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

The Chill List

May 14th, 2022
3:29 pm PDT

It seems that everyone has a “list” these days. There’s the Bowerman for collegiate athletes. And I’ve noticed several podcasts attempting to put together lists. The problem that I have with these lists however. It’s that it’s basically impossible to separate say 10 athletes from the pack in this sport. Especially Post Covid, as it seems that every event has at least two or three deserving athletes – at every level of the sport!

So, I’ve decided to create a list that ISN’T supposed to be the ten “best” athletes in track and field. Instead, my list is of the ten athletes I’m going to focus on watching this year! They’re all elite. All stars in their own rights. In keeping my eyes on each one for varied and different reasons, that I’ll will explain. So, without further ado, here’s my first Chill List.

Sha’Carri Richardson – Why not start with one of the sport’s most talked about athletes today? Like everyone else, I’m waiting to see her compete. I mean, it has been a minute, or two. I’m curious to see if the tales of her practice times (10.3) are accurate. But mostly I want to see if she is the answer to the Jamaican female sprinters. Specifically Elaine and Shelly Ann. Because at the end of the day, that will be all that matters. If she can’t compete with them, she’s not That Girl, and we’re still looking for an answer to that problem. If she can compete with them, my oh my. The game will change over night.

Erriyon Knighton – I’m watching this young man to see what the follow up is to 19.49. You see, while everyone is predicting world records, I’d just like to see how he and his body reacts. For example, 2019 saw Michael Norman open with 43.45. It’s 2022 and he hasn’t yet approached that mark again! Just as Bolt didn’t after 9.58 or 19.19. Mike Marsh didn’t after shutting down on 19.73. Michael Johnson didn’t after 19.32. And Carl Lewis didn’t after running 19.75 with his arms in the air for half the straight. Point being, is that you never know when you’ve run your best race! So I’m watching to see how Erriyon’s season plays out. Will he run faster? Will he make the World team. If he does, how will he fair? An inquiring mind wants to know.

Abby Steiner – Potential. My definition, as friends know, is that it simply means you haven’t done it yet. For a couple of years now, Abby had teased her potential. She’s set collegiate indoor records. And started well outdoors. Only to be felled by injury last year. So far she’s right back on that potential train. Throwing in massive improvement over 100 meters. So I’m watching to see if the college grind fails her again. Taxing her body to the point of injury. If not, just how fast will she run 200 meters? Or should I say, how far under 22 will she go? Because IF she goes where I think she can go (potential). SHE could be another answer to the Jamaican female sprint quandary.

Athing Mu – I just want to see what she does. She’s one of the most intriguing and exciting athletes to hit this sport in years. She runs perhaps the most difficult double in the sport – 400/800. And she’s world class in both. She’s not the first female to do so, but she’s already one of the best. Behind only Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99/1:53.28) and Ana Quirot (49.61/1:54.44) with bests of 49.59 & 1:55.04. THAT is some company to keep. So I’m enjoying the show she’s putting on right now. Curious to see how much faster she goes this year. IF she’ll attempt to double at Worlds (our 400 squad could use some help). Mostly I’m curious to see how close she can get to that 1:53.28 WR! It’s been over 30 years since someone has come along with that kind of potential. There’s that word again.

Michael Cherry – We, the US, have kind of been losing quartermilers lately at the professional level. At least those that want to ONLY run the quarter. Fred Kerley and Michael Norman are now dabbling in the shorter sprints. Enter Michael Cherry who apparently loves the quarter. So much so that during Covid he sought out John Smith. Quartermiler guru who’s coached the likes of Olympic individual medalists Steve Lewis (gold, silver) , Danny Everett (silver) , and Quincy Watts (gold). Now, the focus is on Cherry. Which begs the question, is Michael our next great quartermiler. I’m watching to find out.

