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

Saturday, A Day of Track and Field

Apr 28th, 2014
10:39 am PDT

Lashawn MerrittIn the year 2014 we finally got what I’ve always known TV could give us -  a full day of track & field! The thought of watching track all day on television has been a dream of mine forever.There is an old saying however, be careful what you ask for, you might it. and my day of sitting in the comfort of my home watching track and field had it’s moments. Starting with the "venerable" Penn Relays.

I know that the "concept" of "The USA v The World" creates an aura of excitement for Penn and sells tickets, but this year’s squads were really lacking in star power and truly elites, which for me was rather disappointing.  Combine that with the fact that while Penn is touted as one of America’s best meets, NBC clearly didn’t think so as it sent the "B" announcing team to Pennsylvania to call the meet. The combination of "B" team plus what ended up being a "B" meet made for a very difficult broadcast to watch if you are a true fan of the sport.

Announcing wise, NBC should have more than one squad put together to announce a meet. After all, it’s been the home of the Olympics since the boycotted Games of 1984. You would think that being the television "home’ of the Olympics and track and field being the signature sport that they would have developed enough talent to pull off two meets in a day. Alas, such was not the case, as both the meet, and the announcing came off as second tier.

To give some credit to the announcing crew, they weren’t given a lot to work with. If I were the head of USA Track and Field and I’m presenting a high level meet on TV with the focus on "The USA v The World" I would have worked well in advance to ensure that "Team USA" was of the highest caliber! So that the viewing public would see the best the sport has to offer in an attempt to show America what we have in terms of talent. To draw viewers back to the television the next time a meet is presented on television and to, just perhaps, persuade the public to come out and actually watch track and field. I can tell you this type of approach does work. At the high school where I coach, I’ve taken over a failing program where not even the few athletes that used to go out for the sport would watch. Now, however, that we have quality athletes competing at a high level and running in meets like Stanford and The Meet of Champions, attendance at home meets is up and people are coming out and watching. Believe it or not people in America will watch "quality" track when it’s presented.

That’s not what we got at Penn however. The US teams looked to be put together at the last minute – and in some cases we were told that they were. There was a lack of foreign stars, but more importantly a huge lack of American star power. The lack of the best of the foreigners in not necessarily under the control of USATF – though a corporation like Nike could assist except they keep their efforts confined to an upper corner of the Northwest of the US – but gathering US talent should be within the realm of USATF and it’s CEO! So far, however, putting together quality meets in the United States and increasing visibility of the sport does not seem to be a part of his agenda. Until it is, we will continue to get meets like this that do little to build the sport. Which means we will be reliant on those running meets, with little help from the sport.

To that end, while I know that Penn has a rich history, it could do better as it moves through the new millennium. For example, while it’s nice that Jamaica has a presence in the meet, it almost seems like it’s a Jamaican showcase as opposed to a US showcase in the high school events, which is where we begin to get a glimpse of the future of the sport. Having only two US high school teams among the plethora of Jamaican talent on display is almost deplorable. Then touting the Jamaican dominance as the announcers are constantly want to do, with the dearth of US talent that is brought to the table, without mentioning that A) the Jamaican kids peak earlier because their championships meets are nearly two months ahead of ours, AND that the Jamaican kids tend to be nearer Jr College age unfairly demeans our own talent! We have so much to learn about "presentation" here in the US.

All that said, the day wasn’t completely lost. As things moved to Drake for their relays, we were blessed with the "A" team of US announcing, AND a field of much better talent!

We were treated to an outstanding mile where the rabbit stole the race! An epic early season showdown in the men’s 400 with the last two Olympic and World Champions squaring off. The match-up of LaShawn Merritt and Kirani James didn’t disappoint with Merritt winning in an outstanding early season best of 44.45. We saw last year’s hurdle sensation Brianna Rollins run an outstanding opener of 12.58 only to lose by thousandths of a second to this year’s up and coming C
Kristi Castlin. In the field Canada’s Derek Drouin soared 7′ 10.5" to become the #5 high jumper ever in the sport. And viewers got a look at recent WJR 100 setter Trayvon Bromwell anchor Baylor to a in in the 4×1.

