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

Prefontaine was HOT!

Jun 1st, 2015
6:34 am PST

Justin GatlinOnce again Pre was as good a meet as any on the planet. Which begs the question, why can’t we do this more often? It’s a rhetorical question of course, because the simple answer is MONEY! It takes a boat load of money to put on a quality meet these days, and who has that kind of money laying around? Yes, Eugene touts itself as "Track Town USA", but let’s be real – it’s in Nike’s back yard! Nuff said.

I’ve said for years that the answer to track and field’s "issues" with attendance is not tied to street races, concerts, or pole vaulting in the parking lot. The answer is real simple – put the best on the track and let them compete. The problem is the cost of athletes is generally too high to do so. The Pre Classic shows just what can happen with enough money and the right invitations.

So what did we get Saturday with Nike’s money? How about Olympic and World champions. World Record holders. Deep fields. World leaders. And ultimately some of the best competition you’ll find outside of a global championship! Not a bad return on investment.

I mean, look at the women’s 100. There were TWO races, with each having women run under 10.90! Olympic and World champion Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce was fastest winning her heat in a WL 10.81 (equaled by Muriel Ahoure with Tori Bowie. 01 down ). She had been preceded by English Gardner showering a fine return to form with a 10.84 win over new comer Elaine Thompson (same time) following a couple of down seasons of her own. Such was the competition in Oregon that another four women were under 11.10. The World Championships could be brutal.

Great racing and match ups were the order of the day. Allyson Felix v Sanya Richards Ross saw Felix run 50.05 in what appeared to be an easy win over Sanya (50.29). Felix looks to be back in form this year having run 21.97 earlier in Doha – and that’s not a good sign for the rest of the world’s long sprinters. At her best Allyson is capable of winning either event at Worlds. I’m just waiting to see which she chooses – or if she attempts both.

On the men’s side, we got another round of James v Merritt, which once again was dominated by Kirani running a WL 43.95. But take note that Merritt was second in Eugene in 44.51 a huge improvement over his seasons best. It’s a ways until August and the World Championships. Those engraving Kirani’s name on the gold may want to wait just a minute. I have no doubt that either he or Lashawn will win. I’m just not ready to write Merritt off yet.

I’m also really liking what I’m seeing in Ajee Wilson. She and Eunice Sum went down to the wire in the 800 Sum getting the narrow 1:57.82/1:57.87 win. But so fast so early for Ajee (just off her PR) bodes well for her chances in Beijing. I feel the same about Jenny Simpson who seemed in control of the 1500 as she came home in 4:00.98. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of sub 4:00 runs between now and Worlds, including by Jenny herself, but Championships go to the savvy, and Jenny has become THAT runner.

Sort of like Matthew Centrowitz who narrowly lost the mile as his 3:51.20 was just short of Ayanleh Souleman’s 3:51.10. Of all the American milers, Centro seems to always be where he needs to be in a race – which means he always has a chance to place. Savvy.

Of course the sport is track AND field, and with Nike money you can pay for BOTH! So we got outstanding performances there as well. Like Renaud Lavillenie vaulting 19′ 10.25" and Barshim Mutaz clearing 7′ 10. 75" with relative ease before simply shutting it down having done enough for the day. Leaving Guowei Zhang (7′ 9.75") and Erik Kynard (7′ 8. 5") in his wake – Ivan Ukhov, Donald Thomas, Jesse Williams, and Derek Drouin merely spectators in this one.

We also had a relative who’s who in the air put resulting in three men over 70 feet led by Joe Kovacs 72′ 7" heave. As he beat out David Storl (71′ 11") and Ryan Whiting (70′ 1.5") among others.

This was the quality that Nike put into Hayward Field stadium on Saturday. Olympic and World Championships level talent on display right here in a US meet – it can be done for the right price! And with this assemblage of talent and competition perhaps no event was as anticipated as the men’s 200. Often overlooked in favor of the 100 metres, the deuce was a focus Saturday in large part because the yearly leader in the 100 was entered! Justin Gatlin had opened his season in Doha with a sizzling 9.74 (fastest season opener ever) – and sprint fans like myself were curious as to what he would do over the longer distance. He didn’t disappoint dominating the turn then equaling his PR of 19.68 in Eugene! Gatlin ran by 19.8 performer Alonso Edwards before he got out of his drive phase!

Dare I say that at this point in the season Gatlin is throwing down Boltish performances. Even better than Bolt himself who opened up with a modest for him 20.13 in Ostrava – though the conditions weren’t great. Still if you’re a sprint fan the idea that there could once again be true competition in the sprints at Worlds is exciting. The last real anticipated "showdown" was 2009 – and that got us 9.58!

If this year’s Pre Classic taught us two things it’s that you can still put on a world class meet if your pockets are deep enough, and this year’s crop of elite athletes are ready to roll after last year’s "off" season. 2015 is going to be HOT!

Better Track Reporting

May 24th, 2015
10:04 pm PST

2014 was an off season in the world of track and field. There was no major championship of any kind at the elite level, and that translated into rest and time off for many of the sports major stars. It also translated into time off from writing for me, as I focused more on coaching my high school athletes (state runner up in the 300H); watching the sport and keeping my opinions to myself; and dealing with a major health issue (had an aneurysm in January) Read More...

US Sprint Future on Display in Eugene

Jul 29th, 2014
1:04 pm PST

The World Junior Championships closed out a near week long run Sunday in oft rainy Eugene - yes rain struck yet another big meet here. And while I continue to have my own thoughts about making this remote northwest corner of the country the focus of the sport here in the US, one thing that did become clear is that US sprint fortunes look better than they have for a couple of decades! First my two biggest beefs of the meet Read More...

Events I’ll Be Watching at US Nationals

Jun 25th, 2014
7:41 pm PST

Typically Nationals is one of the two hottest meets of the year behind only the World Championships or Olympics. This is an "off season" however, that once every four years non championship season. So the full complement of elites looking to make a global team is a bit lighter than usual. My biggest disappointment in this regards is the Men's 100 which is missing Justin Gatlin and the new kid on the block Trayvon Bromell,  as neither of the year's two fastest Americans is entered in the competition Read More...

My Thoughts on the World Relay Championships

Jun 21st, 2014
4:21 pm PST

Focusing on coaching my high school kids, I missed discussing the early season to date, primarily the Diamond League and the World Relays Championship. That's a lot of action/discussion, so will tackle one then the other and will start with the World Relays Championships since the subject has already come up Read More...

NCAA Championships

Jun 17th, 2014
10:46 am PST

This was a very busy week of track and field for the true fan of the sport. Oslo, the NCAA Championships, and the New York Grand Prix were all contested within a four day period, with some form of media broadcast available for all four days of action! Finally, technology and track providing fans with serious coverage of the sport Read More...

Perhaps the Youth Will Lead

Jun 11th, 2014
10:28 pm PST

It's early June and the "elite"  track season is about to hit high gear. Pre last week; Oslo today; NCAA Championships started today; and the New York Grand Prix on Saturday. It doesn't get much better than that if you're a track fan - or does it? Well, on the flip side of the coin, the high school athletes here in California are just winding down their season Read More...

Saturday, A Day of Track and Field

Apr 28th, 2014
10:39 am PST

In 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 Read More...

Florida’s Dukes Up at Florida Relays

Apr 12th, 2014
12:26 pm PST

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 PST

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...