob Hayes was as powerful as they came, So were guys like Steve Williams and James Sanford. But on dirt/cinder tracks power was not your best friend. On soft surfaces that gave way power left you digging holes, not sprinting faster! Which is why "knee lift" was something preached to every sprinter. The key on a soft track was to lift the stride and reach out to gain length. Moving you forward as opposed to driving "into" the track and risking "slippage" and causing you to lose ground with each step.

But then came "artificial" surfaces. First just simple rubber composites they progressed to Tartan, Rekortan and now Mondo! Those early rubber tracks were soft. They could be run on year round, and provided a firm consistent running surface but didn't give much back to the runner. That changed as the tracks got firmer and harder. We saw that in Tokyo in '91 with what was the deepest 100 in history to that point as for the first time two men went under 9.90. Then we saw it again in Atlanta in '96 as all sorts of record breaking and PR setting took place in both sprints on that track - while distance runners complained mightily about the anguish that the hard surface was playing on their feet!

Not so coincidently, as the tracks got harder we saw the size of the fastest sprinters begin to grow - as the power that they were able to "drive" into the track began to pay off huge dividends. Ben Johnson was the preview as he learned to use his power on some of the early hard surfaces. So much so that he took the WR from 9.93 to 9.83 and 9.79 in two scintillating races in Rome and Seoul in '87/'88. Unfortunately we found out that he used PED's to acquire that power.

None the less the stage was set as we watched the top sprinters go from the lithe frames of Calvin Smith, Stanley Floyd, Joe Deloach and Carl Lewis to the more muscular builds of Leroy Burrell, Linford Christie, Ato Boldon, Bruny Surin and Maurice Greene. Power became the name of the game. Even smallish sprinters like Frank Fredericks, Dennis Mitchell, and Tim Montgomery found themselves getting a bit thicker and stronger in an effort to keep up - Montgomery taking the Ben Johnson path to a ban from the sport.

Most of these sprinters that lead the sport heading into the New Millennium were stronger, but not any taller than their previous counterparts. So while they were affecting the turnover portion of the equation and adding a power component to it, the length factor of speed was virtually unaffected. That is until the middle of the "oughts". Maurice Greene - the dominant force in sprinting from '97 through '01 got a glimpse of the future in the Olympic final of 2004.

While Greene was able to garner a very close bronze in the Athens 100, the race was dominated by large powerful sprinters as Justin Gatlin, Francis Obikwelu, and Asafa Powell were all 6 foot tall or better - adding long ground eating strides to the power component of their races. Suddenly the average height power sprinter running around 9.90 was faced with a taller counter part able to run towards 9.80.That transition became complete as Usain Bolt entered the short sprint game a couple of seasons ago - bringing his 6''5" frame to what less than a decade before had been a "short" man's race - with devastating effects.

So what does that all mean for this season and beyond? Well, for my two cents it means "no power, no levers, no hope". As in if you're not strong and you're under 6 foot tall, or simply short of stride the 100/200 may not be your way to glory! I don't think there's any coincidence that we (the US) have found a bit less success internationally the past few seasons as our sprinters have gotten smaller and smaller. We are currently lead by a bevy of sprinters well under 6 feet tall as our top 100 meter sprinters on the international level behind Tyson Gay have been Ivory Williams, Doc Patton, Walter Dix, Travis Padgett, Rae Edwards, Mark Jelks and Leroy Dixon. All but Patton of the 5' 9" to 5' 10" variety. We've done better over 200 meters with Wallace Spearmon, Shawn Crawford, and Lashawn Merritt, but guess what? They're 6 feet tall or better! The anomalies being Tyson Gay (just powerful) and Walter Dix (ditto when healthy as well as a turnover machine).

That's why I have hope in young men like Ryan Bailey, Curtis Mitchell, and Torrin Lawrence. Just like basketball, height (leg length) is something you can't teach. And in today's sprinting stride length, and power, have become a necessary commodity.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Weekend Highlights

Track and Field: USA Indoor Championships

As the outdoor season slowly gets going there were two clear standouts on the track. First would be Iowa State's Lisa Koll who set a collegiate record in the 10,000 meters. Koll set a new record of 31:18.07 at the Stanford Invitational, taking down the previous best of 31:25.45 set back in 2008. Koll's mark was a world leader and made her the sixth fastest American ever over the distance. More importantly it puts her very close to the 31:00 barrier, which if she can get under that would put her in true world class and make her competitive against the rest of the world's top distance runners. Running this well so early in the season bodes well for Ms Koll.

Also turning in a world class performance was Mississippi State frosh Tavaris Tate who blazed a world lead equaling 44.86 at the Alabama Relays. Tate ran un pressed as second in his heat was a country mile back in 48.35! Tate obliterated his outdoor best of 45.48 set last year in leading the nations high school sprinters in the event. He was also nearly a second faster than his indoor best of 45.80.

Interestingly enough Tate was missing from this year's NCAA indoor championships as he competed instead for the US team in Doha running on the World Championship gold medal winning 4x4, but he gives the NCAA another hot quarter miler. Keep your eyes on the SEC 400 this year with Tate already under 45 seconds and Torrin Lawrence (Georgia), Kirani James (Alabama), Calvin Smith (Florida) and Tony McQuay (Florida) all possibly in line to join him! The NCAA 400 meter championship should run through the SEC.

Speaking of college championships, Texas A&M (39.35) and Florida (39.37) both showed that they will be forces once again at this year's NCAA championships. A&M had the fastest collegiate time in the nation last year at 38.51, but Florida was national champion at 38.57.

The track should begin to heat up in earnest next weekend as the Florida and Texas Relays will both be on tap. Both typically have good fields, and the wind in Texas is known to kick up a notch here and there causing some hot times!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Off Season Relay Development

Track and Field: 12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics

As I've said previously, this early portion of the season is dominated by relay meets at almost every level. Even what is generally the big kick off to the elite portion of the outdoor season (Penn Relays) features a "USA vs the World" section of relay events. However, with there being no global major this year and virtually no meets on the European Circuit offering relays, the Penn meet may just be the highlight of the season as far as international relay units are concerned.

As much as I love relay competition, that may not be a bad thing for our US squads this year. Looking back at the last two majors - Beijing and Berlin - our 4x1 squads could use some work! Four times in the past two majors our 4x1 teams (men AND women)have taken to the track and failed to finish the race. Not just failed to medal, but were unable to get the baton around the track and across the finish line!

