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Please take a couple of minutes to view Dave's demo-reel for samples of his announcing and interviewing work.

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TAFWA Award

Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Field Announcer At Outdoor Nationals

Dave HunterAt the 2019 USATF Track & Field Outdoor National Championships Dave served as the Field Announcer for the Men’s Discus and the Women’s Javelin.

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce scored a most convincing victory in the w200 to complete her WC 100/200 sprint double. In capturing her 4th world championship gold medal – to accompany her two individual Olympic golds – Jamaica’s pocket rocket further burnished her legacy as one of the greatest championship sprint racers of all time.

The rounds produced no real surprises and further suggested that a much-anticipated finals showdown between SAFP and defending world and Olympic 200 meter champion Allyson Felix was likely. The first round varied little from the form chart as no surprising early exits emerged. In the semis, Fraser-Pryce [22.54], Murielle Ahoure [22.46], and Blessing Okagbare [22.39] all advanced comfortably. Felix – with the best semi-final time of 22.30 – was joined by time-qualifying teammates Jeneba Tarmoh and ChaRonda Williams in advancing to the final. Kimberlyn Duncan – the 4th American w200 entrant – was a semi-final casualty.

The final didn’t serve up the long-awaited battle between Felix and SAFP, but instead was a stunning showcase of Fraser-Pryce’s current dominance of this event. With her customary responsive start, the Jamaican drive-phase queen powered around the curve. Injured moments after the start, Felix lay motionless on the track as Fraser-Pryce – having forged a commanding lead – entered the home straight on her way to a 22.17 win, a notable .15 second margin of victory, and her second individual gold medal of these championships.

The real battle was for the other medals. In a stirring homestretch war, Ahoure had just enough to hold off a fast-closing Okagbare for the silver. Ahoure’s better lean at the line was the difference as both athletes clocked 22.32. With Felix down and out, the other Americans never threatened to gain the podium – Tarmoh [22.78] finishing 5th and Williams [22.81] following closely in 6th.
 

Confusion lingered after Allyson Felix collapsed to the track 60 meters into the world championship w200 final.  Shortly after the final commenced, the defending champion started to wobble as the field began attacking the curve.  Grabbing her right hamstring, Felix tumbled as the other finalists sped away.  Because of Felix’s lane 3 assignment, only her teammates Jeneba Tarmoh (lane 1) and ChaRonda Williams (lane 2) observed her disaster.  Most of the other finalists – in front of Felix due to outer lane assignments – were unaware of her mishap – several for nearly an hour.  Careful MRI analysis also delayed release of the source of Felix’s injury – ultimately revealed to be a right medial hamstring tear.  “I’m extremely devastated," Felix said in a post-race interview.  "I was really hoping to go out there and put together a great race.  Now I am consulting with doctors to figure out what is going on with my right hamstring," she said. "It is a serious injury, but I don’t know exactly to what extent.”


Here is a sampling of reaction from other selected athletes:

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, w200 gold medalist:  “That [Felix’s injury] was very unfortunate.  It is so unfortunate that this happened.  We pray that she will be healthy soon.”

Murielle Ahoure, w200 silver medalist:  “I literally found out [about Felix’s injury] from an interviewer.  He told me that she got hurt.  I had no idea.”

Blessing Okagbare, w200 bronze medalist:  “I saw it [the Felix catastrophe] after I crossed the finish line and someone [her brother Wes] carried her.  That’s really painful.  It’s bad.  It could have been me.  Allyson is a great athlete.  And I know she came out here to do something really good.  We just have to move on.”

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Murielle Ahoure, Blessing Okagbare, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, 
100 meters, photo by PhotoRun.net


Athletes Share Candid Thoughts As Championships Winds Down

The closing weekend of the 14th IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships is a frenzied time as athletes work to keep their focus intact for the final competitions and prepare to say goodbye to their fellow competitors and this incredible and historic city. Always a source of direct information, the mixed zone has continued to provide a steady stream of insight, reflection, and predictions as the world championships come to an end.

