It was a very long weekend for track and field. The NCAA regionals, and lower divisions started mid week. Rome was on Thursday. The NCAA meets continued through the weekend. Then following a three day Memorial Day weekend, Ostrava started the week.
One would think that with SO much action that we would have seen more brilliant performances. After all, tomorrow is the first of June, and it’s time to get things crackin! Rome did it’s share on Thursday, but it took until the end of the weekend and today, before things really began to heat up.
That started in Hengelo, where we got to see Dayron Robles once again. Robles, who missed most of the heart of last season due to injury, had only taken to the track once this year – a 13.35 on May 7th. Following the Liu/Oliver battle on May 15th, it was time to see if Robles would make it a three way fight for gold in Daegu. 13.07 seconds after the starting gun went off, Robles was co-world leader with Liu and starting to look like his old self again. After a two day break, he took to the track again in Ostrava and ran 13.14 – the =3 best time of the year and equal to David Oliver’s season best. I think it’s safe to say that Robles is healthy, and that we have the three horse race in the hurdles that we were hoping to get this year! Robles looked sharp and crisp and in mid season form. And if this weekend is any indication, is ready to go toe to toe with Liu and Oliver. This could well be the best rivalry of the year – especially given that the hurdlers run head to head more than the sprinters do!
However, after this weekend, we may have yet another three horse race in Daegu, and another HOT rivalry brewing – this one in the women’s 100 meters. While there is much anticipation over what will happen in the men’s race, with Tyson Gay and Usain Bolt, the women’s race is starting to shape up quite nicely. Defending World & Olympic champion Shelly Ann Price has yet to open up this year, but two time World’s bronze medalist (and #2 ever) Carmelita Jeter had already run 10.86 to lead the world. A week after her 10.86, however, she suffered a loss to Veronica Campbell Brown in Shanghai (10.92 to 10.95), taking a bit of luster off the previous race. Jeter was not in Ostrava today but that didn’t stop Campbell Brown from blazing a PR 10.76 to win handily over the field, and taking the world lead away from Jeter. Brown was silky smooth in Ostrava, gaining a solid start, and systematically running away from everyone. There were no hiccups in a race that said she is going to be a force in both the 100 & 200 in Daegu. In one race she stoked fire on two rivalries – the 200 meters between she and Allyson Felix (world leader in both the 200 & 400 currently); and in the 100 meters with she & Jeter, and perhaps Price depending on her form this year.
Speaking of world leads and rivalries, many expected Usain Bolt to take down upstart countryman Steve Mullings with a new world leader. But while Bolt won again – following Friday’s win in Rome – the time was equal to Rome in 9.91 and just off the world leader (9.89) that Mullings laid down on May 21st. After the blazing run that Campbell Brown on thehad track just prior to Bolt’s race however, one had the feeling that perhaps a low 9.8x would be forthcoming. But another unspectacular start lead to Bolt being slightly down early. A situation he once again rectified with a mid race surge that brought him even with Mullings, who began to tighten before Bolt went by for the win. Mullings’ 9.97 in second was his third sub-10 of the early season, and marked him as clearly in the hunt for a spot on the Jamaican sprint crew. Meanwhile, Bolt has not come out blazing as he has the past three years. Perhaps he’s still trying to adjust to the added muscle that he has come into this season with, or perhaps he’s taking a more conservative approach to this year with World’s as the singular goal. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the season progresses. Bolt doesn’t have to run at Jamaica Trials as he has byes to both sprints in Daegu. So not having to “make the team” he may be working towards a different peak.
No questions about Veronica Campbell Brown, however, who was the athlete of the weekend in my humble opinion. Yes there was lots of NCAA action, which I will begin to talk about in more detail tomorrow as the fields are now set for the NCAA championships. But Rome, Hengelo, and Ostrava were the best events during a very long weekend of activity. We get back to the Golden League this coming weekend with the Prefontaine Classic – which is promising to be HOT from start to finish.
Below are Robles and Campbell Brown’s world leading efforts.