Clearly we need some work in that department. And I'm not sure that scrapping the old relay program - one of the first moves by then new USATF CEO Dog Logan was the best move given that A) it came on the heels of the first double debacle in Beijing, and B) no viable replacement was put into effect. The end result being that once again in Berlin we failed to finish either race!

But with a good year and a half before the next World Championships in Daegu (2011) we have a lot of time to "get things right". Unfortunately I'm not sure that we have anything in place to do so. Which is why I am sitting here writing right now - because I am strongly suggesting to USATF that we put something in place!

For example, one of our issues (IMHO) is that we have a plethora of available talent. That would be a good thing if it weren't for the fact that we seem to be worried about trying to please everyone and be "fair". Fair usually meaning that the first four finishers in the 100 at the Trials/National Championships get the job of representing the US in the relay.

Now while this is a noble endeavor, and worked quite well when we were the only big dog in the yard with easily the best talent, the rest of the world has developed their own pools of talent. As a result countries like Jamaica, Trinidad, France, Cuba, Brazil and Great Britain are now able to bring equal and sometimes superior talent to the table.

What they have also been bringing to the event that our present method of selection prevents us from doing, are seasoned teams that work together much better than our last minute "pick up" squads! While these other squads are now able to match us in talent, it is often easier for them to decide upon line ups as their pools tend to be "shallower" and the talent more easily defined. Being able to define the talent earlier allows them to create what are essentially "National" squads that work together better than our teams do. Very important because while the relays are about speed, the key element of the race is the movement of the baton - getting that small piece of metal from person to person, through the zones, and around the track as rapidly as possible!

That is what we have failed at. That is where we need to put a plan in place to improve!

Frankly while I respect the ideal of giving everyone a shot at making the teams, we know who our top talent is. We know that our squads need to be built around Tyson Gay (natural 3rd leg & 2nd fastest man in history) on the men's side, and Carmelita Jeter (our best closer & 2nd fastest woman in history anchor) on the women's side. We also know that our two best backstretch performers in recent seasons have been Wallace Spearmon for the men and Allyson Felix for the women. I would think that these four would make a pretty good nucleus to build around. That would leave us looking for two viable legs to fill out each squad.

Personally I would like to see a panel of top collegiate relays coaches put together to evaluate the available talent and make recommendations to USATF as to who the remaining personnel - including substitutes for the pool - should be. Why? Because that's what they do for a living! No one at USATF works with relays on a regular basis - and it shows! Yet working with constantly changing rosters, the coaches at Florida, Florida State, Baylor, LSU, and Texas A&M, among others, routinely turn out world class relay squads.

This coincides with my personal philosophy that you run the 100 to select your representatives in the 100 meters - not necessarily to put a relay team together. You place in the top 3 and you earn the right to represent your country in the 100 meters. But the relay is a completely different event, and we need individuals running it that have demonstrated that they also have relay skills to go with their speed. Spearmon and Felix specialize in the 200, yet are superb backstretch runners in the relay. Relying solely on the outcome of the 100 meter final would preclude using them in the relays. Collegiate coaches are used to utilizing talent outside of the 100 meters to put together quality relays. Their expertise in personnel selection and placement could certainly be put to good use!

Personnel selection aside, USATF also needs to find a way to get which ever personnel is selected on the track to perfect passing the baton. Knowing just who your personnel will be should make it easier to put together some "camps" between now and Daegu to do just that! And I wouldn't be against bringing in a college coach or two to conduct the camps.

Now, there are many ways to skin a cat - and I'm sure that others have other ideas and methods to put our squads together and get them ready. My point is that this down time between majors presents an optimal time to do SOMETHING constructive on the relay front! And I would hope that USATF would use this time wisely. Because if our goal is truly 30 medals in London, we can't afford to keep giving medals away. Or more concisely dropping them on the track!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring Track and Field

Track and Field: Nike Outdoor Nationals

Such a quiet week in the sport. Coming off the indoor season it takes a minute before the elite athletes really begin to roll. We probably won't see them really hit their stride until some time after the Penn Relays in late April. So what to do til then?

No brainer - high school and college meets! This is actually my favorite time of year when it comes to track and field, because it's the time of year when I can get up close and personal with the sport. With elite track and field there are few opportunities to go out and watch the athletes compete. Penn, Drake, Pre, Carson, Reebok and Nationals are the top elite competitions here in the States - and they're spread all over the map.

But between now and June there are meets galore at the other levels of the sport. Every weekend holds a smorgasbord of potential action. High school dual meets. High school and college invitationals - and at the college level there are community colleges, Div I, Div II, and Div III! There is always something local, and never more than perhaps an hour to an hour and a half drive to get to near elite level competition on the Division I college level.

Aside from accessibility, however, there are other attractions to these meets. For starters, they all have relay competition - and I love watching relays! Most meets have the traditional 4x1 and 4x4, but this early part of the season you can find lots of meets that run almost every kind of relay imaginable. Distance runners get to run relays with 4 x 800, distance medleys, and even 4 x 1600. Field event competitors too, with long jump, high jump, shot put, and discus relays (and others) where the marks of four competitors are totaled together to determine a team winner. It all leads to tremendous excitement.

Speaking of excitement, at these levels the competition tends to be quite exciting. No you won't find any high school athletes running 9.58, 43.50, or 3:28.00 or jumping 28 feet or vaulting 19 feet - but you will find them giving their all and competing to the end. You will see 100 meter races that need to be separated by the photo finish. You will see stirring come from behind victories on the final lap of the mile, or final jump or throw on the field. And you will see tons of youthful exuberance as a young kid improves her best from 56.00 to 54.99 in the 400 or his best from 4:14 to 4:09 in the mile!

Not only that, but you get to spend your afternoon actually watching a track meet. Not an abbreviated version of a track meet, but a full set of competition. All the sprints, all the distances, all the jumps and all the throws! You don't get the long jump, without the triple jump, or the 100 without the 200. You get it all - and so do the athletes! There's nothing like watching competitive athletes going at it not once, but sometimes twice or three times over the course of an afternoon. Sprinter Blue, Sprinter Yellow and Sprinter Green go at it in the 4x1 and Sprinter Blue's team wins. Then Blue and Green go head to head in the 100, with Green getting the win - while Yellow won the 400 just a couple of events before. Later we get Blue, Green AND Yellow going at it over 200 meters with Blue edging Yellow & Green! Typically you see this over and over with athletes competing in multiple events doubling in the 800 & mile, or the long jump and triple jump, or the shot and discus. Each set of competitions bringing athletes together looking for both victory and redemption within the same meet. No threat of world records being broken but stirring competition all afternoon long!