Here is a sampling over these final days:

Dave Johnson, Director of the Penn Relay Carnival, on why USA w4 x 400 anchor Francena McCorory - placed in lane two - could not switch positions with the Russian anchor to take the baton from her incoming teammate Ashley Spencer in lane one: "International rules provide that once outgoing relay runners are placed in their exchange zone lane order, switching is not permitted."

Ryan Whiting, mSP silver medalist: "I qualified the way I wanted to. My first throw [in the finals] was exactly what I wanted. I just didn't improve." On the provocative reversal by the officials of what proved to be the winning throw as prompted by an examination of a media photograph: "I've got no excuses. I should have beaten him [German gold medalist David Storl] - foul or not. I'll just learn from it and move on."

Murielle Ahoure, w100 and w200 silver medalist, on her performance here: "My first world championships ever. Two silver medals. My country is like on fire right now. Everyone's screaming in the streets. I'm extremely pleased." In the w200 final, did she feel Okagbare in the final meters? "Yes. That's why I dipped," she laughs.

Blessing Okagbare, w200 bronze medalist: "I am glad to get on the podium. I am really happy about that."

Molly Huddle, 6th place finisher - no American has finished higher - in the w5000: "Going in my goal was to finish 6th or 7th and I was 6th. I am realizing how hard it is to break into the top 6. This one of the hardest efforts I've had in a long time." The increased tempo over the final 2K: ""I anticipate it every time in the championship. But when you get in there, it feels so hard. I am usually stuck in no-man's land, so Shannon [Rowbury] and I were trying to bridge the gap. I think that was the big difference for me this year - to have someone to key off of." What's it going to take to take that next step up on the world stage? "If I knew, I'd do it. I'm trying as hard as I can to break into the top three. The last 2K is just another world out there. Today was just a big step for me. That's been in me the last three years; I just didn't have the fresh legs before."

Shannon Rowbury, 7th place finisher in the w5000: How do American women distance runners elevate their game? "I think in the 1500 we're there. So that's pretty good. I think just getting out there and not being afraid to mix it up with the top girls. I felt in the race today I wanted to go there when the separation occurred. I thought of covering it, but I kinda hesitated because I don't know where my 5K fitness level is. In retrospect, I wish I had gone with it and just seen what I could have done. But hopefully next time around, I will have done the training for that." Her better event - the 1500 or the 5000? "I feel like I have a lot of work to do in the 5K, but there is a lot of potential there, too. Most of my training has been 1500-specific with strength work to get me ready for the rounds. But I haven't done a ton of 5K-specific training. The women that beat me out there have 14:10 - 14:20 PR's. If I want to be a contender with them, I need to get my PR a lot quicker and I'm just going to have to do my training for that."

Queen Harrison, ran 12.73 to place 5th in the 100H: Her take on the final; "I actually got a pretty good start. Being out in lane 2, it is hard to feel what is going on. I was forced to run my own race. I went out and competed the best way that I could. And I'm proud of myself. I have never made it to an international championship final in the 100H. This is just the beginning. This is just the first year of taking the 100H a hundred percentage seriously. 5th? I can take that. Of course, it would have been better to be on the podium, but I'll take that." Is the 100H the direction as opposed to the 400H? "Not necessarily. I have a lot more years in my career. But I've showed that I can do both of them successfully. It just depend which one I like better and can do better. I'll likely experiment with both next year. Since there is no championship meets around next year, it will just be a "Dash For The Cash" so I'll be in all of the meets next year." When asked facetiously if she might experiment with the steeplechase, Queen quickly retorts, "Um, no!"

Christine Ohuruogu, w400 gold medalist on anchoring the Great Britain women to a 3rd place finish in the w4 x 400 relay: "I am happy that I have a bronze [from the relay], but I am happier for them [her teammates] that they have a bronze."

Brigetta Barrett, silver medalist in the wHJ: "You have to take the good with the bad. I am really honored to do so well." On her peculiar third attempt at 2.03m where she never truly jumped but careened through the bar plane for a third foul: "I was very aggressive into it, but I lost control in the last four steps and couldn't recover."

May all athletes from all nations perform well during this final day, travel safely back to their home countries, and train effectively for the next world championships - the 15th meeting in 2015 in Beijing.

