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

A Crowd is Starting to Form in the Hurdles

Apr 9th, 2012
12:14 pm PST

Hurdle TrioIt’s early in the season, and few of the top athletes have made it to the track yet, but the 110 hurdlers are doing what they do – compete! I love the hurdlers. For starters it’s one of the most exciting events on the track. There’s speed. The technique of the hurdles. The ebb and flow of the race. But most of all there’s the hurdlers themselves. No ducking and avoiding each other. You don’t have to wait all season to see the top guys going at it. They line up every week and compete. It reminds me of track and field back in the ‘60’s/’70’s/’80’s – when you could go to a meet and see the best in the world going at it on any given weekend! The Golden Age of track and field – a legacy still carried forward by the hurdlers.

Already we’ve had several top races against the big guns. The US Indoor Championships saw the first major head to head this year as Aries Merritt & Kevin Craddock PR’d in the final ahead of Terrence Trammel, Omo Osaghae, David Oliver and Joel Brown. This after Dexter Faulk blazed to a world leading PR in the heats then false started out of that final! Then at the World Indoor Championships Merritt pulled off another upset as he won gold over none other than China’s Liu Xiang as he continued his fast early hurdling.

There’s been no let up as we’ve headed outdoors. David Oliver currently leads the world at 13.30 INTO a –3.0 wind. And this past weekend, barely into April, we had an early showdown in Florida with Ronnie Ash scorching a deep field in 13.10 (+3.0) ahead of Dexter Faulk, Lehann Fourie (RSA), David Oliver, and David Payne. And we have yet to see Aries Merritt, Terrence Trammell, Kevin Craddock, Ryan Wilson or last year’s World Champion Jason Richardson!

I sat down last night to put together my early favorites for the Olympic Trials – to be published tomorrow – and realized that of all the events, the one that I was truly having difficulty picking a “favorite” was the 110 hurdles. Typically the short sprints are the events that are difficult to call. One bad step in the 100 can be disastrous. But a healthy Tyson Gay overcomes bad steps as does a healthy Carmelita Jeter. But in the hurdles it’s not just a bad step, but a potentially bad hurdle, or two. And when you look at the men that will be heading to Eugene, a bad anything could be the difference between a flight to London and another four year wait.

12.89 David Oliver
12.95 Terrence Trammell
13.02 Ryan Wilson
13.02 David Payne
13.04 Jason Richardson
13.09 Aries Merritt
13.09 Antwon Hicks
13.13 Dexter Faulk
13.19 Ronnie Ash
13.20 Joel Brown
13.23 Omo Osaghae
13.26 Jeff Porter

This is just a list of the current guys under 13.30! That doesn’t count anyone else that might catch fire and PR rapidly over the course of the season. Someone like Kevin Craddock whose indoor 7.46 says that he should be improving on his 13.48 PR – especially if you take into account that he’s been injured since leaving high school and may finally be healthy.

The bottom line is that while both the US and Jamaica are talking about potential 100 finals with the majority of competitors under 10.00, the hurdle final at the Trials could have a field where everyone has a best under 13.10 – unprecedented! Literally every hurdler that makes the final in Eugene will be capable of making the Olympic final in London. Some VERY talented hurdlers will be left home.

The Olympic Trials is a week of thrills and exciting competition. Spots on the team in every event come down to inches, or less. That said, this could be one of the toughest events in which to make the team. Right now I rate this and the women’s 1500 meters as real tear jerkers – events where no matter who makes the cut I’m going to be sad about several that didn’t. I know the world is fixated on Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and what’s going to happen in the 100, but the 110 hurdles at the Trials and the subsequent potential showdown between the US representatives and Liu Xiang (CHN) and Dayron Robles will provide every bit as much drama and excitement. This race is going to be a great event this season.

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