With the World Championships and Olympic Games combining to give us three major championship meets every four year cycle, meets like the Pan Am Games and Commonwealth Games don’t have the same importance that they once had thirty or forty years ago. I do think, however, that they present an opportunity to help in the development process of our National teams for the Major events.
Looking over the USA’s roster for the event, I’m pleased to see that in some areas we have athletes that have made, or are on the cusp of making, major teams getting the opportunity to compete in this type of environment – Rae Edwards, Michael Berry, Tyler Mulder, Kibwe Johnson, Jamie Nieto, Jenn Suhr, Michelle Carter, Aretha Thurmond, Sara Hall, and Virginia Powell chief among them. I would hope that going forward that we would see more athletes of this level competing in these kinds of events; because I don’t think we can get too much “practice under pressure”.
I understand that personal schedules, etc. have an effect on who can and cannot attend, but I would love to see more “up and comers” involved. Budding young stars like: Rakieem Salaam, Robbie Andrews, Johnny Dutch, Will Claye, Jessica Beard, Phoebe Wright, and Lauren Fleshman, among others. Because, in keeping with my theme of maximizing our potential, we need to begin to get as much “seasoning” for those who appear to be our future. And taking these young people out of their “comfort zone” and having them compete in the kinds of environments that they will see in Major competitions in the future is money well spent – especially if we are already committed to spending the money!
On that note, and given the poor results we’ve had over the last half decade with our relay squads, I think we need to start looking at competitions such as the Pan Am Games as a critical part of the process of developing our relay squads. Especially given that there are precious few international opportunities available to have squads compete – let alone under “championship” type conditions. I know that this is the time of year when athletes want to shut it down and get a bit of rest – and the positioning of this meet near the end of October really extends that timeline. By the same token however, it does provide an opportunity when most of the principle players would be available. And having a one or two week “camp” culminating in a somewhat high level race would provide both a solid way to end the season as well as give us a preview of how we should be tweaking our squads going forward.
And I’m talking about both our 4×1 AND 4×4 squads, because if we learned anything from Daegu (and I hope we did) you can never have too many quartermilers ready to go when you might possibly need them! It’s probably too late in the process to pull together our “National” teams to compete in Guadalajara this time around. But I think it is something that should be considered for future events.
With that I hope that we see great performances out of those athletes that will be in Mexico. Hopefully it will be the kind of experience that can help jump start one or two careers heading around the corner to London.