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Brianna Rollins, photo by PhotoRun.net

Stop to think about the breathtaking ride that budding American hurdle sensation Brianna Rollins has taken over the past seven months.

Rollins began the year as a Clemson University junior simply trying to find a way to improve on her 100H P.R. of "about 12.70." Bolstered by the consistent off-season work she had put in to build strength and to refine her hurdling technique, the young athlete soon began ringing up a string of improved performances. Rollins cruised through the early spring whirlwind of relay carnivals and regular season contests and soon found herself at the NCAA championship meet as the 100H favorite. With her concentration never wavering, the Clemson hurdle star didn't disappoint. Rollins breeze through her semi-final round posting a sparkling 12.47 - a then world leader. And in the final, her 12.39 improved her WL mark and simply blew away the field, leaving the runner-up - Stanford's talented Kori Carter [12.79] - far behind.

Within days, Rollins turned pro, donned the Nike vest, and was off to Des Moines for the national championship meet and an opportunity to qualify for the world championships. The dizzying pace of Rollins' rising status did not rattle her. Staying on task, Rollins was able to compete without fear against her fellow professional hurdlers - even do battle with Des Moines' hometown legend and part-time bobsledder Lolo Jones. Before the meet concluded, Rollins had qualified for her first national team and had her ticket to Moscow. In the process, her winning hurdle mark of 12.26 improved her world leading time, set a new American record [Devers / 12.33], established her as tied for #3 on the all-time performer list, and even flirted with Yordanka Dankova's long-standing WR of 12.21 - a mark that is scheduled to celebrate its silver anniversary on Tuesday if Rollins doesn't take it down this weekend.

So now Ms. Rollins finds herself in Moscow - a bustling metropolis with an eight century heritage that is quite removed - both geographically and culturally - from the simpler life and easier pace of Clemson, South Carolina. But America's new hurdle queen just goes with the flow. Rollins breezed through the opening round of the 100H - breaking away early, snapping down that hurdle leg, and gliding over the finish line in 12.55 - the fastest first round mark of the day. "I just came out here and just ran a very relaxed race and just focused on my own lane and just continued to work on that," a breathless Rollins shared in the mixed zone. "I just want to have fun with it and take each round one at a time."

When questioned about how she's handled the transformational improvement she has made, the records she has set, and her new status as one of the world's hurdling elite, Rollins offers a cheerful explanation. "I think about just the hard work I've put in during the off season," she explains. "I continue to put God first and just remain humble."

Everyone knows Rollins' ultimate gold medal objective for this weekend. But is she focused on time? "Not focused at all," she confides. "The most important thing for me is to come out here and execute a great race."

As her brief exchange with the media winds down, Rollins is questioned about her sequined, red and white headband which is smartly constraining her flowing hair. With a quick smile, she answers "I am trying to represent the U.S. the best way I can, you know?"

Her stunning headband indeed is an attractive way to represent the U.S. But a gold medal performance by Brianna Rollins in tonight's 100H final would be even better.

 

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Merritt, James, McQuay, photo by PhotoRun.net

Over the years, a country's presence in any particular track & field event is subject to ebbs and flows. A nation may experience an era of greatness in one discipline that may then be followed by a barren period where little talent is effectively cultivated. The United States has had a heritage of superiority in, for example, the men's long jump. But recently American men long jumpers have had their struggles placing well in this event on the world stage. No worries. The long jumper tide will ultimately come back in for America and the U.S. will - over time - recapture its former position of event strength here. It is all part of the natural rhythm of our sport.

But there is one exception: the men's 4 x 400 relay. The United States owns this event. It always has. America seems to take a special pride in the long relay - viewing it as its own, and slavishly protecting U.S. dominance in this event from assaults launched by would-be challenger nations upon this distinctly-American throne.

The United States cherishes and protects the men's 4 x 400 relay in much the same way the Kenyans guard the steeplechase or the Scandinavians consider the javelin to be their own special province. Consider this: in the 13 previous world championships, when - and this is key - the U.S. has not dropped the stick or otherwise been disqualified, the United States has been denied the men's 4 x 400 gold medal only twice. It has been more than two decades since the American men have lost the 4 x 400 world championship race other than through a self-inflicted wound.

