As we close to door on the 2011season all was not bleak for the U.S. on the track. While our men had their difficulties and many lament that the rest of the world has “caught up” to us; the distaff side of things did remarkably well.
From the 100 through the 1500, including the relay and hurdle events – U.S. women were on or very near the podium. In some cases “catching up” to the rest of the world!
Following the Beijing Games, many were ready to concede sprint supremacy and dominance to Jamaica. After a Jamaican sweep of the 100, another 200 win by Valerie Campbell Brown over Felix, Shericka Williams (2nd) finished one spot better in the 400 than Sanya Richards (3rd), and our women dropped the baton in the 4x1 – things couldn’t have gone much worse for our women sprinters. And that was good compared to the licking out women took in events longer than 400 meters, where the only bright spot was a bronze by Shalane Flanagan in the 10,000. We didn’t even have finalists in most events as Shannon Rowbury (8th in the 1500) Dawn Harper (1st 100H) and Sheena Tosta (2nd 400H) the only other women able to make a final on the track.
We closed that gap in Berlin, however, as Carmelita Jeter (3rd in the 100), Allyson Felix (1st in the 200), and Sanya Richards (1st in the 400) brought home sprint medals. And in the 1500 we place three women in the final as Rowbury moved up to bronze. We did drop that stick in the 4x1 again, and continued to have problems in the 800.
Daegu completed the transformation, as American women were solid from the 100 through the 1500 with Carmelita Jeter winning the 100 and taking silver in the 200; Allyson Felix taking silver in the 400 and bronze in the 200; two finalists in the 800 with Montano centimeters from a medal; and in spite of our favored runner getting tripped in the 1500 we STILL came through with gold! Throw in gold in the 400 hurdles, silver and bronze in the 100 hurdles and a dominating sweep of both relays, and I would say that our women are in prime position as we head into the Olympic season, because in addition to the medalists form Daegu, we had outstanding depth over the course of the season.
In the sprints, Marshevet Myers (10.86), Alex Anderson (11.01), Shalnoda Solomon (11.08/22.15), Jeneba Tarmoh (22.28), and Bianca Knight (22.35) all stepped up their games in 2011. So did quarter milers Francena McCorory (50.24) and Jessica Beard (51.10) – McCorory finishing just off the podium in Daegu and both contributing legs to the gold medal 4x4 squad.
Similarly we’ve built great depth in the middle distances. In the 800 we had eight women under 2:00 lead by Alysia Montano (1:57.48), Morgan Uceny (1:58.37), Maggie Vessey (1:58.50) and Alice Schmidt (1:58.61). Uceny lead the world over 1500 at 4:00.06, with Jenny Simpson (4:03.54), Christin Wurth Thomas (4:03.72), and Worlds semifinalist Shannon Rowbury (4:05.73) all among the world’s best.
In the short hurdles, we had the world’s three best hurdlers not named Sally Pearson in Danielle Carruthers (12.47), Dawn Harper (12.47) and Kellie Wells (12.50). We could use a bit of work behind World Champion Lashinda Demus, but there is potential in Queen Harrison (54.78), jasmine Chaney (55.22), Turquois Thompson (55.53) and Ti’erra Brown (55.59), all of whom seemed to be a season away in 2011 – and wouldn’t 2012 be the season to shine.
So on the heels of what was a subpar Beijing, our women have rebounded nicely, gaining ground on the rest of the world, leading the way in Daegu, and providing a great base rounding the corner towards London. Similar improvements in 2012 from our men on the track and thirty medals in London would certainly be within reach.
So here’s to the women of 2011 who often don’t get the recognition that their male counterparts get, but who carried the load for the U.S. this year. They’ve rebounded well, and are leading the way into the Olympic season.