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

The Transition to Outdoors Begins

Mar 18th, 2012
9:38 am PST

The World Championships was a great way to to end the indoor season. There was lots of great competition and performances. Now, if you’re like me, you’re chomping at the bit for more action. Unfortunately this time of year is sort of like dawn – that time of day where yesterday ends and today begins – because the outdoor season is just waking up as we put indoors to bed, and there just isn’t that much real action yet.

So over the next couple of weeks or so, as things heat up, I’ll be taking a look at trying to preview the outdoor season. I’ll do that in sections – Sprints, Hurdles, Middle Distances, Long Distances, Jumps and Throws. There will be action to comment on however, some of it very interesting if you know where to look.Because this time of year while individuals that competed indoors are taking a brief “rest” while making their transition from the small confines of indoors to outdoor training and competition, those that didn’t compete indoors, or did so sparingly, begin to test themselves outdoors – often in events that aren’t their specialties.

WarinerFor example, scanning the results links from this weekend’s action I came upon some interesting, if not spectacular results. Let’s start with the TCU Invitational where Horned Frog student Charles Silmon opened his outdoor season with a collegiate leading 10.18 (+1.5) – a very good opening mark. But there were a couple of other performances that I found more interesting. One was a 20.66w (+2.6) deuce by Jeremy Wariner (USA) who, as I suspected a couple of weeks ago, is working on his speed early this season. This follows up on his 20.91 indoor mark he ran in Fayetteville at the beginning of the month, and is slightly faster than the 20.71 (+0.1) opener Wariner ran in this meet last year. Giving him a good start to the Olympic season. We now know that he is healthy, and that his speed is being developed. For me he has to be a part of the Kirani James, LaShawn Merritt conversation of gold medal contenders in London. At twenty eight years old, a healthy Wariner is the most decorated quartermiler out there and must be considered a threat , because he’s shown that at his best he knows how to win.

Another veteran that was working on his speed in Texas was Wallace Spearmon who sped the fastest 100 of the day at 10.06w (+2.8). That’s the fastest season opener we’ve seen from Spearmon under any conditions since ‘08 when he opened at 10.13 (+1.8) in Kingston in May – definitely the fastest he’s ever run this time of year! That says a lot for a man with 9.96 (‘07) / 19.65 (‘06) credentials. More importantly it signals that Spearmon just might be past his injury woes of the last several seasons! If so he could be a factor in the deuce this year – both in Eugene and London. Many forget that just two years ago, while trying to get back to form, his 19.79 took down Yohan Blake’s 19.86 – and that Spearmon is still only 27 years old. He is still in his prime, and if good health is on his side will be a factor in the event.

Another who looked good early in Texas was hurdler Nicole Denby (USA) who ran 12.92w (+3.2). It’s not the 12.47 we saw from Sally Pearson (AUS), but it makes her the second woman this season to run under 13.00 under any conditions and is a great way to start the season for a woman with a 12.54 (‘08) PR. Especially given that her SB last year was only 12.98, and it’s her best time since that Olympic year of 2008. Since then Denby has battled with injuries, so perhaps Olympic seasons agree with Ms. Denby. We’ll see how her path to Eugene and her battle for an Olympic berth goes.

At the Shamrock Invitational in South Carolina, another hurdler made an interesting appearance as intermediate hurdler Johnny Dutch (USA) ran an 800/110H double. Dutch completed the two laps of the track in 1:56.28 showing at least that he’s been working on his endurance. His hurdle time was 13.86 (+0.6) which means that both his speed and hurdling technique are in fine form. Neither mark will make him a contender in those events, but combined say that the 47.63 (‘10) hurdler is on his way to 2010 form – and that could both put him on the US team and find him in contention for the podium. It’s a long season, but Dutch seems to be off to a nice start.

Finally I want to mention the Baldy Castillo Invitational in Arizona where newly minted NCAA 200 champion burned a windy 10.05 (+4.9). Yes there was considerable wind, but for a man that is more of a 200 meter specialist, like Spearmon, it shows great leg speed, especially for this time of year. And it cements for me that this kid is going to play a role in the event at some level this year. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that sub 20 is in his future if he can stay healthy.

Not a bad start for the dawn of the outdoor season! More about the sprinters and hurdlers early – mid and long distance runners won’t turn on the jets for another month or so. The relay season should get rolling in earnest in the next few weeks, and after a brief respite the jumpers should begin to stretch out a bit. Based on what we’ve already seen indoors and out I think it’s safe to say that this is going be one outstanding season. So I guess I’d best get started trying to map it out. Next up I’ll start with previews to the season.

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