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Friday, April 30, 2010

USC at UCLA Fan Guide

The USC versus UCLA dual meet is the greatest rivalry in all of college track, and tomorrow will be their 77th meeeting. In 1976, Ducky Drake Stadium's attendance record was set at this meet when 15,011 fans came out. In my own college team rankings, the men's meet matches up #7 UCLA and #8 USC, while the women match #9 USC and #22 UCLA.

In the spirit of Let's Run's recent fan guides, I've accumulated what you need to know while watching tomorrow's USC - UCLA dual meet on FloTrack.

First, the webcast info. FloTrack will be following it live beginning at 3:45 PM EDT (12:45 local time). They'll have a great two-camera setup, with one camera on the track and the other on the field events.

I've cribbed the entire preview below from "Kenny" at the USC track message boards, but reorganized it to match the meet schedule. His overall predictions:
Women's predicted score: USC- 83 UCLA- 80
The UCLA vs USC women's dual track meet should be close but I have to give the edge to the Trojans. The big advantage the USC throwers have over UCLA should be the difference. If the Bruins can find a way to win the 4x100 relay then they could pull off an upset.

Mens' predicted score: USC- 84 UCLA -79
The men's dual meet should be close like the women's. But the Trojans have slightly more depth and dependable points. The Bruins have the home field advantage and this has proved to be helpful as the Trojans haven't won at UCLA's Drake Stadium on the men's side in 33 years. The USC throwers and vaulters do not do well at Drake Stadium and this bad luck will have to continue for the Bruins if they want any chance of upseting their cross town rivals.

Below is an event-by event breakdown of Kenny's predictions, with handy color-coding to keep track of what's what. The "running score" uses the predictions, so when inevitably the actual results differ from the conventional wisdom, you can update the score from there.

A Business Idea

You may have noticed just how many college track meets are being webcast. This weekend alone there are six: USC at UCLA, the Oregon Relays, the Arkansas Twilight, the Cardinal Invitational, and the A-10 and Big East Championships. All but the first are being done by subscription-based campus services.

The Big East Championships are $9.95 for a one-weekend pass, but the others are oriented towards season-long all-sports subcribers who are fans of a single school. Most of them offer a one-month pass at right around $10.

I’d love to be able to watch a few events from a bunch of different meets every weekend. But I wouldn’t pay $50 a week for the opportunity.

An opportunistic entrepreneur could take advantage of the situation and arrange to be a middleman. He’d pay college webcast services maybe 50¢ or $1 per person he signs up. For some larger fee, maybe $50 a year, track fans like me would be able to watch track meet webcasts from those college services. The track fan comes out ahead, being able to watch many more meets for his money than otherwise possible. The colleges come out ahead, because while the marginal revenue per person would be lower, they’d still see revenue from people like me who would otherwise never pay up in the first place – and they’d get their money regardless of whether or not I watch their meets. This plan could be done for other low-publicity sports such as swimming, wrestling, and so on, where colleges are more likely to get viewership from fans of a particular sport than of their particular school.

Somebody, do it. It’s not a lot of money, but it’s still money waiting to be made.

Superfan Rankings Update: Jumps

High Jump
The three medalists at the World Indoor Championships are in the three leaders, and in the same order.
1. Ivan Ukhov
2. Yaroslav Rybakov
3. Dusty Jonas
4. Jesse Williams
5. Samson Oni
6. Aleksey Dmitrik
7. Kyriakos Ioannou
8. Kabelo Kgosiemang
9. Aleksandr Shustov
10. Sergey Mudrov

Pole Vault
Again, the three medalists at the World Indoor Championships are in the three leaders, and in the same order.
1. Steven Hooker
2. Malte Mohr
3. Alexander Straub
4. Renaud Lavillenie
5. Konstantinos Filippidis
6. Steven Lewis
6. Derek Miles
8. Przemyslaw Czerwinski
8. Dmitriy Starodubtsev
10. Kevin Rans

Long Jump
The indoor season did not feature most of the world’s top jumpers, so its importance is muted a bit and Dwight Phillips remains atop the rankings. World Indoor champ Lapierre has started of very strong and sits at #2.
1. Dwight Phillips
2. Fabrice Lapierre
3. Irving Saladino
4. Godfrey Khotso Mokoena
5. Sebastian Bayer
6. Salim Sdiri
7. Mitchell Watt
8. Yahya Berrabah
9. Greg Rutherford
10. Ndiss Kaba Badji

Triple Jump
Tamgho set a World Indoor Record in winning his World Indoor gold medal. The top five are in the same order as at those championships.
1. Teddy Tamgho
2. Yoandris Betanzos
3. Arnie David Girat
4. Christian Olsson
5. Fabrizio Donato
5. Alexis Copello
7. Jadel Gregório
8. Colombo Fofana
9. Phillips Idowu
10. Dmitrij Valukevic

High Jump
First, second and fourth were the gold, silver and bronze medalists at the World Indoor championships. #3 Friedrich was a medal favorite but withdrew due to injury.
1. Blanka Vlašic
2. Ruth Beitia
3. Ariane Friedrich
4. Chaunté Howard Lowe
5. Svetlana Shkolina
6. Emma Green
7. Meike Kröger
8. Irina Gordeeva
9. Marina Aitova
10. Xingjuan Zheng

Pole Vault
The top four places mimic the final results from the World Indoor championships except for Rogowska and Feofanova, as the Pole was slightly more consistent over the indoor season than the Russian. #4 Isinbayeva is going to take a competition hiatus, but it will take a while for her ranking to drop.
1. Fabiana de Almeida Murer
2. Anna Rogowska
3. Svetlana Feofanova
4. Yelena Isinbayeva
5. Tatyana Polnova
6. Yuliya Golubchikova
7. Jirina Ptácníková
8. Lacy Janson
9. Silke Spiegelburg
10. Monika Pyrek

Long Jump
Leader and World Indoor champ Reese will compete in Baie Mahault on Saturday.
1 Brittney Reese
2 Darya Klishina
3 Olga Kucherenko
4 Naide Gomes
5 Funmi Jimoh
6 Anna Nazarova
7 Ksenija Balta
8 Blessing Okagbare
9 Elena Sokolova
10 Keila Costa

Triple Jump
The first six places are the same as at the World Indoor.
1 Olga Rypakova
2 Yargeris Savigne
3 Anna Pyatykh
4 Anastasiya Taranova-Potapova
5 Mabel Gay
6 Dana Veldáková
7 Natalya Kutyakova
8 Nadezhda Alekhina
9 Limei Xie
10 Ekaterina Kayukova

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's On: The Weekend

The biggest event on the pro circuit this weekend is the Jamaica International Invitational in Kingston on Saturday. Expect 35,000 or so Jamaican fans to be anything but laid back, as Usain Bolt will run his first non-relay event of the year. The sprints and hurdles are the headline events, which I’ve already previewed here and here.

There are other pro-level invitationals, led by the 7th Annual Meeting de la Region du Guadeloupe in Baie Mahault on Saturday, which will have most of the US/Canadian and Caribbean sprint/hurdle stars not at Jamaica. Others include the Mikio Oda Memorial in Hiroshima on Thursday, and South American Grand Prix meets in Venezuela on Friday and in Argentina on Sunday.

In college track, this is “rivalry weekend” and a lot of dual meets are on tap. Washington goes to Washington State, Arizona State and Northern Arizona go to Arizona, and Nebraska goes to Texas Tech. By far the best rivalry and the best meet will be USC at UCLA in their 77th meeting. Flotrack will be covering it live beginning at 3:45 EDT. They will be utilizing a brilliant two-camera setup (you can set your audio to either one), with camera 1 covering the track events and camera 2 covering field events and interviews. The meet schedule is here; running events go from 4:00 to 8:00 EDT, with the meat of the meet beginning at 5:07 PM.