And it's the heart felt competition, the giving of one's all, the total joy of competing that one sees from the "non elite" athletes that reminds me why I love this sport so much! It's what keeps me in the stadium all afternoon even though the best mark I may see all day could be a 24 foot long jump, a 10.60 100 meters, or a 4:10 mile. You see, at the end of the day, what you get at a high school or college meet is the essence of the sport. And it's the essence of the sport - the pure competition itself - that makes this sport great.

That's why some of the greatest meets on the planet are high school level meets. Talk to anyone that has gone to "Champs" in Jamaica, or the California State High School Championships, or the Texas High School Championships or any high level high school competition and as they talk it will sound as if they're talking about the Olympic Games themselves!

So while you're waiting for Penn, or Drake or Carson go out and watch a local high school invite. Or a college invitational, two or four year. You may see a future star. I guarantee you will remember why you love the sport.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Diamond League Needs Relays

As I start to look ahead at the season, one of the first things I've taken a look at is the new Diamond League. Of course, as has become the trend in the sport, the meets tend to be abbreviated versions of a "real" track meet - various events left out in an attempt to shorten/quicken the pace of the meet. While I fiercely am against that practice I will discuss it another time - it deserves its own attention.

However, one of the things that I DO think should be included in the Diamond League competitions are - relays! Relays are typically one of the most exciting events at meets where they are contested. From high school meets, to collegiate meets, to international majors, relays generate a great deal of excitement. Just watching this past weekends NCAA Champs and World Championships is illustration enough. And I'm not just talking about the 4x1 and 4x4, as both Distance Medley relays at the NCAA meet came down to last lap battles!

For the Diamond League I see relays serving a similar purpose to how they are used at the Penn Relays in their "USA vs the World' competitions. For starters, there are few venues for international relay competition outside of the Olympics and World Championships. Yet one of the criteria for entry is recent competitive marks. Running relays at the Diamond League competitions would give national teams a chance to run some high level meets to prepare themselves for the majors.

It would also give us, the fans, an opportunity to see international relay competition with more regularity. Currently we only get to see US v Jamaica v Trinidad and others once a year at their best - because Penn is quite early and the squads while very good are usually short of the personnel that will be seen in a major. We've seen this happen with some regularity in Berlin and typically it is one of the most anticipated competitions of the meet.

But there are other great match ups out there that the fans are missing out on. Like the US v Russia v Jamaica in the women's 4x4. Or, with the American female middle distance runners getting stronger, I would love to see a 4 x 1500 with Jenny Barringer, Anna Pierce, Christin Wurth Thomas and Shannon Rowbury take on teams from Russia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Or how about some Sprint Medley Squads from the US, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados going head to head? Or Kenya and Ethiopia going at it in a Distance Medley? The possibilities are extensive!

Running relays would also help get our best athletes in front of the fans more often. It's been tough over the years to get the top sprinters to go head to head against each other. With relay competitions they can compete for the fans in between their head to heads. It also presents a method for an athlete who wants to "test" him or herself without having to run their primary event and, dare I say it, risk an individual loss. Or to compete and stay sharp in between major head to head meetings. Or to get up and comers a bit more seasoning.

Bottom line is that it’s a way to create excitement in the sport AND get the sport's top athletes in front of the fans with a bit more regularity. Two things that I feel are critical if the sport is to grow and expand.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What I'll be Watching this Spring

NCAA: Div 1 Indoor Track Championships Mar 13

Temperatures here on the West Coast are entering the 70's, and with the close of the indoor season that means that the spring portion of the track season is getting under way. I say the spring portion because that's the time of year dominated primarily by relay meets and the collegiate season - the summer being dominated by the Grand Prix Circuit in Europe.

Since there is no major global championship this year, the season should be one of high level competition as athletes will not be "saving" themselves for the Olympics or Worlds. As such "off seasons" tend to see a lot of athlete development - and we begin to get a glimpse of some of those athletes that will make an impact in the next string of majors - Daegu/London/Moscow.

That road begins this spring, as the collegiate athletes begin to make names for themselves and the elite athletes start to warm up for the battles to come in Europe. So following are some things I'll be watching as the spring portion of the season unfolds.


Tyson Gay
Wallace Spearmon
Torrin Lawrence
Allyson Felix
David Oliver
Francena McCorory
Anna Pierce
Jenny Barringer
Curtis Mitchell
Andrew Wheating
Dorian Ulrey
Galen Rupp

The above dozen athletes are a mixture of old and new that I think bears watching. Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon have been two mainstays of the short sprints for several years now and both are coming off injuries. Both have a history of competing well during the spring. I'm looking forward to Tyson's first 200. If it is anything like last year (19.58) we'll see more fireworks from Mr. Gay this year. Would also love to see something under 20 seconds from Spearmon, He's consistently run 20.0x in the past during the spring, but if he wants to run with Gay and Bolt we need to see something under 20 before June.

If we are to have any shot at regaining the top of the sprint podium these two will have to be at their best. In the deuce Curtis Mitchell could be one to join them. Mitchell is one of the new breed of tall sprinters that I feel will be taking over the sport. Mitchell and quarter miler Torrin Lawrence both showed indoors that they may be ready to run with the big boys by the time this year is done.

On the women's side of sprinting Francena McCorory and Allyson Felix could both be ready to make major global impact in the 400. McCorory just broke the American Indoor Record in the event and appears to be capable of running in the 49's. Felix has run the event "on the side" yet has run 49.70. She's supposed to run the event more this off season and if she gives the event a hint of focus I have no doubt she can run in the 48's - then watch her 200 drop!

Hurdler David Oliver is another coming off injury from last year, but his recent bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships indicates that he may be ready to get back to running sub13 - meaning he could indeed be a force.

