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

Blake 9.90 Leads Weekend Activities

Apr 15th, 2012
8:39 am PDT

Yohan BlakeRivalries are GREAT for the sport of track and field. I just can’t say that enough. Athletes seem to compete better when they have a chip on their shoulder; something to prove; a score to settle; or sometimes just plain don’t like each other. Ovett v Coe. Nehemiah v Foster. Greene v Montgomery. Lewis v Everybody. Rivalries bring out outstanding competition – and as much as we tout times, distances and heights in this sport, it’s competition that truly rules.

I start with this because among the top rivalries in sport today is the one on the island of Jamaica between the Racers and MVP track clubs. A rivalry that has brought sprinting in Jamaica to the forefront as their best athletes compete to be the best on the island – which in the sprints means among, if not the best, in the world. Yesterday those teams got together in the UTech Classic and produced some sizzling world leading times. First in the 4×1 where the Yohan Blake/Usain Bolt lead Racers screamed to a 37.82 win over the Asafa Powell anchored MVP’s 38.27 – producing the year’s first sub 38 relay time. Reports say that Usain Bolt was his usual smooth fast self which puts to bed any thoughts that the big man is injured, because if he was he is no longer.

Unfortunately the relay was Bolt’s work for the day as he didn’t compete in any individual event. Teammate Blake, however, took a spin in the 100 meters, opening up his season with a 9.90 (1.6) effort to blow away the field – the year’s first sub 10, and a time that would lead one to think that perhaps he might be able to improve on his PR of 9.82. Just how good is his mark for this time of year? Well it’s the =#2 time produced in April equaling a 9.90 run by Steve Mullings (JAM) on Apr 16 last year in Starkville Mississippi. Mullings later set his PR 9.80 at the Prefontaine Classic. The best ever mark in April is a 9.86 run by Ato Boldon (TRI) at the MtSAC Relays on Apr 19, 1998. The mark equaled Boldon’s PR – a mark he equaled on four occasions but never bettered. For early season speed however, the best is the 9.76 produced by Usain Bolt on May 3rd, 2008 in Kinngston Jamaica. A mark that was followed by a WR 9.72 in New York on May 31st, and his gold medal 9.69 WR run in Beijing in August. All of which says that Blake’s mark is a great way to start the season and we’ll see where it leads. Certainly he is a player in the event – a major player.

We had been told we would see rival Asafa Powell in the 200, but Powell was a DNS in the race won instead by Nesta Carter (JAM) in 20.48 – slightly off his PR of 20.25. We were also expecting a debut 200 by defending Olympic champion Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce but “SAFP” also didn’t compete. Rose Marie Whyte (JAM) did, however and turned in a WL 51.15 400, as she works to get back to last year’s 49.84 form.

Earlier in the day over in California there were some outstanding performances at the Johnson/JJK Invitation in Westwood. Best on the day was the debut of Carmelita Jeter (USA) who set a WL in the 200 with her 22.31 (+1.5) – a country mile ahead of Jeneba Tarmoh’s (USA) 23.02, and easily faster than Blessing Okagbare’s (NIG) 22.81 in the other heat. Like Blake there is some historical significance to Jeter’s mark. The fastest ever mark in April is Evette de Klerk’s (RSA) 22.06 run on Apr 8, 1989 at altitude in Pietersburg, South Africa – a mark that remained her PR. The best non altitude mark for the month was turned in by Pam Marshall (USA) at Mt SAC way back on Apr 27, 1986! So that’s a huge mark by Jeter, who up to last season was better known for her 100 meter sprinting. The best early season 200’s however, were turned in by Marion Jones who ran 21.84 at altitude on Mar 19. 1999 in Roodeport, South Africa, and a sea level 21.98 run on Feb 28, 1998 in Sydney Australia. We’ll see how well Jeter runs the event but Marshall (21.93) and Jones (21.84a) weren’t too shabby and my gut says that Jeter is capable of sub 22. Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell Brown have won all the major medals in the deuce since 2004, but Jeter is a real threat to upset that run – figuratively and literally.

