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

Middle Distance Runners Continue to Shine in Monaco…

Jul 23rd, 2010
5:47 am PST
Jun 27, 2010; Des Moines, IA, USA; Alysia Johnson won the women's 800m in 1:59.87 in the USA Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium. Photo by Image of Sport Photo via Newscom

With no major championship on the docket this season, I keep looking at results as to what they may mean for our chances in Daegu, London and Moscow. From that perspective Monaco was one awesome meet, because everywhere I looked US performers were turning in outstanding performances. And nowhere more so than watching our middle distance runners.

I’m going to start with a middle distance runner that moved up a bit in distance – Shannon Rowbury. Rowbury was one of our breakthrough 1500 runners in ‘08 running a PR 4:00.33 in Paris. She stepped her game up another notch getting bronze in the 1500 at Worlds in Berlin. She’s run a little bit of everything this year, running an 800 PR of 2:00.47 at Pre and a season best 4:01.30 1500 in Paris. In Monaco she really turned it up, however in the 3000. Running a gutsy race she was up front the entire race and lead for a great deal before finally being overtaken by eventual winner Sentayehu Ejigu (ETH). Ejigu’s winning 8:28.41 was a big world leader and the fastest time since 2007. Behind her, Rowbury finished strongly for third and was rewarded with a big PR of 8:31.38 – moving her into the #3 spot all time among Americans! Only Mary Slaney (8:25.83) and Regina Jacobs (8:31.08) have run faster – and they had some pretty good careers. A great run by Shannon.

Another big move up the all time list was made by Alysia Johnson in the 800. Fresh off of a PR run in Italy less than a week ago, she did it again in Monaco in a big way. I wondered if she could run so fast again back to back because consistency hasn’t been her trademark in previous seasons. But after a PR 1:58.84 at Pre, then the 1:57.85 last week in Italy, she shadowed the rabbit in Monaco then kept right on going as she ran away from the field. Phoebe Wright gave game chase down the second backstretch, but Johnson was too much as she finished going away in 1:57.34! It was a new world leader and moved Johnson into the #5 all time American behind Jearl Miles Clark(1:56.40), Mary Slaney (1:56.90), Kim Gallagher (1:56.91), and Meredith Valmon (1:57.01). Johnson’s front running charge reminded me of the gold medal runs of the Olympic and World champions of ‘07, ‘08 & ‘09. And at her current pace Johnson could become one of them. Behind her Anna Pierce (3rd, 1:58.89) and Phoebe Wright (6th, 1:59.21) continued their own level of consistency and show that we won’t be first round casualties come the next set of majors.

Nor will Andrew Wheating be a first round ouster in which ever event he decides to compete in. Wheating has been nothing short of phenomenal since his 800/1500 double at the NCAA Championships. Since then he’s PR’d in the mile (3:51.74) at Pre and 800 (1:44.62) and took on the 1500 in Monaco against the world’s best. As he typically does he tucked in well behind the leaders early. And the leaders set this race off on a hot pace as Choge scorched through the early laps until first Lalou coming off the final turn and then Kiplagat down the straight overtook him. Kiplagat’s strong stretch carried him past the line in 3:29.27 – the fastest time in the world since 2006 – moving Kiplagat into the #10 position all time! Behind him Wheating was finishing like a house a fire himself. So well in fact that he ended up 4th in 3:30.90 – moving Wheating to #4 all time American behind Bernard Lagat (3:29.30), Sydney Maree (3:29.77), and Alan Webb (3:30.54). Wheating is now ahead of the likes of Jim Spivey (3:31.01), Steve Holman (3:31.52) and Steve Scott (3:31.76) – and he’s still in his infancy internationally! And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lopez Lamong’s big PR 3:32.20 which solidified his position as the #9 all time American.

The meet wasn’t all middle distance, but it’s nice to be able to get excited about our middle distance crew – and Monaco was a big meet for our middle distance runners. Truth is Monaco was hot all over the track and the field. On the track Tyson Gay got his first 200 win of the Diamond League. Burning the turn like only he and Bolt can he laid waste to the field early. A good thing because his missed training time showed as he slowed perceptibly in the stretch. He finished in 19.72, but needed it all as young Yohan Blake (JAM) and Wallace Spearmon (US) closed very strong. Typical for Spearmon who finished in a season’s best 19.93. Not so typical for Blake who took a PR 20.60 into the race but outran Spearmon down the stretch and closed on the fading Gay – nearly catching him at the line as he ran a monumental PR of 19.78. The sprint wars between the US and Jamaica may have found a new entrant.

Same for the 400, where minus Jeremy Wariner, Jamaican’s Jermaine Gonzales (44.40 WL) and Ricardo Chambers (44.54) both ran to big PR’s as they took 1st and 2nd. Both went out extremely fast in the first 200 of the race and ran away from the field. It will be interesting to see how Wariner handles this challenge when they next meet. Speaking of challenges, Monaco marked a rematch between Carmelita Jeter (US) and Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) over 100 meters. The race was decided at the start as Jeter got her best start of the season and pulled steadily away from the field to win in 10.82. Campbell Brown easily outdistanced the rest of the field but her 10.98 was well off Jeter’s pace on this day. The other big match up on the day was that between intermediate hurdlers Bershawn Jackson (US) and Angelo Taylor (US) – and it was everything it was billed to be and then some. Both men ran well early, ran a strong turn, and came into the final straight side by side. And side by side they ran down the final straight, both leaning strongly at the line before waiting for the photo to give us a winner. This time is was Jackson (47.78) edging Taylor (47.79) in perhaps the best 400 hurdle race of the year.

And while we’re talking about hurdles, David Oliver once again demolished the high hurdle field. The starter had a very quick gun on this race. So quick was the start that Oliver appeared not ready as he had what may have been his worst start of the year. He pressed early, clobbered a few hurdles, and still won the race in 13.01 – only Robles has run as fast all year! Still waiting for that perfect race, but what’s clear is that when it happens it WILL be something special.

Meanwhile, two of our best field event performers – Dwight Phillips and Kara Patterson – both had good days. Phillips took control of the long jump on his first effort, booming out to a world leading 27’ 9.25” leap that held up for the win. Patterson continued her consistency, throwing the javelin out to 210’ 8”. Good enough on this day for second against World & Olympic champ Barboa Spotakova’s 215’ 9”.

Monaco was another outstanding competition. And it was good to watch US forces continue to show well.

2 Responses to “Middle Distance Runners Continue to Shine in Monaco”

  1. Hopeton says:

    The women's 400 hurdles was also interesting. Demus must not get distracted by records (they will come when they come) but rather focus on putting together solid races. The 400 hurdles is a difficult race and if not run well, can be disastrous.
    Young Kaliese Spencer is a formidable talent, a former world junior champ who is still learning to hurdle.
    Re Tyson Gay, I am concerned for him. He powered around the curve (grimacing extensively) and was run down (again). Now by Blake, previously by Dix. He doesn't seemed relaxed; seems to be working extra hard each race. He doesn't look like the Tyson of old.

  2. Conway Hill says:

    I agree on both counts … Demus runs best when she just runs … When she "goes after it" she tends to lock up at some point in the race …

    Tyson is running like he has something to prove … I almost want him to shut it down and just go back to "base" and get healthy and ready for next year … Nothing to prove this year …

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