Monday, December 19, 2011

Rupp Enters U.S. Marathon Trials

The calendar has yet to turn to 2012, but already we have news that may shape the U.S. Olympic team for London, as Galen Rupp was a last minute entry into the marathon trials scheduled for January 14th in Houston, Texas.

Interestingly enough Rupp will be running his first ever marathon at the Trials. He was able to enter the race because 10,000 meter and half marathon times are allowed for entry. Rupp set an American Record of 26:48.00 for 10000 last year, which is easily under the qualifying standard of 28:30, as is his half marathon time of 60:30 run at last year’s New York City Half marathon (qualifying standard of 1:05).

I find his entry very intriguing because historically America’s best marathoners have come from the ranks of 10000 meter runners. Guys like Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter, and Rupp’s coach Alberto Salazar, were all 10000 meter runners who moved up to the marathon with tremendous success. That pattern holds true internationally as well, as runners like previous marathon WR setters Paul Tergat and Haile Gebrsellassie moved up to the marathon after stunning careers over 10,000 meters.

If Rupp is successful in his bid to make the team, this move could give us a marathoner capable of holding his own against the best in the world in London. Rupp brings tremendous speed to the event with his 26:48.00 10000, and he was the fastest American over the half marathon last year – a race in which he finished ahead Ryan Hall, the fastest U.S. marathoner of 2011 at 2:04.58. Of course Rupp has yet to cover the full marathon, but when your coach was himself a top 10000 meter runner AND a former American Record holder, he should be able to gauge whether or not there is potential in Rupp making a run over the full marathon distance. Having watched both the career of Salazar and now the career of Rupp, I don’t think this move was made without careful consideration and the feeling that success is a definite possibility!

So suddenly we have our first real “drama” in the selection process for the U.S. team for London – can Rupp in his debut at the distance get into that top three and make the marathon team for the Olympics, because if he does, Salazar & Rupp will have two thirds of a year to get him ready for the Big Show! And that could be one of the stories to watch over the Olympic season.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Very, Very Early London Favorites

Christmas is less than a week away, and we’re within counting distance of the dropping of the ball in Times Square and the start of the New Year. So it must be time to start talking about the Olympics!

Olympic talk will dominate the world of track and field in 2012 – it always does in an Olympic year. So what better way to start/instigate discussion, than to put some early predictions out there. Of course we don’t even know who will be competing in London just yet, since everyone will have a selection process of some sort to go through. So instead of saying these are my predicted “winners”, this is my list of “Favorites” for London. Those athletes that I think if everything goes right for them could take the top of the podium at the Games.

So here is my list of favorites, followed by some general comments by competitive areas. Let the debates begin!


Event Men’s Favorite Women’s Favorite
100 Yohan Blake Carmelita Jeter
200 Tyson Gay Veroinica Campbell Brown
400 LaShawn Merritt Allyson Felix
800 David Rudisha Mariya Savinova
1500 Silas Kiplagat Morgan Uceny
5000 Bernard Lagat Vivian Cheruiyot
10,000 Kenenisa Bekele Vivian Cheruiyot
Steeple Ezekiel Kemboi Yuliya Zarapova
110H/100H Xiang Liu Sally Pearson
400H Jeshua Anderson Lashinda Demus
High Jump Ivan Ukhov Blanka Vlasic
Pole Vault Renaud Lavillenie Fabiana Murer
Long Jump Mitchell Watt Brittney Reese
Triple Jump Christian Taylor Olha Saladuha
Shot Put Christian Cantwell Valerie Adams
Discus Robert Harting Yanfeng Li
Hammer Koji Murofushi Tatyana Lysenko
Javelin Andreas Thorkildsen Maria Abakumova
Multis Trey Hardee Tatyana Chernova
4x1 Jamaica United States
4x4 United States Unites States


