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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Weekly Awards

Performance of the week honors goes to Christian Cantwell for his big 72' 1/2" (21.95m) shot put at the Millrose Games. The big Missourian's two meets have netted him two of the three awards given so far this year.

A close runner-up is Ashton Eaton, whose 6256-point collegiate heptathlon record indicates he's likely to do great things in the decathlon this summer. Adding 500 points or more to his PR wouldn't surprise me.

Honorable mentions go to Hyleas Fountain for her near-American Record pentathlon of 4731 points at Penn State on Friday, Ivan Ukhov for his 2.34m (7' 8") high jump in Trinec on Tuesday, and Lavern Jones-Ferrett's 7.09 sprint and Ariane Friedrich's 2.00m (6' 6 3/4") high jump, both in Karlsruhe today.

The competition of the week is a tie between the Millrose Games men's shot put, which featured four of the world's top six throwers, and the Karlsruhe women's high jump, which featured five of the world's top eight jumpers.

High Hurdles Rankings

Read up on my shot put rankings if you want to know where these come from.

The high hurdles are a different race indoors than they are outdoors, and while the indoor season counts in my rankings, it's not much. As of yet, however, these rankings are just last year's best outdoor marks along with early indoor results.

1. Terrence Trammell
Won Millrose with a world-leader 7.49.

2. Dayron Robles (Cuba)
Has yet to run, but a force when he does.

3. Ryan Brathwaite (Barbados)
Defending World outdoor champ was second at Millrose.

4. David Oliver won at Glasgow yesterday
5. Petr Svoboda (Chech Rep.) won in Karlsruhe today with another new PR, 7.50
6. Dexter Faulk
6. David Payne
8. Dwight Thomas (Jamaica)
9. Aries Merritt 4th at Millrose
10. Ryan Wilson
11. Xiang Liu (China)
12. Joel Brown
13. Antwon Hicks
14. Eric Mitchum 3rd at Karlsruhe
15. Ronnie Ash
16. Dániel Kiss (Hungary)
16. William Sharman (UK)
16. Andrew Turner (UK)
16. Jason Richardson
20. Allen Johnson 2nd at Karlsruhe

1. LoLo Jones
Got beaten in her season opener in Glasgow yesterday, but ran much better in Karlsruhe today with world-leading 7.90

2. Dawn Harper
Hans't run yet

3. Brigitte Foster-Hylton (Jamaica)

4. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (Canada)
Won at Millrose

5. Sally McLellan (Australia)
6. Delloreen Ennis-London (Jamaica)
7. Perdita Felicien (Canada) 4th at Millrose
8. Virginia Powell 3rd at Millrose
9. Damu Cherry
10. Michelle Perry
11. Derval O'Rourke (Ireland)
12. Tiffany Ofili 2nd at Millrose
13. Nickiesha Wilson (Jamaica)
14. Jessica Ennis (UK) beat Lolo Jones to win in Glasgow with a new national record
15. Lacena Golding-Clarke (Jamaica)
16. Yvette Lewis 2nd in Karlsruhe
17. Carolin Nytra (Germany) 3rd in Glasgow
18. Anay Tejeda (Cuba)
19. Vonette Dixon (Jamaica) 3rd in Karlsruhe
20. Lucie Škrobáková (Czech Rep.)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

File Under "I Don't Care"

Michael Johnson is on the new season of Celebrity Apprentice.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Millrose Reactions

IAAF report /Athlete quotes

I had high hopes for this year's Millrose Games. I thought Larry Rawson's sacking meant significant changes were in store for the TV broadcast. Sadly, no. It's still the same old tired and boring formula. Race, h/bimbo does immediate post-race interview of h/bimbo, another commercial, field events get spit on if covered at all. Complete absence of on-screen graphics to help make meaning of the action.

I've always thought track and field is an inherently interesting sport, and people will like it if you show it to them. I've also always thought domestic TV coverage doesn't show us track and field meets, but rather a bunch of disjointed races. There is no thought or effort put into how to present the three-ring circus as a single coherent experience.

The only thing they managed to do right was the Wanamaker mile. They had done some pre-production (imagine that!) and when it came time for the race, they got out of the way and let the MSG announcer do his thing. Unfortunately, they didn't give us any visual reason why Lagat should have feared Kiprop: all it would have taken was footage of the final 120m of last year's Bowerman Mile at the Pre Classic to get the point across (footage that USATF produced and therefore owns the rights for). In the end, Lagat used his two most potent weapons, the ability to accelerate on a dime and the knowledge of when to use it. Kiprop didn't look race-sharp and the result was never in any doubt.

Besides all that, for the most part the meet sucked. Aside from the shot put and maybe the 600 yards, the fields were weak. If the meet disappeared (which some rumors say it may), I wonder if anyone would notice. And if it does, we are on the verge of the domestic professional indoor circuit ending alltogether. Again, would anyone notice?

In the 30s up through the 80s, the USA had a thriving circuit of indoor track meets all over the country. The list of cities that hosted them sounds almost like "I've Been Everywhere, Man". The IAAF's indoor Grand Prix serieswas exclusively in the USA, bringing every pros all over the world to the USA. But then Europe started getting in on the action. And then the IAAF's indoor world championships and indoor world records made indoor times important. And the NCAA indoor championships started meaning about as much as the outdoor championships. So foreign stars started wanting to stay home, and everyone (college stars especially) wanted to run on fast 200m tracks rather than those tiny board ovals. And, of course, TAC's tin-ear leadership let whatever attention was paid to them die on the vine. By the late-90s, all but one traditional meet--Millrose--had closed up shop.

