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

Pre–Outstanding Results, Lots of Questions

Jun 3rd, 2012
8:17 am PDT

Liu Xiang Trying to put something together on this meet has been giving me fits. Once again the Pre Classic was the best non championship meet on US soil. From the distance races Friday night (streamed live thank you) to the Bowerman Mile that closed out the NBC broadcast, the fields were top notch across the board. And at the end of the day, the results show 10 world leading performances, led by the very deep Kenyan 10,000 meter Trials.

But while the results were outstanding, in many cases they were also confusing, as favorites didn’t always perform like favorites; and American athletes often didn’t look like the Trials were a scant few weeks away. For example, that 8:34.47 in the women’s 3000 was run by Mariem Selsouli (MAR) not Sally Kipyego (KEN). The 3000 is an odd distance, but Sally doesn’t get out kicked the way she did today – does that make Selsouli a new player over 5000?

Then there was the men’s hurdles where Liu Xiang (CHN) equaled the WR (12.87), but the wind (2.4) was a tad over the allowable. The confusing part, or maybe not, was how easily he handled this field, which was only missing WR holder Dayron Robles (CUB) among major contenders for London – apparently Robles is having visa problems. That may have been a blessing in disguise for Robles, as Liu led from the gun to the tape without a hitch in one of the most dominant hurdle performances I’ve ever seen. Aries Merritt was second in 12.96 and was never in the race! David Oliver’s 13.13 was almost in another zip code as the AR holder is not looking like the hurdler of 2010. We’ve been talking about a “Big Three” in the hurdles for a couple of seasons now, as Robles, Liu, and Oliver are the three fastest in history, but right now the Big Three is looking like a runaway train called Liu Xiang – and I’m not sure he can be derailed.

You want a confusing race, try the men’s 400, Kirani James (GRN) and Lashawn Merritt (US) had their first head to head of the year with Merritt outrunning James to the line in a reverse replay of their Daegu battle -  Round One to Merritt. Except James won’t show in the results, and this race won’t count, because he false started out of the race, as the dumbest rule in sports once again raised it’s ugly head – this rule MUST be addressed and changed! James competed in the race by running under protest, but his result will never be known – even though he didn’t false start in the actual race, which went off without a hitch! And if you think the false start rule is bad, look down the results until you get to Jeremy Wariner – 5th even with the James DQ! At least James knows he was right there with Merritt, I’m wondering if Wariner is headed to another major at all!

Sanya R-RStaying with the quarter, Wariner’s stable mate Sanya Richards Ross (can I just say Richards?) faced the toughest 400 field of the season, including Jamaica Invitational conqueror Novlene Williams Mills (JAM), and World champion Amantle Montsho (BOT). Sanya ran her best race of the season winning in a WL 49.39. But she had to resort to coming from behind on Montsho however, as after once again going out hard in the first half of the race, the World champ went by her with a superior second turn – the same move that won her gold in Daegu. Call me crazy, but I’m not sure how many times Sanya can afford to let Montsho get away like that, because her fast early pace often leaves her a little short in the stretch. We’ll see how this plays out as the season goes on.

Speaking of early getaways, that’s what Allyson Felix (US) got in the deuce, as she made up the stagger on Carmelita Jeter before hitting the straight and cruising home on 22.26 in her season’s debut in the event. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but that might be deceiving however, as Jeter certainly didn’t look like a 10.8/10.7 sprinter today. Jeter looked like Bolt in Ostrava – a bit off – and we know what Bolt looked like in Rome. Don’t get me wrong, Felix looked solid and this debut was faster than she ran all of last year, but that turnover didn’t look fast enough to go by Jeter – and VCB ALWAYS burns the turn. I will feel a bit more secure about Felix when I see something under 22.00.

I’ll feel more secure about Walter Dix when I see him run again, maybe. Dix was supposed to run the double in Eugene and opened up in the 100. But a poor start left Dix behind the field early in the, and a flying Justin Gatlin (9.90) who looks like he’s starring in a T&F version of “Back to the Future” as he’s zipped back in time to 2006 to become the dominant sprinter in the US once again. Gatlin was technically “on” from gun to tape, while Dix broke down in the final 20/30 meters. With Tyson Gay still on the sidelines Gatlin is proving to be the man to beat. Meanwhile, Dix withdrew from the 200, leaving Wallace Spearmon to cruise to victory in 20.27 against a  2.1 mps headwind. Sir Walter is nothing if not a competitor, and typically performs best in championship settings. But I get nervous when athletes are pulling out of races this close to the Trials – which begs the question: where was Ryan Bailey when the 100 went off?