Some conference championships are this weekend as well.
Big East Championships (preview) Friday thru Sunday at Cincinnati, live video at (subscription fee required)
Colonial Championships (preview) Friday & Saturday at George Mason
Ohio Valley Championships (preview) Friday & Saturday at Tennessee Tech
Atlantic Ten Championships (preview) Saturday & Sunday at UMass, live video at UMass All-Access (subscription fee required)
America East Championships (preview) Saturday & Sunday at New Hampshire

The big domestic invitationals are the Oregon Relays in Eugene and the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford. Both are centered around distance races and both will have a heavy professional presence. Some record attempts are rumored; Oregon’s Andrew Wheating will go after the collegiate 1500 record at Hayward Field on Friday. The OTC’s Galen Rupp will go after the 10,000 meters American record in the same meet on Friday night, unless the weather turns sour in which case he’ll go to Stanford instead. The Oregon Relays will be streamed live at (subscription fee required). Featured events and their elite entries (times EDT):
10:05 PM - Women's 1500 - Sarah Bowman, Jemma Simpson, Jordan Hasay
10:15 PM - Men's 1500 - Andrew Wheating, Matt Centrowitz, Lee Emmanuel, Russel Brown, Stephen Pifer, AJ Acosta, Ben True, Ian Dobson, Christian Smith
11:40 PM - Men's 10k - Galen Rupp record attempt
4:05 PM - Men's 800 - Andrew Wheating, Matt Scherer, Elijah Greer, Christian Smith
4:15 PM - Women's 800 - Sarah Bowman, Jessica Pixler, Zoe Buckman

The Cardinal Invitational features some pretty deep fields in the men’s and women’s 5k and 10k races even if Rupp doesn’t come, and the meet will be streamed live at (some sources say it’s going to be free and others say not). The schedule of the top races at Stanford and their outstanding entries (Saturday night, times EDT):
11:34 PM - Women's elite 5k - Amy Begley, Angela Bizzari, Shalane Flanagan, Lauren Fleshman, Bridget Franek, Sara Hall, Lisa Koll, Shannon Rowbury
11:52 PM - Men's elite 5k - Abdi Abdirahman, Bolota Asmerom, Michael Coe, Kyle King, Haron Lagat
12:08 AM - Women's elite 10k - Desiree Davila, Katie McGregor, Jen Rhines, Benita Willis
12:45 AM - Men's elite 10k - Mike Aish, Simon Bairu, Scott Bauhs, Shadrack Biwott, Adrian Blincoe, Boaz Cheboiywo, Sam Chelanga, Alistair Cragg, Bobby Curtis, Anthony "Fam" Famiglietti, Brett Gotcher, Tim Nelson, Patrick Smyth, Chris Solinsky, and maybe Galen Rupp

Arkansas’ Twilight Invitational will be on Friday and will be streamed live at RazorVision (subscription fee necessary). The 25th edition of the Jesse Owens Classic will be held at Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, and will be on the Big Ten Network on a tape-delay show at 5:30 PM on Saturday, May 8. Mississippi State's Tavaris Tate could possibly take down the 23-year-old 400m meet record of 44.10 set by Butch Reynolds.

The main road racing action is in Spokane on Sunday where 50,000 participants are expected for the Lilac Bloomsday 12k run. Another stop on the IAAF Race Walking Grand Prix tour takes place on Saturday in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy.

Superfan Rankings Update: Hurdles

110m Hurdles
The best marks of the early season have been made by David Oliver. #8 Payne, #9 Thomas and #20 Maurice Wignall will run in Kingston’s Jamaica International on Saturday. #5 Brathwaite will run in Baie Mahault on Saturday.
1. Dayron Robles
2. Terrence Trammell
3. David Oliver
4. Petr Svoboda
5. Ryan Brathwaite
6. Ronnie Ash
7. Dexter Faulk
8. David Payne
9. Dwight Thomas
10. Eric Mitchum

400m Hurdles
Bershawn Jackson and Javier Culson have run the fastest so far in 2010. #2 Clement, #3 Phillips and #6 McFarlane will race in Kingston on Saturday. #1 Culson will run in Baie Mahault on Saturday against veteran hurdler Felix Sanchez.
1. Javier Culson
2. Kerron Clement
3. Isa Phillips
4. L.J. van Zyl
5. Bershawn Jackson
6. Danny McFarlane
7. Johnny Dutch
8. Jehue Gordon
9. David Greene
10. Angelo Taylor

100m Hurdles
The early-season star has been Virginia Tech’s Queen Harrison, who has run some very good times to leave fields of quality collegiate runners far behind. Damu Cherry upset Lolo Jones last week at the Drake Relays. #5 Harper will face off against #10 Ennis-London on Kingston, while #2 Lopes-Schliep will open her outdoor season in Baie Mahault.
1. LoLo Jones
2. Priscilla Lopes-Schliep
3. Queen Harrison
4. Perdita Felicien
5. Dawn Harper
6. Brigitte Foster-Hylton
7. Damu Cherry
8. Ginnie Powell
9. Sally McLellan
10. Delloreen Ennis-London

400m Hurdles
No one has done much in this event yet in 2010.
1. Melaine Walker
2. Lashinda Demus
3. Josanne Lucas
4. Kaliese Spencer
5. Angela Morosanu
6. Natalya Antyukh
6. Tiffany Williams
8. Anna Jesien
8. Sheena Tosta
10. Queen Harrison

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Your Track Vault Pick of the Week

With the Jamaica International coming up on Saturday, this week you get a classic Kenny Moore writeup on the 1977 version of the meet.
But for a pair of notable absences, the meet was first-rate. The most worrisome of the nonappearances was that of the 1972 Olympic intermediate-hurdles gold medal winner, John Akii-Bua of Uganda, whose presence would have reassured the world that he has not been swept away in Idi Amin's purge of Akii-Bua's Lango tribe. Ominously, Akii-Bua sent no word at all.

Superfan Rankings Update: Marathon

The spring marathon season is not completely over, but the most competitive races have come and gone. Let's see how they stack up.

My "season" began in December, so Kebede's two major wins (Fukuoka and London) trump a single win by anyone else. Boston winner Cheruyiot is second and Paris winner Tola is third. Tadesse is sixth even with his London bomb; are you going to bet against him in a fall marathon?
1. Tsegaye Kebede
2. Robert Kiprono Cheruyiot
3. Tadese Tola
4. Emanuel Mutai
5. Alfred Kering
6. Zersenay Tadesse
7. Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich
8. Patrick Makau
9. Jaouad Gharib
10. Tekeste Kebede
11. Jafred Chirchir Kipchumba
12. Geoffrey Kiprono Mutai
13. Benjamin Kiptoo
14. Abderrahime Bouramdane
15. Vincent Kipruto
16. Feyisa Lilesa
17. Daniel Kiprugut Too
18. Abel Kirui
19. Siraj Gena
20. Deribe Merga
25. Ryan Hall (USA)

You may be surprised to see the Paris Marathon winner at the top of the rankings, but she won a fairly tough race with a very good performance. London winner Shobukhova is second and Nagoya winner Kano is third. Boston winner Erkesso is all the way down in eighth, reflecting the fact that the women's side of the Patriot's Day classic wasn't very fast or deep.
1. Atsede Baysa
2. Liliya Shobukhova
3. Yuri Kano
4. Aselefech Mergia
5. Inga Abitova
6. Derartu Tulu
7. Mare Ibrahimova
8. Teyba Erkesso
9. Bizunesh Bekele
10 Hiromi Ominami
11. Christelle Daunay
12. Mai Ito
13. Tirfi Tsegaye
14. Kebebush Haile
15. Amane Gobena
16. Firehiwot Dado
17. Askale Tafa
18. Mayumi Fujita
19. Kim Smith
20. Azalech Masresha
44. Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (USA)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Project 30 Watch List

USATF's Project 30 is an attempt to win 30 medals at the 2012 Olympics. So how are things progressing towards this goal?

I'm cribbing this idea 100% from The View From The Finish Line blog. I'm going at it from a different angle, though, and looking at each individual event to see what our chances are. Today I'm looking at the men's hammer throw.

Joe Battaglia's story at Universal Sports today was the inspiration. He profiles two top collegiate throwers, Walter Henning of LSU and Conor McCullough of Princeton, and the USATF's new Hammer Throw Development Program which will target 13- to 17-year-olds. They, along with some other new talent such as Army freshman Trent Kraychir and Ohio high schooler Justin Welch, are the future of the men's hammer throw in the USA. And, hopefully, the USATF program will bring along even more young throwers.

The hammer throw, however, is not a young man's event, as it is possibly the most technical of them all. Of the 24 medals won in Olympic and World Championship competition since 2000, just two went to athletes under the age of 25. About half went to athletes between the ages of 27 and 30. Seeing as how the oldest of those mentioned above (Henning) is just 21, neither he nor his cohort are going to have an impact on the 2012 Olympics. This isn't a bad thing; it's important to constantly build and think in the long term. But when looking two years down the road, we need to look elsewhere.

What about the established athletes? Many-time US champ A.G. Kruger will be 33 in 2012 and is already on the down side of the improvement curve. His best placing at an Olympics or Worlds is 24th. There's no reason to believe he's got a chance at a medal in London. Other vets such as Thomas Freeman (currently 29 years old), Kibwe Johnson (28) and Michael Mai (32) are nowhere near as good or as consistent as Kruger, so they're not medal prospects either.

The only guy the USA has who is in the right age range and still showing improvement is Cory Martin. The 25-year-old Auburn grad has PRed six years in a row, and was in the world's top 50 last year. He's still going to have to get a lot better to have much chance at an Olympic medal, but he's definitely moving in the right direction. He's an Elite Athlete Grant winner from the USATF Foundation. The one weird thing is that he splits his time with the shot, the only resonably competitive hammer thrower anywhere in the world who does. And I can't really blame him; he's #12 in my world rankings and can actually win a (small) bit of prize money in that event, whereas the earning potential of a journeyman hammer thrower is about zilch.