So it was a major reconstruction a few years back to have created a four-meet televised domestic series culminating in the USATF indoor championships. Millrose has been the most famous but least appealing of all of them, but at least it got press. It was announced a month or so ago that there wouldn't be any pro action or TV coverage at the Tyson Invitational. If Millrose goes the way of the dodo, then we're down to one domestic pro meet. Considering that even in the 21st century crossing the Atlantic isn't something you do on a whim, getting enough good athletes to be here for one meet won't happen. It would be the death of the whole thing. Like the domestic auto industry, it's been so poorly managed and of such inferior quality that while if it went away we'd miss the industry, we wouldn't miss the product it created.

Performance of the meet: Even taking the tight boards into account, none of the track events were notably fast. The vertical jumps were underwhelming. Christian Cantwell's final put, though, was huge. How big is 21.95 meters? Equal to #2 on last year's combined indoor/outdoor world list. No one but Cantwell himself threw further all of last year.

Super 60: There were track purists that described this race's mere existence in apocalyptic terms usually reserved for prominent politicians of the opposing party. It turned out to be covered as a sideshow and nothing more, like the kid's sprint races. And it was an interesting race, too. Anthony Dorsett Jr. ran a respectable 7.01 to win.

Competition of the meet: Most of the ones that were tight and interesting were because the fields were of inferior quality or performing well below their ability. The women's 60 meters was an exception, with Lisa Barber winning by .003 seconds over Veronica Campbell-Brown. Side note: while discussing Jana Rawlinson's breast augmentation/reduction drama, an insider said an unnamed US sprinter also recently recieved implants. I'm guessing it's Lisa Barber. I seem to recall her being fairly flat-chested, but she certainly isn't now. It would fit with her overall "please look at me" style.

Fantasy League: Ugh. I'm 893rd. My wife said "It could be worse. You could be last." To which I replied, "How do you know I'm not?"

One of the cardinal rules of fantasy sport is to obsessively check news about your athletes. This is especially true in track & field, where start lists change all the time. I last checked updates to start lists at 11 AM yesterday, at which time it had not yet been announced that Boaz Lalang was added to the men's 800, an athlete I would have immediately picked. Screwed myself there.

Then there were two withdrawals never announced: my picks in the women's pole vault and high jump. Two big goose-eggs. Renauld Lavillenie, who has been dominating the European circuit, inexplicably bombed here. Other than that, my only bad mistake was picking Sally Kipyego in the women's mile. My numbers system said Hannah England was the best runner in the race, and I never should have doubted it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's On The Weekend


The Millrose Games kicks off the IAAF’s indoor permit series on Friday night. Live coverage on ESPN2 goes from 8 to 10 PM.
Meet website / IAAF preview / USATF preview / Flotrack coverage

The Aviva International Match in Glasgow takes place on Saturday. It’s a scored meet between teams representing the USA, the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Commonwealth.
Meet website / Ten to follow

The 78th edition of the historic and traditional Cinque Mulini (“five mills”) cross country race will be held in Vallagarina, Italy on Sunday. The athletes actually run through working mills.
Meet website (in Italian) / IAAF preview

The BW Bank Meeting in Karlsruhe on Sunday is the next IAAF permit meet.
Meet website / IAAF preview

The Osaka International Ladies Marathon takes place on Sunday.
Race website
(in Japanese) / IAAF preview / Japan Running News preview / live vido link

The best meet of the weekend will probably be the Big XII v. Pac-10 v. SEC showdown at Texas A&M on Friday and Saturday. Three schools from each conference will be competing, with the competition being between the conferences rather than individual teams. Five of the top ten men’s teams (according to the USTFCA rankings) and four of the top ten women’s teams will be there.
Preview / results page / streaming video / Flotrack coverage

The Rod McCravy Invitational is on Friday and Saturday in Lexington, Kentucky.
/ results page

The Terrier Classic is in Boston on Friday.
Flotrack coverage

The Pole Vault Summit is in Reno on Friday and Saturday.
Meet website

The Washington Invitational is in Seattle on Friday and Saturday. Dathan Ritzenhein is scheduled to run the 5k.
Preview / Flotrack coverage

The National Invitational is at Penn State on Friday and Saturday.
Preview / results page / Flotrack coverage

Fantasy league preview

USATF’s online pick ‘em game gets started tomorrow with the Millrose Games. Until now, I was the only online advice for the fantasy league. USATF’s Vicky Oddi has entered the fray. In a few areas, I disagree with her picks.

Super 60
A lot of fans and an athlete or two have taken offense at this contest being included in the program. I don’t, as I see it as nothing more than celebrity track. The rules and objectives of the event haven’t been changed, unlike UKA’s harebrained extreme jumping getup.

Reading between the lines, this NY Times article makes it clear who should win the race. Willie Gault was better in his prime than any of the rest of these guys, and has stayed in better shape and competed more. Being some 10 to 25 years older than the rest of the sprinters isn’t likely to make a difference. It would be almost like matching Tom Kite against a bunch of guys who used to have low handicaps but don’t play much anymore. It’s hard to say how much stock to put in reports of a recent 4.27 for the 40 yards by Gault, but if true he’d still be among the NFL’s faster men. And against this will be a butt-whuppin’ of Bolt proportions.

Men’s 60 meters
This was going to be a hard choice until Walter Dix pulled out. In his absence, I can’t see Mike Rodgers losing.

