Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is It Time to Change Our Selection Process?


Sanya Richards Ross just brought up an age old issue when it comes to the U.S. Trials system – that it should be changed to ensure we send our best to major competitions.

In some ways the sport has already been in agreement. After all, the IAAF went to the bye for World champions because of Michael Johnson’s injury status in 1997. Johnson was injured and unable to compete in our selection meet for the World Championships, and to ensure his competition the IAAF created the bye for World champions that allowed Johnson to compete in Athens. Since then all World champions have been assured a place in the subsequent Championship immediately following their victory.

So clearly there is the view within the sport, that having the best available to compete should be given priority. The problem is just how to accomplish that. The IAAF can expand the competition field to accommodate athletes with byes. USATF, however, does not have the luxury of simply adding another spot to our 100 or 200 meter rosters in order to accommodate Tyson Gay – in this case. Nor would it be equitable to allow defending champions (World or Olympic) a bye as there are only a handful of those each cycle – as opposed to the IAAF rule which covers every event.

The most oft spoken solution, and the one espoused by Richards Ross, is two keep the qualifying meet as is, but only select two individuals based on finish. The third slot would be at the discretion of coaches decisions – based on form and fitness. While that sounds wonderful in principle, it has the potential to become a political nightmare – which is why discussions of this nature have never gotten very far. This would give power/clout to the “stronger” coaches and training camps.

I do like the idea of selecting only the first two at Trials and leaving a spot available to be filled later. One reason is what we are facing – a star athlete not ready due to injury at the time the Trials are run. I also like the idea because quite often our 3rd place at Trials is not ready to perform which leads to the spot being almost a throw away. Leaving a spot to be named later would take care of both issues.

My suggestion is to leave a spot open, but to make it less political. I think you do that by making the selection objective rather than subjective. In this case award the spot to the individual not already on the team that has the best sequence of legal marks over their top three competitions with at least one of the marks having to come post Trials. This means that if an athlete’s five best marks came before the Trials and number six came after, you take marks one, two and six to determine average. It also means that if the individual has no marks after the Trials they are ineligible – they have to show the ability to compete in the Major. Also in the case of field events, best mark in three separate competitions so that marks within a sequence would not count.

Now there are no decisions to make. No back room deals to hammer out. You have to compete your way onto the team – this time in separate competitions. Check the numbers and the best available athlete gets the spot. If Tyson runs 9.79 and 9.83 before Trials and gets hurt and can’t compete at Trials but runs 9.81 afterwards, and athlete “B” gets 4th at Trials but has marks of 9.85 and 9.84, then he can get the spot instead of Tyson if he can run a 9.73. In short if Tyson gets the spot it’s because he’s run better overall than athlete “B” – not because he is Tyson Gay or because B is politicked out of the spot. The spot goes to the best available athlete and you must PROVE it. If Tyson were to come back and only run 9.91, then athlete “B” can get the spot by running 9.83. Again the better performing athlete gets the spot.

I’m sure that I or others can run scenarios that may not work, but I think something of this nature keeps the “’system” as close to the present system as possible – and that’s keeping it in the hands of the athletes and away from subjective selection. What are your thoughts?

100 Silver Still Cursed?


I know I said I was going to recap the field events from Nationals, but I think I will do that in a Preview to Worlds. Mostly because I’m hoping we get a few more athletes in better position, as right now we have a lot of “B” qualifiers and athletes without qualifying marks.

And today we are getting back on track, so to speak, with the next stage of the Diamond League – Lausanne. Before that starts, however, I did want to touch on something that I’ve written about before. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Tyson Gay and his injury, as I’ve mentioned before. And I’m still mulling around in my head exactly how I view his situation. But it did bring to mind something I wrote in ‘09 – that the silver medal in the 100 seems to be cursed.

Following up from where I left off at that time, we still have not seen a return to form from Richard Thompson. 10.01 this year, 10.01 last year, though he did run 9.93 in ‘09 – a time that got him only 5th in the Berlin final on the heels of his Beijing silver.

Silver medalist in Berlin was, Tyson Gay. And as we all now know Tyson will not be competing in Daegu this year due to injury – though he was co—world leader last year at 9.78, was undefeated, beat Usain Bolt, and was ranked #1 in the world. Coincidence? I sure hope so. But I did have someone remind me that I said the medal was cursed and so I thought I would revisit it.

I also had someone suggest that Eugene is cursed for Tyson. Injured at the Trials for Beijing, and now for Daegu. Ironically Eugene is now the home of the most sub10’s run on any track – at least that is what was announced during the meet, I will have to start doing a bit of research. In spite of that, however, it would seem that Mr. Gay could benefit from a change in venue, if for no other reason than variety. It seems in his case familiarity breeds exempt – from the upcoming Major.

In any case it will be interesting to see how Thompson fairs this year and how both Thompson and Gay fair in upcoming years. And it will certainly be interesting to see who wins this year’s silver medal and his fate in the future.

By the way, that 200 silver is starting to look a bit shaky too! The Berlin silver medalist, Alonso Edward, has been inured since. Beijing actual silver medalist, Churandy Martina, disqualified and not near form since. Recipient of the Beijing silver, Shawn Crawford only 4th in Berlin. Osaka silver medalist Bolt upgraded to gold in Beiing and Berlin. But Helsinki silver medalist, Wallace Spearmon, downgraded to bronze in Osaka, disqualified in Beijing, before another bronze in Berlin, and now out for Daegu. Then the previous silver medalists this century (since ‘00), Bernard Williams (‘04), Darvis Patton (‘03), Chris Williams (‘01), Darren Campbell (‘00) all basically disappeared from the sport. Except for Patton who has run fast but no medals in the 100, and is now returning to the deuce for Daegu.

One of those things that makes you go – hmmmm. Anyway, my way of shifting gears – I’ve been in Nationals mode for a couple of weeks now! I’m looking forward to Lausanne. Especially Christophe Lemaitre who seems to be growing week by week and gets to test himself against Asafa Powell. Also looking forward to the triple jump with Teddy Tamgho taking back to the field. He and Idowu should have a nice little head to head. I also want to see just well Sanya Richards is going to preform in the 400 after dropping out at Nationals. There will be a Dayron Robles sighting, and Morgan Uceny in action after her National title win over 1500. Should be a great meet and a nice start to the second half of the season.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nationals Recap - Middle/Long Distances


The pickings have been very slim in our medal hunt in events above 400 meters. While the relative drought goes back even further, since the start of the New Millennium we’ve only had four individuals pick up hardware in a Major – Goucher (‘07, 10,000), Flanagan (‘08, 10,000), Rowbury (‘09, 1500), and Lagat (‘09, 1500/5000).  It’s been a rough ride when we’ve had to go more than one lap around the track.

On the bright side, two of those individuals picked up medals in the last Major – Berlin – and I do believe that that may have been the start of some serious improvement in our middle and long distance hopes.

Before I get started, the competition remains the same from 800 meters through 10,000 meters – Africa. Most specifically Kenya and Ethiopia, who dominate these events stronger than any other nations dominate any other events on the track or the field. The real powers on the track are not the U.S., Jamaica, Russia or any of the countries that get the traditional headlines. The powers on the track are Kenya and Ethiopia. And if they ever put together any semblance of field event strength, they would become the overall powers of the sport. So in everything above 400 meters we are trying to make inroads into THEIR territory. So how well will we do?

Our men’s 800 meter team is experienced with Nick Symmonds and Khadevis Robinson. And young Charles Jock has a TON of potential. What I really love about Jock is that he is not afraid to go out and run with the leaders, or even be the leader. Not too coincidently he is very much reminiscent of our last great half miler – AR holder Johnny Gray. The problem for Jock, and Symmonds and Robinson, is that this event requires being able to run 1:43.xx on demand, and none of our guys is in that position. Symmonds has the guts to be in the hunt, but will the pace allow him to be close enough to kick and be effective? We know Jock will be in the hunt, but is he strong enough yet to hold on? That’s really where we sit with this event.

