Track is my field: Mark Cullen's international track and field website featuring storytelling, commentary, and predictions and event analyses for the Olympics and World Championships. I'll be writing from the 2018 European Championships in Berlin in August. I'm active on Facebook and Twitter: @trackerati.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Des Moines Day 4 - Apres Sandi, Le Deluge

2018 US National T+F Championships
Sunday, June 24

A deluge it was as events of the final day of the US Outdoor National Track and Field Championships were postponed by almost three hours Sunday afternoon and evening. The meet was suspended at 4:06 pm and competition resumed at 7:00pm CT.

Delayed events included the men's steeplechase, M200, W200, M5000, M110 high hurdles, and the men's long jump was halted after three rounds. 

A couple of oddities came out of this delay. First, Jeff Henderson passed on his last three long jumps because he was on his was to catch a plane. He won anyway as his first round jump of 8.10/26-7 stood up for the win. 

The only pole vaulter affected by the storm was Sandi Morris. After she won she set the bar at 4.94/16 2 ½ and missed on her first attempt at the outdoor world leading mark. However, officials then closed the pit and a disappointed Morris settled for the win at 4.80/15-9.

Jerone Robinson’s 2nd attempt clearance at 2.31/7-7 gave him the national championship over favored Erik Kynard in the men’s high jump. In the shot put, NCAA champion Maggie Ewen completed the double by coming from behind on her 5th throw to narrowly defeat Jessica Ramsey, 19.29/63-3 ½  to 19.23/63-1 ¼.

In a highly competitive discus, Reggie Jagers turned back 2017 World bronze medalist Mason Finley as each recorded his longest throw in the 5th round. Jagers soared to 5th place on the 2018 world list with his 68.61/225-1, a mark that would have won him bronze at the 2017 World Championships.

Jeff Henderson, Zack Bazile, and Marquis Dendy were separated by 6cm in the men’s long jump when the rains came. With Henderson on an airplane and conditions unfavorable after the delay, the top three positions did not change, and the last three rounds took only 20 minutes. In fact, only Michael Hartfield in 6th had a daily best after the postponement. The competition was exceptionally close, with the top 7 separated by 8 ¼ inches.

Speaking of close finishes, how close can a finish be? Devon Allen nipped Grant Holloway at the  of the 110m hurdles by .002. That’s right, 2-thousandths of a second, 13.452 to 13.454. At the other end of the scale, Erica Bougard dominated the heptathlon competition and won by 344 points.

Devon Allen
2018 USATF National Champion
110m High Hurdles

The women’s 800m was expected to be a match race between Reavyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson, but Rogers did not take second until an impressive late-race surge. It was fast from the start with splits of 58.84/1:29.1, and a winning time for Wilson of 1:58.18. Ce’Aira Brown, Charlene Lipsey, and Kaela Edwards all deserve credit for pushing the pace; the top 5 broke 2:00.00.

While the men’s 800m results look quite predictable, it was notable that Clayton Murphy went out faster than usual at the start to claim the lead position. Masterfully, he then slowed the race and led at 400m in 54.53. Then he ran the last lap in 51.97. Boom! ‘Nuff said. Murphy looked particularly sharp in the last 100m and is clearly on the way to returning to his 2016 Olympic bronze medal form. Usual suspects Isaiah Harris and Chris Sowinski finished 2nd and 3rd.

Shelby Houlihan used a devastating kick to surge away from Rachel Schneider and Karissa Schweitzer in the last 100m. Houlihan’s 5,000m finish looked much like that of her 1500m win on Saturday. Her last lap here was 62.85; her final lap in the 1500m the day before (let me say that again: the day before) was 57.67.

2015 US 400m hurdles champion Shamier Little took this race out fast from the start and won in a quick 53.61, a new stadium record. Georganne Moline was second in 54.12.

Paul Chelimo left no doubt that the 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2017 Worlds bronze medalist is top dog in the United States. Ryan Hill made a gallant effort to dethrone Chelimo and even had a faster split on the second-to-last lap. But an upset was not to be as Chelimo was in control down the homestretch and won by .20 in 13:29.47.