Men’s 600 yards
This is one event where I disagree with Oddi. Renny Quow is a far better quarter-miler than Bershawn Jackson, and has shown he can run on the boards. Easy pick.

Men’s 800 meters
This field is very weak. I’m going with Dmitrijs Milkevics.

Wanamaker Mile
This is the most intriguing matchup of the night. Seven-time champ Bernard Lagat is going up against T&FN’s #1-ranked Asbel Kiprop. I think Kiprop is a better runner than Lagat, but the tight board track is a factor that’s hard to figure out. Lagat has the experience and can accelerate off a dime, and Kiprop is very tall; all of these favor Lagat. On the other hand, they won’t matter if Kiprop is flat-out better that night. I’m going with the “first, do no harm” rule of fantasy leagues and pick Lagat, as I figure he’ll be second at worst.

Men’s 60m Hurdles
The only threat to Terrence Trammell will come from defending world outdoor champ Ryan Brathwaite. Trammell has a history of running at a high level in the domestic indoor season, so I’m going with him.

Men’s Mile Race Walk
Why do they make us pick this? Tim Seaman, I guess.

Men’s Pole Vault
Strangely, Oddi did not include this event in her picks. Smart players stand to pick up big points here. Renauld Lavillenie has already made heights equal to or better than the rest of the field did all of last year, but has been chosen by only 20% of Pick & Win players. He should be a heavy favorite, but apparently those Frenchy types aren’t known around these parts.

Men’s Shot Put
Oddi picked Adam Nelson. I disagree, and I think he’s far more likely to be last than first. Be smart and take Christian Cantwell, who has already thrown further than either Taylor or Nelson did all of last season.

Women’s 60 meters
This one is hard to choose. The 60 can be a crapshoot at times. Even worse, none of these athletes have raced much if at all so far this year, leaving us without knowledge of their condition. I’m taking Veronica Campbell-Brown, but any of the others could win.

Women’s 400 meters
This race is also hard to pick. Mary Wineberg has a good race under her belt, but has less upside than Monica Hargrove. Aliann Pompey has historically run well on the boards. Any of those three are serviceable picks. I don’t think Pompey will win, but I think she’s a safe pick for second or third.

Women’s Mile
There’s a dearth of good runners in this race. Sara Hall hasn’t impressed me at all in the last several years, so I think it’s going to come down to Sally Kipyego and Sara Bowman. It was a huge upset when Bowman won a similar matchup at last year’s NCAA indoor championship. I’m sure Kipyego hasn’t forgotten that and wants to even the score. I’m picking Kipyego.

Women’s 60m Hurdles
Priscilla Lopes-Schliep is head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Women’s Mile Race Walk
If it’s a domestic race walk, always go with Teresa Vaill.

Women’s High Jump
Elizabeth Patterson is the best of a weak field.

Women’s Pole Vault
Jen (Stuczynski) Suhr has withdrawn, leaving Oddi to say that Chelsea Johnson is the favorite. Sadly, no. Aleksandra Kiryashova is the best of the remaining athletes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dual Meet Rankings

Week #2 in the dual meet rankings is heavily impacted by the Texas A&M - Texas matchups.
last week's rankings

1. Texas A&M (1-0) beat Texas
2. Arkansas (1-0)
3. Indiana (1-0)
4. Missouri (1-0)
5. Michigan State (2-0)
6. Ohio State (1-0)
7. Wisconsin (3-0)
8. Purdue (1-1) beat Indiana State
9. Iowa (1-0)
10. Connecticut (2-0)
11. Princeton (1-0)
12. Notre Dame (1-1)
13. Akron (3-0) beat Kent
14. Eastern Michigan (3-0)
15. Indiana State (1-1) lost to Purdue

1. Texas (1-0) beat Texas A&M
2. Indiana (1-0)
3. Notre Dame (2-0)
4. Purdue (0-1-1) tied Indiana State
4. Indiana State (1-0-1) tied Purdue
6. Wisconsin (3-0)
7. Michigan (2-0)
8. Cincinnati (3-0)
9. Boston College (3-0)
10. Louisville (1-1)
12. Yale (2-0)
13. Western Michigan (1-0)

The big matchup this weekend is Texas Tech traveling to Nebraska. On the men's side, they are currently #11 and #5 in the USTFCA rankings.

Shot Put Rankings

I've done my own world rankings over the last few years, and I've tweaked the system a bit since last year. Here are my initial 2010 rankings for the shot put.

My numerical system is based on a combination of best marks and placing high (with an emphasis on winning) in major competition. This is more or less everything that matters in track & field.

Early on in the season, though, I include an athlete’s best marks from the previous season. Tomasz Majewski has not started his season yet, but as defending world champion it wouldn’t be realistic to leave him out of any ranking of the world’s best shot putters. It’s kind of like fantasy football: you give last year’s stars the benefit of the doubt for a few weeks if they have a slow start, and only after a while do you conclude last year’s stud (Adrian Peterson) is only going to be above average this season.

So, here they are going into Friday’s Millrose Games (* = scheduled to compete)...

1. Christian Cantwell*
He threw the farthest last year, has the best throw this year, and won the only significant competition of the year.