In the first round of the m4 x 400 at these championships, it was simply another day at the office for the U.S. The American coaching brain trust wisely gave the U.S. 400 medalists LaShawn Merritt and Tony McQuay - all dressed up for their medal ceremony - the night off - as the B team was sent out to do their job. And the quartet of James Harris, David Verburg, Joshua Mance, and Arman Hall got it done. Killing hope early, the U.S. foursome got out strong and never was headed, edging Trindad and Tobago to win their heat in 2:59.85 - the night's fastest qualifying time and the world leading mark.

Post-race, the American squad exuded a quiet confidence. "It felt real good," said leadoff man James Harris. Second leg runner David Verburg knew his role was crucial. "My goal was just to get out, make the cut-in, and make sure I got my team in good position. I knew we had two world-class sprinters following up. So my goal was just to get around, stay healthy, and hope I spun a fast time." Josh Mance kept it rolling. "My leg was good," offered Mance. "I knew the Trinidad guy was going to come on. I got the stick to Arman first - and that was the goal. I am happy with today's race." Teenage anchor Arman Hall - the youngest man on the U.S. team - is on a mission. "I kinda messed up in the second round of the 400," confessed Hall. "I wish I could have made it to the finals. So I knew in the relay I have to lay it all out. I've got to redeem myself and do the same thing in final - just give it to LaShawn - or whoever I pass it to - in a great position."

But the other finalists are not simply going to hand over the gold to the Americans. At least 5 other nations have designs on the title. "I just wanted to come out here and make sure we posted a good time for our team. We are coming out here to pick up another medal," states Conrad Williams, leadoff runner for Great Britain, an automatic qualifier to Friday's final. "We always know that Jamaica's gonna be a very good team. Trinidad has a good team as does Belgium and the USA. So, there are 5 teams there. But we feel strong enough because at the moment they are looking at us as one of the main contenders for the top three," notes the Brit. "We came out here to medal. We didn't come out here just to have a run. So we are trying to make sure we are going to dominate the race tomorrow and be well into the mix to try to pick up another medal."
Belgium -with three Borlee brothers on board - will be a force in the final. And always-dangerous Jamaica is strong once again. A surprise leg by Mr. Bolt is part of everyone's dream sequence, but it almost certainly won't happen.

On paper, the USA would appear to be the overwhelming favorite to extend its dominance and once again grab the gold. The U.S. squad - which will be fortified with the substitution in of rested 400 medalists McQuay and Merritt - should really cook in the final. While the 20-year old world and championship record - an other-worldly 2:54.29 posted by a Michael Johnson-led quartet in Stuttgart - will not be threatened, the US finals foursome should have the horses to win the event and post a truly stunning time. But they don't award championship medals based upon the form sheet. You have to earn it on the track. And in that regard, the biggest threat to continued American dominance in the men's 4 x 400 relay may be the team itself. It's all about execution. Disaster must be averted. No sloppy exchanges. Don't bruise that baton. Stay focused. Get that stick around.

There is always speculation about who will run what legs in the final. This championship meet is no exception. Although prodded to so, Hall would offer no hints. "You'll just have to wait until tomorrow," the young quarter-miler coyly teased. However the U.S. stacks its lineup for the final, it will be important that the foursome have all the right ingredients: the quick-starting lead-off man who can position the team in front; the speedy second leg runner who can scamper to the break line, grab the pole, and slam the door; the unflappable third runner who can set up the anchorman; and - of course - the crafty and ferocious closer who can seal the deal. Getting the right mixture here is critical. And the U.S. coaches will need to choose carefully to assemble a squad that has the right blend of all of these characteristics. But perhaps more important than all of this, it is imperative that the U.S. assemble a quartet that possesses superior and unshakable hand/eye coordination.
 

 

Young Sprinter Reaps Much From Topsy-Turvy Year

Track & field - like life - is all about how you do on Plan B. Because this exacting sport - at one time or another - deals out injuries, sub-par performances, and an array of other disappointments to every athlete without exception, only the most hearty and resourceful are able not only to endure, but also ultimately to overcome and to thrive. For most, this resiliency is learned behavior - a trait founded upon survival and forged out of the necessity of overcoming the inevitable adversity that confronts all track & field athletes.

