Saturday, June 24, 2017

High Heat and Green Cards

The USATF Outdoor National Championships have featured veterans' swansongs, huge upsets in the distance races, the weather, and the greatest men's distance running team in the nation... the US Army? Read on, skeptics, read on.

High Heat - a term usually reserved for baseball came into play during the men's hammer on Thursday, especially in the first three rounds. Throws were flying noticeable higher than usual; streamlined arcs were few and far between.

Eric Werskey, former Auburn shot put standout and now assistant coach at meet host Sacramento State, observed that it was not only the heat that was a factor. While athletes may have been just a bit slower in the ring due to the 111F temperatures, he noted that the single flight of 16 (rather than two of 8) in the first three rounds may have had a bigger impact.

Imagine waiting - desperate for shade - under a small awning while 15 other throwers take their turns. It's beastly hot. That would slow anyone down, and did.

It was clear in the finals that form improved, as did the distances thrown. But still it wasn't pretty, as half of the final 24 throws were fouls.

Green Cards All Around - Jerome Young's non-false start in the men's 100m Friday evening must have our European counterparts seeing red - again. He clearly jumped the gun but was reinstated. Same in men's 400m final on Saturday. A false start was called but no one was DQed.

When is a false start a false start? When, at US Nationals, does a false start stick?

Notable Exits - Tyson Gay and Nick Symmonds brought their notable careers to an end. Symmonds did not advance out of the preliminaries of the men's 800m, and Gay was a first-round 100m exit as well.

Notable Upsets - All of you who predicted that Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp would not make the US 10k team, please step to the front. No one? That appears to be accurate. Flanagan took the early - and middle and late - lead, but could not hang on against veteran Molly Huddle in the women's 10,000m final. Rupp fell victim to the stellar team tactics of the US Army racers and found himself unable to respond to their collective charge over the last 200m.

Here Comes the US Army - Flotrack is keeping team scores for the various teams represented here. Leading the men's distances going into tomorrow's steeplechase final? Let's see... the Nike Oregon Project? Nope. Bowerman Track Club? Nope. NAZ (Northern Arizona) Elite? Keep going. US Army? Why yes, and by far. In the 5k and 10k they have three of the six qualifiers. Two on the men's marathon team. And with Hilary Bor and Haron Lagat in tomorrow's 3,000m steeplechase final, expect their roster for Worlds to grow even more.

Cannot move on without noting one of the greatest 5,000m races ever run by an American: Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo's Prefontaine-esque demolition of the 5000m field while smashing the meet record by over 4 seconds.




Highlight of the Meet - Gabe Grunewald being surrounded by her heat-mates after the opening round of the women's 1500. The 1500m star, the American Cancer Society, and USATF announced a joint fund-raising partnership on Thursday. Grunewald left the meet after the race to resume chemotherapy for a rare type of cancer that has now returned for the 4th time.

I'm working to obtain permission to use a magnificent photo of this moment, and it's my fond hope that this will work out and I'll be able to post it on Sunday.

Working in the Heat - On Thursday I covered three field events for Track and Field News: the men's hammer at 1:45, the women's javelin at 5:00, and the women's discus at 6:50 - and then, mysteriously, at 8:00, for no announced reason.

The highest recorded temperature was 111F in the stadium, and I took all the usual precautions: relentless hydration, spending most of the day in shade, and wearing a broad-rimmed sun hat and dark shades to deflect the impact of the sun. There was quite some camaraderie in the press corps about being in this together.

It all worked out rather well, I thought, and I felt quite good at the end of the 10,000m races late in the evening. Then I went back to my hotel - and slept for 12 hours. It took me 65 years to figure out how to get that much sleep in one night - duly noted! But I don't think I'll be trying it again anytime soon...

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