In the 1500, we actually have a couple of men that have run toe to toe with our African foes and fared quite well last year – Leo Manzano and Andrew Wheating. Wheating ran 3:30.90 last year, Manzano 3:32.37, both well within range of the top 1500 men in the world as they proved with some very strong races and top 3 finishes in Europe last summer. The key will be how race sharp they are come Daegu. Third man, Matthew Centrowitz, has improved a lot this year and defeated both men to become the national champion. But he’s unlikely to find a pace as dawdling as the one he was served in Eugene and could be a couple of years away from really being in this company.

Moving up to the men’s 5000, we find our best hope for a male distance medal in Bernard Lagat. Lagat is the defending World champion in both the 1500 and 5000, though he will apparently only run the 5000 in Daegu. The AR holder (12:54.12) is perhaps the best tactical runner in the world, and is still one of the top kickers. He can run off any pace, has the heart of a lion and is always looking for that finish line. He will be flanked by Chris Solisky (#2 all time American at 12:55.53) and Galen Rupp. Solinsky proved last summer that he can run with this crowd, as three times in Europe he ran under 12:57 and finished top three in Zurich! Rupp is still growing in this event and on the cusp of being truly competitive at 13:07.35. But what was exciting about him in Eugene is that he showed the ability to kick – finishing off his 10,000 meter win (he’ll be in both events) with a 54.43 final lap!

Speaking of the 10,000, Rupp did win that event with that blistering last lap – ahead of Matt Tegenkamp and Scott Bauhs. The 10K actually seems to be Rupp’s better event with a PR of 27:10.74 – which puts him in range of most big race type 10Ks. Same for Tegenkamp who has a best of 27:34.98 – a bit outside of range, but close enough if he can excel in a tactical race. With a best of 27:48.06, Bauhs has a lot of work ahead of him.

So, with that all said what are our prospects? I’ll have to say zero in the 800, maybe one in the 1500, one in the 5000, and maybe, maybe one in the 10000. I’m hoping that we can someone in the final of the 800 (Symmonds or Jock) but either will have to have a big improvement to get on that podium. In the 1500 if Manzano and/or Wheating get to the final, I really think they can get close to that podium, close enough to perhaps upset someone. Lagat is a near certainty to medal in the 5000 – he just knows how to compete. And if Rupp can go through real race pace and kick anywhere near 54 seconds – even in the 56 second range – I think he could have a shot. If we can pull one of these “maybe”’s off it is an improvement on the recent past.

The women’s side of ledger looks even more promising.

In the 800 Alysia Montano and Maggie Vessey have run in the 1:57’s – an area that traditionally either medals or is just outside of the medals. Both certainly have the ability to do so – the issue will be race tactics. Montano is a front runner – will she be able to hold on to a bit faster pace than the one at Nationals? Vessey is a kicker – will she stay close enough, a la Eugene, to have it be effective? This is all new territory for Schmidt, and more than likely will be her “experience” meet.

The women’s 1500 is potentially our strongest event over 400 meters! Simpson is sub4, Rowbury oh so close, and Uceny has improved each season for the past couple and looks ready to improve on her 4:02.40 PR. More importantly Rowbury has already shown that she can get it done on the big stage with her bronze in Berlin – and Simpson and Uceny are as competitive and driven as Rowbury!

The 5000 is a bit more of a question mark. Molly Huddle is the AR holder, and looked really good in Eugene – very much under control. Teammates, Amy Hastings and Angela Bizzari are up and coming, but their finishes in Eugene were PR’s for both of them, which means they will have to PR once again to even think about being in the hunt.

The 10000 boasts some of our most experienced female distance runners – Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher and Jen Rhines. And right now Flanagan and Goucher are among the season’s eight fastest in the event and Flanagan was the Beijing bronze medalist. This trio may be the most experienced trio we are sending to Daegu in any event outside of the men’s shot put!

So, what are our prospects? I’m going to stick my neck out and saying one’s across the board – maybe one in the 800, one in the 1500, one in the 5000, and one in the 10000! Montano and Vessey will both have to run like veterans and get the most out of their abilities. Neither can afford a mental lapse. Any of our three entrants in the 1500 is capable of pulling off a medal. Huddle is certainly capable in the 5000, but it’s going to be a battle. Shalane and Kara have what it takes, they just have to be ready on the day – and Shalane usually is.

That’s my story and I’m stickin to it. I see improvement in our middle and long distance crew, I just hope they prove me right! I’m going to finish this up with a recap on the field, because we’re heading back to action with Lausanne – so it’s time to start keeping an eye on everyone’s progress as the countdown to Daegu begins. 

Nationals Recap - Hurdles

Before I start my recap of the hurdle events, let me say that the U.S. sprint hopes got a potential boost with the announcement yesterday that Lashawn Merritt will be allowed to use his bye to the World Championships.

This move was sorely needed in my opinion, both to show that USATF is actually trying to work towards accomplishing something in Daegu, as much as to simply indicate that it is capable of doing the right thing for our athletes.

The key here is that Merritt will only have about a month to get race sharp as he will not be eligible to begin competing until July 27th – exactly one month before the opening of the World Championships. If he can get race sharp, however, he could be in a position to bolster our 400 meter team as well as provide some veteran strength in the 4x4. August meets have just taken on some added meaning.

Now, back to the recaps.

Looking at the results, the core of our medals in Daegu should come from the hurdles. Because in each of the four events we have gold medal potential.

The men’s 110 hurdles boasts the current AR holder and #3 all time in David Oliver. Surprisingly, for the first time in a long time we are not sending a “veteran” squad to Worlds. That’s because seemingly forever (at least back to the mid ‘90s) we’ve always had at least a pair of “super” hurdlers to count on – primarily because Alan Johnson and Terrence Trammell were always around. That streak ended with this meet as Trammell finally missed a team (after the retirement of Johnson just a couple of seasons ago). In his/their stead we will have Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson. Both are talented, but yet to show the ability to get into that elite sub13.10 range typically necessary to compete for medals at this level.

And that’s really the challenge to medaling in this event in Daegu, as this event contains the top three men in all of history. We have #3 in Oliver. They will be going to war against China’s Liu Xiang (#2) and Cuba’s Dayron Robles (#1). This is an event that could play out to be THE showdown of the meet on the men’s side.

Where we are young in the short hurdles, we have much experience and depth in the intermediate hurdles. Angelo Taylor won his first Olympic gold back in 2000. Bershawn Jackson a World gold in 2005. In the past half decade, Taylor picked up another Olympic gold (‘08), and Jackson Olympic bronze (‘08) and World bronze (‘09), and Taylor took out time to pick up a bronze medal in the open 400 in ‘07. These guys know how to compete on the big stage. And so does their young compatriot, Jeshua Anderson. All he’s done in his young career is pick up three NCAA championships, and NCAA silver, and win this year’s USATF championship! Any of these men is capable of picking up the gold medal in South Korea.

Their competition will be interesting. LJ Van Zyl (RSA) was on fire in the early spring and still leads the world on the clock. He’s not faired well in head to heads since the outdoor season has gotten under way in earnest. Britain's David Greene and Panama’s Javier Culson are also formidable opponents – Culson taking silver in ‘09.

So, how do we look for Daegu? I’m thinking one medal in the 110’s and two medals in the 400’s. Oliver is as solid a medalist as we have heading into Korea. He’s been consistently under 13 seconds in the past two seasons and only has two peers – Xiang and Robles. In the long hurdles the only issue is will someone from outside the US rise up to seriously challenge. The odds are that one or two will, but we have the horses to fight off most challenges.

How about the women? Well we’re pretty solid there as well. In the 100 hurdles we have three women who are just about as interchangeable as our men’s 400 hurdlers. Surprising because just two years ago names like Lolo Jones and Damu Cherry were prominent when talking about our hurdlers. But Dawn Harper is a gold medalist in her own right having won in Beijing, and Kelli Wells and Danielle Carruthers have been dominating the yearly performance list to this point. So despite what appears to be a changing of the guard, we’ve done so without a hitch – so far.

Also surprising is that the opposition has been very quiet this year. Canada’s Lopes Sliep is on maternity leave this year – explaining why she hasn’t been prominent this year. But little noise has been made by the other usual suspects – Derval O’Rourke (IRL), Brigitte Foster Hylton (JAM), Sally McLellan (AUS), Perdita Felicien (CAN) and Delloreen Ennis London (JAM). Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing!