2. Reese Hoffa*
#2 on the 2010 world list

3. Tomasz Majewski (Poland)
Ranked solely on the basis of last year’s accomplishments

4. Dan Taylor* #3 on the world list
5. Ralf Bartels (Germany) second at Nordhausen
6. Adam Nelson* fourth at Nordhausen
7. Andrei Mikhnevich (Belarus)
8. Ryan Whiting
9. Dylan Armstrong (Canada) sixth at Nordhausen
10. Pavel Lyzhyn (Belarus)
11. Pavel Sofin (Russia)
12. Dorian Scott (Jamaica)
12. Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhabashi (Saudi Arabia)
14. Marco Schmidt (Germany) third at Nordhausen
14. Maksim Sidorov (Russia)
16. Zach Lloyd
17. David Storl (Germany) fourth at Nordhausen
17. Maris Urtans (Latvia)
17. Noah Bryant
20. Rhuben Williams

1. Valerie Vili (New Zealand)
The undisputed world’s best

2. Nadine Kleinert (Germany)
First at Nordhausen with a world leader

2. Lijiao Gong (China)
Asian Championships gold medalist, which counts on this year’s rankings due to its late date in 2009

4. Natallia Mikhnevich (Belarus)
5. Anna Avdeeva (Russia)
6. Nadzeya Ostapchuk (Belarus)
7. Denise Hinrichs (Germany) second at Nordhausen
8. Anca Heltne (Romania)
9. Petra Lammert (Germany)
10. Meiju Li (China)
11. Misleydis González (Cuba)
12. Michelle Carter
13. Mailín Vargas (Cuba)
14. Christina Schwanitz (Germany) fourth at Nordhausen
15. Chiara Rosa (Italy)
16. Ling Li (China)
17. Xiangrong Liu (China) Asian Championships silver medalist
17. Assunta Legnante (Italy)
19. Yaniuvis López (Cuba)
20. Anna Omarova (Russia)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Weekly Awards

The performance of the week happened earlier today when Ivan Ukhov cleared 7' 9 1/4" (2.37m) at the first leg of the Moravia High Jump Tour. Ukhov is best known for his discovery a few years ago at Lausanne that Red Bull does not, in fact, give you wings...when you mix it with vodka. That was a one-off occurrence (his girlfriend had just dumped him) and he should be known for his jumping--currently he's #1 in the high jump in my world rankings system.

A close second was Spain's Sergio Sánchez, who broke a 23-year-old European record when he ran 4:52.90 for the odd 2000-meter distance. The only other marks of note were Christian Cantwell's 69' 11 1/4" (21.32m) and Nadine Kleinert's 62' 10 1/4" (19.16m), both at the Nordhausen shot put competition.

The competition of the week is the women's race at the Kenya Police Cross Country Championships, where two defending world champions faced off: Vivian Cheruyiot (5k) handily beat Linet Masai (10k) with an emphatic last half-mile, while Berlin's 4th-place 10k runner Grace Momanyi was relegated to third. Runner-up goes to the men's competition at the above-mentioned high jump tour event in Hustopece, Czech Republic. The field featured seven of the world's top twenty high jumpers (as determined by my world rankings).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Do We Have A Rivalry?

Two years ago I wrote a post about rivalries in college track, and noted Texas versus Texas A&M was a women's rivalry that could take off if a dual-meet series took place.

Today, the two schools met in such a meet. Last year the men's teams met for the first time in a generation, but the Longhorn women passed. They showed up this time. It couldn't have been better: tied going into the 4x400, and anchors Angele Cooper and Jessica Beard were shoulder-to-shoulder with 200m left. Cooper ended up in front by a step. Story here. I hope the Aggies are really, really pissed about this and spend the whole next year thinking about it...because then the series will be extended.

This is what regular-season college track should be. Not crap like the Meyo Invitational, a six-hour snoozefest of time trials with nothing on the line.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dual Meet Rankings

Track & Field News used to do these, but gave it up at least a decade ago. With the resurgence of the college dual meet, it's time to get it rolling again.

Ranking rules...
1) A team cannot be ranked unless they have beaten at least one Division I team in a scored meet of four or fewer teams.
2) Split squad results don't count.
3) Rankings are a product both of how good a team is perceived to be, and how good their defeated opponents are perceived to be.
4) Head-to-head results are most meaningful.
5) While the rankings are for a combined indoor-outdoor season, outdoor results are considered more important than indoor ones.

Week one rankings...
1. Arkansas (1-0) beat Texas
2. Missouri (1-0) beat Kansas
3. Ohio State (1-0) beat Michigan
4. Indiana (1-0) beat Purdue
5. Wisconsin (3-0) won a quad over Marquette, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Southern Illinois
6. Princeton (1-0) beat Navy
7. Akron (2-0) won a tri over Bucknell and South Florida
8. Indiana State (1-0) beat Illinois State
9. Eastern Michigan (3-0) won a quad over Central Michigan, Oakland and Detroit

1. Wisconsin (3-0) won a quad over Marquette, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Southern Illinois
2. Indiana State (1-0) beat Illinois State
3. Indiana (1-0) beat Purdue
4. Cincinnati (3-0) won a quad over Akron, Bucknell and South Florida
5. Boston College (3-0) won a quad over UMass, Sacred Heart and Boston University
6. Akron (2-1) second in home quad
7. Western Michigan (1-0) beat Toledo
8. Missouri (1-0) beat Kansas

Rankings will go deeper as the weeks pass.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Missy Koch Billingsley: A Runner and Amputee

From Sports Illustrated's website...

Twenty-five years ago doctors amputated Missy Koch's right leg after diagnosing her with a rare tumor. Follow Missy's journey and her determination to run again.

Weekly Awards

A new feature here that I hope to keep going: performance of the week and competition of the week.

