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

Mt. SAC Leads Weekend Full of Highlights

Apr 22nd, 2012
10:27 am PST

Walter DixThe 2012 Olympic season shifted into high gear this weekend with highlights galore popping up all over. What the Kansas Relays got started with their “downtown” events, Mt SAC multiplied with one of the best meets they’ve had in a while as performance after performance heated up the track AND the field.

Where to start? How about the mile on Friday night where France’s Jamal Ahrass blitzed to a 3:52.21 WL in the mile (3:35.70 1500 en route) to lead 8 men under 4:00. Molly Huddle took her turn as she controlled the 5000 meters then put it away in the final lap to clock another WL with her 15:15.91. Southern Utah’s Cam Levins didn’t quite get a world leader but #2 isn’t bad as his 13:18.47 upset Arizona’s Lawi Lalang’s 13:18.88 in a very exciting race. And another world #2 was turned in by Molly Beckwith as she sped 2:00.34 in the 800 meters – with Maggie Vessey well back in 6th at 2:02.16. There was also Jamaica’s Korine Hinds’ WL in the steeple – yes I said the steeple – as she ran 9:42.27. And people think Mt. SAC is a sprint/relay meet!

Well it is, it’s just that it’s more of an all around meet than people tend to give it credit for. Take the field events where there were also several high level, world class performances. In the throws, Lawrence Okoye (GBR) tossed a WL 66.67m 218’ 8.75” to win the discus competition, while Jill Camarena Williams put the shot 19.80m 64’ 11.5” to move to the #3 slot on the world list. Great Britain’s Steven Lewis and Japan’s Daichi Swano dueled at 5.72m / 18’ 9.25” in the pole vault with Lewis winning on missed as both moved to #2 in the world. And in the jumps Brittney Reese flew out to 7.12M / 23’ 4.25” in the long jump and Mike Mason cleared the bar at 2.28m / 7’ 5.75” in the high jump – with 4 more at 2.25m / 7’ 4.5”. Mason’s mark is =#3 globally while Reese’s in a WL. Reese is getting scary, as she’s more consistent than ever and I’m beginning to ask myself if she can get out to 24 feet (7.32m)!

Wow, all that and I still haven’t talked about the sprints or hurdles – I guess it’s time for that too. Walter Dix was a few puffs of wind away from taking over the lead in the 100 as he ran 9.85 (2.4) to defeat Mike Rodgers’ 9.97. Dix’ start could still use a bit of work, but his mid race pick up and close was very nice. Speaking of nice, it was  nice to see Lauryn Williams win the women’s race in 11.17 (1.5) – her experience could be valuable this year. As will that of Allyson Felix who anchored a 42.87 4×1 win. But perhaps the most exciting race was the men’s 400 as Jeremy Wariner and Great Britain’s Martyn Rooney battled in the stretch with Rooney coming from behind to edge Wariner at the tape 44.92 to 44.96 – the time a WL. Adding to the race was Bryshon Nellum in third as he clocked 45.18, making him #3 on the year and just off his PR 45.07. The race pretty much gets Nellum back to form after years of coming back from gunshot wounds to his leg from a random drive by shooting a few years back. A great comeback story for the young man who was once the #1 high schooler in the country and one of the future stars of the sport – he may still become a star. Another future star may be community college sprinter Diondre Batson who got to run with the big boys and came away with 10.13 (2.5) / 20.50 (1.8) efforts. Not yet ready to battle with Dix and company, but defintely someone to keep an eye on. Finally, in the hurdles Michael Tinsley moved to #2 on the yearly list with his 48.83 to 49.38 win over Angelo Taylor. And World champion Jason Riichardson got his season started with a windy 13.20 (3.7) effort in the short hurdles. All in all an outstanding meet in Southern California.