My projection: we have about a 5% chance of winning a medal in this event, and that might be a generous assessment.

LATE EDIT: Martin Bingisser wrote to tell me he agrees that we stand little chance of winning a medal at the 2012 Olympics in the men's hammer throw, but if we do that chance rests on Kibwe Johnson. I'll let him explain:
Most people not following the hammer throw don't know what happened to him last year. He went from being a Pan Am silver medalist, U.S. indoor champ and outdoor runner up to a mediocre thrower in no time. His 2009 SB was down at my level: 67.80m. Because of this, most people have counted him out. But, the reason for the slump was that he changed coaches and completely reworked his technique. He moved to Canada to train with 1972 Oly champ Anatoly Bondarchuk and tore apart his technique last year. Coaches in America don't know how to coach a medalist, that's why we only have one medalist in the past 54 years. Bondarchuk, on the other hand, has coached over a dozen hammer medalists (and a few world record holders). Kibwe made the risky decision to move up there and it is paying off. He was second at Mt. SAC behind a world leading mark from former world medalist Libor Charfreitag. He is just off of his PR. I train with him and based on what I've seen I think he will throw 78 meters this year. Since the 2008 Oly champ unexpectedly retired and the 2004 champ (Murofushi) will turn 38 in 2012, the field is wide open. Kristian Pars leads the remaining athletes, but even he can't seem to get over 81m. 80m will likely win a medal in 2012 and I think Kibwe can be at that level by then.
So in my running total for Project 30, I'll list Johnson as an "outside shot".

Superfan Rankings Update: Sprints & 400

It's time to update my world rankings going into the weekend...

Men’s 100 meters
Bolt’s relay carry at Penn on Saturday confirms his status as the fastest man in the universe. Asafa Powell is stuck back at #8 due to inactivity. This Saturday’s Jamaica International mens’ 100 will have #4 Williams, #5 Carter, #6 Blake, #10 Patton and #17 Michael Frater.
1. Usain Bolt
2. Tyson Gay
3. Dwain Chambers
4. Ivory Williams
5. Nesta Carter
6. Yohan Blake
7. Daniel Bailey
8. Asafa Powell
8. Mike Rodgers
10. Darvis Patton

Men’s 200 meters
Wallace Spearmon’s win at the Drake Relays is the best mark of the early season. Bolt will run his first 200 of the season on Saturday at the Jamaica International on Saturday; who the sacrificial lambs will be is unclear.
1. Usain Bolt
2. Tyson Gay
3. Wallace Spearmon
4. Shawn Crawford
5. Alonso Edward
6. Steve Mullings
7. Curtis Mitchell
7. Ivory Williams
9. Ramil Gulyev
10. Brendan Christian

Men’s 400 meters
Torrin Lawrence, the NCAA indoor champ, takes over the lead after LaShawn Merritt’s exit from the scene. Tyson Gay ran a nice 44.90 on April 17th to break into the rankings. He, along with #2 Quow and #7 Brown, is entered in the 400 at the Jamaica International this Saturday, which makes me wonder if he’s going to do more in this event than just early-season prep work.
1. Torrin Lawrence
2. Rennie Quow
3. Jeremy Wariner
4. Calvin Smith
5. Ben Offereins
6. David Gillick
7. Chris Brown
8. Tabarie Henry
9. Bershawn Jackson
10. Kirani James

Women’s 100 meters
The best early action in this event has come from LaShauntea Moore, who won at the Drake Relays, and UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare. #1 Jeter, #5 Stewart and #15 Marshevet Myers are slated to race in the Jamaica International on Saturday.
1. Carmelita Jeter
2. Veronica Campbell-Brown
3. LaVerne Jones-Ferrette
4. Shelly-Ann Fraser
5. Kerron Stewart
6. Chandra Sturrup
7. Muna Lee
7. Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie
9. Kelly-Ann Baptiste
10. Lauryn Williams

Women’s 200 meters
Veronica Campbell-Brown overtook the lead in this event with her fine win at the Kansas Relays. She will race #3 Ferguson-McKenzie, #8 Richards and #17 Bianca Knight at the Jamaica International on Saturday.
1. Veronica Campbell-Brown
2. Allyson Felix
3. Debbie Ferguson-McKenzie
4. Muna Lee
5. Kerron Stewart
6. Laverne Jones
7. Porscha Lucas
8. Sanya Richards
8. Shalonda Solomon
10. Marshevet Hooker

Women’s 400 meters
The best early-season times have come from Botswana’s Amantle Montsho, who has twice broken 51 seconds in African meets. #5 Williams-Mills, #15 Monica Hargrove and #23 DeeDee Trotter will race on Saturday in Jamaica.
1. Sanya Richards
2. Shericka Williams
3. Debbie Dunn
4. Antonina Krivoshapka
5. Novlene Williams-Mills
6. Amantle Montsho
7. Allyson Felix
8. Tatyana Firova
9. Francena McCorory
10. Christine Ohuruogu

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

They call them stars for a reason. Somewhere between 45,000 and 50,000 fans were going to come to the final day of the Penn Relays no matter what happened, but Usain Bolt is what the business world calls a "rainmaker". 54,310 fans showed up on Saturday and 117,346 over all three days, breaking both records by over 3,000. The only meets in US history to draw more people on a single day were the Olympics and a few USA-USSR dual meets. Even Bolt said he'd never experienced energy like that outside of the Olympics and Worlds.

The Penn Relays are really important to Jamaicans. Years ago an Iranian expatriate I later came to know decided to move to Toledo because he thought it was one of America's most important cities. He was underwhelmed. It turns out that he, like a lot of Iranians, thought my hometown is a big deal because wrestling is the national sport and all their scales say "Toledo" on them. I'd have to guess that a lot of Jamaicans who don't pay attention to the news would have similar assumptions about Philadelphia. I always knew the Penn Relays were a big deal to Jamaican-Americans, but it finally sunk through my thick skull that the same is true for Jamaican-Jamaicans. It's why Usain Bolt greatly discounted his appearance fee, and it's why their USA v. the World teams always run up to their potential. Other countries' runners just use it as a spring run-out, but the Jamaicans prep for it. Bolt reports that his club had been practicing handoffs for two weeks with markings specially made to mimic Franklin Field's quirks. Which leads me to my next point...

I have a new Pick N' Win rule. A year ago I decreed to never pick against an Ethiopian because they always show up ready to run their best. Rule #2: if a Jamaican relay team has any real chance in a USA v. the World competition, take them. If I had observed this, I'd be tied for first. As it is, I'm in an 86-way tie for 10th. I picked the USA to win the women's sprint medley and they were second to the Jamaicans; I called the other five races correctly.

USATF still doesn't get it with their TV coverage. They're trying. You can tell because they're experimenting instead of doing the same old thing. But they don't understand what their basic job is. A sportscast, be it TV, web or radio, should attempt to give the fan at home as close to an experience of actually being there as is possible. Good baseball announcers do this by occasionally pausing and allowing the sounds of the ballpark to filter through; good college football broadcasts do the same by integrating the marching band, cheerleaders and students. The experience of the Penn Relays is that it is wall-to-wall action, almost zero down-time between races. You can safely ignore field events here because their existence is basically incidental, but there's no excuse for only showing eight full races and parts of three others in the space of two hours. This is the Penn Relays! There should barely be time to catch your breath between races.

Announcing isn't as easy as it looks. The Flotrack play-by-play announcer on Thursday night was atrocious (and, to their credit, never heard from again). The USATF TV broadcast brought in Matt Centrowitz for the distance races and he barely registered a pulse. As good a thing it was to kick Larry "Go Down To Your Local Track" Rawson to the curb, they've got to find a new person to pick up the duties. The ability to announce has precious little relation to the person's prior athletic accomplishments (see: Joe Morgan). They've got to have a good voice, previous experience, and be knowledgeable and opinionated without being obnoxious. Doug Logan, call me. I will work for food.

Community is a draw. The big-attendance meets have figured this out, possibly by accident but I doubt it. The Drake Relays is a three-week long festival that is the real Drake homecoming and a decent amount of the activity takes place outside the stadium, woven into the city of Des Moines. Penn is more centered around immigrant groups, Jamaicans in particular, as well as deep and proud tradition. Both integrate major colleges, small colleges, high schools, youth and masters, which constantly brings in a new generation of casual spectators who are there to see their one person but in the process find out that track meets are pretty darn interesting.

Some guys know how to compete, and some guys don't. Ryan Hall started off the week with a bizarre approach for a professional athlete: don't care if you win or not. Before the Boston Marathon began, I didn't think he was a prime-time player. I now know for certain that he will never fulfill the expectations we placed on him after a surprising 2007 season, because he does not have the killer instinct. On the other hand, there are two middle-distance guys in the pipeline who just might have what it takes, and they both showed some big-time cajones at Penn on Saturday.

