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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Who is Where This Weekend

Want to know where the top college athletes are going to be competing this weekend? It's all here.

I've done a rough rating of the top ten in each individual event, men and women, and scoured schedules and entry lists and heat sheets to find out who's doing what.

100 meters
1. Jeff Demps (Fla) - Florida Relays (100, 4x100)
2. Maurice Mitchell (FlSt) - Florida Relays (200m & relays)
3. Mookie Salaam (Okla) - idle
4. Michael Granger (Miss) - Florida Relays (100m, 200m & relays)
5. Marcus Rowland (Aub) - idle
6. Gerald Phiri (TAMU) - LSU Invitational (100m)
7. Luther Ambrose (ULM) - unknown, team at Stephen F. Austin Alumni Invitational
8. D'Angelo Cherry (MsSt) - Bulldog Twilight (200m)
9. Reggie Dixon (Hamp) - Florida Relays (100m & relays)
10. Terrell Wilks (Fla) - Florida Relays (100, 4x100, 4x200)

200 meters
1. Mookie Salaam (Okla) - idle
2. Maurice Mitchell (FlSt) - Florida Relays (200m & relays)
3. Brandon Byram (FlSt) - Florida Relays (200m & relays)
4. Horatio Williams (LSU) - LSU Invitational (100m, 200m, 4x100)
5. Marvin Bonde (ORU) - Texas Tech Open (400m)
6. Demetrius Pinder (TAMU) - LSU Invitational (400m, 4x400)
7. Gerald Phiri (TAMU) - LSU Invitational (100m)
8. Tony McQuay (Fla) - Florida Relays (4x200, 4x400)
9. Charles Clark (FlSt) - Florida Relays (200m & relays)
10. Justin Austin (Iowa) - LSU Invitational (4x100, 4x400)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

College Power Rankings

The college power rankings return for an early outdoor edition.

I'm not one of those people who believes indoor and outdoor track should be considered separate sports.  How many colleges have separate webpages for their indoor and outdoor teams?  Does anyone ever get a scholarship for indoor track only?  Do coaches get separate contracts for indoor and outdoor track?  Of course not.  My rankings are for a combined indoor/outdoor season, as everyone knows track and field is.

It being very early, the more active teams are rated higher than they might otherwise be.

The Superfan’s Men’s Power Rankings for March 30, 2011
this week's scored competition, if any, listed in italics
1. Texas A&M - at LSU Invitational
2. LSU - at LSU Invitational
3. Florida
4. Southern Cal - vs. BYU and Cal St. Northridge
5. BYU - at Southern Cal with Cal St. Northridge
6. Arkansas
7. Texas
8. Long Beach St.
9. Indiana
10. Minnesota - at Jim Click Shootout
11. Stanford
12. Florida State
13. UCLA - vs. Tennessee
14. Wisconsin
15. UC Irvine
16. Nebraska - at Wichita State with Northern Iowa
17. Oklahoma
18. Virginia Tech
19. Oregon
20. Princeton
21. Ohio State - at Jim Click Shootout
22. Arizona State
23. Houston
24. Arizona - at Jim Click Shooutout
25. Texas Tech

Texas beat UCLA and Arkansas in a tri-meet. Long Beach State and UC Irvine took the top two spots at the Cal-Nevada Championships.

The Superfan’s Women’s Power Rankings for March 30, 2011

1. Oregon
2. Texas
3. LSU - at LSU Invitational
4. Arkansas
5. Texas A&M - at LSU Invitational
6. Nebraska - at Wichita State with Northern Iowa
7. Clemson
8. Arizona - at Jim Click Shooutout
9. BYU - at Southern Cal with Cal St. Northridge
10. Texas Tech
11. Southern Cal - vs. BYU and Cal St. Northridge
12. Florida State
13. Ohio State - at Jim Click Shooutout
14. Oklahoma
15. Tennessee - at UCLA
16. Arizona State
17. Stanford
18. South Carolina
19. Central Florida
20. Minnesota - at Jim Click Shooutout
21. Indiana
22. Baylor
23. Georgia
24. North Carolina - at Jim Click Shooutout
25. Auburn

Texas won the Victor Lopez Bayou Classic.

Monday, March 28, 2011

College Weekend Roundup

On Friday I posted a weekend college preview of sorts, by listing out the major players in each event and what (if anything) they'd be doing and where they'd be doing it.

In the process of figuring out who the "major players" are, I decided on a top-ten ranking based on how they did at the NCAA Indoor Championships (if applicable) and last year's NCAA Outdoor, plus their PR and their 2011 best mark.  I'll update this weekly as part of the weekend preview.

Now on the other end of the weekend I'm letting you know how they did.  Expect this on Mondays.  I'll get the women into the act next week.

100 meters
1. Jeff Demps (Fla) - idle
2. Maurice Mitchell (FlSt) - Ran on winning 4x100 at FSU Relays (39.63)
3. Mookie Salaam (Okla) - idle
4. Michael Granger (Miss) - 2nd at SEC-Big Ten Challenge (10.38) behind Brock (Aub), ran on 2nd-place 4x100 (40.31)
5. Marcus Rowland (Aub) - idle
6. Gerald Phiri (TAMU) - 3rd at Arizona State Invitational (10.39) behind Hardy (TAMU) and Woodrow (Bay)
7. Luther Ambrose (ULM) - idle
8. D'Angelo Cherry (MsSt) - Won B heat at SEC-Big Ten Challenge (10.54)
9. Reggie Dixon (Hamp) - Won Alabama Relays (10.33), 6th in 200m (21.13)
10. Terrell Wilks (Fla) - idle

200 meters
1. Mookie Salaam (Okla) - idle
2. Maurice Mitchell (FlSt) - See 100 meters
3. Brandon Byram (FlSt) - idle
4. Horatio Williams (LSU) - Ran on winning 4x100 (39.43) and 4x200 (1:20.99) at LSU Relays
5. Marvin Bonde (ORU) - idle
6. Demetrius Pinder (TAMU) - Won at Arizona State Invitational (20.74), beat Jeremy Wariner, split 44.8 on winning 4x400 relay
7. Gerald Phiri (TAMU) - See 100 meters
8. Tony McQuay (Fla) - idle
9. Charles Clark (FlSt) - Won 300m at FSU Relays (32.86)
10. Justin Austin (Iowa) - idle

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell will race each other, but Bolt and Tyson Gay probably won't meet until the Worlds. This pronouncement from Gay's agent, Mark Wetmore, has led to a lot of bitching about the Diamond League and how it was supposed to create head-to-head matchups between superstars like these but hasn't.

Personally, I like the Diamond League better than its forerunner, the Golden League, but for reasons that have nothing to do with the above. The problem we have here is fairly basic: money.

When the Diamond League was launched in the fall of 2009, the idea was that the biggest stars would be signed to series contracts mandating a minimum number of competitions. But that costs money. A lot of money, considering what kind of superstar Usain Bolt is. And there's a lot less money floating around sports these days, especially second-tier sports.

Then there is a specific issue relating to Bolt and Gay: they are both more or less equally good at two different events. The idea behind the Diamond League's rules about which meets can hold which events was to limit the competitions and thus concentrate the talent. But these two can spread out over fourteen races instead of just seven, and they can duck each other.

Or is it ducking? More likely, it's that each of them is so expensive in terms of appearance fees that none of the early-season meets can afford both of them. The late-season meets can, and they may race each other there.

The poster children for this kind of ducking were another pair of great runners who were equally good at two different events: Seb Coe and Steve Ovett. They met at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics, and not once in between.

