Thursday, March 31, 2011

Should Collegiate Athletes Be Paid?

That’s the question that has been placed on the table this week, and one that has been bantered around now for decades. After all, while “student athletes” are expected to live a completely “amateur” lifestyle – i.e. accept nothing from anyone – several of the sports they participate in are huge money making endeavors for their schools.

Witness the current NCAA basketball tournament which is reaching it’s culmination this weekend. This extravaganza will make the NCAA and member schools $771 Million dollars just from television rights! And schools that participate in the BCS bowl system in football earn millions of dollars for participating. The coaches that lead these programs and are charged with ensuring that their teams are a part of the BCS and NCAA tournament also make millions of dollars – to make sure that the school’s coffers continue to fill via the performances of its athletics teams.

However, while the schools and coaches reap huge benefits, athletes – those actually performing the work that brings the invitations, bids, and ultimately the dollars to the schools – are not allowed as much as an extra meal outside of the their standard meal tickets in the cafeteria. Ineligibility can be handed down if a coach or booster were to provide a kid with a plane ticket to go see an ailing family member. And an entire program can be brought to its knees if clothing or transportation is provided to a student.

In short a vow of abject poverty is expected of students who are providing a means of wealth to their school and many of its employees!

With the cards on the table so to speak, I think that any sane person would say that most student athletes deserve more than they are currently allowed to receive  - which is basically nothing outside of their scholarships. The real question, in my opinion, is how should that additional “compensation” be administered.

Salaries I believe are off the table. Too many grey areas there. How do you determine a wage scale? You begin to seriously blur the line between “amateur” and “professional. And you would set up a major divide between the “star” students and the “normal” students. Not to mention how do you deal with the athletes outside of the “money making” sports? Because in theory you would have an elite class of football and basketball players “getting paid” while everyone else – even those on championship teams that pulled their weight and did their share to earn that bottom line – would continue to live in poverty. In short you only answer the question for a handful of athletes.

I believe the answer to the question lies within the problem that begs the question. That problem being that while the NCAA, schools and coaches make a fortune, the athletes responsible for the play that generates the revenue live in poverty. So, the real questions is: is there a way to give the kids that assistance that is so easily forthcoming from boosters and others. I think there is. Here’s my solution.

The federal poverty guidelines for 2010 start at $10,800 for an individual. Meaning that an individual would have to make more than that to be considered living above the poverty line. So my solution is to provide assistance while keeping kids below the poverty line. The way I would do that would be via use of debit cards. I would allow schools to issue debit cards to student athletes at the following levels – $5,000, $7,500, and $10,000. These cards would be considered “stipends” and made a part of the NCAA’s scholarship / assistance package. I would classify them as stipends as to avoid the idea of “salary”. As stipends are a form of compensation that precludes the monitoring of “work being done” and is not necessarily based on a specific task. In short it is on the same level as a “scholarship”.

As part of the “package” schools could then use them either in conjunction with a scholarship, or possibly even in lieu of a scholarship in cases where they have run out of their allotted scholarships. By using debit cards (they could even bear the logo of the issuing school) all use of the money could be monitored by both the NCAA and the issuing school, and with the money being filtered through banks would become a part of the public record. I would even restrict the use of “cash withdrawals” so as to create a true “paper trail” of the cards activity.

I would also delineate those activities that are allowed with respect to card usage. Such things as clothing purchases, travel arrangements (tickets, housing, auto rental), entertainment and dining – the kinds of activities that most kids find difficult if they are devoting their time to studies and their sport, because holding a job is nearly impossible.

Of course some things would have to be spelled out. For example strip clubs can not qualify as entertainment, nor can taking a bunch of buddies to Cabo for the weekend count as travel. But taking a girlfriend (or boyfriend) out to dinner would classify as dining, and going home for Christmas as travel. So guidelines would have to be set.

And for the sake of parity some sort of limit on the number of stipends that could be issued by a school I’m sure would be set by the NCAA – though I would think that the use of stipends should be liberal enough that most student athletes could be covered, and therefore not as restricted as scholarship limits.

But the point here is that while student athletes would still be living under the poverty line, they would be able to afford a few of the luxuries of life that are denied them based on the NCAA’s currently antiquated rules. And it would be easy to provide oversight for the program  – which would aid the NCAA in monitoring the involvement of boosters and “others” who currently provide athletes with access to money and other things. It also would put all student athletes on fairly equal terms and prevent some sort of division or creation of a hierarchy. Potentially a win for the kids, a win for the schools, and a win for the NCAA.

I don’t know if it’s perfect, but I think it would be a start in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Apprentice Master Flip Flop


Track and field can be an unforgiving sport. One minute you are on top of the world, the next you can be fighting for respect. A WR holder can succumb to illness (Wilson Kipketer), an Olympic champion to shame (Ben Johnson). Staying on top can be a challenge, which is why my list of the Greatest of All Time is filled with those that did just that over the long haul.

Regardless the reason for slipping from the top, there is always someone waiting to take your place.  Because as much as track can be unforgiving, it is always competitive.

Currently the men’s short sprints are more competitive than ever. Among the stories to keep an eye on this year, will be the battle for sprint supremacy between Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay – history’s two fastest ever over 100 meters and 1 & 3 all time in the 200 meters. Their march to the Daegu finals could be one of the season’s most interesting stories. But there will also be an interesting sub plot to their eventual showdown – the return of Justin Gatlin to the sprint wars.

A little over four years ago, it was Gatlin who was the darling of the sprints. Having won gold (100) and bronze (200) in Athens, then double gold in Helsinki. Behind him in the Helsinki 200 were Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay – as Gatlin was the reining master and Bolt and Gay upstart apprentices.

A year later in ‘06 Gay made a serious move to the 100 and during the domestic season found himself a consistent 2nd to Gatlin – up through the national championships. Then shortly after Gatlin was exiled from the sport and Gay was left holding the mantle of America’s top sprinter. A year later he completed his apprenticeship with double gold of his own at the World Championships in Osaka.

Also improving in ‘07 was Bolt, who garnered his first global medal with a silver behind Gay in Osaka’s 200 meter final. Then a year later won his own set of double gold medals in Beijing – a feat he repeated in Berlin, cementing his rise to the top.

