Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dynamic Duos and Triple Treats

It started on Distance Night in Eugene. 

In the high school girls mile, .04 separated winner Ryen Frazier and runner up Danielle Jones. It continued throughout the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday: exceptionally close, thrilling finishes, time after time, seemingly one after another.

In fields this deep, finishes this close should not be a surprise; the sheer quantity of them stretched the vocal cords of Hayward Field’s capacity crowd. 

It was the number of them that was a surprise:

W 100
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce 10.81
Murielle Ahoure 10.81
Tori Bowie 10.82

W 100 B
English Gardner 10.84
Elaine Thompson 10.84

W 800
Eunice Sum 1:57.82
Ajee Wilson 1:57.87

M International Mile
Ben Blankenship 3:55.72
Jonathan Sawe 3:55.76
Timothy Cheruiyot 3:55.80

M Bowerman M Mile
Ayanleh Souleiman 3:51.10 
Matt Centrowitz 3:51.20
Asbel Kiprop 3:51.25
Silas Kiplagat 3:51.92

M 400m hurdles
Johnny Dutch 48.20
Bershawn Jackson 48.22

M 3,000m Steeplechase
Ezekiel Kemboi 8:01.71
Jairus Birech 8:01.83

Next to finish were Conselsus Kiprotu and Evan Jager, separated by .08, 8:05.20 - .28.

W  Javelin
Even the women’s javelin was exceptionally close, with a scant 9 inches separating the top 3.
Christina Obergfoll 206’ 11”
Kara Winger 206’ 2”
Madara Palameika 206’ 2”

Finally, does .02 in the men’s 100 count as close? Probably not.
Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers: 9.88/9.90

Not to be outdone, finishing in a three-way tie for last in the high jump were Donald Thomas (Bah), Jesse Williams (US), and Derek Drouin (Can) at 7’ 4 ¼”.

Meanwhile, a tip of the hat to Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross for taking each other on, time and again, no matter what the possible personal cost in terms of annual rankings.
It’s a rivalry that defines contemporary track and field, and has the possibility of generating interest of the kind Vin Lananna seeks for the sport, far beyond its current - sometimes cozy - confines.

Does Ayanleh Souleiman's 3:51.1 Bowerman Mile winning time sound familiar?
It was once Jim Ryun's world record time.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

World Record(s) in Eugene Today?

Uncommon is common at Hayward Field, 
where stars mingle readily with the night,
and night gives the stars all the space they need. 

Link to Steve Prefontaine tribute: “Steve”

Day 2 - 2015 IAAF Diamond League Prefontaine Classic

There is much chatter in Eugene today about the possibility of a world record.

How realistic is this - and who might the claimants be?

The vertical jumpers have the best shot.

Renaud Lavillenie – pole vault
The French 2014 Male Athlete of the Year (Track and Field News and IAAF) supplanted Sergey Bubka (UKR) as world record holder with his 20’ 2.5” clearance in Donetsk, Ukraine, 15 months ago – with Bubka in attendance. He’ll have to contend with the often swirling winds here, but gentle versions of these could be his ally as much as his nemesis.

Mutazz Essa Barshim – high jump
Bogdan Bondarenko (UKR) and Barshim (QAT) electrified this event in 2014, and many made the case that the men’s high jump was the event of the year.

Javier Sotomayor’s 8’ ½”/2.45m world record has stood since 1992; Barshim (2.43m) and Bondarenko (2.42m) are the best since.

A video of Barshim clearing the bar by the proverbial mile went viral last summer. Nail one of those and that world record is history.

Genzebe Dibaba – 5,000m
Dibaba (ETH) has been on a tear – indoors. Since 2/1/14, she has set new standards at 1500m (3:55.17), 3k (8:16.60), 2 miles (9:00.48), and 5k (14:18.86). The world outdoor record is 14:11.15 by sister Tirunesh.

Much could be on the line today, including who gets first dibs on dessert at the next family gathering.

If it were up to me, that would be settled easily if cousin Deratu Tulu - Sydney Olympic and Edmonton World 10,000m champ - dropped by. Meanwhile, waiting her turn for dessert is third sister, Ejagayehu, silver medalist in the Athens Olympic 10k.

(Shhhhhh… dare I speak his name? Justin Gatlin (200m today) is deeply committed to showing he’s better than Usain Bolt; there’s only one way to do that.)

Meanwhile, have you noticed that the acronym for Mutazz Essa Barshim’s name is MEB? I’m just sayin’…

Distance Dominates

On an evening when distance dominated at Eugene's Prefontaine Classic, few distances were more impressive than Joe Kovacs’ 72’ 7” final round throw in the shot put.

In a scintillating series in which three of his throws would have won, Kovacs reinforced his position as the leading putter in the world this year and the favorite to make the deep US World Championships team.