When you have talent in a meet, it’s a joy to watch. And THAT is the lesson that USATF needs to take away from the weekend. When you have the money – and they recently signed a HUGE contract with Nike that I want to talk about shortly – you have the ability to put the talent on the track that will drive viewership and attendance!

Soon we’ll see just what direction USATF has for this sport. But this past weekend it was all about television for hours. I would say a "C" in Pennsylvania and a B+ in Iowa. Good, but we can do much better.

Florida’s Dukes Up at Florida Relays

Apr 12th, 2014
12:26 pm PDT

Two weeks ago, the sprint world got to see young Trayvon Bromwell, come ever so close to the 10 second barrier with sizzling runs of 10.02 and 10.01 at the Texas Relays. In the process becoming the first "breakout" sprinter of the young season. If the question on the table was "Who's next",  it was rapidly answered by the host Gators at last weekend's Florida Relays, as their sprint corps put their "Dukes" up and delivered an answering blow to the early season sprint wars Read More...

Young Sprinters Starting to Step Up

Mar 30th, 2014
10:07 am PDT

The indoor season got started with records falling week after week. As hot a start to a new year as I can remember. Then like a snowstorm it got very quiet. The World Indoor Championships were missing the electric performers and performances of the early season. And while the team competition at the NCAA meet gave some excitement to the end of the indoor season, January was much more exciting Read More...

USATF Champs (The Guard is Changing)

Feb 28th, 2014
7:25 pm PDT

We're getting close to the debut of the outdoor season. As entertaining as indoors has been so far, it's merely the prelims for the real show outdoors. That said we still have a few weeks of indoor action left - what should be the most exciting part of all, championships. Last weekend's USATF meet, set the stage for  collegiate conferences, the NCAA's themselves, and the World Indoor Championships Read More...

You Know It’s an Off Season When …

Feb 17th, 2014
5:28 pm PDT

Track and Field exists in its own alternate universe where semi finals consist of THREE heats, and the focus on promoting the sport is NOT on the competition, but  individual performances! In that same vein, it's the rare sport where its most outstanding performances tend to occur outside of  championship settings and in seasons where there is no major championships at all - the Off Season Read More...

USATF Should Be Split

Jan 15th, 2014
9:32 am PDT

As the year ended I reflected on the sport as I see it. I continue to look at a sport that many say is dying, and continue to see a sport that I feel just needs tweaking.  Not the sport itself. The full slate of events should be contested - and on the track, not down the middle of the street. No, I think the tweaking needs to occur within its administration Read More...

We Need MORE Track Towns, Not Just One

Dec 29th, 2013
9:19 am PDT

In my last post, I mentioned several things that I would like to see happen in 2014 - and I will address all ten of them during the early part of the new year. Reading the news yesterday morning, however, I decided to close out the year with something I don't want to see happen. The establishment of permanent sites for major championship meets in the United States Read More...

Out With the Old, in With Something New?

Dec 15th, 2013
10:12 am PDT

We've got about a week and a half  until Christmas, then another week until the calendar turns to 2014. Somehow it seems like a long way back to Moscow and it feels like it's been a very long year in general. I've not posted in a couple weeks or so because I've been reflecting back on the season, trying to figure out just what I wanted to say, because to be honest it hasn't been my favorite season ever Read More...

Year Round Sports Are Depleting US Track

Nov 20th, 2013
5:22 pm PDT

As we've watched the world catch up to us in the speed events – sprints, hurdles, relays – we've often complained about other sports stealing talent away from track and field. Especially when speed burners like Trindon Holliday, Jeff Demps, and Tyreek Hill come along and opt to focus their considerable talents on football Read More...

Mary Cain to Go Pro

Nov 17th, 2013
8:19 am PDT

It had to happen sooner or later, a high school phenomenon turning pro. After all, we've seen world class high schoolers in the past. Certainly several WAY back during the early days of track and field when youngsters like Bob Mathias were dominant internationally. Even during what I consider the modern era of the sport – The 1960's forward, athletes like, Houston McTear, Mary Decker, Dwayne Evans, and Gerry Lindgren among others were among the top world class level athletes Read More...