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

Up and Coming

Mar 14th, 2021
7:18 am PDT

One of the hottest indoor seasons in recent memory, is coming to a close. As we get ready to head outdoors, I wanted to take a look at a few athletes that have proven worthy of being on someone’s watch list – mine. Every Olympic year, there are athletes that emerge that no one thought about the year before that become good enough to go to the Games. New exciting performers that make this sport what it is.

This indoor season, we’ve seen a plethora of top level performances, including some unexpected ones by some up and coming athletes. Here are a few collegiate and Europeans, that have recently found their way onto my radar. Several of whom I expect to see in Tokyo!

Micah Williams – Heading into the Collegiate Championships, this kid is only one of three sprinters to run under 6.50 in the 60 this year. His 6.49 win, proved his prowess over the distance and secured a National title. While I know that indoor 60 success doesn’t always transfer into outdoor 100 success, it is how he’s competed that I find most impressive. He’s not the typical, blazing start and fade type of indoor sprinter. He’s a solid starter that wins because of smooth acceleration and solid technique. His transition phrase when he gets outdoors will tell the tail. Like Christian Coleman, he’s a shorter, powerful sprinter. So his transition will have to be stellar. My concern for him is that at 5’8“, he may not have the stride length necessary in the latter stages t contend with the taller sprinters. If not, he’ll be another indoor beast. I can’t wait to see what the answer is.

Abby Steiner – This young lady is scary. Her reaction to the gun needs work. Her arm action is just wrong. But her turnover is powerful; and she has the heart of an assassin. Just ask her competition, as she’s been a gun to finish winner consistently in the 200 with a seasons best of 22.38 in winning the NCAA title!! That reaction to the gun has hurt her in the 60 – she missed the final at NC’s because of it – but she’s still there at the finish with 7.21 to her credit. Oh, she runs storming 4×4 legs too, showcasing her overall strength. She’s a few tweaks away from being one of America’s top female sprinters in my humble opinion, and I can hardly wait to see what she does outdoors. She should be a finalist at 200 at the least, possibly on the team at her best. She could be the missing link in the 4×1.

Athing Mu – I watched her collegiate record 1:58.40 in the 800. All I can say is I’ve never seen 1:58 look so effortless. Then she tweeted that she did it so people wouldn’t think she’s a quarter miler – because she’s run 50.52 there too. She been putting a beat down on everyone that’s stepped on the track with her. Causing many to be ready to give her Olympic glory in multiple events. While I’m not ready to do that just yet, the ease with which she runs says there’s more in the tank, and I’d love to see just how much. It’s going to be a fun spring.

KC Lightfoot – Just when it was starting to look like young Mondo Duplantis was going to have the pile vault all to himself for the next decade or more, along comes Mr Lightfoot to break the collegiate record and soar above 6 meters. And as suddenly as Mondo took over the event, he’s got a worthy young adversary – or so it would seem. If nothing else K.C. had entered the playground where Mondo has been playing. The next few months will tell us if he’s ready to compete. But the thought of TWO young vaulters going at it above twenty feet is very exciting!

Alja del Ponte – Over the last decade or so, the women’s sprints have been dominated by the US and Jamaica. Few others have been ankle to “crash the party”. Especially Europeans, with Dafne Schippers being the lone exception recently. Well, after a sterling indoor campaign, topped by a fantastic 7.03 European 60 title, Ajla del Ponte seems ready to join the list of top level female sprinters this year. Her race is solid – solid start, solid transition, solid finish. She appears to be stronger this year, and if my eyes are correct, she can go sub11 – and that makes her a threat to make the Olympic final. With the Swiss dominating clocks, watches, and timing, it would be awesome to see a Swiss sprinter be competitive.

Lamont Jacobs – I had no inkling who Mr Jacobs was as I watched him annihilate the competition at the European Indoor Championships. I had to do something that I rarely have to do – go check him out on the World Athletics website. And low and behold, he’s been around for quite some time. Specifically since 2010, with his first big breakthrough coming in 2018. If his 6.48 is any indication, he will become a sub10 sprinter this spring – his previous best being 10.03. His races in Torun were silky smooth. Excellent drive phase into smooth acceleration. In what has become a very multicultural sprint world, he’s going to be the European to watch in my humble opinion.

Femke Bol – Femke has been using her skills outdoors in the 400H. She’s run well enough for a PR 53.79, which is fairly competitive. But having watched her hurdle, and then run the 400 this indoor season, I believe she could be a much better sprinter sans hurdles! Bol (Super Bol say the European press) has made the 400 look rather easy, with several 50 point efforts this indoor season. Femke reminds me in some ways of World Champion Salwa Naser, strong more than fast. With a mid race surge and finish that seems to devastate the competition! I’m dying to see how she does against legit 49 second women outdoors, because I definitely think she can be a finalist in the open event.

I think everyone is waiting with baited breath on the upcoming outdoor season. The one positive thing that Covid did provide is a longer than usual “base” period for many athletes. Which, I believe, has lead to this rash of stellar performances. It’s exciting to see so many new names popping up everywhere. this year’s Olympics is going to see many new faces doing spectacular things. It’s been a very long wait, but it appears it will be worth it in the end. Next stop, outdoors.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply