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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week? Not much, as there was little competition in the week leading into the NCAA and World indoor championships. Still, there were some things...

US distance running is still on the rise, and will be for a while. As I've said time and time again, you can't become a a great 10k or marathon runner without being a nearly-great miler. So the unusual depth in college miling this year augurs well for the future. Twenty-two men broke 4:00, but only fourteen qualified to the NCAA championships. This is the first time a 3:59.99 didn't get you there, and there were eight guys suffering this fate! Here's to hoping many of them decide to move up in distance.

Sandra Perkovic is a new star. Even the hard-core track fans are saying "Who?" She's a 19-year-old Croatian discus thrower who began her season yesterday with a 4-meter PR. Her mark, 66.85, is the furthest anyone has thrown in nearly two years. I don't know the details of the competition; the discus is an event where the right kind of wind can have a major effect. But she could be the next great star in an event that doesn't get the exposure it deserves.

The fan experience generally isn't considered important. We know this because 90% of college track meets are time trials, not actual competitions, and few in charge of the sport care about how, in comparison, golf and curling are a thrill a minute. But even my post on great track stadiums got a few people miffed about the poor quality of the competition facilities I called "cathedrals". But I don't go to meets to run, I go to watch. And the places I chose add measurably to the experience. There aren't many in this country which do.

The Zepter Pole Vault Stars competition isn't what it used to be. Yeah, Yelena Isinbayeva competed there, as did most of the top women. But some of the top women skipped it, most notably Anna Rogowska and Svetlana Feofanova. On the men's side the absence of top talent was notable; all of the top five in my rankings didn't compete, some opting for much lower-level home competition instead.

The Diamond League format may just do what I hoped it would, namely tightly concentrating talent into a relatively large number of meets. Earlier this week it was announced that four of the world's great superstars will be competing at the Prefontaine Classic: Kenenisa Bekele, Yelena Isinbayeva, Tyson Gay and Sanya Richards. It will be probably the greatest collection of talent ever in a domestic single-day invitational...unless, of course, it gets eclipsed by New York's adidas Grand Prix.

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