Monday, May 31, 2010

Howard-Lowe AR & Collegiate Regional Action Highlights Exciting Weekend

Chaunte Howard Lowe of US

For a track junkie like me the last few days have been sheer nirvana. From Thursday through last night it’s been wall to wall track and field!

Out here in California the State high school championships are just around the corner and this past week the state sectional championships were held to qualify the entrants for the State Meet! So depending on where you were it was Trials & Finals on either Thursday & Friday or Friday & Saturday. The collegiate athletes were in qualifying mode as well, as the East and West Regional Qualifiers were also held the end of the week on Thursday, Friday & Saturday. Both meets were streamed live (Thank you NCAA) so in addition to attending the local high school qualifying meet, I was also able to watch BOTH collegiate regional meets.

Then there was the Golden Spike meet in Ostrava which was streamed by Universal Sports, and then the return of the California Relays out here in Sacramento on Saturday! So it’s taken me until this afternoon to actually sit down and take a look at it all and select out the highlights – of which there were many.

The most meaningful performance has to be the American Record by Chaunte Lowe in the high jump. Jumping Saturday in Cottbus Germany, Lowe went over the bar at 6’ 8.25” (2.04m) breaking the  22 year old mark of Louise Ritter! Lowe’s mark is significant because she has been consistent so far this year right around 2 meters, so this mark is in line with where she’s been jumping and signifies that she is a legitimate contender in the event. So Lowe I believe that Lowe can safely be added to my Thirty Watch List, which has desperately looking for some additional field event strength. We will see how well she is able to maintain jumping at this level, but this puts her in range of competing against the likes of Arianne Friedrich (GER) and Blanka Vlasic (CRO).

Meanwhile Friday in Ostrava, we got some expected fast sprinting from Jamaican’s Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell. While we wait on head to head’s with Bolt, Powell, and Tyson Gay (USA) we are relegated to comparing their marks as they each run in separate meets and separate events. Bolt and Powell were both in Ostrava, just in different events, with Powell running the 100 and Bolt running a rare 300. Both were looking for records as meet organizers had timing equipment set at the 100 YARD mark as well as the 100 meter mark in Powell’s race as he was after the decades old 100 yard mark (9.21, Charlie Greene, 1967) – the event has been rarely run since 1976. Meanwhile Bolt was after Michael Johnson’s 30.85 from 2000.

Powell’s mark was almost a lock given how the 100 has evolved since the 60’s and he did not disappoint as he ran 9.09 in his heat and 9.07 in the final on his way to a WL 9.83 (-0.5) for 100 meters. Bolt just missed his mark, though his 30.97 is the #2 mark of all time. They were the best marks in a meet that saw Dayron Robles (CUB) run a seasons best 13.12 in the hurdles and David Rudisha turn in what has become a ho hum for him 1:44.03 over 800. I’m sure we’ll see something a bit more exciting from Rudisha when he locks up with Abubaker Kaki later this week in Oslo.

The real fireworks this weekend were provided by the college athletes as they ground it out for three days trying to qualify athletes & teams into the National Championship meet in Eugene, June 9 – 12. There were a lot of comments made about the changes in the qualifying process and the regional meets in particular prior to this past weekend. Having had a chance to watch them in action, I have to say that while I can understand the rationale behind the change to two regional meets, I think there needs to be some major tweaking to the system. I can discuss that another day. Today it’s about what happened at those meets and how the meet in Eugene is starting to shape up.

Looking at the two regions, everything is pretty much intact, as far as how the season looked as the teams headed outdoors from the indoor championships. The major players are all there and the teams that looked like the powers, are. So without further adieu, the highlights and comments from the NCAA Regional Qualifiers.


Western Regional – Men

Watching this regional there are some individuals, not with the power teams, that are going to be battling for individual gold and recognition. Jeshua Anderson (WaSt) heading to Eugene with a 48.65 hurdle run, Marquis Goodwin (Tx) with a 26’ 5” long jump, and Ronnie Ash (Ok) qualifying at 13.37w. All three appear to be sharp and ready to rumble in about a week and a half.

The real exciting part of the NCAA meet for me, however, is the team competition. Oregon has been in the conversation for the team championship since the first day of the outdoor season, and they gave themselves a lot of scoring opportunities by landing 16 spots to Nationals. But more and more it’s looking like they are going to have to rely heavily on Ashton Eaton and Andrew Wheating to score big points to go with lots of smaller points. At this meet Wheating – 1:46.44/3:37.52 (1500/800 double) and Eaton 26’ 4".5” (long jump) appear ready to hold up their end (with Eaton also the favorite in the decathlon), but the other members of the squad look to be vulnerable.

On the flip side, the other team emerging from this meet with a shot at the title – Texas A&M – seems to have more “sure” top points. Their two relay squads (39.05, 3:01.89); sprinters Gerald Phiri 10.17, Curtis Mitchell 10.25/20.23, Demetrius Pinder 44.93, & Tabarie Henry 45.30; and triple jumpers Tyron Stewart 54’ 5.5” & Zuheir Sharif 53’ 10.25” were very sharp here and performances like these could rack up some serious points.


Western Regional – Women

First off Lisa Koll continues to look like a sure double winner with an easy 16:28.58/34:23.64 5k/10k double – if doubling over those distances can be considered easy.

Team wise, Oregon an Texas A&M head to Nationals as co favorites in my book in a classic distance vs speed battle. The Aggie women are a sprint juggernaut as their 4x1 clocked the #2 all time collegiate performance in 42.49 #2; Jessica Beard moved on with a nice 51.35; and they qualified 3 in the 100 with Jeneba Tarmoh (11.20/22.71), Porscha Lucas (11.18/22.72), and Gaby Mayo (11.41/12.81) all doubling up nicely. They did lose hurdler Natasha Ruddock to injury, however, which could hurt their cause.

The Oregon women, at the other end of the spectrum, have a stellar 4x4 (3:30.23): qualified 3 in the 1500; and boast Anne Kesslring 2:06.71 & Keshia Baker 51.60 among their 17 entries to Eugene. They lost a strong scorer as well as Amber Purvis was a false start casualty in 200. None the less, the roles here are reversed from their male counter parts as the Oregon women are much deeper than the Aggie women. So we’ll have to wait and see how it all plays out in another week.


Eastern Regional – Men

Individually, Johnny Dutch (S. Car) made a very strong move into potential gold medal territory with a huge PR 48.12 in the 400 hurdles. He looks ready to challenge Jeshua Anderson’s two year winning streak in the event. Likewise, Rondell Sorrillo (Kentucky) 20.29 in the 200, and Kirani James (Alabama) 43.94 relay leg and 45.17 open 400, appear ready to challenge for gold.

But it’s the Florida Gator who leave here in strong position to repeat their indoor title outdoors in Eugene. While the 13 scoring opportunities they send to Eugene are slightly fewer than those of rival Oregon from the West Regional, they send more potential “big” points as both relays (38.81/3:02.75), Jeff Demps (10.06), Calvin Smith (45.06), and Christian Taylor (26’ .75”/55’ 7.5”) continue to look like gold medal possibilities. With Terrell Wilks (10.28/20.53), Omar Craddock (54’ 2.5”), Tony McQuay (45.73) and Kemel Mesic (62’ 10.5”) poised to pick up points as well, the Gators are as strong as the Oregon women are on the other side of the ledger.

