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

Prefontaine Highlights

Aug 22nd, 2021
7:16 am PDT

This was easily the most anticipated single meet of the year outside of championships and it lived up to the hype! Nike put its considerable wallet into play, producing Olympic quality fields across the board. Oh to have Nike’s money.

That said, let’s discuss the elephant in the room. The matchup between Sha’Carri Richardson and “The Jamaican Medalists”. After all, if you were “new” to watching track and field, that’s why you tuned in. And if you are a long time fan, you wanted to find out the outcome. Well, you were treated to one of the most exciting races the sport has ever seen. Sha’Carri just didn’t feature in it. Because two things happened at the gun. Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce was away like a bullet. And Sha’Carri went into reverse. Twenty five meters later Elaine hit that gear that she hit in Tokyo. You know, the one where she glides through the field on her way to first! The time? The first legal 10.5 @ 10.54. Following up to her 10.61 in Tokyo, I have no problem declaring Elaine the fastest woman in history. Yes, I know all about “FloJo”. I watched her career from start to finish. Elaine is IT. Perhaps a follow up post is in order, but as of this year, Elaine is the one.

The woman that would beat her, Sha’Carri, got a valuable lesson today. At least I hope she did. While she has run down a host of domestic sprinters, the rest of the world – specifically the Jamaicans – aren’t having it! They took 1,2,3 once again. And we Americans have some work to do in this particular event. Although Tokyo finalist Teahna Daniels improved her best to 10.83 in 4th.

This would have worked as the singular highlight in many meets, but was just one of many here. Perhaps the most emotional to me was the women’s steeple. Where Courtney Frericks continued her hard running ways and was rewarded with a runner up finish in an American Record 8:57.77. Making her the 3rd fastest steeplechaser in history! Just a stunning achievement.

There was my favorite event, the men’s 200 meters, which brought Olympic silver (Ken Bednarek) and bronze (Noah Lyles) medalists to the track. Along with hurdler Rai Benjamin who was looking to improve on his PR. This race was no contest however, as Lyles hit “that gear” coming off the turn and ran away to a 19.52 world leading time. Bednarek (19.80) and Noah’s brother Josephus (20.02) in 2nd & 3rd. Proving my comment during the Olympics to be possibly correct. That Noah’s early shutdown in his semifinal and subsequent poor lane draw in the final, probably cost him the gold. He looked like his “old” self here, with that gear that just separates him from the rest. He said this was is final race of the season, but it’s love to see him on the gentle turns off Lausanne. Either way, he’s set up well for 2022.

Athing Mu is also a step ahead of the rest. Announcing that this was going to be the end fo her season, she went out and methodically broke her own AR with a 1:55.04. The race had a rabbit, which I think actually messed her up. The rabbit went out way too hard, leaving Mu alone on the final lap in what was probably more oxygen debt than she wanted. Still she stayed ahead of the others and though she seems to press a bit in the final stretch, she finished with the new record.

Speaking of records, that’s what Ryan Crouser does these days – set records. Here he set Diamond League records of 22.95m (75′ 3.5″) & 23.15m (75′ 11.5″), as well as throws of 22.89m (75′ 1.25″) and 22.90m (75′ 1.5”). Giving him basically three 75s and a 76! All in the same competition. He’s SO good that he’s under appreciated – and will probably lose out on athlete of the year. But today’s series is better than the careers of every other thrower in history. That’s just amazing when you stop and think about it. I mean, relatively speaking, he’s better at the shot, than Mondo is at pole vaulting. Anyway.

Field events don’t get a lot of notice, but everyone notices the men’s 100. And Pre had a stellar field that had the Olympic silver (Kerley) and bronze (Degrasse) medalists. Finalists Baker and Simbine. Former gold medalist Justin Gatlin. And quartermiler Michael Norman stepping down to the short sprint. The Tokyo medalists reversed their finish with Degrasse (9.74) and Kerley (9.78) taking the top spots in a windy (2.9) race. In spite of stumbling at the start, Norman finished 5th in 9.90. Behind Baker’s 9.83 and Bromell’s 9.86.

After watching the Olympics and this race, I’m going to say that we’re seeing the transformation of the 100 meters. The event has gone thru many “iterations” over the years. Fast starters. Tall lithe sprinters. Power sprinters. High turnover sprinters. Most recently, drive phase masters. We now seem to be headed to strong, speed endurance sprinters. Guys, and women, with decent starts, solid acceleration, that old speed thru the finish. Similar to Carl Lewis, but with a modicum of drive phase. I say all that, because that’s why the race is working for quartermilers! And I expect to see more, in this event, and the deuce, in the near future. I don’t expect to see Fred Kerley or Michael Norman back in the long sprint next year. And as I watch the U20 Championships, I’m seeing similar types emerging from countries like Kenya, Botswana, Ghana and other African countries. 2022 is going to be interesting.

Pre was very interesting. Delilah Muhammad set a meet record of 52.77. Looked funny, her without Syd. Katie Nageotte (PV) and Pedro Pichardo (TJ) had routine wins. And I would be derelict if I didn’t mention Jakob Ingerbringtsen and his 3:47.22 mile win – fastest ever run in the US. He’s another youngster (20) that seems to have a very bright future ahead. I mean, this kid beats the African distance runners with regularity. No mean feat.

There are a handful of Diamond League meets left – Paris, Lausanne, Zurich and Brussels. But I don’t see the depth that was in Oregon. Still, I’ll watch as the season begins to wind down. Next up, Lausanne and Paris – only two days apart!

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