Sunday, July 28, 2019

World Record!

Dalilah Muhammad 
The Fastest Women's 400m Hurdler in History
photo credit: USATF

Olympic gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad sets a new world record
in the 400m hurdles in the rain at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
2016 Olympic gold medalist Dalilah Muhammad stunned the final-day crowd of the USATF Championships with a personal best that will always be remembered: a .14 improvement in the World Record previously held by Yuliya Pechonkina of Russia.

With a remarkable sustained drive from the 7th hurdle to the finish, Muhammad sprinted away from a deep, talented, and accomplished field. Many eyes were on the youngster of the final, Sydney McLaughlin, who ran a stellar 52.88 in second, while Ashley Spencer equalled her personal best in 3rd at 53.11. Both join Muhammad on the World Championship team in spite of the fact that "I felt like an underdog in the race," said the new world record holder.

This is Muhammad's 4th national title; the 29-year-old showed promise early when she won the World U-18 title in 2007. In addition, she has won all 8 of the Diamond League races she has ever entered.

Muhammad took .44 off her previous best of 52.64  set at US nationals in the sweltering heat of Sacramento in 2017 when she won the deepest race in history; the only thing missing from that stupendous race was a world record.

Interestingly, Muhammad set the world record today in spite of having the slowest reaction time in the field, 0.287, compared to the fastest (of 4th placer Shamier Little), 0.198.

"We always seem to get the rain," Muhammad said of the 400m hurdlers. "I think we all are prepared for it and we all know how to run in it." Muhammad said she was inspired by the memory of Rai Benjamin winning the NCAA title in the rain and the cold of Eugene. "If he can do it I definitely can do it!"

When asked to compare Olympic gold to a world record, Muhammad said "They're definitely both up there," and that in 2016 "I know the gold that year was so far from my mind, so it was just an amazing achievement at the time. That was definitely a major goal going into 2016. It was crazy to win."

This year, "It was definitely a different atmosphere, a different perspective I'm coming with, but they're both definitely up there."

Indeed, there is a huge difference between the pressure of peaking for Olympic gold while normally a world record, especially in championship races, is unexpected to say the least.

Muhammad was not totally surprised by the world record. To set one you have to train at that pace, and that's exactly what she's been doing in practice - training at "world record pace or under it" through 8 or 9 of the 10 hurdles.

"When the field is so good ,you can't have a bad race. If any of one us have a bad day, you are not going to win, and that's the type of field that the US has."

"I was pushing it... I was trying something different. I think when you're trying to break a world record and you're trying to run fast times you've got to take risk. In that race I took a risk and I wanted to push the backstretch and see what I could do coming home."

Now the world knows what she can do coming home.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Four Boxes

US Records in W Hammer and M Pole Vault 
Highlight Day #3 of USATF Nationals
by Mark Cullen
copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Banner at Drake Stadium
Des Moines, Iowa
Site of 2019 USATF Championships
photo credit: Mark Cullen/
Beneath their names in today's results are four boxes.

They say AR, WL, FR, and PB.

Props to those who set a Personal Best at their national championships - no better place to realize your dream.

World Lead means you are best in your event in the world so far this year. It also means you are a favorite to win gold in Doha at this fall's World Championships. If you became world leader today at US Nationals, the pressure just ramped up.

To set a Field Record has special meaning, especially in a venerable stadium like Drake, a place where it's notoriously hard to achieve stadium records after a more than a century of hosting track meets.

An American Record is perhaps better named a US record; AR is sometimes confused with Area Record, a broader category, such as North America, which includes Mexico and Canada, too. Nonetheless, today it means American Record - and it means it twice.

DeAnna Price broke her own American record in the women's hammer throw with her last-of-the competition throw of 78.24 (256-8). While she had a terrific series coming into that throw - 75.66 - 77.51 - 76.40 - 75.77 - 76.72 - only the second round gave a hint of what might be to come.

