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

NCAA Regionals and Pre

May 29th, 2022
7:28 pm PDT

Well that was one Hell of a weekend. Basically three high level meets, since the NCAA treats the first two rounds of its National Championships as two separate meets. Thoughts on that in another post. Either way, this past weekend was hot hot hot. In spite of two of the competitions having inclement weather! That’s how good the sport is right now – sizzling hot. So, where do I begin with my highlights? Let’s go with the West Regional.

Looking at the distribution of talent between the two Regionals, the East “seems” deeper. Watching the competition however, and the results at the top end of both regions, I say a storm is coming when the “semifinals” and “finals” are held in Eugene. The West had better weather conditions than the East. So, some of their results seem much better! But the individuals laying down these marks, have done it before.

Like Micah Williams. All Williams did was blitz 9.86 to become the equal #2 performer in collegiate history. The race was over after two steps, as Micah is easily the fastest starter in college. This time however, we saw him accelerate away from the field and never look back. Second place sprinter (Terrance Jones) ran 10.03 and was never in contention! Right now, Williams is a threat to run away with this title in two weeks.

His female counterparts, looked good as well. The women ran on a separate day, and had winds just over the allowable – averaging 2.2 to 2.7mps. The result was five women running under 11.00, lead by Julien Alfred’s 10.80 (2.2). This is the second time Ms Alfred has run 10.80, having done so in Lubbock two weeks prior. Wind or altitude, Alfred’s body seems ready to do something special! For my money, she’s one of the favorites in this event heading into Nationals.

Another athlete I really like coming out of the West is quartermiler Jonathan Jones. His 44.85 looked like a jog in the park. And his anchor on Texas’ 3:00.70 4×4 has put them into medal contention. This young man is going to have to be reconned with in Eugene. While I’m talking about Texas and the 400, their women are making noise too. Stacey Ann Williams (50.66) and Kennedy Simon (50.96) looked good in their races. Add sub50 performer Cherokee Young of A&M, and this is one of the West’s stronger events.

Speaking of strong events. While the wind was a tad over – as I mentioned with the 100. The women’s 100 hurdles will send all 12 qualifiers from the region with marks UNDER 13.00! That’s what I said. Twelve women heading to Eugene with qualifying times between 12.57 and 12.98! Insane. That event alone was worth the price of admission to the West Regional.

Oh yeah, there was also an East Regional. Their weather was not nearly as good, as there was a lot of rain and several delays. That did not stop them from laying down some tremendous marks of their own though. And I’ll start with Trey Cunningham, because he’s been doing his thing all year. Clearly the best hurdler in the college ranks today, Trey ran crazy, stupid, fast. As in 13.07, in the rain, into a -1.7mps wind! Solidifying his position as the #4 collegiate hurdler of all time and the favorite for Eugene.

Speaking of favorites for Eugene, there are a pair of sprinters in the East that bear mentioning. Abby Steiner and Favor Ofili. They are the athletes ¬†Ms Alfred from Texas will have to face. Steiner is the indoor record holder in the 200 and 300. Ofili is the outdoor record holder in the 200. In spite of the conditions, Ofili ran 11.02/22.08; Steiner 11.04/22.01. This pair will be the ying to the West’s yang. Ah, but there is more.

I’ll go with another “pair”. This one, a pair of 200 sprinters. The only two legally under 20.00 this year in college – Joseph Faunbulleh and Matt Boling. Both have run 19.92 this year. Last year Boling was indoor champion, Faunbulleh, outdoor champion. Both have eyes on the title in Eugene. Boling won the SEC battle over Faunbulleh – 20.04 to 20.07. They drew the same quarterfinal in the East. Faunbulleh showing his top end speed in a 19.86 to 20.24 run away. Nationals will be interesting.

So will the men’s 400. As the defending champion, Randolph Ross is in the East. And he sent a message to everyone in the event as he scorched the oval in 44.23! Champion Allison, the SEC winner was in the same race and casually ran 45.03 as if to shrug his shoulders and say he’ll wait until it matters. That’s going to be quite the race in Eugene! Frankly, Eugene is going to be LIT! The talent coming out of both Regionals as good as I’ve seen. It will be something to watch, just like the Prefontaine Classic was.