Ah, but there was MORE this weekend – a lot more. Kansas got it all started early on and while not as prolific as Mt. SAC added some sterling one lap efforts this weekend. Dee Dee Trotter seems to be making a comeback this year and is looking pretty good as she took over the world lead (temporarily) with a 50.94 to become the first woman under 51 outdoors. Taking a lap with hurdles in the way Bershawn Jackson blazed 48.20 to improve on his own WL. Jackson looked VERY strong, going out at a blistering pace and finishing well ahead of any hopeful pursuers. After a bit of a let down last year, Jackson is starting to look like the man that was dominating everyone in 2010.

Sanya R-RI said above that Trotter temporarily took over the world lead, that’s because down in Waco Texas, Sanya Richards Ross ran a solo 50.18! She is definitely BACK folks, and that’s bad news for everyone else. With a bit of competition she certainly would have been sub50, and since this is her best time ever this early in the year, one has to wonder if she might be in form this year to take a shot at her own AR of 48.70? And while this thought may be premature, could we get a Richards Ross / Felix showdown this year at the Trials and Games in this event? With Sanya back and running at this level I’m wondering what path Felix is going to take this year – 200 only or 200/400 double?

There was another invitational in Florida this weekend, and more speedy running. At the Tom Jones Classic, David Oliver returned to the University of Florida and came away with the WL in the hurdles at 13.17 (1.5). He handled the field handily in spite of speedy runs by Ryan Brathwaite (BAH) 13.29 and Joel Brown 13.30. Florida’s 4×1 continues to improve running 38.67 and showing that they aren’t going to give up their NCAA title without a fight. Florida Alum Will Claye moved to #3 on this year’s list in the long jump at 8.25m / 27 ‘ 1”. And Justin Gatlin ran 20.11 (1.0) to win the 200 meters to move to #3 on the year. That’s Gatlin’s best deuce since a 20.00 in 2005 and it looks like Gatlin is at least back to his Olympic/World Champs form of 2004/2005. With Tyson Gay’s form up in the air until the Trials, a 9.8 Gatlin could be needed in London. Say what you want about Gatlin, but he’s one of the most technically sound sprinters out there and a proven competitor. We’ll see how he does in this year’s sprint wars which are guaranteed to be the toughest in history.

Speaking of sprinters finding form, in spite of Walter’s Dix’ effort at Mt SAC he did not become the first American under 10.00 this year, that “honor” goes to Mookie Salaam who won the 100 at the War Eagle Invitational in Auburn Alabama at 9.98 (1.0). Salaam moved to #2 on the year behind Yohan Blake and was a scant .01 off his PR set in last year’s NCAA Championships. He looks like he could be well on his way to improving on 9.97/20.05 bests and could be a finalist in both events in Eugene. Nice to see him running so well this early. Also performing well in Alabama was Chaunte Lowe who took over the WL in the high jump with her 2.00m / 6’ 6.75” clearance. Chaunte looks to be completely back from her maternity leave and ready to battle for gold in London. Another WL leading effort was turned in at this “small” meet as Bahamian Sheniqua Ferguson went 11.07 (0.9).

Sheniqua’s mark was another of those short lived leaders however, as Kymberlyn Duncan ended up as the best in the 100 as the weekend comes to an end, clocking 11.05 (1.0) at the LSU Alumni Gold meet for the best mark of the day there. Sally Kipyego turned in the best mark at the Oregon Relays with her 4:08.59 WL in the 1500 meters. And Aries Merritt edged out Andrew Riley in the 110 hurdles at the John McDonnell Invitational 13.25 (0.9) to 13.28.

That 13.25 mark was also run by Devon HIll (Miami) at the ACC Championships as he took over the collegiate lead – wind 1.9. Florida State’s Kemar Hyman took the collegiate 100 lead with his 10.07 (0.8), as did Clemson’s Marlena Wesh in the 400 with her 51.48.

All in all one busy and exciting weekend in the sport! Oh, and the unofficial kick off to the season hasn’t even occurred yet as we await the Penn Relays this coming weekend! If you don’t think this season is going to be one for the books then you haven’t been watching track and field long enough!

 

Check out Walter Dix’ 9.85w

Watch more video of 2012 Mt. SAC Relays on flotrack.org

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