Sprint Comments

Perhaps the hardest events to predict are the sprints. And I’m sure my early favorites here will be a bit controversial – primarily because I’ve not put Bolt as favorite in either sprint. Blake is just improving too rapidly. And while Bolt & Gay are one and two all-time and ultimate warriors, both have the Achilles heel of poor starts. If either nails it he could win, but Blake is the most consistent from the blocks. As for Gay and the deuce, in limited action he ran 19.58 & 19.40 (straight) while battling injuries in ‘09/’10 and dropped 44.89. Add his screaming turn and the fact that all that was done early season without peaking, and don’t forget he’s 9.7 on any given day with a 9.69 PR and he has all the elements – just needs good health. And dare I say that while Bolt has dominated the last three Majors, he hasn’t faced Gay, or the improved Blake. Stay tuned! Merritt over James, yes. James Improved tremendously in 2011, but Merritt lead the world with just a handful of races and barely lost in Daegu with no base behind him. James will have to get to sub44 to take London. This battle will be HOT!

Jeter wins without a great start in Daegu. She’s got to be the fave. Veronica Campbell Brown is looking to win her THIRD in a row in the deuce, and is coming off her first Worlds win. She’s my early favorite but this is Felix’ favorite event and she doesn’t take losing lightly. And the spectre of Jeter continuing to improve here makes this the hottest women’s sprint in London. On the other hand I see Felix as the best female quarter miler in the world – and yes I know that Richards Ross hasn’t retired. We’ll see if Felix doubles again, but if she does she’s my early favorite here because she now has a year of doubling experience under belt and she and coach WILL make adjustments.


Hurdle Comments

in the 110 hurdles, Dayron Robles and David Oliver have shown that they are as good as it gets when healthy, but there is something about a healthy Xiang Liu when the chips are on the line! Just go back and look at that Daegu race. He can be beaten, but someone is going to have to get out and run away from him to do it. The men’s long hurdles were a mess this year. I finally went with the young stud poised for growth in Anderson. The vets are aging and just didn’t get it done this year. We could be turning the corner of change in this event.

Sally Pearson. Sub 12.30. It’s going to take a lot for others to dial into her area code at this point. The long hurdles, on the other hand has several women capable of crossing that line first, but for now I’m going with the experience and talent of Demus.


Middle Distance Comments

These events are beginning to develop solid cores of favorites. In the men’s half, right now gold is Rudisha’s to lose. He’s that good. Kaki could get there. But right now Rudisha rules. The metric mile is a bit more of a mystery, but Kiprop and Kiplagat are the heads and tails on the coin. Will be interesting to see if Kaki runs it more in 2012 though!

On the women’s side Savinova looks to be settling in in the half mile. Semenya is lying in wait, but the spirit seems lacking. In the metric mile there are several capable women right now – probably about half dozen or so. But Uceny has the most solid/consistent race pattern. This will be another exciting final in London.


Distance Comments

On the one hand I believe Bekele to be back – and that means trouble for everyone else. On the other I don’t think he will double. With that in mind I think that “Old Man” Lagat is still the world’s best kicker not named Kenenisa, so he’s my early 5000 favorite. In the 10,000 Bekele v Farah could be the new Bekele v Gebrsellassie!

On the women’s side Cheruiyot is an easy call in the 5000, as there is no one in her league right now. The 10,000 is the question mark. Will the other women let her have her way there? For now she’s my double favorite, but only just barely. Because I can’t believe they will just let her run easy here before running her “better” event.


Jumps Comments

I know Jesse Williams just won gold, and I do have faith in Jesse. But Ukhov has the ability to jump higher than anyone we’ve seen in a very long time – and he’s seasoned. All things being equal he gets my nod – but prove me wrong Jesse. In the pole vault not sure what happened with athletes coming out of nowhere in Daegu, but Lavillenie is the most consistent of the last few seasons – and he jumps high too. Mitchell Watt fell prey to an old lion in Daegu – and there are a lot of young lions waiting in the wings. But he rates early fave for me off of consistency on the 2011 season. Taylor gets my nod in the triple jump because of his consistency as well – he consistently comes through and gets better in the clutch!

