After a summer filled with logging high mileage - it is finally here. The 2009 NCAA D1 Cross Country season brings fresh faces, returning athletes along with new dreams and goals for the season.
Make no mistakes - it is all about getting to Terre Haute, Indiana for the 2009 NCAA D1 Cross Country Championships or the goal is failed.
PreRaceJitters has set out on a course to shed light on the athletes and the stories that shape the 2009 cross country season. The mission is to talk about the sport in way that no one else is doing.
Michigan’s Danielle Tauro was selected as the first interview to look at a young Michigan program. The overall program has graduated Geena Gall, Tiffany Ofili and Betty Wade and this year the women have been overlooked by many in the preseason polls.
In it’s place is a cross country team loaded with young, freshmen talent and is led by a budding college star in Tauro.
Tauro delivered in our discussion - painting a insider look at the daily life of a scholar-athlete at Michigan. This is she is embarking on a journey. Coming out of high school, Tauro was a highly runner and is working her way into a prominent college runner in her own right.
You won’t want to miss the multi-dimensional interview with one of college’s most talented athletes and we will continue to bring more discussions with cross countrys most interesting and talented individuals.
The prevailing wisdom after watching the 22-year-old Jamaican sprint to 9.58 seconds and 19.19 seconds in the 100 and 200 meters respectively at the World Championship is that every race under 400 meters is a rap. Usain Bolt has the ability to challenge every world record under 800 meters, bring about world peace, and deliver on universal health care and still have time to for some dance hall moves.
After setting two world records in Berlin, nothing is too far of a stretch. Really.
It is difficult to argue with nearly a two meter victory in the 100 meters at the World Championships.
But a closer looks reveals the story involving the story between the two spring giants is not complete.
The presence of Tyson Gay in the race propelled Bolt to lower his world record. There was no showboating, no shutting it down two meters from the line. Because Bolt knew that anything less than his best could threaten the chance for victory.
How fast can Gay ultimately go? I don’t think it’s unrealistic that his personal best is sub 9.70 seconds over the next two seasons.
And in the Berlin race, Tyson Gay’s 9.71 is a time that would have been a world record 13 months ago. That is still only good for a silver but news is coming out that the ever classy Gay was not 100% in the World Championship final. In fact, his groin injury requires surgery after the season. I know, some you’re thinking it is just another excuse. But the American Record holder was not at his best and one can only imagine if Gay can close some of the gap.
But track is arguably the most fickle of lovers. Hot today and then small injuries such as of the groin, foot or hamstring after running a number of fast races has slowed down some of the sports best. Think Maurice Greene.
The rivalry is not over. The fact is that every season starts completely new and fans can look forward to Bolt dueling it on the circuit in 2010. The finals left more questions about who will win the next match up and the meet after that.
I never thought Tyson Gay was done. No way.
Tying his own American Record in 9.77 seconds, ahead of long time foe Asafa Powell in Rome is a precursor for Berlin. Only the blind and foolish thought that some how Gay was going to disappear silently into the night after his Beijing experience.
Tyson Gay is responsible for one of the all-time return seasons in the sport’s history. His pride and coaching are too strong. Gay ran a personal best 19.58 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix and followed up with a 9.77 second return performance in Rome.
Don’t think for a second that Usain Bolt isn’t watching his every move on the track and a tad nervous about the looming match up. There’s no telling who will win a show down but you can bet your house that Gay will run his best in the race.
Watch out! Sanya Richards is unstoppable on the Golden League circuit, keeping her unbeaten streak on the circuit alive while making history running 50 second 400 meters for the 36th time. With Allyson Felix (50.94) in the race, Richards churned out 49.4, cruising to victory and last week Richards beat rival Christine Ohuruogu by nearly two seconds and in the process is establishing herself as the favorite for Berlin.
She broke the 4:00 minute barrier. It was so not much if, but when Christin Wurth-Thomas deliver the 3:59.98 race. She finished second in the race against an impressive field.
Kerron Clement is not so quietly piecing together one of his best season’s to date. Today’s 48.09 is another step towards getting to the next level of 400 meter hurdle consistency for the Olympic silver medalist.
The Senior is now part of Superman’s family.
Galen Rupp, who recently completed his senior season winning six NCAA titles — one of the most decorated seasons in NCAA history , is the newest client of Michael Johnson’s athlete management company.
