With the Olympic Marathon Trials in the book, it’s time to start to focus on the indoor season. Most of the sport’s top athletes probably won’t debut until April or May – a trend started around the start of the New Millennium. Still there will be lots to look for under cover.
For starters there are the collegiate athletes. There is an annual NCAA Indoor Championships, and by late March we will see many of the top collegians hitting top stride indoors, as the battle for the team title is a big deal in the collegiate ranks. That means high profile programs like Florida, Oregon, LSU and Texas A&M will be in prime form as they fight for indoor titles before heading outdoors.
In that vein keep an eye on the collegiate quarter milers, as some of the world’s best are still in school. I would expect Tony McQuay (Florida), Kirani James (Alabama), Torrin Lawrence (Georgia) and Tavaris Tate (Miss St) should all be in the hunt for both collegiate titles and Olympic berths outdoors. McQuay was last year’s U.S. champion, and James won last year’s World title in Daegu. So this is definitely an event that could give us a preview of things to come in London.
Another event with potential London implications is the men’s 60 meters. Florida’s Jeff Demps is the HS record holder in the 100 meters (10.01) but has been doing double duty in football for Florida. He indicated last week that he is now going to focus full time on track and field. Given that he is the two time defending indoor champion over 60 meters and was a semifinalist in the ’08 Olympic Trials as a high school senior, his path to London could begin with a defense of his collegiate indoor title in Boise.
Also keep watch on the women sprinters as several with Olympic potential will be on the track this winter. Among them: Kimberlyn Duncan (LSU), Jessica Beard (Texas A&M), Jeneba Tarmoh (Texas A&M) and Kya Brookins (S Car). Prospects won’t be limited to the sprints, however, as Oregon’s Jordan Hasay could be making a serious run at a distance berth in June.
Of course the college kids won’t be the only one’s competing under cover. Even though a majority of the world’s top athletes will not be competing, there are those that will certainly show up if only near the end. Especially since there will be an Indoor World Championships in early March – actually running the same weekend as the NCAA Indoor Championships. Of course, with the Olympics being the BIG meeting on the year, Indoor Worlds may not be enough to entice the biggest of the stars out, but Jamaica’s Asafa Powell has said that he wants to take a shot at gold in the 60 meters in Istanbul. Having been shut out of the medals at the last two Olympics, and with two bronze in the outdoor World Championships, Powell sees a shot at gold with the likes of Bolt, Gay, and Blake in early preparation for the Games and not running indoors. Of course countryman Nesta Carter, another blitz starter could be an obstacle. Carter brings 9.78 credentials of his own (Powell 9.74) so a meeting between these two over 60 could be the top indoor race of the year.
We should also see some of the world’s best hurdlers indoors as David Oliver, Jason Richardson, Tiffany Porter, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells all have indoors plans in place. And I suspect that we could see both Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles compete as both have traditionally done so. If so, the hurdles could be one of the hottest events of the indoor season.
The best of the indoor competitions, however, should take place in the field events, as traditionally field eventers tend to perform near outdoor standards – and their is little change in their events from outdoors,and it’s nice and warm inside during the winter. Look especially to events like the pole vault, high jump and shot put, where indoor standards/marks are very close to on par with what we will see later in the outdoor season. I expect to see some sterling marks turned in by athletes like Christian Cantwell, Jesse Williams, Yelena Isinbayeva, Ivan Ukhov, Blanka Vlasic, and Renaud Lavillenie, among others. Remember that indoors is where it all began for last year’s World triple jump gold medalist, Christian Taylor! So I’ll be looking at these events both domestically and globally to try and get a read on where things are headed as the indoor season ramps up in late February early March. And I would expect that these events should be among the highlights of the World Indoor Championships.
The U.S. used to have a full plate of top level indoor meets, however now we are relegated to the U.S. Open (formerly the Millrose Games), the New Balance Grand Prix and the National Championships. The U.S.Open is just under two weeks away and should signal an uptick in the indoor season, which believe it or not is already under way!
Internationally the big meets will be in Karlsruhe, Germany; Lievin, France; Birmingham, England; and Stockholm, Sweden before we have the World Indoor Championships and then head outdoors to South Africa and Australia for the end of their summer seasons. So for the next eight weeks or so it’s undercover we go. Hopefully we get lots of good surprises along the way. After all it is an Olympic year – and if there’s one thing you can expect in an Olympic year it’s the unexpected!