The US scored a huge medal haul in Rio – something always expected, but not always materialized. The expectations are always there because of our purported sprint and hurdle prowess. I say purported because in Rio it was our middle and long distance crew that led the way, as our sprint and hurdle crew has gotten a bit long in the tooth.
We scored some "speed" medals, but not the haul we accumulated a decade or more ago. Where we were once THE single dominant power in the speed events, the New Millennium has seen vast improvement from the Caribbean nations. In addition, more recently a resurgence from Africa, Canada, France and Great Britain.
Of course, the fact that others have improved shouldn’t mean a move in reverse for us. Frankly we should make the same type of improvement ourselves. As our competition gets better we must get better along with them!
We’ve gotten great careers from Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Allyson Felix, David Oliver, Sanya Richards Ross and others, but it’s time for the next generation to take over. The question is: who’s the next generation? A couple of individuals have begun to step forward. Here’s my thought on where future medals will come from.
Tori Bowie – Tori is already there having earned medals in Rio and Beijing last year. She’s our best, and one of the world’s best at both the 100/200 (10.74/21.99) and medaled in both in Rio (silver/bronze). Internationally right now it’s Bowie, Schippers, and Thompson as the women to beat. Reminiscent of the 90’s with Gwen Torrence, Merlene Ottey, and Irina Privalova. Along jumper at first, Bowie is just starting to get the hang of the sprints. And at the tender age of 25, she’s just entering her prime.
University of Oregon Connection – Oregon is known for distance runners, right? Yes, but recently their women’s sprint program has been making noise – very loud noise. With athletes like Jenna Prandini, English Gardner, Hannah Cunliffe, Deja Stevens, and Arianna Washington among current or recent Duck alumni, Oregon is producing some of America’s top talent. As in Rio, expect Oregon athletes in the mix for US sprint/relay spots.
Candace Hill – Teenage phenom is still a high schooler, yet has won World Junior titles in both the 100/200 and is the World Junior record holder inn the 100 with a sensational 10.98! The most exciting thing to me is how raw she is – suggesting that much more is in store for this young lady.
Kaylin Whitney – Another high school phenom, Whitney was World Junior Sprint champion the year before Hill’s emergence. She’s a technically beautiful runner with strong race patterns. Whitney could pair with Hill to form a formidable duo for years to come.
Trayvon Bromell – Bromell is already #10 all time in the 100 at 9.84 – a mark he reached in both ’15/’16. After winning bronze at Worlds in 2015, an Achilles injury slowed him in Rio. Yet he was still able to make the final. Going forward he’s clearly our best young male sprinter. He’s ready to take the lead from Gatlin as he US top dog.
Noah Lyles – Just graduating high school this year, Lyles is young, brash, and fast with PRs of 10.14/20.09! His 200 best making him the #4 junior in history. Of course, fast high schoolers that become faster adults is rare. For every Trayvon Bromell there’s J-Mee Samuels, DaBryan Blanton, Jeff Demps and Jaylen Bacon. Lyles does have a lot of upside however, as he’s technically nowhere near close to Gatlin or Bromell. We’ll see how that goes since he’s gone pro and bypassing college – where most sprinters cut their early sprinting teeth. Key will be who coaches him next. He’s a lock to go sub 20, and has the power to go sub 9.90 as soon as he cleans up his technique.
Michael Norman – Norman also just graduated from high school this year. He and Lyles are, in my opinion, the best graduating duo since Roy Martin, Henry Thomas and Joe DeLoach headed to college in 1987! Norman is a triple threat at 10.27/20.14/45.19 – and he didn’t really run the 400 this year! Focusing more on the deuce he became the #6 all time junior. Norman is the opposite of Lyles – more reserved; more technically smooth; and headed to USC to run for the Trojans. Norman can go triple sub (10/20/44) in my humble opinion. I’m curious to see where he focuses.
Trentavis Friday – Two years ago Friday set the HSR for 100 at 10.00 – and made it look EASY. He also ran 20.03w and 20.04w in the deuce on his way to a World Junior title. He went to Florida State and disappeared from the top of the lists. He’s left school to go pro, and while it’s not what I would normally suggest when your star is fading, in this case I’m excited. I’m excited because this kid looked ridiculously easy in high school. The rebirth of Joe DeLoach in my opinion. For that reason alone is him as part of the future.
How does the future look for American sprinting? Extremely bright! The slate at the top of global sprinting is about to get erased. Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin, and Tyson Gay are about to leave. The "senior" sprinter left behind will be Jamaica’s Yohan Blake – who’s trying to come back from injury. On the women’s side, Carmelita Jeter was missing this year, and Sanya Richards Ross retired. Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce like Blake us trying to return from injury.
The women have already shifted to the trio of Thompson, Bowie, and Schippers. The men have seen Andre Degrasse and Trayvon Bromell step up and take the podium. After a decade of the previous generation, we’re about to get wholesale change – and the US has its best crop of young sprinters since 2005 – remember Spearmon, Gay, Dix, and Carter!
The powers that be at USA Track and Field Need to do so they can to support these young people and see that they get the training/growth they need to succeed. That includes revising our played out relay selection and preparation system. It’s time to get back on top of the global podium and we have the young talent to get it done.