So, ironically, when Gatlin returned from exile last year, the global and American thrones that he held prior to leaving the sport were now occupied by former apprentices Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay. And as we begin the 2011 outdoor season it is former apprentices Bolt and Gay headlining the world’s biggest rivalry and the masters of the sprints – with Gatlin now serving as apprentice and trying to work his way back to the top.

The sport Gatlin returns to as apprentice is very different from the one he left as Master. As Master, Gatlin won Olympic and World titles in times of 9.85 (Olympic) and 9.88/20.00 (World). Since then his apprentices have made those times necessary to win qualifying rounds as their PR’s have dropped to 9.58/19.19 (Bolt) and 9.69/19.58 (Gay). What Gatlin once ran to win gold both now run on an average day – and they make running sub 20.00 look like a stroll in the park. Making Gatlin’s attempt to regain Master status a rather daunting task.

Nor will he have the luxury of waiting until Daegu to take on his former apprentices, because the road to World’s will go first through the US Trials – and Tyson Gay. A roadblock that could derail any attempt to once again become global Master as Gatlin must face the man that was his consistent runner up in 2006. He doesn’t have to beat Gay to get to Worlds, but if he can’t get close here, he could have the best seat in the house to the next WR. Because making the team without being competitive with Gay will mean a possible lane in the Daegu final in which the odds of Gay and Bolt pushing each other to a WR are extremely high.

So, running in the shadow of the buildup to Bolt v Gay, will be a man who once was part of the headline matchup: Gatlin v Powell. A three time gold medalist looking to return to his medal winning ways – but facing a pair of former apprentices who have become masters of their craft.

Can he get back to Master status, or is he now strictly an apprentice? Only time, or times, will tell.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Florida Relays –This Year’s Debut Meet


If accepted entries lists and tweets mean anything, then this year’s Florida Relays should be the meet for seasonal outdoor debuts.

A fixture on the US track and field scene for 72 years, the Florida Relays has traditionally drawn strong sprint and hurdle fields and this year is no different. Last year there was an appearance from Tyson Gay in the open 400 meters – and Gay burned the track for a 44.86 PR. This year Gay has tweeted that he hopes to run a leg on the 4x4 – something he has stated he would like to do in international competition for the US.

In open events the comeback of Justin Gatlin should see its first outing of the 2011 season as Gatlin is entered in the 100 meters. Beginning his racing in mid summer of last season, Gatlin ended ‘10 with a best of 10.09. He will have to do better to have a shot at making the US team for Daegu.

Since last summer however, Gatlin has joined the Orlando based training group of veteran coach Brooks Johnson. Johnson has had a long and distinguished career which has included World and Olympic posts as well as coaching some outstanding athletes – from one of my all time favorites Steve Williams in the ‘70s to last year’s US Athlete of the year David Oliver. The move should assist Gatlin in his pursuit of a ticket to South Korea.

Also in the 100 is Gatlin’s training mate Xavier Carter. Carter a 10.00/19.63 (#4 all time in the 200) performer in his own right is on a comeback of sorts of his own as he had injury hampered seasons in ‘08 & ‘09. Joining them will be Florida’s own Jeff Demps – two time collegiate 60 champion and defending 100 meter champion who will be making his own outdoor debut This event could produce some fireworks.

As should the men’s 110 hurdles with David Oliver scheduled to take the blocks. Last year’s undefeated season saw Oliver run under 13.00 on five different occasions – headed by an American Record of 12.89. While I’m not expecting a sub 13 here, he did run 13.24 in April of last year and he should get sufficient competition from Dwight Thomas (JAM) and Joel Brown (US) – also in the Brooks Johnson stable.

The long hurdles should also provide some entertainment as last year’s breakthrough hurdler Johnny Dutch will be in attendance. Dutch was the world’s second fastest hurdler last year at 47.63 and ranked #6 on the season – ahead of this year’s early season sensation L.J. Van Zyl (#9). Florida will give us our first glimpse of Dutch in 2011.

Florida will also give us a match up of top female quarter milers – in the deuce – as Natasha Hastings and Francena McCorory go head to head. Tianna Madison will be in the long jump as will Florida triple jumpers Christian Taylor & Will Claye – who happened to be the US’s two best triple jumpers during the indoor season.

Not a bad lineup of performers and that’s in just a handful of events. But if you can get Oliver, Gay and Gatlin in April you’ve got yourself one hot meet. If it were a classic movie I’d be chanting “Oliver, Gatlin and Gay, Oh My.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

Van Zyl 44.86 Leads Weekend Activity


With Kirani James heading outdoors this last weekend I felt that there would be a new WL in the 400 before the weekend was out. I was right – except it wasn’t by James. The head turning performance of the weekend was the 44.86 by hurdler L.J. Van Zyl in Germiston South Africa.

L.J. Van Zyl (RSA) is THE hot athlete of the early season. Last month he ripped a 47.66 over hurdles. Now it’s 44.86 over the flat – another new personal best. He now leads the world in both events. The question is: can he hold this pace until August and the World Championships? Because most of his competition has yet to break a serious sweat in competition.

One thing is certain, he is going to be a major player this year. His PR’s this season make him the #10 all time combination hurdler/sprinter over 400 meters – only behind a list of impressive Olympic/World medalists! Of course several are still competing – Angelo Taylor (USA), Kerron Clement (USA), Felix Sanchez (DOM) and Bershawn Jackson (USA) so Van Zyll may have to keep up his current pace just to get to the podium. But right now he is the one leading the way and his early performances should put everyone else on notice.

Also blitzing one lap of the track was the LSU men’s 4x1 squad as they christened their new track with a 38.87 to set the early season NCAA leader. Their baton efforts also produced marks of 1:20.99 in the 4x2 and 3:03.77. Both the men and women’s squads had solid overall performances, giving strong indication that they will once again be a factor in the NCAA title chase.

