Sunday, June 30, 2019

Prefontaine Classic

It's tough to choose a single highlight of the Prefontaine Classic when the choices include Rai Benjamin's 47.16 400m hurdles, Sifan Hassan's 8:18.49 3000m, Christian Coleman's 9.81 100m, and Darlan Romani's 22.61/ 74' 21/4 shot put triumph. Let's take a closer look at two of these: the women's 3,000m and men's shot put.
Darlan Romani, Brazil
Winner Men's Shot Put
Jeff Cohen photo
Congratulations to Hassan on her outdoor world record 3000m today. While her 8:18.49 places her at #4 on IAAF's all-time list, the top three times are by members of the widely discredited Chinese team of the early 1990s - even the fastest of whom has admitted doping. This easily is the legitimate outdoor world record.

In addition, that 6 women broke 8:30 was mind-boggling, and the official all-time lists were rewritten. In addition to Hassan's #4, Konstanze Klosterhalfen's 8:20.07 ranks #6, Letesenbet Gidey's 8:20.27 #7, and Genzebe Dibaba's 8:21.29 #10. Or as I prefer to put it, #1, #2, #3, and #10.

It was reasonable to expect one of the historically deepest men's shot put fields to produce some fireworks, especially between Ryan Crouser and Tom Walsh.

This is why we run the races, or in this case, throw heavy weights around. Brazil's Darlan Romani upset all expectations with one of the greatest series in history.
Jeff Cohen photo
His 3rd round 22.46/73' 8 1/4" was #14 all-time.

His 4th round 22.55/73' 11 3/4" was #11 all-time.

His 5th round 22.61/74" 2 1/4" is #10 all-time.

All 6 throws fair and the shortest was his first at 21.64/71' 0". An incredible series that no one saw coming!

When informed in the interview area that he is now #10 all-time, he was visibly moved.

Full results here:

https://eugene.diamondleague.com/program-results-eugene/







Saturday, June 29, 2019

Steve

In honor of Sunday's Prefontaine Classic,
I am reposting my story of what happened between
Steve Prefontaine and me the day he won
the 1972 Olympic Trials 5,000m


It’s the last day of the 1972 US Men’s Olympic Track and Field Trials. 

The organizers at Eugene’s legendary Hayward Field were no fools. They scheduled the men’s 5,000m race as the last event of the 8-day program.

It featured Steve Prefontaine, the young man whom Sports Illustrated named  “America’s Distance Prodigy,” and George Young, the venerable veteran, the three-time Olympian trying to make his 4th Olympic team.

In an epic race that would see both men break the American Record, Prefontaine and Young went at it, lap by excruciating lap, and the issue was in doubt until the 9th circuit, when Prefontaine edged ahead, inexorably, and led Young to the finish.

Prefontaine (13:22.8) and Young (13:29.4) both broke Pre's American record of 13:29.6.

It would be a cliché to say that the crowd went wild.

But it did.

The sound of that last lap lives with me still. 

The roar was deafening as Prefontaine approached the finish stripe, but the sound when he crossed it is unlike any I have heard before or since.

If there’s one word I associate with that day, it’s “spectacle.”

The spectacle of Gerry Lindgren bounding from the stands with his memorable “Stop Pre” t-shirts, a lasting symbol of the Sparrow’s impish sense of humor.

The spectacle of the race itself, of seeing this prodigy realize the next stage of his potential.

The spectacle of what followed.

A lengthy victory lap, an ovation sustained, an achievement shared. What was so appealing about this young man was his generosity - his willingness to share his joy and, indeed, his triumph.

The celebration continued well into the evening, though it became more personal in nature. It shifted to an area on the east side of Hayward Field, where temporary bleachers had been erected to accommodate the overflow crowds. There a media platform had been built.

On it, young Mr. Prefontaine held court.

The television lights were blinding, the camera bulbs kept flashing, and person after person, kid after kid, asked something of him.

Long after the friends I had watched the race with decided their evening was over, I knew mine wasn’t finished.

For the previous nine months I had embarked upon a running career, such as it was, of my own. I had started running in Bill Bowerman’s beginning jogging class in the fall of 1971, a week after Bowerman had been named head coach of the US Olympic track and field team.