The East, however, will have a lot to say about the team title as Florida State, Mississippi State and LSU all have enough sprint and relay power to make things tough for Florida, Oregon and Texas A&M. All have strong relay squads, and individuals Tavaris Tate (MsSt) 45.05, Dwight Mullings (MsSt) 45.12, Maurice Mitchell (Fl St) 10.04w20.24 have “spoiler” written on their singlets.


Eastern Regional – Women

Individually Queen Harrison (Va Tech) and Mariam Kevkhishvilli (Fl) continue to be strong favorites for titles. Harrison has lead both hurdle events all season long and continued to look strong with her 12.69/55.07 performance here. Same for Kevkhishvilli who qualified easily here throwing 57’ 10.5”.

On the team front look for perennial power LSU to make some noise in Eugene. While the Ducks and Aggies have gotten all the attention this year, the SEC champion Tigers most certainly will have a say as they send 17 scoring opportunities to Eugene. Their 4x4 (3:31.01), and sprinters Samantha Henry (11.18/23.10), Kenyanna Wilson (11.22), & Kim Duncan (23.11) along with 800 runners LaTavia Thomas (2:03.51) & Kayann Thompson (2:03.58) give LSU  an opportunity to pull off an “upset” should Oregon or Texas A&M falter at all.


So, a lot of high level action this long weekend – and those are only the highlights! The sport is now in high gear. The Oslo leg of the Diamond League is in just a few days, and the NCAA Championships are just about a week away. And did I mention that the first US leg of the Diamond League – New York – is almost here? Below enjoy Chaunte Lowe’s high jump series and new AR.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why We’re Losing the War Against Drugs

The issue of drug use among athletes is once again front and center in the sports world. Within the past month four drug related matters have arisen that have given the topic fresh legs. First was the revelation that Lashawn Merritt was accepting a provisional suspension due to three positive drug tests for a banned substance in his system. Intermittently has been the news/discussion and potential trial of Canadian physician Anthony Galea and his controversial use of HGH and a “blood spinning” technique in the treatment of several sports related patients. There was the recent death of Charlie Francis - best known as the coach of Ben Johnson, the Seoul 100 meter champion that tested positive for a banned substance at the Games and subsequently was banned from the sport. Then the admission of former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis that he has used performance enhancing drugs and his implication of seven time champion Lance Armstrong as another that has taken performance enhancers.

So it’s really hard to ignore the issue, no matter how controversial, when we are being hit with news regarding such well known sports entities! Listening to the various conversations, sports talk radio shows, Sportscenter interviews and discussions, as well as just talking to people I know, there are many strong and varied reactions to all that has transpired. Among the many positions taken, there are those that say they could care less if athletes use drugs or not. Those that say they believe that most athletes use drugs and they should simply be made legal. And those that say that drugs could be cleaned up if we simply gave lifetime bans to anyone testing positive.

There are other positions out there as well, but these seem to be the most prevalent, and most strongly argued. What I have found interesting however, is that regardless of what side or position that people take, the one thing that everyone seems to be in agreement on is that we are losing the “war” against performance enhancing drug use! A sentiment that I have to agree with.

So, given the premise that we all agree that the war is being lost, the real question is, why? Well, as I look at things we’re fighting so poorly as to present the impression that we’re really not in it to win it! Why do I say this? Because usually when there is a war there is a plan, the goal of which is the systematic elimination of the enemy. This sport has no such plan. More importantly the plan that is in place seems to have the opposite goal – to invite or increase use! Yes, that’s what I said. Let me explain.

First off, I see the sport’s marketing plan to be in direct opposition to the need to get rid of drugs. The marketing strategy of the sport is based on athletes breaking records – individual achievement at the ultimate level in lieu of a focus on competition! The result is that athletes are ENCOURAGED to push the envelope on performance. Want recognition? You have to push the envelope. Mo Greene and Carl Lewis are the two greatest winners the world has seen in the sprint world. Lewis won gold medals in the the sprints and jumps on the big stage from 1983 through 1996. Greene was a medal winning machine – primarily gold – from 1997 through 2004. Yet both have already been relegated to distant memory due to Usain Bolt’s record breaking exploits over a two year period! Michael Johnson was a sports icon – wiped out in 19.30 seconds. Want to be a star in this sport? You must win in record fashion or you’re just another athlete! Doubt me, just ask yourself why Kim Collins’ (10.07) and John Capel’s (20.30) World Championship gold medal wins in 2003 are barely a footnote in the history of the sport – for those that even remember!

The sport’s method of rewarding athletes financially follows the same plan. Want to earn a quick $100,000 in track and field? Break a world record – because world records are rewarded with a $100,000 bonus! Push the envelope, achieve the ultimate and we will reward you thusly. No, we don’t care about how many of your peers you can defeat. Doesn’t even matter if you can win a championship. But if you can set a record you can get paid – big! Ask Asafa Powell who from 2003 (his breakthrough season) until now has yet to win a gold medal in a major global championship – not as much as a silver. Two bronze, and two fifth place finishes in major competition. Yet four world records have been worth $400,000 in bonus money (not counting what he may have gotten from his shoe company), and he’s been able to sit in matchup race negotiations and ask for more money than his gold medal winning counterparts!

So our marketing and rewards systems are geared towards the achievement of that which should be the rare achievement – the ultimate in achievements. But we have told our athletes, and the general public, that we as a sport are looking for our athletes to achieve these with regularity. That’s why and what we want the public to come witness! At least that’s what we advertise. That’s the hype that we build and the carrot that we place in front of our athletes. We will reward you handsomely if you can achieve that which should be the most difficult to achieve. No wonder athletes don’t worry about meeting each other head to head – there’s no incentive in that (just a pet peeve)!

So much for the message that we send the athletes and the public. How about the war itself – surely we are doing better on the front lines? Well, no we’re not. When you fight a war you do so with the strongest ammunition you have, but that’s not how we are fighting this war. This war is being fought using urinalysis as the primary weapon. Which today is the equivalent of using a slingshot instead of a bomb.

The method that should be in place is blood testing and blood passports. A system that was developed a decade ago prior to the Sydney Olympics. Utilizing this type of testing method, not only would we be better able to detect known substances in the system, but we would be able to detect abnormalities which would indicate foreign substances that we have yet to develop a profile for – such as those created by BALCO and Victor Conte. But the sport has moved slowly towards adopting this methodology – while we continue to find after the fact that athlete after athlete has repeatedly beaten the system currently in place! We have been told that this may be in place by London, but that is nearly a decade after BALCO burst on the scene! Doesn’t give the impression that having the state of the art system in place is a priority – something that most generals insist upon when fighting a war!

Now to be fair we have been told many times in the last couple of years that athletes have given urine AND given blood and that it has been tested. However, testing blood WITHOUT having a base profile (the passport) is nearly as worthless as urinalysis. The passport (base profile) is the key that enables the tester to detect “anomalies” that would point to possible “undetectables”. And if we’ve learned anything in the last half decade or so – or maybe the sport hasn’t – it’s that the real threat in this war is that which we AREN’T already aware of!

Which brings me to the final reason why we are losing this war – poor use of intel and prisoners of war! In a real war you want to capture the enemy – because you can use him/her to advance your cause. They can tell you what you are up against. Reveal enemy plans. Let you know where the traps, bombs, and weapons are that the other side plans to use against you. Prisoners of war can provide VALUABLE information that could lead to the end of the war – hopefully with fewer casualties than without the advanced intel.