Bolt and Gay compete under different conditions than Coe and Ovett did. Not just being openly professional, but with a World Championships or Olympics in three out of every four years. We will get to see a showdown between them this year (provided both stay healthy), no question about it. This, then, is Exhibit A for why the IAAF should stage a Worlds in every non-Olympic year.

Is it essential for the health of track and field that Bolt and Gay meet with regularity? Probably not. In the most popular team sports, the best teams usually don't meet more than a handful of times a year, sometimes just in the championship. Ali and Frazier fought only three times, yet that was a lot for a heavyweight championship. As long as they meet every year I think it's OK, provided that it comes at the end of an all-summer-long buildup of hype and with a lot at stake.

Tyson Gay will run on a 4x400 with Jeremy Wariner at the Texas Relays. That's a pretty good concentration of talent. It's nothing but early-season shakeouts for them, but domestic fans get the benefit of seeing two of our very biggest stars competing at home. I'm guessing these two are working together because they're both adidas-sponsored athletes.

This team, along with Reggie Witherspoon (44.99 PR, 2008) and Lionel Larry (44.63 PR, 2008), will run in the invitational section. A college team or two might be put in with them; last year Mississippi State was in that section.

Relay meets kick ass. I mean real relay meets, not meets that call themselves "relays" but are 90% individual events. In a few weeks I'm going to the granddaddy of them all, the Penn Relays. How hyped am I? Last night I had a nightmare in which I missed half the meet.

Ato Boldon's 4x100 relay rules for Team USA. Speaking of relays, the USA invented them. Recent results in the 4x100 at World Championships and Olympics, though, have been nothing short of embarrassing. More often than not, we can't get the stick around the track without a DQ.

In a response to Wallace Spearmon on Twitter, Ato Boldon laid out the rules he'd put in place for Team USA's 4x100 teams if given the power to do so.
Rule 1
Running the 4x100 is a privilege not a right. No camp, no run, no likea the rules, sita in the stands.

Rule 2
[Texas A&M head coach] Pat Henry is in charge.

Rule 3
Managers/agents stay the $%&* out of practice/discussions. What YOUR client "wants to run" means nothing.

Rule 4
For the next 3 years no collegians and no newbies. Look at the drops/miscues since 1988 and the experience level of those involved

Rule 5:
Camp is 3 deep at every leg, and no switching. You train/practice with dif runners, but everyone is grouped by the leg u run.

Rule 6:
See rule #3. Start there and the US may not win the next 3 years but the stick will actually travel 400m around an oval.

The situation for Team USA's 4x100 relays is similar to the problems faced by USA Basketball between 2000 and 2008. The specifics are different, but the basic problems of arrogance about winning, a lack of focus and responsibility, and increasing levels of competition from other nations are all the same.

Boldon's prescription sound similar to what Jerry Colangelo put into place to address those problems. Those were stability in coaching, by picking a respected college coach without a dog in the fight; stability in athletes, by requiring a three-year commitment; and a willingness to reject superior athletes if they are not willing to work within the system.

There are significant differences, though. Measuring success for USA Basketball is almost entirely based on its ability to win a men's gold medal in international competition. They were facing complete disgrace. USA Track and Field, however, can hide failures in the relays among many successes. Our leadership can continue to delude themselves about Team USA success, because they have no direct relationship to 90% of it. The 10% with which they do have a direct relationship, the 4x100 relays, they f**k up with regularity.  But, being elected officials, they'll never admit it.

Another difference is that a well-organized team with only of half our top basketball talent can still win gold medals. A well-organized team of all of our top 4x100 talent, either men or women, is in the near future still likely to be beaten by the Jamaicans. Thus Boldon's Rule #6. The willingness to tell top basketballers to take a hike is not a sacrifice, but to do so to top sprinters is. Besides wins and losses, there is the money issue: USA Basketball loses no favor with sponsors or broadcasters if Kobe Bryant does not play, but USA Track and Field stands to lose a lot if Tyson Gay does not run.

Yet another difference is the power structure. Colangelo, being part of NBA management, is not beholden to athletes' desires, and USA Basketball, being wholly separate from the NBA, had nothing to lose by instituting tough love. USA Track and Field's power structure is elected by the athletes and heavily influenced by their agents. Reforming our national relay team structure is as difficult as Congress passing meaningful lobbying reforms, and possibly less likely.

Lastly, and most importantly, is a difference in culture. Basketball is a sport which preaches team play, even if it doesn't always practice it, but the idea of putting the needs of the group ahead of your own is there from the first time a kid puts on a jersey. Not so in track. Track people are almost universally individualists by nature, fiercely independent and suspicious of everyone and everything. At the professional level, we are the Tea Party of sports, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

A significant part of why pro tracksters chose track over other sports at an early age is that they are not team players. They chose a sport where they were not expected to play well with others. Getting them to agree on anything, no matter how much in their own interest it may be, is more difficult than herding cats.

Dual meets kick ass. Want an example of how track people are as difficult to herd as cats? Look at the death of the dual meet. There was a time when the typical track team's schedule was built around dual meets, relay carnivals, and end-of-the-year championships (plus arena-based indoor invitationals for those in the north). The implosion of that system, in favor of massive all-day unscored snoozefests, has been mirrored by a similar implosion of spectator and media interest. There are other issues of course, and we all know that correlation does not show causation, but it's hard to argue that the first had nothing to do with the second.

Over the weekend we had a fantastic tri-meet in Austin that turned out to be a two-way fight between Texas and UCLA. The Longhorns led by one point going into the 4x400, in a must-win situation over the Bruins, and pulled it out. There are very few things in sports more exciting than a track meet that comes down to the mile relay.

Every single athlete who scored a point for the Longhorns was the MVP. If any one of them failed, then the team doesn't win. You could make an argument that the meet was won by a mere 0.004 seconds, as that was the margin of victory in 200 by Texas' Trevante Rhodes.

Sara Hall is getting serious about a new event. She's been a 1500/3k/5k type for many years, and the last eight or so months have been among the most productive of her career. But there's a problem: a glut of talent in these events.

In the 1500, Team USA has five athletes with recent PRs of 4:02.40 or better, all of whom are savvy racers. With a PR of 4:08.55, Hall isn't going to make a national team in the 1500. In the 5k, Team USA has six current athletes whose PRs are at least 20 seconds better than Hall's, putting up a similar brick wall. The option of going longer, to the 10k or marathon, is a risk and nearly as unlikely to pay off.

So Hall is now trying the steeplechase, and I think it's a smart move. Team USA has a pair of studs in the event in Jenny Simpson and Anna Pierce, but both have spent most of their time recently in other events and while one or the other might return to it, I can't see both doing so. After that, the next best the USA has is Lisa Aguilera, who has broken 9:30 just once twice.  After that, Bridget Franek has broken 9:40 twice in her life, and a few others have done it once.
EDIT: reminded me that Aguilera has broken 9:30 twice.

On Friday night at Stanford, Hall ran 9:50.68. That's big. It's less than a second off the IAAF "B" standard and eight seconds off the "A" standard. Remember, if she can beat Franek and Nicole Bush, she'll likely be on the US team for the Worlds and/or Olympics. She's still quite a bit behind them in terms of best time—but this was only the third full-distance steeplechase of her life. In the process, she trounced 9:40 steepler Lindsay Allen by sixteen seconds.

Is Hall too small to run the steeple? Apparently not. The barriers are only 30 inches tall for the women. That's three inches shorter than the women's 100 hurdle height, an event mastered by 5' 2" Gail Devers.