While it’s often Evan Jager against the clock in the 3000m steeplechase in US competition, today Jager ran a controlled race in which he kept his competition close and his kick closer. He polished off all contenders with a final lap 59.68. Hillary Bor (formerly of Iowa State) and Andy Bayer joined Jager in breaking away from the field. Bayer landed awkwardly on the second to last hurdle and briefly lost momentum. Bor kept in contact with Jager until the last 80m when Jager pulled away to his 7th consecutive national championship.

Ameer Webb powered off the corner with the lead in the men’s 200m and was never challenged as he won in 20.47 into a -1.9mph headwind. 400m world champion Phyllis Francis finished 2nd behind fellow Duck Jenna Prandini in the women’s 200m, 22.62 to 22.83, with Kyra Jefferson 3rd in 22.89.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Des Moines - Day 3 - It's All About DeAnna!

2018 US National T+F Championships
Saturday, June 23

On a busy day at the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Nationals, the women’s hammer throw took center stage.

DeAnna Price spun an American record 78.12/256-3 on her fifth throw. This vaulted her to the #4 position on the all-time performers list worldwide, and to the top of the yearly world performance list as well.

Price dominated the event from the start, though it may not have seemed so at the end of her qualifying round. Her first throw 73.81/242-2 would have won the entire competition, but her next two were fouls, and she acknowledged afterwards that she was having trouble finding her rhythm in her opening flight.

“Today I was having trouble feeling connected as usual,” she said, “but finally on that one throw I was feeling connected… I knew it was a good throw… I was immediately overjoyed.”

“Things have been connecting better,” she said of her season overall, and she credited her coach and fiancĂ©, Southern Illinois’ JC Lambert, for holding her to a higher standard.

“He’s been doing a fantastic job, and he doesn’t hold any punches. He says, ‘You’re going to do this and you’re going to do this right.’”

What she has been doing better this year is “just connecting with the ball, making sure every motion is in unison, being able to put that ball out in the correct form, and capitalizing in meet situations.”

Final goal achieved.

For the statistically inclined, Price, as noted, is #4 on the all-time performers list. She is #30 on the performance list, a list dominated by Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk. The Polish world record holder has the top 14 throws of all-time and 24 of the top 30.

Price has entered rarified air indeed.

It’s been quite a season for US women’s hammer, as Price and Gwen Berry have traded the American record four times.

Said an emotional Price, "I know that as long as I’m connected it will keep going farther and farther.”

Watch out, world!

Photo credit: USATF
A note about today’s coverage: I was privileged to be assigned to cover the women’s hammer for Track and Field News. I learned something: an American record takes time! Joyous time indeed, but time nonetheless. I saw one other event the entire day, and so I’ll let our friends at USATF provide their terrific summary:

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Des Moines - Day 2

2018 US National T+F Championships
Friday, June 22

We keep saying that Noah Lyles is the sprint star of the future.

Noah Lyles is the sprint star of today.

Let there be no doubt of this after Friday’s spectacular men’s 100m final. After a less than stellar start, Lyles ran down Ronnie Baker with mere meters to go in a new world leading time of 9.88.

Whose world-leading time did he break? His own 9.89 run in the semifinals less than two hours  earlier. Put this together with his Prefontaine Classic 200m 19.69 win and the 20 year old is the best sprinter in the world right now.

If that light you see approaching you on the railroad tracks is an inevitable comparison to Usain Bolt at the same age, you’re right – this comparison cannot be avoided. Their personal bests at 20:

Lyles: 9.88/19.69
Bolt: 10.03/19.75.

Baker, who had come into this meet as world leader with his wind-aided 9.78, was second to Lyles here in 9.90 and most certainly remains part of this conversation, as does London World silver medalist Christian Coleman, who is out with an injury.

Noah Lyles
US National 100m Champion
photo credit: USATF

Louisiana State’s Aleia Hobbs became the first woman to complete the NCAA/USATF 100m sweep in 27 years. She bolted out of the blocks and was never headed as she won in 10.91. Quite a year for Hobbs who also won the NCAA Indoor 60m in March. Hobbs sprinted the last 20 meters with a big smile on her face, so clear was it that she would win. A heartening return to form for Jenna Prandini in 3rd.