In the USA v. the World men's distance medley, the field was surprisingly compressed going into the last turn, with Kenya, Australia, and both US teams still in the hunt. Leo Manzano made a momentary hesitation as he was passed by David Torrance, which caused him to be boxed in and have to go wide to try for the pass. He was two steps back of Torrance and Kenya's Josephat Kithii as the runners came onto the straightaway but had the best finish, coming up just a half-step short at the tape. It was such a minor tactical error, yet I'm certain one he will not soon forget. Manzano is a tough and smart runner with very good finishing speed. While he's unlikely to win a lot of races on the Diamond League circuit--I don't think he's got a lot of 3:30-type races in him--I think he's got what it takes to sneak onto the medal podium at international championships.

His five-year-younger clone is Robby Andrews. A freshman at Virginia, he ran down Andrew Wheating, Oregon's Olympian, to win the 800 at the NCAA indoor championships. Yesterday he made it two-for-two by doing the same in the college men's 4x800. Obssessive track-on-TV watchers will recall that this is exactly how he won the Millrose Games high school boys' mile a year ago. It is a rare gift to be able to read your own speed and your own reserves of energy as well as everyone else in order to know exactly when to pounce. Bernard Lagat is a master of it (even though he lost at Drake); Andrews shows an unusually high level of it for a 19-year-old. If USATF is to fulfill its Project 30 goal, it will need "surprise" medals in typically low-performance events, and Manzano and Andrews are two who could do it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Anti-Doping News

Coming on the opening day of Relay Weekend, this officially qualifies as a turd in the punchbowl.

LaShawn Merritt tested positive for DHEA once each in October, December and January. His novel excuse is using Extenze, a "male enhancement product" which you can Google for if you want, but I'm not. Comedians are going to have a field day with this one.

Is it possible he's telling the truth? Sure. Does it matter? No. Unless something very strange happens, he's out of the sport for two years. But you don't have to watch much political news to know that when they guy at the center of a scandal is the guy who puts the scandal in the news, he's trying to create sympathy where it's not necessarily warranted.

So what's DHEA? Dr. Gary Wadler explains.

What does USATF CEO Doug Logan think? Basically, what a jackass.

Note that a few years ago Victor Conte bitched at USADA for making the October to January time frame the least-tested rather than the most. Looks like they've wised up.

And We're Off

Penn has started. Follow it on Flotrack, live on three different cameras, until 11:40 PM tonight. Or follow it on their live blog. As always, Walt Murphy has the best cheat sheet.

Drake has started. Flotrack is covering it, but the live webcast will begin tomorrow via Drake's own system.

Between Boston, Penn, Drake, the NYRRC distance festival at Cal and the London Marathon, this would have been the perfect week for me to get a vasectomy.

College Team Rankings, Week #3

UPDATED: Women now included.

The major action to change rankings was Texas spanking Arkansas in a dual meet. The Razorbacks, the SEC indoor champions, aren't looking so good right now. Florida State and Virginia Tech moved up with strong showings at the ACC championships.

1. Florida
2. Oregon
3. Texas A&M
4. LSU
5. Florida State
6. Oklahoma
8. Southern California
9. Stanford
10. Nebraska
11. Texas
12. Georgia
13. Arkansas
14. Arizona State
15. Mississippi State
16. Baylor
17. South Carolina
18. BYU
19. Virginia Tech
21. Minnesota
22. California
23. Auburn
24. Tennessee
25. Ohio State

The only major scored meet of the weekend was the ACC Championships, with Clemson coming out the winner.
1. Oregon
2. Florida
3. Tennessee
4. Texas A&M
5. LSU
6. BYU
7. Clemson
8. Florida State
9. Southern California
10. Arkansas
11. Texas Tech
12. Arizona
13. Minnesota
14. California
15. Stanford
16. Arizona State
17. North Carolina
18. Georgia
19. Miami (Fla.)
20. Nebraska
21. Oklahoma
22. UCLA
23. Washington State
24. Penn State
25. Auburn

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Penn Relays Preview

Track Alerts says Saturday is almost completely sold out. Penn Relays director Dave Johnson has issued warnings to pick up tickets early.

The ultimate cheat sheet: Walt Murphy's 13-page preview of every event over all six days, with time schedule included.

Drake is a bit more about individual events, while Penn is all about the relays. On the collegiate level those are a bit harder to preview and I'll just let Jack Pfeifer do it for me. The big deal: Oregon's distance runners are coming.
College men: sprints / distance
College women: sprints / distance

And then there's the USA v. the World races, which are mostly an exhibition, but really seem to drive attendance and attention even in years when Bolt doesn't come. There will be 4x100 and 4x400 for both men & women, a men's distance medley and a women's sprint medley. Note for those playing in USATF's Pick & Win game: Bolt is supposedly going to be on the Jamaica Black team. The game has a new feature in that you can make a back-up pick in case your initial pick pulls out at the last moment or has some other catastrophe that would have given you a goose egg.

Just limiting to top-ten sprinters in my world rankings you've got Bolt, Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell for Jamaica; Ivory Williams, Darvis Patton, Mike Rodgers and Shawn Crawford for the USA; and Richard Thompson for Trinidad. The men's 4x100 is going to be great fun to watch.

For the women it's not quite as deep in the 4x100, with Carmelita Jeter for the USA and Shelly-Ann Fraser and Kerron Stewart for Jamaica among the world's top ten. But the 4x400s are going to be tough, with Sanya Richard, Debbie Dunn and Allyson Felix for the USA and Shericka Williams and Novlene Williams-Mills for Jamaica.

I've always thought medleys are among the most interesting of all the relays, and the lineups here are going to give us some good races. The USA's men's distance medley will trot out some of the top stars in Nick Symmonds and Leo Manzano, but Kenya has Alfred Kirwa Yego and Asbel Kiprop and appears basically unbeatable. Morocco is a sleeper with Amine Laalou, and Australia will have a pretty good team as well with youngsters like Ryan Gregson and Jeff Risley. On the women's side the USA has both Alysia Johnson and Anna Pierce in the pool for our two entries in the sprint medley. I think Great Britain has an interesting entry, as Jemma Simpson, Christine Ohurougu and Nicola Sanders are all listed in their relay pool.

In the collegiate individual events, here are the athletes ranked in my world top twenty...
Long jump: Alain Bailey (Arkansas)

100m hurdles: Queen Harrison (Virginia Tech)
Shot put: Mariam Kevkhishvili (Florida)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More on Conference Realignment

I edited my post from yesterday about collegiate conference realignment to add some links to items about the Big Ten's plans to expand. I've read them all and spent some time thinking about it all, and more generally how things might affect the world of track & field. I suggest you read them as well if you really want to get an idea of what's likely to happen. Because things will happen by the end of June.

It's become obvious to me that the two schools the Big Ten wants the most are Texas and Notre Dame. Not only does the Big Ten gain much from them, but they both have much to gain from joining the Big Ten in terms of athletics and finance and--most overlooked--academics. The Big Ten schools are all highly-rated research institutions, and are joined (with former member Chicago) in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which shares research and resources among each other for academic purposes. So joining the Big Ten is a Joe Biden style Big F***ing Deal across the board. And while it doesn't seem to make much sense from a geographic standpoint to bring Texas in, it also doesn't make sense for Boston College and Miami to be in the same conference, or Boise State and Louisiana Tech. Geography doesn't mean anything anymore. So be aware that the Big Ten very much wants Texas, and knows there are ways Notre Dame can be convinced, and commissioner Jim Delany sees no reason why he only has to choose one. It could very realistically happen.

Note that when the Big Ten divvies up its TV money, each member gets $22 million. A year. That's more than the SEC schools get, it's double what Texas gets from the Big 12, and it's nearly 2.5 times what Notre Dame's NBC contract is worth. Broadening both the reach and the ratings of the Big Ten Network would increase that even more. So as long as the right schools are brought in, not only does the sum total of money go up but the average per school does as well.

While the Big Ten shares its money equally, and always has and always will, the Big 12 does not. The power members of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Nebraska get more than the others because they're on TV more and drive the ratings--and the other eight don't like it. It only requires four votes of the 12 for it to remain this way...meaning that if just one of those four jumps for the Big Ten, the other three stand to lose out on a vote. So it's entirely possible that all four could jump to the Big Ten.

It's also entirely possible that the Big Ten could force Notre Dame's hand by taking in four schools from the northeast and eviscerating the Big East. That wouldn't change the landscape of college track one iota, because none of those schools would change the Big Ten. Big 12 schools, on the other hand, would eventually have a huge impact on Big Ten track and the national scene as well, especially if Texas and Texas A&M are among them.