Price started her final throw noticeably faster than all but the second, and was slightly late on the release. But she was remarkably fast in between, and the late release sent the missile screaming down the left foul line; whether or not it would be fair was in doubt until it landed, just inside the sector.

Price awaited the posting of her distance.

And waited.


She doubled over under the weight of her accomplishment as the crowd erupted in thunderous applause.

Price was glad to be competing at all after a spring that was physically challenging. "My physical therapist was holding me together with duct tape and wires," she said. But she returned to consistent training and was rested and prepared for today's competition.

"The most important thing is you can't let things gets to you," said Price, and few are her equal when it comes to keeping her eyes on the prize. This was the second time she set the American Record at Drake, having done so last year as well, and today was a repeat performance of the most magnificent kind.

Sam Kendricks, 2017 World champion in the pole vault, has been nothing but gracious and welcoming of the newer vaulters on the scene, most notably his embrace of the ridiculously talented Armand Duplantis. So on this day of days when he surpassed even Duplantis with his stratospheric American record 6.06/19-10.5, he gave his time and attention to the younger members of the Doha team: recent Oregon graduate Cole Walsh, Baylor sophomore to be KC Lightfoot, and Kansas sophomore to be, Zach Bradford.

"Competition is a great way for young men to get to know each other," said Kendricks. "There's a lot of young pole vaulters that I crave to know.” During today's lightning delay, "I walked up to all the young jumpers and said, 'Hey, do you know me? I know you now because we're all going to be a team; we're going to be on the track together.'"

"I know where they came from, I know what their Mom's name is, I know how old they are - even (as he looked at Lightfoot) if they were born in '99! I know what their goals are in the sport."

Nothing spoke better to the high regard his competitors have for him than what they did on his two attempts at the American record. His faithful comrades lined the runway and led the stadium in rhythmic clapping. When he landed as the new American record holder, Kendricks thought to himself, "Oh, no, here they come!" 

Dogpile of a lifetime.

Said teammate Cole Walsh, "I don't know what other country shares that camaraderie."

She throws, he jumps.

They do these exceedingly well.

Nothing like a 4-box day. Unless, of course, it's 5. 


Doha anyone?

Link to today’s many additional results:


$437,500 Sale of 1972 Nike Moon Shoes
Jordan Geller Sets World Record

by Mark Cullen/ © 2019 All Rights Reserved
Jordan Geller with Moon Shoes at Sotheby's
Thanks to Nicole Browner for special permission to use this image.
Shoe impresario Jordan Geller, already the dominant force in the collecting of vintage Nike shoes, etched his name into the history books - and, once again, the Guinness Book of World Records - with his sale of a pair of rare 1972 Moon Shoes for the staggering sum of $437,500. The shoes, designed by Bill Bowerman and handmade by Nike's 3rd employee, Geoff Hollister, were made for the 1972 US Olympic Marathon Trials, but never worn. 

In one fell swoop, Geller changed the market for these early Nikes forever. Listed at $110,000-160,000 - and with a minimum bid of $80,000 - the $437,500 final price exceeded all expectations.

Part of the Stadium Goods/Sotheby's "Ultimate Sneaker Collection" sale of 100 of the rarest sneakers ever made, the first 99 pairs were bought by Canadian entrepreneur Miles Nadal for $850,000 halfway through the online auction. 

But at that point, Geller chose not to sell the Moon Shoes within the listed range. Courageously, he waited out the remaining days of the auction - which closed on July 23 - to see if there would be interest beyond $160,000.

Was there ever.

At that point, Nadal purchased pair #100, which will forever be known as Pair #1.

"It was the perfect storm," said Geller to Trackerati. "I have faith and confidence in the brand and the marketplace."

How did Geller pull off the greatest sneaker sale in history?


No waffling.

Full disclosure: I am honored to count Jordan Geller as my friend and colleague, and we have previously met with shoes in hand to discuss, evaluate, and appreciate our historic treasures:

Hammer, Shot Put Take Center Stage - USATF Day 2

There's nothing like a sizzling 100m to bring a track meet alive.