Johnson founded Ultimate Performance Sport Management, which handles the endorsements of Jeremy Wariner, Ebonie Floyd, Natasha Hastings, and Jackie Johnson.
“When I retired in 2001, I felt that I was uniquely qualified to offer other athletes the same quality and personal attention that helped me to achieve success as a professional athlete, so I created Ultimate Performance,” Johnson said. “We’re incredibly selective about whom we represent, and I couldn’t be more excited to work with and for these three amazing young men.”
Johnson also signed Michael Bingham of North Carolina, the reigning NCAA 400m Indoor Champion with a personal record of 45.02 seconds. This former Wake Forest All-American competed for Great Britain’s 4×400 meter relay that placed fourth in Beijing.
400-meter hurdler Javier Culson Perez will be represented by Johnson and will also train at the Michael Johnson Performance Center, a 24,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in McKinney, Texas, about 20 miles north of Dallas. Perez boasts a personal best of 48.83 seconds and competed for Puerto Rico at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The good feelings are flowing all around.
“I’ve always surrounded myself with good people, and it’s a tight circle,” Rupp said. “I felt an immediate connection with Michael. I knew I could trust him, and that’s one of the most important things to me.”
The Nick Symmonds vs. Khadevis Robinson show unfolded beautifully in the 800m final. Tevon Everett led the pack through the first 400m in 51 seconds. As usual, Symmonds began his signature kick from fourth to first at 600m. Symmonds and Robinson were neck and neck over the last 100m, but Symmonds had the home turf advantage and the roar of the crowd to pull him past the line first in 1:45.86.
Two young stars, Geena Gall and Phoebe Wright, trailed three-time Olympian Hazel Clark in the women’s 800m. Clark led from the gun through a 59.43 first lap. She struggled some on lap 2, but pulled ahead to win it in 2:00.79.
Jenny Barringer and Anna Willard expectantly went 1-2 in the 3000m steeplechase. Willard has raced a lot over the past few days as she also competed in the 1500m, so she did not quite have enough left to challenge Barringer. She did, however, have a good race with Bridget Franek and Lindsey Anderson.
Barringer went to the lead and stayed there. She cruised along with Anderson and Willard close behind.
“It was really windy out there so I wanted to take command of the race from the beginning,” Barringer said.
The breeze was no problem for Willard because she had Franek and Anderson with her. With about 1200m left in the race, Barringer surged ahead to open a 30-meter gap. Franek made her move to second on the next lap and dropped Anderson. Then it was a battle for 2nd place as Willard went with Franek. Willard beat her to the line about 6 seconds behind Barringer.
Shawn Crawford ran a fast 19.73 in the 200m. He had a good start among the talented field. He dominated the race with Charles Clark behind him in 20.00 and Wallace Spearmon in 20.03.
“It was pretty controlled,” Crawford said. “I’ve been practicing driving through the first 120 and letting my body carry me the rest of the way.”
After winning the semifinals, Allyson Felix also started well in the women’s race to win her fifth national title in 22.02, followed by Muna Lee and Marshavet Hooker.
“What I wanted to do was just really focus on the start, and just work on driving out,” Felix said.
The 1500m was an exciting race. Leonel Manzano, Lopez Lomong and Will Leer led the first 800m, but then Stephen Pifer sprinted to the front. He could not hold the pace as he was passed by Lomong, Manzano and Leer. Lomong moved in front of Manzano with 200m to go, and Dorian Ulrey kicked for a surprising 3rd place. Ulrey came into the race as one of the underdogs and was elated with his race. Cloud nine is not the limit for Ulrey. He said he was on cloud 10.5 after this accomplishment.
In the 100m hurdles, Dawn Harper won her first national title and ran 12.36. Virginia Powell and Damu Cherry were close behind.
Bershawn Jackson ran the fastest time in the world this year in the men’s 400m hurdles, 48.03 seconds. Johnny Dutch was surprised by his 2nd place finish, ahead of Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor.
“I looked over to my left and noticed I was 2nd or 3rd and thought ‘oh I made the team!’” Dutch said.
Taylor seemed disappointed not to win, but said he was glad to be on the team. Jackson agrees that the main goal is Berlin.
“Once you make the team, everything will take care of itself,” Jackson said. “We have the greatest hurdlers in the world.”