These are objective rather than subjective awards. I use some performance tables I've developed for my World Rankings.

This week's award goes to Reese Hoffa for his 69' 6 3/4" shot put (21.20m), a field house record at the Kentucky Invitational. It was his first competition of the year and a great start for him.

Honorable mention goes to Lacy Janson's 15' 3" (4.65m) pole vault personal record at Virginia Tech, Superblog reader Dan Taylor's 65' 6 1/4" (20.89m) shot put in Flagstaff, and Silke Spiegelburg's 15' 1" (4.60m) pole vault in Leverkusen.

The best competition of the week was the men's race at the Cross Internacional de Itálica in Seville. Leonard Komon downed a deep field where defending World XC champ Gebre Gebremariam could only manage sixth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Track and Haiti


When Olympian [Barbara] Pierre went to see her parents in Orlando for Christmas, she had hoped her grandmother, Seliecene, would finally be there.

Pierre, 22, is an NCAA champion sprinter at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, N.C., and a native of Port-au-Prince who represented Haiti in the 2008 Olympics. Her relatives have been immigrating to the United States over several decades, and one of the last to come was going to be her father's mother.

Pierre had been helping her father file paperwork and cut through immigration red tape for several years in an attempt to bring her grandmother from Haiti -- and it looked like that might finally happen in December.

But the process got delayed. And now no one can reach Seliecene, who lived on the mountainside in Port-au-Prince in a house with a garden where she grew peppers and roses.

"I called my mom this morning and asked, 'Did you talk to grandma,' and she says, 'Barbara, I called, there's no connection. It doesn't even go through,'" Pierre said.

As she watches televised images of crumbled buildings and people crying in the streets, and hears reports of collapsed schools and hospitals, she refuses to think the worst.

"I don't want to be sad. I don't want to think negative," she said. "In my mind I want her to be OK, so that's exactly what I'm going to think."

Pierre came to the United States when she was about 5 years old, so most of her memories of Port-au-Prince are from visits where she stayed with her grandmother. She remembers begging her mom to buy the fried plantains that vendors sold on the bus from the airport and the syrupy iced treats sold at the local markets.

But the country changed as she got older. The roads started to crack and fall into disrepair. Stories of criminals kidnapping Americans and holding them for ransom prompted her mother to leave her at home in Orlando on subsequent trips to Haiti. Pierre's last visit was in 1999, when she was a bridesmaid in an aunt's wedding. Her father, a banker in Port-au-Prince, finally joined the family in Orlando in 2004.

When Pierre ran for Haiti in the 2008 Olympics, she got to know several other Haitians and developed an even stronger appreciation for her home country, despite having been gone so many years.

"Haitians, they're very hard-working people. They're going to get back on their feet. I just don't know how long," she said.

"Haiti is a third-world country. Look what happened to [people in] New Orleans. They're in the States, and look how long it took for them to get back up. It's going to take a long time. They don't really have the tools we have, the tools to dig up bricks and pull people out. They have to do that with their hands."

Pierre points out that the Haitian houses built on mountainsides are not sturdy structures. When they crumble, they can fall down the hill on top of one another.

But not her grandmother's house. No, she can't think about that.

Where you can do your part

Three Dual Meets Tomorrow

The collegiate dual meet has made a bit of a comeback. There are three duals of note this weekend.

The biggest is Texas at Arkansas (men only). Texas is the defending Big XII champ, and Arkansas is Arkansas. The Razorbacks are #5 in the pre-season "poll" (actually computer ranking) while the Longhorns are unranked, but that doesn't mean a whole lot in a dual meet. The meet will be streamed live at
ArkansasSports360 / / / Start lists

Another, Kansas at Missouri, is already over. The Tigers handily defeated the Jayhawks in both the men's and the women's competition.
Results / Live blog

And then there's Ohio State at Michigan (men only). I may go. The one problem is the two teams are far too nice to each other. The visiting Buckeyes should be an enemy of the people. /

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Race Walking Movie

Yes, I'm serious...sort of.

Race Walkers is a mockumentary about the elite American race walking brothers, Jeb and Joel Callahan. Coached by wheelchair ridden race walking great Chuck Kuel (who's sole claim to fame was qualifying for the boycotted 1980 Moscow Olympics), living in a trailer park with their mother in small town Golden, Colorado, and haunted by the legend of their Olympic qualifying deceased father, the boys must find a way to qualify for the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon or forever suffer the reality of small town failure and the perpetual scrutiny of the athletic world. Read more...

World premiere Sunday night at the Festivus Film Festival in Denver. Available on DVD from the creators.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jen Stuczynski & Rick Suhr Married

Jen Stuczynski married her coach, Rick Suhr, on January 3rd. This only became public knowledge at a Millrose press conference.

Normally, such minutia doesn't merit mention here. But their relationship made news once before, at the Beijing Olympics. Suhr blew up at her while miked-up for NBC (she says she asked for the critique, and no one knew as she was not miked). It was, as they say, a "nine-day wonder" on the internet where Suhr was universally thought of as a prick.

If you've been married, and never gotten into a heated exchange with your spouse in front of other people, go ahead and cast the first stone. I, for one, will not. If that were the worst my wife and I ever have, both of us would have to take tranquilizers daily.

Book Review: Running, a novel

Running: A Novel
by Jean Echenoz
Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale
The New Press, 2009

This fictionalized biography of Emil Zátopek came to my attention via an excerpt in the current issue of Marathon & Beyond magazine. It was released in French in 2008, and this translated version was released last October.

