Sunday, July 10, 2011

Birmingham DL – Uceny Wins Again


Ten days after her surprising win in Lausanne, Morgan Uceny once again took to the track against a world class field. And just as in Eugene and Lausanne she came away with another victory. Actually the word victory doesn’t adequately describe the masterful piece of work that Uceny engineered on her way to once again dominating a class field as she is proving to be perhaps the best tactician in U.S. middle distance running today. Only Bernard Lagat shows the kind of skilled running tactics currently being displayed by Morgan.

In Birmingham Uceny settled in over the first two laps and let the pace get established. Then on the third lap she went to work using the penultimate 400 meters to casually work her way through the field to the front of the pack just as the bell lap began. Then she tucked in with the lead group, never letting herself fall more than a few steps off pace and never giving up her position on the inside rail. Finally in the final 200 meters she skipped through a potential box, went to the front, and as has become her signature this year, went sailing down the homestretch casually fending off any potential challenges by simply running away from the competition. Competition that included Maryam Jamal and Kalkedan Gezahegn – currently #1 & #2 on the yearly list!

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an American miler look more confident against international competition and I’ve watch Mary Slaney, Suzy Hamilton and Regina Jacobs among others. I don’t want to jinx her, but right now her races are becoming tactical works of art, and I am excited about her prospects in Daegu.

It was also exciting to see Galen Rupp take second in the 5000 and set a new personal best of 13:06.86. Over the past few seasons we’ve seen the emergence of Matt Tegenkamp, Chris Solinsky, and Dathan Ritzenhein while we’ve been kind of waiting for Galen Rupp to grow up. After watching Rupp win the national title over 10,000 along with 3rd in the 5,000; and now this run in Birmingham; I think that we’ve finally seen Rupp grow up over the past month. And I think he will acquit himself well in Daegu. In Birmingham he basically shadowed training partner Mo Farah, as they let a group of Ethiopians set the pace for the race before outkicking them all – including world leader Imane Merga – as Farah thrilled the British fans with his 13:06.14 victory! Yes Birmingham was a good day for American middle and long distance hopes – and not too shabby for the Brits eitiher.

It was not a very good day, however,  for Sanya Richards who has yet to win a 400 meter event this year. As a matter of fact, her fourth place finish in Birmingham mirrored that of training camp mate Jeremy Wariner two days ago in Paris, as she too faded badly in the stretch. Friday was the first time I’ve seen either of the pair have absolutely no “oomph” in the stretch and now I’ve seen it twice from both athletes in two days! Now I’m wondering if either one will even get to the final in Daegu, and whether either should be given relay duty – a hard statement for me to make. And after this race Allyson Felix has to be giving more thought to taking on that 400 in Daegu as there really doesn’t seem to be anyone out there that can stop her in the event.

Of course the 400 would be the first leg of a 200/400 double and if Richards is making the 400 look easy, Carmelita Jeter may be giving Felix pause as far as attempting the double. On the heels of twice running 22.2’s at Nationals and taking second, Jeter once again took the event on in Birmingham. She was a very close third in Birmingham. But it isn’t the place that has me thinking her chances at a medal may be increasing, but the stretch run that she made to get to third. After an opening turn that I can only describe as “uninspired”, Jeter hit the gas and looked very much Felix/Campbell Brown like in the stretch closing on both Bianca Knight and Marshevet Myers before losing by only .03 at the line! By the way, the turns by both Myers and Knight could bode well U.S. relays hopes in Daegu!

Other interesting results saw Teddy Tamgho struggle in the triple jump with only one fair jump and a 5th place finish as Philips Idowu exacted revenge with a victory at “home”. Abubaker Kaki won the men’s 800, but after following the rabbit through a 49.4 opener struggled to finish in 1:44.54. I don’t think that caused David Rudisha much worry. And with no Bolt and no Gay Asafa Powell found himself holding off stable mate Nesta Carter in the 100 with a 9.91 to 9.93 win. But the big news of the day in the race was another athlete being thrown out to a false start and Mike Rodgers withdrawing after initially taking to the blocks – resulting in a six man race.

After two Diamond League events in two days, we now get a ten day break until the DL resumes in Monaco on July 22nd. While we’re waiting, however, there will be Rethymno (13th), the Euro Under 23 Championships  (14th), the Central American Championships (15th), and the Euro Junior Championships (21st) to fill the time. Meaning a brief respite for many athletes to rest and heal up a bit before the final push before Daegu. It also means I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for some lesser competitions to see who might be competing on the down low!

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