Sunday, June 19, 2011

Nationals Preview – The Long Sprints


The 100 meters gets the headlines, but there are stars aplenty in the long sprints too. Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards, Jeremy Wariner, Wallace Spearmon and a host of new young talent make their homes here in the sprints above 100 meters. So let’s take a look at how these star filled events should play themselves out.


Men’s 200

More than any other sprint, this one will be controlled by the veterans. Tyson Gay has said that he will not run this event here – and possibly not at all this season. That leaves a quartet of vets that have all at one time or other been under 20.00. Two of them – Wallace Spearmon & Walter Dix – make a habit of it annually. On the other hand Justin Gatlin (suspension) & Xavier Carter (injuries/fitness) haven’t seen that territory for a while.

Which leaves the door slightly ajar for a couple of youngsters – Mookie Salaam & Maurice Mitchell – to potentially slip in and get a ticket to South Korea. Only slightly ajar, however, as Spearmon and Dix are as good as it gets outside of Messrs. Bolt & Gay. Dix being the master of acceleration coming off the turn, Spearmon the ultimate late race king doing most of his damage in the final 50 meters. Look for both to go by the field up the straight with Spearmon edging by Dix in the final meters.

That leaves the race for the final Daegu ticket between youth (Maurice Mitchell) & experience (Justin Gatlin). If NCAA Champion Mitchell can negotiate the turn here as well as he did in Des Moines, then youth will be served on this outing with Mitchell holding off Gatlin’s late finish.

The turn will also tell the tale for my 5th & 6th place finishers as any chance of anyone slipping into onto the Daegu team will depend on running a big tune in Eugene.

1. Wallace Spearmon 19.90
2. Walter Dix 19.94
3. Maurice Mitchell 19.99
4. Justin Gatlin 20.02
5. Mookie Salaam 20.07
6. Xavier Carter 20.09



Men’s 400

There are two tales to this event – one on the track and one off the track. I will talk about the one the track tale today, the off the track tale after the meet.

On the track this “should” be Jeremy Wariner’s race to lose. A month ago I would have simply said Wariner’s race, as he started the season looking like his old self. But he’s had a couple of hiccups lately, and I think the race will a bit closer than maybe it should be. Still, if Wariner can find his old self between 200 & 300 meters, then the stretch run should be for the final two tickets to Daegu. I’m guessing that Wariner experiences some sort of flashback around that second turn and heads to South Korea as the US champion.

Behind him will be a youth movement unlike any the US has seen since the late 80’s. Typically collegians have it rough here, having spent a lot of energy trying to become NCAA champion. The issue here isn’t that they NCAA’s were tough for them, but that there aren’t many one lap super vets around – especially those not running the 400 meters hurdles. So I’m giving Tony McQuay the nod here, basically because he’s the most rested just getting back to action before the NCAA’s after an early season injury. He’s still peaking and should be the best of the rest here.

That should leave a battle reminiscent of the NCAA Championships with Berry, Hughes & Roberts all in pursuit of a plane ticket. Berry is the strongest of the three so gets my nod for the final World spot.

1. Jeremy Wariner 44.50
2. Tony McQuay 44.72
3. Mike Berry 44.81
4. Joey Hughes 44.83
5. Gil Roberts 44.88
6. Jordan Boase 44.92



Women’s 200

Typically discussion of this race starts and ends with Allyson Felix. But with a bye to Daegu in this event Felix should be running the 400 which will give her more options for Worlds – i.e. the ability to double should she choose to as well as securing her a spot on the 4x4 squad.

Without Felix this is a wide open race, sort of. Shalonda Solomon has been waiting around awhile for an opportunity like this. And though her times so far have not been the best, she’s suffered from bad luck with winds, her speed appears sharp and this is her best event in my opinion. The title is not immediately hers, however, as suddenly NCAA champion Kimberlyn Duncan looks to be a very formidable force.

I’m going with experience over youth in this one and giving Solomon the nod – but a solid turn by Duncan could change that outcome. So could a solid curve by Bianca Knight who actually closed on one Allyson Felix in New York. All three of these women close well, so do the women that I think will make up the top six in this event, as I expect Lauryn Williams, Jeneba Tarmoh and Sanya Richards to join the fray. Williams and Richards should run well, but neither has been as sharp as they could be. I expect to see both much sharper in the Olympic year, but I’m not sure this team is in the cards for either. for the quarter.

1. Shalonda Solomon 22.10
2. Kimberlyn Duncan 22.14
3. Bianca Knight 22.19
4. Lauryn Williams 22.36
5. Jeneba Tarmoh 22.38
6. Sanya Richards 22.42


Women’s 400

While Richards may have a hard time making the 200 team, she does have a bye in this event. And with her out look for Allyson Felix – already the world leader – to expert herself here. Felix did not look great in her last outing over this distance – 51.54 in Eugene – but look for her to rectify that here.

Behind her, this event could be titled “The Gangs All Here” as the best of our quarter milers, sans Richards, should be in attendance. Debbie Dunn has been world class the past couple of seasons, I expect to see Francena McCorory & Jessica Beard step into 49-Land and join the truly elite this year – starting with this meet.

There should be a lot of jockeying for position in the final stretch of this one, and the parade behind Felix could become jumbled beyond what I have here. Based on individual strength, however, I think this is the most “predictable” finish that we should see.

1. Allyson Felix 49.50
2. Francena McCorory 49.70
3. Debbie Dunn 49.75
4. Jessica Beard 49.90
5. Natasha Hastings 50.00
6. Joanna Atkins 50.10

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