Collegiate conferences, Diamond League action, a secondary meet in an off location. If you’re a true fan of track and field, this weekend had some of everything. There are links to results to the right, my impression of some of the happenings of the weekend follow.
Shanghai Diamond League – Great Head to Heads
Another very early morning (4am) to catch this meet online! Not the first meet of the weekend, but the one that finally gave us a couple of star level head to heads – and they did not disappoint. The first of these was the women’s 100 with Carmelita Jeter (USA) and Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM) going at it. Campbell Brown got perhaps the best start of her life and held to the tape, just holding off the ever closing Jeter 10.92 to 10.95. This should be the matchup in Daegu as long as both can start well – Jeter’s Achilles heel. As evidenced here, no one else can finish like these two vets.
The second matchup was in the men’s 110 hurdles with Liu Xiang (CHN) and David Oliver (USA) finally getting together on the track after a year’s layoff from Xiang due to injury. Xiang proved two things in Shanghai: 1) he is BACK and healthy, 2) he is still the best there is around the finish line as he won Round 1 13.07 (WL) to 13.18. They ran side by side for most of the race. Oliver looked as imposing as ever, but there is something about Liu, that even though he doesn’t “look” fast, he’s always right there – and zeroing in on the finish line. This time the win broke an 18 meet win streak for Oliver and was Liu’s best mark since 2007 (12.92). Now all we need is Dayron Robles to join in. And while Diack says that heads to heads diminish Worlds, I can’t wait to see these two go at it again!
The other impressive race was the men’s 1500. Impressive on two fronts. One was the winning time of 3:31.42 for Nixon Chepseba (KEN), just ahead of teammate Asbel Kiprop’s (KEN) 3:31.76. And speaking of teammates, Kenya had 11 of the top 12 finishers with five of them under 3:35! They will be a force in Daegu.
Pac-10 Championships – Back to Great Sprinting
The Pac-10 used to be the home of great sprinting. UCLA & USC produced some of the finest sprinters and races this side of the Olympics. That seems like forever ago as the SEC and Big 12 have taken over that mantle. But two Pac-10 FRESHMEN put the conference back on the sprinting map this weekend. Not from a Los Angeles school, but from the University of Oregon!
First it was Oregon freshman Mike Berry blazing a 44.91 in the 400 – breaking a 41 year old school record (45.07) set by Olympian Otis Davis. USC’s Joey Hughes (45.05) and Bryshon Nellum (45.56) finished with fine times as well in second and third. For Nellum it continues his comeback from a devastating injury, and solidifies my feelings that the young man is one to watch this year. As is Berry who should now be thought of as a threat to medal at the upcoming NCAA championships.
Ditto for fellow Oregon frosh English Gardner who blazed to an 11.03 American Junior Record in the women’s 100 meters. Her run broke the AJR of non other than Angela Williams (11.04) who was a four time NCAA champion over the distance! Her emergence to go with teammate Amber Purvis could well be enough to pair with Oregon’s distance strength to give the lady Ducks a strong run at the NCAA team title. Take note that soph Jordan Hasay took the 1500/5000 double here – 4:19.18/16:24.10.
Final note, Washington State’s Jeshua Andersen appears back on track with a sizzling 48.13 win here, crushing his own meet record of 48.63!
SEC Championships – Florida & Arkansas Deep
How deep are Arkansas & Florida? Florida won the decathlon, the long jump at 27’ 2, the triple jump at 56’ 6.75 (and 56’ 3.25 for 2nd), the 4×1 at 38.53. And in spite of the fact that defending National Champion Jeff Demps false started out in the heats, they still won the 100 in 10.11w! Arkansas swept the 1500, took 3 of the top 4 spots in the 800, won the 200 and scored 13 points in the 5000! Redshirt Dorien Ulrey winning the 800/1500 and scored points in that 5000.
These are quite possibly the deepest and diverse squads in the nation on the men’s side – only Texas A&M may b4e in their league in that regard. It’s that diversity – the ability to score points in a number of different type of events – that I think puts them in the drivers seat come Nationals. Ditto for the Lady Tigers of LSU who parlayed dominating sprint points with a mixture of field event point to dominate this meet with a 30 point victory over the Lady Gators. LSU is ranked #1 in the country and should be the favorite heading to Nationals.
