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

Happy 202One

Jan 9th, 2021
8:00 am PST

I’ve started several posts to be ready for the new year, because I think that on the heels of 2020, we’re all going to find joy in what transpires in 2021! There’s no need to replay last year. It only takes one word to describe 2020 – Covid. Because it defined the entire year. Enough said. With that, my first post of the year is going to be about the things that I’m looking forward to in the world of track and field this year. Because this year is going to be HOT. I can feel it in my bones. So, let’s start with:

The Vaccine Roll Out – This will be the only non track item I speak of, but it’s a biggie, because this will enable things to get back to normal. It won’t be magic, but my guess is (at least if I were in charge) proof of vaccination will get you into things like arenas, stadiums and events like the Trials and Olympic Games! Now, I don’t usually give my opinion on matters like this publicly, but I’m seeing about half the people online saying they don’t want the vaccine. The government did NOT develop these vaccines – three different ones so far – pharmaceutical companies did. So, let go of your political biases and get taken care of, please!

Coaching My Athletes – Yes, based on everything I’ve seen, there will be a high school track season – and everyone needs it! The kids. The parents. The coaches. We all need the exercise, camaraderie, competition and just feeling normal. Teaching the young people and watching their progression is an experience you get from nothing else. And I must admit that I miss that. So, this will definitely make  me feel that life is headed in the right direction.

The California State High School Championships – This meet started way back in 1915 and ran every year until last year. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the most exciting meets in the United States. I can say that because I’ve been to most of the biggest meets in the country including Nationals, NCAA’s, Olympic Trials and the Games. The City of Clovis does a wonderful job with standing room only crowds: rabid, knowledgeable fans: and some of the most exciting competition anywhere. This meet reminds me of everything good about track and field! I’m looking forward to attending this year’s meet which is hopefully the start of another 100 year plus run!

Mt SAC Invitational – Two of the country’s most exciting meets will be run in newly refurbished facilities. One of those is Mt SAC. Run early in the season, Mt SAC is usually the site of some of the world’s best early season marks. It’s one of those competitions that has everyone from high school to community colleges to Universities and elite competitors. So just several days of track and field fun! The renovated facility has new stands, a new track and was done with the intent to host the National Championships. Pictures look great, but I intend to be there and experience the facility for myself. Can you say, Road Trip!

The Olympic Trials – Eugene’s facility is the other facility that’s been recently refurbished, and the first major meet to be held there will be the Olympic Trials. Being at the Trials is generally a must no matter where it’s held. That said, this one will be special. Why? Well, new facility for one, but I expect that the level of competition this time around is going to be similar to that of the 68 Trials – off the chain! Maybe a world record or two, but definitely some Olympic and/or American records. There will only be one meet this year that will top the Trials and that will be the Games themselves. This will be a meet that must be seen LIVE! That means, Road Trip II.

Noah Lyles v Michael Norman – This is a pair of two of the most exciting sprinters on the planet. They last went head to head in the 200 and it would be epic to see that again. It would be even more epic to see it happen in the Trials and at the Games. That would require that Norman run a double – either 100/200 or 200/400 – with Lyles and Norman meeting over 200. Maybe both the 100 AND 200 if we get lucky! Now they could meet over 200 in a Diamond League event, and that would be awesome too. But meeting in a championship event would be the first time since 2016 – when both were high school seniors.To watch this unfold twice would be similar to the Carlos/Smith races in 1968. It’s not often that the two best sprinters in an event reside in the same country. When it happens it’s special. I’m crossing my fingers that we get to see this at least once this year.

The Development of Sha’Carrie Richardson – It’s my belief that Sha’Carrie is going to be the next great American female sprinter. In the line of Allyson, Evelyn, Gwen, Gail and Carmelita. I am looking forward to watching her in person at the Trials. Then watching what she does at the Games. I suspect that a medal or two are in store for her in Tokyo, at least one gold. That would be a nice way to get her career moving to the next level. She’s exciting to watch and I like her charisma. With this possibly being the last go round for Allyson, her emergence would be right on time! We have some charismatic males. We need a woman or two. I think Sha’Carri can be that type of athlete.

Donovan Brazier – Brazier has finally figured it out. When I watched him back at Texas A&M i knew he had the physical potential. However, like so many middle distance runners he didn’t really know how to race. He’s learned. He now knows how to use his talent to maximum potential. As a result, he’s now a legit threat for gold in Tokyo, with the potential to run the event under  1:42. Now, he’ll have to go thru Nigel Amos and Ferguson Rotich, but I think he can do this.  We haven’t had a half miler that I felt could win a global event since Johnny Gray. Being competitive for gold above 400 is exciting! This is going to be extremely fun to watch no matter the outcome.

Ryan Crouser – I was in the stadium when Michael Carter broke the High School record in the shot put and threw 81 feet. It was other worldly. I also watched that showdown in Doha at the last Worlds! That was also awesome. Crouser has only gotten better since then. His consistency out above 74 feet was unprecedented. To the point where I think that he can do the professional equivalent of Carter and throw 76 feet. Yes, I said it. I was fortunate enough to watch the original 75 foot putter, Brian Oldfied in his prime. Crouser is that good. He’s ready and the event is ready. I’m thinking this is going to be the year.

That Break Through Star – Every Olympic year there’s that person that is suddenly breaks away from the crowd and becomes the star of the show. Edwin Moses, Ben Johnson, FloJo, Carl, Bolt. You have no warning as to who it’s going to be. He or she just shows up and BOOM. Knowing that, I’m always “looking” to see if I can see the emergence before it happens. See if there are signs. FloJo’s opening 100 in San Diego in ’88 should have been a clue. Bolt’s 100 in New York in ’08 as well. Races that in hindsight make you say, an ha. That’s what I’ll be doing early in the season. Watching for those moments. That’s one of the most fun parts of the sport. Watching the emerging athletes. Whomever it is, it’s fun watching it happen.

There’s a lot of pent up energy for the sport, all sport, on the heels of 2020. It will be FIVE years since the last Olympics – and it seems like an eternity. This is just the tip of the iceberg of my list of things I’m looking forward to! What I do expect is that this is going to be one of the most exciting years ever for the sport.  I can hardly wait for things to get started.

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