Bowerman’s “Hamburgers” shared the track with Gary Barger, Todd Lathers, Pat Tyson, Arne and Knut Kvalheim, future Olympic discus champion “Multiple” Mac Wilkins, US Olympic decathlete Craig Brigham, and Steve Prefontaine himself.

I was captivated and missed but one meet in five years.

When you run on the track inhabited by the likes of these memorable Ducks, no matter how slowly in comparison, you do get to know them. One of them, Coach Pat Tyson of the Mead and now Gonzaga University cross country programs, remains a friend to this day.

When it came to young Mr. Prefontaine, we saw each other 4 or 5 times a week during the first year I ran. I was from the wilds of Western Massachusetts and knew little of him when I began running. He seemed to like the fact that I never got caught up in the myth of Pre, and that we used each other’s first names was a bond of its own.

That I saw him as a new compatriot, special in terms of his ability but otherwise in many ways like everyone else, created the framework of our passing relationship, and formed the basis of what we Yankees call a 'nodding acquaintance.'

Indeed, the one time, the only time, I asked him for an autograph - not for me but for the 8-year-old son of a friend I had in tow - he grew quite impatient with me. It took me awhile to realize I had violated the boundary. It was the only time in his presence I had bought into the mythic “Pre.”

Fortunately, he forgave me.

So, as he sat surrounded by worshipping kids and an adoring, and yes, fawning press, I wanted to watch the rest of the spectacle.

I made my way up the temporary bleachers, sat in the corner closest to him, and watched. Watched for over an hour as Steve sat there with the patience of a saint, even though he wasn’t one, and did not claim to be.

Every now and then he’d cock his head, look up at me and wonder what on earth I was doing there.

Come to think of it, for someone known for his strong opinions and sometimes colorful language, “what on earth” were probably not the words he was thinking.

Yet he was curious, inquisitive, clearly wondering.

It got dark.

Fortunately, the scoreboard operator had a sense of the moment and didn’t turn off the lights. The darker it got, the more clearly etched into the evening sky was Prefontaine’s new American Record.

I can see it today, just as clearly, more than half a lifetime later.

Finally, there were only a couple of families left, little kids waiting for their moment of magic. I scurried up the rickety bleachers, down to the track, and waited while he completed his hero’s duties.

He smiled in recognition, still with that quizzical look.

*   *   *   

The kids are gone now, and it’s just the two of us with his drug tester in attendance. We exchange greetings and I offer my congratulations. I’m delighted to sense his receptivity, in spite of how long his day has been.

He actually has a few moments left, for me.

Well, I say, I’ve watched this spectacle unfold this afternoon, and now this evening.

He nods.

I’ve seen many people approach you and ask for many things.

He nods, as if to say this is not news.

An autograph, a photograph, an interview, a moment, even, with you.

Yes.

But Steve, I say, for all these people have asked, and all you’ve given in return - one thing has not been said today.

One thing is missing.

What’s that?

Thank you.

He clutches my forearm with both hands.

He will not let go.

Tears come to his eyes.

We both just stand there, at ease in the moment.

When he can speak, I wish him success in the Olympics, and he wishes me good luck in the summer all-comers meets.

Off he scampers across the track and onto the infield. Before he vanishes into the enveloping darkness, he turns and gives me a huge, full-body wave.

I wave back.

Off he jogs into the underbelly of the now gloomy West Grandstand and to his appointment with destiny in Munich.

My favorite photo of Steve Prefontaine.
With Coach Bill Bowerman the day Pre first broke 4:00 in the mile.
Multiple sources listed, including milesplit.

copyright 2016 Mark Cullen. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

NCAA Men's and Women's Hammer Throws

The women's and men's hammer throws in sweltering Austin, TX, added some thunder and lightning of their own to the proceedings.

These two articles appeared in edited form on the Track and Field News website (access with subscription).


Birthday Thunder
2019 NCAA Women's Hammer Throw
Thunder, lightning, drenching rain – the women’s hammer had it all. In an event that began almost two hours late, Cal-Berkeley’s super sophomore Camryn Rogers led from first round until last to clinch the title.

Rogers, 2019 Pac-12 and West Regional champ, sealed the deal in a highly competitive field with her 4th round 234-7/71.50, but not before several others had their say.