Pierce, Barringer and Wheating are the young guns in the middle distances in my opinion. Pierce (800/1500) and Barringer (1500) on the women's side, Wheating (800/1500) on the men's side. All three show a strong competitive nature and grit that I think will take them far. Ulrey is one of those athletes that has yet to step in the lime light, but like the previous trio seems to have a competitive nature that I think is going to serve him well in the 1500 - an even where we are looking for someone to step up to give Bernard Lagat some needed help internationally. Galen Rupp is supposed to be the next big stud in the distances, but was overshadowed on the clock last year by Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Tegenkamp. This should be Rupp's year to join them in that elite area and give us a very strong distance trio to replace Lagat when he retires.


Penn Relays
California Relays
Doha Grand Prix

With New York and Eugene joining the Diamond League this year, Penn could be our most elite domestic meet this year. Either way it typically serves to kick off the competitive season for many of our elite athletes who get their feet wet with some hot relay action.

The California Relays is the new incarnation of what used to be the Modesto Relays. The meet was supposed to change locales last year, but had financial difficulty and is scheduled to go off in late May this year. It will be interesting to see if the meet can regain its once lofty status after both a year off and a change in venue. The US really needs another major global meet during the spring with New York and Eugene moving to the summer, so this needs to go off well. It had a long and strong pedigree in Modesto, let's hope it can regain that in Sacramento.

Doha, which just hosted the World Indoor Championships is going to be the first stop of the new Diamond League. Much has been said about the efforts the league is making to put top name talent on the track. Doha will give us an indication of just how well the league has done in its signing of talent.


As we saw with the NCAA Indoor Championships, there is a ton of talent being developed at the college level. Two of the hottest programs to watch will be those at the University of Florida and the University of Oregon. Both squads are loaded and should be battling it out for the outdoor title come the end of spring.

Oregon will lead with its strong distance corp which boasts Galen Rupp, Andrew Wheating, Mc Fleet, AJ Acosta, Nicole Blood, and Jordan Hasay in addition to multi event stars Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen. Florida will counter with a strong sprint corp lead by Calvin Smith, Jeff Demps, Tony McQuay, Terrell Wilks and Jeremy Hall, as well as super jumpers Christian Taylor and Shara Proctor.

These two programs should be at the head of what should be a hot collegiate season. And no where will it be hotter than the SEC and the sprints! The conference that has recently given us Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, and Xavier Carter is brimming with sprint talent this year. Jeff Demps (Florida) is the HS and co World Junior Record holder (10.01) in the 100 meters and appears healthy after some injuries last year. Several sprinters should be under the 10.10 mark this year including Jeremy Hall (Florida), D'Angelo Cherry (Miss St), Marcus Rowland (Auburn), and Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky). But it's the 400 that could be extremely competitive with Torrin Lawerence (Georgia) leading a group that should include Calvin Smith (Florida), Kirani James (Alabama) and Tony McQuay (Florida). Add this group to the 100 meter group and this also be the strongest conference in the country in the 200 meters. Somewhere in this group sits the next set of global medal winning sprinters.

I expect this spring to be quite exciting and interesting. Lets get it started!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Championship Weekend - Great Finish

2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Day 2

This was how the indoor season was supposed to be - closed in personal setting with lots of excitement. Give me eight to ten weeks of this every winter and I would be one happy camper. As a matter of fact, this is what track and field is supposed to be about - loaded fields and top notch competition competing in ALL of the available events! All available track event, all available field events and fans will stay glued all weekend long (let alone a full single day) as long as the competition is there!

Plenty of articles out there covering all of the action, so I will hit what were the highlights for me - starting with the NCAA Championships.

First off, let me give a shout out to the coach of the national champion Florida Gators. Because my check of things says that Mike Holloway is the first African American coach to win the men's indoor championship! As he and Vin Lannana split the championships with the Oregon Ducks winning the women's championship. Congrats to both programs, and that special shout out to Holloway. Both programs will be major factors outdoors - on both the men's and women's side.

The collegians put their best feet forward all weekend and in many cases were right there with their elite counterparts half a world away in Doha. Highlighting the NCAA Championships was the only World Record of the weekend as Oregon's Ashton Eaton claimed a new WR in the indoor heptathlon scoring 6499 points to take down the 17 year old record of 6476 previous held by one Dan O'Brien! Awesome performance.

Another record was set when Hampton's Francena McCrory blitzed two laps in 50.54 to take down Diane Dixon's 19 year old 400 meter American Record of 50.64. McCrory's mark was the fastest mark in the world and sets her up as a potential major player in the 400 this year.

While on the subject of long sprints, the men's 200 and 400 lived up to expectations as Curtis Mitchell won the 200 in a sizzling 20.38 - moving to =15th all time indoors. The event was hot all weekend as six individuals ran under 20.80 in the rounds - Marcus Rowland (Auburn) running a WL 20.59 - to set up the hot final. Dropped along the way were defending champion Trey Harts (Baylor) and Olympians Charles Clark (Florida St) and Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky)! Talk about a hot event. The final had no less than the top 5 times in the world between the two final heats!

The 400 was another burner, as once again Torrin Lawrence (Georgia) stamped himself as a prime contender this year in the event with another blazing final in 45.23. Lawrence went out in 21.08 putting pressure on the field and putting the race away. He was chased valiantly by frosh Kirani James (Alabama) in 45.63, but that first 200 was just too much to overcome. Of course the pressure was on as another frosh - Tony McQuay (Florida) had run 45.74 in the first heat putting pressure on Lawrence and company to put up or shut up!

While the rest of the meet was also exciting both Distance Medley relays showed that close exciting races can come in the distance events as both came down to close stirring anchor legs. In the men's relay Oregon's Andrew Wheating, an 800 man by trade, went toe to toe with Arkansas' Dorian Ulrey - a double gold medalist in this meet. Wheating (4:01.23) out dueled Ulrey (4:03.79) to edge him over the final lap and keep Oregon in the title hunt. In the women's relay Oregon frosh Jordan Hasay (4:32.55) valiantly tried to run down Tennessee anchor Brittany Sheffey (4:35.98) but just ran out of steam in the final stages. But these anchor legs capulized the efforts that all of the collegians gave over the weekend as every point was critical towards the team championships - one of the things that makes the collegiate events so exciting!