As for the 400 hurdles, our squad resembles the men’s short hurdles squad. Lashinda Demus is one of the best all time (#5, #3 American). She also has experience with a silver in ‘05 bookending a silver in ‘09. We are young behind her, however, with Queen Harrison and Jasmine Chaney relatively new to this level – though Harrison did make the ‘08 team and the semis in Beijing before bowing out in 7th.

Unfortunately for the youngsters this event has a solid cast of international competitors including: Kaliese Spence and Melaine Walker of Jamaica, Bulgaria’s Vania Stambolova and Russia’s Natalya Antyukh – with Walker the defending World and Olympic champion.

So, what do our women’s prospects look like in the hurdles? I’m thinking two medals in the short hurdles and one in the long hurdles. The competition really seems to be lagging in the 100 hurdles. Of course everyone could be peaking for Daegu, but by this time of the year, there really should be more women in that 12.5/12.6 range. And there is also the potential for our women to get better. In the long hurdles we’re going to e depending on the consistency of Demus to get us a medal – potentially gold.

That’s how I see as of right now. Out of twelve potential medals I think we have the ability to garner six of them. That’s fifty percent, and the best haul of medals in any group of events. Which is why I say the hurdles should be the core of our medal haul in Daegu. Next I’ll take a look at the Middle and Long distances.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Nationals Recap – Sprints


The National Championships ended a couple of days ago now and I’ve been running it back over in my mind, and the DVR, a few times.  Upon further review it was one of the most interesting meets we’ve had in a while. So much so that I’m going to recap it in parts – because there was a lot that went on. At the conclusion, I will put out my first “Medal Watch List” of the year – a list that I will adjust during the summer lead up to the World Championships.

I’m going to start with a recap/analysis of the sprints. Partly because they have traditionally been our strongest area heading into a World Championships or Games, and partly because more happened here than perhaps anywhere else in the meet.

As this meet unfolded I had this feeling of déjà vu, but couldn’t figure out why. After re-watching the meet and going through the results it hit me – sprint wise this meet was eerily like the 1976 Olympic Trials. In 1975 the two biggest names in men’s sprinting were Steve Williams and Donald Quarrie – an American & a Jamaican.  Williams was a WR setter in ‘75 over both the 100 (9.9) and 200 (19.8), Quarrie a record setter in the 200 (19.8). Williams #1 World ranked in the 100 #2 in the 200; Quarrie #2 in the 100, #1 in the 200. At the start of the ‘76 season Williams was HOT – Mar 27 (9.9), Apr 17 (19.9), May 8 (10.0), and May 22 (19.9). It was assumed that only Quarrie, or perhaps young upstart collegian Harvey Glance – himself a two time WR setter at 9.9 earlier in the season – could stop Williams from double gold in Montreal. Then a hamstring injury pulled Williams from the Trials! Our hottest sprinter and surest medal bet was OUT. (Ironically a hamstring injury had taken a younger version of Williams from the ‘72 Trials, he was no stranger to injury).

Then, at the Trials themselves Houston McTear, THE wonder kid of the day (high school senior) , pulled up while finishing 2nd in the 100 final – he made the team but would not be healthy at the Games. The winner of the race was indeed Harvey Glance with veteran Steve Riddick in third. With Williams out of the deuce, another youngster, JC star Millard Hampton, took the title ahead of another high schooler, Dwain Evans, and a who woulda thunk it Mark Lutz. The 400 saw comeback veteran Fred Newhouse lead youngsters Herman Frazier and Maxie Parks to Montreal. But perhaps our best quarter miler would not be eligible to run in Montreal as one John Smith was competing in the fledgling ITA (professional league) and was ineligible for Olympic competition!

Now I took that little detour through history because quite frankly that’s almost exactly where we are today in the men’s sprints! Our best sprinter (Tyson Gay) felled to injury. A mixture of young talent (Dix, Rodgers), veteran (Gatlin, Patton) and “who” (Dodson). A youth (McQuay), a comeback vet (Wariner) and perhaps our best not eligible (Merritt) for our quarter mile squad!

How did we get here? Clearly we are witnessing a changing of the guard in US sprinting – much as we were in ‘76. They say that in sports Father Time is the only one that is undefeated – and he took a lot of scalps in this meet as bodies simply broke down, time taking it’s toll. Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Xavier Carter, Shawn Crawford, just a few years ago they looked like our foundation – ready to take us through another 10 years. But as I noted last year, injury is apparently the new aging, and we just may not see those LONG careers that we thought professionalism would bring.

So, now that the dust has settled, how does this group look? If I’m being honest, unclear. Dix and Gatlin both said that they made the team in spite of fighting injuries and illness. And I have to believe them, because frankly I didn’t expect Dix to make the 100 squad. So in some respects it gives me some hope knowing that both “should” be better/faster in Daegu. The question is how fast will they need to be?

Our biggest challenge should be the Jamaicans, but they’ve had their own issues of late. Bolt was not Boltian earlier in the season. Powell and Carter have claimed injuries at various times. Mullings was said to have nearly pulled out of his Trials with cramping. Ashmeade seemed to be having issues at Trials. Clearly fast times are taking their toll! Then there are two youngsters out there that are ready to potentially hijack things – Ngoni Makusha and Christophe Lemaitre. Both are improving rapidly, and neither has the “miles” on their drive trains that we and the Jamaicans seem to have on ours! Makusha has a very beautiful natural race pattern and could be deadly in Daegu. Lemaitre has a ton of talent, but can he get it all harnessed in time?

That said, looking at our chances, I say one medal in the 100. Maybe two in the 200. A better shot at two in the 400. But if I were playing spades I’d be hoping that someone doesn’t have too many spades sitting in their hand, or I’m toast! A healthy Bolt goes sub 9.80 and sub 19.60. That’s uncharted territory in big race situations for anyone else that is headed to Daegu. The closer you can get to that the better your chance at a medal. Healthy both Dix and Gatlin are battle tested and capable of medaling – Dix in both, Gatlin in the 100. Can Patton PR in the deuce after all this time – because that’s what it will take to medal. McQuay appears ready to challenge the young talent in the 400, can Wariner? These are the five men that I see attempting to hold the down the sprint fort in Daegu. And then there is the specter of Lashawn Merritt and whether or not he will be allowed to compete – because if he’s in form he can change everything in the 400!

Now for the women – I saved the best for last! For the first time in a while, our women’s sprint team looks to be much stronger than our men’s squad heading into a major. Whereas Father Time took a toll on our men, he seems to be biding his time with the women. Our 100 crew came through intact, with “vet” Miki Barber running better than ever. Carmelita Jeter is just rolling this year, and Marshevet Myers is having a PR season. In the deuce, we are lead by Allyson Felix who is going for a “four-peat” in this event. Like Myers, Shalonda Solomon is putting together what looks to be her best season ever. Jeter turned some attention here and PR’d in Eugene, and Jeneba Tarmoh is young and talented and having a PR season herself. So we look very solid in the 100 & 200 with the women.

The area where there may be a bit of concern is in the 400. The first question is whether or not Nationals winner Allyson Felix is going to attempt the double in Daegu. That’s a big question, because defending champion Sanya Richards Ross is just not looking the part. She may be the one woman in our sprint crew that Father Time is tapping on the shoulder. She’s not looked good at all outdoors, and Nationals was not a good meet for her. After pulling out of the 400 and getting blitzed in the deuce, she’s just not looking like a 10.97 / 22.17 / 48.70 sprinter. So if Felix decides against the double we’re looking at Francena Mc Corory, Debbie Dunn, and Jessica Beard. Talented, but lacking the experience that Felix and Richard Ross bring to the event.

The challenge? Well, primarily Jamaica, primarily Veronica Campbell Brown. She’s the one Jamaican with more medals than Bolt! And apparently she has Father Time’s favor because she seems to get better with time – at least in the 100. With Gay out, the biggest sprint showdowns in Daegu should be between Campbell Brown & Jeter in the 100 and Campbell Brown & Felix in the 200. She should get strong backing from Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce and Kerron Stewart, but as of right now Campbell Brown be runnin things on the island. As for the 400, no one anywhere is really stepping up, but expect to see a Jamaican, a Russian, a Ukrainian, and a Brit do so in the next 2 months.

