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

The Players Begin to Emerge

Feb 12th, 2012
11:13 am PST

WOW! Talk about a series of outstanding meets/marks. This weekend has been HOT! New York, Fayetteville, Dusseldorf, Albuquerque, Donetsk – great results have been pouring in from all over the globe. Initially I thought that the World Indoor Championships would be “down” with this year with most athletes preparing for the Games in August. But judging from the last couple of weeks, it’s looking like it will be the first of several peaks this year.

There are plenty of articles all over the ‘net, and the results of the top events can be found here. Let’s take a look at a few meets, because I think we are already starting to see the Games take shape.


Don Kirby Elite – New Mexico

Jeff Demps, Gil Roberts, English Gardener. Jeff Demps (FL) continued to look like the man to beat come NCAA time. Debuting last week at 6.59 in the 60 meters, he twice lowered that running 6.56, then 6.55 to equal the collegiate lead. Demps is the defending indoor NCAA champion and a two time NCAA Outdoor champion over 100, as well as the HS record holder in the 100. He’s beginning to look like a potential challenger at the Trials. English Gardener (OR) is also beginning to look like an outdoor challenger. She ran a sizzling 11.03 last year, and dropped her 60 meter best to 7.17 this weekend. She also dropped her indoor best over 200 to 23.34, showing improvement in her strength. Continued improvement in both areas could see her seriously in the mix outdoors. I’m not sure how many people remember Gil Roberts, but the former Texas Tech star looked ready to emerge in ‘09 running 44.89 before getting injured. He missed the 2010 season then came back last year to go 45.22 outdoors. This weekend he blitzed a 20.58/45.39 double – an awesome indoor double. I think he’s back and worth keeping an eye on in what should end up being a wide open 400 in Eugene.


Camperdown Classic – Kingston

Yohan Blake, Usain Bolt. This was an outdoor meet, typically the first of the year for many Jamaican sprinters who come out to run the 400 to test fitness. Teammates Blake and Bolt were both scheduled to run here, but had different results. Bolt did NOT run, after being confirmed to do so for the last month. Unconfirmed word is that he is nursing an injury/niggle of some sort. If true that could have an effect on how the season plays out in the sprint world, as injuries to many of the top stars will be of concern all season long. Blake however showed no signs of injury or otherwise as he ran to a PR 46.49 to take second place in the race. On one hand, there are many sprinters with PR’s much faster than Blake’s – Gay, Bolt, Powell, Spearmon to name a few. On the other hand, any improvement in speed endurance/strength for a man already running 9.82/19.26 should cause concern among the sprint community. Blake continues to mark himself as a major contender for London.


Donetsk – Ukraine

Renaud Lavillenie. Lavillenie (FRA) enters the season as the =#7 all time vaulter (6.01m/19’ 8.5”). He ended last year on a down note however having to have surgery on a broken hand. This was his first meet back and all he did was clear 5.82m (19’ 1”) – on his first attempt. I would say that the surgery and rehab went well! Lavillenie is one of the most consistent vaulters out there, and IMHO given good health is the favorite heading into London.


Dusseldorf – Germany

Adam Kszczot, Jimmy Vicaut. Adam Kszczot (POL), get used to spelling that name because the half miler merely ran 1:45.44 for a solid win and the world lead. The 22 year old ran 1:43.30 outdoors last year, making him the 4th fastest in the world – he looks ready to improve on his PR this year. Vicaut (FRA) may not be well known to some, but is the #2 French sprinter behind Christophe Lemaitre. However, the 19 year old (two weeks short of 20) zipped to a 6.53 in the 60 meters, which bodes well for improvement on his 10.07 PR. He was a finalist last year in the World Championships and a key leg on their 4×1. His improvement only strengthens that French 4×1 – a squad that passes quite well.


Millrose Games – New York

Bernard Lagat, Morgan Uceny, LaShawn Merritt, Sanya Richards Ross, Jesse Williams. Lots of solid results coming out of New York, but none better than “Old Man” Lagat setting another American Record, this time going 13:07.15 in the 5000 meters. Lagat is easily the favorite for the U.S. Trials at this distance and has to be considered a medal threat in London. Uceny dropped down in distance to the 800 to work on speed and came away with a 2:03.35 – again showing tremendous savvy in her racing. LaShawn Merritt is a speed based 400 meter man, with a PR of 19.98 in the deuce. He moved up in Millrose to run the 500 and came a way with a solid win in 1:01.39. That bodes extremely well for his 400 finish, and makes him co-favorite in my eyes with Kirani James for London gold in the 400. And if I’m honest I have to say that experience gives Merritt the slight edge. I’m most happy with the results for Richards Ross, however, who won the 400 in a world leading 50.89. This is the kind of time says that Sanya is ready to get back to that 48 second area she resided in a couple of seasons ago, and that last year was a blip on her map. If she can continue in this vein she could get back to the top of the podium in London. Jesse Williams continued to be the most consistent U.S. high jumper, scaling 2.323m (7’ 7.25”). Williams continues to be consistent and compete well. I consider him one of the favorites in London along with the Russian jumpers.


USATF Classic – Arkansas

Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Will Claye, Jill Camarena Williams, Kirani James, Galen Rupp. It’s not often that Veronica Campbell Brown and Allyson Felix are upstaged, but that is exactly what Tiana Madison did in Arkansas blazing to a 7.02 win in the 60 meters – making her =#12 all time and only .02 off VCB’s PR. Madison has been more of a long jumper than sprinter in the past, but after watching her blazing starts, I think she may want to reconsider her focus. Allyson Felix was only 4th, behind VCB and Ahoure, but her 7.11 made her #4 on the season and showed improved early race speed for the “long sprinter”. More Important was the way that she accelerated after coming out of her “drive” because last year Felix seemed to have trouble getting up to speed quickly in the deuce, so this 60 bodes well for improvement on the year. I’ve mentioned Will Claye several times as the man who played second fiddle to Christian Taylor in the triple jump at Florida, but with great potential of his own. This weekend he sailed out to an indoor PR of 17.39m (57’ 0.5”) to defeat former teammate Taylor (16.88m/55’ 4.5”). Claye had credentials of his own last year, taking bronze in Daegu, and looks ready for potentially better this summer. Camarena Williams set an AR last year outdoors in the shot, and followed that up with the indoor record this weekend – 19.89m (65’ 1.75”) – continuing to make the American relevant in an event dominated by Europeans. I mentioned LaShawn Merritt earlier for his win in New York, the second half of the 400 co-favorites is Kirani James (GRN) and he kept up his end of the bargain with a wire to wire win in the 400 here in a world leading 45.19. James went through 200 in 21.5 and is showing a new penchant for controlling the race early. It’s starting to look like outdoor races could be a wire to wire battle between the two 400 meter titans – and oh if Jeremy Wariner gets back to form! Finally, Galen Rupp and his attack on the American Record over two miles. Rupp went out and ran a strong solid race and got the record in 8:09.72. The time was impressive because he had to take the pace himself over the second half of the race and still managed the fast time. He’s PRing regularly indoors, which bodes well for continued improvement outdoors. It would be nice to see a male distance runner not named Lagat, competitive in London. Rupp is beginning to look like he will do just that.

It was a great weekend of action. And with so many athletes showing so well early, I’m starting to get the feeling that we may see some of the most outstanding Trials and Games ever.

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