But this sport treats those “captured” from the other side as garbage that simply must be disposed. We dismiss what they have to say as the “rantings” of a cheat. Because after all there is no way that someone that took advantage of the system would EVER tell the truth. Every word uttered from their mouth from that point forward MUST be a lie and treated as such. Once “busted” or convicted (as in the case of many involved with BALCO) this sport wants nothing more to do with you. We don’t want you to run, jump, throw, coach, teach, or otherwise interact with anyone else associated with this sport. Never mind that you say you want to make amends by telling us exactly how you were able to accomplish what you did. Never mind that you tell us what is out there even when we don’t ask for it, because we don’t want to hear it and don’t plan to use it. Please pack up and leave we have no further use for you. I’m so glad track and field wasn’t in charge of World War II!

So Charlie Francis had to go underground. And while I doubt any of the leadership of track and field ever read “Speed Trap”, I’m certain that throngs of athletes and those who were interested in how he got Ben to the point he did read it – I did. Probably a primer and blueprint for Victor Conte (a rhetorical statement) and others in the business on what works and what doesn’t. Should have been, and should be, a must read for anyone on the front lines of the drug War. Just like the sport should have contracted with Victor Conte to conduct seminars on doping for members of anti doping associations world wide – so they know what they’re up against! And they all should read “Blood Sport” by Robin Parisotto – the guy that developed the blood testing / blood passport protocol. I have a copy if anyone is interested.

My point is that Francis, Conte, Jones, Graham, Gatlin, Chambers, and the myriad of others that have either been caught, or in some cases come clean, have all been prisoners of war at one time or other. Prisoners who have all been branded with the label “cheat” and immediately dismissed as trash, instead of being utilized for their considerable knowledge. Be it direct knowledge of doping. Knowledge of distribution systems. Knowledge of usage and clearing timing. All sorts of information that could be applied to new methodologies of detection! Methodologies that could accelerate the war and put our side in a better position to compete. But the arrogance of this sport leaves us with only one alternative – test and eliminate in those rare instances when we succeed. Not a winning strategy in my opinion.

So that’s my diatribe on why we are losing this war. Because at every level we don’t appear to be fighting to win!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Big 12 Notes

Track and Field: 83rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays

Recently I posted my opinion of the Pac10 after viewing their conference meet on Fox Sports. Having had the opportunity to watch the Big12 championship this past weekend I want to add to my conference outlooks prior to the start of the regional meets this upcoming weekend.

First off, before I get any further, let me say that this meet was run under very, very poor weather conditions. Yet there were some very good marks that came out of this meet. And most certainly there are athletes in this conference that will have a lot to say about who takes home the hardware in Eugene next month.

Having said that, on the women's side of the ledger this meet was all about the Texas A&M Aggies and Lisa Koll of Iowa State. The Aggies are a sprint powerhouse in the mold of past Texas and LSU squads. Probably not much of a coincidence since Aggie coach Pat Henry used to coach at LSU – and he hasn’t lost his touch. The amazing thing about their performance as a team was that they were able to dominate this meet without top sprinter Gaby Mayo who was being rested in anticipation of the Regional and National meets. Without Mayo they still scored 157 points (over Nebraska’s 107) and didn’t miss a beat in the sprinting department.

Without Mayo the Aggies still won the 4x1 relay and scored 18 points in the 100, 27 points in the 200, and 15 points in the 100 hurdles – all events where Mayo is among the nations best. In her absence we got what just may have been the emergence of sophomore Jeneba Tarmoh as a national force. Tarmoh won both the 100 & 200 as well as contributing a leg on the winning 4x1, taking the national lead in the 200 in the process. Throw in conference champions Jessica Beard (400) and Natasha Ruddock (100 hurdles), 200 runner up Porscha Lucas, both relays and a returning Gaby Mayo, and the Aggies have enough speed strength to make things interesting with the Oregon women in a few weeks! They’re not as deep as the Ducks overall, but if the Aggies can get a little help from some other squads in reducing the number of points the Ducks can get in the speed events, it could be a speed vs distance battle for the NCAA title.

The Aggies will get some help from the Big 12, as Lisa Koll is clearly the best long distance runner in the nation. Koll is the national leader in both the 5000 and 10000 and looked every bit the part here as she cruised to easy wins in both. She is a big time performer who seems to be very dialed in to her pace right now. She doesn’t seem to have much competition at this level and looks ready to step up to the next level, much the same as Jenny Barringer did this time last year.

On the men’s side of things its about the Aggies and Oklahoma hurdler Ronnie Ash. The Aggies are the defending national champion and like their female counterparts, the Aggie men are powered by their sprinters. Conference champions Gerald Phiri (100), Curtis Mitchell (200) and Tabarie Henry (400) are the core that ran the Aggie machine in this meet and will have to come through in Eugene if they hope to repeat. All three have a shot at taking the podium in their individual events. And judging from their conference runs Phiri and Mitchell have a shot at individual gold – especially Mitchell. But their road to another title could be fragile as they don’t have the overall depth that they had last year and that a few other teams have this year. In Missouri they finished third behind Nebraska and Oklahoma – two teams not anticipated to be in the overall title hunt in Eugene – and they finished behind Baylor in the 4x1. To repeat their big 3 and both relays will have to come through with big points, any falters and their chase for a title could be over early. A potentially tough chore with the Pac10, ACC and SEC all sending powerful sprint squads to Eugene.

Just as Lisa Koll is the conference’s most dominating athlete on the women’s side, hurdler Ronnie Ash may be on the men’s side. Ash leads the nation in the high hurdles at 13.31 – his winning time here – and has five races under 13.60 this season.Only WR holder Dayron Robles and current world leader David Oliver have run faster this season. Ash should head into Eugene as one of the strongest favorites in the meet having won the title last year while at Bethune Cookman.

Finally, look for the Baylor Bears to make some noise. They don’t have any big name athletes this time around, but as they showed in the 4x1 here they will be someone to recon with. Watch for them as they attempt to play spoiler in both relays, and potentially stealing points in the 200 & 400.

These are the faces to look for come Eugene. While the big points should come from the Pac10 and the SEC watch for the teams from the Big12 to decide who the teams titles go to. Both Texas A&M squads will most certainly be in the conversation, and scorers from throughout the conference could steal away points some of the leading schools could need to cement a title.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hurdlers Oliver and Demus Highlight Shanghai

Solid results in the recently completed Shanghai leg of the Diamond League though not as “hot” as many were anticipating. Glancing around the internet many are decrying the Shanghai track as “slow” because of many of the marks. However, this is the same track that produced 10.64 for Carmellita Jeter in last year’s meet, saw Wariner run 44.02 in ‘07, and has very wide sweeping turns. So I think it a bit unfair to put the onus on the track for today’s performances. Especially in light of the fact that there were many season’s bests set by various athletes today – just not from the athletes many wanted or expected them from.

Having said that, let’s start with the highlights from the meet. First would be Lashinda Demus who demolished the 400 hurdle field in a WL 53.34. Demus is clearly on a mission this year having a full season under her belt following child birth. Not only did she demolish this field but got very close to 53.00 and was exactly one second away from the world record. At her current pace, Demus could give that mark a scare this year. She left the competition well behind today, and there is much work for the rest of the world to do to catch up with Demus at this point.