I ordered it on Sunday, it got here around 4:00 today, and I've finished reading it already (even with a break for dinner). It's a slim book, just 122 pages and in a small (8"x5") format to boot. All very good reading.

Author Echenoz has won several awards for her other novels. The style and outlook on life is very French, although I can't put my finger on why. I guess it's just a certain je ne se quois.

He picked a good subject to work with. By contrast, Paavo Nurmi's biography would be very dull even in the best of hands. The superficial story of Zátopek is well known to track fans: trained much harder than anyone before him, dominated for years, was punished by the Communists after the Prague Spring, but his optimistic outlook could never be crushed. What is not well known, at least to westerners or the young, is life under first the Nazis and then totalitarians. Echenoz transmits the feeling of unease, fear and suspicion very well. It is a quiet terror we forget at our peril.

Final analysis: one of the ten best track books I've read While it could have gone more in depth, it would have compromised the minimalist style. I just wish there was more. Scores 390 meters (out of 400).

Rawson, Millrose Games

Two very interesting news items in this morning's headlines...

Larry Rawson: The End Of An Era In Track On TV
Larry Rawson, the (T&F) “Voice of ESPN” for its 30 years of existence, will no longer be part of the broadcast team for USATF’s series of indoor and outdoor meets.

While Rawson has been replaced by Ato Boldon for meets such as the Millrose Games, the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, and the Penn Relays, he will still have a presence on ESPN this year at the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Championships, the NCAA Indoor Championships, and major marathons in Boston, Chicago, and New York.
It remains to be seen as to whether Rawson chose this, or if it was chosen for him. I suspect the latter. He's only been kicked off the air for broadcasts run by USATF; ESPN still wants him. The decision must have come out of Indianapolis, and based on some of Doug Logan's remarks late last summer about changing the style of TV coverage, I wouldn't be surprised if it came from the top. (Or maybe even higher?)

Speed moves from turf to track for Super 60
Stars of NFL Championship Games spanning the last three decades will trade in their cleats for spikes in the Super 60 at the 103rd Millrose Games.

A new event highlighting the track speed of some of the NFL's most recognizable Super Bowl heroes, the Super 60 is expected to feature the New York Giant's Super Bowl XLI hero David Tyree, ex-Chicago Bear wide receiver and world-class sprinter/hurdler Willie Gault, and Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl kickoff return star Tim Dwight.
This kind of attempt to broaden spectator appeal is just what track needs, and indoor track is good at. This is no Chris Johnson/Usain Bolt circus, but rather a real race featuring very fast men with years of track experience. More ex-footballers are likely to be added in the next week or so.

Management of Millrose has been taken over this year by Norbert Sanders and his Armory Foundation, at the behest of Logan. Mark Wetmore's Global Athletics group had been in charge for the previous four years, and had been blamed for the falling popularity of the meet. The real problem is that GA is a national operation, and the multi-tiered format of Millrose (pro, college, high school, age group) requires management with connections to the NYC community as was the case under Howard Schmertz. Sanders has his detractors, and it's unlikely God himself could return Millrose to its glory days, but it sure looks like he's trying and thinking creatively. We need a lot more of that.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Weekend Update

There's news, and then there's analysis of the news. The internet and its blogs and non-traditional reporting has allowed the latter to thrive. Here are four great examples from the last week.

1) Kenenisa Bekele gets beaten in Edinburgh XC
And not by a little bit, either--he was fourth, some 150 meters behind the winners. It's safe to say he hasn't been beaten like this in years. What, exactly, does it mean? He partly blamed missed training while in Edinburgh due to snow and ice, but it's not possible to put any shine on this turd. He ran poorly, and beat no one of note.

I do world rankings in each event using a points system, and recently got the system up and running for the 2010 season. It has Bekele at #2 for the 3k-5k category, and I thought "Huh, that's weird. It'll correct itself soon enough." Maybe it was right, and my assumption that he's invincible was wrong.

2) World 10k champ Linet Masai inexplicably forced out of Abu Dhabi half marathon by AK
The Zayed International half marathon is a huge payday, by far the biggest for a non-marathon race. Masai, one of the world's best runners, probably would have finished second and walked away with $100,000. But on the eve of the race she was not granted the release necessary by Athletics Kenya, with no explanation, and didn't get to run. Let's Run speculates as to why, and it sounds just about right. It's the same kind of stuff that made Steve Prefontaine apoplectic, but with sexism thrown in to boot.

3) College track IS concerned with pleasing fans
By the way things go at nearly all college meets, you'd figure this was the last thing college coaches are worried about. In a discussion at the Track & Field News forums about the recently-released NCAA technical manual and exactly how the idiotic new regionals system works, westcoasttiger had this to say:
At the USATFCCA convention group leader (and the force behind this crappy new qualifying albatross) Sam Seemes speaks to the entire coaching group about how the collegiate nationals in xc, indoor and outdoor are struggling to put butts in the stands compared to various other sports. This system is certainly taking things the opposite direction. The ONLY way to bring more fans to the stands is to bring legitimate drama to the meets via real competition and most importantly creating a true TEAM aspect to the sport. Seemes spoke of how lacrosse, water polo, gymnastics, tennis, softball and soccer were kicking track's butt in attendance and revenue. Well the draw for those sports is each has a true team focus even tennis and gymnastics which are not inherently team sports.
He then goes on to give some pretty good ideas about how to fix the problem, citing collegiate swimming's setup as one to emulate. The real point, of which I was not aware, is that other so-called "minor" sports are concerned with getting (paying!) butts in the seats and track is not...or at least the concern is one where, as usual, track people see themselves as individuals first and foremost, and "herding cats" is not a strong enough metaphor.