Oiselle’s Maria Michta-Coffey won the in-stadium 20k walk - remarkably her 42nd national title - in a stadium record 1:35:21.59, while Zach Ziemek won the decathlon with 8294 points, also a stadium record. The previous one was held by Ashton Eaton.

Donald Scott was a mild surprise as winner of the men’s triple jump; he just edged Chris Benard by 5cm/2in with a classic last round winning jump of 17.37/57-0.

Rutger’s Rudy Winkler won a tightly contested men’s hammer throw in which the top 5 were separated by less than a meter. Winkler came from 5th place to first with his 3rd round 73.76/242-0. An errant throw by Sean Donnelly cleared the left field netting, bounced on the street pavement, and hit a parked car.

In qualifying and semi-final rounds, world record holder Keni Harrison’s 12.46 was by far the fastest 100m hurdles qualifying time. All 8 men’s 400m hurdles finalists qualified within a second of each other (49.00-49.71), setting up what promises to be a deep and highly competitive final.

2012 1600m relay gold medalist Jessica Beard ran an exceptionally strong 400m to win her semi in 50.65, while Shakima Wimbley won the other semi in 50.57. Michael Cherry won his semi-final in 44.87 and was the only finals qualifier to break 45.00.

Erik Sowinski led the men’s 800m wire-to-wire for the second straight day, but said what works in the semi does not suggest a tactic for the final. 

“I ran the same way last year and it didn’t pay off for me (in the final),” he said. “With guys like Isiah (Harris) and Clayton (Murphy), those guys are so strong that I need to have a lot of room with 100m to go.”

The hold-your-breath moment of Saturday’s finals-laden schedule will come at 1:10pm when the men’s 200m heats begin. 

Will Lyles toe the line – or won’t he?

*Credit to David Woods for his statistical research on the comparison of Bolt and Lyles at 20.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Scene of the Hammertime Crime

An errant hammer flew over the protective netting during the men's hammer competition at the US National Championships today.

The hammer landed on the street with a thud and then bounced into the side of a parked car.

The 'thud' of the hammer landing was audible to all in the throwing corner of the Drake University track and field complex.

Asteroid landing spot?
4th of July fireworks damage?
Hammer throw?
You be the judge.
When you hear 'hammer throw damage' do you think of this?

Said one television cameraman, 

"I was hoping for a hammer hanging out of the side of a car."
Sean Donnelly's foul flew over this netting.
Note landing spot in the pavement.

Note origin of throw - ring next to tent - that was a looong foul!

No one was hurt by the errant hammer.
No one was hurt in the writing of this story.


Des Moines - Day 1

2018 US National T+F Championships
Thursday, June 21

With little at stake in the realm of World or Olympics qualifying, this first day of the US National Track and Field Championships was not quite the day at the office many expected it to be.

Emma Coburn got things started with an easy win in her steeple heat, a reminder of the greatness she achieved as 2017 World Champion. Winning the second heat was none other than Courtney Frerichs, silver medalist to Coburn’s gold. This sets up a terrific rematch in Saturday’s final.

Stanford’s Valarie Allman capped an unusual sequence: 2nd at Pac-12, 3rd in NCAA, and 1st here as she captured the national title in 208-6/63.55, a comfortable margin of 8-2/2.42 over recent Arizona State graduate Maggie Ewen. Iowa graduate Laulaga Tausaga-Collins threw a personal best on her final throw to win the third spot on the podium and earn excited cheers from the hometown fans.

The women’s 800m qualifying rounds offered no surprises as Ce’Aira Brown led all qualifiers in 2:01.38. The men’s 800m, however, brought the biggest surprise of the day when Drew Windle failed to show for the start of the race. Suffering from fatigue (and not an injury), as he was not 100% today, he decided to focus on his European tour this summer instead.