Adding to the confusion of the day Jamaica’s #3 all time in the 100,  Nesta Carter,  was trounced by teammate Nickel Ashmeade as Ashmeade’s 9.93 was well up on Carter’s 10.05. Based on their last couple of outings Ashmeade is looking like the Trials contender and Carter like he’s gone back to ’06 with Gatlin – except that wasn’t a good year for Carter.

Speaking of Back to the Future, that’s where most of our middle distance runners seen to be with just weeks ‘til the Trials. David Torrence scored a 3:52.01 PR in the mile – Asbel Kiprop literally cruising to a 3:49.40 WL in one of the easiest looking sub 3:50 miles I’ve ever seen. Alysia Montano scored a near PR 1:57.37 win in the 800 – to move to #2 on the year globally. And Alice Schmidt moved up from the half to the 1500 to score a 4:05.64 PR. But a whole slew of our best over the last couple seasons simply under performed including: Jenny Simpson, Anna Pierce, Shannon Rowbury, Lopez Lamong and Andrew Wheating – though I might cut Wheating a bit off slack as he’s coming off injury last year. But this is the group I thought would make us respectable in London this year, and right now they are well off the pace being set by the rest of the world.

Reese HoffaAll those questions aside there were still several standouts. The Kenyan men’s 10,000 Trials were everything they were built up to be. As was the Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH, 30:24.39) Florence Kiplagat (KEN, 30:24.85) battle over the same distance. Treating us to some of the best distance running ever seen in the US. The men’s 800 saw a terrific stretch run by Abubaker Kaki (SUD, 1:43.71) and Mohamed Aman (ETH). And a silky smooth mile win for Asbel Kiprop (KEN, 3:49.40) who runs the mile the way teammate David Rudisha runs the 800 – seemingly never leaving third gear!

On the US front, Christian Taylor and Will Claye continued to be the best pair of triple jumpers on the planet as Taylor continues to be clutch when the lights are on – this time with a WL 17.62m/57’ 9.75”, with Claye right behind at 17.48m/57’ 4.25” – these two are money. Galen Rupp scored a huge 5000 PR (12:58.90) in third as he "teamed" with Brit Mo Farah  (1st in 12:56.98) to shake up the Africans as Rupp is starting to really blossom! Reese Hoffa boomed a 21.81m/71’ 6.5”  as our shot putters continue to be one of our strengths. And we got an AR in the hammer as Jessica Cosby’s 74.19 found her in 4th against a field that included Betty Heidler (GER), Anita Wlodarczyk (POL), and Tatyana Lysenko (RUS).

But with the Trials literally around the corner, and the Games less than two months away, there’s a lot of work to be done by a lot of athletes.

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12 Responses to “Pre–Outstanding Results, Lots of Questions”

  1. Anderson says:

    3 things:
    Go check the 100m race again, Dix pulled up with injury in the last 5-6 meters of the race. That’s why he pulled out of the 200.

    Sanya is running a more paced and controlled race than she used to. She’s going out hard the first 100, relaxing down the straight and attacking the final 200. I think this is much better a strategy than the going out hard she did pre 2009. That got her into more troubles.

    Also I remember you had the false start article, but regarding it now, I don’t think it should be changed. HS and College have had a one false start rule for way longer than any of the current athletes have been competing. Even though we as fans would love to see top runners compete, this is a pretty simple rule to follow. And its not like it is stoping the runners from doing anything the aren’t supposed to do, its preventing them from gaining an advantage. Also its been almost 3 seasons since the rule change. If athlets aren’t adjusted by now how long will it really take them…

    • CHill says:

      Wasn’t sure if Dix pulled, cramped, or broke down .. But his race clearly had problems late .. Thank you for clarifying ..

      Santa is trying to pace her race better, no doubt about it .. I just worry that she isn’t the finisher that Felix or Montsho are, so she can’t let someone like that or Ohuruogu get away from her .. For all her fast times she’s only won gold once, because of what you and I are talking about ..

      I hear what you’re saying regarding the false starta, but to expect perfection in the events that lend themselves to the most tension is not realistic .. And yes high school and college use the rule and they LOSE quality competitors all the time – that doesn’t make it right .. Actually it shows how big a problem it is ..

