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

Track at the Half

Jun 5th, 2017
3:38 pm PDT

TaylorThere has been SO much negative happening within the sport this winter and spring. It’s been akin to the rain here in California. In track we typically wish for more to be written – just as we here in Cali have wanted more rain. Yet here in California we were deluged with rain this spring to the point of near floods in some areas. Similarly in track, the news about drugs, suspensions, conspiracies, and leadership being involved negatively at the highest levels have given me pause to contemplate. So I’ve resisted the urge to speak my mind, as week after week negative news has abounded. Instead focusing on coaching, as working with youth continues to reinforce my belief in the sport when the greed of professionalism is set aside!

Not that I’ve been surprised. Many things I’ve said in the past, and been castigated for, have proven correct. Because one of the real problems in this sport, is the collective turning of heads the other way – as the sport allows itself to be dragged down. Which is why I will say that we need to clean house at the top, because too many have clearly been complicit – money, and it’s pursuit does that. The focus from leadership has been ensuring that we have "stars"; and that records are being set; and not enough on what truly makes this sport great – COMPETITION!

On that note, we’re at what I consider to be the half way point in the season. The preliminaries have been completed – the early season relay meets; the high school season; collegiate meets up to that thing called Regionals; and the first few international competitions. Leading us into the major championships – NCAA, USATF, and global National Championships.

So, as we head into the good stuff, what do I think about what has already happened? Following are my thoughts heading into this week’s NCAA Championships.

World Relays and Penn Relays. I put them together because both are "attempts" at the US pulling together teams to compete against the rest of the world – and we do a horrible job of it! While countries like Canada, China, Britain and Japan, major players internationally, show up with their best. We consistently show up with teams of "whatever we can pull together". We really need to look at some type of system that brings our best together if only for a weekend here or there to begin preparing for Olympic and World competition. It’s possible. USATF needs to make it a priority. I’ve personally looked at how it can accomplished. It wouldn’t be that difficult.

What HAS been exciting to watch however, is the new blood rising in the sport. Especially on the sprint side here in the US. Our core has aged and we’ve needed new blood to step up. Thankfully this seems to be the year. On the men’s side Christian Coleman, Ronnie Baker, Noah Lyles, and Fred Kerley seemed best positioned to have a global impact this year. On the women’s side, there’s Dejah Stevens, Arianna Washington, and Shakima Wembley look like this could be their year to have an impact.

But the real excitement has been among the international women -both foreign and domestic. Early on Elaine Thompson looked unbeatable, handling all comers and turning in 10.78/22.09 efforts. Then at Pre, Tori Bowie threw down a 21.77 that turned back Thompson (SB, 21.98), Dafne Schippers, and Allyson Felix among others. Then turned around and set a WB in the 150. Second in that Pre race was Shaunae Miller Uibo (21.91) who’d already run 49.77 in her speciality, and has since blazed a 21.76 straight in Boston the same day Bowie set her 150 mark. London is going to be HOT on the women’s side. And once again the race of the meet could be the 200 with Miller Uibo attempting a long sprint double and coming head to head with Bowie, Thompson, and Schippers!

Meanwhile the top men have been trying to find their way. Bolt hasn’t competed aside from a coed relay in the Bahamas. And Gatlin & DeGrasse haven’t been close to "championship" form, losing to lesser sprinters. Instead it’s been South Africans dominating the early sprint headlines, with Akani Simbine (9.92) being the dominant short sprinter on the year to date. And three of the top five sprinters on the clock currently are Africans. We haven’t seen African representation like that since the early nineties!

That said, the two best performances on the men’s side have been in the field. First what I consider to be the best mark of the beginning of the season – Christian Taylor’s 59’ 5” to win at Pre. Personally, I thought Taylor was AOY last year, based on consistency ALL year, to go with outstanding marks.Already#2 all time in the triple jump he threw down the 3rd farthest triple jump of all time at Pre. Moving to #2 all time in the javelin was Thomas Roheler with his 308’ .75” toss – the #6 best mark of all time.

Back to sprinting, the man who would replace the soon to retire Usain Bolt, is 400 WR holder Wayde van Niekerk who has spent time in the short sprints early on this season, running 10.04/19.90 and 19.84 on a straight. Foreshadowing what could be another very fast excursion over 400 meters later in the season. Van Niekerk is positioning himself to be the next great thing!