Erik Sowinski ran a particularly impressive wire-to-wire race to win in 1:46.37, while Clayton Murphy announced his return to form with a strong finish to win his heat. Alas, Boris Berian found the way back to be a cruel one as the 2016 World Indoor Champion had the fastest non-qualifying time.

Bershawn “Batman” Jackson showed he just can’t stay away. His attempts to retire were furthered derailed with his heat win in 50.07. This always deep US event is sorely missing recent NCAA champion Rai Benjamin, whose spectacular 47.02 at the former Hayward Field is tied for #2 all-time with none other than Edwin Moses.

It’s never a surprise when Jenny Simpson dominates a race, and she led all 1500m qualifiers in 4:07.67. Prefontaine Classic winner Shelby Houlihan won her heat to set up what will be one of the most anticipated finals of this meet. Having her say will be Brenda Martinez, who won her heat in 4:10.51.

The men’s 1500m qualifying casualties would make up a strong heat of their own. Hassan Mead and Robby Andrews both failed to advance; Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, David Ribich, and Blake Haney will join them on the sidelines this weekend. Matt Centrowitz looked like the Centrowitz of old – well, that would be the Centrowitz of two years ago when he struck gold in Rio – as he led wire to wire in a slowish 3:46.05. A heat win slower than the other heat winners by over 6 seconds could translate, in terms of rest, into a substantial advantage in Saturday’s final.

Vancouver, Washington’s Kara Winger won her 8th national javelin championship. On a rainy and blustery day, Winger led out of the gate and was never headed. However, for good measure, she nailed her final throw at 206’3”/62.88 to turn what would have been a modest margin of victory – just over a meter – into an overwhelming one of 20-9/6.34.

Kara Winger
photo credit: USATF and Errol Anderson
The women’s triple jump final looks, on paper, like the expected duel between Kenturah Orji and Tori Franklin took place; each has set the American record this year. However, it was more tepid than that. Orji, the former record holder prevailed. With only three fair jumps, her 3rd round 47-10.5/14.59 barely withstood Franklin’s final round 47 ¾-14.52.

Courtney Okolo led all 400m qualifiers in 51.39, and veteran Jessica Beard ran a strong 51.97 behind her in the last heat. An intriguing race is in the works in a field peppered by young talent. Don’t be surprised if you don’t recognize the names of several of the finalists, but we need to get there first; semis are early Friday evening. Similarly, the men’s 400m has notable newcomers: Division 2 Ashland University strikes again on the national scene as Myles Pringle was 4th fastest qualifier in 45.82.

Ashleigh Henderson, Aleia Hobbs, Dezerea Bryant, and Jenna Prandini all broke 11.00 in 100m qualifying. Mike Rodgers tied the field record of 9.89 in the men’s heats, and Noah Lyles, Isiah Young, and Cameron Burrell joined him under 10 flat. World leader Ronnie Baker advanced in 10.00.

An unusual set of splits for Molly Huddle in the women’s 10k: how often do you see a 10K splits with “1” next to each and every lap? That’s right, she led every lap of 25 from start to finish. Marielle Hall ran a gutsy race in second but could not withstand Huddle’s remarkable close of 64.52.

Lopez Lamong returned to the top of the podium for the first time since 2010. What’s notable about this? Eight years ago it was for winning the 1500m; tonight it was for winning a race 8500m longer. It will be interesting to compare his 54.16 close to the last lap of the 1500m final on Saturday.

The night finished with an on-the-track men’s 20k racewalk won by Nick Christie in 1:24:53.57. Not to be outdone by Molly Huddle, Christie led every single lap 50 laps in a row.

Nick Christie
photo credit: USATF and Errol Anderson

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

IAAF Drew Windle Feature

I'm delighted to report that IAAF has published my feature story about US 800m runner Drew Windle in their lead-in coverage to US Nationals. 

The championships begin Thursday, 6/21, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Heartfelt thanks to Bob Ramsak and Jon Mulkeen at IAAF.

