VISA Championship Series update

I’m in Albuquerque for the USA Indoor Championships, slated to get started at noon local time (2:00 PM Eastern time). Portions of the meet will be webcast by RunnerSpace.com and a tape-delayed package will be on ESPN tonight at 7:30.

To read my recap of last night’s action, go to Flotrack.

There are several competitions going on here. Within each event, athletes compete to win. The competition between second and third is meaningful too, because the USA can send two athletes to the World Indoor Championships. In some cases, athletes are competing against the clock or measuring tape because they need a qualifying mark for the Worlds.

Of course, the headline competition is the VISA Championship Series. You know how it goes: the best mark for men and women (according to the IAAF Scoring Tables) over the four-meet series wins $25,000.

(Note: while I didn’t try very hard to get an update to the VCS standings after the conclusion of the meet yesterday, you’d think VISA, the sponsor, would be eager for us to have that info and want USATF to be almost shoving it in our faces. Even an e-mail would be nice. This is a textbook case of why we bitch and moan about USATF.)

The current men’s leader is Galen Rupp, with 1255 points for his American Record 2-mile run at the USATF Classic. (Can a meet in its first year be truly called a “classic”?) The women’s leader* is Jen Suhr, with 1217 points for her American Record pole vault at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.

*I think, but I can’t be sure. The weight throw, being an American-only anomaly, is not on the IAAF scoring tables, but USATF has a scoring table for it. Two years ago, Amber Campbell won the VCS with 1213 points for a 24.70 meter throw. Yesterday she threw 24.78. Is that worth 1217 points? I don’t think 8 centimeters translates to 4 points, but I just don’t know.

What would it take for someone to overtake the lead in the VISA Championship Series? Let’s take a look at the events being held today.

Men

Event Mark needed to lead
VISA Championship Series
60 meters 6.41
60m Hurdles 7.35
400 meters 44.80
800 meters 1:44.26
1500 meters 3:33.60
Pole Vault 6.00m
Long Jump 8.61m
Shot Put 22.24m

I think it’s safe to say that nearly all of these marks have no real chance of being exceeded today.

6.41 is the third-fastest time ever run in the 60 meters, and the USA’s ‘A’ team of sprinters is not here. No American has run an indoor 400 under 45 seconds in seven years (and again, our ‘A’ team is not here); 1:44.26 is closing in on the world record; no one (American or not) has run ever run even remotely close to 3:33.60 indoors at high altitude; and the field event marks are beyond the abilities of any of the world’s active athletes.

The hurdle mark isn’t crazy-impossible like the others, but it’s close to it. Dexter Faulk ran a world-leading 7.40 in yesterday’s heats, a PR that put him at #12 on the all-time world list. How-EVA! (spoken in Steven A. Smith voice), it’s a long, long way from 7.40 to 7.35.

I think this shows how the IAAF scoring tables need some overhaul when it comes to distance races. The above marks are some of the best ever made indoors, while Rupp’s time was only the fourth-best of that week.

Women

Event Mark needed to lead
VISA Championship Series
60 meters 6.99
60m Hurdles 7.74
400 meters 50.38
800 meters 1:57.75
1500 meters 4:01.40
High Jump 2.02m
Long Jump 7.06m
Shot Put 20.68m

These are more doable, making the women’s chase the one to watch.

The 400 meters is the most likely candidate to produce a VISA Series champion. Sanya Richards-Ross ran 50.38 at the Millrose Games, and Albuquerque’s 5200+ feet of altitude helps all sprinters and jumpers. The field is a good one, too, as finalists DeeDee Trotter and Natasha Hastings are 5th and 7th on the world list.

The 60 meters is another possibility. 6.99 is extremely fast, having been achieved only once in the last twelve years. Altitude helps, though, and Tianna Madison ran 7.02 in Fayetteville two weeks ago. This could happen. I’m not saying it will, I’m saying it could.

The long jump is one to keep an eye on. Janay DeLoach jumped 6.99 here last year, and she’s not even the favorite. That would be “The Beast”. SI’s Nick Zaccardi called Brittney Reese “the most dominant American female track and field athlete since the Beijing Olympics“, and she’s capable of almost anything.

The chances of seeing a 7.74 in the hurdles are slim. The only active US hurdlers who have ever run that time or close to it, Lolo Jones and Kellie Wells, are not in attendance.

The shot put is probably not in the realm of possibility. Jilliam Camarena-Williams is rapidly improving and has put the shot over 20 meters, but the needed mark of 20.68 is a good 18 inches past her PR. The distance times simply aren’t going to happen at altitude and without a pacemaker.

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