Blanka Vlasic is a member of my All Swagger team! She has it in droves and a subpar Blanka made a run at gold in Daegu. Gotta be the favorite. Murer gets the nod in the pole vault as Isinbayeva works her way back to form. My guess is that this may be one of the first changes I make next year. Brittney Reese is a talent and is my early fave. But a warning as Darya Klishina is tighter technically – and this IS a technical event. You can only win off of natural ability for so long. The women’s triple jump has a handful of women within a finger’s width of each other. Saladuha gets the early nod off my gut.


Throws Comments

I know the men’s shot put is a contradiction to what I’m going to say, but I find that in the throws solid vets tend to rule. That’s why all the names in my men’s throws are so familiar, starting with Christian Cantwell and the shot put. I don’t see the big man getting pushed off the podium in London and he’s my favorite for the top spot. He will bring the shot back in line with the men’s discus (Harting), men’s hammer (Murofushi), men’s javelin (Thokildsen), women’s shot (Adams), women’s discus (Li), women’s hammer (Lysenko) and women’s javelin (Abakumova). Someone is going to have to come take the gold from them. That said Spotakova was oh so close to getting the nod from me in the women’s javelin.



Hardee gets the nod in the Decathlon because he’s more complete than Eaton. But this is another of those, could go either way picks. On the women’s side I went with Chernova because of steady growth. But this could be another pick em by the time they get to London because Ennis will be at home.



Jamaica gets the easy nod for the 4x1 because they’ve finished the race and set two WR’s in the last three Majors. However, I’ve felt for a decade that the WR is soft – and it’s still soft. And the U.S. showed – without Tyson Gay – that it could run leg for leg with Jamaica in Daegu, until disaster struck! This event will be one of those barber shop/internet message board conversation pieces throughout 2012. As for the 4x4, Jeremy Wariner – injured. Tony McQuay – injured. Intermediate hurdlers – subpar. And LaShwn Merritt still crossed the line first. Hard not to make the U.S. the favorite.

Jamaica set a NR, and was still behind the first place U.S. squad in Daegu. The U.S. is the favorite, but when you have VCB, if you can get her close, you have a shot! The U.S. women are as strong a favorite here as the men are. IN the post Eastern Bloc era, U.S. squads have turned in the most consistent set of marks in history. And Felix is one of those “relay beasts” that has the ability to bread a 4x4 wide open.

Ok, there are my Early London Favorites. I wanted to get those out there before we actually hit 2012 and the indoor season gets going in earnest. My gut says this is going to be one VERY exciting season.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dear Track Santa – 2011

santa clus clothingIt’s that time of year to put in my request to good old Track Santa for my track and field gifts for 2012. The 2011 season was pretty good overall, but one can always wish for more! So here’s my letter and list for Track Santa (I hope I get everything)!

Dear Track Santa,

I’ve been really good this year. I watched every meet that was available on television – indoor, elite, college and high school. I watched a ton of meets online (thanks for increasing the free feeds this year). I supported my local high school team, and I got finish line seats at every meet I went to. And I made sure to watch and cheer for every event at every meet – track and field.

I’m really looking forward to the Olympic year, with the Trials and the Games and all the other meets. But there are some things I want to ask for, that would really make the year great.


A new CEO for USA Track and Field

It’s time for a new CEO. We’ve been rudderless for far too long. I know that the best candidates seem to not want to bother, but please convince at least one of them that with the right person, this could be a great job AND a great federation. We already have the best collection of talent across the board in the world. With the right guidance great things could come.


