We’re within 100 days of the Olympics, which means that the Trials are around the corner. Penn, with its "USA v the World" format, and Drake with its invitational fields, tend to give us a solid preview of where our elite sprinters are in their development.
The weather at Drake was horrible – it often is which is why I personally don’t like it for National meets – but we did get an awesome men’s 400 with Kirani James (44.08) and LaShawn Merritt (44.22) running the world’s two fastest times! Nothing surprising there given they’re already two of the world’s best. For me, although James won the race, I’d say advantage Merritt because 19.78 says he’s been working on his speed – we’ll see him get stronger later. And Omar McLeod screamed a 13.08 on the heels of his recent 9.99 – he’s dangerous!
Of course Penn is all about the relays, and once again the US men’s 4×1 made news for all the wrong reasons as a botched handoff was front and center. We looked in control until Tyson Gay and Isaiah Young couldn’t connect. Now I have several issues with this. First off, Tyson took the blame saying it was his fault because he made a "rookie mistake", but my question is where? What I saw was Young’s hand moving; then him glancing around; then Young physically turning around! THERE was your problem – zero confidence from Young who apparently really doesn’t understand the relay pass. Rule number one for my sprinters, hold your hand steady and NEVER LOOK AROUND – it only causes your hand to move and the incoming runner will NEVER reach it!
My next issue is why was he there anyway? If we’re trying to put together a squad, why couldn’t you get Trayvon Bromell in town? Because part of Tyson’s excuse was, "we’ll get it right when it matters". Not if you’re not working with the people who’ll be there when it matters! Barring something major Bromell will be part of that team. You’d think USA Track and Field would have gotten him there given how many issues we’ve had with the 4×1!
I have the same issue with the women’s squad. Yes, they got the baton around and they won. But as much as I like the women on the team, at least half won’t be there in Rio! Why aren’t we trying to get the likely suspects together to work? Because across the board Penn seemed lacking in "star power" this year.
Leroy Burrell put it best when interviewed after the race – he was there as coach of the University of Houston. It’s time for change because the folks that have been running this have failed repeatedly! I’ve recently given my thoughts on the relay so won’t say more other than we have less than 100 days to get it right.
On a more positive note it was nice to see youngsters like Kaylen Whitney and Candace McGrone getting seasoning. But just as Bromell was missing, I would have loved to have seen Jenna Prandini involved. There was Sanya Richards Ross and Carmelita Jeter, but no Allyson Felix. And where was Candace Hill – THE most promising young sprint talent in the US? My point being, you’d think that USATF could pull our best together at least once or twice a year – outside the Trials and Games (or Worlds) to act like Team USA. Do I want too much?
All of these things are underlying reasons why that handoff went bad – in my humble opinion.
Anyway, Doha at the end of the week. We’re in full bloom now and the Trials are around the corner. Time to take a look at who might make up this year’s team.