Another issue not spoken of, but which must be on some coaches' minds, is the increase in regional cable sports TV outlets such as the Big Ten Network. Track lags far behind these other "minor" sports in getting itself on the air, and for the same reasons as cited above. Doubtless this is why powerhouse programs like Arkansas, Texas and Texas A&M are now scheduling dual meets, which are the only regular-season competitions suitable for TV coverage.

4) USATF isn't fan-friendly either
Duh. But T&FN's editor Garry Hill points out how. Analyzing the recently-released USATF Indoor Championships meet schedule, he sees an average time gap between running events of over ten minutes--and that's in the Sunday "prime-time" live TV portion of the program. The common critiques of baseball and soccer is that basically nothing happens during most of the competition, but this meet schedule really does pack 18 minutes of action into an hour and 45 minutes.

Two things jump out at me while reading this. The first is that no one cares about keeping the meet moving along. It's not just scheduling things so far apart, it's the entire idea of how to schedule a meet. If you want to tightly schedule a meet, you run the risk of clipping off warmup time for athletes in the next event, but not if you think creatively. Since the straightaway races of 60 meters and 60 hurdles and the multi-lap races of 400 and up use different surfaces, you simply alternate between them. Example: 1500 goes first, during which the hurdlers do their final warmups, then the hurdles, during which the 400 runners do their final warmups, and so on. Outdoors it gets a bit more complex, but there's still no reason the 1500 runners can't warm up during the 100, since they use opposite ends of the track.

Secondly, this is the kind of critical analysis that must get a wide airing if the sport is to correct itself. Track and field is often described as "insular", and a "wide airing" is a relative term here, but I'd guess for the most part the USATF bigwigs take it as important if it's in the pages of T&FN and not if it isn't. In the piece on Linet Masai, Johnson describes how USATF has gone probably too far in terms of satisfying athlete concerns over the good of the sport as a whole. A prominent editorial in T&FN about this poor scheduling, explaining while being good for the athletes in the short-term it makes for ever-decreasing fan interest, and how the livelihoods of professional athletes are wholly dependent on said fan interest, might have a chance to make a difference. Griping on a message board, no matter how justified, won't make a difference.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Thiefs, Know Your Athletes

We hear about these things every so often. From Alfonz Juck's EME News:
ATHENS (GRE): Greek media are informing about a recent bad day of 400 m hurdles 2004 olympic winner Fani Halkia. She was robbed as she was in her car and stopped at traffic light. A thief broke the car and grabbed a bag. She tried to chase him with her speed. The thief disappeared and threw the bag into the street without damaging it. The car remained in traffic but all observers were impressed by the speed of the athlete.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Go Figure

Even Sydney's Daily Telegraph has called Aussie hurdler Jana Pittman a "drama queen".

The normally-understated Wikipedia has a section in her bio titled "Negative Public Image" detailing a public tiff between her and Tamsyn Lewis. There should be no comparison, because Pittman is a great runner and Lewis sucks, and any self-confident athlete of Pittman's abilities would be happy to point that out. Pittman is a two-time world champion, while Lewis' notable achievements boil down to being on the rail when everyone else was looking at Maria Mutola, and taking her clothes off.

In 2006 Pittman married fellow hurdler Chris Rawlinson, who became her coach and manager. In April of last year, they separated and filed for divorce. At nearly the same time, she had a "secret" breast augmentation, a seemingly odd procedure for someone who makes her living off running.

Now she's had it reversed...and has reconciled with Rawlinson and they "plan to walk back down the aisle once their divorce is finalised".

At first I thought the timing of the surgeries and the breakup/reconciliation was wierd. Looking deeper, it's hard to say there's only one or two wierd things.

Greatest Story of the New Year

It's rare for a woman to win a coed race, but it happens from time to time. But how about a female amputee winning a race against able-bodied men and women?

Below-the-knee amputee Amy Palmiero-Winters won the Run to the Future 24-hour race, held in Glendale, AZ, on December 31 and January 1, with 130.04 miles. She left second place (male, two complete legs) some 14 miles behind.

How good is 130.04 miles? It puts her 5th among all women in the USA for 2009 and 22nd in the world. She has made the USA team for the World 24 Hour Championships. Finding world records for disabled athletes in the 24 hour run is proving difficult, but it's hard to imagine she's too far off. All this in her first attempt at the distance.

From Running USA:
Palmiero-Winters' left leg was crushed in a 1994 motorcycle accident. After 25 surgeries and a below-the-knee amputation in 1997, the former high school track and swimming star began a decade-long rehabilitation which led to triathlons, marathons and eventually ultramarathons. The mother of two set her sights on making the national women's ultra team (the 2009 team earned the silver medal at the World 24-Hour Run Championship), a goal requiring her to achieve a distance greater than 129.6 miles by the end of the qualifying period, which closed on January 1, 2010. The Run to the Future event commenced on December 31, 2009 at 9:00am, and finished exactly 24 hours later. The qualifying standard was the most demanding ever for the women's national 24-hour run squad, as the quality of American women's performances for the all-day / all-night running event was the highest in 2009 than in any previous year.
This is not her first major accomplishment; she holds the women's marathon world record for below-the-leg amputees (3:04) and was USATF's Athlete of the Week this past October after being the first known amputee to complete at 100-miler (where she won the women's division). This, however, takes it up another notch.

