Last summer Andrew Wheating emerged as possibly the brightest face in men’s middle distance running in the U.S.. This past weekend he opened his season with a 1500 meter run at the USATF High Performance meet in Southern California. The result was a 3:36.46 win – the #2 time of his career. Not a bad way to start the season.
With Lopez Lamong (3:37.01, 4th) and Leo Manzano (3:38.26, 9th) in his wake, Wheating opened well against what began to emerge last year as the core of our young middle distance runners. And with just a few weeks until the National Championships, looks ready to make a strong run at the team for Daegu.
Our middle distance fortunes took another step towards competitiveness at the meet as Cory Prim, fresh off his Pac-10 victory for UCLA, stormed to an 800 PR of 1:44.71, with Tyler Mulder (OTC) right behind in 1:44.83. With Wheating and Manzano both running under 1:45 last summer; Nick Symmonds in his prime; and collegians like Casmir Loxsom and Robbie Andrews rapidly improving; we suddenly are looking at a Nationals that should be run in something other than the mundane 1:45/1:46 that we‘ve seen in recent years!
The women’s 800 also saw some solid running as Alice Schmidt (1:59.48) & Maggie Vessey (1:59.56) ran the #2 & #3 times of the season with Geena Gall (2:00.86) rounding off a very nice top three. Schmidt took over the U.S. lead from Phoebe Wright (1:59.98) who has run well early this season. For Gall it was her best time since ‘09 (2:00.44 PR) and it looks like she may be ready to finally drop under 2 minutes and join with Morgan Uceny, Anna Pierce, Allysia Johnson and those above in what should be one hot 800 meter race next month.
Finally, I have to mention that a couple of sprinters went unnoticed when I made reference to Steve Mullings WL 9.89 the other day. First was Travis Padgett’s 9.99 for second place behind Mullings. It was the first sub10 for Padgett since the Olympic season of 2008. He turned the trick twice in Florida as he also ran 9.96w in his heat. While it it doesn’t immediately make him a “contender”, it does make him relevant again. And with his blitz starting ability he could have an effect on the outcome of the final should he make it.
Another who is quietly becoming relevant again is Justin Gatlin, who didn’t contest the 100 in Florida (10.06 earlier this season) but did win the 200 in 20.20 (+1.9). It was his fastest 200 since winning the World Championships in Helsinki in 20.04 (with a follow up 20.04 in Sheffield England shortly thereafter). It gives Gatlin the #7 time in the world at the moment (to go with #14 in the 100), but more importantly shows that he is fit – nearly as fit as when he was double World Champion. I’m not sure which event Gatlin intends to contest at Nationals, or if he will compete in both. But regardless of how one feels about his ban, his recent performances say that he will be competitive in June. Making the sprints at U.S. Nationals this year “must watch TV”!
Speaking of must watch TV, we get the Rome Diamond League in a couple of days and the Jamaican “mini meet” in the 100 with Bolt, Powell, Forsythe and Clarke. Also keep an eye on Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre to see how well he holds up against the hot competition.