A Revised False Start Rule

We saw the debacle that was the men’s 100 final in Daegu. While that was the most high profile DQ of the year, it was one of many. From the Allyson Felix “huddle” at the Prefontaine Classic (in the 400 no less, AND a huddle in the 100); to the DQ of defending national collegiate champion, Jeff Demps at the SEC championships; to Dwain Chambers DQ in the Daegu semis before Bolt’s infamous false start! Please give the powers that be the intelligence to understand that a) athletes that false start are not trying to cheat; b) these athletes are under a tremendous amount of pressure; c) no rule is going to prevent false starts from happening, because “stuff” just happens; d) since false starts can’t be prevented, no rule is going to save precious “TV time” (I actually think the new rule takes more time with all the “huddles” that they have; and e) no other sport sets the rules for its premier events to try and actually eliminate athletes from competing! All that said, two false starts worked just fine – there was no need to break it.


A Revised Anti-Doping Plan

Two more high profile doping suspensions in 2011 make many believe that the system may be irreparably broken. But this is the New Millennium – the age after the Six Million Dollar Man – and we have the technology to fix it! I’m even going to help you with this one Santa because I’ve been working on a plan that I’m going to send to you that I think may help. I will post it here before the clock strikes midnight on 2011.


Head to Head Match Ups of the Best Male Sprinters

I’m going to stop saying that we need more head to head’s because in some events we are getting them. The 110 hurdlers gave them to us pre Daegu. So did the women’s sprinters as well as the women’s hurdlers – both short and long. We got lots of field event head to heads. The problem Santa is that the sport’s most high profile athletes – the men’s sprinters – are scared to race! Mind you Santa, I’m not calling them “chicken”, but we don’t have Jim Hines, Charlie Greene, Steve Williams, Don Quarrie, Linford Christie, Mo Greene, Ato Boldon, or Frankie Fredericks around anymore. We now have the New Millennium equivalent of Valerie Borzov and Kostas Kenteris – sprinters who only show up to race the best at Majors. Please convince the sport that setting up contracts based on performing against the best is the way for sprinters to get paid! Because I think most of are tired of watching “Time Trials” leading up to one good race a year.


Good Health for the World’s Best Athletes

I know there will be injuries – its part of the game. But sometimes the triage list of track and field’s best looks more like a log from war. Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Blanka Vlasic, Teddy Tamgho, Wallace Spearmon, Tony McQuay, Jeremy Wariner, Emma Green, Lolo Jones, Ryan Bailey, Kenenisa Bekele, Andrew Wheating, and Bryan Clay are just a handful of top level athletes that suffered through various injury ills over the last year. I understand that getting everyone that matters to London in one piece is nearly impossible, but the more that can achieve that goal the more exciting the Olympics will be. So if it’s not asking too much, I’m asking for a high turnout of HEALTHY elite athletes in London for the Games.


That’s it Track Santa. Like any kid excited about Christmas there is certainly more that I could add to the list. But if you will deliver these things I will be very happy – and so will most of the fans of the sport! So while I’m writing the list, consider it a list from the fans in general and do your best to come through for us.

Thank you

The View From the Finish Line

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twelve Days of Track Christmas

imageIt’s the holiday season, and exactly twelve days before Christmas. So in the spirit of the season, I thought I would retool the Twelve Days of Christmas to fit my favorite sport. This should be sung to the tune of the original. So a quick departure from the serious before closing out the year, my twelve days of track Christmas.


“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me”:

  • A squad that doesn’t drop the baton
  • Two unexpected stars
  • Three new tracks
  • Four world level meets
  • Five gold medals
  • Six runners running
  • Seven steeplers leaping
  • Eight sprinters training
  • Nine vaulters vaulting
  • Ten jumpers jumping
  • Eleven javelins flying
  • Twelve throwers throwing

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Exciting and Disappointing Moments in 2011

As I continue to look back on the 2011 season, there were several moments that were both exciting and disappointing. That’s one of the wonderful things about this sport – one moment it can give you chills, the next leave you disappointed. So I decided to sit down and come up with 10 things that did both for me this year.