Sticking with the one lap theme, sprinter Veronica Campbell Brown took a turn around the track and set a new personal best of 52.25. While not in the range of her top rival Allyson Felix (49.70) it is a significant lowering of her previous best of 52.77 and shows that we should expect a bit of added strength to Campbell Brown’s deuce this year. With her race being primarily the first 100 of the race and Felix’ being the second any little bit could help. I expect these two to do something special come Daegu.

Overall a solid weekend of action. With weather beginning to stabilize things should get even better next weekend with what should be some hot meets in Gainesville, Fayetteville, Baton Rouge and Houston.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Relay Season Kicks Into Gear This Weekend


The outdoor season should kick into gear with several relay meets being held this weekend. The list of domestic meets includes:

Florida State Relays Tallahassee, FL
Texas/Arkansas/UCLA Tri Austin, TX
Arizona State Invitational Tempe, AZ
Lopez Bayou Classic Houston, TX
LSU Tiger Relays Baton Rouge, LA
Raleigh Relays Raleigh, NC
Stanford Invitational Stanford, CA
Yellowjacket Invitational Atlanta, GA
Alabama Relays Tuscaloosa, AL
Baskin Relays Columbia, SC
Big 10/SEC Challenge Starkville, MS
Springtime Invitational El Paso, TX

I’m looking forward to the results of the Texas/Arkansas/UCLA Triangular. I’m very excited to see this type of meet on the schedule for these schools, as all three have very good programs and it could lead to a resurgence in collegiate duals/triangulars.

I’ll also be keeping an eye on the results coming out of the Alabama Relays. Specifically how Kirani James performs coming off his disappointing fall at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Having run 44.80 at the SEC indoor meet, it is possible to see the seasons first outdoor sub 45.

Another meet to watch is the Arizona State Invitational. The Texas A&M Aggies will be in town along with teams from Baylor, TCU, Kansas State, New Mexico, and of course the host Sun Devils. Look for some serious relay action and a 400 meter appearance by Wallace Spearman.

There should be a lot to talk about once the weekend is over.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

$ 1 Billion for Brazil Yet We Lack a Facility


If you’ve read this blog for any length of time then you know that I feel a high priority for the sport here in the U.S. is to host the World Championships – as well as serve as host to another Olympics.

To this point one of the key obstacles that we’ve faced outside of a lack of leadership, has been the lack of a facility capable of hosting such an event! Imagine that here in the United States with sports the huge past time that it is, and this country (one of the wealthiest on the planet) lacks a creditable track and field facility when locations such as Istanbul, Daegu, and Doha can readily apply for host duty.

I find it such a travesty that I’ve even thrown out suggestions as to how to get it done – including suggesting some sort of partnership with federal and/or local government entities. So imagine my shock when I ‘m going through the news this morning and find that President Obama has put the wheels in motion for the United States to provide one billion dollars towards infrastructure development for Rio de Janeiro’s facilities for the 2016 Olympics!

Now, before you think that I am jealous of Rio’s hosting of the Games, I actually supported their bid – even against our own. And I was happy that they won. It’s time for the Games to be held outside of the “usual” group of nations. Having said that, however, I’m sure that one of the reasons they won the bid was that they showed they had the ability to put all of the necessary accoutrements in place – including their infrastructure. I’m also fairly certain (though it is speculation on my part) that one of the knocks on the US bid was the fact that we should, but don’t, have all of the necessary accoutrements in place – primarily a facility.

While that may be speculation with respect to the Games, I know for a fact it is what is holding us back from a World Championships bid! So why are we funding development elsewhere when our need is so great here has me a bit baffled. Yes I know (for those of you politically inclined) that it is couched as “jobs creation” for US companies. That the money is to be used to pay US companies to do the work. But the work is still being done in Brazil with Brazil reaping the end benefit. We could just as easily use that billion dollars to create jobs for US companies to do the work HERE in the US – creating jobs for Americans AND a viable facility right here in the United States. Because I am sure that while the money may be filtered through US companies, they will be hiring many Brazilian locals to participate in the work that will be done. Doing so in America would guarantee that nearly 100% of the jobs would go to US workers. Not to mention that we will not be participating in any revenue sharing from the hosting of the Games – tickets, lodging, transportation, etc.

So while I understand the “political” implications of job creation, I also understand that need would be even more strongly met by developing a facility here in the United States and that the by product (facility) would also benefit us here in the United States – a double win win! Plus any revenue generated from hosting Worlds and or the Games.

So I hope that the next CEO of USATF – whomever he or she may be – is paying attention. I said this could be done and the proof is in the pudding – even if that pudding is going to be eaten in Brazil. We need to be pushing to have the same done right here at home.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nellum May Bear Watching This Year


It’s not often that I get excited about a 20.81 deuce. Typically not unless it’s run by an up and coming prep star. But perusing the results from this past weekend’s activity, I came across a 20.81 that I do find a bit exciting as Bryshon Nellum won the Brown Invitational 200 at 20.81 (0.6). That time, at this time of year, after all that Bryson has been through makes me think he may be ready to realize that potential that we all saw just a few years ago.

You may remember him. The star of the 2007 prep season. A double threat prep phenom who ran 20.43 & 45.38, as well as anchored a 3:09.89 relay. A young man who seemed certainly destined for stardom. But then the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. And so it was for Bryshon.

He was first derailed as a freshman at USC when he suffered a pulled hamstring in his first ever collegiate race. An injury that effectively ended his ‘08 season. Then early in the morning of Halloween ‘08 he was shot while leaving a party near school – the victim of an apparent random shooting. The gun was aimed at his leg and the damage was severe enough to require surgery to his thigh and hamstring. The necessary recovery and rehab kept him out of the ‘09 season.

So following a superb senior year of high school, Nellum lost both the ‘08 & ‘09 seasons. His comeback began last year. A season that saw him break 46 seconds for 400 with a 45.94 as well as serving some relay duty for the Trojans. Not quite the 45.38 he ran as a prep, but enough to show that he was on the road to recovery.

How good is his early season 20.81? Well Nellum being a quarter miler let’s compare against other quarter milers. Most notably this past weekend Jeremy Wariner ran the deuce and won at the TCU Invitational. His winning time  was  20.71 – his fastest ever season opener over the distance! This from a man with a 43.45 PR and both Olympic and World gold and silver to his credit.

