If you’re a true fan of the sport then you are in Heaven like me, because we have wall to wall track and field –highlighted by the NCAA Division I Championships and today’s Golden Gala in Rome. So far both have been full of surprises, for different reasons.
I’ll start with Rome, the fourth entry in the Diamond League. The Diamond League is supposed to be the "Circuit" where the elite meet to complete (if you use that tag line I want my royalties) and today we got to see Usain Bolt line up against Justin Gatlin – a match up of the last three Olympic Champions!
The result was a stirring competition, if not the result many expected as Gatlin "upset" Bolt – 9.94 to 9.95. Bolt got the better start, Gatlin the better acceleration, and we saw once again the key to beating Bolt – mid race pressure and relentless finish! Don’t get me wrong everyone can’t do it because it’s only been done by men that have run under 9.80 – Gatlin, Gay, Blake and Powell – and only once each. But he is human, and frankly races are so much more fun to watch when there is an air of uncertainty – at least for me.
Which takes me to the women’s 200 in Rome, because another "sure thing" was upset when Muriel Ahoure defeated Allyson Felix in stunning fashion. Again the "pattern" for defeat was replicated – with Felix you have to best her big off the bend and pray she doesn’t reel you in. Ahoure did this to perfection as she blazed the turn a la VCB and ran solidly down the stretch to a NR 22.36. Meanwhile Felix almost appeared disinterested on the turn, then lacked turnover down the stretch as she finished in a slow for her 22.63. Clearly the quarter is just not compatible with her deuce – and my guess is we see her back in the hundred real soon.
Not all favorites lost mind you. LaShawn Merritt, Renaud Lavillenie, Amantle Montsho, and Abebe Aregawi are just a few of the "favorites" that continued their winning ways. The two ladies in particular beginning to look like they’re ready to take control of their events. With Aregawi showing she can run fast and win AND win in a tactical race! And we got a taste of what Moscow might be like with Blanka Vlasic clearing a SB 1.95m/6’4.75" before succumbing to Anna Chicherova’s 1.98m/6’6". This will be one of Moscow’s most electric battles – I’m calling it now.
I’m also calling two HOT days of track and field in Oregon because the NCAA semis have been blazing! Granted we’ve seen lots of "windy" marks, but these kids have putting down some serious times. Consider that it took 10.08 to make the men’s 100 final and four relay squads ran under 39.00. How about Freeman (10.99), Scott (11.00), Gardener (11.00), and Duncan 11.02 heading into that women’s sprint final?
But that’s just the beginning. Windy or not Bryshon Nellum screamed 19.99 – and Anaso Jobodwana (20.02), Ameer Webb (20.05), & Isaiah Young (20.12) are close enough to keep him from winning! On the other hand, Kimberlyn Duncan (22.15w) and Brianna Rollins (12.47) set themselves well ahead of the field. By the way, Rollins mark is a collegiate record and she’s still got the final to make it better. And while we’re talking about hurdlers, can you imagine a collegiate final starting with Spencer Adams (13.24w), Wayne Davis (13.25w), and Eddie Lovett (13.29w)? They could have filled lanes in any Olympic final.
Then after all is said and done, Texas A&M 3:02.38 & Florida 3:02.64 will square off in the closing 4×4 with teams faster than the majority of national teams that will toe the line in Moscow! Bottom line is that this could be one of the most blazing NCAA Championships ever. So fire up the grill, get your popcorn and pour your favorite drink, because this is about to get fun!