  2. Fortyacres and a mule says:

    I agreed about the false start rule. Track and field officials, it seemed, always come up with these unrealistic proposal that put the sport at a disadvantage.It is bad enough already that we are not getting enough head to head clashes on a regular basis in certain events, and then to have this stupid rule is just too much for me.

  3. Dennis Niebuhr says:

    Where is the evidence that high school and college use the rule and they LOSE quality competitors all the time? I worked at a large school high school two day conference meet a week ago and there were no false starts. The May two-day PAC-12 Meet in Eugene had one false start that I kind of recall, but no others. I’ve been at countless high school and college meets since the rule change and find that there are extremely few if any false starts in meets. The rule change has made sprint results more fair and reduced the number of false starts that legal starters must go through, possibly loosing their intensity. The above statement is a gross generalization and exageration.

    • CHill says:

      What would you consider “evidence” ?? I can tell you off the top of my head (and went back to check results to make sure I remember correctly) that Marvin Bracy false started out of the Florida Relays just this year (no match up with Lavonte Whitefield) .. Jeff Demps false started out of the SEC champs last year .. Last year’s Eastern Regionals lost 3 200 meter runners to false starts in the rounds .. And during the qualifying meets for last year’s CA State Champs 3 4×1’s and 2 top sprinters were lost to false starts … Is that enough ?? That’s without combing results nation wide to come up with what I am sure would be a rather large list since those are just from my memory of meets I either saw or saw results on !!! And that’s just high school and college … And I can tell you that just the meets I go to I see at least one lost athlete a week to this rule !!!

      Going back to the elites, how about Dexter Faulk at this year’s World Indoors … Travis Padgett, Richard Thompson AND Rae Edwards at last year’s New York Grand Prix … Dwain Chambers at last year’s World Championships … And of course Bolt at the same World Championships … And ironically Bolt false started in the rounds in ’09 but the rule was not yet in effect – had it been there would be NO 9.58 today !!!

      So now tell me how this rule has made sprint results more fair ??? I’m not even sure what that means … Where is the proof that the rule has reduced false starts ?? Because every meet I go to or watch still has them … And the time it takes to restart races isn’t changed by this rule … What did the rule accomplish by not having Bolt run in Daegu ??? What did it accomplish by having Kirani James run anyway yet not have his result count ??? The race was “fairly” run without a hitch and James competed fairly and ran a nice time that he WILL NOT get credit for !!! What’s the fairness in that ???

      The real question is why have a false start rule ?? The answer is to ensure that everyone starts equally … When you restart the race – as happened with Kirani – THAT is accomplished … The idea “should be” to ensure a fair start … What it has evolved into is a way to eliminate people from the competition … If your goal is to eliminate competitors then this is a great rule … Just look above at the three men eliminated in New York last year … Did that make for a better race – absolutely not … Did throwing out Marvin Bracy enhance the Florida race ??? NO … People wanted to see Bracy v Whitfield and were denied as the athletes were denied the competition … The rule in its current incarnation accomplishes NOTHING other than throwing people out based on some arbitrarily set RT related to foot pressure on the blocks …

      Everyone else in the sport gets a “do over” related to “messing up” during the competition … Field event competitors get three to six … If distance runners get bumped, fall, tripped or the race just doesn’t go off right in the beginning stages it gets reset … The problem with the short races is that there is an “assumption” that these people are trying to “cheat”, when that is a small percentage of what causes false starts … There is absolutely NO reason to eliminate someone for false starting … Now repeat offenders, as with the rule before the rule that this rule replaced, that’s a problem and was addressed by false start once “perhaps a mistake”, false start twice “we don’t have time for this and you’re gone” … And that was FAIR … Prove to me the FAIRNESS in one and done – for the athletes, the fans, and even the other competitors … Because if you’re a competitor you show up to run against someone … Who wants to say I won but we didn’t race ??? Tell me where the fairness was for Kirani …

  4. Waynebo says:

    Side note: I think Aaron Ross just might take exception to you just saying Richards 🙂

    Sanya showed us in 2009 just how dominant she can be if she follows the 100-150-150 race pattern. If she is disciplined, she is sub-49 and that puts her head and shoulders above the rest – as she showed at pre. Montsho almost equaled her PR and was still. .23 back at the finish. The issue isn’t Montsho or Ohurugu going by her, it’s Sanya holding back until 250 so she can finish strong.