As I’ve stated before, Pre always gets outstanding fields. Thank you Nike and your deep pockets. This go round however, the weather nearly trumped the money. As predicted rain, lead to several withdrawals including headliners Athing Mu, Rai Benjamin, Lamont Jacobs and several others! Not to fear. Rescheduling lead to some events being held on Friday afternoon/evening. Giving us some sterling performances by Mondo Duplantis (19’4.5″) Valerie Allman (224’3″) and Ryan Crouser (75’6.25″).

Then there was the track, where some outstanding matchups had been set up. While the matchups didn’t disappoint, and the weather wasn’t the best. Athletes did what athletes do, and performed extremely well. Norah Jeruto (8:5797) and Winfred Yavi (8:58.71) breaking the magical 9:00 barrier in the steeplechase. Berihu Aregawi crushing a 12:50.05 5k. And Faith Kipyeon proving once again she is the best when it comes to the mile. Breaking Gudaf Tsegay with a 3:5259 1500. Tsegay running a respectable 3:54.21 of her own.

Ahh, those matchups. There was the return to Eugene of Elaine Thompson Herah and Sha’Carri Richardson. Last year at Pre, ¬†Elaine ran 10.54, while Sha’Carri took last. Richardson had much to prove this time around as her debut had been delayed, and then was less than sterling. This time around, Thompson Herah ran 10.79, with Richardson taking second in 10.92. Thompson remains one of the top sprinters in the game. She did nothing to dispel that her. Sha’Carri showed that she is healthy and ready to get back in there and compete. It’s still early yet. Both women will have more to say before all is done!

The men’s 400 was loaded with Olympians. Including multiple medalist Kirani James, and the man that was supposed to win in Tokyo but went medal less, Michael Norman. Norman has struggled in the event since.and chosen to spend time in the 100 and 200. Fueling speculation that he may choose the path of Fred Kerley and focus on the shorter sprints. But Norman has been running the four this year. And Saturday he RAN it! Like he did when he was collegiate champion. He went out well. Managed a relaxed a backstretch. Then, instead of falling asleep on the turn as he had for the past year, he ran by the field and held up in the stretch. The result, a year leading 43.60! And just like that “Mike” is back, as is talk of him winning Worlds. What a difference a single race can make!

The distance races were stellar as always. Along those already mentioned, Keely Hodgkinson destroyed the 800 field in 1:57.72. And Jakob Ingerbringtsen did the same to the milers in 3:49.76. This time however, the mile was not the final event. That was reserved for the men’s 100. Since it was originally set up to be a match between defending World champion Christian Coleman, and Olympic champion Lamont Jacobs. Except Jacobs pulled out. Never fear, his spot was filled by last year’s fastest on the clock, Trayvon Bromell. Throw in world junior record holders Erriyon Knighton (200) and Letsile Tobogo (100). Olympic silver medalists Kenny Bednarek (200) and Fred Kerley (100), and World 200 champion Noah Lyles. Add Olympic 200 gold medalist Andre DeGrasse and the race was still stacked! At the gun, it was the fast starters, Coleman and Bromell taking control. Bromell holding a slight edge. At 50 meters Coleman attempted a move, that was rejected. At 70 meters, the finishers started to come, – Kerley and Lyles. At the finish, it was Bromell for the win (9.93)! Kerley (9.98), Coleman (10.04) and Lyles (10.05) rounded out the first few. As we leave Oregon, Trayvon looks to be in the driver’s seat. His racing has been sharp this year, and his confidence is high. Coleman is still a bit rusty. He’s going to need that bye he has to get his race together. Kerley continues to be there at the finish. And Noah must get out of the blocks if he wants to win in the 100. His reaction time in this race was a pedestrian .144 compared to the .123 for Trayvon Bromell. That only works in the 200!

That was the weekend. Like I said, hot, regardless of the temperatures. The kids get about ten days rest, with the NCAA Championships starting on June 8. The pros have a Diamond League event in Rabat on June 5, and another in Rome on June 9. It’s a good time to be a track fan right now.

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