I have to say that as I contemplated the season, I found that the sprints were very disappointing overall. I hope that trend changes in the Olympic year. Cheerfully, however, I found much excittement across the board, which I think bodes well for the upcoming season.

So with that, and in no particular order, here are 10 disappointments and 10 exciting moments from 2011:



Ten Disappointing Moments of 2011

1. Tyson Gay Injury – It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen the sport’s top sprinters going head to head, even in Majors. When Tyson Gay announced that he would not be competing at nationals and was ending his season, the Bolt v Gay matchup that we had all been looking forward to was once again put on the shelf.

2. Usain Bolt False Start – This was not a good year for the 100 meters, as nearly half of my “Disappointments” have to do with this event. When was the last time a favorite showed up for a Major 100 final and false started out of the race? Way back in 1996 when Linford Christie false started out of the Atlanta final. I was disappointed then too.

3. Women’s 1500 at U.S. Nationals – I’m sure some are scratching their heads on this one, but I found it extremely disappointing that someone could run the gutsy race that Christin Wurth Thomas ran and NOT get a chance to run at Worlds. After taking the pace out a la Paula Ivan in Seoul ’88, Wurth Thomas missed making the team by .01sec! Further strengthening my feelings that a “Real” Worlds where the best are invited regardless of country.

4. Morgan Uceny’s Fall in Daegu – Uceny had one of the finest season’s I’ve ever seen for a U.S. miler. As she headed down the backstretch of the penultimate lap in the World final it looked like she was getting into position to run for gold. Then on the same turn that dream went to the track as Uceny was inadvertently tripped when another runner went down. I hate to see an athlete have everything seemingly come together only to have fate intervene!

5. Mike Rodgers/Steve Mullings Drug Suspensions – Not much more needs to be said. The sprints have had more than their share of negative news and the 100 had an abundance of it this year. But of all the negative news having TWO of the sport’s top sprinters suspended in the same season is a new low.

6. Andrew Wheating’s Season – Wheating looked like the next great thing in 2010 – his runs in Europe after a strenuous collegiate season giving hope that the U.S. would once again be in the thick of the 1500 meters. The highs of ’10 were followed by the lows of ’11 and I’m hoping that 2012 finds things back to normal for this young man.

7. World Championships 110 Hurdles Final – This was supposed to be one of those golden races. The top three hurdlers in history together on the same track. And a young upstart who had already had an upset win in Stockholm. Then one of the big three is subpar in Daegu and the other two collide with one being dq’d! Not the way this was written up at the start of the season.

8. World Championships 400 Hurdles Final – No one collided in this one, but it would have provided an excuse for the horrible performances turned in by some of the sport’s best hurdlers. Never have so many sub48 hurdlers fallen so short of the mark in a race as LJ VanZyl, Bershawn Jackson, Angelo Taylor and Felix Sanchez were ghosts of finals past.

9. Florida Dropped Baton in the NCAA Final – This one was disappointing on two levels. First there was the fact that defending 100 champion Jeff Demps didn’t make the final – a screamer! Then looking for reDEMPtion he never got the stick. It was also disappointing as the final had the potential to be one of the greatest ever as Florida, Texas A&M, Florida State and Illinois had all run outstanding rounds!

10. U.S. Men Drop the Stick Again in a Major – The third time is supposed to be the charm, but then I guess no one informed this squad. Since winning in Osaka in ’07, the U.S. men have failed to finish a final in three straight Majors! As they say on ESPN, “C’mon Man”!


Ten Exciting Moments of 2011

1. Mo Farah’s Prefontaine 10,000 – Some find the distances boring, and a 28:00 10K can be. But when the racing gets down hear 27 minutes the laps fo by quickly and there is excitement all the way around. Such was the case in Eugene as Mo Farah took an exciting win at 26:46.57 as nine men were squeezed in between there and 26:55.29!