Hall may have found her niche. She's a smart racer, tough, and with a good enough kick. If she's in the hunt to make the top three at the US Championshisp or Olympic Trials, I think she'll make the team.  For more, see Jim McDannald's post at

College meets are figuring out when to attract fans.  The hard-and-fast rule is that meets are held on Saturdays.  Period.  And that's not the way to attract college track's natural fan base.

Who is their natural fan base?  High school athletes and their coaches.  And what do they do all day on Saturday?  Compete in their own meets.  So they can't come and watch.

A Sunday college track meet used to be rarer than hen's teeth, but a few have come around this year.  Ohio State's Jesse Owens Classic, the Ohio State-Michigan dual, this weekend's Alabama Relays, and several conference championships have all made the jump.  Friday meets are happening too, such as the above-mentioned Texas-Arkansas-UCLA triangular.

The day of the meet by itself will make no difference in terms of attendance.  But it's part of thinking outside the box for new ways of drawing in spectators.  (By the way, someone needs to think outside the box to come up with a new term so we can retire that cliche.)

Think about this: up through the mid-80s, college basketball teams played on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  That was it.  They rarely played any other day of the week, and never on Sunday.  There weren't a whole lot of games on TV, and a coach who would change his scheduling to fit TV demands was sneered at like a prostitute.  Things sure have changed, haven't they?  Why don't we?

A 104-year-old track star died before his time. Japan Running News reports that Takahashi Shimokawara, a 104-year-old man who held three world records in the 100+ age group, died in the tsunami that overtook northern Japan on March 11. Japanese masters athletics officials called it "a shock" and "a terrible pity".

There are comedians out there heartless enough to make jokes about this, and they're easy to write. I take something different from this: a goal. I want to be 104 and die too early, in a way that has nothing to do with old age or infirmity.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who is Where This Weekend

With the college season starting up, I began to wonder which top athletes would be running where this weekend. So I came up with a list of the five “major players” in each event based on PR and place at the this year’s NCAA Indoor and last year’s NCAA Outdoor championships, and looked it up.

In many cases the athletes are idle, because these are the athletes whose seasons are going to last well into June. In other cases, meet start lists are not yet available. So keep your eyes here and I’ll update as the weekend goes along.

Sorry ladies, the idea only occurred to me last night and I’ve not had time to get your data together. I only have the men here. Next week, I promise.

100 meters
Demps (Fla) – idle
Granger (Miss) – unknown, team at SEC - Big10 Challenge
Mitchell (FlSt) – Florida State Relays (4x100)
Phiri (TAMU) – Arizona State Invitational
Salaam (Okla) – likely idle, team at North Texas

200 meters
Bonde (ORU) – idle
Byram (FlSt) – Florida State Relays (4x400)
Mitchell (FlSt) – Florida State Relays (4x100)
Phiri (TAMU) – Arizona State Invitational
Salaam (Okla) – likely idle, team at North Texas
more below the fold

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Here are a few images I took today for a new Superfan project.  They are in the mode of the old Bill Swerski's Superfans sketches on SNL, which was the inspiration for the name of this blog.

The 'stache is not real.  My wife detests them, and while taking the photos she said I looked "repulsive".  Have a good laugh at my expense.
The photos were taken in my basement bar.  I'm wearing a USATF hat and t-shirt, and holding a Track Town Ales glass.
This is my more normal appearance.  The trophy on the table is the last ever won by my high school, from an April 1991 relay meet, as the school was closed that June.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Exchange Zone: Sid Sink

I'm heading up a new project, a monthly interview show called "The Exchange Zone".  I'm partnering with

My first guest is one I've known for a very long time, Sid Sink.  He was my coach at Bowling Green.

While at Bowling Green University, Sid was a 10 time All-American, which is more than any other athlete in the University’s history. In his career (1968-72), Sink was a seven-time track All-American. He was the NCAA champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in both 1970 and 1971. As a cross country runner, he was a three-time All-American.

Sid was on the path to make the 1972 Olympic team; in 1971 he was NCAA and AAU steeple champ, a Pan-Am silver medalist, and set an American record. But sciatica severely hampered his training in ’72 and he finished a well-beaten ninth in the steeple trials. He bravely came back and attempted to make the team in the 5000, against the likes of Steve Prefontaine, and came up just short in a late charge.

You can listen to the interview via this direct link.  Look for another installment next month.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

Shalane Flanagan has made a huge step up. Three years ago she won an Olympic bronze medal in the 10,000 meters. Today she won a bronze medal at the World Cross Country Championships. How is this a huge step up?

First of all, Flanagan was not in contention for silver at the Beijing Olympics but she had a shot at silver today. From Let's Run:
At the bell with one 2km loop left, the front pack contained four Kenyans in front [Vivian Cheruiyot and Linet Masai]...then two Ethiopians one second back...and definite separation to Flanagan two seconds back in 7th. Flanagan was heading in the wrong direction... Surely her day was over, right?

Think again.

...Cheruiyot and Masai continued to pull away from the field as expected with a gap to [Meselech] Melkamu in third... A bigger gap opened up to the chasers behind Melkamu which all of a sudden was led by Flanagan.

Flanagan was now rolling in the right direction. Could she catch Melkamu? Yes, no problem. Flanagan passed Melkamu going over the log barriers 22 minutes into the race. Would Shalane hold on the final kilometer for the bronze?

Up front Cheruiyot was starting to pull away from Masai... Now however Flanagan was closing on Masai fast. Seemingly out of the medals with a lap to go, could she catch Masai and get silver?

No. There wasn't enough distance left. Cheruiyot crossed the line first with the impressive gold, Masai got a well-deserved but bittersweet silver seven seconds back, and Flanagan, three more seconds back got the bronze.
Impressive running from behind.

More importantly, though, this is a tougher race than any Olympic race. The World Cross Country Championships are sometimes called "The Toughest Race in the World". This doesn't refer to the challenge of running it--there are many races out there which are physically more taxing--but to the difficulty of winning it.

At a Worlds or Olympics, the distance running talent tends to get split between the 5k, 10k and steeplechase. At the World Cross Country, all of them are put into the same race, plus a few top milers and marathoners. Today's winner is the defending Worlds 5k champ, and second was the defending Worlds 10k champ. In winning the bronze medal today, Flanagan beat the following athletes:

*Meselech Melkamu (Ethiopia), 29:53.70 PR
*Wude Alayew (Ethiopia), 30:11.87 PR and 2009 Worlds 10k bronze medalist
*Priscah Cherono (Kenya), 14:35.30 PR
*Pauline Korikwiang (Kenya), 2006 World Junior Championships silver medalist
*Lineth Chepkerui (Kenya), 30:45 road 10k PR
*Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia), 4:04.80 PR and 3-time World Junior Champion
*Silvia Kibet (Kenya), 14:31.91/30:47.20 PRs and 2009 Worlds 5k silver medalist

Today Flan beat a bunch of people who were, until today, better than her. The only two she couldn't get have been head and shoulders above the rest of the world for the last two years.

As for the rest of Team USA, they ran very well. 5k AR holder (for now) Molly Huddle ran 17th, Olympic marathoner Magda Lewy-Boulet ran 18th, and veteran jack-of-all-trades Blake Russell was 18th. First-year pro Lisa Koll struggled home in 40th. None of them beat any major players (Kenyans or Ethiopians) but yielded to hardly anyone else, and the team came home with a bronze.