Now I’m not ready to put Nellum on the podium in Daegu just yet. It’s only one race. But after what this young man has been through, if nothing else you have to cheer the effort. And if his dedication to the sport, combined with the competitive nature I saw in him as a prep, account for anything then I think this young man bears keeping an eye on. The 400 is one of those events that is in a state of flux and aside from Wariner, and perhaps Gonzalez in Jamaica, is pretty wide open.

So I’ll be keeping an eye on him through the college season and into June. I’ve got a feeling he could be a factor at the NCAA Championships and US Nationals. Then who knows after that. I think it will be fun to watch.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Which Sprinters Will Challenge the Big Three?


Now that the indoor season is officially behind us, it’s time to start taking a closer look at the outdoor season. Roughly 3 months until various national championships, and then a couple more until Daegu. It’s really not that far away.

The star of the last World Championships was Usain Bolt (Jam) with his double sprint win in double record breaking time. And with the rivalry between he and Tyson Gay (USA) beginning to peak, the sprints are almost surely to be among the highlight events in Daegu. With the re-breakthrough of Francis Obikwelu at the European Indoor Champioinships just a few weeks ago, it made me ask myself if there is anyone out there capable of putting up a serious challenge  to the troika of Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell in the hunt for 100 meter medals at Wrolds?

Barring injury, Bolt and Gay have shown that, unless someone else rises to the occasion, only they are capable of taking out each other. Both have championships gold to prove it, as well as the head to heads we’ve among the top sprinters in recent seasons. With 2 bronze medals and 2 fifth place finishes in majors, Powell is a bit more susceptible but still a major podium threat.

So who among the rest of the world’s elite could be in a position to reach the podium? After all, neither of the Big Three was born there. They had to work themselves into position, and any season could be the one that produces the next great champion.


Francis Obikwelu (POR)

Obikwelu has a very good record in championship settings. A World bronze medalist in the deuce in ‘99 at the age of 19, in the 100 he’s been Olympic silver medalist in ‘04, and twice European champion to go with several appearances in major finals. His 60 meter win says he could be ready to PR again after a brief retirement in ‘08 followed by working his back to form. Apparently he has once again found that form. If so, the smooth striding sprinter has all the physical gifts – another tall sprinter in the Bolt mode – to give the world’s best great difficulty. And his experience cannot be overlooked.

Nesta Carter (JAM)

2010 was something of a break out season for Carter as he found a bit of consistency in the 9.8 range with legal marks of  9.85 & 9.86 to his credit. He also had a 9.78 in Rieti – a locale that raises my eyebrows with nearly everyone running PR’s and marks that are generally not duplicated elsewhere. He beat all but the big three. And his blazing start has him in every race he’s in. As a matter of fact his start may rival that of countryman Powell.

Walter Dix (USA)

Dix also broke through to the 9.8 zone with a PR run of 9.88 in Switzerland (Nottwil). Dix is no stranger to the podium as he finished 3rd in both the 100 & 200 in Beijing, and won multiple gold medals in NCAA championship competition. As a short sprinter that depends on mid race acceleration and late race closing speed, any improvement in his early race (0 – 40 meters) could make him extremely dangerous – and a serous threat to gain the podium again.

Christophe Lemaitre (FRA)

Last year’s European find, Lemaitre became the first Caucasian sprinter to break the 10.00 barrier when he went 9.98 in Valence France. Then went sub 10 twice in the same day in Rieti – 9.98 & 9.97. While his times do not make him a podium threat, the fact that he has gone sub 10 in spite of needing much work to his race technique does. Tall in the mode of Bolt and Obikwelu, Lemaitre is a much more gangly type sprinter than his more polished counterparts – i.e. he has lots of wasted energy and has yet to really put a solid race together. If he can get “smoothed out” he is definitely a medal threat as he does have a very strong competitive nature.

Yohan Blake (JAM)

Blake is another in the growing stable of Jamaican sprinters – and also PR’d under 9.90 last year with a 9.89 in London. Like American Walter Dix, Blake is a short sprinter with a poor start, and like Dix has tremendous top end speed – that’s why both are sub 20 200 men. Blake is a bit more consistent in his early race however, and may be closer to the big three come mid race – but as his PR came against Tyson Gay’s 9.78 in London, he’s got to get a lot closer. Blake is young and still maturing however, and at 21 still has a lot of upside. How soon he reaches it may determine if he lands on the podium before the competition.

Ryan Bailey (USA)

I hesitate to put Bailey here because he is hurt an awful lot, but his potential is scary. Tall like Bolt, Obikwelu and Lemaitre, Bailey is a pleasure to watch once he is up and running. He PR’d last year behind Carter in Rieti with a 9.88 of his own – following a 9.95 heat. His start is atrocious – almost reminiscent of Steve Williams of the 70’s – but like Williams, once he is up and rolling he smoothly eats up ground. If he can A) stay healthy, and B) develop a strong drive phase to his start, I think he easily puts himself in the mix to reach the podium. But if is a big little word and he has two of them. So we’ll have to see “if” he can overcome those past failings. But at only 21 years old it may be just a matter of maturity – a la Blake – that gets him to the podium.

There are several others in the 9.9x range, and we know that anything can happen in a given season. But with the current state of sprinting what it is, if you haven’t run in the 9.8’s yet (and don’t get there by around June) your chance of getting on the podium are almost nil. Yes I know I put Lemaitre in the mix, but he’s broken 10.00 with SO many mistakes you have to think that just cleaning him up he goes sub 9.90.

As the first races are run outdoors, these are the men that I see with the best part of being in that final with the opportunity to provide a challenge to Big Three. Let’s see how they, and others, sort themselves out over the next few months.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Return to Collegiate Dual/Triangulars!


Reading through the news a couple days ago, I came across this article referencing UCLA’s return to a dual/triangular meet schedule as opposed to running primarily in “invitational” meets. I am hoping that this is successful for UCLA and it’s track program, and that the result will see other prominent programs follow.

I’m excited because if large college programs would get back to conference dual/triangulars, as well as hosting multi school meets from outside – SEC v Pac12 quadrangular for example – it would be a major marketing coup for the sport. Why? Because it will bring high level track and field back to the community!

