It was only a couple of weeks ago that we were talking about the Indoor World Championships, yet here we are in the month of March and we have our first “sub” of the season! Sub meaning a mark under a typically accepted elite threshold – like a sub-10 100 for men, sub-4:00 1500 for women, or a sub 27:00 10,000 for men. Typically I would run a poll around the end of the month asking which event would see the first “sub”, but I won’t be doing that this year because we already have our first “sub” of the year courtesy of Mr.Wallace Spearmon (USA)!
Scanning the results earlier looking for elite marks, my eyes had to do a double take because Spearmon who ran a windy 10.05 last weekend doubled the distance at the Bobby Lane Invitational and came away with a 19.95 (+1.8) victory! That’s sub-20 and we aren’t even talking about Easter Break just yet! There’s no doubt now whether or not Spearmon is healthy – he’s healthy, fit, and must be considered a threat to PR this year (current PR 19.65). The conversation over 200 just added another contender to the grouping of Bolt, Gay, Blake and Dix – and the deuce just became the most interesting of the all the sprints in my humble opinion – as this is easily the earliest we’ve seen Spearmon in this kind of form and his history is that he knows how to peak at the right time. So while it’s quite early, I have to believe he will be peaking, or near peaking at Trials and Games time. Now I’m dying to see the debuts of the other contenders!!
Another who’s history says we should be expecting even better things is 200 runnerup Jeremy Wariner who finished in 20.53 – easily his fastest in March and confirmation that he too is both fit and fast. I would have to think that by the summer – Trials/Games – his speed should be somewhere near his 20.19 PR which would bode well for him running sub-44 this year. That takes the 400 conversation to the Merritt, James, Wariner stage and means the rest of the world has a lot of work to do if they want to have a shot at the podium in London! The 200 wasn’t the only event at a hyper level in Texas however, as Darvis (Doc) Patton eyed “sub” in the 100 clocking a WL legal mark of 10.04 (+1.1). It’s not quite the realm that we see Bolt and Gay opening at – 9.8/9.7 in a good year – but for Patton to be near sub-10 so early bodes well for the veteran. Patton was a finalist in Beijing and if he’s near his PR (9.89) in Eugene will have a say about who makes the team for London.
Before I leaving Arlington, Charles Silmon (TCU) cranked out another top level 100 with his 10.21 (+1.5), and Kenyan Kennedy Kithuka (Wayland Baptist) had a very nice 13:37.95 5000 meters. Silmon is beginning to look like one of the top collegiate sprinters so far this season, and if he continues to improve could make some noise at the Trials in June. I will be mentioning several other collegiate athletes/marks as I go on, but suffice it to say that it’s looking like the outdoor collegiate season is going to be a bit hotter than the indoor season.
Staying in the state of Texas for a minute there were some interesting results at the UTEP Invitational. Often marks at UTEP are somewhat poo pooed because of the altitude (1140m above sea level), but this weekends marks were hindered by headwinds. So when a known quantity like Texas Tech’s Gil Roberts runs 10.37 (-1.2) and 20.54 (-0.6) in March I have to take notice. Same for Omo Osaghe and his 13.65 (-1.2). At the very least they have to be considered as approaching form very early. It also bodes well for quarter miler Vernon Norwood (South Plains) as 45.72 is a very good time this time of year.
The best 400 action of the weekend however, took place in California at the Trojan Invitational at USC where USC’s Josh Mance covered the oval in 45.65 before combining with his teammates for a 3:02.24 4×4 to defeat defending NCAA champion Texas A&M’s 3:03.16! Only 20 squads ran faster than USC’s mark all of last year, 15 of them national teams! Texas A&M returned the favor in the 4×1 with a 39.48 as things were hot all afternoon in Southern California. Trojan Aaron Brown won the 100 in 10.25 (+1,0) inserting himself into the collegiate 100 conversation. Then indoor 200 champion Ameer Webb (TxAM) continued to run well in the deuce,, this time with a 20.46 win. A hot 800 saw Mike Preble (TxAM) win in 1:46.43 over Elijah Greer (OR) 1:46.84 with both programs showing overall team depth as they will play prominent roles later at the NCAA Championships. On that note, hurdlers Reggie Wyatt (USC) 49.95 and Jonathan Cabral (OR) 13.74 (+1.4) gave indication that they will also be individual factors this year. Cabral’s mark is quite impressive as he is a freshman (last year’s CA HS champion) and is adjusting quite well to the higher international barriers.
Speaking of hurdlers, I see that Johnny Dutch (USA) is continuing to double and work on his hurdling early. This time running a 110h/400H double at the Weems Baskin Invitational in South Carolina. At 13.67 (+1.1) in the short race and 50.66 around the oval, Dutch’s season appears to be on track. Also in SC was hammer thrower A.J. Kruger (USA) with a nice early toss of 75.46m/247’ 7”.
I spotted results from a couple other veterans at the UCF Invitational in Florida where Travis Padgett (USA) and Simone Facey (JAM) look to be preparing for the season’s ensuing sprint wars. Padgett at 10.21 (+2.3) and Facey (+2.0) riding barely illegal and legal winds to their times. There was also some nice collegiate 4×1 running with Clemson (43.50), UCF (43.58), and Ohio St (43.88) turning in nice times – and an unattached squad clocking 3:28.39 in the 4×4.
Finally there was some noise in the state of Arizona at the AzSt Invitational as the host Sun Devils sped a lap of the track in 39.38. They also had Ryan Milus (10.21) and Derrick Hinch (18’0.5”) turn in solid marks as AzSt begins to look like they could be a factor at this year’s NCAA Championships. Before closing Isiah Young (Ole Miss) took over the NCAA 100 lead at 10.16 (+0,1) at the SEC/Big Ten meet – another young sprinter to keep an eye on.
All in all a pretty impressive set of marks for what should have been a “quiet” weekend. Clearly athletes like Spearmon, Dutch, and Wariner are on a mission in 2012. Spearmon has set the bar high early, yet with four men starting the season with PR’s between 19.19 / 19.58 anyone hoping to be in the mix needs to be under 20 seconds pretty early this year. If you’re wondering about early season sub-20s, Frank Fredericks has the earliest I can find at 19.92 on Feb 25th 1999 in Melbourne Australia. The fastest ever March opener was a 19.71 by Michael Johnson (USA) on March 18th in the altitude of Pietersberg South Africa. Shawn Crawford (USA) ran 19.85 on April 12, 2002 in Pretoria South Africa’s altitude; Jeff Williams (USA) 19.87 on April 13, 1996 in Fresno; and Spearmon himself ran 19.97 on April 17, 2005 at Mt Sac. Michael Johnson got his 1996 record setting season going with a 19.83 on May 18th on the historic Atlanta track. Usain Bolt has the best early season mark at 19.56 in Kingston on May 1st 2010. And Tyson Gay’s PR 19.58 was set in his season opener on May 30 2009. So a bit of history to ponder as Spearmon’s season begins to evolve. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of the deuce and this season is shaping up to be one for the books if everyone shows up healthy and ready to roll!