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

You Know It’s an Off Season When …

Feb 17th, 2014
5:28 pm PST

Track SectionTrack 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. We’re not like swimming where records and sensational times fall like leaves from the trees when their World Championships and the Games come around. Especially in events longer than one lap where running fast – for whatever reasons – takes a backseat to tactics.

No, during "Championship" seasons we get the occasional competition from the superstars of the sport and good but not necessarily spectacular performances from all as everyone focuses on trying to win gold in the year’s major championship event. That changes however, in the Off Season.

For those unfamiliar with the term 2014  is an Off Season – the one year in a four year cycle without a major championship. With no Olympics or World Championships on tap, there is no single event that must focused on – and therefore no need to try to time a peak. Therefore athletes can train to simply run fast, jump high and throw far without fear that they may not be ready at the "right" time!

If you have any doubt take a look at this year’s indoor season to date. American Records, World Junior Records, and World Records have been on tap week after week so far. And it’s only the indoor season, with many of the world’s best not yet competing! With it only being the early part of February, if things continue on pace, 2014 could be one of the best seasons for marks ever!

So who’s leading the way? Well typically it’s the sprinters and hurdlers that are really hot early, but this year it’s distance runners and a vaulter that have already set the world on fire.

Mary CainTHE future of middle distance running in the United States, she’s already arrived and continues to make the adults bow down in respect. She took down her elders once again this weekend in Millrose taking the women’s mile – an event she already leads the world in 4:24.11. She’s also twice set American Junior Records in the 1000m with a best of 2:35.80. Still in high school, Cain is as savvy as they come. I expect her to rewrite the American Women’s record book and dare I say attack some WR’s before she’s done.

Galen Rupp – Rupp is the face of US distance running on the men’s side. In three indoor races he’s set two American Records – 8:07.41 for 2 miles, and 13:01.26 for 5,000m. A foot injury in Boston has slowed him in recent weeks, but it sounds like he will be back competing soon.

Genzebe Dibaba – As good as Cain and Rupp have been – and as you can see they’ve been good – Dibaba has been GREAT. Three races, three World Records – 3:55.17/1500, 8:16.60/2000, and 9:00.38/2 mile. I had the privilege of watching her 2 mile race this weekend and she was as effortless as any distance runner I’ve ever watched. She started out a couple seasons ago being known as the little sister of World and Olympic Champion Tirunesh Dibaba. She now stands clearly on her own and just having turned 23 a bit over a week ago, the sky’s the limit for the "little" Dibaba.

Renaud Lavillenie – It’s not often that one of the sport’s icons is taken down. This past weekend however, Lavillenie did just that when he cleared 6.16m/20’2.5" in the pole vault. That mark set a new WR in the event taking down the venerable Sergei Bubka! It took Twenty One years before Bubka’s record fell – Two full decades! It also made him a member of perhaps THE most exclusive club in sports as he’s now only the second man in history over 20 feet in the pole vault. And while Bubka lost his mark let me state that he eclipsed 20 feet an astounding 11 times in his career. Lavillenie took down a giant of the sport.

This indoor season is whetting my appetite. I’m really looking forward to what will happen when the full compliment of stars gets outdoors. But first we have the US Championships and the World Indoor Championships. Judging from what we’ve seen so far, I would expect that this Off Season is just getting warmed up

" There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true. " – Soren Kierkegaard

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