2. Ngoni Makusha NCAA 100 Victory – Nothing like a great 100 to thrill the senses, and this was such a race. Channeling the spirits of Bob Hayes, Carl Lewis and Donovan Bailey, the slow starting Makusha blazed through the middle of the pack for the win in an NCAA record 9.89!

3. Dwight Phillips World Long Jump Win – I think most had given up on Phillips for this season. After all, if not for the bye, he wouldn’t have been anywhere near the long jump final, finishing a distant 10 at U.S. Nationals. They say, however, never underestimate the heart of a champion, and Phillips embodied that statement as he nailed down yet another gold medal in a Major!

4. U.S. Nationals 400 Final – It wasn’t the fastest race of the year. It didn’t feature Merritt or Wariner as champion. Instead we got a young Tony McQuay crossing the line first. Exciting because it shows that we’re still growing quality quartermilers! And while this young man succumbed to injury in Daegu, it’s always nice to know that the 400 pipeline is still working.

5. World Championships Women’s 100 Final – Every once in a while a race comes together. The top athletes make it through the rounds, and you everyone performs up to expectations. This race was one such race. This event’s big three showed up and got it done as Jeter, Campbell Brown and Baptiste gave the crowd a show. Even defending champion Fraser Pryce, who hadn’t had a very good season, had a great run! If only every event would come together like this.

6. Sally Pearson World Champs Win – I know I’ve talked this race to death, but 12.28 in the 100 hurdles is as awesome a performance as there is. It was poetry in motion. And it’s always nice when we see athletes do it right and approach suspect performances.

7. David Rudisha’s 1:41.33 – Rudisha makes the 800 look ridiculously easy! He cruises 1:43’s like he’s walking in the park. He runs 1:42’s to put the competition out of reach. So when he runs 1:41 it seems to go almost unnoticed. But the only races faster than this year’s 1:41.33 are four WR setting runs, and only previous WR holder Wilson Kipketer has ever run as fast!

8. Christian Taylor World Triple Jump Win – Another performance that I’ve mentioned a few times now, but when a young kid comes up with this kind of performance in the heat of battle, he deserves praise. The fact that it’s an event that we (the US) have been in the doldrums in for several years was icing on the cake.

9. Brussels Men’s 200 Meters – Perhaps the race of the year. Note I said race and not performance, because for the first time ever we had two men run under 19.6 in the same race! Yohan Blake’s performance was brilliant, but Walter Dix was also outstanding in defeat. And one can only wonder what we will get if we ever get these two on the track with Bolt AND Gay and all four go mano a mano!

10. LaShawn Merritt 4x4 Anchor in Daegu – Nothing beats the excitement of relay running, and the most exciting relays are those that find someone coming from behind for the win. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched one of these in a Major – 1991 to be exact. This time however, we were on the winning end, and that made it doubly sweet!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Best Performers of 2011

imageDecember is already a third gone – not much time left in this year. As a matter of fact the indoor season is already getting started! My how time flies when you’re having fun!

So before the month gets away, and Baby New Year shows up, I want to give out some kudos to athletes that I feel really got the job done in 2011. I’m going to call them “The Best of 2011”. Some categories are a bit nontraditional – Best Start for example - while others will probably be seen on other lists – like Best Performance.

Just a bit of fun as we wind down the year, and a chance to hand out a little praise. So without further ado let’s get started.


Best Start, Male – Asafa Powell

He may have difficulty holding the true studs off at the finish, but Powell is still the fastest man out of the blocks. It wasn’t an easy win this year though. Countryman Steve Mullings was vying to take over the title, but his suspension takes him out of the running. Ditto Mike Rodgers who has a great get away, but fell to the testers a la Mullings. The man who may take the title in earnest next year however, is Jamaica’s Nesta Carter. The relay leadoff man is my #2 and rising.


