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

Finally a 4×1 Victory

Oct 21st, 2019
11:02 am PDT

Relay Shadow rightThe US did it! We won a major 4×1, coming home with gold in Doha. The monkey is off our back!

I wouldn’t get too excited just yet however. That’s one win in the last twelve years. And behind us was the fastest finish for place in places 2-5 – because the world has gotten FASTER in the last decade plus.

In Doha, Britain set a European record of 37.36 to take silver. While Japan set an Asian record of 37.43. Both marks as fast as anything the US has thrown down, well ever. So, while its nice that we broke the jinx, and fans feel like "we’re back"! This could be short lived if we don’t look at improving along with the rest of the world! Of course this is always difficult for us to do. Other programs have the flexibility to put their squads together ahead of time, and allow them to develop chemistry. We, on the other hand, put our teams together on the fly – almost like a pickup team because our files require that we rely on those athletes that make any given national team.

Don’t get me wrong we don’t lack for "talent". But as we see with other squads, getting people in the proper places, and developing chemistry can overcome talent. So it would be nice if we could at least be fairly consistent with the athletes that we take to relay camp – which is what we call relay preparation!

We more than likely witnessed the leadoff and anchor of our teams for the foreseeable future. As Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles are the best 100 and 200 sprinters on the planet right now – and the best starter and finisher. What we’ll need for the future, is to fill the second and third legs, as this year’s team members – Justin Gatlin and Mike Rodgers – are aging! While they’ve served admirably on national teams, it’s time to move forward with the same youth movement that is taking over the sport at present. We need a squad that can run together for the next decade or longer and hopefully dominate this event the way we used to.

So, who would be the most likely athletes to potentially join Coleman & Lyles on what I would consider a super 4×1? We’re talking about young sprinters, with some relay history, and specific skill sets to fit the second or third legs of the relay. Without seeing who else might emerge between now and the Olympic Trials, my initial choices would be:

Michael Norman – yes he’s a quarter miler. At least that’s what he’s most known for. He’s also a 19.70 200 sprinter however, that runs a great backstretch! He’s got the potential to open things up the way a young Justin Gatlin used to do. He’ll also have the strength to run through the zone with whomever becomes the third leg on the relay. Finally he’s good enough on the turn, that he could be used on the third leg! Norman coming into Lyles could be something special!

Grant Holloway – another "non sprinter". Frankly however, as far as I’m concerned, only one leg in the relay uses blocks. Everything else is about raw speed. If you’ve ever watched Holloway run the hurdles, he has that in abundance! That’s why he’s the collegiate record holder at 12.98, AND why Florida became the first college team to run sub 38 in the 4×1. Because Holloway ran a sterling third leg on that 37.98 squad! I could easily see him doing the same on a US sub 37 given the opportunity!

Cravon Gillespie – he was this year’s top American collegian running 9.93/19.93 and making the US team for Doha. He did get to run in the rounds of the relay and showed some promise. 2020 will give us a better idea of his capabilities as this year’s collegians in mass had difficulty with the long season – especially long for athletes trying to peak three or four times!

Ken Bednarek – he was this year’s top collegiate 200 sprinter. Running 19.82/19.49aw! He was somewhat of an urban legend coming out of community college. Then had difficulty living up to the hype. As with Gillespie, he’ll have the opportunity to show who he is during the shorter 2020 season. If he is that urban legend, it could be hard to keep him off the squad! Like Norman his speed and skills could make him valuable on either the second or third legs.

Matt Boling – this year’s top high school sprinter, Boling’s best attribute in my opinion was his consistency. Consistent sprinters are more prone to huge breakthroughs. Boling was very consistent in the 10.15 range this year. IF he can drop under 10.00 it could put him in play for a relay spot. Aside from his consistency, I also liked his demeanor – the kid doesn’t get rattled. And that is a great trait to have running relays on the international stage. 2020 will tell us lots about Matt.

Kendall Williams – Williams is one of those athletes that I just like. A former junior world champion over 100, he’s fast enough at 9.99, and like Boling he doesn’t get rattled easily. A decent turn runner, I could see him manning that third leg. Especially behind someone like Norman. Then going into Lyles. He’d serve as a nice "bridge" in such a scenario.

Of course we have no idea who will emerge in the next few months. Though if anything is certain in an Olympic season it’s that there will be athletes that emerge! That’s the nature of sport. In any case, we have the athletes to stay atop the 4×1 food chain. As long as we make prudent choices.

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