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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

We should pray that ESPN wins the rights to the next Olympic cycle. Key quote in a NY Times article exploring the coming bidding war:
“I don’t think nonlive is sports fan-friendly,” said John Skipper, ESPN’s executive vice president for content.

The fundamental difference in philosophy pits NBC, an old-line broadcaster with cable and online properties, against ESPN, a cable empire that is heavily steeped in digital technology but has never carried the Olympics.

“It’s hard for me to imagine, in our culture, not showing events live,” Skipper said.
In short, ESPN would likely cover the Olympics like a sports event, whereas NBC has covered it like reality TV. Also, given ESPN's penchant for self-promotion, they'd start covering track more seriously.

Kenyan middle-distance guys have serious speed. Buried in the results of the Sydney Track Classic was a notable third place in the men's 400 meters.
David Rudisha, KEN, 45.50
Nice time. He handily beat David Neville. Now, both of them are in early-season training and not particularly sharp. But Neville is 400 specialist, and Rudisha runs the 800. Neville is an Olympic bronze medalist; Rudisha is the African record holder. Lesson: if you want to run 1:42.01, you'd better be able beat a guy with a 44.61 PR.

Usain Bolt is unbelievable. He ran a few legs for his club team at the Gibson Relays, twice on the 4x100 and once on the 4x400. In the latter he got the stick some 20m behind the lead and proceeded to run 43.58 and came up just short of the victory.

A number of items need to be taken into account. A running start gives him an advantage of about 0.75 seconds as compared to an open 400. It only puts him #11 on the all-time relay split list, behind people like Denis Alekseyev (who?). But it was his third race of the day on a rather ordinary running surface. And it's February. A monster.

Bettman, are you paying attention? The players called this Olympics the greatest hockey tournament of all time, and it just had the most exciting of all imaginable outcomes, an overtime rematch of the two nations who host the NHL. The pros just got two weeks of the kind of publicity you can't buy. The league is not certain it will continue to participate in Olympic hockey; I hope they understand that they need the excitement and exposure it generates.

Elevation didn't matter. Distance runners raised a stink about the mile-high elevation at the USATF indoor championships and how it would give sprinters and hurdlers an unfair advantage in the VISA Championship Series points standings. Turned out the winners were throwers, Amber Campbell in the women's weight and Christian Cantwell in the men's shot. The coach bitching the most? John Cook, whose once-leading athlete Shannon Rowbury didn't even win either of the races she entered.

Conference meets kick ass. Big XII: five points separated the top three men's teams. Conference USA: women's title came down to the 4x400. SEC: Arkansas' men clinched the win in the second-to-last event. Other minor conferences had similar tight battles. Letting people know about this kind of exciting action is where college track is really missing out.

Debbie Dunn is ascending quick. The most notable upset of the meet at the USATF indoors was Debbie Dunn's 400 win. The time was very good, although the altitude was a big help. The surprise came in her beating Allyson Felix. "Beating Allyson Felix" is a phrase generally reserved for a select few; the club just got a new inductee.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Don Cherry Watch

I've not watched a whole lot of the Winter Olympics. I like a lot of the sports, and my earliest (and best) Olympic memories are of Lake Placid in 1980. But the NBC coverage leaves a lot to be desired, my beloved CBC didn't win the rights for these games, and I've got a lot of other things going on as well.

The one thing I absolutely must watch is the men's ice hockey final, provided a North America team is in it. It appears most likely to be a USA-Canada rematch. Considering that my ethnic heritage could best be described as "Canadian-American", and I appreciate how much hockey means to Canada, I'm cheering for the Canucks.

I grew up watching Hockey Night in Canada, and easily the most entertaining part of the evening is Coaches' Corner with Don Cherry and Ron MacLean. Cherry has been described for Americans in a multitude of ways that get close to his persona but aren't quite right. The one that works best for me is that he's Canada's Jesse "The Body" Ventura. And yes, Ron MacLean is every bit his Mean Gene Okerlund. The main difference is that Ventura's pro wrestling announcer gig was a schtick, whereas Cherry is being 100% himself.

The pro wrestling comparison is valid. Old-school hockey, especially of the minor league variety, appeals to a working-class audience through showmanship and violence. And I mean this in the most loving, positive way. Hockey is being a bit suburbanized and toned down, but it's still great fun. The last time I went to a game in the old Sports Arena, the fans sitting behind us were truly frightening. I love Toledo.

One part of Cherry's persona is his penchant for very nice and very wild suits. It's as if he fashions himself a don in the Scottish mafia. Believe it or not, this is one of his more subdued outfits:
For the 2002 Olympic final between the USA and Canada, watched by 2/3 of the whole country, Cherry's outfit was truly amazing, like he had been baptized in maple leafs. I am so sad that I will not be able to see it this year. But I will be able to follow it on the great blog, Don We Now Our Gay Apparel, which is dedicated to Grapes' wardrobe.

I leave you with some of his greatest hits...
At Anaheim for the Stanley Cup Finals

The annual Christmas suit

Celebrity judge for Battle of the Blades, an on-ice version of Dancing with the Stars

Can't top a classic

What's On The Weekend


The USATF Indoor Championships take place in Albuquerque on Saturday and Sunday. TV coverage is on Sunday from 7 to 9 PM on ESPN2.
Meet website / USATF preview #1 / USATF preview #2 / USATF preview #3 / KOAT-TV

Several other nations are having their nationals over the weekend, most notably Russia (Moscow, Friday through Sunday) and Germany (Karlsruhe, Saturday and Sunday).

The World's Best 10k, an IAAF Gold Label road race and true to its name, will be run on Sunday through the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Race website / IAAF preview / EAA preview / Runner's Web

The Tokyo Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label road race, will be run in Japan on Sunday.
Race website / IAAF preview / JRN preview /

The Rock'n'Roll Mardi Gras Marathon and Half Marathon will be run during Lent in New Orleans on Sunday. The half marathon features Martin Lel versus Sammy Wanjiru.
Race website / IAAF preview / Flotrack coverage / Runnerville /

The Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet, an IAAF cross country permit meet, will be run in Japan on Saturday. It functions as Japan's selection race for the World Championships.
Meet website (in Japanese) / IAAF preview /Live webcast

The Eurocross, an IAAF cross country permit meet, will be run on Diekirch, Luxembourg, on Sunday.
IAAF preview

The Sydney Track Classic, a stop on the Athletics Australia Tour, will be held at the city's Olympic Park.
Meet website / Live webcast / Flotrack coverage / Sydney Morning Herald


This is Conference Championship Weekend. Major conference action:

Atlantic Coast, Thursday through Sunday, Blacksburg VA
Website / preview / Live webcast: Friday 3-7:30, Saturday noon-4

Big Ten Men, Saturday and Sunday, Minneapolis MN
Website / TV: Big Ten Network, March 9, 7 PM

Big Ten Women, Saturday and Sunday, University Park PA
Website / preview / TV: Big Ten Network, March 9, 9 PM

Big XII, Friday and Saturday, Ames IA
Website / preview

Conference USA, Friday and Saturday, Houston TX
Website / preview

Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, Friday and Saturday, Seattle WA
Website / preview / Flotrack coverage

Mountain West, Thursday through Saturday, Albuquerque NM
Website / preview

Southeastern Conference, Friday through Sunday, Fayetteville AR
Website / preview / TV: ESPNU, March 11, 9 PM

All the rest

Fantasy League Outlook, Women

I picked the men yesterday.

Women’s 60 meters
Carmelita Jeter will win unless she false-starts.

Women’s 400 meters
Allyson Felix will open her season here, and that makes this a bit unpredictable, but she’s so much better than anyone else entered that I consider her a safe pick.

Women’s 800 meters
Anna Willard is entered in both the 800 and 1500, and both finals are on the same day, so there’s some risk involved in picking her since she’ll drop out of one event or the other. All indications are that she’ll run the 800, and if so I can’t see her being beaten. Otherwise the favorite’s role would be shared by Alysia Johnson and Erin Donahue.

Women’s 1500 meters
Rowbury likewise is entered in both the 1500 and 3000, but it’s possible she could compete in both. She’d be a heavy favorite in the 1500. But what if she doesn’t run the 1500? Willard. And if she doesn’t run the 1500? Sara Hall. But Hall is entered in both the 1500 and 3000, so what if she doesn’t run the 1500? Then we go down to Erin Donahue...who is also entered in both the 800 and 1500, so if she’s not in this race I’d take Sara Bowman. Just keep your eyes peeled for any kind of indication of who is running what. The default position is Rowbury but stay vigilant.

