He doesn’t get the biggest headlines – those seem to be reserved for Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. He hasn’t had the greatest individual performance this season – that was easily David Rudisha’s barrier breaking 1:40.91 800 in London. And he didn’t have the greatest performance we’ve seen in several decades – that would be the US women’s record shattering 40.82 relay run at the Games. What Aries Merritt has done however, is quietly put together the most consistent season of high quality performances of any athlete on the planet this year, and perhaps the greatest season any hurdler has ever had!
For the 13th time this season Merritt lined up to run the 110 hurdles – and for the 7th time this year he crossed the line in a legal sub13 cruising 12.97. That ties WR holder Dayron Robles for the most legal sub 13′s ever run in a season – and he had two others that were wind aided! Six of those races were 12.95 or faster – more than anyone else in history. Throw in a World Indoor Championships title; Olympic Trials win; and the Olympic title – his 12.92 only .01 off the OR – and you have arguably the best session ever by a high hurdler. Think about it, over half of his races have been UNDER 13.00!
His only "bad" race on the season was a 4th place run in Shanghai where he still ran 13.26 – which by the way was his "slowest" race of the year and his only loss on the track! Incredible quality in an event requiring both speed and technical proficiency! While other athletes are winding down and their performances begin to reflect the long season, Merritt is still running at an Olympian level, as only Allen Johnson (12.95 in Atlanta), Liu Xiang (12.91 in Athens), and Dayron Robles 12.93 in Beijing) have run faster in the Games themselves than Merritt did today in Berlin! He’s simply having one outstanding season!
The rest of the meet was good, but showing the signs of the end of the year. Many of the sport’s top stars have either headed home or are waiting to run in Brussels later in the week in the second half of the Diamond League final. Robert Harting did have a nice discus series with a winning throw of 67.40m/221′ 1.5". Young half miler Mohammed Aman continues to crank out quality runs this time winning in 1:43.62 – this kid is a stud! Finally, I have to mention that in a 1500 won in 3:33.11 by Nixon Chepseba, American German Fernandez got a huge PR with his 3:34.60 in 7th place – perhaps signaling that he is beyond his injury woes and ready to fulfill his early promise. Most performances however reflected the turning of the calendar to September, and clearly we are very close to the off season – which makes Merritt’s performance even more special.
For fans of the hurdles take note of the names Davenport, Milburn, Drut, Nehemiah, Foster, Kingdom, Johnson, Robles and Xiang. Then consider that record runs aside none ever had a season as complete as Aries Merritt.
The results of the Berlin meet can be found here. The second half of the DL final in Brussels is on Friday. Between now and then there is a meet in Zagreb on Tuesday. So this is a busy week on the track. Enjoy before football sets in.