The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Up and Coming

Mar 14th, 2021
7:18 am PDT

One of the hottest indoor seasons in recent memory, is coming to a close. As we get ready to head outdoors, I wanted to take a look at a few athletes that have proven worthy of being on someone’s watch list – mine. Every Olympic year, there are athletes that emerge that no one thought about the year before that become good enough to go to the Games. New exciting performers that make this sport what it is.

This indoor season, we’ve seen a plethora of top level performances, including some unexpected ones by some up and coming athletes. Here are a few collegiate and Europeans, that have recently found their way onto my radar. Several of whom I expect to see in Tokyo!

Micah Williams – Heading into the Collegiate Championships, this kid is only one of three sprinters to run under 6.50 in the 60 this year. His 6.49 win, proved his prowess over the distance and secured a National title. While I know that indoor 60 success doesn’t always transfer into outdoor 100 success, it is how he’s competed that I find most impressive. He’s not the typical, blazing start and fade type of indoor sprinter. He’s a solid starter that wins because of smooth acceleration and solid technique. His transition phrase when he gets outdoors will tell the tail. Like Christian Coleman, he’s a shorter, powerful sprinter. So his transition will have to be stellar. My concern for him is that at 5’8“, he may not have the stride length necessary in the latter stages t contend with the taller sprinters. If not, he’ll be another indoor beast. I can’t wait to see what the answer is.

Abby Steiner – This young lady is scary. Her reaction to the gun needs work. Her arm action is just wrong. But her turnover is powerful; and she has the heart of an assassin. Just ask her competition, as she’s been a gun to finish winner consistently in the 200 with a seasons best of 22.38 in winning the NCAA title!! That reaction to the gun has hurt her in the 60 – she missed the final at NC’s because of it – but she’s still there at the finish with 7.21 to her credit. Oh, she runs storming 4×4 legs too, showcasing her overall strength. She’s a few tweaks away from being one of America’s top female sprinters in my humble opinion, and I can hardly wait to see what she does outdoors. She should be a finalist at 200 at the least, possibly on the team at her best. She could be the missing link in the 4×1.

Athing Mu – I watched her collegiate record 1:58.40 in the 800. All I can say is I’ve never seen 1:58 look so effortless. Then she tweeted that she did it so people wouldn’t think she’s a quarter miler – because she’s run 50.52 there too. She been putting a beat down on everyone that’s stepped on the track with her. Causing many to be ready to give her Olympic glory in multiple events. While I’m not ready to do that just yet, the ease with which she runs says there’s more in the tank, and I’d love to see just how much. It’s going to be a fun spring.

KC Lightfoot – Just when it was starting to look like young Mondo Duplantis was going to have the pile vault all to himself for the next decade or more, along comes Mr Lightfoot to break the collegiate record and soar above 6 meters. And as suddenly as Mondo took over the event, he’s got a worthy young adversary – or so it would seem. If nothing else K.C. had entered the playground where Mondo has been playing. The next few months will tell us if he’s ready to compete. But the thought of TWO young vaulters going at it above twenty feet is very exciting!

Alja del Ponte – Over the last decade or so, the women’s sprints have been dominated by the US and Jamaica. Few others have been ankle to “crash the party”. Especially Europeans, with Dafne Schippers being the lone exception recently. Well, after a sterling indoor campaign, topped by a fantastic 7.03 European 60 title, Ajla del Ponte seems ready to join the list of top level female sprinters this year. Her race is solid – solid start, solid transition, solid finish. She appears to be stronger this year, and if my eyes are correct, she can go sub11 – and that makes her a threat to make the Olympic final. With the Swiss dominating clocks, watches, and timing, it would be awesome to see a Swiss sprinter be competitive.

Lamont Jacobs – I had no inkling who Mr Jacobs was as I watched him annihilate the competition at the European Indoor Championships. I had to do something that I rarely have to do – go check him out on the World Athletics website. And low and behold, he’s been around for quite some time. Specifically since 2010, with his first big breakthrough coming in 2018. If his 6.48 is any indication, he will become a sub10 sprinter this spring – his previous best being 10.03. His races in Torun were silky smooth. Excellent drive phase into smooth acceleration. In what has become a very multicultural sprint world, he’s going to be the European to watch in my humble opinion.