The action continues on day three of the 2009 USA Track & Field Championships. Fans and athletes enjoyed the sunny weather and exciting races.
It was a good day for LaShawn Merritt, who celebrated his 23rd birthday with another national title in the 400m. He ran it in 44.50 seconds and is undefeated in the event this season.
“When you’re in the #1 spot, you just know you have to work that much harder,” Merritt said. “Every time I come out I bring my A game.”
Merritt said he is happy with the team going to World’s, including runner-up Gil Roberts of Texas Tech and 3rd place finisher Kerron Clement. Jeremy Wariner is also on the team, but did not compete today. Merritt said he believes Wariner earned the right not to be here and will get his chance to race him in Berlin.
Sanya Richards reclaimed her US title in the women’s 400m final in 50.05 seconds. Richards said she was not happy with the time, but the wind was a factor. Debbie Dunn was second, and Jessica Beard proved herself against the senior women by finishing 3rd to make the world team.
A new Hayward record and fastest time in the world this year was set by Lashinda Davis when she ran 53.78 in the women’s 400m hurdle finals. Sheena Tosta and Tiffany Ross-Williams will join her in Berlin.
David Payne out-inched Terrence Trammel in the thrilling 110m hurdle finals. The race was so close that Payne said he had to check the jumbotron before he celebrated the victory. His time was 13.12 seconds.
The women’s 1500m was led almost entirely by Christin Wurth-Thomas. She ran to the front and looked strong, running about 62 seconds for the first lap.
“I knew once I went for it, I needed to throw in a 62,” Wurth-Thomas said.
Erin Donahue, Shannon Rowbury and Anna Willard went with with her. Rowbury was ready for the quick change of pace, due to her focus on sharpening her speed in training. No one else could stay with them.
“I thought someone would follow her, but they didn’t. I knew someone had to go,” Rowbury said.
Wurth-Thomas’s stamina could not match Rowbury’s speed. On the homestretch, Rowbury pulled into first, followed by Wurth-Thomas and Willard.
“I like to be the hunter, not the hunted,” Wurth-Thomas said. “I didn’t know if anyone was with me. I panicked.”
The 3000m steeplechase got off to a conservative start with William Nelson in the lead. Daniel Huling stuck behind him until the last three laps when he and Josh McAdams made a dash for the lead. At the bell, it was McAdams, Huling and Kyle Alcorn. McAdams pushed to the finish to win the national title.
Day 2 of the 2009 USA Track and Field Championships was full of surprises.
Can you run 10.78 and lose a race? Muna Lee did, by a fraction of a second. In the 100m finals, Carmelita Jeter beat her by a hair. The clock read 10.78 for both women, but Jeter’s was .001 faster. Lauryn Williams was right behind in 10.96. Jeter was ecstatic to defeat the defending champion and make her first world championship team.
“It’s a new year for me in 2009 and I’m really doing well,” Jeter said.
There was no Tyson Gay in the men’s race, but that did not take much away from the competition. Michael Rogers flew through in 9.91 with Darvis Patton and Manzavous Edwards.
“I came here with a lot of confidence. And when I get to Berlin, I think I can medal. I just have to train hard and stay humble,” Rogers said after his win.
Believe it or not, the most exciting race of the day was a distance race - the men’s 5000m.
“It was a hell of a race,” according to German Fernandez. Fernandez finished 5th and ran a new American Junior record, 13:25.56.
Anthony Famiglietti certainly made the race interesting. He bolted to the lead and did not let go, but Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky were close on his heels with Bolota Asmerom and Evan Jager. With one mile left, Asmerom moved to first and Famiglietti fell to the fifth position.
“Fam is notoriously a front-runner,” Tegenkamp explained, which helped him mentally through the race.
As the pack slipped away from Famiglietti, he made a bold sprint back to the front with 3 laps to go. However, he expelled too much energy with that move, Asmerom reacted in the last 800m, and Solinsky, Tegenkamp, Jager and Fernandez all went with him.
“I lost today, but the fans won,” Famiglietti said with a smile.
At 4800m, Tegenkamp, Solinsky and Jager took over and let the energy of the Oregon crowd carry them through the finish line for a 13:20.57 win for Tegenkamp.
All three men are members of the Oregon Track Club, but according to Tegenkamp, there is no team strategy for a championship race.