Women’s 3000 meters
Rowbury, and if she drops out then Hall, and if she drops out then Desiree Davila. Again, keep up on the details.

Women’s 60m Hurdles
Lolo Jones is head and shoulders above the rest.

Women’s 3k Race Walk
Joanne Dow?

Women’s High Jump
Chaunte (Howard) Lowe for the win.

Women’s Pole Vault
Jenn (Stuczynski) Suhr was entered but dropped out, leaving Chelsea Johnson as a heavy favorite.

Women’s Long Jump
Hyleas Fountain has a (marginally) better mark in 2010 than Brittney Reese, but I like the world champ to win.

Women’s Triple Jump
No Americans have achieved a world-class mark this year, making this choice a bit hard. Oddi says Shakeema Welsch, I won’t disagree.

Women’s Shot Put
Michelle Carter is the big name, but Jill Camarena-Williams has had a superior season. I’ll go for the “upset”, if you can call it that, and take Williams.

Women’s Weight Throw
Amber Campbell.

VISA Championship Series Issues

There’s been a bit of barking over the VISA Championships Series standings and the venue of the upcoming USATF Championships. The series awards bonus money to the top three Americans, as measured by their best performance in the series according to the IAAF scoring tables.

The nationals are being held in Albuquerque, at an altitude of 5300 feet. That has a significant effect on the sprints, hurdles, horizontal jumps and distance events. In a recent release, USATF CEO Doug Logan said the following:
International standards set by the IAAF do not take into account altitude adjustments for scoring tables, records or rankings. That will hold true for the USA Indoor Championships as well, given that the scoring for the Visa Championship Series uses official IAAF tables. Rather than arbitrarily make an adjustment based on nothing more than a guess, which would result in vast inequities in the tables, it is far more fair to have athletes compete and have their performances compared as they always are.

I can assure you that well before our sport committee chairs approved awarding the Indoor Championships to Albuquerque, the relatively moderate altitude of the site was discussed extensively by USATF staff, with input from coaches and members of the sports science and sports medicine communities as well.
I don’t for a second believe the stuff about "discussed extensively by USATF staff, with input from coaches and members of the sports science and sports medicine communities". They simply never thought about it when considering the bid put forth by Albuquerque, or if they did it was deemed unimportant.

The whole system does lend itself to certain unfairnesses anyway, even aside from altitude issues. Professionally rabbitted distance races are the norm, and are reflected as such in the scoring tables, but championship meets lack paid pacemakers and never produce exceptional times. So by the time the nationals come around, distance runners cannot move up in the standings, only down. Outdoors, no allowances are made for wind, so a wind-aided sprint/hurdle/jump can win the big money.

But in this particular instance, I don’t think the altitude in Albuquerque is going to affect who is going to win. Christian Cantwell’s leading mark, a 72’ (21.95m) effort in the shot put, is beyond the reach of all but a few athletes in the meet. This year money is being paid out for second and third, and even catching one of those won’t be easy.

What does it take? Here you go.
Event1st place2nd place3rd place

In the 60 meters, the altitude is estimated to give an advantage of 0.04 seconds. The US leader is Ivory Williams at 6.51, and I don’t think he can get that 6.44. Maybe he can; it would take a "real" improvement of 0.03.

The 400 is hard to read. The estimated advantage due to altitude is 0.37, and only Kerron Clement has the wheels to run the equivalent of an indoor 45.42. Considering that this is his season opener, I don’t think he’ll get it.

The altitude will be of a smaller aid to the hurdlers, maybe 0.02 seconds. Terrence Trammell has run 7.43 and is more than capable of running the 7.40 needed to catch Cantwell, as it would take a "real" improvement of 0.01.

As for the rest of the events, forget it. Not happening.

On the women’s side of things, Shannon Rowbury leads the standings. But neither Carmelita Jeter nor Lolo Jones competed in either of the first two meets, and pretty much every time they’ve run this year they put up marks that would be ahead of Rowbury’s. With Allyson Felix entered in the 400, I think those will be your top three who win the money.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NFL Combine

As discussed ad infinitum elsewhere, 40-yard dash times are notoriously imprecise. But ESPN has given us a "cheat sheet" for the upcoming NFL combine.

Note that Darrell Green supposedly ran 4.43 on his recent 50th birthday. That would have made him 5th best at last year's combine.

Fantasy League Outlook, Men

My picks for this weekend's USATF Championships men's events. Women's picks coming tomorrow.

Men’s 60 meters
This is a two-man race between Ivory Williams and Mike Rodgers. Rodgers has sharpened up a little bit over the last week or two, but he’s still nowhere near what he was in either of the last two indoor seasons. I think Williams will win.

Men’s 400 meters
This is hard to pick because there’s been so little action among the contenders. Kerron Clement is probably the best athlete of those entered, but we don’t really know what kind of shape he’s in. Bershawn Jackson has been racing consistently and well. If he doesn’t win, he’ll be in the top three, and when faced with great uncertainty in fantasy leagues you want to go with safety.

Men’s 800 meters
Nick Symmonds hasn’t raced a whole lot, but there are two big reasons I think he’s ready to run very well. He led off the OTC’s record-setting distance medley in about 2:51, which indicates he’s ready for 1:46 or so. Secondly, the meet is in Albuquerque, at some 5300 feet of altitude, and he’s been training there for a month. I think he’s going to dominate.

Men’s 1500 meters
This is a bit enigmatic, but I’m going to take Leonel Manzano. He’s among the three or four best milers in the country, is a good tactician, and has done some altitude training.

Men’s 3000 meters
Unrabbited. Championship. Indoors. 3000 meters. At altitude. Every single factor which is an advantage to Bernard Lagat is present in this race. I can’t imagine him being beaten.

Men’s 60m Hurdles
It’s a two-man race between Terrence Trammell and David Oliver. The former is far more consistent than the latter. Pick Trammell.

Men’s 5k Race Walk.
Tim Seaman?

Men’s High Jump
This should be a three-way battle between Jesse Williams, Andra Manson and Dusty Jonas. I rate it as a toss-up. I’ll take Williams but I’m far from confident.

Men’s Pole Vault
Ugh. This has not been a good year so far for US men’s pole vaulters. Jason Colwick and Scott Roth are the only guys with decent clearances to their name, and they’re both collegians and not entered. Jeremy Scott has shown the best consistency.

Men’s Long Jump
Brian Johnson is the current world leader.

Men’s Triple Jump
Brandon Roulhac is the defending champ but hasn’t shown the same kind of form he had last year. Walter Davis is the man to take.

Men’s Shot Put
Christian Cantwell is everyone’s undisputed #1.

Men’s Weight Throw
This will probably come down to AG Kruger and Cory Martin. I like Kruger.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Shot Put Rankings

Most recent rankings here. Changes since then in parens.

Cantwell continued his winning ways with 21.61 in Leipzig, over Dylan Armstrong (20.85) and Ralf Bartels (20.66). Andrei Miknevich moved into second after a pair of very good outings, 21.44 this weekend and 21.81 the weekend before that. Majewski won a somewhat lackluster affair in Valencia.

1. Christian Cantwell
2. Andrei Mikhnevich (+4)
3. Reese Hoffa (-1)
4. Tomasz Majewski (-1)
5. Daniel Taylor (-1)
6. Ralf Bartels (-1)
7. Pavel Lyzhyn (+1)
8. Adam Nelson (+1)
9. Ryan Whiting (-2)
10. Dylan Armstrong
11. Pavel Sofin
12. Dorian Scott
12. Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhabashi
14. David Storl (new)
15. Maksim Sidorov (-1)
16. Zach Lloyd (-1)
17. Marco Schmidt (-1)
18. Asmir Kolasinac (new)
19. Jacko Gill (new)
20. Maris Urtans (-3)

Ostapchuk's massive 21.70 moves her from sixth to first. Vili opened up with 20.25 in Australia. Mikhnevich had good outings in her last two weekends with 20.29 and 19.18. Anca Heltne had a big 19.90 this weekend. Back in #16, Jill Camarena-Williams took the US lead with 18.83 in Flagstaff.