Over in Doha, the elite athletes were also strutting their stuff this weekend - with some outstanding results of their own. The most outstanding occurring in the field after all of the running events were completed as Teddy Tamgho of France triple jumped a huge 17.90m (58' 8.75") to take down the previous mark of 17.83 (58' 6") co-held by Cuban Aliecar Urrutia's and Swede Christian Olsson - who competed this weekend. Tamgho came through late in the competition to upset Cubans Yoandris Betanzos and David Giralt.

Speaking of "upsets" there were several in Doha. On the positive side, Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM), noted more for her sprinting over 100 and 200, set a new PR of 7.00 in taking gold over season long leaders Laverne Jones Ferrette (ISV) and Carmelita Jeter (US). On the "down" side we saw rare defeats for two legends as Fabiana Murer (BRA) turned back Yelena Isinbayeva (RUS) in the pole vault and Nadezda Ostapchuk (BLR) upset Valerie Vili (NZL) in the shot put. Isinbayeva and Vili spent most of the last decade winning everything available to them and perhaps as we head into a new decade the winds of change may be blowing!

But one event that lived up to both expectations and avoided the "upset" bug was the men's 60 hurdles as Dayron Robles (CUB, 7.34) edged out Terrence Trammell (US, 7.36) and David Oliver (US, 7.44) blazed to a great finish.

Speaking of great finishes, the IAAF set one humdinger of a finish for the meet with the final 5 events being the men's triple jump, women's 4x4, women's 60, men's 60H, and men's 4x4. Now that's how you keep em in their seats!

Now if we can just get this kind of competition going for about eight weeks a winter indoors will be well worth the price of admission. In any case it was an awesome end to the indoor season, and a great way to send everyone outdoors! Can't wait to see everyone stretch out over the 400 meter ovals!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

NCAA Indoor Preview - Men's 400

IAAF World Youth Championships - Day Three

Another event where the NCAA meet could top the World Championships will be the men's 400 meters. The world leader along with half of the top 10 in the world will be in Fayetteville to square off.

Top entrants with their seasonal bests:

45.03 - Torrin Lawrence, Georgia
45.24 - Kirani James, Alabama
45.61 - Calvin Smith, Florida
45.81 - Tabarie Henry, Texas A&M
45.91 - Tony McQuay, Florida

This is as deep an indoor college race as I've ever seen. Lawrence moved to #6 all time with his 45.03 and is on the verge of breaking the 45 second barrier. To solidify his status as the favorite he's also run 45.10 as well as 32.32 in the 300, becoming #5 all time in that event.

Interestingly enough Kirani James ran his 45.24 in the same meet - in a separate heat of the SEC finals! And as fast as Lawrence has been running this indoor season, Kirani at only 17 years old is as seasoned as anyone in this field. The past three seasons he's finished 2nd in the World Youth Championships in '07, 2nd again in the World Junior Championships in '08, then finally won the World Youth Championships last year running for his native Grenada. Makes me wonder what may have happened had he and Lawrence been in the same heat in that final? We should get the answer to that question this weekend.

They won't be alone, however, as the two young men behind them on the clock are serious competitors in their own right. Florida's Calvin Smith was a member of the US Olympic team earning a berth on the 4x4 squad, and has an outdoor best of 44.97. Meanwhile Texas A&M's Tabarie Henry has the fastest outdoor best of the field with a PR 44.77, and finished 4th in last year's World Championships in Berlin while competing for the US Virgin Islands..

In terms of overall quality, this could end up being one of the best races this weekend - collegiate or elite! If this foursome should make the final they will push each other to something great in my opinion. Sub 45 has been run indoors on only four occasions - this weekend should see the fifth - and perhaps the sixth!

Lawrence has been fast and consistent all season. Smith and Henry are strong. And James is young and precocious and progressing rapidly like Obea Moore back in the day. Keep an eye on the first 200 to see who takes the lead at the break - and is able to control the race. With everyone knowing how fast the competition is, that first lap should be very close to 21.0 - putting them on pace for sub 45. I'm sure the smart money is on Lawrence, but my gut is saying:

G - Kirani James, Alabama
S - Torrin Lawrence, Georgia
B - Calvin Smith, Florida

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NCAA Indoor Preview - Men's 200 Meters

IAAF World Junior Championship

The World Indoor Championships won't be the only "big meet" taking place this weekend. Half a world away the NCAA will also be holding its indoor championships in Fayetteville Arkansas. Always an exciting meet in it's own right, the NCAA could have one of the hottest races of the weekend - the men's 200.

Top Entrants with their seasonal bests:

20.67 - Calvin Smith (Florida)
20.67 - Charles Clark (Florida St)
20.69 - Curtis Mitchell (Texas A&M)
20.76 - Marcus Rowland (Auburn)
20.77 - Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky)

This race has 16 entrants with seasonal bests squeezed between 20.67 and 20.97 - talk about a loaded event!

Curtis Mitchell started the season hot running his season's best 20.69 way back in January. But since then the pack has been steadily closing in. During the conference meets held two weeks ago, Calvin Smith (SEC) and Charles Clark (ACC) seemed to be peaking at just the right time as both ran world leading 20.67's.

This race is loaded with talent. The only major players missing are Georgia's Torrin Lawrence (20.80/45.03) and Alabama's Kirani James (20.93/45.24) who appear to be focusing solely on the 400 this meet. Leaving Florida's Smith (20.67/45.61) as the top long sprint doubler in this meet.

Several competitors have international experience. Calvin Smith and Charles Clark have both made US international teams - Smith making the '08 Olympic squad as a 4x4 relay member and Clark the '09 World team finishing 7th in Berlin in the 200. Sorrillo also competed in Berlin as a member of the Trinidadian team - finishing 6th in the semifinals of the 200.

The top five seeds are #1, #2, #3, #5 & #6 in the world this year indoors (Sorrillo's mark was set on an oversized track). The field is so deep that last year's champion, Trey Harts (Baylor), enters as only the 16th seed this year!

But as good as the top five seeds are, there are no locks this year. Not with everyone seemingly improving by the week. With everyone being so close together, it's going to come down to who get hot THIS weekend! It would be no surprise to see a senior like Harts or Tennessee's Evander Wells (20.88 SB)run his way onto the podium. Or an improving frosh like Florida's Tony McQuay (20.84 SB) sneak his way into medal contention.