Nearly every densely populated area has at least one major college within a relatively short drive – to me that means a couple hours or less. Many more major colleges within an area than you would fine professional sporting teams – NFL, NBA and MLB – many many more. As a matter of fact major colleges inhabit areas that professional sports do not, such as the Universities of Oregon, Florida, and Arizona.

College football and basketball programs have long tapped into this base of fanatical sports fans. Look no further than the hoopla that is “March Madness” that is about to begin! Collegiate track and field once had as fervent a following. UCLA v USC was once as big a meet as the Welklasse in Zurich – and the results were just as good! Ditto Auburn v Alabama, and Arizona v Arizona State.

When colleges started spending more time at invitational meets – such as the Florida Relays, Texas Relays, Penn Relays et al – the support of college track and field took a nose dive. Back in the day schools used to send athletes to these kind of meets when they had individuals that were in need of qualifying marks for nationals. Rather than leave it to chance that the marks would come at the conference meet, they sent these athletes to invitationals where there was certain to be the kind of competition that could spur them to such results.

But what started as a necessary augmentation to the schedule in time morphed into THE schedule, as it became easier to go from invitational to invitational than to set up and schedule duals, triangulars and other meets. As a result the college track became a place to train, and not the place to invite the community to come watch a track meet. Hopefully this is about to change.

With a return to high level track to college campuses, we could bring athletes like those on the Bowerman Watch List – athletes of national and even Olympic caliber to neighborhoods near you! Athletes that John Q Public can become familiar with and budding youngsters in middle and high school can go out and watch – and go home and emulate. Bringing these athletes to local college campuses is perhaps the greatest source of marketing available to the sport!

Some of my best early memories of the sport are of watching various meets in Northern California at UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and Stanford. I waited with baited breath annually for the “Double Dual” with UCLA, USC, Stanford and Cal – which at it’s peak boasted athletes like Greg Foster, James Sanford, Clancy Edwards, Tony Campbell, Millard Hampton, James Owens, Willie Banks, Don Quarrie, and Mike Tully.

So here’s hoping that UCLA’s return to this type of schedule is successful! For the revival of UCLA and for the sport in general.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Collegiate Indoor Athletes of the Year

The US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association released their choices for Collegiate Indoor Athletes of the Year. Their choices:

Men Track Miles Batty Mile BYU
Men Field Derek Drouin High Jump Indiana
Women Track Jordan Hasay Mile/3000 Oregon
Women Field Brianne Theisen Pentathlon Oregon

All had outstanding Indoor seasons, but it seems to me that the voting was weighted heavily on the results of the National Championship meet – where all won titles. With no disrespect to the choices of the USTFCCCA, I would like to add a few names to this list – names that I think had seasons/championship performances that I would have hoped put them in the running for the aforementioned awards.

Will Claye – High Jump – Florida

Perhaps the best performance by a field event performer at the NCAA Championships was put on by Claye. Claye took 2nd in the long jump at Nationals at 26’ 4.5”, then came back to win the triple jump at 56’ 10” – #4 all time collegian indoors.

Jessica Beard – 400 Meters – Texas A&M

Beard won the NCAA title at 50.79 – the #2 performer and performance all time indoors by a collegian – winning by a country mile in 1.51 seconds. She then returned to anchor her 4x4 squad to victory – coming from last place to get the win!

Kirani James – 400 Meters – Alabama

James fell during the final of the 400 meters in Texas – after coming in as a huge favorite. His position as favorite was secured – and his mention here – by his victory at the SEC championships where he set a WJR of 44.80. Arguably the best performance by any collegian this indoor season.

Lakya Brookins – 60 Meters – South Carolina

I know that the USTFCCCA list has one each in the field and track, but I’m adding another trackster here for the women. Primarily because in the field events for women Theissen was head and shoulders above the rest – and the field events were a tad weak outside of Theissen. The other reason is that there has to be room for a woman that simply dominated 60 meters the way Brookins did in Texas. Her 7.09 tied the collegiate record, was the fastest time in the world for 2011, AND was .08 ahead of the runner up. THAT is a country mile in a 60 meter dash!

Those are my additions to the list. Congrats to all of this years collegiate athletes. They provided a lot of excitement to the indoor season, and definitely closed it with a bang!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Florida and Oregon Defend in Texas


If indoors could be like that for 3 months then it would be a truly exciting extension of track and field. As it is it was a great way to end the indoor season. Both Florida and Oregon had their share of adversity, but in the end both showed the grit that it takes to be a champion.

On the women’s side, Oregon had to do without distance ace Alex Kosinski who withdrew just prior to the meet with a back problem. Kosinski was highly ranked in both the 3000 & 5000, so her withdrawal meant valuable points for the Ducks – and a threat to their team title hopes. Threat averted as Jordan Hasay anchored the Distance Medley to a very close 2nd place finish, then lead a 1, 3, 4 finish in the mile before doubling back to also win the 3000. And what could have been a battle with Texas, LSU and Arkansas, became a blowout by 19 points! Such is the depth and strength of the Oregon women’s team!

The Florida men faced similar adversity when first their SEC hurdle champ, Eddie Lovett, failed to make the final, then sprinter Tony McQuay (rated #1 in the 200 & #2 in the 400) tweaked a hamstring in his 200 semi after leading the qualifying in the 400. Facing losing points in three events it looked like Florida would once again be locked in battle with hometown favorite Texas A&M. Again threat averted as jumper Will Claye stepped up with a second place in the long jump then came back to lead a 1, 2, 5 in the triple jump and sprinter Jeff Demps scored a school record in winning the 60! For good measure Tony McQuay made an appearance in the 400 final to get 2 points and spur the team! Tragedy turned into 52 points, easily ahead of A&M’s 40.

There were also some sterling individual performances to go with the team drama. Among them:

Women’s 60 – Lakaya Brookins (South Carolina) dominated the field and tied Angela Williams Collegiate Record of 7.09. Brookins’ mark was also the best time in the world this year.

Women’s 400 – Jessica Beard (Texas A&M) demolished the field in a world leading 50.79. Beard then came from waaay back in 4th place to lead her 4x4 squad to victory.