Best Start, Female – English Gardener

This was a tough one to decide. Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce still has a nice getaway, but it was not as dominant as in the past. And in the hurdles it was Sally Pearson ahead at the first hurdle and never looking back. But the woman that simply blazed out of the blocks in 2011 was Oregon frosh English Gardener. The Powell/Carter of the women’s 100, the gun goes off and Gardener is meters up on her opponents before they come out of drive phase! A little finishing strength and she could be the surprise of 2012!


Best Finish, Male – Kirani James

I know, some were probably expecting Usain Bolt or Yohan Blake – and both were in the running. And Ngoni Makusha’s come from behind win to take the NCAA 100 title had Carl Lewis written all over it. For me, however, James invoked visions of Lee Evans and Butch Reynolds – power down the straight while reeling cats in, over and over! And the stretch run between James and Merritt in Daegu was vintage track and field.


Best Finish, Female – Carmelita Jeter

Take off the “er” and you have “Jet” and that’s just what Carmelita was in full flight – a jet. She ran 10.70 and 10.78 from behind – as she did when she ran 10.64 & 10.67 in ’09. Only VCB (Veronica Campbell Brown) is in her league over the final 50 of the 100 – and “Jet” put that to bed in Daegu! Now if she can just develop a semblance of a consistent start, to go with that last 60 overdrive could we see FloJo challenged?


Best Track Performance, Male – Yohan Blake, 19.26

I’m still in awe of anyone that runs under 1:42 in the 800 – that’s just a stud’s performance. And David Rudisha did it again with his 1:42.33 – simply awesome. But as they would have said back in the day, “19.2 ain’t no joke”! As a matter of fact it’s the #2 performance ever. And to top it off he did it from behind while beating a 19.56. Just a few years ago 19.32 was the stuff of legend. Now? Nuff said.


Best Track Performance, Female – Vivian Cheruiyot, 14:20.87

This was another tough call for me. Sally Pearson’s 12.28 is literally WR territory in my mind – as only 3 Eastern Bloc athletes have run faster. This on the heels of a 12.36 semi – only Gail Devers among Western women has run faster. But after much internal debate I’m giving the nod to Cheruiyot coming as it did as the second half of a 10,000/5000 double. Both women performed their best on the brightest stage, but Vivian gave an all time performance over 5000 after running a quality 10,000.


Best Field Performer, Male – Christian Taylor, 17.96m/58’ 11.25”

This is actually one of my favorite events, and it’s great to see a lot of young talent coming forward. The best of these appears to be Mr. Taylor. For starters he’s made a habit of finding his best jumps late in the competition. And none was any better than this one, as it was in response to a 58 foot jump by defending champion Idowu. Taylor kept his composure and bounded out to the #9 performance in history to become the #5 all-time performer.


Best Field Performer, Female – Betty Heidler, 79.42m/260’ 6.75”

A WR trumps all, and that’s what Heidler produced in 2011. She didn’t just break the record however; she smashed it by a whopping 1.12m/3’ 8”! Now that’s leaving your mark. While others are trying desperately to get into WR territory in various events, she hit this one out of the park.


Most Improved, Male – Mo Farah

In a world dominated by Ethiopian and Kenyan distance runners, Farah moved to the head of the class in 2011. His British Record 12:53.11 lead the world over 5000 meters, and he backed it up with gold in the event in Daegu. He took an oh so close silver at Worlds in the 10,000, though he showed even more improvement there on the clock – dropping his pre 2011 best from 27:28.86 down to a stunning 26:46.57! He could be the big “home crowd” medal winner with the Olympic Games being in London in 2012!


Most Improved, Female – Morgan Uceny

Yet another tough one for me to sort out – and one I may get some argument on. Heidler got consideration – you have to when you set a WR. But the WR was a big outlier for her. It really came down to Pearson & Uceny. Pearson dropped to 12.28 from a pre-2011 best of 12.50, and she was the picture of perfection time after time. Uceny dropped to 4:00.06 (tantalizingly close to sub4) from a pre-2011 best of 4:02.40, while running textbook perfect races repeatedly. At the end of the day, I decided that the improvement Uceny’s race – both in terms of becoming one of the best “tactician’s” on the circuit, as well as her improvement in times – slightly outweighed Pearson’s improvement in consistency. Slightly.


