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

U.S. Open Preview

Jan 25th, 2012
5:34 pm PDT

The U.S. Open Indoor meet will be held this weekend, and there are several events worth keeping an eye on, as there will be many top level athletes competing. So let’s take a look at what I think will be the top competitions.

Men’s 50 Meters

Easily one of the deepest fields of the meet, the men’s 50 has former Olympic & World 100 champion Justin Gatlin (USA); former 100 Meter WR holder Asafa Powell (JAM); and #4 all time in the 100 Nesta Carter (JAM) among the entrants. Powell and Carter are both known as super-fast starters, which should give them an edge in the shortest event on the schedule. The WR for this distance is 5.56 run by Donovan Bailey in 1996, and Maurice Greene in 1999. Only one other sprinter has ever covered the distance under 5.60 – Leonard Scott (5.58) in 2005. Justin Gatlin has twice run 6.15 for 55 meters, which calculates to 5.59 for 50 meters. So the potential is there for a sub 5.60 clocking. Given his penchant for starting well, I would have to say that Powell should be the favorite. Of course the matchup between Powell and Gatlin is a tad ironic as they were the two sprinters at the top of the heap in ‘04/’05/’06 – before the rise of first Tyson Gay, then Usain Bolt. We’ll see if this weekend’s race brings back memories for either athlete.

 

Women’s 50 Meter Hurdles

This race brings together three finalists from last year’s World Championships 100 meter hurdles – Kelli Wells (USA), Dawn Harper (USA) and Tiffany Porter (GBR) – Harper earning the bronze medal. Interesting to see all three here as World gold medalist Sally Pearson had her way with them in the early stages of races last season – so it would appear that these women are using the indoor season to sharpen their early race skills. Also in the race will be Lolo Jones (USA) possibly the fastest starter of these women when healthy. Lolo is on the comeback trail from injury however, so this will be a good test for her. Healthy and sharp she wins this. Any hesitation and it’s a “pick em race”. I’m looking for a close finish.

 

Men’s Mile

There is something exciting about the mile indoors. The smaller tracks make it seem like a faster race – at least it changes the tactics and you see a lot more movement to the front early. Silas Kiplagat (KEN) headlines a strong field that includes Bernard Lagat (USA), and Daniel Komen Kipchirchir. Kiplagat was easily the fastest of this field outdoors last year, but as I already alluded to, tactics change indoors – and Lagat is well tuned to indoor racing. Last year’s fastest indoor mile was “only” 3:54.81 (Russell Brown, USA). My gut tells me that this race is going to be a bit faster than that. The fastest indoor mile run in New York was a 3:52.87 run by Lagat back in 2005 – the same season he ran 3:49.89 in Arkansas. I’m not expecting anything close to sub 3:50, but running under 3:53 is a possibility. Look for Lagat to try and control the pace on the boards, but Kiplagat is nothing if not a competitor. This should be an exciting race.

 

Women’s 50 Meters

The field won’t be as deep as the men’s, but it will have Veronica Campbell Brown (JAM), and VCB is one of the toughest competitors in the sport. Her stiffest competition should come from Americans Alexandria Anderson and Bianca Knight. Campbell Brown ran 7.11 for 60 meters in Madison Square Garden last year, so expect her to be fit and fast. Anderson doesn’t have the best getaway, but Knight could possibly get in the race early. If she does, it could be closer than people think. The record for 50 meters is 5.96 run by Irina Privalova in 1995. VCB’s 7.11 from last year calculates to 5.93, so with a good start she could get in the ball park.

 

Men’s 50 Meter Hurdles

Another race that is fairly deep with David Oliver (USA), Dwight Thomas (JAM) Aries Merritt (USA) and Terrence Trammell all in town. Oliver was injured late last year and didn’t perform as well as he wanted to in Daegu. He’s run well running 7.03 for the 55 meter version of this race. He’ll get a good test here from the aforementioned individuals, with Trammell being the “X” factor in the race having missed last season to injury. At his best he could take this race. But coming off injury and being the elder statesman, it will be interesting to see if the year off took any of the “edge” off his race. Starter extraordinaire, Mark McCoy (CAN) ran a sizzling 6.25 in this event in 1986! Oliver’s 7.03 calculates to 6.39 – which could get him into the top 8 all time.

These should be the best matchups of the meet. Also keep an eye on the women’s pole vault as Jenn Suhr will be jumping. With Bleasdale and Isinbayeva jumping well last week it will be interesting to see where Suhr is in her training. I’m also curious as to the fitness of Anna Pierce who will be competing in the women’s mile. Pierce has run 3:59.38 for 1500 meters outdoors and should be among the contenders for a spot to London. So this should be a good fitness check for Anna. I’m also curious to see how Bernard Jackson will do in his 600 yard race. Again, looking to see how fit he is this time of year – because Bernard did not look like himself for most of 2011.

It should be a great meet – and it will be televised! For entrants click here.

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