1. Nadzeya Ostapchuk (+5)
2. Valerie Vili (-1)
3. Natallia Mikhnevich (+1)
4. Nadine Kleinert (-2)
5. Lijiao Gong (-2)
6. Anca Heltne (+2)
7. Anna Avdeeva (-3)
8. Denise Hinrichs (-1)
9. Petra Lammert
10. Anna Omarova (+8)
11. Yanina Privalinskaya-Karolchik (+6)
12. Meiju Li (-2)
13. Misleydis González (-2)
14. Michelle Carter (-2)
15. Mailín Vargas (-2)
16. Jillian Camarena-Williams (new)
17. Christina Schwanitz (-3)
18. Chiara Rosa (-3)
19. Ling Li (-3)
20. Yaniuvis López (new)

Both Simpler And More Complex

From this week’s The Week That Was:
In a recent headline regarding Usain Bolt, we pointed out how his 200m world record of 19.19 is almost exactly twice his 100 meter world record and wondered how that could be. Well, the people over at have written a nice piece explaining how it all works out.
You’d be surprised to find out how often people go for the complex explanation and miss the simple one. The linked article talks about acceleration and maximum speed and all that stuff and uses all kinds of physics terms.

But it makes the mistake of taking times and distances at face value. Sports measurement is not the same as physics measurement. Track & field is generally closer than any other sport, but it’s still not quite the same.

In a track & field sense, Usain Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds and ran 200 meters in 19.19 seconds, showing no slowing over the longer distance. In a physics sense, Bolt ran those in 9.43 and 19.06 seconds, which does show some slowing. The difference occurs because the clock started at the report of the pistol, which was before Bolt began running. In track, we call this “reaction time”. It’s part of the sport, but it’s not part of how we measure speed in a physics class.

Then there’s the distance. We all understand that a football player credited with a 90-yard touchdown run may actually have moved more than 90 yards, because the field is measured in a straight line but the athlete probably didn’t move that way. In track, the issue is similar, but subtler and more complex.

The 100m is run in a straight line, and Euclidean geometry tells us that’s the shortest distance between two points. Because of this, we can’t run any less than 100 meters in a 100m race, but a sloppy runner can run more. We can confidently say Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.43 seconds for a speed of 10.60 meters per second.

But the 200 is run partly around a curve, and that makes distances less than clear. Athletes must stay in their lanes, but what does that mean? Track & field rules say an athlete’s feet must stay in his lane, but from a physics perspective the important thing is the center of gravity, and an athlete’s center of gravity can go into the next lane. Look at a photo of a sprinter hugging the lane line and leaning aggressively, and his COG is clearly in the next lane.

Then there’s the issue of how the lanes are measured. If you take a measuring wheel and roll it from a 200m start line to the finish line going along the left-hand lane line, it will give you a distance of somewhat less than 200 meters. This is because the true distance on tracks isn’t on the lane lines, but 30 cm (1 foot) outside of them. The shortage from 200 meters varies depending on the lane; while they all spend the same distance on the turn, outside lanes go through a smaller central angle. (If you want this part explained to you, seek out a pre-calculus teacher.)

Figuring out exactly how much distance a sprinter saves in a 200m race isn’t easy, and if they’re in the middle or outside of their lane they’ll have run more than 200 meters. But at this point I’ll just guess that Bolt probably ran about 199 meters.

So Bolt’s official times, from a track & field perspective, are 9.58 and 19.19, showing only an 0.16% slowdown. But his estimated speeds, from a physics perspective, are about 10.60 m/s and 10.46 m/s, showing a 1.49% slowdown.

As defined by sports, Bolt doesn’t slow down. As defined by physics, he does.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wireless Athlete Tracking

Do you remember the funny tags runners were wearing on their shoulders in the Boston Indoor Games 5000 meters? They looked like this:

They were beta-testing a new athlete tracker technology.
As Lagat rounded the track at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Roxbury, running the 5000 meters in thirteen minutes and eleven seconds, the tag relayed information about his precise position on the track to a Lynx computer system in a control room above the action, which enabled a robotic camera to closely follow Lagat, and provided detailed new information for the ESPN announcers who were calling the race.
The linked article talks about using the tracking "to give announcers information about estimated finish times, for instance, or can be replayed afterward by a coach to help runners identify the points in a race where they may have slowed down".

I think they're totally missing the best possible application for the technology. Ever see the name/data pointers they use to identify cars on NASCAR broadcasts? We now can do the same for runners during televised meets. Never, ever stop thinking about how to make a sport better on TV. The competitors aren't.

Climate Change Affects Olympics

No, really. Read on.

Walk Rankings

I know you were anxiously awaiting these.

MEN - 20k
Australia's #2 Jared Tallent, a rare generalist who competes at both the 20k and 50k distances, put up the year's fastest time at his national championships a week ago. #4 Stanislav Emelyanov won Saturday's Russian Championships. Francisco Fernández is in some hot water for possession of banned drugs and will likely be stricken from the rankings soon.

1. Valeriy Borchin RUS
2. Jared Tallent AUS
3. Wang Hao CHN
4. Stanislav Emelyanov RUS
5. Pyotr Trofimov RUS
6. Li Jianbo CHN
7. Eder Sánchez MEX
8. Denis Strelkov RUS
9. Kim Hyun-sub KOR
10. Giorgio Rubino ITA
11. Erik Tysse NOR
12. Andrey Krivov RUS
12. Chu Yafei CHN
14. Koichiro Morioka JPN
15. Aleksandr Yargunkin RUS
15. Francisco Fernández ESP
15. Luis Fernando López COL
18. Aleksey Konkin RUS
19. Petr Trofimov RUS
20. Luke Adams AUS

MEN - 50k
#10 Sergey Bakulin won the Russian title over #1 Sergey Kirdyapkin at 35k over the weekend, and while it's not 50k it does have some effect on the rankings.

1. Sergey Kirdyapkin RUS
2. Yohann Diniz FRA
2. Jared Tallent AUS
4. Yuki Yamazaki JPN
4. Zhao Chengliang CHN
6. Francisco Javier Fernández ESP
7. Trond Nymark NOR
7. Matej Tóth SVK
7. Jesús Angel García ESP
10. Sergey Bakulin RUS
11. Wang Hao CHN
12. Grzergorz Sudol POL
13. Denis Nizhegorodov RUS
14. André Höhne GER
14. Luke Adams AUS
16. Si Tianfeng CHN
17. Li Jianbo CHN
18. Marco De Luca ITA
19. Jarkko Kinnunen FIN

WOMEN - 20k
Russians dominate.

1. Anisya Kirdyapkina RUS
2. Vera Sokolova RUS
3. Tatyana Sibileva RUS
4. Olga Kaniskina RUS
5. Larisa Yemelyanova RUS
6. Yelena Shumkina RUS
7. Lyudmila Arkhipova RUS
8. Tatyana Mineeva RUS
9. Mayumi Kawasaki JPN
10. Masumi Fuchise JPN
11. Liu Hong CHN
12. Svetlana Solobyeva RUS
13. Kjersti Plätzer NOR
14. Jiang Jing CHN
14. Li Yanfei CHN
14. Olive Loughnane IRL
14. Sabine Krantz GER
18. Elisa Rigaudo ITA
19. Kumi Otoshi JPN
20. Bo Yanmin CHN
20. Tatyana Shemyakina RUS

Weekly Awards

The Performance of the Week honors go to Aniysa Kirdyapkina for her 1:25:11 20k walk at the Russian Championships in Sochi. It ties her for third on the all-time list. Two more sub-1:26 times were recorded behind her, making the race the Competition of the Week as well. All of this should be taken with a grain of salt as there were no international judges present, and adherence to the rules (or lack thereof) has as much to do with fast times as anything else.

A close runner-up is Elvan Abeylegesse for her 1:07:07 half marathon in the UAE. Honorable mention goes to Mare Ibrahimova (1:07:13) and Aselefech Mergia (1:07:22) in the same race, and Vera Sokolova (1:25:35) and Tatyana Sibileva (1:25:52) for their fast walks behind Kirdyapkina in Sochi.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

...with apologies to Peter King...

What have we learned this week?

Christian Olsson is back. Maybe not to his previous level, but he's stamped himself as a contender for the World Indoor title. The six-time major championship gold medalist triple jumper lost most or all of the last three seasons to injury, but beat back the best field of the young year to win in Birmingham yesterday with the season's leading mark.

Something is wrong with Kenenisa Bekele. First he got his butt whupped in Edinburgh, then he pulled out of a much-publisized race in Birmingham. The first is far more meaningful than the second, but chinks in the armor may be showing. Yeah, Beks was talking world record, but athletes always talk that way. This could be concern over nothing--he was a double world champ last year--but you can't stay on top forever.

