The World Championships are in August, and this week we select the athletes that will be representing the good old Red, White, and Blue. In spite of the fact that many say the sport is dead, the US Trials are annually one of the greatest meets on the planet – trumped in depth only by the Games and World Championships themselves.
As such it’s a meet steeped in drama and plot lines with many of the world’s best athletes going head to head for spots at the big dance. This year will be no different with intrigue all over the place.
Take the men’s 100 where we select the trio that will go up against Bolt & the Jamaicans – as well as play a strong role in the 4×1 squad. Gay, Gatlin, Dix, Bailey, Rodgers, Patton, Kimmons, Locke, Young, Silmon, Batson – do the kids even have a chance?
How about the women’s middle distances where we’ve developed several competitive women in the last several years – Uceny, Simpson, Rowbury, Pierce, Montano, Cain, Wright, and Martinez among others. There should be some tremendous battles here. As a matter of fact the women’s 1500 could bed one of the most intriguing events of the week.
Then there’s the men’s 400 hurdles where it looks like old school (Taylor, Clement, Jackson) will meet new school (Tinsley, Dutch, Andersen, Wyatt) in what could be a changing of the guard – or not. Bottom line is nearly every event this week will have some type of "story" waiting to be flushed out and told – and we get to watch.
While we’re watching this play out, here are a few individual tales that I think bear following as they could have a major affect on how thy team to Moscow is shaped.
Mary Cain – Middle Distances
The high school phenom will be attempting to make her first major team. And to be honest she’s got as good a chance as most of the "adults" that are entered. I’ll be curious to see what she enters because personally I think her best chance is in the 800 as the adults seem to be stronger as the distance lengthens. She’s a gutsy racer however, and my guess is we see her in the 1500 and she will be a factor in that final lap.
Carmelita Jeter – Sprints
Jeter started out like a house afire early, then hit injury. Even not at her best however she should still make the team unless several women find their way under 10.90. With top rival Fraser Pryce running well and wanting to get into the 10.6 zone however, Jeter can’t afford to be too far off the pace this week. Jeter’s health could be key to one of history’s most epic female sprint battles.
Jeremy Wariner – 400 meters
Once upon a time Wariner was "The Man" in the 400 winning everything available and moving to #3 all time. Then along came Merritt, a split with his coach, and he became a strong number two – still remaining a force in the event. Lately however, he’s had difficulty in average races and the last result I saw from Wariner he ran 46.0. This could be the first time he’s stepped on the track healthy and failed to make the team since 2004.
Wallace Spearmon – 200 meters
Spearmon has been a staple on US international teams in the 200 since 2005. When others have faltered (Gay, Dix, Crawford, et al) Spearmon has been there – even running legs on dinner of our most successful 4×1 squads. His results this year have been very un-Spearmon like as he enters nationals with a best of only 20.32. Nationals will be as strong as ever with vets Gay & Dix looking ready. Justin Gatlin a threat to return to form. And lots of young talent in Isaiah Young, Bryshon Nellum, Charles Silmon, and Curtis Mitchell looking for a ticket to Moscow. This could be Spearmon’s toughest run.
Aries Merritt – 110 Hurdles
Merritt had a near perfect storybook type season last year – capped by a season ending 12.80 world record. But heading into Iowa Merritt has a best of only 13.37 as he’s fought injury, and hasn’t finished a race since April 27. That’s not how the sequel was supposed to play out. Luckily for Merritt, no one else has really stepped their game up either as David Oliver (13.10) and Rush Wilson (13.18) lead the way to Iowa. A healthy Merritt runs that easily – we just don’t know how healthy he is.
Dwight Phillips – Long Jump
People forget but Phillips is the =#5 jumper all time at 28′ 8.25" – on the verge of 29 feet. He’s won multiple gold at both the Olympics & Worlds, but heads to Iowa struggling to jump 27 feet. If he can reach 27 feet he’ll pull a Carl and make yet another team – a fitting end to a great career – but can her get out to what used to be an easy, routine jump for him? Phillips could find himself battling his toughest opponent ever at nationals – Father Time.
On the Circuit and on the clock, Uceny has been America’s top miler. But she’s suffered disaster at the big dance falling at both the Olympics & World Championships. She’s back for another shot but has been relatively quiet so far running only 4:08.49. Personally I’ve thought her to beer our best tactician over 1500, she’s going to have to price it here as this could be one of our toughest 1500 fields in some time. And in order to get back to the Biff stage to redeem herself, she’s got to get a ticket this week.
There are many many more – Angelo Taylor, Bershawn Jackson, Walter Dix, English Gardener, Bernard Lagat, Brianna Rollins, Sanya Richards Ross – I could go on all day. What it all means is that this should be one of the most exciting championships in some time – and that’s saying a lot. I must say that once again I’m disappointed in USA Track & Field add their website has no information regarding a webcast of the event. A travesty for the top team in the world to NOT have a web presence for our championships!