Drew Windle and Family
London Olympic Stadium
2017 World Athletics Championships

photo credit: Karen Farley Windle

Thursday, June 14, 2018


I have been privileged to have a 41-year career as teacher, coach, and athletic director.

Friday I retire!

As one big part of my life concludes, it's wonderful that, simultaneously, the new one takes full flight. My thanks to the extraordinary people I've worked with over the years, many of whom I count as my family.

With gratitude and appreciation from Mark Cullen - I look forward to reporting to you from track stadiums around the world!

photo credit: Steve Ritchie
Bird's Nest - Beijing - 2015 World Championships

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Meet in a Tweet

Jakob Ingebrigtsen's Historic Mile

by Mark Cullen

Twitter - 4:00pm, Saturday, May, 26:
4th place doesn't always get the attention it should.
Sometimes, it gets all the attention in the world.
Norway's Jakob Ingebrigtsen was 4th in the @nikepreclassic culminating event, the Bowerman mile.
His time: 3:52.28.
His age: 17.
His age: 17.
Just checking.
Yup, still 17.

History was made in Saturday’s Prefontaine Classic when Norway’s 17-year-old phenom Jakob Ingebrigtsen ran the mile in 3:52.28, a previously unthinkable performance.

“I wasn’t quite expecting the race to be that fast,” said Norway’s prodigy. “”Of course, the pace was a bit quick the first couple of laps. I had a lot more to give the last lap and it felt really good coming into the homestretch.”

“My goal was to take Alan Webb’s record. I knew, of course, that was going to be tough. I had a PB in mind but today I felt really good and I am really happy with how it turned out.”

Alan Webb ran 3:53.43 on Hayward Field’s venerable track to set the US national high school record in 2001. Ingebrigtsen’s 3:52.28 now stands as the world U-18 and European U-20 records.    

“I was hoping the other guys would run fast from the beginning and they did, so I just tried to keep up with the guys the first laps and then we’ll see how it goes. I had a really good last lap, so it felt good.”

A last lap of 55.42 always feels good, but when it’s the 4th of 4, you’re 17, and you’ve averaged 59 seconds per lap for the first three?


“Before the race there was a lot of nerves because it’s crazy running here in Hayward Field and the crowd is amazing, of course, and I was really looking forward to racing.

“I felt good today,” said Ingebrigtsen, “and decided to give everything when there was 800m left.”

Ingebrigtsen’s next goals include the World Junior Championships in Tampere, Finland, in July, and the European Championships in Berlin in August.

“I am really looking forward to that,” he said of World Juniors with a smile that was an unsuccessful attempt at a poker face.

Watch out, world youth records.

When asked if he had seen Alan Webb, who was in attendance at the meet, Ingebrigtsen smiled and replied, “No, I haven’t seen him – I did get his record so I’m real happy.”

“I was thinking it was going to be tough to beat Webb’s record,” he said, nodding towards the scoreboard, “but I’ve seen the results when I was finished and it was just amazing.”

Ingebrigtsen has an unusual training advantage.

“I usually train with two of the best 1500m runners in the world – my two brothers, so I’m kind of used to it, but I’ve always stayed a couple of meters behind Henrik (27) and Filip (25),” whose mile PBs are 3:50.72 and 3:53.23, respectively.

“Now I’m taking a new step to the big guys. It feels really good racing them today and beating a couple of them as well.”

In the second half of the race he moved from 14th to 4th in a field of 15 of the world’s best milers.

Left in his wake were Olympic 1500m gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz and Olympic 800m bronze medalist, Clayton Murphy, not to mention Prefontaine Classic meet record holder Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti, whose 3:47.42 from 2014 has withstood all comers ever-since.  

As Ingebrigtsen sped down the homestretch, he realized that Kenya’s 2017 World Champion Elijah Manangoi was just ahead of him.

“When I saw it was Manangoi I was just like ‘WOW!’”

So were we.

He finished one-tenth of a second behind the World Champion.

“It’s a dream come true to be racing against the best guys in the world.”


The text I led with is a tweet I sent out on Twitter at the end of the meet. An indication of the Norwegian’s popularity - as well as the importance of his performance - is that within 24 hours this message had been retweeted 53 times and ‘liked’ another 254.

