While the men’s 100 is potentially the most “story” laden event heading into the Trials, it’s certainly not alone in terms of story lines and depth. One of my favorites in this regard is the women’s 1500, which I discussed in detail earlier. However, also recently entering into the “drama zone” with the aforementioned 100 & 1500 is the women’s 200 as it’s suddenly become the middle ground for several of our best female sprinters.
Let’s start with the woman for whom this distance is her specialty – Allyson Felix. Felix won three World titles in a row in this event (’05, ’07, ’09) before taking bronze in Daegu last year. During her World Championships run however, Felix was runner up at both the ’04 & ’08 Games. Felix would love to make up for last year’s loss in Daegu as well as the previous Games with a gold medal performance in London. That journey starts here. We know her focus is on this event, the big question surrounding Felix is whether or not she will choose to double – and if so which double she will attempt. Last year’s loss has been attributed by many to the fact that Felix doubled in the 400, which may have left her a bit tired in this event. Doubling in the 100, in which Felix has PR’d this year would be less taxing and would help her match the speed of several of her rivals – most notably two time Olympic champion Veronica Campbell Brown.
One of the women that “upset” Felix in Daegu was Carmelita Jeter, who moved up from her 100 meter specialty to spend time running the deuce, eventually taking the silver medal behind Jamaican speedster Veronica Campbell Brown. Jeter used her speed to run sizzling turns and put pressure on the field. As the season wore on she became stronger and a serious threat as she proved at the World Championships. Given her 100 PR of 10.63, it’s conceivable that Jeter could run in the 21.5/21.6 zone and make life difficult for everyone – including Felix who’s best is 21.81. Recent losses in both the 100 & 200 however, raise the question of whether or not Jeter may be nursing a slight injury. With the start of the meet only days away, we won’t know until the gun goes off for the 100 meters.
Injury has been a factor the last couple of seasons for quarter miler Sanya Richards Ross. Injury/illness kept her to only 51.82 in the 400 in 2010; and struggling with consistency in 2011. She seems to be past those issues this year, as she is back to running regularly in the 49 second range in her signature event. Her form has been so good in fact, that in testing her speed in New York she dropped down and sped a WL & PR 22.09 to put herself in the middle of the 200 conversation. Her previous best of 22.17 was set in ’06, the same year she set the AR of 48.70 in the 400. Sanya is certainly fit and ready to make a run at a new AR and Olympic gold in the quarter, the question after New York was, does she want to take a shot at making the 200 team as well? Looking at the declaration list for the Trials, apparently she does as she’s also declared in the 200!
As with the men’s sprints, there is youth to be served in this event. The best of the lot being NCAA champion Kimberlyn Duncan, who led the world in this event until Sanya’s PR race in New York, and still owns times #’s 2 & 3 on the season. Duncan has set PRs of 10.96 & 22.19 this year while looking every bit like the second coming of Gwen Torrence. She’s young, fit, fast and will be extremely difficult to keep off the team. She has the speed to run a fast turn – critical for anyone going to go to the Olympics – yet finishes strongly, hence my comparisons to Torrence. And in spite of carrying a best of 10.96 into the Trials, she has scratched from the 100, putting all of her eggs into the 200 meter basket. With several others looking at doubling, Duncan could have the freshest legs on the track – and that makes her dangerous.
This event is full of “youth” as even our veterans are fairly young. One of the leading young vets in this event is Shalonda Solomon, who won last year’s national title and led the world at 22.15. She finished 4th in Daegu behind VCB, Jeter, and Felix, but so far has run only 22.82 in 2012. When she’s “on” Solomon is as tough as nails, the key being whether or not she;s in contention coming off the turn. But with an SB of 22.8, she enters Eugene like so many others, with a question mark above her head regarding fitness and sharpness.
A young vet that has shown fitness is Bianca Knight, who ran second behind Richards Ross in New York in 22.46 – making her # 9 globally and # 6 American on the season. She just missed making the team last year, finishing in the dreaded 4th spot and I have no doubt that the competitive Knight will be running to improve her position. She was consistently one of the top finishers on the European Circuit last year and ranked #5 globally for the season – she shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Another who shouldn’t be taken lightly is young Jeneba Tarmoh. Tarmoh happened to be the sprinter that took that 3rd spot away from Knight at last year’s national championships. She didn’t fare as well as Knight overall on the season, but did manage to rank #10 in the world on the season. Combine that with her PR 22.28, and a strong competitive drive as evidenced by last year’s nationals finish, and Tarmoh could be a serious contender in Eugene.
These are the principle players in this event. I do need to mention one missing person however, Tianna Madison. Madison is having a breakout season in 2012. She flew indoors, sprinting a PR 7.02 in the 60. Outdoors she hasn’t slowed down turning in a 10.97 100 PR in New York. Quiet as it’s kept however, she’s also set a PR in the deuce winning in Ponce in 22.37. She’s not entered in the Trials however – not according to the declarations list. Pity as she would have made for a good sleeper in a race that’s already loaded.
So at the end of the day we could see the eventual 100 & 400 champions (Jeter & R-Ross) take on the woman who wants to regain her 200 meter title (Felix). The biggest question being whether or not Felix is going to attempt to double, and if so which “secondary” event she chooses. We do know that Richards Ross is going to double, which means she’s looking at going full rounds here AFTER full rounds of the 400 – and Felix can tell her what that does to the legs and speed! Which is why I favor those taking on the shorter 100/200 double. Kimberlyn Duncan won’t be doubling at all – making her potentially the freshest sprinter on the track when the gun goes off for the first round. She could be the most dangerous of them all.
So while the Felix, Jeter, R-Ross trio looks formidable on paper, practically Kimberlyn Duncan has the experience of rounds in this event and will have fresher legs than the others – that’s a big negative for R-Ross. At the end of the day I think that advantage keeps R-Ross off the team – giving us a very formidable squad of Felix, Jeter and Duncan.
The key to tickets to London will be found on the turn. Those who run it best will have the best shot at the top three spots – only Felix having the power in the stretch to run the others down. So if Solomon, Knight or even someone like Tarmoh, wishes to board the flight to London they’d better be prepared to burn the turn in Eugene and hold on for dear life. So it shall be written, so it shall be done.