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

Collegiate & Miscellaneous Weekend Wrap

Feb 28th, 2012
12:21 pm PDT

DendyI didn’t include the collegiate performers in yesterdays post because, quite frankly, they just weren’t in the same ballpark this last weekend. Usually at this point a few have stepped their game up enough to warrant watching in the race for Olympic berths. But with so many of last year’s stars either graduating or going pro the landscape is rather barren of proven talent this winter. That may change once we get outdoors, but this winter has been rather quiet on the collegiate front.

Still the aspect of team competition makes the collegiate race for titles an interesting and compelling one, and when it comes to collegiate titles one need look no further than the SEC where big dogs Florida, Arkansas and LSU reside. Here it was Arkansas over Florida for the men’s title and Florida over LSU for the women’s title, with several top level performances by all three quads.

Perhaps the best performance came in the heats as Florida’s Jeff Demps sped 6.54 to move on to the finals. Demps IMHO is clearly the top collegiate short sprinter in the country and showed his class in the heats. In the final however there appeared to me to be a missed recall with several athletes freezing in the blocks – Demps among them. The resultant race saw three men finish within .01 with Demps (6.64) finishing 3rd behind winner Harry Adams (AUB, 6.63) and Michael Granger (MS, 6.63) as once again starters/false starts (this time one not called) take center stage in the sprint world.

Florida has another potential world class performer in quarter miler Tony McQuay – who outdoors was last year’s National US champion and NCAA runner up. McQuay looked to be back to form as he won here in 45.96, only to be dq’d for impeding another athlete. DQ aside, McQuay and Demps lead a very formidable Gator squad as they head to Idaho. A squad that was bolstered by the emergence of freshman long jumper Marquis Dendy who spanned 8.06m (26’ 5.25”). A mark that would have just missed winning the USA title in Albuquerque! Following in the footsteps of former Gators Will Claye and Christian Taylor, this kid could be one to watch by the time we head outdoors.

Speaking of emerging freshmen, I’m going to skip across the country to College Station Texas and the Big 12 Championships. On the men’s side, Ameer Webb continued to shine for the Texas A&M aggies. I know the JC transfer is not a true freshman, but his emergence this winter is something to keep your eye on. All he did this time around was blaze around the 200 meter oval in 20.62, well ahead of second place 21.02. This kid is starting to look like the second coming of Curtis Mitchell – another California JC transfer who ended up running 19.99 for the Aggies. Webb is beginning to look like he has that kind of potential as well.

On the women’s side, of the ledger the lady Aggies had a true freshman emerge as Webb’s female counterpart, Kamaria Brown sped 22.86 to defeat Sr. teammate Dominique Duncan (23.14). The women’s 200 at the Trials is already going to be a burner. If Brown is indeed as good as she looked against Duncan, the battle for airline tickets to London could get really interesting in Eugene.

Outside of the above, the collegiate ranks lacked the oomph and pizzaz that we typically see this time of year. Usually it’s the college athletes excelling during the winter and the elites taking their time getting going. This year while we still have a large group of elite athletes that have yet to take to the stage, those that have competed have done so at a very high level. The question for many is just how long they can keep that peak.

There were a few things I missed yesterday that I wanted to pick up on today. One was German pole vaulter Bjorn Otto who vaulter 5.92m (19’ 5”) in Potsdam. While he was overshadowed in the headlines by Isinbayeva’s new WR this weekend, Otto’s mark is #2 on the season and only .01m off Renaud Lavillenie’s world lead! More impressively it’s the second time this year he has cleared that mark – signaling a very consistent arrival at the top. While I’m talking about vaulters I need to mention American Brad Walker who won in Albuquerque by clearing 5.86m (19’ 2.75”) putting him in striking distance of the world best at this point in the season.

Speaking of being in striking distance AND replicating a mark from earlier in the season, that sounds like Gil Roberts who won the US 400 title by running 45.39 for the second time this year – both on the track in Albuquerque. the time puts Roberts in a position to challenge Grenada’s Kirani James in Istanbul. But I have to say after watching them both, that James is stronger athlete, and Roberts is going to have to relax and flow much better on that second lap if he hopes to have success against James. Roberts hasn’t been afraid to lead races this year, however, so it will be interesting to see if he will force the race on James in Turkey.

The lineups for the World Indoor Champs are starting to come in. I’ll be taking a look at some of the teams and matchups as the week goes on.

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