The other hurdler that put on a show in China was David Oliver who has been nothing but solid and consistent as season long so far. Oliver has always started his seasons fast, but somehow has found injury along the way. So far this season, however, he’s simply ratcheted his season (and world) bests down meet by meet. Today he dipped under the 13 second barrier with a world leading 12.99. It was his 3rd ever sub 13 and very close to his PR of 12.95. If Oliver can stay healthy he is definitely going to be a force in this event. He’s already beaten Dayron Robles – last week in Daegu – and right now appears to have moved into the role of the World Record holders primary competition. We could be seeing the emergence of the newest rivalry in the sport.

The meet’s biggest upset occurred in the women’s shot put, where all everything Valerie Villi (NZL) went down in defeat to Bulgaria’s Nadezhda Ostapchuk. Ostapchuk threw a world leading 67’ 11” far outdistancing runner up Villi’s 64’ 8.5”. Villi entered the meet the clear world leader at 67’ 6” with Ostapchuk well back in terms of marks at 66’ 1.5”, but today the Bulgarian was huge and appears ready to make Villi work for top billing in the event.

Two world leaders that did not falter however, but did not produce what fans may have been looking for were Carmelita Jeter and Usain Bolt. Jeter won the 100 by a huge .20 over World and Olympic champ Shelly Ann Fraser. The race went according to form with Fraser leading early and Jeter coming on in mid race, but once Jeter hit her stride the race was no contest as she won going away 11.09 to 11.29. The mark was well off her season leading 10.94 run in Kingston earlier in the month – somewhat surprising since this is the same track that yielded her a 10.64 last year (would have been nice to have a men’s race to compare against). But her show of power in mid race indicates two things: one, she is going to be very hard to beat in 2010, and two, if she ever nails the start expect something spectacular.

Usain Bolt, meanwhile, did what has come to be expected. He ran by the field on the turn of the 200 and came home under 20 seconds in 19.76. Knowing that this track is fast enough to yield a 10.64 to Jeter, and with it’s very wide turns, I had expected something closer to what Gay produced in Britain earlier in the month – something in the 19.4 range. But after watching the race reality hit me. It was his second hard race in less than a week. But more importantly, watching the run, there was no challenge in this race and Bolt knew it. So the race lacked the intensity of his opener (19.56) where he was clearly running, not against the competition, but against the clock and his own expectations to see how well he could do.  And I suspect that we will see some “down” performances like this until he is on the track against Gay in the 200 (if we ever see that this year) or either Powell or Gay in the 100. Because it has to be hard to self motivate race after race knowing if you simply execute you win. Another reason the sport needs more head to heads among the best.

But if you want to talk about a winner eliciting disappointment it had to be Jeremy Wariner who won his first 400 of the season. The reason is that Wariner’s time was “only” 45.41 yet was his season best so far for the year! Now he did beat solid competition. He avenged his earlier loss to David Neville who was second in this race in 45.70. And he also turned back up and comers Ben Offereins (AUS) and Michael Bingham (GBR) though neither were anywhere near their best marks of the season. Especially Offereins who at 46.08 was a country mile away from his seasons best 44.86. But the story here is Wariner who used to run under 45 seconds as easily as a walk in the park. As a matter of fact, my personal nickname for him has been the Human Metronome so methodically and rhythmically has he cranked out 44 second races over the years. But with June just a tad more than a week away, he is no where near running a sub 45 (let alone sub 44) and one has to wonder where he is in both his development this season, but more importantly in his career. He’s back with coach Clyde Hart (almost a year now) after leaving during the 2008 season. But the “magic” has yet to return. His story is one to keep a close watch on this season.

But the stars of this meet was the hurdlers. So enjoy David Oliver’s World Leading 12.99 below.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Diamond League Meeting # 2 Shanghai on Tap Tomorrow

The second of the 14 meet Diamond League meets will be run tomorrow in Shanghai China. Overall Shanghai has a solid set of fields as the series seems to be hitting it’s stride. We should be getting a Liu Xiang sighting tomorrow and a feel for how well his comeback is coming. But while the hurdles have been the highlight of the meet in the past, taking on Diamond League status this year has brought several strong fields to China. Following are the events that I think bring the best set of match ups to Shanghai.


Women’s 100 WL: 10.94, Carmelita Jeter - USA Best Entry: 10.94, Carmelita Jeter - USA

Perhaps the best early season sprint matchup of the season – men or women – as #2 all time Jeter goes head to head with current World and Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser (JAM). Jeter ran her PR 10.64 on this same track late last season, so we know the track is capable of delivering a fast time. Fraser set her PR of 10.73 while winning gold in Berlin. The race will be a contrast in styles as Fraser is a classic starter, and Jeter a classic finisher. We should see Fraser burst from the blocks and separate early with Jeter kicking in the jets mid race. The race will come down to who can execute their weakness better – can Jeter stay close early and can Fraser maintain form late. Fraser has yet to run a 100 this year while Jeter has already run under 11.00. Advantage Jeter, who should run under 10.90 tomorrow.


Women’s 400H WL: 54.02, Lashinda Demus - USA Best Entry: Lashinda Demus - USA

This race features the current world leader, Demus against reigning World and Olympic champion Melaine Walker (JAM) and sub 53.00 performer Sheena Tosta (USA). Walker has won her titles with a very strong finishing kick in the final stretch – a kick that found her running past a fading Demus last year in Berlin. 2009 was Demus’ first back from maternity leave, so we will see if having a full season and off season under her belt will help late in the race. Even though this is the first race for both Walker and Tosta, both are more than capable of coming in and running fast. Demus should be the first half leader. How well all three run the final turn should have a strong bearing on the outcome of this race. Watch for stumbles over hurdles down the stretch as all three should pressure each other. Demus has the advantage having already competed this year, but Walker is tough when close late.


Men’s 400 WL: 44.81, Calvin Smith - USA Best Entry: 44.86 – Ben Offereins - AUS

This race could tell us a lot about the immediate future of this event with all eyes focused on Jeremy Wariner. Jeremy opened his season earlier this month with a narrow loss to David Neville – who is also in this race. Wariner’s time was a pedestrian (for him) 45.47. With Lashawn Merritt gone from the event, Wariner should immediately be declared King. But with sub par performances all last season, and starting this season with a loss to a sprinter he would have beaten easily in past seasons, there are questions about where Wariner is at this stage of his career. The race will also tell us just how good Offereins is. He ran very fast very early, having run sub 45 way back in February – dropping his PR from 45.69 all the way down to 44.86. Will we see further improvement or a reversion back into the 45’s? Another 44 and he could emerge from China as a serious contender in this event. Britain’s Michael Bingham could also stake a claim as a contender in this race. He has a best of 44.74 run last year and his 45.14 run just over a week ago is both close to the 45sec barrier and better than both Wariner and Neville so far this season. This event is waiting for someone to take charge. I think that the winner here could have a lot to say about who controls the rest of the season.


Men’s LJ WL: 27’ 4.75”, Alain Bailey - JAM Best Entry: 27’ 4”, Chris Noffke - AUS

Here’s an event that should be ultra competitive. Noffke joined the 27 foot club with his 27’ 4" last month – joining what has become a very talented group of long jumpers in Australia. Among them is Fabrice Lapierre. A legal 27’ 4.75” jumper who blasted a huge 28’ 1.5” mark last year – albeit windy (+3.5). Both will get the opportunity to prove themselves against two of the best the event has seen in the last decade as Dwight Philips (USA) and Irving Saladino (PAN) have won every available championship since 2003 and sit =5th (Philips, 28’ 8.25”) and 8th (Saladino, 28’ 7.75”) all time. Philips seems to have gotten a second wind to his career the past couple of seasons as he’s been jumping better than ever. He enters this competition as the favorite in my mind. Saladino has been less consistent at the higher levels, but still has the ability to bring it on the day. Watch for Lapierre, however. He was very consistent last year and has become a very strong competitor – and has shown that he is capable of hitting something big.