The World U20 champion seemed to be on her way to a dominating win until Indiana State’s Erin Reese uncorked a 5th round 231-2/70.46 that capped her progression from 19th to 4th to 3rd to 2nd, after an opening foul.

Reese gave Rogers a scare with her final 233-2/71.06; Reese’s 5th round toss had moved her into 2nd to stay, and she was the only athlete with two throws over 70.00m (229-8).

UCLA’s own super soph Alyssa Wilson was never off the podium. 2nd or 3rd the entire competition, Wilson’s 228-10/69.75 fourth round toss moved her back into second at the time, only to be surpassed by Reese’s late meet thunder.

Ohio State’s junior Sade Olatoye joined the party late as it took her several rounds to find her rhythm; her 5th round 227-7/69.37 left her only 15”/38cm short of a place on the podium.

A surprise in 8th was Tennessee’s Stamatia Scarvellis, the SEC and East Regional titlist, who came into this meet undefeated with 5 wins in a row. She did not improve from her second round best of 221-9/67.59.

There is a youth movement afoot in women’s hammer. With two sophomores on the podium, a total of five of the top nine finalists will return next year.

“It’s kind of surreal (to win the championship),” said Rogers. “It still hasn’t hit me, and I don’t think it will hit me for a little bit. It’s a crazy feeling to walk out of the cage after your last throw and go hug your coach, and for me, to go hug my mom, and just see all my teammates so happy. It feels really good… Anything I can do for this awesome team is amazing." 

The Richmond, British Columbia, native, has accomplished much in her young career; she won her NCAA title the day before her 20th birthday. This year, she has much more than her birthday to celebrate.

First First
2019 NCAA Men's Hammer Throw
Daniel Haugh took the road less traveled to his and Kennesaw State’s first NCAA individual track and field title. In his first outdoor season throwing for the Owls, Haugh, a redshirt senior transfer from Alabama, won a highly competitive men’s hammer championship with his fifth-round 244-10/74.63.

Kansas’ Gleb Dudarev came into the championship riding a four-meet win streak, which included titles at the Big 12 and West Regional meets. Co-favorite Hilmar Orn Jonsson of Virginia rode a three-meet streak of his own, including the ACC and East Regional crowns.

Haugh and Georgia’s defending champion, Denzel Comenentia, lost to Orn Jonsson at the East Regional. Comenentia, the yearly leader at 252-0/76.80, showed cracks in his armor with that loss as well as a runner up finish in the SEC Championships.

Here, Comenentia took the lead briefly in an eventful 3rd round with his 239-3/72.93, in what would prove to be his only fair throw of the meet. Dudarev answered with a 242-5/73.88 heave to make the massive Dutchman’s lead short-lived. Meanwhile, OJ put himself into the medal mix to stay with his 240-1/73.19, second place at the time.

The fourth round was quiet, but the fireworks exploded in the fifth. With three throws over 73.00 meters (239-6), the podium positions were determined. Haugh took the lead for good at 244-10/74.63 and pushed Dudarev to 2nd, while Orn Jonsson solidified his claim on 3rd with his 240-6/73.31. SEC champion Thomas Mardal (FL) moved into 4th at 239-10/73.10.

Both Haugh and Dudarev had their 2nd farthest throws in the last round as Dudarev kept the pressure on Haugh until the very end, but among the top 9, there were no position changes in the final stanza.

“The only thought that comes to mind is thankful,” said Haugh. “Thankful for the Lord who makes this possible, thankful for my parents, my coaching staff, my friends and family who believe in me and push me day in and day out. None of this would be possible without the community that I am surrounded with on a daily basis.

“It was just my training,” Haugh concluded. “You know in these types of conditions and this environment you always fall back to the level of your training. I think that showed today.”

Props to Florida throws coach Steve Lemke; on a sweltering day in Austin, only two throwers in the entire field of 24 recorded personal bests; both were Gators.

Sophomore Mardal (4th) and senior AJ McFarland (6th in 235-2/71.68) improved their bests by 4”/10cm and 3-3/.69, respectively, to pick up a nifty 8 points. With senior Anders Eriksson 11th in 223-7/68.14, Florida had three in the top 24 while no other school had more than one.