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

The Pieces are Coming Together

Apr 29th, 2012
9:42 am PST

Allyson FelixThe great thing about the Penn Relays is that it’s the first time we get a large gathering of top athletes together at the same meet. The tough part is that they aren’t competing head to head and they’re not competing in individual events – so "evaluating" where they are can be a bit more difficult. And with the Trials less than two months away, and the Games within there months, trying to figure out the pecking order of the top athletes is on everyone’s mind.

Well I think several athletes had great early auditions yesterday in Pennsylvania. On the men’s side the US won both "heats" of the 4×1: 38.40 with a squad of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Darvis Patton and Walter Dix; and 38.47 with a team of Ivory Williams, Shawn Crawford, Trell Kimmons, and Ryan Bailey. First things first, beating Jamaica without 75% of its real team means little. What was impressive however is that we got the stick around the track successfully with TWO teams! And while the times weren’t overly impressive there were some impressive legs.

The combination of Rodgers’ leadoff and Gatlin on the backstretch was very impressive. Rodgers outran Jamaica’s "A" team leadoff man (Nesta Carter) and Gatlin ripped open a lead down the backstretch – running right by Trinidad’s Marc Burns who just clocked 10.08 last weekend. Walter Dix on anchor continues to look fit and quick. On the other squad, Trell Kimmons had a very good bend on the third leg. After watching his Zurich leadoff on a 37.45 squad and his bend here, he’s definitely a viable relay piece.His pass to Bailey may have been the best of the meet and Bailey looked good in the stretch – certainly a very capable anchor. Bottom line, at the end of the day we have the pieces to get the job done on London, as studs like Gay, Spearmon, Mitchell and Salaam weren’t even in town. Finding the right combination will be the key, but we certainly have a solid pool at this point.

On the women’s side that team should be THE team,  period end of discussion. Tianna Madison to Allyson Felix to Bianca Knight to Carmelita Jeter dominated a Jamaican squad that was only missing VCB – and I’m not sure Usain Bolt would’ve caught Jeter with the lead the girls gave her. Madison is the real deal – indoors was no fluke. I’m going to go out on a limb and say I expect Felix to run a traditional sprint double at Trials because she’s clearly working on speed this year. She blew by Jamaican Kerron Stewart like she owned her. And Bianca Knight ran third in the best tradition of Calvin Smith and Dennis Mitchell. Finish up with Jeter, well that speaks for itself. That’s the squad.Let them work together and see if we can finally break that WR this summer.

Ditto the women’s 4×4, as they too had total dominance. The core of Felix (50.0) and Sanya Richards Ross (49.5) is the best in the world. Francena McCorory was solid leading off and Natasha Hastings (50.3) made a case for her inclusion on the team. I’m not ruling out a Jessica Beard or Dee Dee Trotter, because whomever is fit and best on the day only adds to the team. But yesterdays group was fit and ready – and that Ross anchor was completely solo.

The men’s 4×4 was deceptive. If you look at the results it was close, and we needed another Merritt rescue on anchor.But that’s only because we got a weak 46.4 leadoff from Calvin Smith – very uncharacteristic and NOT happening in London or anywhere else. After that it was Angelo Taylor 44.7, Bershawn Jackson 44.2, and LaShawn 44.8 – we’re fine. Throw in Jeremy Warner – he split 44.5 last month – or a Tony McQuay who split 44.0 yesterday and we’re already near 2:57 and well ahead of the pack. There will be no 2:59 in London unless it’s in the first round! The Bahamas were tough in Penn however, and they will be tough in London.They can’t be discounted because this is their signature race – they always run it well I’m the big meets. I expect them to be on the podium in London. And while it will be hard for Grenada to make the podium, Kirani James’ 43.9 split yesterday showed that he is going to keep them in it – not to mention that he’s a legitimate medal threat in the open quarter.

Now that was the heart of the meet, but we got some encouraging splits from some middle distance runners in the medley relays. Specifically Khadevis Robinson (1:44.9), Nick Symmonds (1:44.0), and Leo Manzano (3:54.5). So it looks like our male middle distance crew is also coming together. Maggie Vessey also ran a nice 800. Her split was only 2:02, but the way she held her composure and came from behind was impressive. All in all it was a good day for the athletes in Pennsylvania.

There were also some nice performances at Drake. It’s a "relay" meet but these days Drake is more about the individual performances. At the top of that list was Wallace Spearmon who clocked 20.02 to break Michael Johnson’s meet record of 20.05. Spearmon’s mark was second on the yearly list to his own 19.95, and a noteworthy performance coming in the cool air of Iowa. That’s two solid early season performances in a row for Wallace who is looking very “Olympian” early in the year.

Hurdler Ryan Wilson also turned in a #2 world performance with his 13.20 (1.0) win over Omo Osaghe (13.24) and Terrence Trammell (13.36) as week after week we see just how crowded the hurdles are. I mentioned earlier that Florida’s Tony McQuay turned in a sizzling 44.0 anchor on the Gator’s winning 3:02.414×4 as he came from behind and just edged out Arkansas’ 3:02.46! And we got a 4:12.95 1500 win from Jenny Simpson as she begins get journey to the Trials.
So a very good start to the weekend.

I say start because we should get some good distance running out of the Cardinal Invitational today in Palo Alto and a hot dual meet match up between UCLA and USC in Southern California. So there should be a lot more to look at before the weekend is over. And then the Diamond League gets started.

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