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

The Sprints Will Now Reset

Oct 26th, 2017
6:32 pm PST

Who ShadowThe period around Olympics is usually when we see resets occur, and Rio will go down as such a period. Ashton Eaton used Rio as his final hurrah. Usain Bolt and Mo Farah used the Worlds following Rio as their Major farewell. The retirement of Bolt is especially important, as there are a bevy of elite sprinters that have all had their careers intersect with his. So along with Bolt, we should see several elite sprinters heading for the exit – either this off season or next. A list that will include some of the greatest sprinters in history: Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Walter Dix and Wallace Spearmon. Along with Bolt, they took sprinting to a whole new level during their tenure. They made sub 9.85 and sub 19.70 common place in events that mattered. In the process they rewrote the sports’ all time lists.

As we saw in this year’s competitions, life without these men at their peak, becomes a bit slower. So, the question becomes, who will move to the top of the sprinting food chain, and will they be able to continue to improve the sprints as their predecessors have? On that note, will the US and Jamaica continue their domination/rivalry, or will the sprints become more diverse?

Many have forgotten that the US v Jamaica dominance is relatively new, dating back roughly to the mid-2000s. The previous period, led by Maurice Greene, Ato Boldon, Donovan Bailey and Frankie Fredericks, among others, saw tremendous diversity. As the United States, Trinidad, Canada, Namibia, Barbados, Great Britain, and St Kitts were all regular finalists and medalists. So, where are the sprints headed now?

 

Americans

As an American, where do I see our sprint corps headed? Well, we have a deep pipeline, but that’s nothing new. The real issue is who becomes consistent – more than a one off sprinter! The greats do two things. They are able to run fast on demand. And they are able to compete well when it really matters – like championship time. While many may say that’s the same quality, there are many consistently fast sprinters that have failed in championship situations – Asafa Powell, Doc Patton, and Mike Rodgers come to mind. So, who do I think will be able to go through the rounds of the US Trials AND represent well in global majors?

Trayvon Bromell – In the wake of the fast times turned in by Christian Coleman this year, many have forgotten about Trayvon. Trayvon however has proven his abilities with bronze at the 2015 World Championships! And his 9.84 PR makes him knee if histories fastest. Injury slowed him in Rio, and rehab this year. But he’s still very young, and barring future injury should be a staple got the US.

Christian Coleman – Was the most visible young sprinter this year. World leader in the 100 (9.86); NCAA Champion (100/200); US runner up (100); and Worlds silver medalist (100). This was certainly a breakthrough season for Coleman. The question will be, can he come through and do it again. Because consistency is the mark of a true champion. In his favor is the fact that he medaled at Worlds at the end of a collegiate season. He should be much fresher next year without the college burden.

Noah Lyles – Lyles had a most interesting season. He set the indoor WR over 300 (31.87). Then he went outdoors and opened up with a 19.90 PR win to crush a solid field. Then we didn’t see him for the rest of the season due to an unstated injury. Until the final meet of the year, where he edged out another solid field in 20.00. That’s the follow up to his senior season in high school where he just missed making the Olympic team with his HSR 20.09! He’s talented and he knows how to win. If he can stay healthy, he could become another Tommie Smith/Michael Johnson type sprinter.

Michael Norman – Norman graduated high school in ’16, and was right behind Lyles at the Olympic Trials (20.14). Norman was a triple threat in high school running all three sprints. This year he focused more on the 400 dropping his PR to 44.60 after also suffering thru early season injury. I’m not sure this kid is anywhere near his potential just yet. Together he and Lyles could become the most potent long sprint duo we’ve ever seen.

Ronnie Baker – Baker keeps showing flashes of potential brilliance. A pair of legit sub10s and a 9.86w (2.4) say he could be as fast as Coleman and Bromell. The injury bug keeps sidelining him however. Can’t be great if you can’t run. Yet his potential can’t be overlooked.

Jaylen Bacon – Why Bacon? I know he’s "only" 10.00, but I like his competitiveness, and his progression. He’s strong, consistent, and always around the finish line when it matters. Plus I like the way he ran the relay in London. He’s my bet to break out next year.

 

The Rest of the World

I’m sure we’ll see the occasional Caribbean as we always have, but my gut says that Bolt is taking the steady recent flow of Jamaica with him. Blake is still there, though injuries continue to slow him. Where we seem to be headed globally is back to Africa, as the continent seems to be back on the rise as it was in the 90s. Africa, and improvement from Great Britain. Again as we witnessed in the 90s. Could history be repeating itself?

Wayde van Niekerk – WVN (van Niekerk) has rapidly ascended to the top of the spring cheats, even as Bolt has watched on his way out. Olympic and World champion in the 400. World Record holder in the 4 (43.03) and the 3 (30.81) and sub20 (19.84) and sub10 (9.94). He’s already the greatest all around sprinter in history! The question is can he win consistently outside of the 400? His 400 rhythm seems unbeatable right now. But his attempt at the 200/400 double fell short in London. Curious to how he can hold up against a healthy Lyles or rejuvenated Blake, among others.

Andre deGrasse – de Grasse was the name most often spoken as a potential Bolt replacement at the start of the year – before injury took him down before Worlds. I’m not quite ready to put him there yet given his PRs are only 9.91/19.80. But with Olympic & World bronze in the 100, and Olympic silver in the deuce, he’s certainly proven to be competitive when it matters.

Akani Simbine – Simbine was the hottest sprinter during the early part of 2017. Unfortunately he wasn’t a force after the middle of the season – though he was a finalist at Worlds. Still with a best of 9.89, and 15 times under 10.00 to his credit, Simbine should be heard from moving forward.

Isaac Makwala – Makwala is another African long sprinter (200/400) that’s gone sub20 and sub44! That’s a club of only four individuals – Makwala, van Niekerk, LaShawn Merritt, and Michael Johnson – Club Stud. Like WVN he attempted the double in London, but illness pulled him from the 400, and hindered his progress in the 200. He could be van Niekerk’s toughest competition moving forward.

Great Britain won the 4×1 in London with a group of you and coming sprinters. While they’re not quite at the level of the afore mentioned athletes, CJ Ujah, Nethaneel Mitchell Blake, and Adam Gemili are in a position to possibly blossom into the next level. Similarly Jamaica’s Julian Forte looks to possibly be the next to step up and help Yohan Blake hold down the fort (pun intended) for the Caribbean island.

Going forward the sprints will be fun and interesting if for no other reason they will no longer be "predictable". We are at one of those junctures where we should see the next "star" emerge. It could be someone above, or someone yet to show their form. After all, no one expected Maurice Greene, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, or Usain Bolt to be The Next One! They just did it. Button pushed, time for the reset.

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