Throw in the fact that the 200 meter oval in Fayetteville is lightning fast (track record is 20.10) and we have the ingredients for an event that should be exciting from the first gun in the qualifying rounds through the final itself.

After playing a round of "eenie meenie minie mo", and consulting my trusty Ouija board, the favorites show why they are favorites and the medals go to:

G - Curtis Mitchell - Texas A&M
S - Charles Clark - Florida State
B - Calvin Smith - Florida

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

World Indoors Preview - Men's 60 Hurdles

AVIVA Grand Prix

The indoor season will end this weekend with the World Indoor Championships in Doha, Qatar. While the season itself has been somewhat unspectacular, the grand finale should be quite exciting as there are several high quality match ups. Perhaps the hottest match up of the weekend could be the men's 60 hurdles.

Top Entrants with their seasonal bests:

7.41 - Terrance Trammell (USA)
7.44 - Dayron Robles (CUB)
7.44 - Petr Svboda (CZE)
7.49 - David Oliver (USA)

The world leader on the clock, Terrence Trammell has been swift all season. He has burst from the blocks and taken control of every race he's been in early - forcing the rest of the field to try and play catch up. Indoors playing catch up over barriers is typically a losing proposition. Trammell has won this title twice before ('01 & '06) and is running well enough to do so again.

But it won't be that easy as world outdoor record holder Dayron Robles, has also been swift all season long. And he will be looking to make amends for not medaling at last year's outdoor World Championships as he was hindered by injury. Robles has looked just fine during the indoor season, however, and will be looking to upgrade from the silver medal he won at the '06 indoor championships!

The defending indoor champion is Xiang Liu (CHN), the former outdoor world record holder. Liu has been working his way back from injury and enters the meet with a meager season's best of 8.05. But somehow I don't think Liu would go to Doha unless he was ready to compete - that's the type of athlete that he is. The fact that he's in Doha means he feels he's ready. But this is no ordinary field as it could easily take a time under 7.40 to take gold.

The "flies in the ointment" should be David Oliver and Petr Svoboda. Oliver is strong and fast and will close on the leaders. The question for Oliver will be, "can he get out with the leaders"? A good start and he puts pressure on everyone. A poor start and he sits outside of he medals. Svoboda is simply one of those solid/steady performers that will reach the podium should anyone else falter.

For the ultimate spoiler keep an eye on Dwight Thomas. Thomas is a 10.00 sprinter turned hurdler and easily has the best field of all hurdlers. Of course his Achilles heel as a sprinter was his start, and the hurdles is very start dependent. Should he get out with the leaders, however, he could make the race interesting.

Having said that, Trammell should lead at the gun. The three questions for this race will be: how fast Robles gets out; how close will the field be; and will Trammell falter. My guess is that Liu is not quite ready and Robles will be running with the incentives of failure at last year's Worlds and having the specter of Liu in the race. The race should be won around 7.35 with the medals going to:

G- Dayron Robles
S- Terrence Trammell
B - David Oliver

Sunday, March 7, 2010

World Indoor Championships Meet Records

Sergey Bubka

World Indoor Championships Meet Records


60 - 6.42 - Maurice Greene, US - '99
200 - 20.10 - Frankie Fredericks, NAM - '99
400 - Butch Reynolds, US - '93
800 - 1:42.67 - Wilson Kipketer, DEN - '97
1500 - 3:33.77 - Haile Gebrselassie, ETH - '99
3000 - 7:34.71 - Haile Gebrselassie, ETH - '97
60H - 7.36 - Allen Johnson, US - '04
4x4 - 3:02.83 - US (Morris, D. Johnson, Minor, Campbell) - '99
HJ - 2.43 - Javier Sotomayor, CUB - '89
PV - 6.00 - Sergey Bubka, UKR - '91
PV - 6.00 - Jean Galfione, FRA - '99
LJ - 8.62 - Ivan Pedroso, CUB '99
TJ - 17.83 - Chrisitian Olson, SWE - '04
SP - 22.24 - Ulf Timmerman, GDR - '87
Hept - 6476 - Dan O'Brien, US - '93


60 - 6.95 -Gail Devers, US - '93
200 - 22.15 - Irina Privalova, RUS - '93
400 - Olesya Krasnomovets, RUS - '06
800 - 1:56.90 - Ludmila Formanova, CZE - '99
1500 - 3:59.75 - Geleta Burka, ETH - '08
3000 - 8:33.82 - Elly van Hulst, NED '89
60H - 7.75 - Perdita Felicien, CAN - '04
4x4 - 3:23.88 - RUS (Krasnomovets, Kotlyarova, Levina, Nazarova) '04
HJ - 2.05 - Stefka Kostadinova, BUL - '87
PV - 4.86 - Yelena Isinbayeva, RUS '04
LJ - 7.10 - Heika Dreschsler, GDR - '87
TJ - 15.36 - Tatyana Lebedeva, RUS - RUS - '03
SP - 20.55 - Irina Korzhanenko, RUS '03
Pent - 4933 - Carolina Kluft, SWE - '03

Most Medals

Men - Javier Sotomayor, CUB - 6 (4 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
Women - Maria Mutola, MOZ - 9 (7 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze)

Previous World Championships Locations

1987 - Indianapolis, United States
1989 - Budapest, Hungary
1991 - Seville, Spain
1993 - Toronto, Canada
1995 - Barcelona, Spain
1997 - Paris, France
1999 - Maebashi, Japan
2001 - Lisbon, Portugal
2003 - Birmingham, Great Britain
2004 - Budapest, Hungary
2006 - Moscow, Russia
2008 - Valencia, Spain

NCAA Indoor Championships Meet Records


NCAA Indoor Championships Meet Records


60 - 6.51 - Richard Thompson, LSU - '08
60 - 6.51 - Jacoby Ford, Clemson - '09
200 - 20.10 - Wallace Spearmon, Arkansas - '05
400 - 44.57 - Kerron Clement, Florida - '05
800 - 1:45.33 - Patrick Nduwimana, Arizona - '01
1500 - 3:43.48 - Paul Donovan, Arkansas - '85
3000 - 7:46.03 - Adam Goucher, Colorado - '98
5000 - 13:28.93 - Alistair Craig, Arkansas - '03
60H - 7.51 - Aries Merritt, Tennessee - '06
4x4 - 3:03.51 - Florida (Clark, Middleton, Pastor, Clement) - '05
HJ - 7' 9.25" - Hollis Conway, La-Lafayette - '89
PV - 19' 2.25" - Jacob Davis, Texas - '99
LJ - 27' 10" - Carl Lewis, Houston - '81
TJ - 56' 9.5" - Keith Connor, SMU - '81
SP - 71' 3.5" - Ryan Whiting, Arizona St - '08
35 lb Wt - 78' 9.75" - Libor Charfreitag, SMU - '01
Hept - 6136 - Donovan Kilmartin, Texas - '04