The Big Ten hasn't been a national power in track & field basically since the southern schools integrated. As with football, the conference has been OK with it, had some semblance of balanced competition among its members, and figured that being the champion team of the Big Ten was really meaningful. But it's not. Minnesota, this year's indoor champ, probably couldn't crack the top three in the Pac-10, Big 12 or SEC, and probably not even the top half-dozen in the latter. Women's champ Penn State fares a little better against its rivals from around the country, but still would have no chance at winning any of the other three major conferences. For a conference with such vast resources at its disposal, the state of its track programs and facilities is remarkably poor.

If Texas and Texas A&M come into the Big Ten, then the current members will be relegated to perennial second-class status. If Oklahoma and Nebraska come as well, then these are your top four teams year in and year out for the forseeable future. That is, of course, unless the rest step up their game. Which is what competitors do, and I'm sure they would. New blood from the Big 12 would be the kind of shake-up the conference hasn't had (and seriously needs) since its track & field championship meet became a members-only affair in the mid-1920s. The schools would certainly have the money available to make serious upgrades (although the coaches' ability to convince their ADs to part with said lucre is another issue entirely).

There are other ways in which Big 12 schools joining the Big Ten would benefit collegiate track & field in general. For one, the Texas Relays would be on the Big Ten Network and reach nearly half the TVs in America. Another is that Ohio State men's coach Robert Gary would have increased contact with UT coach Bubba Thornton and TAMU coach Pat Henry. The latter two are major power players in the sport's organizational structure, and the former is one of the few guys who really understands the challenges facing collegiate track & field and how to approach them (and is in no way shy about sharing his thoughts). But mostly, I'd be happy because I've been surrounded my whole life by major athletic powerhouses with lame track programs and that would undoubtedly change for the better.

The SEC would surely respond by bringing in a few new members of its own, although which ones are even more speculative at this point than with the Big Ten. The PAC-10 is a little further down this road, and for various reasons the two schools it wants most are Utah and Colorado. The former isn't important in track & field, but the latter would make the Pac-10 cross country championships an amazing race. Oregon, Stanford, Washington and Colorado combine for seven of the last nine NCAA men's team champions and seven of the last eight women's team champions.

Other possible results of the forming of three or four Super Death Star Conferences might be a change in the method of qualifying to the NCAA championships towards something more based around conference championship meets, but that's mostly wishful thinking on my part.

Drake Relays Preview

I'm psyched about Penn. I'm hosting a Penn Relays party in my basement sports bar on Saturday night, and planning a trip there next year. But as Dan Taylor says, Drake might actually be a better track meet.

Start lists aren't up yet, but here are the athletes I've seen in press releases who are scheduled to compete and ranked in my world top 20.

200m: Wallace Spearmon
400m: Renny Quow (TRI), Ramon Miller (BAH)
Mile: Bernard Lagat
110H: Eric Mitchum, Ryan Wilson, Joel Brown, Shamar Sands (BAH)
HJ: Jesse Williams, Andra Manson
PV: Derek Miles, Jeremy Scott
SP: Christian Cantwell, Reese Hoffa, Dan Taylor, Cory Martin
DT: Casey Malone

100H: Lolo Jones, Perdita Felicien (CAN)
HJ: Chaunte Howard Lowe, Levern Spencer, Nicole Forrester
DT: Stephanie Brown Trafton, Becky Breisch
JT: Kara Patterson
Hep: Diana Pickler

Current Superfan Rankings Leaders

Who are the leading athletes in my Superfan Rankings in each event? They're listed below.

Note that these use last year as a starting point, but athletes who start their season earlier than others gain a bit of advantage. These are based on past performance and are not a predictor of future value.

I've also listed the top American in each event.

100m: 1) Usain Bolt, 2) Tyson Gay
200m: 1) Usain Bolt, 2) Tyson Gay
400m: 1) LaShawn Merritt
800m: 1) David Lekuta Rudisha, 12) Nick Symmonds
1500m: 1) Augustine Choge, 10) Bernard Lagat
Steeple: 1) Paul Kipsiele Koech, 19) Dan Huling
3k & 5k: 1) Eliud Kipchoge, 13) Bernard Lagat
5k & 10k: 1) Edwin Cheruyiot Soi, 16) Dathan Ritzenhein
Long Distances: 1) Zersenay Tadesse, 45) Mo Trafeh
Marathon: 1) Robert Kiprono Cheruyiot, 10) Ryan Hall
20k walk: 1) Alex Schwazer (no Americans ranked)
50k walk: 1) Lei Li (no Americans ranked)
110H: 1)Dayron Robles, 2) Terrence Trammel
400H: 1) Kerron Clement
High jump: 1) Ivan Ukhov, 3) Dusty Jonas
Pole vault: 1) Steven Hooker, 7) Derek Miles
Long jump: 1) Dwight Phillips
Triple jump: 1) Yoandris Betanzos, 23) Christian Taylor
Shot put: 1) Christian Cantwell
Discus throw: 1) Gerd Kanter, 5) Jason Young
Hammer throw: 1) Primož Kozmus (no Americans ranked)
Javelin throw: 1) Tero Pitkämäki, 14) Chris Hill
Decathlon: 1) Ashton Eaton

100m: 1) Carmelita Jeter
200m: 1) Veronica Campbell-Brown, 2) Allyson Felix
400m: 1) Sanya Richards
800m: 1) Mariya Savinova, 4) Alysia Johnson
1500m: 1) Geleta Burka, 5) Anna Pierce
Steeple: 1) Marta Domínguez, 5) Jenny Barringer
3k & 5k: 1) Meseret Defar, 16) Shalane Flanagan
5k & 10k: 1) Meseret Defar, 35) Shalane Flanagan
Long Distances: 1) Mary Keitany, 20) Kara Goucher
Marathon: 1) Teyba Erkesso, 20) Kara Goucher
20k walk: 1) Anisya Kirdyapkina (no Americans ranked)
100H: 1) Lolo Jones
400H: 1) Melaine Walker, 2) Lashinda Demus
High jump: 1) Blanka Vlašic, 5) Chaunté Howard Lowe
Pole vault: 1) Fabiana Murer, 8) Lacy Janson
Long jump: 1) Brittney Reese
Triple jump: 1) Yergeris Savigne, 32) Kim Williams
Shot put: 1) Nadzeya Ostapchuk, 6) Jill Camarena-Williams
Discus throw: 1) Yarelis Barrios, 5) Stephanie Brown Trafton
Hammer throw: 1) Betty Heidler, 16) Jessica Cosby
Javelin throw: 1) Maria Abakumova, 16) Kara Patterson
Heptathlon: 1) Jessica Ennis, 5) Hyleas Fountain

EDIT: Martin Bingisser (below) reminded me that hammer leader Kozmus has retired. That makes Krisztián Pars my HT leader. Bingisser will appear in the rankings if he can get the ball & chain out past 74.67 meters, which has been right around the world's top 50 lately. He threw 65.88 at Mt. SAC this past weekend.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Conference Expansion and Realignment reported this morning that Big Ten Conference expansion is likely to be announced by the end of June. This is likely to set off a domino-effect of conference realignment throughout Division I-A.

Two weeks ago, Tony Barnhart of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wondered what the SEC might do in response, particularly if the Big Ten really changes things by going up to 16 teams--which is appearing distinctly possible. The SEC would almost assuredly upsize as well.

Who are the Big Ten likely to go after? Probably Notre Dame, as it always has, but the Fighting Irish want to stay independent for football if they can. To get them to change their minds, it will require a wholesale change in the landscape--thus the belief that expansion to 16 teams is possible. Setting aside the SEC teams as probably untouchable, a blogger by the handle of Law Buckeye rates the remaining schools the Big Ten might want, and they rank like so:

1. (tie) Texas & Notre Dame
3. Texas A&M
4. Nebraska
5. Pittsburgh
6. Syracuse
7. Rutgers
8. Kansas
9. Missouri

For geographical reasons alone, Texas and Texas A&M seem unlikely. But when (not if) the Big Ten moves, the SEC probably will go after the pair and maybe Florida State and Miami as well. The PAC-10 has talked about expanding, and I'd guess this would force their hand towards BYU, Utah, Colorado, and maybe another school.

So what you, and I, really care about is how does all of this affect track? Who will win what conference championship is the wrong question to ask first. The right question to ask first is what effect this will have on the economics of college sports, and college track in particular, because that's what all this realignment is really about in the first place.

What such mega-conferences would do is to draw a big line in the sand between the major players and everyone else, particularly in football. As with most things in America in the last 30 years, the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. But for track, this is not necessarily bad.