So, how do we look? As of today, I say two medals in the 100, a possible two medals in the 200 and one, possible two in the 400 – and I think I’m holdingi a pretty strong hand. Jeter is an ace in the 100, and Myers will be hard to keep off the podium the way she is currently running. Felix is an ace in the 200, Solomon & Jeter looking really strong right now. Felix is a medal in the 400 should she run, if not strength of field will determine what we get here.

That’s how I see it. Relay wise we should medal in all four relays – the question is what colors. I will take a look at the relays separately when I’m done with other events. I will also take a look at Tyson Gay, because I’ve had a lot of people asking me what I think about Tyson and the future. Andn I will be taking a look at the Merritt situation. So I will give my two cents on all of the above later.

Suffice it to say, however, that there are a lot of question marks in the sprints right now on the men’s side of the ledger. A lot that has to be answered over the next eight weeks or so.  And to be honest, I’m less concerned with what Jamaica is doing than I am with what we are not doing. We had a BIG men’s class in 2005 when the first four finishers in the 200 at the NCAA Championships were Wallace Spearmon (soph), Xavier Carter (frosh), Tyson Gay (sr) and Walter Dix (frosh)! We’ve had nothing like it since. Yet we’ve had some outstanding young sprinters coming out of our high schools since then – better on the clock than the foursome I just listed. We have to figure out the disconnect!

But Daegu is looming ahead, and I’ll really be watching the next four to six weeks, because we should have a clue by that point at just how well we’re going to do. Next I’ll be recapping the Hurdles.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nationals – Day Four Notes


Only about an hours worth of action on the track on the final day, but a pretty exciting hour! And a few surprises.


Anderson In a Photo

I knew that the men’s 400 hurdles was going to be close – and was it ever. Jeshua Anderson showed just how strong he was as he got his first sub48 to go with the win – BARELY. There was only .009 separating him from Bershawn Jackson, with not much more to Angelo Taylor. Great, great stretch run. And a terrific squad headed to Daegu.


Dix Doubles

No Tyson - injury. Gatlin DNS. Wallace Spearmon out in the first round! Xavier Carter out in the semis. Shawn Crawford finally collared by Father Time. Collegians finally ran out of gas. That left Walter Dix with a field that just wasn’t up to the task as he became the meet’s only double winner with a 19.95 (+2.4) run. It was still close, however, as after an eight year hiatus, Darvis Patton returned to the deuce to take second in 19.98 (I’ve been wondering why he was wasting his time in the 100).


Shalonda Flew and a Double for Jeter

At the start of the meet this was supposed to be the race that Sanya Richards ran to try to double in Daegu. Instead it was a breakthrough race for Shalonda Solomon who screamed down the stretch to the win. It also became a chance for Carmelita Jeter to double as she came second in a PR. Jeter lead the semis in a PR, then lead the field off the turn in the final. Then Solomon hit overdrive! Add Solomon and Jeter to the Daegu mix of Felix and Campbell Brown – and now we get Jeter and Campbell Brown TWICE in Daegu!


Nick, I’m Sorry

The men’s 800 went to form – not the predicted form but the form that in retrospect it should have taken. No Wheating who contested only the 1500. Jock did as expected and took out the pace. Symmonds did as expected and kicked to the win – his fourth in a row, leaving me to eat crow! Everyone else seemed to abandon their scripts – and any chance at a trip to South Korea. Sorry I doubted you Nick. Experience prevailed.


Montano – Full Speed Ahead

Montano succeeded where Wurth Thomas didn’t – she took the pace out and held on for the win. Alice Schmidt latched on to Montano and was rewarded with 3rd and a trip to Worlds. But two very surprising things happened during the race. Maggie Vessey stayed close enough for her kick to be effective and she split Montano and Schmidt in 2nd. Even more surprising is that Phoebe Wright never lead in this race! She kept looking for a lane to go though and get there, but never could. Instead she became a kicker and just fell short of the team by .04!


It was an interesting Championship meet. I have a lot to say, but decided to wait and just do a “wrap up” and not do it here. I’ll have that in a day or so. But definitely a lot went on in this meet!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Nationals – Day Three Notes


A great day of finals. A couple of favorites did their thing. A couple of youngsters turned the tables. And one of the gutsiest races I’ve seen in the last twenty three years!


McQuay Comes of Age

They say that things happen for a reason. Tony McQuay was injured at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He didn’t really get going until conference time. He was clearly fresher than the other collegians entered in this meet. He also seemed fresher than Jeremy Wariner, who even though he was running in lane 2 made a strong move coming off the final turn and looked ready to win. Then McQuay answered – saw Jeremy’s move and raised him two! That was all she wrote as McQuay ran away from the field in the stretch for the win. Wariner tried to respond, but did well to just hold off Greg Nixon by .007. I wonder what McQuay can do with another 9 weeks under his belt – or if Wariner will be better able to respond.


Felix, Demus & Oliver as Expected

This has been a tough meet for veterans and favorites. So to say that Allyson Felix, David Oliver, and Lashinda Demus came, saw, and conquered is saying a mouthful! Each one just went out ran and took charge. Neither win was ever in doubt. Felix’ win in the 400 puts her in position to attempt the 200/400 double should she want to go that way. It also pretty much guarantees her a spot on the 4x4. I would love to see Lashinda Demus as one of her teammates on that relay. I think both can split under 50.00 and lead the U.S. to gold. And Oliver’s win sets him up to participate in what should be the best “showdown” in Daegu against Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles, as it is this Big Three that should be entering Daegu stadium.


The Women’s 1500 – The Race of the Meet

I know there is another day of finals left, but it will take something special to top the women’s 1500. I said before this race that no matter what the finish I was going to be sad that someone was not going to Daegu. That will be Christin Wurth Thomas, who ran the gutsiest 1500 meters I’ve seen since Paula Ivan stole the Olympic title in 1988 by just going out and running away from the field – Ivan won in a sterling 3:53.96 with second WAY back in 4:00.24 – they never knew what hit them til she was taking her victory lap! Christin always takes it out, and she did so today. For three and a half laps it looked like she might pull it off, but with around 150 meters to go Morgan Uceny began her drive to catch her – which she did as she got settled in the finishing stretch. Uceny was fluid, strong and looked like the champion she became! Wurth Thomas tried gamely to hold on, and it wasn’t until the finish line itself that she yielded her ticket to Daegu to Shannon Rowbury by .01! If there were  a track genie and he (or she) was handing out just one wish I would ask that Christin be given a lane in Daegu, because she deserves it if only because I KNOW she will make the race exciting!


Centrowitz Holds Off Lagat

First McQuay, then Uceny, then in the final final of the day, Matt Centrowitz came of age and found a way to overcome the odds. This race went as they usually do in a major – the gun went off, then everyone waited to see who would take the lead. The pace doddled, and doddled, and looked like the race was being served up on a platter to either Bernard Lagat or Andrew Wheating – because this was a kicker’s dream. But as the pack came off the final turn with just about everyone in contention, and Bernard Lagat beginning to lift, something strange happened – actually a few strange things happened.  First Lagat came up on the leader of the pack, Matt Centrowitz, and shifted gears to go by. Except someone failed to send Centrowitz the memo, because he countered Bernard’s move and held him off – all the way to the tape! Matt lifted and went toe to toe with one of the world’s best kickers – and WON! The rush behind them was furious as Manzano, Wheating, Leer, and Torrence looked like a bunch of dogs after a rabbit! As they drove and lunged at the tape Wheating actually went to the ground – but was outdone by the rapid turnover of Manzano as Leo got the third spot and Wheating the fourth! Lagat, however, has decided to be happy with his spot on the 5000 squad and is giving Wheating the 1500 ticket to Daegu! Lagat is a gentleman and a scholar as the old folk used to say!


Looking forward to a great final day of action. Already this is looking like a “Youth will be served” meet. Will talk about it more after the meet is over, but there will be a lot of vets watching Worlds from my vantage point – TV. The hottest races tomorrow “should” be the 800’s, 200’s and men’s 400 hurdles. Let’s see how they play out!