It was interesting to follow the pattern of the response, as Ingebrigsten ran his remarkable time just before midnight in Norway, and I woke up in Eugene Sunday morning to many responses from that part of the globe.

photo credit:

Ingebrigtsen's time as a 17-year-old is over two seconds faster
than Steve Prefontaine's 3:54.6,
with the understanding that the mile was not the focus of Pre's training program.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Javelin Clinic

The weather forecast for Eugene is perfect - for Sunday, when it will be 75F/24C and sunny. 

But the Prefontaine Classic is today (Sat), and it has dawned cool and chilly in Eugene - 43/6. It's partly cloudy with some drizzle forecast for this morning, but it should be clear and 65/18 by the time the broadcast goes international at 1:00pm Pacific time. The all-important wind forecast is for a gentle 5mph, but who knows how that will be translated in the funnel that is sometimes Hayward Field.

Last night's opening session of the Prefontaine Classic, once billed as Distance Night in Eugene, featured distance alright - it's just that distance was in the men's javelin, not the much anticipated and ballyhooed men's two-mile.

As expected, the German trio who are currently dominating the world scene in the greatest display of creditable throwing ever by a nation went 1-2-3.

2016 Olympic champion Thomas Rohler's 4th round (89.88/294-10) won over 2017 World champion Johannes Vetter (89.34/293-1), while countryman Andreas Hoffman completed the national sweep in third (86.45/283-7). The top four, including Czech Republic's Jakub Vadlejch at 85.40/280-2, all exceeded Julius Yego's (Kenya) 2016 meet record of 84.68/280-2.

As for the men's two-mile, there is always danger in advertising a record attempt when anything less - even a great performance - becomes a disappointment. 18 year old World Indoor silver medalist Selemon Barega topped a deep field by outsprinting Paul Chelimo to win in 8:20.01. Had Chelimo not advertised an attempt on Matt Tegenkamp's US record of 8:07.07, the post-race focus might well have been where it should have been: on a savvy run by a teenage sensation who left some of the current greats in his dust.

The meet resumes today at 12:40 with the women's pole vault; distance events begin with the International Mile at 12:48. I predict upwards of 9 sub-4:00 miles in this race.

Or as we like to call it in Eugene, the JV race.

The traditional finish to the meet is the Bowerman mile at 2:52. That's the starting time, not the 1200m split.

While the 400m is always of interest, it just doesn't rank as high to me as 400m when you're jumping over things. Nonetheless, the women's 400m is intriguing today.

World Champion and Oregon graduate Phyllis Francis -  wait a minute! This is Eugene, so that would be: Oregon graduate and World Champion Phyllis Francis - has a terrific opportunity to cement her position in the top ranks of this event, while Bahamas' Shaunae Miller-Uibo just might want to unravel that storyline. Adding to the intrigue is that it's the first outdoor 400m for each this season.

See here one of Trackerati's greatest highlights of the London World Championships:

One of these Oregon Ducks just won 
the 400m World Championship!

Friday, May 25, 2018


Many have tried to pick the best field of the stunningly deep events at tonight and tomorrow's Prefontaine Classic. You might do better to try to find the least loaded field, but even that is a challenge.

My pick for the event with greatest depth is indeed a field event - the men's javelin, which will feature Germany's trio of throwers over 91 meters: Johannes Vetter, Thomas Rohler, and Andreas Hoffman. Rohler won Olympic gold in Rio while Vetter upset Rohler for World gold in London in 2017. Will the javelins even stay within the competition area? Officials will be well advised to stay clear the of landing area.

Hoffman's personal best stands at 91.07/298-9; perhaps he'll join his compatriots over 300' tonight. All will rest on Hayward Field's notoriously pesky wind. If it's in the throwers' faces the competition will be terrific but the distances less so. Here's hoping for a calm wind.

Trackerati will be on site of the 2018 Prefontaine Classic tonight and tomorrow, 5/25+26. Please check here as well as @trackerati on Twitter for reports and updates.