The men for Team USA didn't do so well, coming home in tenth. Those who came up big at the USATF Championships, Brent Vaughn and Andrew Bumbalough, ran especially poorly, but even if they had done well the team probably couldn't have been better than seventh. The Americans brought as close to an "A" team as possible on the women's side, but on the men's side it might be charitable to call this a "B" team.

And that's how it's going to be; it would take a major effort, and a major disruption of their seasons plans, for Team USA's men to even come home with a medal. Besides the 800-pound gorillas of Kenya and Ethiopia, Uganda, Eritrea and South Africa are major players in the men's competition (but not in the women's). South Africa's lead runner, Stephen Mokoka, astoundingly ran both a 3:38 1500 and a 2:08 marathon last year. And he came home in 15th place. That's the kind of athletes the African teams who can't medal bring to this race. The mind boggles.

Galen Rupp just might move to the marathon next year. Today he ran an excellent 60:30 for third place at the New York City Half Marathon. That's fifth on the all-time US list, and third if you discount downhill courses. The New York course isn't the fastest around, either, as a significant portion of the course is in hilly Central Park.

The time, though, isn't what's impressive. It's that he was just five seconds behind 2010 NYC Marathon champ Gebre Gebremariam. As is Rupp's habit, he was able to stay with the leaders until the race to the finish began, some 200 meters out.

Earlier this week, a interview with Rupp's coach Alberto Salazar seemed to indicate that today's half-marathon debut was part of a larger plan for Rupp. It sounded as though, if things went well, that Rupp would enter next January's Olympic Trials marathon. And it certainly did go well for Rupp.

The marathon fits Rupp's abilities. Today, he and Gebremariam both got outkicked by Rupp's new teammate, Mo Farah. Rupp has also failed to kick past Farah in 3k and 5k races, so it seems unlikely he could do so in a track 10k. And Farah himself isn't known as a big kicker when compared to the top guys in the world. If there are several people still with Rupp with 400 meters to go, he's not going to beat them. Thus he's got little to no chance to win a Worlds or Olympic medal on the track.

In the marathon, that weakness isn't an issue. If you get beat late in a marathon, it's nearly always for reasons other than a lack pure 100-meter sprint speed. Being a seasoned track racer, as Rupp is now, is a huge advantage in marathoning, especially in unrabbited championship races like the Worlds and Olympics. This is because no midrace surge is fast enough to kill off a guy who's been trying to break 13:00 for the 5k, nor frightening enough to cause him to stupidly shadow it step-for-step.

This also shows us another reason why Houston was the right choice to host the 2012 Olympic Trials marathons instead of New York or Boston: the date. A January Trials race gives track-oriented athletes like Rupp or Flanagan ample time to prepare for and recover from the race without impacting their summer track seasons. Should they blow up at the Trials, they'll still have a second shot at the US team on the track. And if they do run well and finish in the top 3, they can still decline an Olympic spot if they wish. It gives more different athletes, and therefore Team USA, more options to get the best athletes on the team and into their best events.

Speaking of American marathoners... The women are in good shape, and the men are not.

Today, Flanagan looked like someone who could win a big-time marathon, possibly even the Olympics. Kara Goucher continued her post-baby improvement, running a good 1:09:03 for third at the NYC Half, just three seconds behind defending NYC Marathon champ Edna Kiplagat. Over in LA, Amy Hastings moved into the all-time US top ten with a second-place 2:27:03.

We are definitely in need of a new generation of American men's marathoners, though. Ritzenhein just released a blog post about surgery on one Achilles tendon and a neuroma on the opposite foot.

The rest of America's big names raced in New York today and did not do well. Meb Keflezighi was 15th in 1:02:52, and seeing as how most of his greatest moments are some seven or eight years in arrears I don't expect huge things in his future. Abdi Abdirahman, in the same boat but whose peaks have never been as high as Meb's, ran 1:03:12 for 19th.

EDIT: apparently Meb had a run-in with a dog on Thursday and tweaked his knee.

And Ryan Hall put up yet another subpar race, with 1:03:53 for 21st. Since last fall I have given him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe his move to training himself by divine inspiration was being crazy like a fox. But it now I think he's just batshit crazy.

Three was the weekend's number for US-based track.  Shalane Flanagan was third at the World Cross Country Championships, as were the women of Team USA.  Galen Rupp and Kara Goucher were third at the New York City Marathon.  Three men's meet records and three women's meet records were broken at the Oregon Preview.

Notable at that meet was a sixth-place finish in the men's javelin.  Among the Oregon rookies and the rank-and-file small-college athletes entered in Hayward Field's season opener were scattered a few Oregon-based pros.  Sixth hardly seems notable.  But that sixth-place finish was by Ashton Eaton, who has been a terrible thrower.  His old PR in the javelin was 53.70 meters, and yesterday he threw 56.59.  This on only one throw, in wet and windy conditions, and with a short runup of only six steps or so.

This still isn't a good javelin throw, even by decathlete standards.  Eaton is pursuing a decathlon World Championship this summer, but it should be noted that only once has it been won with a javelin mark of less than 60 meters (Torsten Voss in 1987).  He's going to have to keep on getting better.

On the other hand, yesterday's conditions indicated there's a lot more improvement available.  And Eaton is not an ordinary decathlete in the running-oriented events, even by World Champion standards.  If he gets to 60 meters at the Worlds, and shows similar improvement in the other throwing events, I think he wins.

UCLA men's coach Mike Maynard gets it. The Bruins have at times been a traditional powerhouse in men's track, but as of late they're a bit less than that. Fortunately, Maynard realizes that the quality of his team is not his chief worry as head track coach.

His chief worry is that hardly anyone in Los Angeles cares whether or not the Bruins are any good. Whereas the annual USC-UCLA dual meet used to draw up to 15,000 fans (a good number in a city with plenty of other things to do), now it pulls about 4,000. As for the rest of their schedule, the Bruins are like 300+ other college track programs in that they toil in complete anonymity.

Earlier this year I noted that UCLA's men's program is setting some kind of modern-day record, with three outdoor dual meets plus a triangular, all against high-quality competition. It's all part of Maynard's plan.
The 2011 outdoor season is finally here, and this coming season witnesses the prominent return of the scored collegiate dual/triangular meet to the Bruin men's schedule.
The philosophical shift away from an invitational dominated schedule and towards the revival of the premier collegiate scored meet is a key component to the restoration of the UCLA program. This shift also heralds the return of world class track and field to Drake Stadium. The coaching staff understands that competitiveness is a skill that can be taught, and is best gained and practiced, within the framework of the scored meet. In these competitions each and every point, and therefore each event and placing, matters to the final outcome. The Bruin athletes are excited to test their mettle and sharpen their skills against these top programs.

An additional positive aspect to the return to the scored collegiate meet is for the spectator. These scored duals and triangular competitions can be staged and completed on the track in less than three hours. No longer will the track fan be required to devote an entire weekend on multiple days of eight to ten hours to watch a meet. The meets will have a defined start and finish time. In addition, spectators will not have to walk away wondering, or attempt to explain to others, who won. The repackaging of collegiate track and field in this way should offer UCLA an opportunity to re-engage former fans, and begin to address fan attendance by building new spectatorship.
(emphasis added)

Not even considering the needs of the spectators is, and has always been, the source of most of track's problems. By specifically catering to them, here UCLA is playing the role of the alcoholic who has admitted he has a problem, while all the other drunks in the bar are in still in denial. The Bruin staff is taking only the first step of many needed to rebuild a fan base. But, unlike all but a handful of programs around the country, they realize it's a necessity.