The above should produce the best match ups on the day. There are two other events that bear watching, not so much for their competitiveness as to see how well two athletes will perform.

One is the men’s pole vault. Aussie Steven Hooker has already vaulted 19’ 4.75” outdoors this season. Doing so back in February. Indoors, however, he vaulted a huge 19’ 8.5” at Worlds and is on a mission this year for the 20 foot barrier. Being very consistent at well over 19 feet this year, any venue could produce a huge vault given good conditions. His competitions are something to watch as he attempts to join the great Sergei Bubka over 20 feet.

The other man to watch will be Usain Bolt. Bolt is entered in the 200 here and has already gone 19.56 this season. He ran 9.86 earlier in the week in Daegu after watching Tyson Gay run 19.41 in this event on the straight in Birmingham. With no head to head’s between the two, we will have to compare notes as they compete in separate venues. So Shanghai will give us the next salvo in the Bolt v Gay lead up to a showdown.

With no one else in the field having a PR under 20.39, this will be a solo run for Bolt, but he could lead two interesting entrants to new PR’s. One is young sprinter Ryan Bailey (USA) who has been compared to Bolt as both are very tall sprinters. Bailey got his first win on foreign soil last week winning the 200 in Daegu which should help his confidence going into this race. The other that I expect to PR is 400 hurdler Angelo Taylor. Taylor is the second fastest entrant in the race having run 20.39 earlier this season. Angelo has been using this “off year” to run a bit of everything and appears to be in stellar shape. It will be interesting to see just how fast both he and Bailey will run. I suspect that Bolt will run somewhere near 19.40 so if either can attempt to stay close early they could get caught up in the race and get near 20.00.

Should be a good set of competitions.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pac-10 Notes

NCAA Track and Field: Pacific-10 Conference Championships

I had the opportunity to watch the Pac-10 championships last night as they are now being shown on Fox Sports (check your local listings). Over the next week they will also be televising the Big12, Big10 and SEC championships. So I thought I would watch them all and give my 2 cents as to how these major conferences are shaping up as they head into the Regional and NCAA Championships.

On the women’s side to paraphrase an old saying, if it crossed the line first it must’ve been a Duck. As in the Oregon Ducks, because that’s how dominating this team was. The Oregon women have put together one of the most complete, dominating squads I’ve seen at any level. We know they have distance runners – that’s what Oregon is known for. But now they have sprinters, relays, and field event performers. Result? They piled up 215 points – over 100 points  more than runner up Arizona State (109). That’s domination.

Can they do it on the big stage? Not to the tune of 200 points, but right now I see them as a very strong favorite to win the title at home. Their distance core of Zoe Buckman, Jordan Hasay, Nicole Blood, Alex Kosinski, Anne Kesselring, and Mattie Bridgmon should pile up big points. But also look for sprinters Amber Purvis and Keshia Baker to score points – Baker could win the 400 – along with both relay squads. Throw in heptathlete Brianne Thiessen and you have a potential juggernaut heading into Nationals. They will score the bulk of any Pac-10 points scored at nationals.

If you’re looking for a non Duck to score big at nationals it would have to be Washington’s Katie Follett in the 1500. She left a bit too much early here and just missed out on the Pac-10 title, but I don’t expect her to leave so much to make up again.

On the men’s side it looks like the Pac-10 is back as a force on the collegiate scene. Yes there are the Oregon men. Though they are not as dominant as their female counterparts – but I’m not sure anyone is. The Ducks also won the men’s title though in a much closer battle with resurging USC – 168.5 to 156. These Ducks are all about middle and long distance running and Superman Ashton Eaton. They depend on a core of Matt Centrowitz, Mac Fleet, A.J. Acosta, and Elijah Greer. But the heart and soul of this team – and their chances of winning nationals – are Andrew Wheating and Ashton Eaton. Wheating won the 800 here, but is also their best 1500 man. To have a shot at the big one he may have to double – we will find out when they run regionals in a week – as he has the potential to win both. Eaton was all over the place. He won the decathlon – run the week before – but got big points in the 100 (2nd), high hurdles (1st), and long jump (1st). Eaton is clearly the best decathlete in college today, and is looking like a big scorer in the high hurdles as well. The Ducks title hopes rest on the broad shoulders of their two leaders.

The other strong team from this conference heading into nationals is USC. Once a national power, the Trojans have been a bit on the down side for a while now. A school once known for it’s strong sprint teams is rebounding on the strength of sprinter Ahmad Rashad and quarter miler Joey Hughes. Between them they won all three sprint events, took 2nd in the 4x1 and won the 4x4. Rashad looks capable of scoring high again in the 100 (was 2nd last year) and Hughes looks like big points in the 400. They also have the feel good story of the year in quarter miler Bryshon Nellum. The do all everything high school star of 2008, the young man was shot in the leg in a drive by shooting before he could get his collegiate career off the ground. Showing what perseverance, hard work and determination can do he scored third here in 45.94 and ran lead off on the winning 4x4. IN addition to the points he added to the USC cause, he is clearly an inspiration to his teammates who performed here as I’ve not seen a USC perform in a while.

Speaking of quarter milers, Arizona State 400 man Donald Sanford looks like he too could be a factor in Eugene. And everyone needs to keep an eye on the UCLA 4x1 squad. There’s not a major name on the squad, yet they are the smoothest passing unit I’ve seen all year. Which is why they won the Pac-10 title with a solid 39.66 in less than ideal conditions. The SEC and Big 12 squads have gone faster, but these kids move that stick and if anyone else falters they will be there to pick up the pieces.

The Pac-10 is also the home of Ryan Whiting of Arizona State. And while his team may not be in the title hunt, Whiting could possibly pull off a double of his own. He’s clearly the nations best shot putter – a solid 70 foot thrower. But he’s also improving in the discus as he set his season’s best in winning here over #2 ranked Aaron Dan of USC – another strong scorer for the Trojans. Both young men should do well in Eugene.

Last, but not least, I want to mention 400 hurdler Jeshua Anderson. He won his third Pac-10 title, leads the nation in this event, and could be headed for his third straight 400 meter hurdle title. Anderson is just stronger than the competition at this level. 

Overall, I expect the Pac-10 to make a lot of noise in Eugene.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Usain Bolt Runs 9.86 in Daegu

After fast season opening sprint times by Asafa Powell and Tyson Gay this past week, Bolt responds with world leading 9.86. Video below along with top results of all events.