Another Oregon Track Club member, Kara Goucher, is one of the most versatile athletes in women’s track and field. This year she will run the world championship marathon, but the 5000m today despite her focus on the marathon.
“This has been the hardest season I’ve ever tried to put together,” Goucher described.
The endurance paid off as she hung on for a blistering final 3 laps with Jen Rhines. Goucher and Rhines cruised with the pack consisting of Erin Donahue, and gradually made their way to the front. Then with 3 laps to go, Rhines pushed to the lead and threw down a 69.4 lap. Goucher went with her as they left the field in the dust. Then Goucher unleashed her kick at the bell to finish in 15:20.94.
There are two more days of competition at the US Track & Field Championships, and more amazing races to come.
The much-anticipated Barringer vs. Willard match is Sunday, but today both women ran conservatively in their preliminary heats.
“Today I was going out and trying to be as easy as possible. I wanted to stay in my rhythm,” Willard said.
Geena Gall makes a smooth transition to the professional level so far, and says she believes she can make the world team. Not only did she run a fast time in her semifinal heat (2:01.99), but she showed that she can remain focused in a tactical race. Phoebe Wright tried to make a move on the home stretch, but Gall was able to hold her off.
Khadevis Robinson is in good form this year as he won the first heat of the 800m semifinals, followed by Ryan Brown and Christian Smith. Tevan Everett led most of the race, but could not stay there for long.
“We had a guy that took it out and made an honest race of it. That’s what we need, that’s what we want,” Robinson said.
Oregon favorite Nick Symmonds won heat 2 with a slightly faster time. Symmonds will duel Robinson on his home turf in the finals on Sunday. It will likely be a close finish between the two, but if the 5000m is any indication, OTC green is a lucky color.
Sporting his University of Oregon singlet for the last time, Galen Rupp gave Duck fans quite a show in the 10,000m. He sat in the front third of the pack for most of the race, but there was no doubt he would eventually deliver his powerful finish for a 27:52.53 win.
“I could not ask for anything more than to close out [my college career] with a win,” Rupp said.
Abdi Abdirahman, the 2008 10k champion, looked strong as he led the first 3000 meters in 8:36.24, followed closely by Meb Keflezighi. Dathan Ritzenhein, James Carney and Rupp stayed comfortably with the pack. At 5000 meters, Ritz made a bold move to the front and Abdi fell back to 7th.
They went through in 14:12.09. Now it was between Ritz, Rupp, Carney and Tim Nelson. With a mile to go, Carney fell off the pack. Ritz and Rupp broke away.
Rupp unleashed his relentless kick at the last 500m. Ritz stayed strong, but did not have the speed left to catch him.
“I could tell in the last laps that I didn’t have that 10k specific training,” Ritzenhein said. “I knew he’d make a move at some point.”
“I have a lot of confidence in my kick,” Rupp said. “I was ready to go. I made sure when I went, I went. There could be no doubt at all.”
The favorite in the women’s 10,000m was 2008 Olympic bronze-medalist Shalane Flanagan. However, Flanagan soon found herself in an unexpected battle with Amy Begley. Begley led at first, and when Flanagan made her move to the front, the two broke away from the pack and took turns with the lead.
“Shalane and I wanted to put on a show, so we traded laps for the first 5K. It really made the race go faster,” Begley said.
Flanagan sat on Begley’s shoulder, but Begley held her off through the bell lap. Flanagan made a final dash to the lead at the last 200 meters, but it was too little, too late as Begley quickly reacted and hammered through the finish line in 31:22.69. Flanagan was right behind in 31:23.43. Begley represented the Oregon Track Club well by running a new Hayward Field record.
There were no other finals on Wednesday, so the athletes in the prelims focused on conserving their energy.
Tyson Gay is back on track. In one of the most exciting performances of the day, he ran 9.75 (wind-aided). However, he said he was unhappy with how he felt after a false start rattled him.
“The false start threw me off. I had too much going through my mind,” Gay said. “I ran a horrible race. It felt like a blow-up.”
After this 1st round race, Gay will not compete in the finals as he is already qualified for the World Track & Field Championships. Gay’s performance did not look bad from a spectator’s perspective, but hopefully this got the kinks out before Berlin.
In the women’s 800m, NCAA champion Geena Gall qualified in her preliminary race, wearing green. Gall, formerly of the University of Michigan, is now a member of the Oregon Track Club. Christian Smith, Khadevis Robinson and Nick Symmonds led the qualifying times in the men’s 800m.
