I didn’t include Sally yesterday because frankly she just didn’t have any competition – none. Yes there were other women out there, but we all knew she was running a time trial – and what a time trial! One meet, that’s all she’s had indoors all year. One meet and she clocked 7.73 making her equal 4th all-time – and she was only .05 off the WR! This woman is on track to do some wonderful things outdoors this year – remember she’s already run 12.46 and the outdoor record is 12.21.
Let’s continue with the women for a bit, because another woman that I didn’t mention was Sanya Richards Ross (USA) – winner of the 400 and anchor on the 4×4. I didn’t mention Sanya earlier because her meet was mixed for me. In the open race she dominated, winning in 50.79 – which tells me that she back on track to have a good season outdoors this year. A good season being she should be back under 50 seconds outdoors – given the current state of women’s quartermiling 49-low wins gold. That’s the positive side for Sanya. After that performance however, I had hoped to see her bring home gold in the relay as well, and I thought she would run down Shakes-Drayton, the British anchor, but that didn’t happen as they virtually ran the same times on anchor. Richards Ross didn’t look like that dominant quartermiler in that instance, which tells me she’s still got a bit of work to do. But she’s much further along than at this time last year, so I’m hoping we’ll see a low-49/high48 Sanya again this year. Cause we know that she and Allyson Felix together on a 4×4 is golden – and I would love to see them against the world over 400 with gold on the line.
I spoke yesterday of the women’s 800 and the return to form of gold medalist Pamela Jelimo (KEN). Surprising most people on the podium was bronze medalist Erica Moore (USA) who became the =9th American of all-time indoors with her 1:59.97 PR – her best time indoors or out (2:00.17 outdoor PR). Moore joins a group of 800 runners that have just been turning up the heat over the last few seasons – Morgan Uceny, Anna Pierce, Maggie Vessey, Alice Schmidt, Phoebe Wright, Alysia Mntano, et al – and suddenly an event that we were weak in in Beijing, has become one that we could possibly medal in in London. And before moving on, I have to say I like Moore’s front running style. She looked good in Albuquerque, but I wasn’t sure she could hold on when the pace got faster – well she did. Giving us, Montano, Wright and Moore as serious front runners in the 800. The Trials should be a great race.
Finally, at least for the women, I have to acknowledge Chaunte Lowe’s return to the high jump wars with her 1.98m (6’ 6”) win. In the process she beat a couple of very good jumpers in defending Olympic champion, Tia Hellebaut (BEL), and world leader Anna Chicherova (RUS). Lowe only had two misses on the day, and was the only woman to clear the winning height – this after missing last year to maternity! Lowe is back in a big way having cleared an indoor PR 2.02m (6’ 7.5”) earlier this winter and now winning a major title. Next stops, Eugene and London.
Moving to the men, I’m going to stay with the high jump, because there was a surprise champion, Dimitios Hondrokoukis (GRE). The winning mark (2.33m/7’ 7.75”) was modest for a major, but his poise against the likes of Jesse Williams (USA), Trevor Barry (BAH), Andrey Silnov (RUS) and Ivan Ukhov (RUS) was impressive – especially given the height he was getting over the bar. We’ll see if he can pull it off again in London, but he’s definitely one to watch moving forward, because clearly this guy can jump.
Speaking of modest performances, let’s talk about Bernard Lagat (USA) who once again proved that if you want to beat him, you must set a blistering pace or he will simply hunt you down at the end. Because if you let the pace dawdle, as they did in Istanbul, Lagat will turn on the afterburners and once he does it’s lights out the party’s over! His winning time of 7:41.44 in the 3000 is modest when compared to the all-time list, but there was nothing modest about the way he dismantled the field in the final quarter mile. Even “speedsters” like Augustine Choge (KEN), Mo Farah (GBR) and Dejen Gebremeskel (ETH) were no match for Lagat’s “overdrive” gear. If they want to keep him off the podium in London, they’d best try another tactic.
One of the more impressive performances that I missed yesterday was the 7.44 win the men’s hurdles by Aries Merritt (USA) – yes I got the right person. Typically when we talk about the hurdles we are talking about some combination of Liu Xiang (CHN), Dayron Robles (CUB), David Oliver (USA) or Terrence Trammell (USA). Well Merritt beat Oliver and Trammell in Albuquerque; and although Robles pulled out of Worlds, Liu was there and Merritt beat him too! Merritt’s rounds and final at both Nationals and Worlds were solid. His starts have been good and his form tight – that trail arm is not quite a helicopter over his head these days. Suddenly Merritt looks like he could be the real deal. Not that he isn’t a good hurdler – he made the teams for both Berlin and Daegu, making the finals at Worlds last year. But at this rate he could have the kind of year Jason Richardson had last year where everything comes together and he ends up on the podium in London. The men’s 110 hurdles has the three fastest men in history, but others are beginning to show they can make cracks in their armor – which means this event is going to sizzle this summer because these guys compete against each other often!
I was going to talk about the NCAA’s but I think they deserve their own time and space, so I’ll come back tomorrow to look at their performances. Like I said, it was a great weekend of track and field.