Check out her website.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Top Ten of the Decade #1

So what's my top fan experience of the decade?

The 2001 IAAF World Championships.

The moment Edmonton was announced as the hosts, I called up Track & Field News Tours and signed up. They had nothing on the tour yet, but decided they'd be willing to take money. I was psyched for the first (and as yet only) Worlds held in North America.

Originally, I was going to go by myself and take my luck with the roommate lottery, but I ended up with the best roommate I could ever have. My old high school coach went with me.

Edmonton is likely the least interesting city that's ever hosted a Worlds. I met some Edmontoners (Edmontonians? Edmontonese?) two years later at the Boston Marathon and they apologized for their city's boringness. I told them they had nothing to apologize for, as Edmonton was really a small town of a million people. (For that matter, the entirety of Canada is a small town.) What it lacked in glitz it more than made up for in warmth.

The stereotype of the friendly Canadian was borne out while I was there. Here's an example. The city has a light rail system going from downtown to Commonwealth Stadium with a few stops along the way. During the championships, it was free. Bob and I looked at the stations and determined they weren't cleaned up for the Worlds; they simply had never been dirty.

After bumbling around the new city for a while, we finally found our hangout, the Sherlock Holmes pubs. You always want to go where the locals go, and we met a lot of them.

For the most part, we slept, went to the pub, and went to the stadium. I even saw to the 50k walk. At the start, I think I was literally the only English-speaking person in the stadium who wasn't an employee. Out on the course I saw some people with an Aussie flag and chatted with them. One of them asked another "So how long is this supposed to take?" "Oh, about four hours." "Four hours? I thought it would be more like 30 minutes." "They're walking fifty bloody K!"

In retrospect, they might have been among the most doped Worlds in recent memory. They were held in the wake of the Sydney rumor that a double-digit number of athletes with positive tests had been allowed onto the US team, a rumor that turned out to be true. The Edmontonmen's 100 meters saw Maurice Greene (probably doped) beat Tim Montgomery (admittedly doped). The women's 200 meters saw the sudden emergence of Kelli White, who turned state's evidence two years later. The men's 200 meters were won by Konstantinos Kederis (almost certainly doped). Natalya Sadova won the women's disc and then lost it due to a positive for a stimulant (and in 2006 got nailed for steroids), turning it over to Elina Zvereva who had her own ban in 1992, and women's shot champ Yanina Korolchik got hit with a two-year ban in 2003. Ali Saidi-Sief lost his silver medal in the 5k when his sample came up positive for steroids. And the women's 100 meters had five of its eight finalists banned or implicated in doping (Marion Jones, Kelli White, Zhanna Block, Ekaterini Thanou, Chryste Gaines).

But that's not as much of a downer as you'd expect. What would be a real downer is if we didn't know about these, or if no one cared. It was the early days of WADA, and something did go right.WADA had just come up with an EPO test, and it made a difference. Olga Yegerova, who suddenly went from above-average to great in 2001, had tested positive for one part of the test earlier in the summer but the other part hadn't been administered and she got off on the technality. This did not sit well with the public, and Paula Radcliffe was at that moment most famous for creating headlines saying what everyone was thinking. Yegerova won the 5k, but all 50,000 people in attendance erupted in a hailstorm of boos. It was a moral victory for fair play, and one that did not go unnoticed by the sport's leaders.

I'm virtually certain the EPO test had a major effect on the 2001 Worlds. Steeplechaser Brahim Boulami finished only 10th but set a WR 16 days later, which seems very suspicious--especially considering he failed an EPO test the following year when he broke his own WR. Another odd occurrence was Khalid Khannouchi's DNF in the marathon, blaming a slow pace. Sureyya Ayhan, not yet well known, had a strange blip in her improvement curve.

All track, all day. A special daily track-meet section in the newspaper. Meeting people from all over the world, and spending ten days with one of my closest friends. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Top Ten of the Decade #2

Got a little behind here...

My #2 fan experience of the decade is the NCAA Cross Country championships. You may be thinking "why rank this so high?" Possibly because I go with old friends evey year and get good and drunk the night before, but that's not the real reason. Indiana State and the city of Terre Haute do what every host of a meet ought to do, namely work in the interest of the fans.

When ISU opened its Laverne Gibson Championship Cross Country course in 1997, the idea of a facility dedicated solely to cross country seemed odd. When they hosted their first NCAA championships in 2002, it didn't anymore. The place was fantastic. You could run the course before the meet. There was a PA system. The wide-open layout made it easy to see where the runners were going next. ISU hosted again in 2004 and every meet since.

But what really kicked it up a notch was that every year, ISU did something to make the meet better. They brought in a big scoreboard, then they brought in a video board. They used chip technology to do team scoring during the race (which allowed you to appreciate Colorado's dramatic come-from-behind victories). They had a fighter-jet flyover for the national anthem. They improved the course to give TV cameras better angles. The PA announcer started doing play-by-play (much better than TV announcers, by the way).

They do such a good job that no one else bids for the meet anymore. The meet never used to be on TV, but a few years after it went to ISU it got the tape-delay treatment. This year it was live. ISU managed to do something nearly impossible: they turned one of the least spectator-friendly championships into a major spectator event.

Missouri State and Wisconsin have both now built stand-alone cross country courses, and likely will bid for an NCAA meet. They'd better learn from the pros. ISU puts on the best XC show on the planet.