Remember, regardless of the sport, the job of a college coach is not to build a winning team. His job is to build a (paying) fan base and a donor base. I have no idea how many college track coaches know this, but there are probably less than a dozen who act like they know it, and Maynard is now one of them.

Mark Block is the track gossip triple-play. A pro trackster I know has said that when pros get together, three topics always eventually come up: who's sleeping with who, who's on the juice, and how much they hate their agents. Block hits on all three.

The first is hardly gossip: he's the husband of Zhanna Pintusevich-Block, the former top Ukranian sprinter. The second is now official: an arbitration panel banned Block from coaching for ten years for his involvement in BALCO, finding that he trafficked in the famous "cream" and "clear" for his wife (which is what Victor Conte had told us a long time ago).

Unfortunately, Block's wife has not yet had her past results nullified, and they may never be. As an American, Block is under the jurisdiction of USADA, and that's exactly who took the issue to arbitration. His wife is likely under the jurisdiction of Ukranian anti-doping authorities and WADA, not USADA.

Mark Block hasn't actively coached for a long time. These days he's an agent to many top athletes, including such notables as Carmelita Jeter, David Payne and Nick Symmonds. Whether or not his agency can be shut down by USADA is another matter entirely, and may not be something they have the authority to do. But a larger question is why these stars are willing to attach themselves to such a negative name.

It's because ethics are not what they hire him for.  The nature of a track agent's job doesn't lend itself to notions of ethics or fairness. They're middlemen. Among other things, they negotiate with sponsors and meet directors and also often arrange travel and lodging. They profit by squeezing the most out of the first and spending the least on the last, so the successful ones screw everybody.

In the eyes of an athlete, a "good" agent is one for which the balance of these things is favorable. For example, if Nick Symmonds' agent can get more out of a meet director than Symmonds deserves, it's not "fair". But Symmonds will happily keep that agent.  Note that the often-lampooned prototype agent, Ari Emanuel, is said to be even more foul-mouthed and forceful than his brother Rahm.  That's no small feat.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Track and Field's Birther Movement

In the endless (and mindless) "birther movement" of nutjobs who aren't yet convinced that President Obama was born in the United States, we have now gotten to the point where a Tennessee state senator introduced "a bill that would require presidential candidates to present a long-form birth certificate in order to qualify for the ballot." From a local radio interview:
Host: What are the specific requirements in the bill?

Sen. Mae Beavers: That they have to have the long form birth certificate.

Host: What is the long form birth certificate?

Sen. Mae Beavers: Now, you’re asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven’t really looked into yet.
Wants a requirement for a "long form birth certificate", but has no idea what it is. All the proof you need that it's politics, not policy.

XC Nation founder Aron Taylor has unwittingly waded into a similar morass with his latest post, Protecting the American HS Records.
On 13 March 2011, 17-year-old Edward Cheserek, a Kenyan citizen, finished second at the New Balance Indoor National Championships running 8:42.66 to surpass Rudy Chapa of Hammond high's 1974 sophomore class record of 8:55.80. (Chapa was barely 16 when he set the record) Cheserek is enrolled as a sophomore at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey. Cheserek has been living in the United States for 8-months after being found in the Marakwet, Rift Valley, Kenya and sponsored to the United States. Cheserek will complete his high school career prior to attaining US citizenship.
In 1974 an American citizen ran 8:55.80 to establish the American High School Indoor Two-mile sophomore record. His name was Rudy Chapa and he hailed from Hammond, Indiana. A record which has stood the test of time much the same way Gerry Lindgren's 8:40.00 has stood as a benchmark to the American Prep Distance Runner.

As a self-proclaimed guardian to the spirit of the sport of prep and national running I am petitioning a review of the record set today by 17-year-old sophomore Edward Cheserek at the New Balance Indoor National Championships.
Edward Cheserek is NOT an American citizen. He can not represent this country for more than two years. If an athlete, no matter how great can set an American HS Record and have it recognized while they aren't even a citizen of this nation then what point are having records?
I'll (momentarily) leave aside that last rhetorical question, and explain a few things.

The official national high school records in track and field, and in any other sport for that matter, are maintained by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Their standards for accepting records do not include the nationality of the athlete. The athletes must be representing a school which is a member of a state federation, and in a meet sanctioned by a state federation or the NFHS itself.

The NFHS will not accept Cheserek's record from this weekend. Not in any way, shape or form. Is it because Cheserek is not a US citizen? Nope. It's because NFHS does not recognize separate records for freshmen, sophomores or juniors. And if they did, they still wouldn't recognize Cheserek's record because they don't recognize indoor track.

For that last reason, Lukas Verzbicas' indoor 5000 meter record set at the same meet will also not stand as an NFHS record. Should he break it outdoors, it still won't be recognized. Not because Verzbicas was, until recently, not an American citizen. It's because he doesn't compete for his high school team, and therefore none of his marks are even recognized by the IHSA as Illinois records.

In fact, the NFHS rules for record keeping are so restrictive that, in track and field at least, hardly anyone pays attention to them. For example, their official 1600 meter (not mile) record is not the 3:53.43 that Alan Webb ran in the 2001 Prefontaine Classic, but the 3:59.51 he ran at the Arcadia Prep Invitational that same year.

Track and Field News is the guardian of the unofficial yet universally-accepted national high school records. Their record committee keeps indoor records as well as outdoor ones, as well as separate records for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. They are the ones Taylor has to petition.

And he might as well petition monkeys to fly out of his butt, because they don't care about nationality of the athlete. Never have and never will. The only thing that matters to them is where the school they attend is located: within the 50 states and DC, or not. They're not going to track down citizenship or birth certificates, be they short form or long.

See, when I ran in high school, I occasionally had to run against immigrants and foreign-exchange students. Some of them I beat, some of them beat me. (I once ran against Kip Keino's son, and I think you can guess which category he fell into.) Never once did it occur to me to pretend that they weren't in the race because their citizenship was different than my own.

I appreciate what Taylor is saying, that Cheserek is significantly older than most sophomores, and has other advantages as well. It's commonly assumed that being Kenyan is one of them, but it should be noted that record-breaker Verzbicas is a Lithuanian immigrant. This is not a coincidence. American culture is poisonous to distance running. I've got a million ways to illustrate this, but none are really necessary.

If you want to improve American distance running, as Taylor passionately does, it is only counterproductive to separate American kids from immigrants. Your best hope is to surround American kids with immigrants. It might put them at a disadvantage in the short term, but distance runners aren't supposed to worry about the short term.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

I'm going in a different direction with this week's column, using the entire space to examine a single issue. It's one I've examined before, but now it's getting wider play and needs a thorough investigation.

At the pre-NCAA Championships coaches' press conference, Arkansas' Chris Bucknam floated an idea that long-time readers of this space have heard before. Take a look.

More after the jump.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Superfan Daily: Women's College Power Rankings

On Tuesday I did some conference-by-conference analysis of the top 100 men's college teams in the nation (as I measure them).  Time for the women.

Atlantic 10
Teams in the top 100: Dayton

Teams in the top 50: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Teams in the top 100: Boston College, Maryland, NC State

America East
Teams in the top 100: Albany, Boston U., Maine

Atlantic Sun
Teams in the top 100: Jacksonville

Big Ten
Teams in the top 50: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue
Teams in the top 100: Wisconsin

Big 12
Teams in the top 50: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Teams in the top 100: Colorado, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State

Big East
Teams in the top 50: Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Villanova, West Virginia
Teams in the top 100: Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse

Big Sky
Teams in the top 100: Idaho State, Sacramento St.