Men’s 200 – The semis were blazing as Rakieem Salaam ran a world leading 20.39 in heat 2, then Maurice Mitchell blitzed 20.47 in heat 4. In the two section final each young man ran 20.41 to win his section – Salaam being declared the winner with the reading of the finish to thousandths of a second. 20.401 to 20.403.

Men’s 5000 – Iona’s Leonard Korir outdueled favorite Sam Chalenga (LIberty) to win the event in a meet record 13:26.01. The first TEN men in this race were under the old stadium record previously held by Galen Rupp.

Men’s 4x4 – As is typical, the 4x4 closed out the meet in fine fashion as host Texas A&M claimed a stadium record win in 3:04.24 – also a world leader.

A nice way to close out the indoor season – and perhaps a peak at some of the up and coming stars for the outdoor season. Lakaya Bookins and Jessica Beard certainly marked themselves as sprinters to watch outdoors – especially when it comes down to selecting our team for the World Championships. Likewise keep an eye on Florida’s triple jump trio of Christian Taylor, Will Claye and Omar Craddock – as Taylor and Clay currently rank 1, 2 among Americans. And Jeff Demps, Rakiemm Salaam and Curtis Mitchell could certainly have an impact on the sprints outdoors.

So with that, goodbye to the indoor season. With March half over it is only a matter of time before some serious results start coming in from stadiums all over the world.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Most Untouchable High School Records


Perusing the internet early this morning I came across this article which lists the writers’ ten most untouchable high school records. Prompted I’m sure by the prospect of Ryan Crouser perhaps finally having a shot at Mike Carter’s unbelievable mark – pun intended.

Of course Carter’s massive 81’ 3.5” put headlines the list, as it should. I had the privilege of being there when it was set and it was one of the most awesome performances I’ve seen in track and field at any level! But I have lots of reservations with the list after Carter. While I appreciate the attempt and the fact that it gives track and field added publicity, I’m not sure the writer really understands the complexity of some of the sports events – or just how good some of those records are.

So here is my list of the 10 Most Untouchable Records. You can compare and let me know if I’m on the mark, or off it.


1. Boys Shot Put – 81’ 3.5” – Michael Carter, 1979

No question. The mark has lasted longer than most readers have been alive. Never have I heard a stadium so silent for the shot put, as the tension built each time Carter took the ring at the Golden West Invitational – his final competition as a prep. And when the shot went up it seemed like it might never come back down.


2. Boys 100 Meters – 10.01 – Jeff Demps, 2008

This mark didn’t even make the top ten on the Max Preps list. My guess is because it was set so recently. A mark has to be set at some point, however, and the fact that it’s only a few years old doesn’t take away from it’s awesomeness. After all I KNEW Carter’s mark would last a lifetime as soon as it was set! And this mark is in that category. 10.01 is a MAN’s time! A time that would make any Olympic final in history. And unless it is broken by the smallest of margin’s the next record setter will have to run Sub10! A mark yet to be reached legally by any sprinter under the age of 20 – ever!


3. Boys 4x4 Relay – 3:07.40 – Hawthorne High, 1985

Another mark that did not crack the top ten on the Max Preps list – though the 4x1 (39.75) did. While the 4x1 is a formidable mark it’s just a matter of time before another school gets two sprinters  together in the 10.50 range and pairs them with a couple of decent sprinters and adds great passing. And personally I think the mark is a bit soft – especially given today’s uber fast surfaces. The 4x4 mark, however, will take four awesome young men with at least one being a super star stud! Consider that on that Hawthorne team 1992 Olympic 200 meter gold medalist Marsh was the second best sprinter on campus and the slowest man on the 4x4! Super prep Henry Thomas anchored the squad with an eye dropping 44.5!


4. Girls 800 Meters – 2:00.07 – Kim  Gallagher, 1982

For me this one is in the same league as the men’s 100. In order to break this record, that has stood FOREVER, unless it’s by the barest of margins a girl is going to have to run sub 2:00 – that’s a woman’s time! And Gallagher was every bit as awesome as Mike Carter was. So awesome that in spite of constant illness and injury she still ran 1:56.91 and won medals in both the ‘84 and ‘88 Olympics – and she had ovarian surgery 6 months before her silver medal in ‘84! She’s a once in a lifetime athlete. And frankly #2, #3, and this mark #4 could easily be considered 2a, 2b, and 2c on the list. And I’m happy to say that I’ve had the privilege of watching them all compete!


5. Boys Mile – 3:53.43 – Alan Webb, 2001

When super star high school kids are struggling to break 4:00, that’s about all you need to know about this mark! I guess this should really be 2d on the list. The mark it took down was set back in 1965 by the legendary Jim Ryun. No doubt the shelf life on this one could be nearly as long.


6. Girls 100 Hurdles – 12.95 – Candy Young, 1979

This mark was omitted on the Max Preps list as well – but it too is a grown woman’s mark! She is often forgotten because ‘79 was the year of Mike Carter, but her mark was nearly as impressive! Only once in the 31 years since this record was set has anyone else even come close to 13.00 (13.03 in ‘07). After that it’s a “fur piece” back to the 13.20 that sits at #3 on the list! And like a 10.01 by a man, 12.95 gets you into the Olympic final!


7. Girls 200 Meters – 22.11 – Allyson Felix, 2003

Another mark that gets you into an Olympic final. I rank her behind Young’s hurdle mark only because it was set at altitude – so she had a bit of assistance there where Young did not. But when Marion Jones is #2 on the list at 22.58, that about tells you just how formidable a mark this is! For the record, Felix also ran 22.51 that year without altitude – so she owns the record altitude or not. Felix has lived up to the hype with 3 World Championships golds and a pair of Olympic silvers to her credit.


8. Boys 400 Meters – 44.68 – Darrell Robinson, 1982

Another mark that would make an Olympic final. No other high schooler has even broken 45.00. And this is an event that has seen some real studs – Jerome Young, Henry Thomas (anchor on the 3:07.40 4x4), Calvin Harrison, Lashawn Merritt, and Jeremy Wariner to name but a few. All of whom have brought home Olympic gold. Need I say more.


