USATF Championships, dot dot dot

Random thoughts, news and views on the USATF Championships in the Larry King format…

Oregon’s Matt Centrowitz added the USATF 1500 meter title to his NCAA title in the same event. Doubling up in titles is rare these days, especially so in the 1500. How rare? The last two to do it were Sydney Maree (1981) and Eamonn Coghlan (1976), back when foreigners could run at the nationals. The last Americans to do it were Marty Liquori (’69 and ’71), Jim Ryun (’67), Dyrol Burleson (’61) and Wes Santee (’53)…

Centro is a racer. There are guys who seem to always be in the right place at the right time, like Bernard Lagat, and guys who never are, like Alan Webb. I don’t know if it’s a skill that is learned, or if it’s one of those things where some guys have it and some guys don’t…

When I say “so and so is a lock to win”, it’s the kiss of death this year. I said it at the NCAA Championships about Anna Jelmini, Tina Sutej and Mookie Salaam, and they all were beaten. I said it this week about Jill Camarena-Williams in the shot put, and then Michelle Carter goes out and throws #2 on the all-time US list in the shot put to beat her by a single centimeter. I said the winner of the 100 meter final always comes from the semifinal winners, then Walter Dix up and proves me wrong…

I finished 37th in the USATF Pick N’ Win game. Last year I finished third and got all cocky about it. Turns out I was just lucky, not good. I did learn a lesson, though: last year is last year, this year is this year…

Example: A year ago I thought Khadevis Robinson was done as a top-level runner. He wasn’t racing anymore, just pacemaking. This year he was a surprise winner at the Rome Diamond League meet, but I kind of dismissed it since he won in a slow time with a lot of big names missing. Then he backed it up with a second place at the Pre Classic, but it still wasn’t real fast. I ignroed KD and picked Symmonds for the win, and I got lucky on that one because it was the wrong choice (Symmonds had done nothing in 2011 to deserve it). The cardinal rule of picking distance races is this: you’d rather have a guy who beats fast people than who runs fast times. See: Centro…

Example number two: Andrew Wheating. I picked him to win the 1500. I was a bit busy this week and didn’t realize that, unlike certain other runners who played games by entering two distance events, Lagat really was going to double up. If I had, he would have been my pick. We now know that Wheating had been hurt in the winter and missed a lot of training, which is why his season started so late and so poorly. It’s a testament to his prodigious talents and guts that he managed to get fourth. But there was simply no indication so far this year that he was capable of winning the race, and of course he didn’t. I picked him based on last year, not this year. Dumb, dumb, dumb…

Sports Illustrated has Tim Layden back on the track beat after a year off writing his football book. This is great news for track fans. SI always treats track better than other publications do, and all their writers are good. But Layden is among their very best, and the editors never bury his stuff…

Layden’s latest piece looks at Andrew Wheating and Jeremy Wariner and their roads to making the US team for the Worlds. About the latter, there are questions:

Wariner is just 27, hardly ancient even for an athlete who got his career going early by turning pro and winning an Olympic gold medal after his sophomore year in college. But it’s worth wondering if he’s ever going to run seriously fast again. Or win medals again.

[Manager Michael] Johnson wonders, too. “It’s really hard to say,” Johnson said Saturday. “Let me put it this way: That’s going to be determined by what Jeremy does between now and Daegu and what he does in Daegu. If he doesn’t medal there, or run in the 43s, I don’t think he’ll medal or run in the 43s again.”

… Johnson is more than a little mystified by the reality he expresses. I gave him the chance to blame Wariner’s relatively intense career, with many battles fought. Johnson wouldn’t have any of it. “Not when you’re talking about a guy who’s still relatively young,” said MJ.

Wrong. Wariner is not “relatively young” or “hardly ancient”. He is ancient by the standards of the 400 meters. It is an event that chews people up and spits them out. Only marathoners’ careers have shorter life spans. The gold standard of quarter-miling, breaking 44.00, has been done 47 times by nine athletes. Only once has it ever been done by a man older than 26 whose name was not Michael Johnson. All realistic analyses of the event should ignore Johnson—he was to long sprinting as Secretariat was to three-year-old racing, a once in a century outlier. If you look at those eight other mere mortals, the median age for a sub-44.00 is twenty-two

Walter Dix intends to break up a Jamaican sweep of the Worlds 100 meter medals, saying “Bolt’s the only one that’s beaten me in a championship race,” which is a true statement. I think he can do it, but it will be tough because a) the Jamaicans outnumber him four to one, and b) he’s going to have to improve a heck of a lot more between now and the Worlds…

I didn’t get to watch much of the meet this weekend, although I got to see some of it in an unexpected way. I did the “Bike to the Bay” this weekend, a two-day cycling event put on as a fund-raiser by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The “bay” is Put-in-Bay, an island in Lake Erie whose downtown known as a bit of a party spot, one that I haven’t been to for a very long time. While I definitely enjoy my brewskis, I’m not a wild man—11:00 is late for me. So I was a bit unprepared for Put-in-Bay. Wow. It’s like spring break for old fat drunks. Like Key West, but stripped of all its gays and class and really everything but alcohol and T-shirt shops. At least half the people walking down the sidewalk are barely moving under their own power. Needless to say, I did not get up early enough on the second day to bike back home. But I did get a surprise when I walked into a bar and saw the USATF meet on one of the big screens. I stayed until the show was over, cussing when my fantasy-league picks ran poorly and cheering when they didn’t. And then we went to an outdoor pirate-themed bar where a woman in her late 40s and well over 200 lbs was sporting a bright pink bikini, yet didn’t win the ugly prize by all that much. Equally ugly guys were drunk enough to be all over these ladies. They don’t call it “Put-out-Bay” for nothing…

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2 Responses to USATF Championships, dot dot dot

  1. Martin says:

    Interesting numbers for the ages and 400m. I always figured it was older. Now it makes me wonder how similar charts look in other events.

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