Conference USA
Teams in the top 50: Central Florida
Teams in the top 100: East Carolina, Houston, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulsa, UTEP

Teams in the top 50: Columbia, Princeton
Teams in the top 100: Brown, Cornell

Teams in the top 100: Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan

Teams in the top 100: Hampton

Teams in the top 50: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, Washington
Teams in the top 100: Cal St. Northridge, California, UCLA, Washington St.

Missouri Valley
Teams in the top 50: Southern Illinois, Wichita State
Teams in the top 100: Illinois State, Indiana State, Northern Iowa

Mountain West
Teams in the top 50: BYU, New Mexico, TCU
Teams in the top 100: San Diego St., Utah

Teams in the top 50: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee
Teams in the top 100: Alabama, Mississippi

Teams in the top 100: North Dakota St.

Sun Belt
Teams in the top 100: Arkansas State, Mid. Tenn. State, Western Kentucky

Teams in the top 100: Louisiana Tech, Utah State

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories Of Olympic Glory, 12:20 PM today on Showtime Family Zone
SEC Indoor Championships (tape delay)8:00 PM today on ESPNU
Prefontaine, 8:05 AM tomorrow on Showtime Extreme

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Big news in college track: Oregon distance star Alex Kosinski has withdrawn from this weekend's NCAA Championships, supposedly due to a stress fracture.  The Ducks arhave gone from a prohibitive favorite to one of several teams in the hunt.

The new House of Run podcast is up.

Kick of the week

Tasty race of the week

Blog entries from Kara Goucher and Brianna Glenn.

The ten most untouchable high school track records.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Superfan Daily: Track Vault Pick of the Week

Imported from Detroit, this week I give you a 1969 Sports Illustrated article on the NCAA Indoor Championships at Cobo Hall.
After the race Jim Ryun sat under the stands in a corner of Detroit's Cobo Arena, drinking 7-Up, and now, as they had so many times before, the people started crowding around, asking for autographs. Ice packs were pressed against his left knee, and towels were placed under his blistered and bleeding feet. Minutes earlierRyunhad come off the last turn to nip Villanova's Marty Liquori in a 4:02.6 mile and assure Kansas the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship both schools wanted so badly. "No, they didn't hurt when I was running,"Ryun said, when asked about his feet. "I had too much to think about just trying to beat Marty."


What's On
The third and final meet in the Yellow Pages Series takes place tomorrow in the South African city of Stellenbosch.
SuperSport preview

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Some horrible overnight news: emerging marathoner and Ironman triathlete Sally Meyerhoff killed in a cycling accident.

Ken Goe's daily Oregon track blog.

Track and Field News has released event-by-event predictions for the NCAA Indoor Championships for the men and the women. They suggest relatively easy wins for Florida and Oregon, respectively.

One guy that won't be at the NCAA meet is Tennessee pole vaulter Joe Berry, suspended for an unnamed violation of team rules. This could be literally anything, given that his coach is J.J. Clark, whose father was such a stern and loving disciplinarian that Hollywood made a movie about him. It could be an Ohio State type of thing, or something as simple as skipping a class.

Garret Heath blogs on balancing life.

NCAA Indoor qualifiers, sorted geographically.

There will be a "USA Track and Field Olympians Night" at an LA Kings game on March 17th.

The Kenyan team for the African Championships (the "B" team) is stranded in South Africa, apparently due to administrative ineptitude.

Conway Hill's NCAA predictions.

Track seems to lead the college and high school sports headlines in tales of individual honesty and integrity. One from last week's SEC meet.

Jenny Simpson trying to find her niche .

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Superfan Daily: Men's College Power Rankings

Almost the only that happened last weekend in college track were "last chance" meets, where teams get a last-ditch effort to qualify athletes or relay teams to the NCAA Championships.  As such, it doesn't really affect the top 25 much.  As the season is over for the vast majority of teams, I'll do something different this week.

Broken down by conference, here are the top 50 and top 100 men's teams in NCAA Division I.

Atlantic Ten
Teams in the top 100: Charlotte, Rhode Island

Teams in the top 50: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia, Virginia Tech

Big Ten
Teams in the top 50: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Teams in the top 100: Purdue

Big 12
Teams in the top 50: Baylor, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech
Top 100: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State

Big East
Teams in the top 50: UConn, Notre Dame
Teams in the top 100: Georgetown, Louisville, South Florida, Villanova

Big Sky
Teams in the top 100: Montana State, Northern Arizona , Sacramento State

Big South
Teams in the top 100: Liberty

Conference USA
Teams in the top 50: Houston
Teams in the top 100: Memphis, Tulsa

Teams in the top 50: Cornell, Princeton
Teams in the top 100: Dartmouth

Mid-American Conference
Teams in the top 50: Akron, Kent State
Teams in the top 100: Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan

Teams in the top 100: Hampton, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Norfolk State

Mountain Pacific Sports Federation
Teams in the top 50: Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Washington State

Missouri Valley
Teams in the top 50: Indiana State
Teams in the top 100: Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois, Wichita State

Mountain West
Teams in the top 50: Air Force, BYU, New Mexico
Teams in the top 100: Colorado State, TCU, Wyoming

Ohio Valley Conference
Teams in the top 100: Eastern Illinois

Patriot League
Teams in the top 100: Army, Navy

Sun Belt Conference
Teams in the top 100: Middle Tennessee State, Western Kentucky

Teams in the top 50: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Tennessee
Teams in the top 100: Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, South Carolina

Teams in the top 100: Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas-Arlington, UTSA

Southern Conference
Teams in the top 100: Appalachian State

Summit League
Teams in the top 100: North Dakota State, Oral Roberts, South Dakota State

Teams in the top 100: Boise State, Utah State

Look for a similar women's analysis later this week.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Superfan Daily: Weekend Roundup

Indoor Track
European Indoor Championships
Friday through Sunday, Palais Omnisports, Paris FRA
Highlights: Teddy Tamgho 19.92 TJ (world indoor record),
Day 1 recap / Day 2 recap / Day 3 recap
Event-by-event reports / Results

IC4A Championships
Friday and Saturday, Boston U. Track & Tennis Center, Boston MA
Winners: Connecticut
Recap / Results

NAIA Championships
Thursday through Saturday, GaREAT Sports Complex, Geneva OH
Winners: Shorter Univ. (men), Oklahoma Baptist (women)
Recap / Results

NJCAAA Championships
Friday-Saturday, Texas Tech Athletic Training Center, Lubbock TX
Winners: Iowa Central Community College (men), South Plains Junior College (women)

Collegiate "last chance" qualifiers

USATF Indoor Combined Events Championships
Friday-Saturday, Gladstein Fieldhouse, Bloomington IN
Winners: Nick Adcock 5711, Bettie Wade 4439

Road Racing
Lake Biwa Marathon (IAAF Gold Label)
Sunday, Otsu JPN
Winner: Wilson Kipsang (KEN) 2:06:13
IAAF story and results

Paris Half Marathon
Sunday, Paris FRA
Winners: Stephen Kibet (KEN) 1:01:36, Peninah Arusei (KEN) 1:08:30 course record
Recap / Results

Cross Country
Almond Blossom Cross (IAAF Permit)
Sunday, Albufeira POR
Winners: Josephat Kiprono Menjo (KEN), Aniko Kalovics (HUN)
IAAF story and results

African Championships
Sunday, Cape Town RSA
Winners: Kenya (men and women), John Mwangangi (KEN), Mercy Cherono (KEN)
IAAF story

Outdoor Track
UWI Invitational
Saturday, Usain Bolt Track, Mona JAM

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan's Athens 2004: Stories Of Olympic Glory, 12:10 PM and 9:40 PM today on Showtime Family Zone
Bud Greenspan Remembers: The 1984 L.A. Olympics, 8:00 PM today on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Ken Goe's daily Oregon track blog.