  MEN’S 100 Wind +0.1 mps  
1. Usain Bolt JAM 9.86 0.179
2. Michael Frater JAM 10.15 0.151
3. Mike Rodgers USA 10.18 0.154
4. Trell Kimmons USA 10.25 0.151
5. Travis Padgett USA 10.30 0.138



  MEN’S 200 Wind -0.6 mps  
1. Ryan Bailey USA 20.58 0.228
2. Marvin Anderson JAM 20.59 0.243
3. Rae Edwards USA 20.73 0.208
4. Johan Wissman SWE 21.20 0.217
5. Jeremy Davis USA 21.28 0.258



  MEN’S 400      
1. Angelo Taylor USA 45.21 0.308
2. Rabah Yousif SUD 45.38 0.283
3. Germain Gonzales USA 45.52 0.355
4. David Neville USA 45.57 0.184
5. Miles Smith USA 45.84 0.231



  MEN’S 800      
1. Mbulaeni Mulaudzi RSA 1:45.60  
2. Gilbert Kipchoge KEN 1:46.01  
3. Abraham Kiplagat KEN 1:46.02  
4. Ismael Kombich KEN 1:46.41  
5. Benson Seurei KEN 1:47.20  



  MEN’S 3000 Steeplechase      
1. Chelimo Kipterege KEN 8:14.59  
2. Silas Kitum KEN 8:15.81  
3. Bisluke Kipkorir KEN 8:16.68  
4. Mubarak Taher BRN 8:17.22  
5. Linus Chumba KEN 8:19.26  



  MEN’S 110 Hurdles Wind -0.2 mps  
1. David Oliver USA 13..11 0.170
2. Dayron Robles CUB 13.26 0.216
3. Dwight Thomas JAM 13.40 0.161
4. David Payne USA 13.52 0.170
5. Ryan Brathwaite BAR 13.67 0.190



  MEN’S Triple Jump      
1. Randy Lewis GRN 55’ 9.5” -1.6
2. Duck Hyun Kim KOR 55’ 4” -0.8
3. Samyr Laine HAI 54’ 7” +0.3
4. Brandon Roulhac USA 54’ 2.75” -0.5
5. Leevan Sands BAH 53’ 7.75” -1.2



  MEN’S Javelin      
1. Igor Janik POL 263’ 11.75”  
2. Jae Myung Park KOR 262’ 10”  
3. Mark Frank GER 258’ 4.75”  
4. Corey White USA 250’ 11.75”  
5. Roman Avramenko UKR 248’ 4.75”  



  WOMEN’S 100 Wind -0.3 mps  
1. Carmelita Jeter USA 11.00 0.169
2. Veronica Campbell Brown JAM 11.05 0.207
3. Sherone Simpson JAM 11.26 0.162
4. Gloria Asumnu USA 11.48 0.175
5. Tianna Madison USA 11.54 0.177



  WOMEN’S 200 Wind +0.0 mps  
1. Bianca Knight USA 22.92 0.254
2. Cydonie Mothersille CAY 23.14 0.214
3. Rosemarie Whyte JAM 23.30 0.234
4. Ebony Floyd Broadnax USA 23.53 0.228
5. Jody Henry AUS 23.99 0.176



  WOMEN’S 800      
1. Kenia Sinclair JAM 2:00.51  
2. Pamela Jelimo KEN 2:01.52  
3. Madeleine Pape AUS 2:01.88  
4. Tetiana Petlyuk UKR 2:02.66  
5. Katherine Katsanevakis AUS 2:03.29  



  WOMEN’S 1500      
1. Nikki Hamblin NZL 4;15.21  
2. Kaila McKnight AUS 4:15.90  
3. Esther Chentai KEN 4:16.62  
4. Sonja Roman SLO 4:16.78  
5. Tamara Tverdostup UKR 4:17.57  



  WOMEN’S 100 Hurdles Wind -0.1 mps  
1. Virginia Powell USA 12.77 0.150
2. Lolo Jones USA 12.78 0.180
3. Perdita Felicien CAN 12.80 0.145
4. Tiffani Ofili USA 12.94 0.186
5. Yeon Kyung Lee KOR 13.12 0.150



  WOMEN’S Pole Vault      
1. Julia Golubchikova RUS 15’ 3”  
2. Carolin Hingst GER 14’ 9”  
3. Lacy Janson USA 14’ 9”  
4. Silke Spiegelburg GER 14’ 9”  
5. Tatyana Polnova RUS 14’ 5.25”  



  WOMEN’S Long Jump      
1. Funmi Jimoh USA 21’ 11.5” -0.9
2. Soon Ok Jung KOR 21’ 2.75” -0.7
3. Ivana Spanovic SRB 20’ 10.75” -1.1
4. Yargeris Savigne CUB 20’ 10.75” -1.0
5. Carlina Kluft SWE 20’ 7.75” -1.5



  WOMEN’S Hammer      
1. Betty Heidler GER 246’ 11.75”  
2. Tatiana Lysenko RUS 237’ 4.75”  
3. Katrin Klaas GER 236’ 7.25”  
4. Anita Wlodarczyk POL 235’ 9”  
5. Sultana Frizell CAN 233’ 8.25”  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Want Half? Not Really!

Adidas Track Classic

Remember when you were a kid and someone had something that you really wanted, like a stick of gum or a candy bar? So you asked if they had another one and they said, “no, want half?”. You reluctantly said yes, because you really wanted the gum or the candy, but somehow half was just never as good as having the whole thing!

Well, that’s how I feel having looked at the schedule for the Diamond League, as well as the majority of major meets on this year’s schedule. I love watching a good track meet, but what the sport seems to be offering these days is just half! It really hit me when I was looking at the Track & Field News website last week and noticed that they had put together “A Guide to the Diamond League”. A full page explanation of just which events are being run in which Diamond League meets!

I’ve never needed an explanation of what events are going to be in a track meet before! Not only have I spent most of my life knowing what events are in a meet, but I can tell you verbatim what events are supposed to come in what order (there is an order to a track meet, or at least there used to be)! Now however, here in the New Millennium, we suddenly need an explanation of what to expect at each Diamond League meet – because you see, they’re really only half meets. So we got the Men’s 100 in Doha, but there was no men’s 200 or 400. We did get to see the women run the 200 & 400 in Doha, but there was no 100 – a shame because there have been some really good times in the 100 on the Doha track as the men’s 100 demonstrated.

So we get alternating events, but never all the events. Well, can’t say never because London gets them all – it  just takes them two days to do it. I never knew it took TWO days to run a meet with all finals! The two final meets of the Diamond League season (Zurich & Brussels) have exactly half of the events each. So if somehow you can get to Zurich and Brussels at the end off August you can see every event on the schedule – including the one race that has Bolt, Gay AND Powell this year. However, US citizens beware, in our two DL meets you won’t get to see Jeremy Wariner, Blanka Vlasic or Arianne Friedrich – because neither the men’s 400 nor women’s high jump are on the schedule in either New York or Eugene!

Confused yet? If you’re a sometime fan that watches occasionally maybe not. But if you are truly a fan of the sport, do you really want half? Now, I understand all the arguments that have been put out there. People won’t sit for more than two hours to watch a track meet. Can’t hold their interest that long. Attention spans are too short. Meets are too boring. I’ve heard them all. Yet people sit for hours to watch OTHER sports – basketball, baseball, football, hockey to name a few. They not only sit for hours but if the game goes into overtime they stay for that too! So what’s different about track and field that fans won’t stay past too hours?

I’ll tell you what. It lies in the last excuse I listed above – boring! Track and field, the sport that has something for just about everyone; that arguably has some of the best athletes on the planet participating has been dumbed down AND made BORING! The sport that I once had to park over a mile away from the Fresno, Modesto and San Jose stadiums and walk the final mile because every parking spot for blocks and blocks was taken. The sport where I once watched people climb the fence at UCLA to watch a UCLA/USC dual meet because every seat in the house was sold – FOR A DUAL MEET! The sport where I still have to get to the stadium a couple of hours early if I want to get a good seat at the California State High School Championships, tells me that fans can handle sitting through an ENTIRE meet just fine! 