Fabiana Murer is the best of the mortal pole vaulters. Isinbayeva is a god, an Olympian of the ancient meaning; Murer is the best of the rest. She beat a deep field in Birmingham for her second South American record of the year, and has a winning record versus everyone (except Isi, of course.) The IAAF's news service saw this coming three weeks ago (note: only Brazilian women wouldn't take offense at a headline including the phrase "growing behind"), but now it's obvious even to numbskulls like me.

We have a rivalry. Carmelita Jeter was soundly beaten by Lavern Jones-Ferrette in Dusseldorf a week ago. This time Jeter came out ahead, but in a photo-finish. Note that Jone-Ferrette was last out of the blocks yesterday and still nearly won the race. The worlds looks to be the decider in this best-of-three match.

Some people really know how to play "joy whack-a-mole". Joy pops up, they beat it down. (Joke stolen from Maria Bamford.) This news item is a bit more than a week old, but it merits mention. A new privately-funded state-of-the-art track facility just opened in Geneva, Ohio. Not only is it truly one of the best in the world, but its extra lanes cut down the often-agonizing length of indoor meets. Garry Hill's lone response was to bitch about it being 300 meters instead of the standard 200 meters because it makes record-keeping more complicated.

Gregg Easterbrook is an idiot. He writes ESPN's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column and often goes off topic into science and economics, subjects he's consulted for his expertise in his day job at think tanks. Problem: he doesn't understand football, he really doesn't understand science and he doesn't understand the mathematical or logical underpinnings of either one. Fortunately for him, his job title is pundit, one of two occupations where rank incompetence will never get you fired. The other is school board.

If you're a talented and well-prepared runner, you can run any distance. Well, some people already knew this, but not enough of them. As Tim Noakes said, if you can't beat someone at the mile you're not going to beat them at the marathon either.

There are always new Kenyans. Nourredine Morceli's famous quote was just proven again yesterday. The Kenyan men's trials race for the World Cross Country Championships just might be the toughest race in the world. Yesterday another new Kenyan came to the fore, Paul Tanui, and he beat the living crap out of the field. He won by thirty seconds, which is like winning the Super Bowl by fifty points. Two years ago he didn't know how to run in shoes and now he's a medal favorite for the Worlds. This is why Athletics Kenya can abuse their athletes: there's an endless supply of up-and-coming world beaters ready to take their place.

The hammer throwers really will get their own series. When the new Diamond League was announced last year, the hammer was conspicuously absent from their plans, as it's an event that doesn't easily fit in many venues. Martin Bingisser sees more bad than good in the current setup, but I see the hammer fitting into long-term plan for every event to get a minimum amount of exposure--and the hammer is an event that could have slipped far off the radar.

Rachel Maddow is not asking the right questions. On multiple recent installments of The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC's openly-leftist news host berated the IOC for not including women's ski jumping at this year's Olympics. She included some unfortunate quotes by Gian-Franco Kasper, head of the International Ski Federation, as to why they were excluded. But what he wants or thinks isn't really the issue here: the IOC is a political and bureaucratic organization, and has rules and policies and procedures a-plenty. The real questions to ask: 1) Are there guidelines for adding new sports to the Olympic Games? 2) Were these guidelines followed in this instance? 3) Have these guidelines generally been followed in other recent instances? I know the answer to 1) is yes, but I don't know what the guidelines are, and I don't know the answers to 2) and 3). It is the job of a reporter to ask these questions and find out the answers, and only then can we make judgments about institutional sexism. Maddow rarely fails to do her homework, but in this case she has.

American women shot putters are making their mark. Last year Michelle Carter became only the fifth American woman to make T&FN's world rankings in the shot put. Right now there are four Americans in the world's top 25. None are likely to medal at the Worlds or come home from the Diamond League final with wads of cash, but the movement is definitely up.

Blanka Vlasic is really, really popular in Croatia. 11,000 people came out to see her jump in Split. That's all there was, just a women's high jump competition. It was the only event on the schedule.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Stunning...not so much

I have an iPhone (which is amongst humanities greatest inventions) and every morning just about the first thing I do is read through my RSS feed of track & running news. So by 6:30 this morning I had read all about the Ras Al Kaimah half marathon.

The headlines trumpeted Elvan Abeylegesse's win, the fastest-ever debut at the half marathon distance. I was less than surprised; an athlete with her abilities would either have won, or blown up. Consdiering that the pace went out slow, it was perfect for her.

Abeylegesse, more than most athletes, exposes why the eastern Africans dominate distance running. Unlike most of the others, she started in middle distances and still competes in them from time to time. Her 1500m best is 3:58.28. How good is that? Better than Anna Willard, last year's #1-ranked half miler, or Shannon Rowbury, last year's Worlds bronze medalist at the distance. And she's now running the half marathon and planning a transition to the marathon.

Yet Abeylegesse moved to the 5000 and 10,000 relatively quickly. Maybe she knew it was unlikely she could compete for a World or Olympic medal in the 1500. More likely, as an Ethiopian she saw the longer distances as the glamour events.

The recent Boston Indoor Games saw Ethiopia's B-level runners outkick Rowbury at 3000 meters. Abeylegesse is faster than they are, and Tiru Dibaba and Meseret Defar are a lot faster than any of them. And by this I mean pure sprint speed; all of them have the speed necessary to compete with the best in the world at the middle distances, yet they choose to run further.

The ability to run long distances fast is, for the most part, highly correlated to the ability to run short distances fast. This is not a new observation. Gordon Pirie said so in the 1950s, as did Arthur Lydiard in the 1960s and 70s. It's not that any decent sprinter can become a great distance runner--the ability to develop endurance must also be present--but there are probably a lot of US quarter-milers flailing about at the wrong things.

I had a high school teammate who ran 48.2 as a junior, but we were pretty deep in the sprints and at the state level he was up against guys like Chris Nelloms and Robert Smith, and our visionary coach moved him to the 800 and 1600. It suited him well, but nothing ever happened at a larger level because he was too much of a knucklehead. But he was more talented at middle-distance running than another guy I ran with, Todd Black (who ran 1:46.00); this guy had the physical talents to be an Olympian and make a difference when he was there.

The problem in the USA is that we believe athletes only take up distances if they can't compete in the sprints, and long distances only if they can't compete in the middle distances. It's not surprising when you realize our developmental levels of middle and high schools and colleges reward scoring a lot of points through multiple events and relays. A coach of a kid who can run 49.0 multiple times in a day plus maybe 4x200 and/or 4x800 legs would have to be nuts to ask him to run only the 1600 and 3200, unless he had the "big points" vision of a state championship meet.

Compare this to the club-type atmosphere in Kenya or Ethiopia. In Kenya, kids wonder why you'd want to run sprints when you can run the middle distances. In Ethiopia, kids wonder why you can run middle distances when you can run long distances.

Our approach isn't a problem as long as people are willing to move up once their school days are over. We're going back to that approach, as we once did in the 1970s, and our results are showing it. But they're being too tentative, and we're not going to have a World or Olympic champion until someone with major-league wheels takes to the long races.

Long Distance Rankings

My initial rankings for the long distances need a bit of explanation.

First off, the "long distances" are longer than 10k but shorter than the marathon. Any surface is game -- track, road, cross country. In essence, it's mostly road racing with a bit of XC action thrown in for the men. The season begins immediately after the New York City Marathon, so some November-December '09 action is included.

The major events have been the Zayed half marathon in January and today's Ras Al Kaimah half marathon. #1 Tilahun Regassa won the first while #2 Geoffrey Mutai won the second. Ten of the next twelve ran in one race or the other. Tomorrow's Kenyan trials, the "mini world championships", should have an effect on these standings. Top (and only) ranked American Dathan Ritzenhein is back at #42.

1. Tilahun Regassa
2. Geoffrey Kiprono Mutai
3. Sammy Kirop Kitwara
4. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich
5. Titus Masai
6. Tadese Tola
7. Lelisa Desessa
8. Getu Feleke
9. Martin Irungu
10. Gedion Lekumok Ngatuny
11. Wilson Kwambai Chebet
12. Willy Kariuku Mwangi
13. Jairus Chanchaima
14. Stephen Kipkoech Kibiwott
15. Patrick Makau Musyoki
16. Bernard Kiprop Kipyego
16. James Kipsang Kwambai
16. Jonathan Maiyo
16. Leonard Komon
20. Deriba Merga

Similar to the men, the top of the list is dominated by top runners at the Zayed and RAK races, #1 Mary Keitany winning the first and #2 Elvan Abeylegesse the second. The next three women ran both races. #6 Tiru Dibaba ran the road performance of the season, a nice 46:28 15k in Holland back in November, but has since turned her attention back to the track.

