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

USATF Championships Review

Jul 31st, 2019
1:57 pm PST

For four days America’s best track and field athletes got together in Des Moines Iowa to decide who would represent the US at the World Championships. Lots to say, some good, some bad, so let’s start with the bad.

I’m not sure what the selection process is for championship sites, and I understand that this meet is going to be held in the summer, but how many times have I seen this meet affected by rain? So on Championship Sunday we’re hit by rain yet again. Now we know USATF’s (*cough * Nike’s) affinity for Eugene where it rains most of the year. And similarly Des Moines where it rains in the summer. But can’t we get back to a rotation of meets in locations without rain? When is someone at USATF (the boss) gonna grow a pair and do what’s best for the sport? There are plenty of locations south of the Mason Dixon line that would do this meet justice. I’ll use another post to discuss that.

Next, when is USATF going to contract with a TV provider that shows the sport some respect? The current contract (recently renewed) is held by NBC who has plenty of sports channels to use for televising the sport. Yet chose to use its special channel (Sports Gold) to restrict viewership of much of the meet to those that would have to pay an extra fee to watch! Not great for a sport in need of AS MUCH exposure as it can get, not restricted viewership. But it gets even worse when on Championship Sunday, the West Coast was prohibited from seeing the majority of the finals until “prime time” – three hours later. Alienating about a third of the viewing audience.

Finally, before the rain, there was wind – a lot of wind. Blowing right in the face of the sprinters and hurdlers. Enough to really hamper the races and results. Now, this has a simple solution. Run the races the other way, do that  and you now have an aiding wind instead of a hindering wind. Except USATF refused to comply – for the full four days. As a result the results of this meet appear to be weak. When in reality, the only thing that was weak was the repeated actions of the sports’ governing body here in the US.

The athletes, however, provided great competition even when the results didn’t reflect that. A mix of young stars and hmm. Hmm meaning there are some events where I’m just not sure where we’ll end up in Doha.

Like the women’s 100 meters. Teahna Daniels finished 5th at the collegiate championships, but won here in 11.20. Followed by English Gardner and Morolake Akinosun. None have run particularly fast this year. As a matter of fact our entire women’s sprint contingent is in that mode this year. With our champions being Dezerea Bryant (22.47) and Shakima Wimbley (50.20). Though Wimbley has run in the 49s in past seasons. Right now however, the podium seems far away for our female sprinters – unless Tori Bowie, who had a bye in the 100 shows up ready to go In Doha.

On the men’s side however, we have the world’s leaders in every event with Christian Coleman (9.99) and Noah Lyles (19.78) winning here and Fred Kerley (43.64) upsetting world leader Michael Norman (43.79). With defending champion Justin Gatlin having a bye, our men’s sprints look very strong. Their times very strong given horrible conditions.

In spite of heavy winds and rain on the final day, several athletes found a way to shine. The best of the lot being Dalilah Muhammad and her WR 52.20 in the 400H. While there’s been a watch on the men’s event for a WR she went out and blazed home from 150 meters out to destroy the previous record and best the men to a record run. Sydney McLaughlin ran an awesome 52.88 of her own, yet wasn’t close. The rubber match in Doha should be epic. And speaking of the men’s event, Rai Benjamin cruised to a 47.27 victory (yes cruised) to set up an epic confrontation with Karsten Warholm and Abderrahmane Samba in Doha. 

In the short hurdles, Daniel Roberts (13.23) defeated Grant Holloway (13.36) in a reversal of their NCAA finish. Sending both to their first World Championships. On the women’s side, WR holder Keni Harrison (12.44) won with daylight over Nia Ali (12.55) and Brianna McNeal, as we seems a veteran crew to Doha. 

In the field, we got a pair of American Records as Sam Kendricks soared to the second highest pole vault clearance in history at 19’ 10.5“ and hammer thrower Deanna Price tossed her implement 256’ 8”. 

One of my favorite distance runners, Shelby Houlihan won both the 1500 and 5000. Each time employing her sizzling kick to put away the field. And the meet ended on the sizzling finish of Noah Lyles who won the men’s 200 in 19.78 on a set track into a slight headwind! This young man is as good as it gets in this event.  

All in all, in spite of what I consider technical difficulties by our leadership of the sport, we’re sending a pretty strong contingent to wage war in Doha. 

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