We were supposed to see Walter Dix (USA) debut in SoCal but Dix didn’t run in either the deuce or the 4×1. Teammate Ryan Bailey (USA) did however, as he anchored HSI 4×1 to a 38.50 without Dix in the mix. Huge because it indicates good health for Bailey as he begins his first season under coach John Smith. A season which could see the young sprinter improve upon his 9.88/20.10 bests. I have much excitement for Bailey as at 6’4” he has similar attributes to one Usain Bolt and if you’ve ever watched the young man run his race has much improvement to be made in the first half – and Smith is one of the sport’s best technical advisers.

There were several other top level marks on the UCLA track led by Duane Solomon’s (USA) 1:45.83 run in the 800 meters – the #3 time in the world to date. Nice to see a half miler stepping it up early in the season. Even more exciting when you take into account that his PR is 1:45.23, because it could mean that we’re going to see a breakout season from Solomon who is already faster than last year’s 1:45.86! So definitely one to watch as the season moves forward. The meet also saw a return to competition by Michelle Perry (USA) as the former World champion hurdled 12.75 (+1.2) to move into the #3 position in the world right now. Perry won gold in Osaka (“07), but hasn’t been seen since coming in 7th in her heat in Berlin (“09) missing all of the ‘10/’11 seasons. She has a PR of 12.43 run in ‘05 & ‘06, and ran 12.44 in ‘07 – so at her best is a threat to make the US team and has the potential to put some pressure on Sally Pearson. So definitely another athlete to keep an eye on this year. And before moving on take note that Allyson Felix (USA) was on the track running a leg on the winning women’s 4×4.

Everything else pales in comparison to what happened in Jamaica and Southern California. Though the wind produced one hot 100 in Texas as Alexandria Anderson (USA) screamed 10.88 with a +5.9 wind at the Texas Invitational. She was followed by Lashauntea Moore (USA) 10.93 and Porscha Lucas (USA) 11.02, but with that much wind it’s tough to say just what the race was worth. It’s nice to see Anderson running well as she has a lot of potential and the women’s 100 has just opened up a bit with the announcement that Marshavet Myers is pregnant and will  not be competing this year. I’ll be taking a look at what that means for the US tomorrow.

Jeremy Wariner was also at the Texas Invitational and I’m not sure what to take away from his performances. He won the 400 in 46.43 which is rather pedestrian for Wariner. But without being there and knowing how the wind was gusting it’s difficult to say just how the wind may have affected the race. I do know, however, that he was second in the 200 in a wind aided 20.83 (+2.80) and that’s off of earlier performances. Wariner relayed 44.57 just a few weeks ago, but since then has been a bit “off”. We’ll see what subsequent races bring, but the 400 is always one of those highly competitive events where surprises are the norm. There are always a couple of athletes that come out of no where to set serious PR’s at the Trials and Games – Wariner was one himself back in 2004!

One such athlete could be Torrin Lawrence (GA) who ran 45.65 at the Spec Towns Invitational in Georgia. The time is only .01 off Wariner’s own seasons best and moves him into the top 10 for the season. More importantly it’s beginning to look like Lawrence is finally finding good health. This young man ran 45.03 INDOORS just two years ago in 2010. Since then however, he’s suffered from several injuries. If he’s healthy he has the potential to run somewhere under 45 seconds – and if you saw him indoors in 2010 you’d say somewhere well under!

I know I’ve been talking a lot about the sprints and hurdles lately but we’re just not getting the results coming in as yet from other disciplines. And with Mt SAC next weekend and Penn coming up at the end of the month, I would expect that sprinting, hurdling and relays will continue to dominate the news as we close out April. Tomorrow, however, we get the Boston Marathon.. Many American’s looking to focus on the Games and/or other events at the Olympic Trials will be missing, but Boston tends to be dominated by Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes anyway – and they will be there in abundance. I’m curious as to how fast they’ll run tomorrow!

Below catch a glimpse of Blake and Bolt.

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