Nationals Day Two Notes


Not a good day. Not on the track. Not on the ‘net. Not on the TV. Just not a good day overall for US track and field. I’ll start with the good but there was a lot of bad. It was like someone pulled the plug on my meet! Black Friday.


Jeter v Myers = Excitement

This was indeed what it was supposed to be – sort of. The two best made it to the starting line and both ran up to their abilities. Unfortunately for Myers Jeter actually got a very solid start and the race was never in doubt. Jeter blew the field away, and looks to be ready to go for gold in Daegu. Myers continued her excellent season with another solid win and should be considered a medal contender. The surprise, as is usual in the sprints, was Miki Barber, who I’ve been told is being coached by none other than Mo Greene!


Tyson Out, Justin Back, Dix a Big Meet Sprinter

Unless you’ve been under a rock you know that Tyson Gay pulled out of his semi in the 100. Hip and adductor issues. So we got no Tyson in the 100. We did get plenty of Justin Gatlin and Walter Dix however. Justin looked like the 2004 version as I predicted last week. Walter Dix looked like, well Walter Dix in a big meet. He’s not looked great this year and I thought that perhaps the competition was strong enough to keep him out. But after Gatlin executed almost exactly as he did in the ‘04 Trials (out well and off to the races) Dix hit high gear 80 meters out and reeled him in for the “oh so close win” at the tape. Meanwhile, back in third, Mike Rodgers looked like the old Mike Rodgers – good but not great. And of course there was a false start (that didn’t really look like a false start) with Ivory Williams who ran under protest – and was still dq’d. I have more to say about this race, a few of the athletes, and the rules, after the meet is over.


Clay out and Superman Parked His Cape

Bryan Clay attempted to make a race of it with Ashton Eaton in the first event of the decathlon (110 hurdles) but ate it and fell and ended up out of the competition! Eaton ran a sizzling 13.52, scored 1037 points, then looked average the rest of the day. His huge first day + hurdles gave him a final score of 8729 – well up on his previous best of 8457 – making him #13 all time in the event, and the #5 American. But he still has a lot of work to do in the field events before he can challenge the AR or WR – and perhaps Tre Hardee who is one of those Americans ahead of him on the list and will be waiting in Daegu.


Changes Coming in the 400

The tone of the day, if you haven’t gotten it yet, is that of top athletes being out of events. In the women’s 400 Sanya Richards pulled out of her semi. She’s the defending World champion so has a bye to Daegu, but let’s face it, she wasn’t going to win here. She’s got nine weeks, but somehow I’m not feeling it. Allyson Felix meanwhile cruised through to the final and looks ready to win this event and then consider the 200/400 double in Daegu. Another who looks to be “out of it” is Jeremy Wariner in the men’s 400. My question mark yesterday is even bigger today as Tony McQuay challenged him coming of the turn in their semi and Jeremy had NO response as McQuay went on to a 44.79 win – and Jeremy faded to third in 45.28! The #’s 2 thru 8 qualifiers to final all finished between 45.24 and 45.42 and suddenly it looks like three men can finish ahead of Wariner!


No One Wanted to Run the 5000

I was really looking forward to the women’s 5000 as it had rock star quality in the lineup. Then they lined up, or didn’t line up. Because ALL of the following ended up as “DNS” for the race: Jordan Hasay, Shannon Rowbury, Amy Begley, Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan and Jenny Simpson – now that group alone would have made one hell of a final! Flanagan and Goucher picked up plane tickets in the 10,000, so I guess decided not to get greedy. I’m guessing Hasay, Rowbury and Simpson decided to put their eggs in the 1500 meter basket – with Christin Wurth Thomas, Anna Pierce and Morgan Uceny. Now THAT could be a great race! Not to take away anything from Molly Huddle who ran a superb race – but I didn’t get to see until later, sort of!


Webcast Went to ( fill in the blank)

Word association. Friday Webcast. Crap. The webcast was going just fine. The 100 meter semis were on tap. Then the webcast disappeared! Just like that, gone. Finally we’re told that it was so ESPN could show the meet later – more on that in a minute! Finally the feed comes back up, but just some random field event action. And the corresponding commentary, as they told us themselves, was about everything but track and field! Fashion tips, cooking recipes, Justin Bieber – yeah I said Justin Bieber. Just filling time and space. At that point they may as well have shut the feed down. ESPN, NBC, or anyone else that might be paying attention. We will still watch your telecast even if we watch the live feed! We would much rather see it on the big screen anyway. Not to mention the ability to see all the various angles; being able to rewind, etc. Shutting us off from the live feed only makes us ANGRY! Especially when you give us the kind of television coverage that you do – because we ended up missing A LOT!


Telecast Was (fill in the blank)

The nicest word I can use to describe the telecast is poor – I can fill that space with a lot of others. Two hours. They had two hours. Do you know what I could do with two hours? I could have shown most of the meet in two hours. Definitely covered the majority of the heats in all the semis as well as covered the finals that occurred. Instead we got a couple of semi races. Select laps of the 5000 finals. A lot of decathlon coverage, and a lot of men’s 100 coverage – discussing Tyson NOT being in the race. The networks spend a lot of money to hire former athletes as commentators – assuming that they know the sport – but apparently they don’t have anyone on staff that’s spent time actually WATCHING a track meet! Because they have no idea how to present one! People unfamiliar with the sport have the impression that it is boring – and if they tuned in to this coverage they would be right. And for this they cut off our live feed!


I don’t know what to expect for today. The live feed will coincide with the actual telecast – which I assume means no feed and we’re stuck with whatever they decide to show us! Lots of finals including the 400’s, 800’s and 1500’s – all of which I’m really looking forward to. Not too many people left to just drop out of the meet, so hopefully that will be at a minimum. And I’ve got my fingers crossed on the women’s 1500 and men’s 800 cause if everyone shows up there should be fireworks! Let’s get this meet back on track – pun intended.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nationals – Day One Notes


Usually the first day of Nationals is fairly quiet. But I found yesterday actually somewhat exciting. Lots of action for a first day, and I actually learned something new!


Who is Kibwe Johnson?

I try to be up on as many events as possible, but I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothing about Kibwe before yesterday! I know who he is now. Hammer Thrower. A VERY good Hammer Thrower. So good in fact that his winning toss of 263’ 6” (80.31m) makes him #2 in the event on the season! He’s #3 American all time behind Lance Deal and Jud Logan – and I know that they were pretty good. I’ll be keeping an eye on Kibwe this summer because he gets my nod as the top athlete on opening day!


Eaton Looking Like Superman!

Took a lot for me to say Johnson was my athlete of the day, because Ashton Eaton came out looking like he had a cape waving from his back. 10.33 in the 100 – leaving Bryan Clay WAY back even though he ran a very nice 10.64 of his own! A 25’ 7” long jump, a 46’ 4” shot put, and then a 6’ 8.75” high jump before he put the hammer down once again on a 46.35 quarter – Miller Moss eating dust this time at 48.06! A HUGE 4604 points on Day One – and a 408 point lead over Bryan Clay in second place. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I think he has a shot at the AR (8891, Dan O’Brien) and maybe 9000 points (WR is 9026). The first event today is the 110 hurdles and he’s run 13.35 already this year. Anything close to that and a typical second day could put him close to something VERY special.


Taylor and Claye go 1, 2

I’ve been watching these two all season long – Florida’s 1, 2 punch of Christian Taylor and Will Claye. They went 1, 2 at the NCAA Championships and repeated that finish in Eugene. Taylor jumping 57’ 4” (+3.5), Claye going 56’ 1” (+2.4) – and both passed their last three jumps! Along with Kibwe Johnson, they give us something to look forward to in Daegu in a couple of events that we have had little success in lately!


Women’s 100 Showdown Looming

The opening round of the sprints is usually about dropping the dead wood. But unless something happens of significance in the semis later today, two women clearly emerged as the best of this lot. No surprise that it was Carmelita Jeter and Marshevet Myers, but they opened up at 10.88 (+1.7) and 10.87 (+1.8) respectively – Myers mark just off her recent 10.86 PR – Holla! Barring catastrophe this final could end up being the race of the day.