    A few other comments & questions: are Wariner’s days as a real contender over? He hasn’t looked strong in over 2 years.
    I’m glad to see Rupp go sub-13, but until he can cover that last 400 in 56 or better, he won’t see the podium because the races are always tactical at the majors.
    Allyson’s start looked very good, but I agree, I’m not getting excited until I see her go sub-22 more than once.
    I wish NBC’s announcers did more homework because they were so focused on promoting Nick Symmonds in the 800 that Mohammed Iman almost stole the race and they didn’t even know his name. Ridiculous!
    I think Alysia Montano may be a serious medal contender in London and the women’s 800 looks like it’s gonna be fierce.

    • CHill says:

      Yeah I guess I should go with the hyphenated name in deference to Aaron .. LOL .. When Sanya is disciplined she is tough to beat .. The problem for Sanya is that she tends to lose that discipline in Majors .. She’s been a great one off runner but has often struggled in Majors ..

      Wariner has had trouble ever since changing coaches … He’s gone back to Hart, but he lost something during that year and a half … He’s not the same athlete, and the competition got tougher with Kirani joining the fray last year … If one or two others step up this year I think it’s going to be hard for Wariner to medal …

      Yeah I need to see a 21 from Allyson … That turn was an optical illusion for me without Jeter really flying …

      Montano may be ready … She’s often struggled to hold on, but she looked really strong in her opener … If she runs like that in London I think she could go 1:56, and that should medal …

      I wish all the announcers did more homework … I always hear mistakes during the telecasts – and I don’t get a teleprompter or have researchers talking into my ear !!! LOL …

  5. Nick says:

    False start rule: see my comment under “10 Days…”.

    Possible scenario: a spectator (not a serious track fan), curious about this Bolt guy, tunes in to the London final. Bolt jumps, gets the red card, and is banished. The spectator is then left watching a race in which he/she knows no other ‘names,’ and the intrigue is gone. The spectator goes back to the NFL/MLB and gives not a second thought to track.

    Wariner has won very few (any?) head to heads against LM since 2008, but JW smokes his relay legs in the low 43 range. LM is inside JW’s head.

    Please tell me Symmonds isn’t serious about getting Paris Hilton as his Trials date. Repeat: NO KARDASHIANS (et al) ON MY TRACK.

    • CHill says:

      I agree with your possible scenario with respect to “marketing” the sport .. Basketball doesn’t toss an individual for a single foul .. Even “technical” fouls require two to be ejected .. Other sports are similar, as football, baseball, et al try to “warn” athletes before ejecting them from games .. “Ejection” being the result of something egregious …

      You want to showcase your top athletes and highly watched events … Swimming doesn’t want to have Michael Phelps watching races, it wants him competing .. We should be looking for ways to keep athletes IN competitions, not how to get rid of them as easily as possible ..

      Back to the “fairness” of the rule: it’s based on RT (reaction time) which means little in terms of the race itself … Execution within the first 20/30 meters of a sprint is where the critical acceleration is determined, not the RT .. And even if we want to go back to the blocks themselves, it’s block clearance, not RT that’s the critical component … Frankly we should get back to the starter making the determination of whether or not someone got an “unfair” start – not reaction time, start ..

      I’m not sure if Merritt is in Wariner’s head or if Merritt is just the better competitor … Several of their competitions have seen Wariner run excellent times, he’s just gotten beaten to the line by Merritt …

      Symmonds shouldn’t have a Trials date at all … He needs to show up focused on trying to get a low 1:43 … Because he needs to get there before he can talk about 1:42, and if you can’t talk about 1:42 you’re not in this year’s podium conversation IMHO …

  6. Adam says:

    What is your thoughts about Gatlin? Do you think he has a real chance against Bolt and Blake? How good does he look in your honest opinion?

    • CHill says:

      In my honest opinion right now no one is a challenge to Bolt, including Blake (I’m assuming we are talking about the 100 since you threw Gatlin in there) .. That may change, but remember Blake has yet to run under 9.82, ever .. Bolt’s only “equal” may be Gay if he is healthy … But that is yet to be seen either … As far as Gatlin goes he and Blake are battling for silver right now with everyone else behind them … If Gay shows up healthy, he’s in the fight for gold and Gatlin and Blake are fighting for bronze … In order for Gatlin or Blake to move up I would need to see a solid 9.7x run … If you can go 9.7x then perhaps in the heat of battle you drop .5 to 1.0 … But if you can’t run 9.7 before London, I’m not sure you have a prayer .. Now that is my honest opinion …

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