Perfection. That’s what I thought of when I would watch Renaldo “Skeets” Nehemiah run the hurdles. Solid out of the blocks. Nerves of steel. barely gliding over the tops of the hurdles. Winning comfortably against the best competition the world had to offer. Back in the day that was Greg Foster, and Skeets was good enough that in his final WR run of 12.93 Foster finished 2nd in 13.03 – at the time making Foster the #2 hurdler of all time with the #3 time.
Today, perfection has a new name as Aries Merritt ran his EIGHTH consecutive sub13 to set all kinds of records. First of all it wasn’t any old sub13. This was “oh so close” to sub12.80, as he hit at mark dead on – taking down Dayron Robles former mark by a huge .08. That was the largest drop in the WR since Nehemiah took the mark from 13.16 to 13.00, then from 13.00 to 12.93. Being a WR it also set a new AR – taking down David Oliver’s 12.89 from 2010. It was his 8th consecutive sub13 – another record – as well as his 8th legal sub13, also a record. It was also his 10th time under 13.00 this season under any conditions – yet another record. Finally, it was the 7th time this season that he ran 12.95 or faster – yes, another record. In short this race solidified Merritt’s 2012 season as THE greatest season any hurdler has ever had – EVER!
As a matter of fact, this is one of the greatest seasons that any athlete has ever had in any event. I will hesitate slightly as I need to take some time and comb the archives – but certainly there are few that can compare with the season that Merritt has had this year. Not when you factor in global titles both indoors and outdoors. The fantastic consistency he’s had at THE highest levels of his event – and he’s done it week after week after week. No ducking. No dodging. Racing against the best in the world WEEKLY, and churning out exceptional races each time.
Aries Merritt has run in the Olympic Games, Olympic Trials, Daegu, Shanghai, Eugene, New York, London, Monaco, Lausanne, Birmingham, Berlin and Brussels! No off the beaten path races for Merritt. No, only the best, week in and week out. And his reward has been a season unlike any we are likely to see in a very long time. I’ll say it right now, this has been an Athlete of the Year caliber season. In an event that requires tremendous technical expertise and precision. Merritt’s race is at the bottom of the page, if you can find a flaw in it tell me. I’m not sure there is one. Great start. Smooth acceleration. He barely grazes the tops of the hurdles themselves. Like Greg Foster before him, Jason Richardson ran a sizzling 13.05 – and barely got in the picture frame at the finish. Not because Richardson ran a bad race, but because Merritt was near flawless.
In a season with some OUTSTANDING performances – we’ve had 5 WR’s this year – this may stand out for it’s sheer flawless beauty. And I say that with the knowledge that three of the WR’s on the docket this year – 1:40.91, 36.84, and 40.82 – were barrier breakers! But when you are able to steal the headlines from one Usain Bolt, and a 19.54 deuce is relegated to “eh”, then you know you’ve seen something special.
I could continue on about Merritt, but there was a meet going on. Headliner Usain Bolt came on strong in the second half of the 100 to win in 9.86 – now a time as routine as 9.9x was 10 years ago. Man how times change! Similarly Yohan Blake scorched the turn and looked strong in the stretch but “only” clocked 19.54. I said before the race that I thought he needed someone like Walter Dix (or, eh hem, Usain Bolt) to give him that extra push that I think it takes to get under 19.50 and near his MR 19.26. For a brief moment when he hit the stretch I thought it might happen. But alas, today was not the day. What we need – hint hint – is to see more races with some combination of Bolt, Blake, Dix, Gay, and a few other all in top form to see if we can push that 200 record down a tad lower!
Almost unnoticed was a superb 10,000 meters, as we finally saw the 27 minute barrier broken this year – by four men – with Kenya’s Emannuel Bett running 26:51.16 to win over countryman Vincent Chepkock’s 26:51.68.There was also a huge upset – at least to me – as Burundi’s 19 year old Francine Niyonsaba entered the meet with a PB of 1:58.67, then proceeded to defeat BOTH Pamela Jelimo and Mariya Savinova in a new PB, NR, and NJR of 1:56.59. It’s the end of the season but I think we may have gotten a glimpse at the future!
All that said, the clear star of this meet – and stealing headlines for hurdlers everywhere – was Aries Merritt and his record setting run over the hurdles. For full results of the meet click here. Below is a video of Merritt’s exciting run. Enjoy. Rieti is next, but this race makes me think it’s time to start talking about things like performances of the year, athletes of the year, and where things go from here.