1. Mary Jepkosgei Keitany
2. Elvan Abeylegesse
3. Aselefech Mergia
4. Mare Ibrahimova
5. Dire Tune
6. Tirunesh Dibaba
7. Teyba Erkesso
8. Philes Moora Ongori
9. Hilda Kibet
10. Atsede Habtamu
11. Wude Ayalew
12. Nicole Chapple
13. Linet Masai
13. Mestawet Tufa
15. Amane Gobena
15. Aberu Kebede
17. Abebu Gelan
18. Kara Goucher
18. Mamitu Daska
18. Bezunesh Bekele

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pole Vault Rankings

Last rankings were on February 6. Changes since then in parens.

#1 Steve Hooker has started his campaign down under with 5.70 and 5.80. #5 Malte Mohr won in Leipzig. #10 Viktor Chistiakov won in Athens yesterday and was second to #6 Maksim Mazuryuk in Potsdam.

1. Steven Hooker
2 Renaud Lavillenie
3. Romain Mesnil
4. Alexander Straub
5. Malte Mohr (+3)
6. Maksym Mazuryk (+2)
7. Jeremy Scott (-2)
8. Derek Miles (-2)
9. Pavel Gerasimov (-2)
10. Viktor Chistiakov (+9)
11. Brad Walker (-3)
12. Evgeniy Lukyanenko (-1)
13. Alhaji Jeng (-1)
14. Konstantinos Filippidis (+1)
15. Kevin Rans (+3)
16. Danny Ecker (-3)
17. Aleksandr Gripich (-1)
18. Raphael Holzdeppe (+1)
19. Steven Lewis (-5)
20. Damiel Dossévi (new)

#1 Yelena Isinbayeva won with ease in Moscow with a world-leading 4.85. #3 Anna Rogowska beat #2 Fabiana Murer in Poland to even their season score at 1-1. These three are head-and-shoulders above the rest. Jen (Stuczynski) Suhr continues to fall in the rankings due to inactivity.

1. Yelena Isinbayeva
2. Fabiana de Almeida Murer
3. Anna Rogowska (+1)
4. Yuliya Golubchikova (-1)
5. Silke Spiegelburg
6. Svetlana Feofanova (+1)
7. Jennifer Stuczynski (-1)
8. Monika Pyrek
9. Tatyana Polnova (+3)
10. Chelsea Johnson (-1)
11. Kate Dennison (-1)
12. Lacy Janson (+4)
13. Anna Battke (-2)
14. Kristina Gadschiew
15. Carolin Hingst
16. Aleksandra Kiryashova (-3)
17. Jirina Ptácníková
18. Anna Giordano Bruno (+1)
19. Anastasiya Shvedova (-1)
19. Jillian Schwartz

What's On The Weekend


The Ras Al Kaimah Half Marathon, an IAAF silver label road race, will be run in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.
Race website / Let’s Run preview / IAAF preview / Gulf News

The Grand Prix Sul Americano, a South American Grand Prix meet, will be held in Santiago, Chile on Friday.
Meet info (in Spanish)

The AVIVA Indoor Grand Prix, an IAAF indoor permit meet, will be held in Birmingham, UK, on Saturday.
Meet website / IAAF preview / Athletics Weekly / More Than the Games / Irish Times

The KCB Nairobi Cross, an IAAF cross country permit meet and Kenya’s World Championships trials, will be run in Nairobi on Saturday.
IAAF preview / The Nation

The Super Grand Prix Chile de Atletismo, a South American Grand Prix meet, will be held in Valparaiso, Chile on Sunday.
Meet info (in Spanish)

The Marcha Atlética da Cidade de Olhao-Algarve, a B-level event in the IAAF race walking challenge, will be held in Portugal on Sunday.
IAAF preview / Race website


The Big East Championships take place in Manhattan’s Armory on Saturday and Sunday. A live webcast will be available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
Meet website / Live webcast

The Virginia Tech Challenge will be held in Blacksburg on Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

High Hurdle Rankings

Most recent rankings available here. Changes since then in parens.

1. Dayron Robles (+1)
Won all three starts (Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Stockholm)
Ran 7.48 and 7.49

2. Terrence Trammell (-1)
Won in Boston and Leipzig
Ran 7.43 and 7.49

3. David Oliver (+1)
Second in Stuttgart and Goteborg
Ran 7.49 and 7.57

4. Ryan Brathwaite (-1) won at Tyson
5. Petr Svoboda won at Karlsruhe, second at Leipzig
6. Dexter Faulk
7. David Payne
8. Dwight Thomas 2nd at Gent, 3rd at Stuttgart and Stockholm
9. Eric Mitchum (+5) 2nd at Dusseldorf and Boston, 3rd at Karlsruhe
10. Dániel Kiss (+6) 1st at Goteborg, 2nd at Stockholm
11. Aries Merritt (-2) 2nd at Tyson
12. Ryan Wilson (-2)
13. Shamar Sands (new) 1st at Gent, 3rd at Dusseldorf, 4th at Karlsruhe
14. Xiang Liu (-3)
15. Joel Brown (-3) 4th at Goteborg
16. Antwon Hicks (-3)
17. Ronnie Ash (-2)
18. Jerome Miller (new) 3rd at Tyson
19. William Sharman (-2)
19. Andrew Turner (-2)

1. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep (+3)
Beat Jones in Stuttgart, the deepest race of the year so far. Won in Eubonne, bombed in Gent
Ran 7.82 and 7.91

2. LoLo Jones (-1)
Won in Dusseldorf, second in Moscow
Ran 7.85

3. Dawn Harper (-1)

4. Brigitte Foster-Hylton (-1)
5. Perdita Felicien (+2) 2nd in Boston
6. Sally McLellan (-1)
7. Delloreen Ennis-London (-1)
8. Damu Cherry (+1) won in Boston
9. Virginia Powell (-1) 3rd in Boston
10. Yvette Lewis (+6) 2nd in Dusseldorf; ran 7.90 and 7.91
11. Michelle Perry (-1)
12. Tiffany Ofili 4th in Boston
13. Derval O'Rourke (-2)
14. Lacena Golding-Clarke (+1) Won in Leipzig
15. Carolin Nytra (+2) 3rd in Stuttgart, 2nd in Leipzig
16. Nickiesha Wilson (-3)
17. Tatyana Dektyarova (new) Won in Moscow, 3rd in Dusseldorf, ran 7.94
18. Anay Tejeda
19. Jessica Ennis (-5)
20. Queen Harrison (new) ran 7.97

Weekly Awards

The performance of the week award goes to Nadzeya Ostapchuk for her 21.70 meter (71’ 2¼”) shot put at the Belarus Indoor Championships. It’s not just the best performance of the week, it’s by far the best performance of the year.

I make these performance of the week choices based on a points table I’ve developed using yearly lists of the last decade as well as all-time lists. It's literally off the chart.
Ostapchuk’s mark puts her at #3 on the official all-time indoor list. The way I look at it, it’s a world record. Not an indoor world record, but a world record, period.

The official world record stands at 22.63 (74’ 2¾”) by the USSR’s Natalya Lisovskaya in 1987. While that’s official, it’s not what I use to judge performances by today’s athletes any more than I’d use Uwe Hohn’s 343’ to judge javelin throwers. The rules to the javelin were rewritten in 1986 with the effect of shortening throws, and the IAAF no longer recognizes Hohn’s mark. In 1992 the rules of competition for all athletes were rewritten, but no one officially recognizes this changeover.

Two near-simultaneous occurrences led to a decrease in performance for many (but not all) events. The adoption of random out-of-competition drug testing and the implosion of east European state-sponsored sports programs led to big changes in throwing events in general and the shot put in particular, and all women’s events save the newly-emerging ones (400 hurdles, long distance, walks, pole vault, triple jump, hammer). The intersection between these sets is the women’s shot put, which has seen a bigger drop in performance than any other event.