Schools with money don't cut track. Of the various schools mentioned above, only Utah doesn't have a two-gender track program. Schools without money don't necessarily cut track either, as virtually all of the "non-scholarship" Division I-AA football schools have full track programs as well. It's schools without money who want to spend money who cut track, and that's been mostly among the I-A schools outside of the BCS, the ones who have tried to keep up with their larger and better-heeled counterparts. Maybe this will convince them it's foolish to try to keep up with the Joneses and that to try to do so will only bankrupt them. Because the term "mid-major" would no longer apply to them, but to the remains of the Big 12 and Big East and Mountain West that reconstitute into some outside-the-BCS conference(s) that are still significantly superior to the MAC, C-USA and WAC. On the other hand, those new "mid-major" conferences would be where track is in danger, and coaches must do everything in their power to keep their programs viable.

Now it's time to ask who will win. If the SEC brings in the two Texas schools, then the SEC Championships are only one step below the NCAA championships--even more so if Florida State comes in. The PAC-10 would get stronger from the addition of BYU and Colorado, but not significantly

The Big Ten is basically a second-tier conference in track, and none of the candidates for expansion (save UT and TAMU) are likely to change that. But there's the Big Ten Network, and the broadening of a TV network that has a lot of unused air time during outdoor track season can't be a bad thing. And if Kansas comes in, then we'd be looking at two or three days of live coverage of the Kansas Relays. Nebraska and Missouri are also aggressively self-promoting track programs that would almost assuredly get their home meets on TV as well. Hot diggety!

College track has opportunities if big changes happen, but the coaches and other leaders must make things happen. If they sit on their hands nothing will change for the better but maybe for the worse. I'm hoping some big changes come to the college sports landscape.

LATE EDIT: some more links to articles or blogs about the issue. My well-educated brother sent me an e-mail research bomb.
If conference expansions come true, college athletics will never be the same
Lucrative Big Ten Network could be driving force for expansion
Texas' expansion decision will set off big domino effect
Rating the Big Ten expansion candidates
Delany, Big Ten may swallow Irish in expansive landscape
In the Trenches: Expanding on expansion, signing surprises, title guesses
Super Conferences Coming Our Way?
The Mountain West Conference: Why the Pac-10 may expand this year
Eastward, Ho! Pac-10 expansion will happen, but only if Colorado wants to play
The Death of the Big 12 Conference
Expansion and the 'superconference': A very long love story
The Big Ten Expansion Index: A Different Shade of Orange
Multi-Phase Big Ten Expansion: How to Create a Super Death Star Conference
The Value of Expansion Candidates to the Big Ten Network

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekend Marks, With a Twist

I've had a little bit of time to kill here and taken the best sprint, hurdle, and horizontal jump marks of the weekend and played around with them.

Using Dr. Jonas Mureika's online widget, I've tried to factor out the effects of wind and altitude. In the sprints I use his widget at face value, but trying to figure out the hurdles and especially the jumps can be a little tricky. Through a several-years-long trial and error period, I've settled on a conversion factor for those.

Take these with a grain of salt. Even with the 100 meters, where the research has been the deepest, there are other issues that it does not correct for. For example, the heavy rain during the 100 meters at the UTech Invitational in Jamaica does not appear to be a hindrance, as most people think, but actually an aid. And the hurdles and the jumps conversions get less reliable as the winds get more extreme.

Here they are...

M 100m
9.87 Nesta Carter (JAM)
9.91 Yohan Blake (JAM)
10.00 Ivory Williams
10.19 Jeff Demps (Fla)
10.20 Ahmad Rashaad (USC)
10.21 Keston Bledman (tri)
10.24 Darvis Patton
10.24 Maurice Mitchell
10.24 Alonso Edward (PAN)
10.24 Fred Rose
10.24 Samuel Francis (qat)

M 200m
20.41 Angelo Taylor
20.44 Maurice Mitchell
20.51 Fred Rose
20.59 Gavin Smellie (can)
20.65 Josh Scott
20.66 Rubin Williams
20.68 Greg Nixon
20.71 Michael DeHaven
20.73 Jared Connaughton (can)
20.76 Rondell Sorrillo (tri)

M 400m
44.81 Calvin Smith
44.90 Tyson Gay
45.17 Ben Offereins (AUS)
45.25 Tavaris Tate
45.31 Rondell Bartholomew (grn)
45.31 LaJerald Betters
45.35 Renny Quow (TRI)
45.38 Tony McQuay
45.41 Joey Hughes
45.52 Dwight Mullings (jam)

M 110H
13.25 David Oliver
13.43 John Yarbrough
13.43 Eric Mitchum
13.55 Drew Brunson
13.56 Andrew Riley
13.57 Ryan Fontenot
13.58 Jason Richardson
13.62 Shamar Sands (bah)
13.63 Dominique DeGrammont (hai)
13.68 Keiron Stewart (jam)

M 400H
48.42 Bershawn Jackson
49.15 Jeshua Anderson
50.30 Adrian Findlay (JAM)
50.49 Markino Buckley (JAM)
50.49 Reggie Wyatt
50.64 Brendan Cole (AUS)
50.65 Bayano Kamani (PAN)
50.67 Reuben McCoy
50.69 Tristan Thomas (AUS)
50.74 Joe Greene

8.49 Fabrice Lapierre (AUS)
8.20 Chris Noffke (AUS)
8.15 Irving Saladino (PAN)
8.09 Brian Johnson
7.97 Carlos Morgan (cay)
7.95 Alain Bailey (jam)
7.91 Luis Alberto Rivera (mex)
7.90 Norris Frederick
7.80 Tyrone Smith
7.74 Robbie Crowther (AUS)

16.63 Kenta Bell
16.62 Samyr Lane
16.59 Henry Frane (AUS)
16.57 Laurence Willis
16.56 Shamar Sands (BAH)
16.53 Kane Brigg (AUS)
16.37 Josh Como
16.23 Zacharias Arnos (cyp)
16.20 Brandon Roulhac

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

The UCLA-Oregon dual meet will continue. Vin Lanana was quoted as saying "On our end, we would like to have this meet. But we want to have it here, and I don’t know if that’s fair to ask a team to come up here year in and year out...I don’t think we have an interest in going down to L.A." But then later in the same story he indicated the Ducks would travel if UCLA's women agreed to compete. "Maybe if that’s what we’re doing in L.A., I would rethink that." Also notable (at least to me) was that UCLA gets a financial guarantee for the meet, something probably only Oregon can do. As for the meet itself, it was expected to be a tossup but Oregon ended up winning easily.

Texas' men's team is improved. They spanked SEC indoor champions Arkansas 122-76.

USATF has earned some respect. In two different stories, the organization has been shown in a positive light. The Mary Wittenberg whinefest published at Universal Sports earlier in the week basically came down to the NYRRC expecting special treatment from USATF in its Olympic Trials bid whereas they got equal treatment (which is why they lost). And in a Philadelphia Enquirer article about Usain Bolt's appearance at the Penn Relays, meet director Dave Johnson said "USA Track and Field and Nike deserve an awful lot of credit for pulling this together and handling the logistics." Even-handed and competent, both in the same week. Change you can believe in!

The Kansas Relays secret isn't anything special. One of the few success stories of the last decade in domestic track meets is the Kansas Relays. In the 90s it was basically irrelevant and the attendance was minimal. Now it's risen from the ashes and attracts crowds only exceeded by the Jim Ryun years. The secret? They promote the hell out of it. They created headlines with their Bill Veeck-like Vaulting For Dollars competition. Just like every other sports team in the country does once a year, the Jayhawks wore special pink breast-cancer-awareness uniforms at the Relays. And while other weekend meets achieved more world-leading times and arguably had better lineups, the Kansas Relays was the only one that got an Associated Press writeup--which means it was distributed to hundreds of local newspapers and the ESPN and Sports Illustrated websites. These guys hustle, and it shows.

Tyson Gay could make the sprints even more interesting. He opened up his season at the Tom Jones Memorial Classic with a huge 400m PR of 44.89, leaving Renny Quow, last year's Worlds 400m bronze medalist, 0.45 seconds in arrears. Last year he started up at the same meet about a second and a half slower and had one of the great sprint seasons of all time, albeit almost unnoticed in the shadow of Usain Bolt.

Now that Gay appears to be fully recovered from his injuries of the last two years, could he actually be a threat to Bolt? If so, I can say without hyperbole that it would be the best thing to happen to track & field in the USA since 1962 if not longer.

Maybe Ryan Hall actually has a chance tomorrow. His recent racing leaves me underwhelmed, and his coach Terrence Mahon can piss on my leg all he wants but I'll still know it's not raining. But there's one tiny glimmer of hope: he's spent the last month living and training in Boston.

Now here's the thing about Boston: the course is tricky. The type of hills and their locations are almost perfectly suited for leading astray the best laid plans. In distance running you don' have to know what you're doing if just plain better than everyone else, but if the competitive level is close then you have to have some kind of advantage. The reason no American man has won in Boston since 1983 is because since then all the top US runners have abandoned their inherent advantage of being able to train on the Boston Marathon course.