But first, the important stuff.

The men's hammer.
Conor McCullough wins the national title and climbs to #8 all-time US
photo credit: with thanks to USATF/Instagram
Never was there a US hammer championships like this. The throwers came out blazing, and by the end of the day, four had exceeded the World Championships standard of 76.00/249-4.

In fact, three had done so by the end of the 1st round - Sean Donnelly 250-7 76.38, Rudy Winkler 251-0/76.51, and Conor McCullough 252-4/76.92 - and 2019 NCAA Champion Daniel Haugh 250-9/76.44 joined them in the 2nd. The three places to Doha had been settled by then, but that is only a retrospective view. At the time, that was hard to tell given the scintillating competition that continued.

With his final throw, McCullough put a 256-4/8.14 exclamation point on this most memorable of competitions. It vaulted him from 10th to 8th on the all-time US performers list, and tied him for 8th in the world this year. Said McCullough, "(With) all the young guys coming up, it's exciting to have a US Championships with four guys over 76.00 meters."

Multi-talented Michael Shanahan - who has a 5,000m PB of 15:25.10 - set his hammer personal best at 245-5/74.80 while finishing 5th. The former New Hampshire All-American - there are words you don't hear often - had a terrific series and marked himself a star of the near future. McCullough, Winkler, and Haugh are Doha bound, and Sean Donnelly, in 4th place at 250-7/76.38, was nothing but gracious in the face of what had to be a heartbreaking outcome - a miss to Doha by 6cm/2in.

If only this compelling competition could have been held in true center stage - the stadium - there would be a lot more budding hammer throwers in Iowa and beyond.
Ryan Crouser before the Prefontaine Classic
photo credit: Mark Cullen/
Not to be outdone by guys throwing heavy objects around, the shot putters took over. They demonstrated once again that you have to throw 22.00/72-2.25  to get somewhere in this event now, as that's what it took to make the World Championships team. Ryan Crouser settled things with his 5th round 22.62/74-2.5, with Joe Kovacs (22.31/73-2.5), and Darrell Hill (22.11/72-6.5) adding to the 22.00m festivities.

"The guys made it tough out there - three guys over 22.10m plus," said Olympic champion Crouser, who has struggled with recurring low-level injuries this year. "For me to go out there and get a 22.60m plus, I was really happy with that. I'd put that up there with any of my best throws ever."

Note that Crouser's 22.62 is one centimeter longer than Darlan Romani's winner at the Prefontaine Classic. Game on.

It was a challenging day for decathletes. Bad enough was the early exit this week of heavy favorite Zach Ziemek with an injury; worse was Stanford's young star Harrison Williams missing a trip to Doha by a mere 12 points. His 8188 is a number he won't soon forget.

With the withdrawal of Justin Gatlin from the final, the men's sprint went from 100 meters to 100 meh-ters. Christian Coleman won in 9.99, with Mike Rodgers and Christopher Belcher joining him on the podium.

The women's 100m was run into a 1.7mps headwind,  with Teahna Daniels, English Gardner, and Morolake Akinosun advancing to Doha with times of 11.20, 11.25, and 11.28. In the men's race, 2nd and 3rd were separated by .006 of a second, 10.114-10.120.

Donald Scott edged Will Claye in the triple jump, 17.74 to 17.70; Omar Craddock took third, another 15 cm behind. 17.43 was Scott's PB coming into the competition. Scott now has four national titles, 2 indoors and 2 out, in an event that has been dominated by Christian Taylor and Will Claye.

2017 World Champion Taylor has a bye to the World Championships and all he had to do was compete in the US championships and the US would have 4 qualifiers instead of three. Taylor flew in from his base in the Netherlands (I think it's a home, but really, it's more exotic to call it a base), fouled his first jump and passed the next two. Fitness! Off to Worlds the US goes with 4 triple jumpers.