9. Boys 200 – 20.13 – Roy Martin, 1985

It’s getting tougher to weed out marks, but finally went with this one. Mostly because the next best mark on the list dates back to 1976! Martin competed during a magical time in the sprints as he, Henry Thomas and Joe Deloach were all in the same class and laid down some amazing marks. Deloach still sits at #3 all time while Thomas is #3 all time in the 400 – his 3rd best event at the time! And Thomas’ teammate Mike Marsh wasn’t even in the mix – though he was state 200 champion and became Olympic champion in 1992! Only twice in the New Millennium have we even seen someone run under 20.50. This mark is as tough as they come.


10. Boys High Jump – 7’ 7” – Andra Manson, 2002

Final mark on the list and it was a tough cut as I struggled with this one. But once again this is a man’s mark. The kind of mark that will be in the running to make the Olympic team and generally gets into the Olympic final. Only six other high schoolers in history have even gone 7’ 5”. And only one over 7’ 6” – twenty eight years ago! I think that says it all.


These are the toughest high school marks in my opinion. Yes it’s heavy on the boys side, but they have been competing longer. Their marks have taken more of a beating and the girls marks being newer are a bit softer in places – more room for improvement. That’s not to diminish any of the records that are out there. They are all extremely tough. These just happen to be the elite of the elite IMHO. And that’s what it is, my opinion. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NCAA Championship Predictions


The entries for this years’ NCAA Indoor Championships were released yesterday and can be found here – men, women. The Florida men, and Oregon women look well set to defend their titles from last year.

Some events to keep an eye on:

Men’s 60 – Oklahoma’s Rakieem Salaam leads on the clock (6.54), but is up against last year’s indoor and outdoor sprint champion in Florida’s Jeff Demps (6.55). Throw in another Florida sprinter and two from Texas A&M and you have some team drama to go with the individual title fight. And the field is tightly matched with the slowest entry at 6.62 – making the spread between the field a scant .08!

Men’s 400 – Alabama’s Kirani James set a WJR (44.80) at the SEC Championships. He and runner up Tony McQuay (45.21) did not run in the same heat in the finals. They should go head to head here – with last year’s 400 star, Torrin Lawrence, sitting with the #3 time at 45.82. Another record is definitely possible here. Did I mention that Texas A&M has three entries here in their quest to unseat Florida for the team title?

Men’s Long Jump – One of the best competitions of the meet could be held in this event as NINE men enter with marks between 26’ .75” and 26’ 9”! Expect lots of excitement here with 27 feet definitely possible somewhere along the way.

Men’s Triple Jump – Florida went 1, 2, 3 in the event at the SEC Championships and enters the meet with the top three in the event. That kind of placing here could put the nail in the coffin on a repeat championship for the Gators.

Men’s Heptathlon – Clemson’s Miller Moss appears to be the class of the field with a season’s best nearly 100 points ahead of the field. A field in which the next three contestants all have bests of exactly 5816 points! Another event that should be exciting from start to finish with a fierce battle for points!

Women’s 200 – Five women enter this race with times between 22.78 and 23.01 – lane draw is going to be crucial! LSU enters with 3 of the top five performers in this event. If they hope to unseat the Oregon juggernaut they will have to come through here. If there is a chink in the Duck armor here is where it could show.

Women’s 800 – List leader Lea Wallace (Sac St) come in at 2:03.07. Behind her is a log jam with EIGHTH women between 2:03.79 and 2:04.95! Look for a vicious final 100 as they head for the medals.

Following are my predictions for the individual champions. And I expect repeat team wins by both Florida and Oregon.

Men’s Predictions

Event Athlete School
60 Jeff Demps Florida
200 Tony McQuay Florida
400 Kirani James Alabama
800 Casimir Loxsom Penn State
Mile Miles Batty BYU
3000 Sam Chalenga Liberty
5000 Sam Chalenga Liberty
60H Andrew Riley Illinois
4 x 4 Relay   Texas A&M
DMR   Oregon
HJ Erik Kynard Kansas St
PV Scott Roth Washington St
LJ Tarik Batchelor Arkansas
TJ Christian Taylor Florida
SP Mason Finley Kansas
WT Walter Henning LSU
Hept Miller Moss Clemson


Women’s Predictions

Event Athlete School
60 Lakya Brookins Clemson
200 Jeneba Tarmoh Texas A&M
400 Jessica Beard Texas A&M
800 Christina Rogers Arizona St
Mile Jordan Hasay Oregon
3000 Jordan Hasay Oregon
5000 Alex Kosinski Oregon
60H Gabby Mayo Texas A&M
4 x 4 Relay   Texas A&M
DMR   Villanova
HJ Brigetta Barrett Arizona
PV Tina Sutej Arkansas
LJ Chantel Malone Texas
TJ Kimberly Williams Florida St
SP Faith Sherrill Indiana
WT Felisha Johnson Indiana St
Pen Brianne Theisen Oregon

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tamgho Three Jumps to Two WR’s at Euro Champs


The big meet of the weekend was the European Indoor Champs, and the star of the Paris show was home boy Teddy Tamgho (FRA) who improved his own WR by twice leaping 58’ 9.5” to demolish the competition. This was the second time this year that Tamgho raised the WR having done so in Aubiere (58’ 9.25”) last month. His gold medal victory was the highlight of an indoor season that saw him leap over 58’ 9.25” THREE times. More importantly he showed tremendous consistency AND the ability to compete well and jump long under pressure – something that seemed to be missing among his long leaps of last year. Based on current form he could well jump over 59 feet outdoors AND win gold in Daegu – and dare I say we could see him approach the magical 60 foot barrier.

Another who could be challenging barriers outdoors is fellow Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie who won pole vault gold at 19’ 9.25”. Not quite a world record but it was an indoor PR and national record. Like Tamgho, Lavillenie has been both dominant and consistent this indoor season and appears to be a potential thereat to the 20 foot barrier outdoors.

And in keeping with the theme of spectacular field event performances at the Euro Indoor Champs, Russian high jumper Ivan Ukhov soared 7’ 9.75 – the third time this season that he has cleared that mark. He too has been very consistent and dominant this indoor season and looks ready to jump in the 7’ 10” / 7’ 11” range this outdoor season.

