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

Aries Merritt Near Flawless in 12.80!

Sep 7th, 2012
4:21 pm PDT

Aries MerrittPerfection. 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.

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9 Responses to “Aries Merritt Near Flawless in 12.80!”

  1. Rohan says:

    A dominating race from start to finish. To take down a sprint record by so much is Boltesque or Johnsonesqe or quite frankly Beamonesque! Surely the performance of the year, by possibly the athlete of the year.

    • CHill says:

      That race was awesome .. I’m still torn between it and Rudisha’s 1:40.91 for top performance .. Though I think Rudisha may just go out and run faster .. And I didn’t see any errors in Merritt’s run .. I hope he doesn’t have to chase after it like Beamon did ..

  2. Waynebo says:

    If there was any question about whether he could beat a healthy Robles or Liu, Aries Merritt answered that emphatically today. The question now is can they run with him? This year he is in that rare zone that athletes all strive for, but rarely reach. Phenomenal race!

    • CHill says:

      I was thinking the same thing .. Can they run with him ?? And can he return to this “zone” in the future ???

      I’m not sure if anyone can challenge him in this zone .. Maybe a completely healthy Liu .. But like Tyson Gay, is been a long time since he’s been at full strength and truly healthy .. And his recent injury doesn’t help ..

      I think the bigger question is whether Merritt can get back in the zone again .. I think so if HE stays healthy .. Hurdling is as much about rhythm as anything, and I think he’s found his rhythm … And right now he’s listening to a beat only he can hear …

  3. Skydance7 says:

    This rare zone seems to be where Oliver was headed in that incredible year of total dominance he recently enjoyed. Hope he can re-tool his start, get healthy and keep the pressure on Merritt and Richardson.

    If so, what an American triumvirate that could be in the 110s, as I think the Robles and Liu era will soon be on the decline.

    Incidentally, in an interview, Merritt mentioned an element of hurdling that many folks don’t consider. You touched on it when you spoke of rhythm. The best hurdlers must learn to control their pace, as adrenaline and momentum (or a good tailwind0 can cause them to get squeezed between the hurdles. Merritt talked of having to get that lead foot down quickly, to “expand” the space between hurdles. And he did it almost flawlessly. What a thing of beauty that run was!

    And finally…is Aries the cousin of LaShawn?

    • CHill says:

      I would love to see Oliver get it back together, but as I said in a previous comment 2010 was the rate season that he wasn’t injured ..

      Not sure about the Liu/Robles era .. Both are still young enough, but one thing about hurdlers is that injury really seems to throw them off .. Remember Ducoure ?? Most don’t as his career at the top was very short lived ..

      I think it has to do with rhythm .. Everything has to be just right .. Merritt attributes his success to changing his starting foot and reducing his steps to the first hurdle by one step .. That’s a simple, small change that’s huge in the grand scheme of the race ..

      Shows just how delicate the balance is in hurdling .. One step .. Just like the difference in stride length is for Bolt in the sprints .. Or the balance of your spin in the shot and discus .. Little things in this sport are huge .. The difference between world class and elite; elite and gold medal winner ..

  4. Waynebo says:

    I wish all of the elite sprinters would race as frequently as he does. As a fan, I feel robbed when guys are healthy but not racing on a regular basis. The men need to take a cue from the women. I think this is one of the many things that keeps the popularity of the sport down. Kudos to Merritt for racing frequently. Gives his season more credibility in my eyes.

    • CHill says:

      Totally agree .. The NBA would not be popular if Kobe, Lebron and other stars only played in every tenth game or so !! Sure they have enough players to field full teams and play games, but that’s not why people pay their money .. They pay to see the BEST a sport has to offer .. When you give the public less than your best, they give you less than their full attention ..

      • Waynebo says:

        Ok, I’m really late with this but I wanted to add that another reason that this sport gets ignored is that the media gives the impression that the only thing that matters in T&F is the olympics. Casual fans think athletes train for the games for 4 years with no meaningful competition. In London, they kept mentioning Rio 2016 with no mention of Moscow 2013. They should have been talking about “next year’s world championships”. USATF & IAAF need to press NBC to not over-emphasize the olympics. Yes, it’s the biggest meet, but it isn’t the only one that matters.

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