Pretty much ever since WWII ended there have been a lot of foreign elites coming to Boston. As there were more foreign elites than domestic ones, and they tended to be on average better runners, they won more often, with American men winning only ten of the last 64 races. With a few notable exceptions, those US winners had a huge advantage over their foreign counterparts in that they trained extensively on the Boston course.

The last US male champion, Greg Meyer, was a member of the Greater Boston Track Club at the time and did nearly all of his long runs on the course. The previous year's champion, Alberto Salazar, was based on the west coast but had trained with the GBTC on the course as a teenager and also fit into the "just plain better than anyone else" category. But he nearly got beaten by in the famous Duel in the Sun by a less-talented but better-prepared Dick Beardsley, who lived and trained in Boston at the time. Going back further, "Boston Billy" Rodgers won four times in his adopted hometown and knew every inch of the course forwards and backwards, and Johnny Kelley similarly lived and trained in Boston in the years leading up to his victory. Amby Burfoot lived in Connecticut but had trained on the course some before his win. The only two exceptions to the rule were Jon Anderson in '73 and Jack Fultz in '76. The latter can be discounted because all the normal rules went out the window in the '76 100-degree "Run for the Hoses", and the former could be placed into the "just plain better than everyone else" category.

But look at how things have changed in the openly professional era. No pro distance runner is going to choose to live and train in Boston for the whole winter, as the unpredictable weather can seriously impact training (which is the runner's very livelihood). And so every year most of our elites go to other better-paying races, leaving only one or two of our best to line up against a dozen Kenyans and Ethiopians. Many of those foreigners may run foolishly and blow up, but a few are going to run the hills just well enough to beat all the Americans. Last year was the best example of this, in both the men's and women's races.

If an American makes it his (or her) lone goal to win Boston and become someone who will be remembered for generations, he can. But he must commit to it fully, and live in Boston from Halloween to Patriot's Day for several years in a row. Tell me when you see a top pro doing that, and I'll call up the bookie and wager my retirement savings. Until then, it's going to be an uphill battle.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What's On: the weekend

Updated on Friday at 11:30 AM

The headliner
The 114th running of the Boston Marathon will begin at 10 AM Monday. Headline athletes include Ryan Hall, Meb Keflezighi, Deriba Merga and Abderrahim Goumri.
LIVE TV COVERAGE on Universal Sports from 9:30 AM to 12:30 on Monday (replays at 9 PM and midnight)
LIVE WEBCAST at starting at 9:30 AM on Monday
Race website / Flocast coverage
Universal Sports / Let's Run previews: men, women / Marathon News / Boston Globe / Running Times / Japan Running News

Track & field
Collegiate conference meets
The ACC Championships take place from Thursday to Saturday at Clemson’s Rock Norman Track & Field complex. Indoor champions this year were Florida State’s men by a scant 3½ points over North Carolina, and Clemson’s women by more than 50 points.
LIVE WEBCAST at begin at 3 PM on Friday and 3 PM on Saturday
Meet website / live results

The Big South Championships take place Thursday through Saturday at Charleston Southern’s Whitfield Stadium. Liberty is looking to complete a triple-double by winning both men’s and women’s titles in cross, indoor and outdoor.
LIVE WEBCAST ($4.95) at
Meet website / live results

Collegiate Duals
#7 UCLA travels to #2 Oregon on Saturday for a men-only matchup. The competition is expected to be very close.
LIVE TV COVERAGE on the Oregon Sports Network on Saturday from Noon – 2 PM local time
Meet website / live results
Runnerspace scoring prediction / The Oregonian / / Eugene Register-Guard

#4 Arkansas travels to #13 Texas on Saturday for a men’s only matchup. The Hogs beat the Longhorns at home in January.

More collegiate meets

The Mt. San Antonio College Relays take place from Thursday through Saturday at Hilmer Lodge Stadium in Walnut CA. Tyson Gay and AllysonFelix are scheduled to compete.
Meet website / Live results / Flotrack coverage
Let's Run fan guides: Friday, Saturday
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
/ Whittier Daily News

The 83rd Kansas Relays take place from Wednesday through Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence KS. Veronica Campbell-Brown and Churandy Martina are scheduled to compete.
Meet website / Live results
University Daily Kansan / WIBW / KTKA / Lawrence Journal-World / Wichita Eagle

The fourth Athletics Kenya/New KCC meeting will take place on Thursday in Mumais, Kenya.
The Standard / Daily Nation

The Nagano Marathon will be run on Sunday.
Race website

Stadium Attendance Records, Trends

I've just uploaded a new page at It's a compilation of attendance records for existing track stadiums in the USA, with every known record in excess of 7,500. I have 33 such stadiums.

I should add a disclaimer: This is only what's known to me. So far, the only attendance figures I know of come from Track & Field News and the Ohio high school championships. Even there, I've only researched back to 1971. So there's a LOT of missing info--for example, the California high school championships alone have certainly attracted more than 7,500 in at least a half-dozen different stadiums.

Still, I think it's instructive to look at the meets that set attendance records for each stadium and see what they have in common.
7 relay carnivals (Penn, Kansas, Texas, Drake, West Coast, Mt. SAC, Florida)
5 pro tour events (IAAF three times, ITA twice)
4 dual meets (USA v. USSR twice, UCLA v. USC, Tennessee v. Villanova)
4 Olympic Trials
3 US Olympic Festivals
3 team championships (NCAA twice, OHSAA)
3 national championships (TAC/USATF twice, USTFF)
2 international games (Goodwill Games, Universiade)
1 college invitational (Jumbo Elliot Memorial)

At first, it looks like the IAAF tour-type events are a big deal, as they occur second-most in terms of stadium attendance records. But if we take these nine categories and put them into meta-categories, some strong trends show up.

Heavily individual-oriented competitions are only represented nine times out of the 33 attendance records--the five pro tour events, three national championships, and the lone college invitational. All the other 24 are oriented towards team competition, be they team scored (dual meets and championships), based around team competition (relay carnivals), or strongly associated with the idea of an Olympic team (Olympic Trials and Festivals and the international games).

And what about the biggest attendances at defunct track venues? They were the Olympic Games, of course (in LA and Atlanta), but also in the Olympic Stadium in an Olympic year (Trials and an IAAF GP meet) and USA-USSR dual meets.

So the lesson to take from this is that while track & field is an individual sport, we ignore its team aspects at our peril.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let's Run Innovation

Let's Run has stopped waiting for other people to make it and went and did it themselves.

They've got a daily "Fan Guide" of info about featured races at the Mt. SAC Relays, and embedded the live Flocast coverage in their page. I'm watching today's right now. Very cool.

Now, if Apple will just update the iPhone operating system so I can watch it wherever I am...

About Time

At this weekend's UCLA - Oregon dual meet, field event officials will have wireless devices that will automatically update field-event standings on the main video board.

This "innovation" should have been perfected a decade ago. And it was already in common use 40 years ago...with manual scoreboards.

-- Post From My iPhone

Location:Tremainsville Rd,Toledo,United States

Vaulting for Dollars

Announcing a truly boring middle school dual meet. Thought I'd add some tidbits...

I barely remember Bowling For Dollars. The Kansas Relays is going retro and introducing Vaulting For Dollars.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

College Team Rankings, Week #2

A week ago I noted how the USTFCCCA's national rankings have no basis in actual competitive results, and as such don't hold a lot of meaning for the average sports fan. Case in point: Yesterday's new women's rankings put Texas A&M at #1, just three days after getting beaten rather handily by Oregon. No other sport would do that.

So I'm doing weekly team rankings. Rules: Results of scored meets are more important than computer rankings. Outdoor meets are more important than indoor meets. Recent meets are most important. If a team split its squad that's taken into consideration. All teams that score 30 or fewer points in a meet are considered tied for last (so only the first five places at the NCAA Indoor Championships hold meaning for these rankings).

The scored meets with ranked teams this week were the Pepsi Challenge, where Oregon beat Texas A&M, and The Big Meet, where Stanford beat Cal. Coming up this week are two big duals, UCLA at Oregon and Arkansas at Texas. The ACC Championships are also this week.
1. Florida
2. Oregon
3. Texas A&M
4. Arkansas
5. LSU
6. Oklahoma
8. Southern Cal
9. Nebraska
10. Stanford
11. Baylor
12. Texas Tech
13. Texas
14. BYU
15. Minnesota
16. California
17. Arizona State
18. South Carolina
19. Georgia
20. Florida State

The scored meets this week affecting the team rankings were the Pepsi Challenge, where Oregon beat Texas A&M, and The Big Meet, where Cal beat Stanford in the final event. The lone important scored meet coming up this week is the ACC Championships.
1. Oregon
2. Tennessee
3. Florida
4. LSU
5. Texas A&M
6. Arkansas
7. Penn State
8. Southern Cal
9. BYU
10. Arizona
11. Texas Tech
12. Arizona State
13. Minnesota
14. California
15. Stanford
16. Clemson
17. Florida State
18. UCLA
19. Washington State
20. Georgia

Monday, April 12, 2010

Questioning the Olympic Marathon Trials Bidding

Joe Battaglia has a long and involved story at Universal Sports about the selection process for the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials. It's interesting to read at face value, and reading between the lines is even more interesting.