Here is the official all-time top ten list:
22.63 Natalya Lisovskaya 1987
22.50i Helena Fibingerová 1977
22.45 Ilona Briesenick 1980
22.19 Claudia Losch 1987
21.89 Ivanka Khristova 1976
21.86 Marianne Adam 1979
21.76 Li Meisu 1988
21.73 Natalya Akhrimenko 1988
21.70i Nadzeya Ostapchuk 2010
21.69 Vita Pavlysh 1998
Note how all of the top eight were made prior to Ben Johnson’s famous episode.

Here’s my all-time top ten list (1992 to date):
21.70i Nadzeya Ostapchuk 2010
21.22 Astrid Kumbernuss 1995
21.07 Valerie Vili 2009
21.06 Svetlana Krivelyova 1992
20.96 Belsy Laza 1992
20.70 Natallia Mikhnevich 2008
20.54 Liuhong Zhang 1994
20.35 Lijiao Gong 2009
20.24 Anna Romanova 1993
20.20 Nadine Kleinert 2009

You may wonder what happened to Pavlysh’s 21.69 from the first list. I struck it from my list, as she received a doping ban in 1999 (along with a second one in 2004, that time for life). Four other athletes would have made my top-ten list but I removed them because of their “doping vacations”:
21.46 Larisa Peleshenko 2000
21.15i Irina Korzhanenko 1999
20.61 Yanina Karolchyk-Pravalinskay 2001
20.32 Irina Khudoroshkina 1996
Of course it’s impossible to say for certain whether or not these athletes were on the juice prior to a positive test. But the reason I maintain these lists is to see how today’s athletes stack up against history, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to compare today’s tightly-controlled athletes to those who at some point got into trouble.

In any case, Ostapchuk’s mark was by far the best by an athlete who has (so far) passed strict doping control. Her second-best mark of the competition, 21.23, also broke Kumbernuss’ fifteen-year-old “record”. It’s possible to argue it’s a better mark than either of Usain Bolt’s records.

In light of that, is it unreasonable to wonder if Ostapchuk’s sudden jump in performance is legitimate? Not really. After the Bernie Madoff scandal came out, all kinds of people said that an investment fund that always increased in value regardless of the larger economy was suspicious and should have been investigated. The same skeptical approach is applicable here. This was Ostapchuk’s first competition of the year, and her two measured throws both broke the “world record”.

This does not mean I’m accusing her of doping, although that’s not an unreasonable thought given the history and nature of the event. It’s also possible that something wasn’t right about the facility or the measurements. Note that in the men’s competition, Andrei Mikhnevich broke his own national indoor record four times in his six attempts. Either one of these is surprising, but both on the same day makes me wonder.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Olympic Imagery

On last Thursday's Colbert Report, David Ross makes some very good points about the changes in Olympic imagery and how they are now bland and broing.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
David Ross
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

Friday, February 12, 2010

What's On the Weekend


The Reunión Internacional Ciudad de Valencia, an IAAF indoor permit meet, will take place in Valencia, Spain, on Saturday.
Meet website

The USATF cross country championships will be run in Spokane on Saturday. Headliners are 5k/10k aces Dathan Ritzenhein and Shalane Flanagan. Flocast will have a live webcast of the meet.
Meet website / Flotrack coverage / Live webcast link / USATF preview

The Toyota Indoor Flanders, another IAAF indoor permit meet, will take place in Gent, Belgium, on Sunday.
Meet website

The Chiba International Cross Country, an IAAF cross country permit meet, will take place in Chiba, Japan, on Sunday.
IAAF preview / Kyodo News


The Iowa State Classic will be held in Ames on Friday and Saturday.
Flocast coverage

The Husky Classic will be held in Seattle on Friday and Saturday.
Info & preview / Live webcast / Flocast coverage

The Tyson Invitational will be held in Fayetteville on Friday and Saturday.
Info & preview

The Texas A&M Challenge, a matchup between the Big 12, SEC, and Conference USA, will be held in College Station on Saturday.
Flocast coverage

Thursday, February 11, 2010

High Jump Rankings

Previous rankings available here. Changes since then in parens.

1. Ivan Ukhov
Two more wins, one in Arnstadt on Saturday (2.32) and one in Moscow on Sunday (2.35)

2. Yaroslav Rybakov
Second to Ukhov in Arnstadt with 2.33

3. Andra Manson (+1)
Won with 2.32 in Poland yesterday

4. Jesse Williams (-1)
5. Linus Thörnblad
6. Jaroslav Bába 2nd in Brno, 4th in Poland
7. Aleksandr Shustov (+3) 2nd in Moscow with 2.32
8. Andrey Tereshin (-1) 3rd in Poland
9. Dusty Jonas (-1) tied for 3rd in Moscow
10. Aleksey Dmitrik (+3) won in Brno with 2.31
11. Raul Spank (-2)
12. Kyriakos Ioannou (+5) 2nd in Poland win 2.30
13. Osku Torro (-2)
14. Dmytro Dem'yanyuk (-2)
15. Viktor Shapoval (-1)
15. Tora Harris (-1)
17. Sylwester Bednarek
18. Sergey Mudrov (-2)
19. Alessandro Talotti
20. Samson Oni

1. Blanka Vlašic
Two big wins in Arnstadt (2.06) and Stockholm (2.01)

2. Ariane Friedrich
Idle this week

3. Ruth Beitia
Won in Brno with 1.98

4. Irina Gordeeva 3rd at Arnstadt, 4th in Stockholm
5. Svetlana Shkolina (+5) 2nd in Arnstadt with 2.00
6. Chaunté Howard Lowe (-1) 5th at both Arnstadt and Stockholm
7. Anna Chicherova
8. Marina Aitova (-3) 7th at Arnstadt
9. Viktoriya Klyugina (-1) 6th at Arnstadt
10. Antonietta Di Martino (-1)
11. Emma Green (+1) 2nd in Stockholm
12. Iva Straková (-1) 3rd in Brno
13. Meike Kröger (+5) 4th in Arnstadt with 1.96
14. Levern Spencer (-1) 8th at Arnstadt, 3rd at Stockholm
15. Melanie Melfort 4th in Brno
16. Nicole Forrester (new) 2nd in Brno
17. Nadiya Dusanova (-3)
18. Elena Slesarenko (-3)
19. Jessica Ennis (-2)
20. Amy Acuff (-1)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

National College Rankings, Women

A follow-up on yesterday's post. Remember, these are based on USTFCA national and regional rankings, and more or less project ability to compete at a conference-type meet.

1. Texas A&M
2. Clemson
3. Arkansas
4. LSU
5. Texas
6. Oregon
7. BYU
8. Auburn
9. Penn State
10. Florida
11. Arizona
12. Tennessee
13. Stanford
14. Baylor
15. Georgia
16. South Carolina
17. Louisville
18. Texas Tech
19. Nebraska
20. North Carolina
21. Minnesota
22. Southern Ill
23. Miami (Fl)
24. Mississippi
25. Virginia Tech

Leaders by conference...
Big Ten: Penn State
Big 12: Texas A&M
MPSF: Oregon
SEC: Arkansas
ACC: Clemson
Big East: Louisville
Conference USA: Houston
Mountain West: BYU
Atlantic 10: Charlotte
America East: Boston U
Atlantic Sun: Jacksonville
Big South: Liberty
Big Sky: Sacramento St
Great West: Utah Valley
Horizon League: Butler
Ivy League: Princeton
MAAC: Manhattan
MAC: Miami (OH)
MEAC: Hampton
Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois
NEC: Monmouth
Ohio Valley: Austin Peay
Patriot League: Bucknell
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee
Summit League: North Dakota St
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Southern: Appalachian St
SWAC: Grambling
WAC: Louisiana Tech

New Millenium Records?

Starting the record book over at the new millenium has been thrown around as a way to get unapproachable dirty marks off the books (and to recognize rules changes in the pole vault). Track & Field News has listed them off. Apparently, they've forgotten when the millenium ended, as some of their marks are from 2000, but that's not important.

Since the ostensible reason for such a clearing of the books is to clean them, paired with this proposal should be a requirement to strip records from athletes who are given major (multi-year) doping bans. Changes to T&FN's list of records would be thus:

3000m: Ali Saïdi-Sief's 7:25.02 out, Kenenisa Bekele's 7:25.79 in
20k Walk: Vladimir Kanaykin's 1:17:06 out, Jefferson Pérez's 1:17:21 in
Hammer throw: Ivan Tikhon's 86.73 out, Koji Murofushi's 84.86 in

1500m: Süreyya Ayhan's 3:55.33 out, Maryam Yusuf Jamal's 3:56.18 in
20k Walk: Olimpiada Ivanova's 1:25:41 out, Olga Kanaskina's 1:25:42 in
Shot put: Larisa Peleshenko's 21.46 out, Nadzeya Ostapchuk's 21.09 in
Discus throw: Natalya Sadova's 69.38 out, Irina Yatchenko's 69.14 in

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Curtis Beach

Way down the page in Let's Run's weekly recap, they compare Curtis Beach's high school decathlon record to Roman Sebrle's world record. Not a valid comparison; Sebrle was 26 years old when he set that record.