60 - 7.13 - Angela Williams, USC - '02
200 - 22.40 - Bianca Knight, Texas - '08
400 - 50.80 - Natasha Hastings, South Carolina - '07
800 - 2:01.77 - Hazel Clark, Florida - '99
1500 - 4:17.85 - Tina Krebs, Clemson - '85
3000 - 8:42.03 - Jenny Barringer, Colorado - '09
5000 - 15:14.18 - Kim Smith, Providence - '04
60H - 7.84 - Virginia Powell, USC - '06
4x4 - 3:27.66 - Texas (Downer, McIntosh, Robinson, Richards) - '03
HJ - 6' 6" - Destinee Hooker, Texas - '09
PV - 14' 10.25" - Amy Linnen, Arizona - '02
LJ - 22' 4.25" - Elva Goulbourne, Auburn - '03
TJ - 46' 9" - Suzette Lee, LSU - '97
SP - 62' 10" - Laura Gerraughty, NC - '04
20 lb Wt - 83' 10.25" - Brittany Riley, Wouthern Ill - '07
Pent - 4496 - Jacquelyn Johnson, Arizona St - '08

Thursday, March 4, 2010

US Sending Strong Team to Doha

Track and Field: USA Indoor Championships

The roster for the US team for the World Championships in Doha was released today.

The team appears to be quite strong with several gold medal possibilities. Among those that I feel have a strong shot at gold:

Ivory Williams - Men's 60
Carmelita Jeter - Women's 60
Bershawn Jackson - Men's 400
Debbie Dunn - Women's 400
Bernard Lagat - Men's 3000
Terrence Trammell - Men's 60H
Ginnie Powell - Women's 60H
Christian Cantwell - Men's Shot
Men's 4x4 squad
Women's 4x4 squad

Full information on the US team can be found here.

Rudisha Sizzles in 800 Opener!

IAAF Melbourne Track Classic

David Rudisha opens season with a sizzling 1:43.15 run in Melbourne Australia! Coming off of his 45.50 400 PR in Sydney, Rudisha blazed to a 1:43.15 to start his 800 season off in fine style. Rudisha reportedly easily followed the leader through a first lap of 50.0 before demolishing the field over the second lap. Rudisha appears on pace to run under 1:42 and perhaps seriously challenge Kipketer's twelve year old WR. For more information on the Melbourne meet click here.

Running Under Protest and the New False Start Rule

Track and Field: USA Indoor Championships

Already the new false start rule is causing controversy - and the sport is barely under way this year! During the women's 60 meters at the US Indoor Championships this past weekend we saw an athlete (Lisa Barber) DQ'd but allowed to run the race under protest. Not completely unheard of, but something that we should expect to see much more of with the new false start rule.

The idea of letting athletes run "under protest" is to avoid lengthy arguments over whether or not an athlete was "unfairly" disqualified. Situations such as Linford Christie's protest of his disqualification from the 100 meters at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, and Jon Drummond's DQ from the 100 at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. Both went on for quite some time, causing major disruption of the races themselves.

As a result the rules have been set up to allow for an athlete to run under "protest". The race goes off. And after the fact the electronics (video, if available and reaction data from the starting blocks) can be reviewed to establish whether or not the DQ was accurately called. In the case of this weekend the disqualification was upheld and Barber was "disqualified" even though she had finished third in the race.

Now there are several ironies with this situation and the entire false start rule itself. The first irony is that Barber finished third in a "fair" race. By fair I mean that everyone started the race "evenly". And after all, isn't that what we really want - that the race goes off with everyone having an equal shot at victory. That what we are trying to prevent by calling false starts is to ensure that no one has an unfair advantage? And ironically that is what occurred in the final version of this race. Yet Barber was still disqualified!

Which then begs the question - why do we call false starts? Well, let's take a look at the evolution of the rule. Because in theory the rule WAS created with the intent of preventing athletes from gaining an unfair advantage - but has clearly morphed into something else.

Forever and a day, as far back as the early 1900's, the rule was very simple. Each athlete in the race was allotted 2 false starts. It was generally assumed that anyone could make a mistake, so you weren't disqualified for your first false start. If you made a second mistake, however, you were eliminated from the race.

Now, sticking with the irony theme, this system worked JUST FINE. Athletes would be upset when put out of a race, but they knew they had no one to blame but themselves. They had already false started once and KNEW they had to stay under control. And, I must add, starters seemed very in tune with making sure that the conditions were right for the start of the race. For example if there was too much noise at the start of a race they would call everyone up. Camera's started clicking they would call the athletes up. I have to say that I can't remember the last time I saw the starter reset the race without an athlete raising his/her hand first. But back to the rules.

Now the standard rule of thumb in life is "if it ain't broke don't fix it", but track and field doesn't seem to play by the standard rules of life on most occasions. So, in the 70's, some genius decided there was a better way to enforce the false start rules. You see, it was deemed to be a problem that excessive false starts in a race could cause a problem for television. You know that medium that places televising our events behind strong men pulling trucks loaded with cement or throwing barrels over walls. It was decided that we would be more attractive if we simply threw athletes out of the race if they false started so we could keep the action moving for television. At least that was the rule adopted by the NCAA - so their athletes would be ready for their single televised event each year, the National Championships! Of course the irony here is that nearly all track meets tend to be shown on tape delay here in the US. Providing plenty of opportunity to edit out the false starts! But at any rate, that is when the rules became less about the athletes and more about outside influences - and where things began to be a problem.

Now, as I said earlier, track and field doesn't seem to play by standard rules, and in the case of false starts stayed the course. So while "little brother" high school track and field decided to adopt the same rules as the NCAA - ostensibly so that high school athletes would be prepared for college sports - the IAAF adopted its own rule.