Tyson and Walter Need Block Work

Speaking of the 100, everyone made it through yesterday in the men’s heats, but Tyson Gay and Walter Dix need some serious work on their starts. Tyson is known for coming out slowly and turning it on, but he runs 9.7 at will. Having said that, however, while he should win this final regardless of his start he can NOT start like this against Bolt and have any hope. Best to get it straightened out here! And if Walter starts like that in the final today (should he make the final) it won’t be good enough to get that third spot. Because it still looks like Tyson and Mike Rodgers and a whole lot of hungry folk eyeing that third spot! Judging from the first round there are 12 men vying for 8 spots in the final. The semis are going to be brutal.


Wariner ?

That’s all I can say about Jeremy – a question mark. Pressed in his opening round by Joey Hughes (46.02) as he won in “only” 45.94. Yes he won, but he’s supposed to walk across the line in 45.50 in his opening round, not get pressed to a 45.94! I don’t see three men in this field keeping him off the team, but I don’t see it as the easy victory that one might expect – especially with Lashawn Merritt not in the race. He’s back with coach Hart, so we can no longer talk about the coaching change. Maybe he’s training through on his way to Worlds? All I know is that he’s not looking like the “Human Metronome” who once had his race so dialed in that I could take his split at 200 and 300 and pretty much tell you what his final time would be. Let’s see what the semi and final bring.



There were finals in the 10,000 meters last night and as much as Wariner didn’t look like his race was dialed in, Shalane was like clockwork! She got out, set her pace, ran away from the pack and just kept going. She didn’t need any help, she just ran. Her 30.59.97 was beautiful to watch. It was her second sub 31 this year, and I think she has a solid shot at a medal in Daegu and should be able to challenge for the top spot on the podium.


Should be another great day today. 100 meter semis and finals. The semifinals in the 800 and 400 should be HOT. And two deep 5000 meter finals!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Some Interesting First Round Match Ups


The real action in a meet like the National Championships is supposed to occur in the finals. The preliminary rounds are supposed to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Sometimes, however, the early rounds aren’t as “balanced” as they perhaps should be.

The result is that you get some very interesting combinations early on. Combinations that don’t always make it to the finals as someone gets eliminated too early in a “first 2 plus fastest 4” kind of scenario – especially in straight away races where favorable/unfavorable winds can play an unwanted role.

Scanning through the heat sheets for the opening rounds I found some early heats that could be very interesting.


Women's 100: heat 1 - - Lakya Brookins, Miki Barber, Jeneba Tarmoh, and Marshavet Myers

Only the first three are guaranteed to move through to the semifinal round. Barber has been under the radar most of the season, but comes in with an SB of 11.14 and could make things interesting.


Women's 200: heat 4 - - Marshavet Myers, Lauryn Williams, Carmelta Jeter, Lisa Barber

Same scenario as in the 100, three guaranteed spots and a wild card in Lisa Barber. Barber’s a good turn runner, and could put some early pressure on the others in the field if she’s in form.


Women's 400: heat 3 - - Jessica Beard, Kesia Baker, Sanya Richards Ross

Three advance, but according to the heat sheet one of them is Sanya Richards Ross. She hasn’t had the kind of season she would like to have so does she have to run a bit harder here to be in that top 3? And if so, what does that do to the races of Baker and Beard? Do they try to race her or do they run to qualify and conserve energy?


Women's 400: heat 4 - - Mary Wineberg, Debbie Dunn, Natasha Hastings

Same story with the trio. Three advance, so they should be safe. The question will be just how hard will they push each other? There are a ton of 50 second types entered – not to mention Allyson Felix and potentially Sanya Richards Ross! The balancing act here is, have to make it out of the round, but be ready to compete in the next round.


Men's 100: heat 1 - - Rae Edwards, Shawn Crawford, Darvis Patton, Justin Gatlin

Three advance, which means that at least one of these men will not make it. The irony here is that in ‘04  Crawford and Gatlin were two of the most dominant sprinters on the planet. They went 1,2 in their Olympic semi and 1, 4 in the final. Here both will be running for their lives in the opening round.


Men's 100: heat 3 - Mookie Salaam, Walter Dix (side by side)

Both men should make it, because both should play a major roll in the final. Yet here they sit in adjacent lanes having to go at it in the FIRST round. Tough because depending on how they finish here they could see each other again in the semi and again in the final – and unless you are clearly superior it’s tough to beat an opponent three times in a row over a couple of days.


Men's 100: heat 5 - Ivory Williams, Maurice Mitchell, Tyson Gay

The same story in this heat for Williams and Mitchell. They get the pleasure of potentially facing Gay three times in a row. More importantly they are both potential finalists that get a chance to get in each other’s head before the final! Something tells me that these 100 heats could be more brutal than usual.


Men's 200: heat 1 - Mookie Salaam, Justin Gatlin, Shawn Crawford, Rodney Martin

Once again, three automatic qualifiers and four potential candidates. What’s interesting here is that Salaam and Gatlin have been running well but have drawn lanes 2 & 3. Meanwhile out in lanes 7 & 8 will be Crawford and Martin, who at this point in their careers could certainly use those gentle curves!


Men's 200: heat 3 - Davis Patton, Xavier Carter, Maurice Mitchell

Three automatic qualifying berths, but the real question is just how well will vets Patton and Carter compete against the youngster Mitchell? All three should make it out of the round, but what kind of momentum will they have moving forward? A good run here could set you up for the semi, a bad run prolong the agony!

Men's 200: heat 5 - Tyson Gay listed to run

There is no one of consequence in this heat not named Tyson Gay. I only list it because a couple of weeks ago Tyson said he wasn’t running this event – but here he is listed in lane 4. Now better to have a lane than not – he can always not run if he has a lane, but can’t get a lane later if he decides that he does want to run. So I consider this a bit of insurance on his part. Though I would love to see him take part, because personally I think this IS his best event.


OK. So I’m getting close to my final word before the gun goes off! The last thing I will say is to keep an eye on Mr. Lane Draw. As the athletes work their way through the rounds Lane Draw will begin to play a VERY important roll in determining the team to Daegu – mark my words. A third place in a round instead of second can mean the difference between Lane 5 and Lane 2! And you don’t want too tight of a turn, nor do you want to be too far away from the hot competition going on in the middle of the track! So the only way to make sure Mr. Lane Draw treats you right is to cross that line early! Which is what really makes all of these early match ups important!

So with that. On your marks. Set. Let’s GO! I’m chompin at the bits for the meet to start!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Final Thoughts Before the Gun Goes Off


Roughly 48 hours until it all begins – the selection process for our World Championships team. I’ve tried to cover as many events as possible over the last week, but there are still more stories to tell. Here are a few other events that I plan to keep an eye on this weekend.


Men’s Triple Jump

This is an event that we once dominated with jumpers like Willie Banks, Mike Conley, Charles Simpkins and Kenny Harrison. Since 1996, however, only Walter Davis has been able to have any kind of impact internationally – gold in ‘05, bronze in ‘07. But suddenly the future looks bright as Christian Taylor and Will Claye just seem to have a penchant for the vent. Both set PR’s at the recent NCAA Championships – Taylor 57’ 1”, Claye 56’ 11.25” and had windy jumps of 58’ 4.75” and 57’ 9.75” respectively. They should give us another great dual, and put us back in the conversation in Daegu.


Women’s 5000 Meters

If everyone that has declared lines up at the starting line, this event will be LOADED with talent. Molly Huddle and Shalane Flanagan are the two fastest Americans ever over the distance with Jen Rhines and Kara Goucher #’s 5 & 6 all time. Jenny Simpson and Shannon Rowbury are two of our best over 1500 meters,  and there are bright young up and coming stars in Lauren Fleshman, Jordan Hasay and Katie Follett. Of course they will be running in Eugene, which means that the weather and the crowd should be just right for a great distance race.