All the meets that I mentioned above were/are full meets with ALL of the events and run/ran for several hours – and no one complained! What’s the difference between these meets and the Diamond League and other similar meets? Simple. Those meets could all boast a full slate of top level competitors going at it from the start of the meet until the end! That UCLA/USC dual meet had Greg Foster, James Sanford, Clancy Edwards, and Millard Hampton going at it, not once, not twice, but THREE times that afternoon – 4x1, 100, 200 – and no one left the stadium! I watched Steve Williams, Don Quarrie, Reggie Jones and Houston McTear go toe to toe in Modesto. This after watching Rod Milburn blaze a set of hurdles and Randy Williams and Arnie Robinson duke it out in the long jump. And finished the day watching Dwight Stones jump to victory as the moon was coming out – and the stands were still packed!

Unfortunately, today’s elite track meet can’t boast that kind of star quality across the board. Today we are lucky if we have half that many top quality athletes at a meet – and therein lies the problem. Track and field has stopped putting a competitive product on the track! You can no longer go to a meet confident that you are going to see top level athletes in every event. As a matter of fact you KNOW that is not going to be the case. Because track and field has become just like the Harlem Globetrotters – more exhibition than competition. Track tries to sell the marquee and entice the paying public to come see certain athletes perform. It may be Bolt, Felix and Friedrich in one meet. Another meet may feature Gay, Rudisha and Richards. Yet another meet may tout having Robles, Powell and Vlasic. But unless it’s the World Championships or Olympics, good luck having them all together in one venue!

Today’s “professional” track meets have become the track and field equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters’ traveling show. You know, the Globetrotters vs the Washington Generals game after game. The Globetrotters are the marquee, the Generals the patsy brought in to give the Globetrotters someone to play against. The Globetrotters come to town and pose for pictures and do interviews, then go out and, yet again, run up a big score on the Generals, and everyone goes home happy they’ve seen the World Famous Harlem Globetrotters!

And THAT is why track and field has become such a hard sell, especially here in the United States – we can only watch so much of the Harlem Globetrotters! As much as we like the entertainment value of all of their tricks, inside we wonder how they would fare against a team of comparable ability! We want to see them challenged – we want to see competition! The Globetrotters are really an EXHIBITION and we really want to see a hard fought game. Track and field, like the Globetrotters, has gravitated towards becoming a series of exhibitions, leading up to one really big meet each season – Worlds or Olympics! We get Usain Bolt in this meet, and Tyson Gay in another and Asafa Powell in yet another. But we only get them all together once a year!

So the paying public does what it does so well, it votes with it’s wallet! And somehow, the public is reluctant to spend it’s money on half a meet where only a third of those events have someone they would pay to see! That’s why I’ve watched meet after meet after meet in the US die a slow agonizing death. As meets have gotten to where they aren’t putting the best athletes on the track they’ve dropped off the map. Jack in the Box, Fresno Relays, Modesto Relays, Pepsi Invitational, Kinney Invitational, Jenner Classic. All are former California Invitationals that at one time boasted some of the best fields in the WORLD. Now all RIP in the track meet graveyard – victims of lack of attendance because they lost the ability to put headline athletes on the track.

So, we’re a great draw for our championship meets, and for the occasional meet that draws together more than a handful of our stars. We’re STILL the cener piece of the Olympic Games – the worlds greatest sporting spectacle. But in general we struggle trying to figure out the next gimmick that will bring fans through the turnstiles! Because all we seem to be able to give the public is half. Half the events, half the stars, half the excitement. And for fans like me, half just leaves us wanting more.

How did we get here? I’ll give you my opinion in an upcoming post.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tyson Gay Highlights Hot Weekend


The face of track and field is Usain Bolt – he’s double World and Olympic Champion and WR holder in the 100 & 200 meters. Until he’s beaten everyone else will be compared to him. Tyson Gay’s performance Sunday in Manchester say’s he is definitely comparable, and must be in the conversation. I’m sure by now you’ve heard the final time – a sizzling 19.41 for a straight 200 meters that set a new WR for a straight run of the distance. the first thing I heard several people say was, “but Bolt’s record is 19.19 so what’s the big deal about 19.4”. Well let’s take a look at the 19.41.

First off, this was Tyson’s first sprint race of the year – having run two 400’s earlier. Not too shabby for an opener. For comparison,  Bolt opened at 200 this year in 19.56, and last year Tyson opened at 19.58. But a better comparison to Bolt lies in the 150 WR that Bolt set last year at the same meet. Looking at that race and comparing Tyson:

  Tyson Gay (-0.4 mps) Usain Bolt (+1.1) mps
100 9.88 9.91
150 14.41 14.35
200 19.41 NM

Looking at them side by side on the same venue and approximately same time of year they are eerily similar. Some will say that Bolt had more wind, and he did. But frankly you run what you run and the only thing that matters at the end of the day is what your time was and how you do when you race each other. I’m not a fan of recalculating times (far more variables than simply wind reading and altitude) so as I look at the numbers as they are they are nearly identical through 150 meters give or take a few hundredths, which says that Gay CAN compete with Bolt over the 200 meter distance. And dare I say, once again, that while Bolt has been on an incredible run these past two years, he has not had to deal with Gay over this distance since Sept of 2007.

We will see what happens when they step on the track against each other, but suffice it to say that their battles are going to be something memorable – potentially epic.

One man trying to get himself into the conversation is Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, who opened up over 100 meters in Doha on Friday. Running in a heat and a final Powell produced wind aided times of  9.75 (+2.6) and 9.81 (+2.3). Powell displayed what seems to be a change in technique as both races looked different than the typical Powell races of the past. Instead of the immediate burst from the blocks and shorter faster stride pattern over the first 60 meters, there was a more normal start and greater extension throughout the race. It seems that perhaps he is gearing his race to be more competitive with strong finishers Bolt and Gay. Powell was impressive winning against Nesta Carter (9.88), Travis Padgett (9.92) and Michael Frater (9.94) – but  then again it was Nesta Carter, Travis Padgett and Michael Frater. And when all are running near or better than their PR’s in May, we know the Doha surface and wind did their jobs – this is where Olusoji Fasuba ran the only 2 sub 10’s of his life including 9.85. So we will have to wait until we get a head to head with Powell and/or Gay to see if his technical changes are successful.

No need to wait to see how well David Rudisha (KEN) is going to fare this year. A 400 at the end of February saw him run 45.50 – awesome for an 800 meter man. His first 800 in March produced a 1:43.15. Friday in Doha he took to the track again and the results was 1:43.00. Rudisha is clearly in great shape and running confidently. As confidently as any half miler I’ve seen since WR holder Wilson Kipketer was flowing around the track in the late ‘90s’. Barring injury his next foray on the track will be something under 1:43 and one has to believe that having run 1:42.00 last year, at some point this summer we will see 1:41.xx. Definitely one of the most exciting athletes on the track.

Speaking of exciting athletes, did anyone else notice Oregon’s Ashton Eaton this weekend? In the hoopla over the sprinters the past few seasons many have forgotten that once upon a time the title of World’s Greatest Athlete used to be bestowed upon champion decathletes. Rafer Johnson, Bill Toomey, Bruce Jenner, Dailey Thompson, and Dan Obrien all evoked images of Superman. Well it’s still early in his young career, but Eaton could certainly put an “S” on his chest and I would support it. All he did at the Pac-!0 Championships – aside from winning the decathlon the week before – was run a heat of the 100 in 10.19 (+2.7) before taking second in the final in 10.33 (-1.1); win the 110 hurdles in 13.54 (-1..5); and win the long jump at 25’ 7.5”! Great performances all the way around.