USATF moves to the next stage of picking a new CEORumors, rumors.

Charles Van Commenee pleased with the UK's team performance at the Euros, among other lessons learned.

There's talk of a lawsuit if Leonard Komon is not reinstated to the Kenyan team for the World Cross Country.

Thrower Loree Smith blogs on the indoor season.

Eugene has another great track, as Lane Community College unveils its refurbished oval.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Sunday Evening Decathlete

What did we learn this week?

US distance running fortunes continue to rise. The Melbourne Track Classic on Thursday kicked off the IAAF's World Challenge series for 2011, and the highlighted events were the men's 800, 1500 and 5000. There were a bunch of Americans down under for this meet, and the goals were 1:45.40, 3:35.00 and 13:20.00 respectively. The USA got one under the mark in the 800 (plus a near-miss by a significant newcomer), somewhat close in the 1500, and four under the mark in the 5k (plus another near-miss).

Why are those times important? They are the IAAF World Championships 'A' standards, and meeting them is a pre-requisite for making Team USA. For the 2011 Worlds the IAAF's window of time for qualifying opened after the 2010 season ended, whereas it usually includes the previous season. Given that trying to get the mark in the summertime (the deadline is August 8) would add distraction to the task at hand--getting ready for September's Worlds--it's useful to get out of the way now for athletes who think they might have a medal shot.

First Superfan World Rankings Update

Over the last few years, last year especially, I experimented with a points-based merit rankings system and posted the leading scorers.  This blog will be undergoing a major overhaul in the coming month, and I'm planning to have those merit rankings on their own page within the site.

For right now, though, any updates to those rankings are still going to be posted here in the blog.  My system allows for rankings within events and also an overall ranking.  With the indoor season all but finished*, here are the current overall leaders.

1. Ashton Eaton USA / multis
2. David Oliver USA / high hurdles
2. Teddy Tamgho FRA / triple jump
4. David Lekuta Rudisha KEN / 800m
5. Ivan Ukhov RUS / high jump
6. Yenew Alamirew ETH / long distance
6. Renaud Lavillenie FRA / pole vault
8. Augustine Choge KEN / long distance
9. Phillips Idowu GBR / triple jump
10. Eliud Kipchoge KEN / long distance

1. Mary Keitany KEN / road racing
2. Yevgeniya Zinurova RUS / 800m
3. Valerie Vili NZL / shot put
4. Darya Klishina RUS / long jump
5. Yelena Isinbayeva RUS / pole vault
6. Yargeris Savigne CUB / triple jump
7. Sentayehu Ejigu ETH / long distance
8. Anna Rogowska POL / pole vault
9. Svetlana Feofanova RUS / pole vault
10. Kim Smith NZL / road racing
14. Jen Suhr USA / pole vault

*The NCAA championships are this week, but the only collegian making an impact in my rankings is Kirani James, the outstanding 400 runner from Alabama.

Note that Track and Field News' male and female athletes of the month for February are my male and female leaders.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Superfan Daily: What's On The Weekend

Indoor Track
The European Indoor Championships started this morning and run through Sunday at the Palais Omnisports in Paris.
Meet website
Schedule and live results
Athletics Weekly previews: Men's track / Men's field / Women's track / Women's field

The NAIA Championships continue through Saturday at the GaREAT Sports Complex in Geneva OH.
Meet website
Schedule / Live results

The IC4A Championships will be held on Saturday and Sunday in Boston.
Schedule / Live results

Various "last chance" college qualifying meets are being held around the country.  The Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend IN will be live on Flotrack at 7 PM Friday and noon on Saturday.
Alex Wilson schedule / Heat sheets

The USATF Indoor Combined Events Championships will be held on Saturday and Sunday at the Gladstein Field House in Bloomington IN.
Meet website
Schedule / Entries

Road Racing
The Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, will be held on Sunday in the Japanese city of Otsu.
Race website
IAAF preview

The Paris Half Marathon will be held on Sunday.
Race website

Cross Country
The Almond Blossom Cross, the final IAAF Cross Country Permit meet of 2011, will be held on Sunday in the Portugese city of Albufeira.
IAAF preview

Race Walking
The IAAF Race Walking Challenge comes to the Mexican city of Chihuahua on Friday.  If you're into that kind of thing.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
IAAF preview / Live webcast link

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan's Favorite Stories Of Olympic Glory, 1:05 AM Friday on Showtime Family Zone
Alex Wilson Invitational live webcast, 7:00 PM Friday at Flotrack
Alex Wilson Invitational live webcast, Noon Saturday at Flotrack
Prefontaine, 9:05 AM and 10:00 PM Sunday on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

RunnerSpace weekly

Ken Goe's daily Oregon track blog.

Leonard Komon accuses Athletics Kenya of enforcing rules selectively.

Ypsilanti native Tiffany Ofili on why she switched allegiance to the UK: "It was really apparent the support athletes get from the coaches and staff here."

Track and Field News' female athlete of the month is Mary Keitany; USATF athlete of the week is Jill Camarena-Williams.

Tennessee's JJ Clark banking on family ties for helps if your father is the single most well-known high school principal in the history of the USA.

Galen Rupp talks to ESPN, and Alberto Salazar on the rebranding of Nike training groups.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Superfan Daily: Bucket List

It's not really spring yet, but it's March now, and there's more daylight and less bitter cold and the snowstorms are probably done.  All this means outdoor track season is coming up soon.  I'm a little more excited about it this year than usual.

A little over a month ago, a couple of friends and I booked a trip to the Penn Relays.  I've always wanted to go, but as a teacher who has also spent a lot of time coaching, it hasn't been easy to find the time.  We're going this year, though, and I'm excited.

If I'm lucky, it will be like June 6 1987, the day I became hooked on track.  A high school sophomore who missed the season with injury, I got myself down to Columbus to see the state championships.  I'd never been to a place where so many people were so pumped to watch races all day.  I sat through all three of Ohio's successive divisional state meets, capped by my teammates taking an improbable come-from-behind Division I team championship victory with a win in the 4x400.

Penn, of course, has a lot more people in the stands and a lot more races than any state meet.  It's a must-see event for any track fan.  I hope to be like Kermit Ambrose, who is still going to track meets at age 101, but I have to have a plan.  Here's my "bucket list" of track meets to see in my lifetime.

The Olympic Games are an obvious number one.  Expensive and hectic, but it's the top of the sport.

Next on the list has to be the IAAF World Championships, like the Olympics but track-only.  I've already got this one checked off.  I went to the Worlds the one time they've been in the western hemisphere, in 2001 in Edmonton.  Ten days of track all day and beer all night.

Another two I simultaneously checked off are the Olympic Trials and a major meet at Hayward Field, as I went in 2008.  Besides the track meet, it was also a gathering of everyone involved in the sport--media, sponsors, bloggers, hangers-on, you name it. I don't know if it was just 2008 because the Trials were in Eugene, but it was an amazing week and a half.  And Hayward is a fantastic place, too.

Another thing right at the top are European invitationals, the backbone of the Diamond League.  There are many of these, but you'd have to say the Zurich Weltklasse is the absolute must-do.  Oslo's Bislett Games and Stockholm's DN Galan are right up there too, with great fan atmosphere and gorgeous old stadiums.

