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

Sprints Preview, 2023

Nov 3rd, 2022
12:59 pm PDT

The 2022 season is done. Athletes have been on holiday/vacation and gotten a well deserved rest. Now, after recharging, most are either headed back to training or will be heading back shortly. The new goal, to get ready for a run at the podium in Budapest. That’s how athletics is. Each year is literally a new year. One year you can win gold. The next year you may not even make the final – maybe not even the team if you’re an American. It takes a lot of hard work to become a world class athlete. It’s even harder to stay there.

That’s the story that unfolds each season. Who stays on top. Who falls down. Who rises. There’s a cacophony of multiple stories that all merge at the destination of the current season’s championship location. That’s part of the fun of the off season. Attempting to figure out where things will go in the upcoming year. On that note, it’s time to look into my crystal ball, to see what changes I believe may occur in the 2023 season. Given that there was a lot of change between ’21 &.’22, one might expect that to happen again.

Looking ahead, I think that there will be a lot of change in the sprints in 2023 – on both the men and women’s sides. The men’s 100 was very different in Eugene compared to Tokyo. Ronnie Baker, Su Bingtian, and Andre DeGrasse were all missing or sub par, after being Tokyo finalists. Tokyo winner, Lamont Jacobs didn’t show for his semifinal in Eugene after suffering thru early season injury. And Christian Coleman never regained the form that saw him lead the world for three consecutive years before his whereabouts ban in 2021. That’s five major players in the event that were down or out in 2022. I believe that at least three, if not all five, will be back in form for 2023. After all, it’s difficult to keep championship athletes down for long. Add new rising star Letsile Tebogo who set three WJR’s this year. The potential of Ferdinand Omanyala to learn to perform outside of Africa, and improvement from Jamaican Oblique Seville, and this event could look completely different next year! Of course, at the middle of it all is Fred Kerley, the current world champion. All roads to the podium in Budapest will pass thru Fred! Starting at US Nationals. That is, unless he decides to do something different. You can never be certain with Fred.

Of course, that’s just the men’s 100! I’m not sure that we’ll see much change in the men’s 200. We have had basically the same set of 200 sprinters for almost three years now. It will be difficult to break up a group that features Noah Lyles, Kenny Bednarek, Erriyon Knighton and Joseph Faunbulleh. That group should be joined by Andre DeGrasse, who had a sub par ’22 due to injury. It will be tough for anyone to break into that group of five. Now the men’s 400 meters, that’s a different proposition. There’s been a lot of change in that event every year since Covid, as it can be difficult to maintain consistency in the quarter. That’s something that Michael Norman is now beginning to show, consistency. He and Kirani James have become the constants in the event. Steven Gardiner was there before injury slowed him slightly last year. Though I do expect him to re-emerge in ’23. After all, he ran under 44.00 for three consecutive seasons before the injury. The young blood in the event in ’22, was Champion Allison, who ran 43.70 for second at US Nationals before making the final at Worlds. He should improve and be even better in 2023. As will WR holder Wayde van Niekerk, who had his best season to date following injury and ACL surgery in 2017. After getting down to 44.33 this year, ’23 could see van Niekerk back into the 43’s. If that happens, the game will change for every one. This is an event that has the potential to explode in 2023, because a group of sprinters running 43 becomes a threat to do something special!

The women’s sprints next year are going to hinge on two things. How well Elaine Thompson Herah’s off season goes; and who, outside of Jamaica, makes significant improvement – especially in the 100 meters. Elaine is a two time, double Olympic champion. As good as she’s been in Olympic years however, she’s had difficulty otherwise. Mostly because she’s had trouble staying healthy in non Olympic years, so her off season this fall/winter will say a lot. That aside, one or two individuals will have to get better and step up, if the Jamaican juggernaut is going to be broken up. A sub par Elaine was still a top three threat. So, it’s imperative that other athletes improve dramatically in order to bring some “variety” to the women’s podium.

I do think that there are two women that could be podium contenders in the 100 in ’23. The most likely suspect right now is Marie Josee TaLou who dropped to 10.73 this year. That puts her in range of breaking up the trio. The other with potential to get in the mix is Melissa Jefferson who had a blazing 100 (10.69w) at US Nationals last year to indicate that she could have what it takes to upend the Jamaicans with a tad more seasoning. The rest of her season was solid, making the World final, and dropping her PB to 10.82. A good international debut. She has the tools to become a medalist. I will add that a dark horse threat could come from teenager Tamari Davis. She’s young and raw, yet ran 10.83/10.78w. She’s certainly one to watch.