A more valid comparison is with an up-and-coming decathlete who was also an age-group ace. Andrey Krauchenka of Belarus is #3 on the all-time junior (under-20) list. Marks for Krauchenka are first, Beach second.

100m: 11.09 / 11.05
LJ: 7.46 / 7.19
SP: 14.51 / 11.00
HJ: 2.00 / 2.04
400m: 48.98 / 47.96
110H: 14.55 / 14.77
DT: 43.45 / 32.96
PV: 4.50 / 4.70
JT: 52.34 / 42.13
1500: 4:28.46 / 4:25.40

Beach leads in five of the ten events (blue), but where he's behind (red) it's huge--ten feet in the shot, 35 in the disc, 30 in the jav. Fortunately, those are the events where large improvements are possible. If he can become an adequate thrower, he's going to be a monster.

National College Rankings

The USTFCA came out with their national rankings today. Mine are based on theirs, and more or less reflect how competitive teams are at a conference-type meet.

These are for men. Women's rankings are coming soon (tomorrow if I get another snow day). Last week's ranking in parens.

1. Texas A&M (1)
2. Arkansas (2)
3. Georgia (4)
4. Nebraska (3)
5. Tennessee (11)
6. LSU (4)
7. Texas (5)
8. Florida (17)
9. Oregon (6)
10. Arizona St (9)
11. Arizona (7)
12. Stanford (8)
13. Oklahoma (15)
14. Baylor (10)
15. UCLA (new)
16. Alabama (new)
17. Illinois (19)
18. Florida St (16)
19. Mississippi (new)
20. Washington St (14)
21. Minnesota (13)
22. Louisville (25)
23. Texas Tech (new)
24. Ohio State (22)
25. Houston (new)

Changes in conference leaders...
Big Ten: Illinois
Big Sky: Sacramento State
Horizon League: Butler
Ivy League: Cornell
NEC: Long Island
Sun Belt: Louisiana
Southland: Texas-San Antonio

USA versus USSR Dual Meets

Bleacher Report calls them the greatest track meets of all time. Good post, well worth reading.

A few weeks ago I noticed a several-day uptick in hits on this topical blog post. Research, perhaps?

What's On Tomorrow

The GE Galan, an IAAF indoor permit meet, will take place in Stockholm's Globe Arena. There will be some good matchups, and the deepest event will likely be the men's triple jump.
Meet website / IAAF preview / Let's Run

Pedo's Cup, an EAA indoor meeting, will take place in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The meet will be an all-field event affair.
Meet website (in Polish) / EAA preview

Shot Put Rankings

This is the first event to have its rankings updated in the new year. I'm concentrating on the events that get the most play indoors, namely field events and hurdles.

The last rankings were posted on January 27, nearly two weeks ago. Movements up or down since then are in parens.

1. Christian Cantwell
Won at Millrose with a big 21.95

2. Reese Hoffa
Second at Millrose

3. Tomasz Majewski
Second in his season-opening competition in Dusseldorf

4. Daniel Taylor
5. Ralf Bartels won in Dusseldorf
6. Andrei Mikhnevich (+1) threw 21.30 in Mogilev
7. Ryan Whiting (+1) threw 21.24 and 20.57
8. Pavel Lyzhyn (+2) threw 21.12 for second in Mogilev
9. Adam Nelson (-3) third at Millrose
10. Dylan Armstrong (-1) fourth at Dusseldorf
11. Pavel Sofin
12. Dorian Scott
12. Sultan Abdulmajeed Alhabashi
14. Maksim Sidorov
15. Zach Lloyd (+1)
16. Marco Schmidt (-2) threw 20.58
17. Maris Urtans
18. Noah Bryant
19. Cory Martin (NEW) threw 20.52 and 20.50
20. Rhuben Williams

1. Valerie Vili
Hasn't started her season, but still holds the top spot

2. Nadine Kleinert
3. Lijiao Gong
4. Anna Avdeeva (+1) threw 18.90
5. Natallia Mikhnevich (-1)
6. Nadzeya Ostapchuk
7. Denise Hinrichs
8. Anca Heltne
9. Petra Lammert
10. Meiju Li
11. Misleydis González
12. Michelle Carter
13. Mailín Vargas
14. Christina Schwanitz
15. Chiara Rosa
16. Ling Li
17. Yanina Privalinskaya-Karolchik (NEW) threw 18.78
18. Anna Omarova (+2)
19. Xiangrong Liu (-1)
20. Assunta Legnante (-2)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pole Vault Rankings


There's been precious little in terms of quality marks from men's pole vaulters so far this year.

1. Steven Hooker (Australia)
Hasn't competed yet, but was so good last year he still holds the top spot.

2. Renaud Lavillenie (France)
A good mark back in December, but not all that impressive since

3. Romain Mesnil (France)
Won at Bordeaux

4. Alexander Straub (Germany) wins in Stuttgart and Dusseldorf
5. Jeremy Scott
6. Derek Miles
6. Pavel Gerasimov (Russia)
8. Brad Walker
8. Maksym Mazuryk (Ukraine)
8. Malte Mohr (Germany)
11. Evgeniy Lukyanenko (Russia)
12. Alhaji Jeng (Sweden)
13. Danny Ecker (Germany)
14. Steven Lewis (UK)
15. Konstantinos Filippidis (Greece)
15. Aleksandr Gripich (Russia)
17 Tobias Scherbarth (Germany)
18. Kevin Rans (Belgium)
19. Hendrik Gruber (Germany)
19. Raphael Holzdeppe (Germany)
19. Viktor Chistiakov (Russia)

1. Yelena Isinbayeva (Russia)
What, you expected someone else?

2. Fabiana de Almeida Murer (Brazil)
Opened with a big win in Stuttgart

3. Yuliya Golubchikova (Russia)
Two wins and a second behind Isi

4. Anna Rogowska (Poland) 2nd in Stuttgart
5. Silke Spiegelburg (Germany)
6. Jennifer Stuczynski
7. Svetlana Feofanova (Russia)
8. Monika Pyrek (Poland)
9. Chelsea Johnson won in New York and Boston
10. Kate Dennison (UK) won in Dresden and Wuppertal
11. Anna Battke (Germany)
12. Tatyana Polnova (Russia)
13. Aleksandra Kiryashova (Russia)
14. Kristina Gadschiew (Germany)
15. Carolin Hingst (Germany)
16. Lacy Janson
17. Jirina Ptácníková (Czech Rep.)
18. Anastasiya Shvedova (Belarus)
19. Anna Giordano Bruno (Italy)
20. Jillian Schwartz (Israel)

Boston recap

My thoughts on the adidas Boston Indoor Games are coming out late. I didn’t want to put them up before the meet was on TV, and then there was this football game, and then I had to go to work. (Not that I’m above posting at work, but some network problems have made it impossible.)

First, the important stuff: I kicked ass in the fantasy league. I scored 124 out of a possible 140 points, which put me 16th on the day out of over 2000 participants. Last week’s debacle makes finishing the season in the money unlikely, but I’ve still got a chance.

TV: Not as offensive as it has sometimes been. The only cutaways were understandably during the 5k races. In them men’s race we missed Lagat leading a few laps, and the women’s race was all but an against-the-clock exhibition. No losses there. I didn’t notice as much atrocious announcing. Field events again got short shrift, with the women’s pole vault getting the usual hard-to-follow verbal rundown of makes and misses and the men’s getting no coverage at all. I give it a C; it’s passing but it won’t get you in the Honor Society.

Biggest upset: Anna Pierce was the world’s best 800/1500 runner last year, but got run down at the end by Kenia Sinclair. Big surprise there.

Best race: Men's 5k. They really set up a good one here, with two darned good Ethiopians to push the two Americans. The women's 3k was similarly well set up. Note to the rest of the world: a Worlds 1500 medalist couldn't match kicks with Ethiopia's JV team. The only secret to their dominance is that their best athletes run the longest distances, the complete opposite of everyone else.