Meanwhile, let me suggest that yelling "Go Big Guy" at a hammer competition does not have the desired sorting effect!

Friday, July 26, 2019

USATF Day #1 - Flying Discs and Big Surprises

On-site at Drake Stadium, Des Moines, Iowa
Drake Stadium at Night
Thursday, July 25, 2019

photo credit: Mark Cullen/
Thursday's men's discus final was, by any standards, a surprise, as 2015 NCAA champ Sam Mattis, and Brian Williams and Kord Ferguson, bronze medalists respectively at the last two NCAA meets, took the podium places.

Just as surprising as who made the podium was who did not. Neither Mason Finley nor Reggie Jagers did - between them, Finley ('16 and '17) and Jagers ('18) hold the last three US discus crowns and Finley, memorably, won World bronze in London. Pre-meet analysis had them on the podium; Finley finished 7th in 61.05/200-3 while Jagers did not crack 60m as his best of 59.78/196-1 earned him 9th, and a newer generation had a chance to shine.

Said Jagers, "My Dad passed away this past year so I really wanted to go out with a bang for him. It didn't come true but this might be a blessing in disguise because now I get to train for Olympics full-time. I made the Pan-American team so perhaps I'll be able to redeem myself.

"It was just weird because me and Mason both did pretty bad and we were both defending champions. I would just say I want to come back and come back strong. I know my Dad will be with me, and next meet I won't put too much pressure on it - I'll just come through and I'll just believe in myself."

Neither Jagers nor his fellow competitors would attribute their results to the weather, which featured a strong, direct breeze in the first round as well as rain through most of the last two.

"I usually aspire to do well in bad conditions anyway - I'm from Cleveland, Ohio!" joked Jagers.

The discus competition was unusual in that both 1st and 2nd were settled with 1st round throws.

Mattis won with a season's 66.69/218-9, while Williams threw a personal best 66.69/218-9 to win silver. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was Kord Ferguson’s thunderous 4th round 63.25/207-6, a massive personal best by almost four feet (1.18/3-10.5). Ferguson was seeded 10th coming into the competition and his presence in the final was unexpected - much less winning bronze.

The men's discus is instructive of how qualifying for the Doha World Championships works.

Top three go to Worlds, right? Well, not exactly.

Top three go to Worlds if they all have met the qualifying standard, in this case 65.00 meters.

But what if the top two have met the standard and the third has not?

The next highest American on the world list during the qualifying period who has exceeded the 65.00 meter standard by the most makes the World Championship team, and that lucky winner is none other than Mason Finley.

I think.

His place on the team really won't be assured until the final roster is released next week.

In other Day #1 highlights, Kentura Orji won her historic 4th triple jump in a row, Molly Huddle won her 5th 10,000m title, and Lopez Lomong and Shadrack Kipchirchir waged a mighty battle in a compelling men's 10,000m race. They broke away from the field and went head-to-head until the final circuit when Lomong settled things with a 55.59 closing lap. He finished in a spectacular 27:30.60.

Full results are here:

Notes: I'm in Des Moines covering the men's and women's hammer and men's and women's discus for Track and Field News. I will highlight one event daily and include the best of the day (as above) with links for more information.

I encourage you to click on the USATF results site. Marks are posted as they happen, and you can 'watch' throw-by-throw, jump-by-jump, and lap-by-lap coverage.

Brian Williams (2nd), Kord Ferguson (3rd), Sam Mattis (1st)
photo credit: Mark Cullen/

Friday, July 5, 2019

Darlan Romani Feature in Track and Field News

Darlan Romani shot the lights out with a 16 lb steel ball at the Prefontaine Classic last weekend. Today Track and Field News published my feature about Romani's historic series. Hope you enjoy it!

Darlan Romani at the Prefontaine Classic
Jeff Cohen photograph

Darlan Romani at the Prefontaine Classic
Jeff Cohen photograph