He could have competition in the Superman department however, as on the other side of the country, Florida’s Christian Taylor won the triple jump (54’ 8.75”), took second in the long jump (26’ 10.5”) and finished off the meet with a leg on the winning 4x4 (3:02.69) – he’s run 45.55 in his only attempt at the open race this year – while competing in a meet marred by multiple delays and bad weather!

I mention these two “Supermen” because they are two of the most exciting collegiate athletes who just happen to be competing for what looks to be the two most powerful collegiate teams this year – Oregon and Florida. All of whom look to be on a collision course for the NCAA Championships this year. Both Oregon and Florida won their respective conferences this weekend (Pac-10 and SEC) and Eaton & Taylor are sure to play integral roles when everyone gets together in Eugene in early June.

There was lots of action at this weekend’s collegiate conferences. The link on the right for the USFTCCCA Conference Central will take you to all of the results, but in addition to Eaton and Taylor, I must mention the men’s 100 and 400 from the SEC meet. Inclement weather and several rain delays made things rough all the way around in this meet. Yet sprinter Jeff Demps (Florida) turned in a nation leading 10.06 in the 100. Demps is the National High School Record Holder (10.01) and appears to be back in form and on a roll this year! Hot high school sprinters have often had difficulty in college, but Demps looks to be breaking that stereotype. The men’s 400 had three freshmen finishing in the top four as Kirani James (Alabama, 45.01), Tavaris Tate (Mississippi St, 45.16) and Tony McQuay (Florida, 45.46) finished 1, 2 and 4 in the event. Four of the best young talents in the event who bear watching as the global landscape of the 400 is clearly changing. 

Next up will be the Diamond League’s Shanghai meet this next weekend. Below is a look at Tyson Gay’s sterling effort in the 200 meters.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Why Aren’t American’s Peaking at Big Meets?

A very good question that was put on the table by Track and Field News. I asked the very same question as I watched both Beijing and Berlin. Because as Mr. Hill observed (no relation to my knowledge), we have looked like gang busters at our selection meets, only to falter poorly at the actual  global championship event!

Let’s review what happened in Beijing – the biggest and brightest stage that the sport is presented on. In the women's 800 meters not one of our women made it out of the first round. In the shot put, arguably one of our strongest events, not one man could manage to throw over 70 feet as only Cantwell threw over 69 feet and it took until his final throw to do so.

In the women's 400 Mary Wineberg and Dee Dee Trotter failed to make the final after posting very subpar times in their semifinals. Then their hurdle counterparts Sheena Tosta and Queen Harrison were only able to make it out of the first round as the fastest losers. Darvis Patton never seemed to get untracked in the men's 100. Our 1500 meter men were lackluster as all three bowed out in the semis; and our female sprinters seemed to be a couple steps off from round one through the final as all performed well below form while finishing off the medal stand.

Then there were the injuries. Everyone knows what happened to Tyson Gay and the injury he suffered at the Trials. Slowed him in Beijing and he was unable to get out of the semis of the men's 100 meters. But do you remember that Nicole Teter was also unable to finish her first round of the 800 meters? Or that both Diana Pickler and Jackie Johnson were unable to finish the Heptathlon and Deena Kastor and Magdalena Levy-Boulet could not finish the marathon? And this was just during the first three days of the Games! Are you getting the picture? Because that’s not a very good list of non achievement for a team that at the end of the Trials in Eugene appeared to be as strong, if not stronger, than any we've ever sent to an Olympics.

So I concur completely with the folk at Track and Field News that something is wrong with what happens between our selection meets and the actual global championship. I disagree slightly however, with what the reason for that might be. See I don’t think the time between meets is too long, I think it might not be long enough! Now, before you say, "that doesn't make sense" let me explain.

We have long touted the US Olympic Trials as the biggest meet outside of the Olympics themselves - that our Trials are the deepest and toughest in the World, and that the competition is on par with the Olympic Games. Anyone that watched the 2008 version would be hard pressed to argue with that position, because the competition in Eugene was fierce and cutthroat. Many events saw a hundredth of a second as the difference in qualifying from one round to another. And in some cases it was the difference between making the team and staying home.

For most this WAS their Olympics, as they left it all out on the track and the field in the attempt to make the US team and get that golden ticket to Beijing. And it is there that I believe the problem resides. You see, typically after the close of the Olympic Games, many athletes either end their seasons completely or compete sparingly as they still need to earn their money on the Circuit. But those that do continue to compete usually do so at a level a few steps below what they achieved at the Games.

Competing at that level for a week is as tough as it gets. The athletes have to ask their bodies to give it everything they have over and over again. And at the end they are physically taxed. Then there are the emotional highs and lows that the athletes go through mentally, and at the end of the day they are also emotionally and mentally spent. No wonder many decide that it is time to simply go home and rest.

But for the athletes that compete at the Trials and make the team, there is no option for rest as the Games themselves lie ahead. After going through the equivalent of the Olympics, we then ask them to pack their bags, board a plane, and prepare to do it all over again. And though there is some time between the Trials and the Games it appears that perhaps it may not be enough. Perhaps the athletes need more than six weeks to recover from the physical and emotional stress that the Trials put upon them. Maybe asking them to battle each other in early July then turn around and battle the world in mid August has been a bit much.

Just a thought but, maybe the athletes would have been a bit fresher if the Trials had been held in early June or even late May. An extra month certainly would have aided the recovery of Tyson Gay and Nicole Teter. I'm sure Heptathletes Pickler and Johnson could have used some additional time to recover from their seven event wars at the Trials too.

I can already hear the retorts, but the NCAA Championships are run in early June, we can't possibly move the Trials! Well perhaps the NCAA Championships need to be moved as well. It's not like they have a true dual meet season any more. The only difference between being a collegiate athlete and a professional today is the Conference, Regional, and Championships cycle. So ask them to adjust - it’s for the benefit of all, the athletes in particular.

The world has changed. Basketball showed that it realized that in '92 when they opened up the team to the NBA. We had to maximize our best athletes as the world had caught up to us. While we still have the best track and field athletes in the world, we need to make sure that we are maximizing their talents - and asking them to compete in the equivalent of two Olympics within six weeks is not looking like it has been the smartest thing we've ever done.

Now, I know that some people are thinking that having that extra time could also mean that the athletes may have too much time and end up being not as sharp – and I have considered that as well. It could mean that we have to add some sort of “fitness test” to the team selection process. As in, before the final entries are sent in to the IOC or IAAF that those athletes that have made the team should have “X” number of competitions under their belts as well as be within a certain percentage of their PR in order to keep their spots on the team. Yes, blasphemy to those who have grown attached to our “first three across the line” method of selecting our teams. But it wasn’t that long ago that we had TWO Trials meets (ended in the mid 80’s) – National championships and a Final Olympic Trials – where in essence that is exactly what we did to a degree for quite some time.

I’m not advocating a second Trials meet by any means. But I am saying that it would be fairly simple to set up some sort of rubric to ensure that the athletes we send to the Olympics or Worlds are fit enough to maintain their spots and represent the team adequately. As I said earlier, the world has changed – it’s tougher out there! And we have to make sure that we move in a direction that will help us reach that goal of 30 medals in a major. It’s not going to happen by accident. There will have to be some planning involved. And the first thing we will have to plan, or redesign, is a method to make sure our people are at their best when they step foot in the stadium of championship meets! We can’t keep moving backwards or standing in place while the rest of the world moves ahead.