This was one tough meet! Youngsters had a great time – perhaps too young to realize they should be nervous or afraid. Here it was veterans and favorites that fell prey to injury, nerves, bad luck, and age. I knew going in that this was going to be a transition meet – a changing of the guard. But some of those that fell were certainly unexpected.
Let’s start by talking about the kids. A year ago Candace Hill was the talk of the sport, following her sterling 10.98 HSR in the 100 and her double victory at World Juniors. She and high schooler Kaylin Whitney both turned pro and looked to be the future of American women’s sprinting. Both performed admirably in this meet, getting shut out of both sprint finals. They ran well, but are still the future, as the old guard was replaced by young twenty somethings, not teenagers. Tori Bowie is the face of US sprinting heading to Rio,and after the 100 earlier in the meet, she came back to win the deuce flanked by ducks Deajah Stevens and Jenna Prandini. Prandini third place finish coming.01 ahead of Alllyson Felix who was betrayed by that injured ankle – pain and a clear lack of speed work. There will be no double for Felix in Rio. But if there is a silver lining personally I’m curious to see what she will do with focus on the 400 on the world’s biggest stage! Still it was heart wrenching watching Felix reaching for that year in the stretch that’s been they’re since her high school days.
While Candace and Kaylin didn’t make it to Rio as high schoolers, a trio of sprinters/hurdles did make finals and two WILL be going to Rio. Both Noah Lyles and Michael Norman ran like men through the rounds winning their heats AND semis! In the final they placed 4th (20.09, HSR) and 5th (20.14) respectively behind Justin Gatlin (19.74), LaShawn Merritt (19.79) and Ameer Webb (20.00) in one of the fastest ever deuces at the Trials! And when Merritt announced that he would not double in Rio, Lyles booked a ticket to the Games! Lyles and Norman are now #1 & =#3 all time high school. By the way, vets Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon were dropped in the rounds, and Tyson Gay was 6th in the final. It’s a new day in the deuce. Father Time has finally caught up with the NCAA final of Spearmon, Gay, Dix, and Xavier Carter. They changed the game in ’06. Now the game has changed again.
It’s also the dawning of a new day in the hurdles too. In the women’s 400H, 16 year old Sydney McLaughlin ran like a veteran, cruising through the rounds before placing 3rd in the final in a HSR 54.15! She’s definitely the future and present! The race was won by Dalilah Muhammad in a scorching 52.88 world leading time. Another who just might be the future of the event. This race followed the pattern of ALL the hurdles races this week, as not a single favorite made it to Rio! Here, the favorite and world leader entering the meet, Shamier Little, failed to reach the final! In the men’s version, world leader and favorite Johnny Dutch led big coming down the finish straight,then looked like someone put a wall in his lane as he went from 1st to 5th in what was the blink of an eye! I’ve never seen anything like it at the professional level.
In the straightaway hurdles, favored David Oliver strained a hamstring at the end of his semi and withdrew from the final. In his absence, Oregon multi sport athlete Devon Allen (football/track) put on a mid race clinic, as he ran away over the final hurdles to a scorching 13.05 PR victory! This kid just seems to be able to run fast when he needs to. Given his competitive nature, maybe he can challenge world leader Omar McLeod of Jamaica. The women’s 100H race saw AR holder and #2 all time Keni Harrison run off the team (6th) by previous AR holder Brianna Rollins who stormed to a 12.34 win! Undefeated coming into the meet, Harrison performances were strange as she never looked like the athlete that dominated everything except this meet!
The middle and distance events were less chaotic as the favorites handled their business. Including 41 year old Bernard Lagat He’s still got the best finish among Americans as once again he unleashed a 52 second last lap on the field to take the 5000. As explosive Lagat is, Mathew Centrowitz is smooth as he calmly worked his way into the lead in the 1500 before rubbing away in the stretch. As good as the Africans are, he remains a serious medal threat. The same goes for Jenny Simpson enjoys learned how to avoid trouble by staying near the front – which she did to perfection. Behind her Brenda Martinez made up for her trip and fall in the 800 with a furious stretch run that saw her get a photo rich third place. She, Jenny, and Shannon Rowbury make a super solid 1500 team.
With all of the above happening I’m really curious as to how our relays are going to come together. Lots of new faces. No Felix in the 4×1. No Richards Ross in the 4×4. Tyson Gay is a member of the relay pool but only a shadow of his once dominant self. I have some ideas that I’ll share shortly.
In spite of the huge turnover of veterans at this Trials, we could be sending out strongest squad ever to the Games. It may have to be as the world continues to catch up and get better! Only a few weeks to take a look at how we match up against the world. I’ll be back.