Femke Bol – Femke has been using her skills outdoors in the 400H. She’s run well enough for a PR 53.79, which is fairly competitive. But having watched her hurdle, and then run the 400 this indoor season, I believe she could be a much better sprinter sans hurdles! Bol (Super Bol say the European press) has made the 400 look rather easy, with several 50 point efforts this indoor season. Femke reminds me in some ways of World Champion Salwa Naser, strong more than fast. With a mid race surge and finish that seems to devastate the competition! I’m dying to see how she does against legit 49 second women outdoors, because I definitely think she can be a finalist in the open event.

I think everyone is waiting with baited breath on the upcoming outdoor season. The one positive thing that Covid did provide is a longer than usual “base” period for many athletes. Which, I believe, has lead to this rash of stellar performances. It’s exciting to see so many new names popping up everywhere. this year’s Olympics is going to see many new faces doing spectacular things. It’s been a very long wait, but it appears it will be worth it in the end. Next stop, outdoors.

And They’re Off

Jan 26th, 2021
9:12 pm PST

Yes, the Road to Tokyo has begun as the 2021 season is now under way, with all indications being that this year is going to be as HOT as lava in a volcano! Two weekends, two indoor world records. An American record. Several moves into the all time lists. The start of a US track league. And just a rash of outstanding performances Read More...

Happy 202One

Jan 9th, 2021
8:00 am PST

I've started several posts to be ready for the new year, because I think that on the heels of 2020, we're all going to find joy in what transpires in 2021! There's no need to replay last year. It only takes one word to describe 2020 - Covid. Because it defined the entire year. Enough said. With that, my first post of the year is going to be about the things that I'm looking forward to in the world of track and field this year Read More...

Why the Decline?

Dec 3rd, 2020
12:07 pm PST

Once upon a time, not that long ago, the US was a true power in the sport of track and field. By true power, I mean beyond just having many of the world's best athletes. That is almost a right of birth - a conversation for another day. Not that long ago however, in addition to stellar athletes, we hosted some of the best track and field meets on the planet! Yes, that's a true story Read More...

Track & Field’s Most Exciting Event

Nov 27th, 2020
9:25 am PST

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Prediction – US 100, Women

Nov 20th, 2020
2:36 pm PST

Since I've put my neck out there on the men, I may as well give the women a shot. This will not be nearly as easy however, because it seems like every year the names change on the women's lists here in the US. I can tell you right now who'll be lining up for every other country that's a major player in the sprints Read More...

First Prediction – US 100 Men

Nov 8th, 2020
7:36 pm PST

It's the end of the year, and a stones throw to the US Trials. That, and the suspension of Coleman has everyone trying to figure out the men's sprint squad. That's not going to be easy, because not everyone competed in 2020. Those that did had an abbreviated season and right now everyone is training for 2021 Read More...

Christian Coleman Suspended

Nov 6th, 2020
2:52 pm PST

If you know anything about track and field, you know that Christian Coleman has been suspended for his multiple whereabouts violations. A two year "time out" from the sport dating back to the first violation, which means he has zero shot at making the Tokyo Olympic team. No Trials, no Games. As a matter of fact he'll barely be off probation before the trials for the next Worlds Read More...

Who’s Fast?

Oct 30th, 2020
2:16 pm PDT

So. One of the big stories of this past week of NFL football, was one football player running another one down in the open field. Immediately talk in the sports world went to how fast the guy was. World class speed. Potential Olympic champion, etc. Which, drove, track and field fans, bat shit crazy! Because WE know just how fast these guys, aren't Read More...

Were Meets Necessary This Year?

Oct 18th, 2020
10:29 am PDT

I am a track and field junkie! It's easily my favorite sport. So I've been pleased to have track back to watch. But everyone hasn't been as excited. I've had some people ask me, “why are they running?”. The position being that, a) it's not safe to be competing right now. and b) what we've been watching isn't really track and field Read More...