The 1500m prelims had some talented fields. Leo Manzano ran the fastest time of 3:39.91. Alan Webb had a good-looking race and the 7th fastest qualifying time.
Never, ever doubt the abilities of Nike. The 2009 Prefontaine Classic may go down as one of the best fielded meets in it’s glorious history. The Portland-based shoe maker pulled in international stars such as Pamela Jelimo and Asbel Kiprop to pull off a meet that equally talented in the sprints and distance races.
She never went anywhere, so talking about a come back is ridiculous. Sanya Richards ran a classic race strategy delivering a startling 49.85 seconds. She is a talent runner and it would be a mistake to discount Richards regardless of what other athletes are doing on the track. Richards is the first runner in the world to dip under 50 seconds this season.
At this point in the game, she is definately the favorite until someone else stands up. I am of course talking about the rip that Carmelita Jeter is on in the 100 meters. She is not scared. No. No. Jeter pulled out a huge come from behind victory in a field including with Jamaican Kerron Stewart, Muna Lee and Shelly Ann-Fraser.
LaShawn Merritt is clearly running with a great deal of swagger. The Virginia native cruised to 31.30, the second fastest time ever run and look very controlled throughout the race. The tension in the men’s 400 meters between Merritt and Jeremy Wariner seems to increase with each race but fans will more than likely have to wait until Berlin as Wariner is competing in the 200 meters at Nationals.
In the process of joining the exclusive sub 10-second club, he is making believers out of doubers with each win. Michael Rodgers ran 9.94, his first legal race under 10 seconds against a field that included Asafa Powell, Walter Dix, Travis Padgett and Walter Dix. That’s quite an impressive feat.
Dwight Phillips unleashed a monsterous jump of 28-08.25 making him the five ranked long jumper of all-time and signaling that he is in the best shape of his life.
Can track and field get out its’ own way?
Last year, I spoke out against the criticizism from everyone with an opinion on Usain Bolt’s celebration. Today the tv commentators incorrectly criticized an athlete they thought was celebrating before the finish line. In retrospect, he was thanking the crowd for their tremendous support and purchasing a ticket for the event.
Mean while, Bolt is not currently on speaking terms with NBC for putting him on blast during the Beijing Olympics and the network is sore because he is the hottest thing in the sport since starting blocks were invented.
Let’s not forget that some of the sport’s biggest starts such as Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis and Maurice Green brought a tremendous level of showmanship to the sport that brought in new spectators. Unwarranted and in this instance inaccurate criticism by the media just serves to shut down the expression of athletes and produces generic post-race interviews and meets that go unnoticed by the average sports fan.
It was anything but boring. The 2009 Reebok Grand Prix fielded a hot group of athletes and today’s meet exceeded expectations in terms of performance and entertainment value.
The most impressive, dominant performance is that of Tyson Gay’s legal 19.58 second at 200 meters.
Watch out! The former Arkansas sprinter sent a message to Usain Bolt and all other contenders that a World Championship title will go through him. This race speaks volumes to Gay’s mental strength, training and coaching in order to bypass the pressures and naysayers in order to get back on top of the leader board. Gay ran one of the best turns in history, on his way to putting down one of the greatest all-time 200 meter performances.
Allyson Felix continues to make believers out of those thinking that she should content at the 200 and 400 meters at the World Championship, assuming the schedules allows. While it is rare to see Felix behind coming off the final turn, Felix showed the steady hand of veteran to win an incredible come from behind victory against the Olympic bronze medalist.
Is Michael Rogers running out of the shadow of big name U.S. sprinters? I think Rogers 9.93 (wind-aided) is certainly a move in the right direction after winning over Asafa Powell, Darvis Patton and Richard Thompson. But it’s all about consistency, so he certainly adds even more flavor to the U.S. men’s 100 meter field going into the U.S. Outdoor Championships.
She is establishing herself the runner to beat in the 100 meters. Carmelita Jeter is on a tear, winning the 100m in 10.85, setting another personal best time that is tops in the world. Right now, she is the hottest sprinter on the planet.
It’s a pleasure to see a world class distance race take place on U.S. Bernard Lagat and Micah Kogo dueled before Kogo setting the fastest time ever run in this country with 13:02.90. More such performances are needed take place on the Visa Championship Series.