Quick recap if you're short on the story: the 2008 OT races were held in conjunction with the New York and Boston marathons, held the prior day on separate courses. It was a big success and it was widely expected that 2012 would be similar. Houston beat them out with a bid to host both of the OT races along with their own marathon in January.

When I first heard about it, I wondered if there was any USATF funny-business going on. But I didn't have to read much to find out that Houston won because they had the best bid. They offered to cover all the costs, pay out more prize money than was required, and didn't expect any cut in advertising money from USATF. Add in the time-of-year advantage and you're looking at almost a perfect bid from USATF's standpoint, aside from being outside the major media markets of the northeast. Even that might not be a downside, as NY and Boston already give serious marathon racing outsized attention, while Houston could be seen as a place to take it from near-zero to something.

What's really interesting is that the story was written at all. Ever since the OT site was announced, the NYRRC's Mary Wittenberg has been bitching about it. Not aggressively, since there appears to be little to bitch about, but she's made her disapproval well known. Note that the BAA has said essentially nothing in the press, and they were in basically the same situation as the NYRRC. They aren't as aggressively self-promoting as the NYRRC and/or Wittenberg.

Battaglia doesn't have an axe to grind. He just needed something to write, and he tried to make it look like there were two sides to the story. But there aren't, Battaglia knows it, and doesn't pretend otherwise. New York got beat fair and square.

LATE EDIT: Thanks to pjm for his insight in the comments. There's a thread on this at Let's Run, and I'll just say very few people are jumping to Wittenberg's defense. To be fair, they're not exactly praising Logan either/

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Usain Bolt is our Tiger Woods. Not in that he's just engaged in a protracted PR nightmare, but in that the fortunes of our sport rise and fall with him. Note the hysteria surrounding his announced entry into the Penn Relays. Meet director Dave Johnson considers this the biggest thing to hit the Relays since 1929.

Oregon is powerhouse. Well, we knew that. But they dismantled Texas A&M with ridiculous ease at the Pepsi Team Challenge. There's a bit of a home advantage in track, so the meet results should be taken with a grain of salt. Then again, they'll have it for the NCAA Championships too. Florida still appears the team to beat on the men's side, but the Duck women look like a lock and their men are the most likely to give the Gators a push.

The London Marathon has important friends. A recent investigative journalism piece by a BBC television news show has found that far too much of the money the race takes in for charities gets spent on salaries and other costs, as the race pays its top-earning employee more than twice as much as the leaders of the charities it benefits. The race responded by having Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications director, criticize the program for attacking such a popular charitable organization...but curiously not attacking the facts that were presented.

Marathoning is increasingly a speedy affair. This morning's Rotterdam Marathon was won in 2:04:48 by Patrick Makau, a guy who basically gave up on the 10k because his 27:27 PR isn't going to make an Kenyan national teams. It should come as no surprise that he ran so fast -- he's #2 on the all-time half marathon list -- but this was a B-level race.

Yelena Isinbayeva is taking an indefinite vacation. After two straight bombs at major championships, she took some time off. Four weeks ago she hinted she might, but between then and now she was announced as a confirmed entry to several big invitationals. Now she's backing out. pjm commented on my post that she's probably got a case of the yips and needs to get her head together. She's certainly losing a large amount of money by doing this.

Paula Radcliffe is also going to be out of action for a while. She's pregnant with baby #2. Whether or not this is a good thing for her all-out assault on the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

College Team Rankings

Today's Pepsi Team Invitational at Oregon features the men's teams that tied for second at the NCAA Indoor Championships, and the women's teams that took first and fifth, in a small-meet team-scoring format. In any other sport, this would be a Joe Biden-style Big F***ing Deal. But in track...meh. Why?

I think partly because there's nothing really at stake here. There should be. I don't mean like it is in college football, where the loser of such a high-ranking matchup essentially forfeits a chance at the national championship. I mean like in college basketball, where the post-season means that regular-season matchups are exciting but ultimately only put rankings on the line.

In college track, we have team rankings put out by the USTFCCCA. And they're lame, because they only total up relative strength of marks. Who wins or loses a scored meet is of absolutely no consequence. Ergo, today's meet means diddly-squat.

So I'm going to fix that. I'm going to release weekly rankings based almost exclusively on the results of scored meets.

Outdoor means more than indoor. Recent means more than longer ago. The difference between first and second in a meet means more than between second and third, which is more than third and fourth, and so on. In a large scored meet, teams that don't score at least 30 points are all tied for last (which means only the top five or so places at the NCAA meet matter).

Men's rankings, as of April 9...
1. Florida
2. Texas A&M
3. Arkansas
4. LSU
5. Oregon
6. Oklahoma
7. Nebraska
8. Minnesota
10. Ohio State
11. South Carolina
12. Georgia
13. Stanford
14. Baylor
15. Florida State
16. Texas
17. Cal
18. Texas Tech
19. North Carolina
20. BYU

Isinbayeva takes a break from competitions

From the IAAF:
Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, the Olympic champion and World record holder in the women’s Pole Vault has announced that she will take an indefinite break from competitions.

..."At this moment I cannot exactly say when I will return to competitions. I have not completely ruled out the entire summer circuit or the European Championships in Barcelona.”
This is strange. Not as strange as the Tiger Woods story when it first broke, but there's got to be something more than "I'm tired" going on here. More when I know it.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Usain Bolt is...everywhere

Even before Usain Bolt announced he'll run the Penn Relays he was everywhere. He's profiled in this month's Esquire magazine. ESPN's Page 2 has a nice piece, too:

It made me think about the past dozen years or so, as Columbia Records started releasing a string of Miles Davis box sets, such as "Bitches Brew Sessions," "On The Corner Sessions," "Jack Johnson Sessions" -- all material recorded in 1970 or earlier. The thing is, the music was so advanced that folks still haven't caught up...

Bolt is like Miles. He's a sprinter from the future who traveled back to our time to run so fast it turns our brain into mush trying to comprehend an actual human blur.

...Imagine if "Avatar" was released the same week as "Star Wars" back in 1977. That's what we're talking here. Asafa Powell and all the other world-class sprinters are "Star Wars." Bolt is "Avatar."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

College Ovals updates

I've been getting. Waves of e-mails helping me update the listings. I'd like to thank everyone helping out, and keep them coming. I won't be able to update the listings until tomorrow, but I'm definitely going to use all your help.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

College Track Directory

My project of the last few weeks is now up and running.

Go check it out. It's a directory of every Division I outdoor track facility in the country, along with the best of D-II, D-III, NAIA, JuCo and CIS.

There's a lot of missing information, though. Help me out where you can.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Ashton Eaton is still the junior player. After his heptathlon world record at the NCAA Indoor Championships easily bested the simultaneous gold & silver performances of Olympic champ Bryan Clay and World champ Trey Hardee at the World Indoor Championships, you might have thought the Oregon senior was the new king of the multi-events. You would have been wrong. He's very good, but his weak point is the throws, of which there is only one indoors. His 8310 total at the Texas Relays was well behind Hardee's meet record of four years ago. On the other hand, that meet record is also the collegiate record, and Eaton is now #3 all-time. The other guy ahead of him is 2003 World champ Tom Pappas. Eaton will be a world-beater, but he is not yet there.

World Cross Country is a tough race. Yeah, you knew that. But this really shows how tough it is. Today Lineth Chepkerui won the Crescent City Classic in 30:43, which puts her #6 on the all-time 10k road list. She was only fifth at last week's World XC race.

The 400 is the race to watch in the SEC. At this weekend's Florida Relays, the home Gators ran 3:00.31. That's really fast--faster than the UK's silver-medal-winning team at last year's Worlds. Yesterday Alabama's freshman Kirani James ran for Grenada at the CARIFTA Games (a regional junior-division competition) and won the 400 in 45.02. The SEC championships will be on a brand-new surface at Tennessee's Tom Black Track. The stadium record is 44.43, and it's possible that could be beaten.

Blessing Okagbare may be the new Carl Lewis. Who? She's a UTEP senior from Nigeria who won an NCAA indoor double in the 60 and long jump. Over the weekend at the Texas Relays she won the long jump and the 100 meters, both impressively. She's no world-beater yet, but it's been a very long time since anyone has been so competitive in both a jump and a sprint. I have no idea if she'll keep it up after her college days are over, but I'd love to see it.