Men’s  5000 & 10000

At the recent Pre Classic, held on the same track, there was some HOT distance running from the Africans. At that time most of the Americans were looking ahead to this meet. Well it’s here now. And so are some of the best distance runners the U.S has yet to produce. Bernard Lagat will be headlining the 5000 and is the man to beat, as he is any time he takes to the track. Headlining the 10000 will be AR holder Chris Solinsky (also listed in the 5000). Challenging will be a Who’s Who of current U.S. talent including: Galen Rupp, Matt Tegenkamp, Tim Nelson and Bobbie Curtis. Only two meets really matter this year and this in one of them! So expect some great distance running in the home of Steve Prefontaine.


Women’s Javelin

Yes the javelin – because I’m convinced that Kara Patterson can win a medal in Daegu. And because this is the venue where she beat Spotakova last year after setting the AR at last year’s National Championships! She’s been over 200 feet (205’ 11”) already this year and seems to be working towards a later peak than last year. She is one of our rare women that can win a medal in the field and she bears watching and support.


Men’s Shot Put

The big men always bring it! Cause if you don’t with this group you are certain to stay home. The field includes defending World champion Christian Cantwell; ‘07 World champion Reese Hoffa; and ‘05 World champion Adam Nelson. There are 72 foot putters in Ryan Whiting and Cory Nelson.That’s five men and four spots (Cantwell has an automatic bid to Worlds as defending champion). The battle here is to make sure you’re NOT the odd man out! This is another one of those events that makes me want to change the whole concept of the World Championships.


Women’s High Jump & Pole Vault

I’ve combined these two “jumps” because we have two women capable of gaining medals in Daegu that we haven’t seen much of this year – high jumper Chaunte Lowe, and vaulter Jenn Suhr. Both have gold medal capabilities when they are on, but first both have to make the team. So these two events are very important to our potential medal tally later this summer. I’m hoping both women are ready for the challenge.


As usual this should be one exciting meet. I love the team aspect of the NCAA championships, and of course the relays, but nothing matches the U.S Championships for it’s sheer drama! If you want a shot at being a World champion, you have to get past this trial by fire. The head to head match ups that we want to see against the world’s best start here. This should close out June with a bang, and give us an idea of just how exciting Daegu will be.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nationals Preview – The Hurdles


The hurdles are perhaps the area where we have some of our strongest contenders for gold medals in Daegu. They also have some of our top young up and coming talent. Here is how I see the hurdles playing out in Eugene.

Men’s 110 Hurdles

Calling the winner in this event is pretty easy given that David Oliver is the current AR holder; has been rock solid; and is a threat to run under 13.00 nearly every time he steps on the track. Therefore, barring disaster, he should win this race easily. It’s the battle behind him that will be close – with some new blood headed to Daegu.

Aries Merritt is not completely new blood, having made the team to Berlin and bowing out in the heats. But this season he’s been consistent with three races under 13.20 – and that consistency should get him the second spot. He’ll have to run his best however as newbie Omo Osaghe, and veteran Joel Brown have also run well, though just off Merritt’s pace. Which means that the race for Daegu tickets will go to the hurdlers with the fewest errors. True in any race, but critical in this one where a bobble leaves you home. I give the nod to Osaghe because of his youth and hunger, as a major bobble cost him an NCAA title and he will be looking for retribution here.

I expect two other veterans to be in the mix – Ryan Wilson & Terrence Trammell. Trammell has been a fixture on international teams since the year 2000 – which makes it hard for me to put him out of the top three. However, reality is that Trammell hasn’t run sub13.20 since ‘09; sub13.10 since ‘08; sub 13.00 since ‘07. In short it seems as if he is on the down side of his career – as wonderful as it’s been – I hope he proves me wrong.


1. David Oliver 12.97
2. Aries Merritt 13.15
3. Omo Osaghe 13.17
4. Joel Brown 13.20
5. Ryan Wilson 13.22
6. Terrence Trammell 13.24



Men’s 400 Hurdles

Five men. Three spots. Three vets. Two youth. This race has the potential to be as exciting as the sprints – and should be reminiscent of the 1988 Olympic Trials: Moses (47.37), Phillips (47.58), Young (47.72), Patrick (47.75) and Harris (47.76). One of the most exciting long hurdle races of all time.

This time around the names will be Anderson, Clement, Dutch, Jackson and Taylor – and all but Anderson are sub-48 hurdles, and he is oh so close. Jackson, Clement and Taylor have a bevy of World and Olympic medals between them – five of them gold. Anderson and Dutch have won the last four NCAA championships.

So with the stage set, who goes to Korea and who unfortunately has to stay home – because this race is an example of why I would love to see the World Championships move away from “Olympic” type qualifying and move to inviting the best in the world per event!

After much consideration I have to give the nod for the win to Bershawn Jackson. Tough competitor, experienced and best stride pattern when he’s on. I’m betting that he puts these things together and crosses the line first. He’ll be pressed however, as Angelo Taylor has as much experience and his speed is sharp over the open quarter. Jackson has the better stride pattern, however, and should take the lead in the event for good on the second half of the final turn. Not that Taylor will give up – and those first two hurdles off the turn will decide who wins.

Third place will be HOTLY contested – a la ‘88. My nod goes to Anderson. He’s been running well; is very strong; and seems to be running to put his loss at last year’s NCAA championships far behind him. He’ll be looking to claim that third spot over the man who took the NCAA title away from him last year – Dutch. My bet is that Anderson comes off the turn first and Dutch doesn’t quite get by him.

The man that I thought would dominate this event for years, and possibly make a run at the WR – Clement – ends up out of the money here. His stride pattern and hurdling is not as good as the others, and he seems to have lost that closing ability that once made him such a monster in this event. If, however, he is able to hold it together long enough to be close off the turn, he could completely flip the results of this race.

1. Bershawn Jackson 47.70
2. Angelo Taylor 47.78
3. Jeshua Anderson 47.86
4. Johnny Dutch 47.90
5. Kerron Clement 48.15
6. Justin Gaymon 48.48



Women’s 100 Hurdles

This is an event that is always hard to predict. The start seems to be more crucial here than it is in the men’s event, and banged hurdles pretty much ruin a race. Add the fact that most of these women are pretty much in the same range coming in and I don’t think it’s as clear cut as some might think.

The woman running best coming in in my opinion is Danielle Carruthers – so I’m giving the nod for the win, barely. I say barely because Kellie Wells was starting to look like a lock about a month ago, and if she runs like the late April, early May version, she could run away with the race. But I have to go with consistency in this event and Carruthers has been consistent, if not as spectacular.

Consistency will get the last ticket to Daegu as well. In this case I’m banking on the consistency of the coach – as Bobbie Kersee is as good as it gets at having his athletes ready for the big ones. Which is why I ‘m pegging Ginnie Crawford for that final ticket. She’s perhaps the fastest woman on the flat among these hurdlers and she’s been running fairly cleanly over the hurdles recently. That adds up to Daegu in my book.

Pressing all three of these women will be vets Lolo Jones and Dawn Harper. Jones seemed ready to be crowned Queen in Beijing until she hit the final hurdle – she’s not been the same since. Harper, ironically, was the recipient of gold in that race as she became the unexpected victor. But she hasn’t been quite the same competitor since then either. Both have the ability to make the team, but will they put their races together in time?


1. Danielle Carruthers 12.56
2. Kellie Wells 12.59
3. Ginnie Crawford 12.61
4. Dawn Harper 12.65
5. Lolo Jones 12.68
6. Nia Ali 12.72



Women’s 400 Hurdles

This is an event where we have a stud (ette) and a lot of women behind her with a lot of growing yet to do. The “stud” is Lashinda Demus who cranks out fast times the way the mint prints money. She should have little difficulty with this field as she is easily two seconds better than the rest.

After Demus we have a lot of youth in this event. The best of which should be the last two NCAA champions – Queen Harrison & Tierra Brown. They ran 1,2 at last year’s NCAA meet and I expect them to go 2,3 here behind Demus as Harrison seems to be a tad stronger than Brown.

With the first three places going to a vet and two youth, I expect the next three places to follow suit – in reverse. With Krais reversing her finish with Thompson from the NCAA meet; and the vet (Tosta) finishing behind the youth.  Tosta’s times have gotten progressively slower each year since ‘07, and like so may other vets this year may have to give way to the up and coming “kids”.

No such issues for Demus who seems ready to upgrade her two World silvers (‘05 & ‘09) for a gold.