I'm not one who thinks only bigger is better.  I'd also like to see European meets of a different flavor, like the annual small-town Finnish Elite Games in tiny Kuortane (population 3,957), or the Oxford versus Cambridge meet.

Coming back to the USA, the other must-see meet is the NCAA (outdoor) Championships.  I'm going to pick wisely when I go, though, as I'm looking for atmosphere as well as great competition.  Eugene and Des Moines packed their stadiums, Fayetteville did not.  The NCAA indoor championships don't quite have the same pull to me, but I've been to the NCAA Cross Country Championships nine times and they are a raucous good time.

Eugene and Des Moines and Terre Haute appreciate track (or XC), but I have to go to places where they really appreciate track. Like Kingston.  When in Jamaica filming Chasing Bolt, Matt Taylor went to the Boys' and Girls' Championships (aka The Champs) and said it was the greatest track meet atmosphere anywhere in the world.  All 35,000 seats sold well in advance and all anyone can talk about in Kingston in the preceding week.  A similar treat would have to be a major race in Nairobi, either the national cross country championships at Uhuru Gardens or the Olympic Trials at Nyayo Stadium.

Others that I'd like to go see sometime are Australia's Stawell Gift, and many of the traditional relay carnivals such as Drake, Florida, Kansas, Texas and Mt. SAC.

Suggestions?  Arguments?  Insults?  Feel free to comment.

Melbourne Track Classic (IAAF World Challenge, Athletics Australia Tour)
Today, Olympic Park, Melbourne AUS
Highlights: David Rudisha (KEN) 1:43.88, Kenia Sinclair (JAM) 1:59.63 800m, Jeff Risely (AUS) 3:36.71 1500m, Bernard Lagat (USA) 13:08.43
Athletics Australia story / Results / Video

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Mmmm, that's tasty.

Kickin' it.

Ken Goe's daily Oregon track blog.

The British Olympic Association is broke.

Leonard Komon wants back on the Kenya team for the World Cross Country Championships, and Paul Tergat thinks he should be.

Another Bolt announcement: he will run the 100 at the July 22 Diamond League meet in Monte Carlo. Already announced are the 100 in Rome on May 26 and the 200 in Oslo on June 6.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Superfan Daily: Track Vault Pick of the Week

To promote tomorrow's Melbourne Track Classic and its feature 5000 meter race, I give you a 1956 Sports Illustrated article on the '56 Olympics in Melbourne.
For high drama and record-breaking performance, for heart-warming victory and heartbreaking defeat, for youthful camaraderie and for the bottomless enthusiasm of Australia's sporting public, the Melbourne Olympics already belong among the most memorable of modern times. Russia and the U.S., the behemoths of sport, have met in heralded conflict in the main stadium—a conflict in which the Bear was outdistanced and the U.S. track and field team proved the greatest of all time. Each has produced a hero worthy of Nurmi and Owens and Z�topek: the distance runner Vladimir Kuts who made the crowds gasp, "How can he keep it up?" and the Texas sprinter Bobby Morrow who made them yell, "Watch him go!"

Read more

You might also like a grainy home movie of that '56 Olympic 5000.

What's On
The Melbourne Track Classic, the first IAAF World Challenge meet of the year, will be held tomorrow at Melbourne Olympic Park. The men's 5000 is getting the attention, as it is packed with all the best Americans and Australians.
Meet website
LIVE webcast begins at 3:00 AM EST at WCSN Athletics TV (free, registration req'd)
Start lists / Schedule
IAAF preview / Athletics Weekly preview / The Australian

Track on TV and the web
Bud Greenspan Remembers: The 1984 L.A. Olympics, 2:45 PM today on Showtime Family Zone
Melbourne Track Classic live webcast, 3:00 AM tomorrow at WCSN Athletics TV (free, registration req'd)
Endurance, 9:15 AM tomorrow on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines.

Let's Run's Week That Was is up, and Ken Goe's daily Oregon track rundown.

Track and Field News' athlete of the month is Ashton Eaton.

Are Geb's best days behind him?  Yes.  The real question is whether or not he's got any good days left.

Politics and track mix in China.

Eight cities are bidding for big meets in Europe.

The Evening Standard interviews Mo Farah.

The Guardian's running in Kenya series continues with the national XC championships.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Superfan Daily: College Power Rankings

The top-ranked teams stay the same, but those behind them shuffled quite a bit.

The Superfan’s Men’s Power Rankings for March 1, 2011
(last week's ranking in parenthesis)
1. Florida (1)
2. Arkansas (5)
3. LSU (2)
4. Texas A&M (3)
5. BYU (6)
6. Minnesota (7)
7. Indiana (4)
8. Wisconsin (9)
9. Nebraska (12)
10. Stanford (13)
11. Oklahoma (10)
12. Virginia Tech (17)
13. Iowa (18)
14. Arizona (23)
15. Ohio State (8)
16. Texas (19)
17. Princeton (21)
18. Oregon (11)
19. Florida State (20)
20. Penn State (14)
21. Houston (HM)
22. Alabama (16)
23. UCLA (NR)
24. Georgia (22)
25. Illinois (15)
Close but not quite: Akron, Arizona State, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, Kent State, Michigan State, New Mexico, North Carolina St., Texas Tech

Arkansas gave Florida all they could handle at the SEC Championships, and moves into the second position.  Poor showings by Ohio State and Oregon at their conference meets led each to tumble down the rankings.

The Superfan’s Women’s Power Rankings for March 1, 2011
(last week's ranking in parenthesis)
1. Oregon (1)
2. LSU (2)
3. Nebraska (5)
4. Texas A&M (4)
5. Arkansas (7)
6. Texas (3)
7. Clemson (11)
8. Ohio State (12)
9. BYU (6)
10. Oklahoma (9)
11. Florida State (8)
12. Texas Tech (10)
13. Tennessee (23)
14. Arizona (15)
15. Stanford (13)
16. Penn State (16)
17. Minnesota (HM)
18. Indiana (14)
19. Arizona State (21)
20. North Carolina (19)
21. Michigan (17)
22. Florida (18)
23. Michigan State (HM)
24. Auburn (HM)
25. Wichita State (22)
Close but not quite: Central Florida, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa State, Louisville, Miami (FL), South Carolina, Southern Illinois, Virginia Tech

Big conference meet wins by Nebraska, Clemson and Ohio State moved each up a few notches.

Track on TV
Bud Greenspan Remembers: The 1984 L.A. Olympics, 8:00 AM tomorrow on Showtime Family Zone

News Links
Runner's World's Racing News has all the headlines, including a leaked report that Galen Rupp is entering the NYC Half Marathon.

The USTFCCCA's weekend roundup, and Ken Goe's daily Oregon track news.

Athletics Kenya has cut road world record holder Leonard Komon from its World Cross Country team for defying a no-racing order.  Ruling with an iron fist is a lot easier when you can still win the gold without all of your best runners.

The IOC has rejected Iran's nutball complaints about the London 2012 logo.  Last night Rachel Maddow suggested the tin-hat rantings were a ploy to divert attention from crackdowns on political opponents.

A lengthy profile of Shalane Flanagan from Runner's World.

Famous waffle iron: found!

Brianna Glenn blogs about fouling.

Paul Merca on Washington's proposed new track facility.

Martin Bingisser blogs about starting throwers young.

KIMbia's "Dispatches From Down Under" with Matt Tegenkamp.

Lauren Fleshman blogs about injuries.