Germany’s two-time World champion David Storl kept the heat on with his 71’11” in second, while the rest of the stellar field finished over two feet behind Kovacs, so dominant were the leading pair.

Tianna Bartoletta mastered swirling winds with her 23’4” long jump win. Canada’s Christabel Nettey took second in 22’ 11 1/4”; the rising star’s personal best remains fractions from long jumping’s 23’ and 7 meter stratosphere. Surprising in 5th was World and Olympic champion Britnney Reese.

With his scintillating 27:07.51 10k, Cam Levins smashed the Canadian record of 27:23.63 set by Simon Bairu in 2010. Levins moved through the field dramatically from 7k and stormed to a fourth place finish.

“It’s my first outdoor record, and I’m feeling good,” said Levins. Levins spoke with Bairu before the race and said of his record, “It’s going down!” Right he was.

Next up for Levins is the Portland Track Classic 5k with the goal of achieving the World qualifier.

Mo Farah outkicked Paul Tanui and Geoffrey Kamworor for the win, but was disappointed in the time of 26:50.97. 

Tanui and Farah helped each other by exchanging the lead when the pacers were not as effective for as long as hoped. “We had a chat at the beginning of the race and said, ‘Let’s help each other,’ said Farah. “We wanted to run a fast time.”

Ethiopia’s Yomif Kejelcha blew open the men’s 5k with unofficial splits of 55-62 - before the last 200! Last year's World Junior champion is undefeated on this track.

In spite of his third place finish, Galen Rupp felt that this 5,000m in particular was helpful in establishing where he is in his season, especially after his first scheduled race was cancelled due to lightning wto weeks ago. 

“I was really happy that it ended up being tactical,” Rupp said.  “It’s good practice for the meets coming up, which are probably going to be tactical, too.”  

Friday, May 29, 2015

"Pre"View: Field Events for Friday in Eugene

Uncommon is common at Hayward Field, 
where stars mingle readily with the night,
and night gives the stars all the space they need. 

Link to Steve Prefontaine tribute: “Steve”
“Pre”View: Field Events

for Distance Night in Eugene

Much attention is rightly focused on the magnificent fields assembled for the men’s 5k and 10k for Friday’s Distance Night in Eugene. Links to distance events previews are posted, below.

Not to be lost in the distance drama are superb Friday fields in the men’s discus, women’s long jump, and men’s shot put.

Men’s Discus - 20:03 
A remarkably deep field is missing its king. Robert Harting, World and Olympic Champion, continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in a training accident last fall. Three-time World and Olympic silver medalist Piotr Malachowski (Pol) is one of two favorites in the absence of his nemesis. Gerd Kanter (Est) has a dazzling competitive record in this event with World and Olympic gold and three podium finishes to boot; while his golds seem to be behind him (2007 and 2008), he has a remarkable run of 2-3-3 in the last three World-Olympic-World championships – and he is now 36 years old. Best of the outstanding rest is Iran’s Ehsan Hadadi, with two major meet medals to his credit. Some terrific young talent in this meet… not so much a changing of the guard as adding to it. Should be a dazzling display between Kanter and Malachowski - especially if that evening breeze comes in sideways at Hayward Field.

Women’s Long Jump – 20:06
Brittney Reese is to the long jump as Robert Harting is to the discus: each has consecutive World titles and Olympic championships in the last four opportunities: ’09, ’11, ‘12, and ’13. Reese has the longest PR in this field by almost 8”. Sure to challenge her is the resurgent Tianna Bartoletta, who as Tianna Madison shocked the athletics world with her 2005 World Championship win in Helsinki. Russia’s Darya Khristina has the distance (23’ 1 ¾”) but not yet the titles, while Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic won here last year but has a personal best over a foot behind that of Reese. Eager to break 7 metres and join the 23’ club is Canada’s young Christabel Nettey.

Men’s Shot Put – 20:28
The shot put entry list reads like a royal family tree. Tomasz Majewski – 2x Olympic champion; David Storl – 2x World champion; Reese Hoffa - world indoor and outdoor champion, and last year’s world #1; Christian Cantwell – 3 indoor world titles, one outdoors; Ryan Whiting – 2 x world indoor champion.

My pick? David Storl, highly accomplished for so young a thrower. He is the putter and the present as well as the future. He and Majewski are great big-meet throwers; their PBs are 1’ to almost 2’ behind their famous brethren.

Here are links to a couple of the distance previews from the meet headquarters page:



I am intrigued most of all by Kenya’s Geoffrey Kamworor in the 10K… he made the Kenyan 5k Olympic team when he was 19. Three years later, this past March, he won the World XC title; he turned a close race with teammate Bedan Karoki into an 8-second margin of victory in just the last 300m. Watch out.