That’s my list. I’m sure there may be some disagreement – means we have more stars in this sport than we spend time talking about! And that’s a good thing. I have a few more things I want to look back on before Christmas gets . Much to look at before we close the door on 2011.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Swagger – Who has it in Track and Field?

I was watching SportsCenter yesterday and caught Deion Sanders talking about the evolution of defensive backs in the NFL. Of course it being “Neon Deion”, he talked about the “swagger” that he brought to the position, and how others have tried to emulate it. That made me think about track and field, wondering about the amount of “swagger” we have in our sport.

I know what swagger is, and I think most people know what swagger is, but I decided to look it up to see what the official definition is before I started looking for it, and I found the following:

Swag-ger: verb, 1) to walk or strut with defiant or insolent air. 2) to brag or boast noisily. Noun, 1) swaggering manner, conduct, or walk; ostentatious display of arrogance and conceit.

I checked several sources and the various definitions I found were all basically the same, which made me laugh. Because in general when I think of swagger, negativity does NOT come to mind. When I think of swagger I think of confidence. I think of athletes that have complete faith in their ability. Athletes that KNOW they are going to win; come out on top; dominate their opponents.

If you say swagger, I say: Bob Hayes, Jim Hines, Steve Williams, Renaldo Nehemiah, Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis, Sergei Bubka, Javier Sotomayor, Linford Chiristie, Donovan Bailey, Hicham ElGuerrouj, Mo Greene, and a young Haile Gebrsellassie. Athletes that stepped to the track with a walk, a look, an air that said “I got this” even before the gun went off.

Now I know, both from the dictionary definitions, and from talking to people over the years, that many abhor the idea that athletes are often “cocky”, “conceited”, or “self-absorbed”. That for every person that loved Deion Sander’s moniker of “Prime Time”, there were those that couldn’t stand him. That for every fan of the Los Angeles Lakers’ “Showtime”, there were those that preferred the “blue collar” Boston Celtics.

It would seem that times they are a changing however. I remember when the U.S. relay squad took off their singlets, and posed for the crowd after winning the 4x1 in Sydney – and were chastised for being too arrogant. Eight years later in Beijing Usain Bolt did a jig and posed for the crowd and started a new craze! Of course, just because one dances or preens for the camera, doesn’t mean the athlete has “swag”. It’s not simply the movements, but the athlete behind the movements!

So looking at the year just ended and looking forward to the Olympic year that now is only several months away, I decided to take a look for today’s athletes with swagger, because ultimately many of them will be picking up medals in London. Who are today’s Lewis, Bubka, Christie and Greene. Who are the athletes that show up saying “I got this” even on a bad day?

It’s no coincidence that all that found themselves on my list have also found their way to gold. But it may surprise some that I have several women on my list! With that in mind, here is my list of track and field athletes with the most “Swag”!


#10. Brittney Reese – Knows she has hops.

#9. Angelo Taylor – “Been there, done that!”

#8. Jeremy Wariner – Shades, so he can see what the others don’t.

#7. Phillips Idowu – When your hair is this color you have to be good!

#6. Veronica Campbell Brown – Jamaica’s best of all time and she knows it.

#5. Dwight Phillips – “There’s a medal involved? I got this!”

#4. Carmelita Jeter – Knows she has a gear the others don’t and it shows.

#3. Yelena Isinbayeva – “Medals, records, yes I have them all”!

#2. Blanka Vlasic – She was dancing before Bolt, and with good reason!

#1. Usain Bolt – Let me fix my hair before I go out here and dance when I’m done!