What the IAAF moved to was allowing one false start for the field before disqualifying someone. What this meant is that anyone could false start and no one would be disqualified. But the next person that false started was tossed out! In trying to understand the logic here I'm "guessing" that the thought was to cut down the potential number of false starts in half since everyone would not get two of them. One person could have two and everyone else would get just one!

But it created a rule that was inherently unfair. One athlete could false start without impunity. Anyone else was eliminated from the race! Not only was it unfair, but It made absolutely no sense. Especially when, ostensibly, the idea of calling false starts is to make the race "fair" for everyone - to prevent an athlete from gaining an unfair advantage!

And this is where I believe the sport has gone woefully off track. For starters the rules of the sport should never be altered to appease the media. The rules should be designed to ensure that the sport operates smoothly and fairly. To ensure that everyone is competing under the same standard of equity. Throwing someone out of a race is simply a punitive measure that serves no other purpose.

Eliminating Lisa Barber's performance from Sunday's race served no purpose. She gained no unfair advantage in that final. The race went off and was run as it should have been. Yes, she had an unfair advantage in the previous start, but the race was called back and reset and went off without a hitch. THAT is what calling a false start should be about - not seeing how many people we can throw out of a race!

The problem - aside from wanting to make sure the race doesn't take too long for television - is that everyone assumes that sprinters/hurdlers are always trying to cheat, to gain an unfair advantage.
The people that make that assumption have obviously never sprinted or hurdled. By making that assumption, the first response is to punish the athlete - as in "we'll show them for trying to cheat". Reality is that there are many reasons why a sprinter or hurdler false starts:

• Mondo gets hot! Depending on how long your hands are on the ground you just might move them in spite of yourself.

• Starters hold too long. The ideal is for the starter to get everyone in the blocks and settled, get them up into the "set" position and fire the gun on a 2 second count. I've been at meets where starters hold the athletes for several seconds - which is an eternity when you are in the blocks. Very easy for arms to give way or your balance to falter.

• Starters are often inconsistent. A lot of starters want to show that THEY are in control of the meet. Part of this control is the attitude that "no one is going to catch a flier" on them. So they are inconsistent in their count - in an attempt to throw the athletes off. Holding for less than 2 seconds - giving some athletes a very quick start. Then holding for much longer than 2 seconds and causing these athletes to be off balance.

• Crowd noise. When you are sitting in the blocks and waiting for the sound of that gun, you are so focused that you may go on the first sound that you hear. That sound can be the click of a camera, something falling to the ground, or even a cough.

• Off balance in the blocks. Perched in the set position with all of your weight against your hands, it can easy to simply twitch or flinch from being off balance.

• Movement along the starting line. I don't know how many times I've seen one athlete flinch and one or two others start to run - not wanting to get left behind!

These are just a few of the legitimate reasons why athletes commit false starts - and none of them have a thing to do with trying to cheat! Mistakes happen throughout the sport, and everyone else gets a "do over"! Throwers, jumpers, or vaulters make a mistake and they get to try again, and again - up to six times. Distance runners get tangled up early in the race and we stop the race and restart it - so that everyone has a fair and equal start. Only in the short events do we say, "make a mistake and go home".

The women's 60 on Sunday showed both what is wrong and what can be right about false starts. Barber was the defending champion and a major player in the event. We should want to see her in the race - she added to the event. Her running under protest illustrated that there was no reason why she should not have been allowed to run. That race went off exactly as it should have - error free - and the better athlete won!

The false start rule should simply be structured so that athletes do not get an unfair advantage - and that's all that is should be about. The sport had it right for about 100 years. It wasn't broke, it didn't need fixing. Now it IS broken, and we should be smart enough to say "oops" before we lose some of our major stars to the rule.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

David Rudisha - Next Super Star ?

David Rudisha & Sean Wroe Media Session

This past weekend was a very busy one, with lots of selection meets for the upcoming World Indoor Championships. But as I was scanning the results there was one result that stood out to me from the others - from an outdoor meet in Sydney Australia.

In the men's 400 in Sydney the results were actually quite outstanding for this time of year. The winner in a world leading time of 44.86 was Australian Ben Offereins, but what I found exciting was the third place finisher, Kenyan half miler David Rudisha in a very nice 45.50!

Now 45.50 is a very "good" time for the quarter but not quite in the 44 second realm that one would expect for the world's most elite quarter milers. But if you're not a quarter miler by trade it can be quite exciting. For example, if you're a short sprinter like Tyson Gay who ran 45.57 last spring it could signal increased strength and speed endurance. Which is exactly what we saw from Tyson last year as he began the year with a 19.58 200 in May then closed out his season with sprints of 9.71 and 9.69!

Being a half miler by trade, however, for Rudisha it shows just the opposite - a blazing turn of speed! Quite exciting given that Rudisha just moved to the #4 all time position in the 800 last year with his 1:42.01 run in Rieti.

Now, just how fast is fast for a half miler? Well there have been a handful that have been able to cover the distance faster than 45 seconds and run under 1:44 for 800 meters. Those that immediately come to mind are Alberto Juantorena who won Olympic gold over 400 meters at 44.26 and was able to parlay his speed into 1:43.44 for 800. Mark Everett who ran 44.59 and 1:43.20. And James Robinson, who regularly ran 44 second splits on the 4x4 and had a PR of 1:43.92 in the 800 meters.

But if we take a look at the three men ahead of Rudisha on the all time 800 list 45.50 is blazing! Joaquin Cruz, #3 at 1:41.77 had no official marks for 400 meters, running only the longer 1500/mile. Sebastian Coe, #2 all time at 1:41.73, ran 46.87 for 400. And record holder Wilson Kipketer (1:41.11) had a best of 46.85 over 400 meters. Which puts Rudisha over a full second faster over 400 than the best ever 800 meter runners. Now you know why this leaves me drooling - we may finally see someone approach Kipketer's long standing world record!

With their 400 meter speed, Coe and Kipketer were able to take comfortably run blistering first laps of 49/48 seconds on occasion. Rudisha should be able to do the same. At the same time, it shows that he has the leg speed to unleash a withering second lap kick if the pace become too dawdling.

Either way, the prospects for fast times look very bright for Rudisha. I am dying to see how his season goes this year. At only 21 years of age, already one of the best ever, and with a very competitive nature he could become one of those athletes that stands above the crowd and becomes a super star in this sport.