The most interesting development of the meet, however, was the return to form of Portuguese sprinter Francis Obikwelu. The 32 year old sprinter won the 60 meter title in a PR 5.53. An improvement on his previous 6.54 best set in 2005 and better than the 6.56 he ran in 2004 – the year he set his 100 PR of 9.86 while taking silver at the Athens Olympics. Among the scalps Obikwelu took in Paris were those of Britain's Dwain Chambers and Frances Christophe Lemaitre – last year’s European sprint find.

If Obikwelu is once again serious about joining the sprint wars in earnest he could be a fact in shaping the outcome of the Daegu final! A prodigy in his youth, a 19 year old Obikwelu won World Champs bronze in the 200 in 1999 – after running 19.84 in his semifinal! He last ran sub 10 in ‘06 (9.99) but barely ran under 6.70 (6.68) that season. His development will be one to watch. Similarly heading outdoors the European jumpers and vaulters should be at the top of everyone’s watch lists.

Full results of the European Indoor Championships can be found here. Next weekend we will have the final “big” meet of the indoor season – the NCAA championships. I will have my predictions up as soon as the final start lists are announced.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Transition Time!


It’s March, and while there are still a couple of major indoor meets to get out of the way (Euro Champs and NCAA Champs) we’re finally headed outdoors!

All over the world we’ll start getting good old outdoor competition. And for a track junkie like me that’s awesome news. From local high school, community college, and college and university meets, to the early season “relay” competitions, there will be plenty of track and field to watch as we finally get from “undercover” and out on the 400 meter ovals.

Of course now is the time of year that separates the “real” fans from those who are just interested in seeing “only the best”. Because sightings of the truly elite will still be several weeks away, and typically if we do see them this month it will be in “off” events.

For example the 400 has become a favorite early season race of many non quarter milers. David Rudisha (45.50) used it last year to set up his spectacular season. And several of the world’s elite sprinters have been using it for years to jump start their seasons – including Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Wallace Spearmon and others. So don’t be surprised if the first results you see from the world’s best sprinters begin with the number “4”.

So, just what kind of results should we expect to see during this transition month? Actually pretty good. For one reason, elite athletes often put up solid marks in their “secondary” events. Secondly, by the end of the month even the brief forays of the elite into their pet events can produce some eye popping results. Finally we tend to forget that there are other athletes out there besides the “name” athletes – and many are trying to make a name for themselves before the “stars” come out to outshine them.

Which makes it a real good time to get out and watch the competition. Especially with Worlds on the line this year. There will be many athletes trying to position themselves to make their teams – and they’ll be looking to late March and early April meets to tell them how their training is going and where they need to tweak.

And while April tends to be the month where results really explode, there have been some fairly outstanding marks turned in during the month of March. I went through some all time lists to try and sort out the best marks by event that were turned in during March. I was surprised at just how good athletes have performed this early in the season. Following is the list of “Best March Performances” that I came up with. If you are aware of corrections please let me know.


Event Mark Athlete Date
100 10.02 Deji Aliu 3/18/95 **
200 20.10A Michael Johnson 3/19/99
400 44.59A Arnaud Malherbe 3/19/99
800 1:43.15 David Rudisha 3/4/10
1500 3:32.53 William Chirchir 3/2/00
5000 12:58.19 Craig Mottram 3/20/06
10000 27:43.89 Shadrick Hoff 3/6/96
3000 st 8:14.41 Wander do Prado Moura 3/22/95
110HH 13.22 Colin Jackson 3/14.96
400 IH 48.05 Louis Van Zyl 3/23/06
HJ 7’ 10.5” Javier Sotomayor 3/12/89
PV 19’ 8.75” Okert Brits 3/15/96
LJ 27’ 10.75” Ivan Pedroso 3/19/95
TJ 57’ 11.75” Yoelbi Quesada 3/24/95
SP 71’ 8” Reese Hoffa 3/25/07
Disc 232’ 11” Virgilijus Alekna 3/30/01
Ham 269’ 11” Aleksy Zagornyi 3/9/02
Jav 308’ 5” Jan Zelezny 3/26/97
Dec 8412 Leonel Suarez 3/7/09

** Note that Maurice Greene ran sub10 (9.99) on February 28, 1998. Missing March by a day.


Event Mark Athlete Date
100 10.97 Evelyn Ashford 3/8/82
200 21.84A Marion Jones 3/19/99
400 49.87A Charity Opara 3/27/98
800 1:58.16 Kenia Sinclair 3/24/06
1500 4:01.81 Zola Budd 3/31/84
5000 14:46.60 Wang Chunmei 3/26/98
10000 31:18.07 Lisa Koll 3/26/10
3000 st 9:19.51 Dorcus Inzikuru 3/22/06
100 HH 12.65 Bridgett Foster Hylton 3/23/06
400 IH 54.10A Surita Febbraio 3/16/01
HJ 6’ 7”A Monika Iagar 3/16/98
PV 15’ 1.75” Kym Howe 3/26/06
LJ 22’ 11.75” Bronwyn Thompson 3/7/02
TJ 48’ 1.25” Mable Gay 3/8/07
SP 68’ 10.5” Ivanka Khristova 3/26/76
Disc 231’ 3” Maritza Marten 3/4/89
Ham 246’ 11” Betty Heidler 3/12/10
Jav 223’ 10 Osleidys Menendez 3/5/04
Hept 6396 Kelly Sotherton 3/22/06

So I think we have a lot to look forward to as we head outdoors. The meets in Australia and South Africa have traditionally given us the top early results. And tomorrow we get things kicked off with a meet in Melbourne! The Melbourne line up includes Valerie Adams (NZL) in the shot put; David Rudisha (KEN) in the 800; a mile field that includes Asbel Kiprop (KEN), Nick Willis (NZL) and Alan Webb (US); and a super 5000 field with Craig Mottram (AUS), Bernard Lagat (US), Matt Tegenkamp (US) and Chris Solisnsky (US)! Not a bad way to kick off the month of March.

Start lists for Melbourne can e found here.