Before that, however, we’ll have the NCAA Championships with Fred Kerley looking for the win and perhaps something faster than the 43.70 he’s already thrown down. I’m expecting lots of excitement this week. Florida is attempting to repeat as men’s champion, and has a very good chance with super freshman Grant Holloway; a pair of outstanding 400 hurdlers; next in line jumper De Andre Bates; and solid relay teams to go with several other complimentary athletes. Similarly I like Oregon’s women and their stable of sprinters. Though the LSU women could have a lot to say about that.

The collegiate athletes will be ready to throw down. Leading off what should be an exciting month of championship meets before the excitement of the European circuit sets in! Yes, we’re now entering the meat and potatoes part of the year. Time to settle in as the world’s best begin their drive towards the World Championships later this summer in London. Time for must see TV!

Track and Field Isn’t Broken, Management Is

Jan 12th, 2017
1:04 pm PDT

Reading all the recent headlines about track and field, one has to ask: What's wrong with the sport? I've asked myself that question several times. And after careful review I conclude that there's absolutely NOTHING wrong with the sport of track and field - NOTHING! Track and Field, the sport I fell in love with at the age of ten, is perhaps the most exciting sport in the world Read More...

The Fall and Winter of Negativity

Dec 13th, 2016
12:36 pm PDT

Rio was a letdown - and I LOVE me some track and field. But the Olympics are supposed to be the pinnacle of sport, and this one just didn't have that feel! The men's 400 final aside, the races were good, but lacked that "oomph" factor. It was the first Games I can remember where it was over and, well it was done - as in no one was talking about it anymore Read More...

Where is US Sprinting Headed?

Nov 10th, 2016
12:03 pm PDT

The US scored a huge medal haul in Rio - something always expected, but not always materialized. The expectations are always there because of our purported sprint and hurdle prowess. I say purported because in Rio it was our middle and long distance crew that led the way, as our sprint and hurdle crew has gotten a bit long in the tooth Read More...

USATF Athletes of the Year

Oct 30th, 2016
2:06 pm PDT

Given the recent articles in the news regarding Max Siegel and his elaborate lifestyle while USATF stagnates, I've held off saying anything at all about US track - though I have written a few things that I will begin to post. Today after seeing the choices for male and female athlete of the year, I feel that I should speak my mind, and begin voicing my opinions again Read More...

Does Track and Field Need to Change?

Sep 18th, 2016
3:06 pm PDT

Recently I saw an article asking whether or not we need to delete events from track and field - and if so which ones. The author said that we have to do this to increase the popularity of the sport. Among the reasons given was the attention span of the general public, and that meets are too long. An example that was given was the fact that track and field during the Olympics takes a little over a week to run!  It's not the first article I've seen on the subject - all with similar reasons given Read More...

Nike Customer Service Report 

Sep 12th, 2016
8:16 pm PDT

Normally I don't write about things not track related. But in many ways this is track related, so here goes. Recently I had to product "malfunctions" with two completely different outcomes/experiences. One was with my smart phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The Note comes with a special stylus that is really the heart of the phone Read More...

Post Rio Notes

Aug 26th, 2016
6:07 am PDT

The Rio Olympics are in the books. In spite of all the "worries" heading into the meet, it was the competition that ultimately (always does) stood out! Such is the nature of track and field - when we get our best together, the sport shines brightly. I've commented on most of the events during the course of the meet Read More...

Rio at the Close – Relays

Aug 22nd, 2016
7:57 pm PDT

​ At any point did Rio lost your attention? I didn't think so! This was the sport at its best - great head to head competition. I can't state that enough.  When you put the best on the track we have the greatest sport on the planet - hands down.   Of course, while there were several events contested over the final days, it was the relays that drew greatest attention Read More...

Rio Update – Surprises 

Aug 18th, 2016
2:11 pm PDT

​ As the Games switched focus from speed (and Bolt) too other events, shock and surprise has become the order of the day! Just as the men's 400 produced the most exciting result of the opening weekend, the women's race produced one of Rio's biggest shocks, as favorite Allyson Felix (49.51) was upset by the lunging/diving finish of Bahamian Shaunae Miller (49 Read More...