Biggest butt-whoopin': Men's high hurdles. Everyone of note besides Trammel is on the other side of the Atlantic right now.

I Told You So: Ivory Williams winning the 60. Mike Rodgers is not nearly as well prepared for 2010 as he was for 2008 and 2009. Really, sprints are easy to predict once you have about three data points (and you can get by with two)...which makes me want to kick myself over not picking Lisa Barber.

Weekly Awards

The performance of the week is a tie between LaVerne Jones-Ferrette for her 6.97 60 meters in Stuttgart on Saturday, and Blanka Vlašic for her 6’ 9” (2.06 m) high jump in Arnstadt on the same day.

Jones-Ferrette ran the fastest time in that event in eleven years, and is now #6 on the all-time list (#4 if you discount Marion Jones and Ekaterini Thanou). Vlašic’s jump is the fourth-best ever indoors, just 2 cm off the world indoor record.

Honorable mentions go to Aleksey Drozdov’s 6300-point heptathlon, Yelena Isinbayeva’s 15’ 11” (4.85 m) pole vault, and Tatyana Chernova’s 4855-point pentathlon. Tops by an American was Carmelita Jeter’s 7.09, run well in arrears of Jones-Ferrette.

The competition of the week was the women’s pole vault at Moscow’s Russian Winter meet. Seven of my top 20-ranked vaulters were in action there.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

National College Rankings

I've been doing my own dual-meet rankings, but I didn't update them this week. Mostly that's because there wasn't much action; the big Texas Tech-Nebraska dual meet was canceled due to extreme weather, and besides that there was maybe one or two dual/tri/quad meets this week, none of them involving top-level programs.

The national coaches' association has done national computer rankings for several years, but those are nothing more than fancied-up projections of NCAA championship scoring. Once you get past the top ten or so teams, that's not a terribly reliable indicator of how good a team is. It just tells you if they've got any individual stars, which doesn't say anything about the quality (or lack thereof) of the rest of the team.

The new results-reporting system mandated by the NCAA has allowed the coaches' association to do something new, though. Now they are using the same formula to do regional rankings, which project what would happen if nine separate regional championships were held. The result is much less about one or two big stars and a lot more about overall quality. It's a great for comparing teams within a region; rarely has a lower-ranked team beaten a higher-ranked team in a dual meet. Unfortunately, it doesn't give you any way of comparing teams from separate regions. Why? Well, for one reason, the regions are not balanced in the number of teams. It's a lot easier to run up a big score in the Mountain region (18 men's teams) than it is in the Mid-Atlantic region (31 men's teams). But even more importantly, the regions are not balanced in competitiveness. For example, the West region puts up far better marks than the Northeast region.

The solution is pretty easy, though. Total up the national rankings points for each region, and use that to pro-rate the regional points for each team. This takes both competitiveness and number of teams into account all at once. The results are more or less an accounting of how well a team would do at an average conference championship meet--which is the kind of meet that really matters for at least 95% of college teams. Here's the top 25 men's teams after such an adjustment, with their USTFCA national rankings in parenthesis:

1. Texas A&M (1)
2. Arkansas (7)
3. Nebraska (6)
4. Georgia (22)
5. Texas (29)
6. Oregon (3)
7. Arizona (23)
8. Stanford (10)
9. Arizona St (8)
10. Baylor (12)
11. Tennessee (37)
12. LSU (4)
13. Minnesota (13)
14. Washington St (25)
15. Oklahoma (9)
16. Florida St (2)
17. Florida (5)
18. California (16)
19. Illinois (46)
20. TCU (71)
21. Washington (27)
22. Ohio State (41)
23. Iowa (104)
24. Indiana (11)
25. Louisville (45)

There are some pretty big differences between the first and second numbers for most of these teams. Texas A&M is #1 no matter how you cut it (and their dual-meet thrashing of Texas becomes even more impressive now), but Florida State drops from #2 to #16. Iowa zooms from #104 to #23. The rumors of Arkansas' death are greatly exaggerated, and so on.

Another application of this analysis is to see who's favored to win each conference.
Major conferences
Big Ten: Minnesota
Big XII: Texas A&M
MPSF: Oregon
SEC: Arkansas
Big conferences
ACC: Florida
Big East: Louisville
Conference USA: Houston
Mountain West: TCU
WAC: Idaho
Mid-major conferences
Big Sky: Eastern Washington
Ivy League: Princeton
Mid-American: Akron
MEAC: Norfolk State
Missouri Valley: Southern Illinois
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
The rest
Atlantic 10: Charlotte
America East: Albany
Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State
Big South: Liberty
Great West: Utah Valley
Horizon League: Wis-Milwaukee
MAAC: Manhattan
NEC: Monmouth
OVC: SE Missouri State
Patriot League: Navy
Sun Belt: Middle Tennessee
Summit League: Oral Roberts
Southern: Western Carolina
SWAC: Alabama State

It's early yet, and the rankings will change. I'll do an update just prior to the conference championships and see how well it does.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Fantasy League Preview

USATF's Pick'n'Win game enters its second week. As always, obsessively check changes to start lists.

My rundown on the likely winners at tomorrow's adidas Boston Indoor Games...

Men’s 60 meters
Right now, Mike Rodgers is a heavy favorite among the Pick’n’Win contestants. But so far he isn’t anywhere near the level of sharpness he showed in the last two years. Ivory Williams is running very well, and I see no reason to pick against him.

Men’s 400 meters
This is a tough call. Bershawn Jackson won the 600 yards last week over Renny Quow, who is also entered. Chris Brown has been a tough 400 runner over the last two years as well. I think it’s likely to come down to Jackson and Quow. I’m going with Quow, but I don’t think you could go too wrong with either one.

Men’s Mile
Nick Willis is probably the best runner in the field. Manzano could surprise him, but I doubt it.

Men’s 5000 meters
This is the headline race. Bernard Lagat is a great runner and is running very well for so early in the season. It’s hard to pick against him, but the field is hardly a bunch of pushovers. Bekana Daba is a sub-13:00 runner, Shedrack Korir ran 7:35 last year, and Sam Chelanga is coming off an impressive XC season. I would not pick Galen Rupp; he’s a bit under the weather and it’s not assured that he’ll be there.

Men’s 60m Hurdles
Trammell. If you’re determined to go for the upset, pick Mitchum. But you’ll be wrong.

Men’s Pole Vault
The field is short—just five athletes—and only one has cleared 5.60 so far this year. What you really want to avoid is the dreaded no-height. Based on that, I’m going to guess Jeremy Scott is the least likely to bomb out.

Women’s 60 meters
This was awfully close last week. On a hunch, I’m going with Muna Lee.

Women’s 200 meters
Shalonda Solomon has been pretty consistent at the indoor long-sprint game over the last few years.

Women’s 400 meters
The two reasonable choices are Monica Hargrove and DeeDee Trotter. Trotter has run faster than Hargrove this year, and coming off a few poor seasons I think she’s got more to prove—which, at times, is the difference between running indoor merely as a set-up to outdoor and racing it at the best you’ve got. So I’m taking Trotter.

Women’s 1000 meters
This is a decent field. Erin Donohue and Kenia Sinclair are very good runners. Neither is on the same level as Anna (Willard) Pierce, who is one of the best in the world at the middle distances. This is a no-brainer.

Women’s 3000 meters
This is a tough call. Hannah England and Sara Hall battled to the finish last week in New York. Shannon Rowbury and Christin Wurth-Thomas are both seriously good milers who have proven their 3k ability in the past. Genzebe Dibaba and Kalkidan Gezahegne are Ethiopian, and my Ethiopian rule is that they always show up ready to race well. The former, Tiru’s little sister, won an international cross-country race late last year. I think it’s going to come down to whether one of the two Ethiopians can shake all the American milers before the bell lap. I like Rowbury in this race, but I’m not confident.

Women’s 5000 meters
This is a Tiru Dibaba record attempt. The others are there to lend an appearance of competition, but we all know who will win.

Women’s 60m Hurdles
Damu Cherry quietly ran 7.47 for the 55 hurdles last week, which is as good a performance as anyone else in the race has put up yet. I think it will come down to her and Tiffany Ofili, but Cherry is a far more experienced athlete and that’s what tips the scales for me.

Women’s Pole Vault
Chelsea Johnson won in New York last week with a good 4.51 performance. But did you know that Lacy Janson is the world leader with 4.65, and has another 4.50 as well? Those are the two to pick from. I’m taking Janson.