1. Lashinda Demus 53.10
2. Queen Harrison 54.74
3. Tierra Brown 54.91
4. Ryann Krais 55.09
5. Turquoise Thompson 55.38
6. Sheena Tosta 55.56

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Nationals Preview – Men & Women’s 1500


This is an event that always drives me NUTS. Track events are pretty simple – the fastest man/woman wins. And in events up through the half mile, that’s pretty much the way the events are run – the gun goes off and everyone takes off in an attempt to reach the finish line first. Except in the mile/1500 meters, which often become “let’s see who can run slowest yet get to the line first” events!

I will never understand the “wait and kick” philosophy of milers – especially those that don’t have a kick, yet wait anyway. But for whatever reason that is the game that get’s played time and time again when it comes to championship “racing”. And it makes predicting what will happen at Nationals and/or Worlds a difficult endeavor at best.

But I’m going to give it a try, mostly because there are so many middle distance runners that have emerged, and I have gotten fond of watching them compete.


Men’s 1500

Just a few years ago (‘08) all we really had in this event was Bernard Lagat. Since then we’ve had several young men “grow up” and become tough enough to compete in this event at the international level – Wheating, Manzano, Lamong among them. This year we’ve seen major growth from Torrence and Centrowitz, and what has been a coming out party for Russell Brown.

These are the men that I see running for the three spots to Daegu. I’m not even sure how to call this race. Will they actually race, or will we see another wait and kick? My gut says another wait and kick though I would love to see them just go for it – because eventually that’s what they will have to do against the Kenyans, Ethiopians and whomever else they happen to find in a semi or final (should they be be fortunate enough to make it). So I’m going with  “go for it” results.

Tactics aside, I see Wheating as the new “Man” in the middle distances. But he will have to prove it by leading our forces out of Nationals and onto the flight for Daegu. His big, tall, long striding frame should suit him well regardless of the tactics of the race – as should his experience at this level. Bottom line is that he’s strong enough and fast enough to win this race.

Spots two and three will be fought between the “rookie” Brown, and the “vets” Manzano and Lamong. I think that the “vets” are about even here, but I’m giving the edge (very slight) to Brown on the basis of his just having a hot season to this point coming in. He looked good indoors, he’s looked good so far outdoors, and he’s done so running against high level athletes. He comes in well prepared and it just seems like his year. Manzano & Lamong will be a matter of who has it best on the day – I feel they are that even.

Centrowitz looked good at the NCAA’s and Torrence in New York. They will be done in by depth in this race. But I expect that this is the beginning of an emergence for Centrowitz.


1. Andrew Wheating 3:35.50
2. Russell Brown 3:35.90
3. Leo Manzano 3:36.00
4. Lopez Lamong 3:36.10
5. Matthew Centrowitz 3:37.20
6. David Torrence 3:37.50



Women’s 1500

This may be one of the hardest events for me to watch next week, because no matter what happens someone I like is going to have to stay home. Three spots, four exciting athletes.

There is no doubt that Wurth Thomas will take this race out and make everyone run! The question is who goes with her – and the answer is anyone who wants a ticket to South Korea.

With a hard pace, the spots on this team should go to the three women with sub-4 credentials, and I’m going with Simpson to win – because she is a clutch competitor, not because she comes in running better than the others. And that win won’t be easy because Wurth Thomas will do her best to burn off the kicks of everyone in the race. If she runs as I expect the others will have a hard time running her down – especially if they give her any kind of cushion early. She will be rewarded with a ticket to Daegu.

Simpson, Pierce, Wurth Thomas & Uceny should wage one tough battle up the final straight – and I wish we had four spots to Worlds instead of three. This race could go any of a number of different ways. This is just the one that seems to make sense PR wise and experience wise. However it turns out, I think this could be our strongest group of women that we’ve sent to Worlds in this event from top to bottom – with all three capable of getting to the final.


1. Jenny Simpson 4:01.50
2. Christin Wurth Thomas 4:01.75
3. Anna Pierce 4:01.90
4. Morgan Uceny 4:02.10
5. Treniere Moser 4:05.00
6. Katie Follett 4:08.30

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nationals Preview – Men & Women’s 800


The middle distance events have become very exciting over the last couple of seasons as we’ve had an emergence of talent over both 800 and 1500 meters. This influx of youth has brought us back to being competitive on the world stage on the women’s side and back to respectability on the men’s side.

It also makes for exciting races come championships/Trials time. This year’s races should present an interesting mix of young and old. Especially on the men’s side where suddenly the colleges are brimming with 1:44 half milers. So here’s how I see it playing out.


Men’s 800

We need someone to step up and get into the low 1:43’s. Given the rate of improvement this spring with some of our young half milers, that could be on the horizon this summer. I think the road to 1:43 will begin here with a classic race between front runners and kickers.

The front runners should be lead by Charles Jock and Andrew Wheating – Jock playing the role of the rabbit, with Wheating staying close and keeping in reach. The role of the kickers will be played by Robbie Andrews and Nick Symmonds – Symmonds being somewhere near the back of the pack; Andrews defining the back of the pack.

Jock took the NCAA final through the first lap under 50.00. If he wants to make this team he will have to do the same to try to take the sting out of the kickers – something I expect he will do. Wheating, however, will move much sooner than traditional kickers, and won’t let Jock get too far away. The final 200 meters will have more action than the final lap of the Indianapolis 500, as Jock does his best to hold off the rush of first Wheating then Symmonds, then Andrews.

Wheating should get to the line first to take the title. Symmonds should draw close, but look for Andrews to go by both Jock and Symmonds with 10 meters left as they lean at the finish with Jock getting the final Daegu spot with his height advantage on the lean!


1. Andrew Wheating 1:44.30
2. Robbie Andrews 1:44.50
3. Charles Jock 1:44.60
4. Nick Symmonds 1:44.65
5. Elijah Greer 1:44.95
6. Cory Primm 1:45.10



Women’s 800

This is actually the tougher of the two races for me to predict, because so many of our top women excel in BOTH the 800 & 1500. So the question is will they double here at nationals and give themselves two shots at the team, or will they focus on a single event, putting all of their Daegu eggs in one basket? Doubling would require running both the 800 (first) and 1500 three hours apart on Thursday. 800 semi on Friday. 1500 final on Saturday. 800 final on Sunday. So the double is doable. Who makes the attempt? We’ll find out next week. But here is my best guess.

This has become one of my favorite events because we have some gutsy women who love to attack the race. I’m expecting Phoebe Wright and Alysia Montano (nee Johnson) to do just that. Wright has been competing well since Penn while Montano just ran her first race of the year at Pre. My gut says Wright is a bit sharper and stronger at this point and so she gets my nod as the winner of this race.

My gut also says that there will be some doubling going on and that the 1500 strength of Anna Pierce combined with her heart will put her in between Wright and Montano for the #2 spot on the team with Montano coming in at #3. That won’t be easy, however, as Morgan Uceny is another with heart and my gut says that she too will be doubling. So if Montano fades late, as she typically does, not only could Pierce get ahead of her but so could Uceny.

The one woman that could throw a monkey wrench into the whole process is Maggie Vessey. Vessey has the talent to run 1:57, but her race tactics too often leave her in poor position to do much damage. If she is near the leaders with 200 to go she could change things dramatically. But my gut says she finishes just outside 2:00 here.


1. Phoebe Wright 1:58.65
2. Anna Pierce 1:58.80
3. Alysia Montano 1:58.90
4. Morgan Uceny 1:59.10
5. Alice Schmidt 1:59.60
6. Geena Gall 1:59.80


Once in Daegu I’m expecting mixed results. The men will be hard pressed to have a presence in the final unless they can get into the 1:43’s or at least the low 1:44’s. David Rudisha is unbeatable unless hurt. Medals could depend on the status of Abubaker Kaki who was injured in New York. If he is out that opens up two medal possibilities. If he is healthy then a great deal of the world could be fighting for one medal.

The women could fair a bit better. A solid 1:59 run could get into the final. A 1:57 run should garner a medal. We have women capable of doing both. More importantly those that make the team will have the guts and heart to run with the pace and be in the hunt come the final stretch run. The summer should tell a lot about both squads heading into Daegu.