Gabby Thomas – Gabby had a big breakthrough year in 2021. She dropped her 200 to 21.61 becoming the third fastest woman ever. She won the Olympic Trials and took bronze at the Games. So the question in 2022 is, what’s she going to do for an encore? Improve in the 100? With a best of “only” 11.00, it would seem there’s much she can do there. She ran a windy 10.80 earlier in the season, and has shown better start mechanics. She’s already run 22.02 and 21.98, so she’s clearly headed towards another great season in the deuce. If she can make similar improvement in the 100 this year, she can become that multiple international threat like Evelyn Ashford, Flo Jo, Gwen Torrance, Marion Jones, and Tori Bowie. That would be truly welcomed right about now! Always looking for the answer to Jamaican sprint dominance on the women’s side.

Noah Lyles – Prior to Knighton’s big 19.49 PR, Lyles held the #4 all time position in the 200 at 19.50 – a mere .01 difference. Lyles has had two seasons at that level running the 19.50 in 2020, and 19.52 last year. With his body showing consistency at the 19.5/19.6 range, I’m watching to see if Noah is ready to jump to the 19.3x range – which is what the last two WR setters (Bolt & Johnson) did! That could mean a lowering of the AR of 19.32. Which personally I see necessary to get to the next (WR) level. I’m also watching Noah, because he’s stated that he wants to be great. And that he views it necessary to win a sprint double to have that type of consideration. To that end he’s improved his start and his indoor best in the 60 (6.52). An indication that he might run better than 9.86 this year. IF he does that, he has the potential (that word) to make the World team in the 100 and contend for a World sprint double. So, my Noah watch is on.

Ryan Crouser – I like all events, not just sprints, hurdles, and relays. That said, Crouser is simply one of the most exciting athletes in the sport. Even if he’s overlooked by most. His WR of 23.37m (76′ 8″), set at last year’s Olympic Trials, is nothing short of phenomenal. Yet he came back and threw 23.30m (76′ 5.25″) to win Olympic gold! He’s currently leading the world this year at 22.75m (74′ 7.5″) which by itself would make him #7 all time – but it’s only his 10th best throw ever! My point is, this man is the best thrower in history, and then some! Of the top 30 throws in history, he’s thrown 17 of them – over half. So I’m watching to see what he throws next. Specifically for when he throws 73.78m, because that would put him over 78 feet. Greatness is before us. If you haven’t, watch.

Christian Coleman – Post Bolt, Coleman was staking a claim as the top 100 meter sprinter in the world. Winning the World title, and leading the world on the clock in consecutive seasons (9.82-’17, 9.79-’18, 9.77-’19). Then he missed too many tests and had to sit out a year. A year that Italian Lamont Jacobs used to win the Olympic title. Now everyone, including me, is wondering if Coleman can get back to his winning ways. Ironically, Coleman and Jacobs met at Indoor World Championships over 60 meters. Jacobs getting the win by .003 sec! Creating additional intrigue. And making the 100 even more exciting than normal! Will Coleman get the W? That’s what I’m waiting to see.

Rai Benjamin – Ok, I’m not gonna mince words here. Benjamin is easily the most talented 400H on the planet. He’s run 10.03, 19.99, 44.31, and splits 43’s on the relay. He’s supposed to be dominating the 400H. Yet he’s taken silver in the last Olympics and World Championships to Karsten Warholm! So. I’m watching Benjamin to see if he can get that monkey off his back! It’s not that he showed up and ran poorly. He ran 46.17 in Tokyo – #2 time ever. Warholm simply beat him to the tape in 45.92! At this point, Warholm ┬áhas the confidence that he can beat Benjamin. It’s up to Rai to prove that he can turn the tables. 2022, in Eugene, is the do or die time and place. I’m sure the world will be watching along with me!

That’s my watch list. A bit different than others. But I believe just as important.

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One Response to “The Chill List”

  1. Waynebo says:

    That is a great list! I might add Favor Ofili who is the single reason Abby Steiner didn’t dominate the SEC Championships. What that girl is doing at 19 years old is impressive. Looking forward to the rematch at the NCAA championships.

    side note: Sha’Carri has been pretty quiet. I hope nationals aren’t her season opener. She needs to get in some diamond league races and get battle-tested. That shellacking that ended her season last year showed me that her competitive fire is questionable.

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