While the Jamaicans seem to have a strangle hold on the 100, the 200 is a bit of a different tale. The event does have Jamaican Shericka Jackson leading the way at 21.45 – #2 all time. And healthy, Elaine Thompson Herah has won two Olympic gold medals, and run 21.54 – #3 all time. If Americans Gabby Thomas (21.61) and Abby Steiner (21.77) can remain healthy, they are threats to medal in this event. Good health could see both do some fantastic things in 2023 in the 200 meters, which could become the premier event in the sport next year. As the top four are the best group ever seen at one time. With the group behind them having several 21.8s & 9’s among them.

Of all the events discussed so far, the one that could see the most change in ’23, is the women’s 400 meters. This event has been in a “down” state for some time, with few women running under 50 seconds. However, that’s threatening to change next year as several women from other events are looking at making a name in the 400. The biggest name being Sydney McLaughlin, who says that she wants to take a shot at the WR of 47.60! A tall order, but when you’ve run the hurdles in 50.68, you can make such statements. Her primary opposition should come from Salwa Eid Naser. The 2019 World champion (48.14) who is returning from a whereabouts ban. Naser is #3 all time, and a formidable opponent, so we will find out how good Sydney can be in this event. We’ll probably also see Femke Bol here as well. Femke typically runs the 400 indoors as part of her training, but last year ran a few outdoors. Winning the European title at 49.44. This year’s US champion, was collegian Talitha Diggs who ran 49.99 to make the US squad. She’s gone Pro, and will be looking to improve significantly in the event. Her bloodline includes half miler Joetta Clark (her mother) so, she has the genealogy. There’s also the possibility that we’ll see Athing Mu (49.59/48.3r) back in the event. She’s just announced that she is joining Sydney in Los Angeles to train with Bobby Kersee. THAT should be a match made in heaven. The bottom line here, is that some of the best talent in the world, is now looking at the 400. If nothing else, times will be dropping in 2023!

That’s my look ahead at the sprints for 2023. As fast as things have been, they should be even faster next year. On the men’s side, both Fred Kerley and Noah Lyles are on a mission. Each believes they are capable of attacking the world records in the 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19) respectively! Lyles is tantalizing close. Having taken down the American record with his 19.31 Worlds victory. Literally where Bolt was before he set the record. He is within range. Kerley’s task is a bit more daunting. He has gotten down to 9.76 in the 100. He really needs to get into the 9.6’s to be in range of the record. That said, I’m sure that Fred is working on trying to get there.

The women have similar ambitions. The current records in the women’s three sprints are 10.49, 21.34, and 47.60. Shelly Ann (10.60); Elaine (10.54 & 21.54); Shericka (21.45); and Sydney (50.05/50.68h) all feel like they’re capable. Sydney is the one current record holder of the group, with her WR in the hurdles. Shelly is #3 in the 100. Elaine #2 in the 100 and #3 in the 200. Shericka #2 in the 200. Sydney’s hurdle race shows tremendous ability. These women are close, very close. I would also like to add Athing Mu in the mix in the 400 chase. Her 800 strength mirrors that of the #2 woman on the 400 list! And she’s run 49.59 with little attention to the event.

2023 will be the first time in several decades where all six world sprint records (men and women) could seriously be broken. Not since 1968 has the world seen this much collective talent. If you are a fan of this sport, this is a very exciting time! While this is the state of the sprints heading into the new year, It’s really indicative of the sport in general. Every area of the sport – sprints, hurdles, jumps, distance, throws – is at an all time high level of competition. If you can’t sell the sport today, you are in the wrong business, because track and field is as exciting, no more exciting, than anything that’s out there. The World Championships in Budapest should be a meet of crazy competition. Personally, I can’t wait.

One Response to “Sprints Preview, 2023”

  1. Waynebo says:

    Ohhhhh man! Athing Mu joining the squad with Bobby Kersee! That is amazing news. I would expect Mu to go after the 800m WR before she turns her attention to the 400, but I’m sure Kersee will have her running 400’s for speed work toward that goal. I won’t be surprised to see a new PR from her in both the 400 & 800. I would love to watch Mu & McLaughlin train together. Those workouts are gonna be fierce!

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