Individually Kirani James (Alabama) looks like one of those athletes that is a prohibitive favorite for Nationals. He won here in 44.86, but it wasn’t just the time, it was the strength that he showed in the stretch that was impressive. Florida soph Tony McQuay, has been coming back from injury at indoor Nationals, but halfway through the final turn took control of the race and looked ready to give James a serious challenge. Coming into the homestretch, however, Kirani began to drive his arms with power and pulled away from McQuay and the rest of the field on his way to a one second victory (McQuay 2nd in 45.87).
In addition to Ulrey’s double victory, Florida’s Will Claye pulled off the jump double at 27’ 2.5”/56’ 6.75”. Awesome at any level. Tennessee’s Liz Costello also won the 5000/10000 double (16:13.06/33:42.96). The women’s 100 saw three within .01 sec with Hacket (LSU, 11.01), Brookins (S. CAR, 11.02) and Duncan (LSU, 11.02) just over the allowable at +2.4! AND this meet saw a Collegiate record as Arkansas’ Tina Sutej vaulted a big 15’ 1.5”! This has arguably become THE Strongest conference in the country for track and field.
Big 12 Championships
Omo Osaghe (Tx Tech) had the best mark of the meet, scorching the 110 hurdles in 13.23 sec (+0.8). He’s been tough all season and is looking like a strong favorite for Nationals as well as a potential break out athlete for the season. On the heels of the performances of the Oregon freshmen, we got another strong frosh performance as Kansas frosh Diamond Dixon shown brightly with an upset victory over Jessica Beard (Tx A&M) 51.55 to 51.68. The oval stayed hot as shortly thereafter Demetrius Pinder (Tx A&M) joined the weekend’s sub 45 club with a 44.87 win – putting him in the mix with Berry (Oregon) and James (Alabama) – with the next four all between 45.28 and 45.64. The men’s 400 is shaping up to be one of the hottest events at the NCAA championships.
The sprints didn’t let up as Jeneba Tarmoh (Tx A&M) and Rakieem Salaam both scored sprint doubles. Both fought strong headwinds in the 100, keeping their times modest (11., –1.6 & 10.23, –2.5). The winds were much less oppressive in the deuce however, and both seemed to enjoy the change with PR wins in 22.46 (-0.3) and 20.05 (+0.0) – both collegiate leaders.
Texas A&M won both 4×1’s and both 4×4’s and ran away with both the men’s and women’s team titles. Both are clearly in the running for team titles at the National Championships. Which judging from this weekend is going to be one hum dinger of a meet.
Ponce – The Past and the Future Meet
Ponce is one of those “light” meets that fall on the schedule – typically an opportunity for athletes to get in an extra race here or there without a lot of pressure. For Justin Gatlin these meets have become his opportunity to work his way back into contention, because he’s not being given invites to locales like Zurich, Rome and Lausanne. Ponce however, gave Gatlin a great opportunity this time as it paired him with Jamaica’s newest sprint find Nikel Ashmeade who ran a world leading 19.96 last week in the 200. The result was a PR for Ashmeade (10.05) and a comeback best for Gatlin (10.06). Both athletes could make an impact at their respective National championships in June. More on that later.
Manchester – Tyson Gay Debut
I’m not a fan of these types of events. I’ve been asked several times why and will explain why later this week. I am mentioning Manchester, however, because we finally got Tyson Gay’s first race of the season. There was a lot of talk about taking a shot at Usain Bolt’s World Best over 150 meters – Gay set a World Best for a straight 200 here last year in 19.41 sec! The British weather was not kind however, being very cold and the race taking place in what was described as a downpour. None the less Gay managed to run 14.51 – short of Bolt’s 14.35 record as well as his own 14.41 run en route to his 19.41 last year. Still not bad given the conditions, but I’m waiting to see Tyson in a real race.
I’ve almost been on track overload this weekend – almost. The season seems to be going in earnest now. We have two Diamond League events under our belts, Rome is on the slate for next weekend, and the collegiates are headed towards their Regional championships. We’re just about a month from most countries selecting their squads for Daegu, so expect to see marks begin to get faster, further, and higher.