This uncertainty can be maddening. You either learn to live with it and move on. Or you cannot endure it and you depart for other pursuits.

English Gardner has learned to live with it. And she is moving on - to the upper echelon of our sport.

2013 has been quite an emotional and physical roller coaster ride for the young sprinter. The last 120 days in particular have tested the mettle of this New Jersey native who is just barely 21. Starting the year off as the University of Oregon's star sprinter, Gardner quickly learned that a long season of track & field would likely become even longer - and with elevated expectations. This year the Lady Ducks faced the unprecedented opportunity to score a "Triple Crown" - a chance to ring up national titles in indoor and outdoor track & field to join the national cross country title the women's cross squad had captured in the fall. To be sure, the tantalizing challenge inspired all. But it also meant earlier and multiple peaking and shunning rehab for physical aches and pains which might otherwise have been given rest if less had been on the line. This challenge only became more paramount when the Ducks did, in fact, capture the collegiate indoor crown. In a peculiar way, this team success played particular havoc with the petite sprinter [I'm 5' 6" and 125 pounds soaking wet," Gardner proudly proclaims.] who developed a nagging and lingering ankle problem. The injury weighed heavily on Gardner - promoting a variety of emotions. Everything was happening so fast. Gardner worked heroically to finesse her way through the extended college season - gingerly nursing her bad wheel while keeping herself available to chase team points for the Ducks. It came to a head at the NCAA outdoor meet - staged on the Oregon campus. Stoically competing as the Ducks chased the outdoor title, Gardner performed erratically in the early rounds - advancing in the 100, looking terrible in the 200. Questioned as to whether or not she could even run the 100 final, Gardner - unsure herself - put on a brave face and mused she would "have to have a serious conversation with her ankle." The next day - when many feared a disastrous, perhaps injury-oriented effort by Gardner - the young sprinter miraculously won the 100 title, posting a winning time of 10.96.

Gardner's sparkling NCAA 100 victory came amid a variety of other subpar marks by the Oregon women as the Triple Crown dream slipped away. But the sprinter's life was not about to slow down. The day after her stunning 100 victory, she turned pro.

 

Hustled off less than two weeks later to Des Moines for the national championship meet, Gardner would not have been faulted had she fallen flat on her face. She did not. All she did was run a P.R world-leading time of 10.85 to win the national 100 title. In less than three weeks, Gardner had gone from the brink of what might have been a career-threatening injury to suddenly posting a WL 10.85 to lead the U.S. women's sprint fortunes in Moscow's world championships.

The roller coaster roared onward. Without a meaningful break, Gardner headed overseas for yet more competitions. After a few unremarkable European appearances, Gardner arrived in Moscow for the world championships. Did she have anything left in the tank?

She did. Gardner looked spectacular in the first round of the 100 - riding a .122 reaction time to post a scintillating winning mark of 10.94. Moving through the rounds to make the final, Gardner - a professional for less than 2 months - just missed the podium with a 4th place finish - 10.97 - in a highly competitive final.

"I can't even explain how I feel right now. It's not any disappointment at all," an upbeat but obviously exhausted Gardner shared after the WC 100 final. "I had such a long season. I came out of college. I ran a couple good races. And I got out and ran my best. I showed up. I came up short by just a fraction of a second. So I cannot explain how excited I am, how overwhelmed I am about this."

Gardner is not reticent to discuss the challenges she faced this year and the manner by which she had to cope with them. "It's really been up and down. I definitely noticed that it took so much out of me," she admits. "So I had to stop worrying about what was going on and take each day one at a time. You never notice how much things weigh on you until you feel it, you see it. I definitely had some lessons learned this season - a long season, almost over. But it was a wonderful season. I can't ask for anything more."

The new professional sprinter is candid about mercurial swings in her year and the twists and turns that ultimately found her in the world 100 final chasing a medal. "It [world championship competition] was always a goal of mine. I am not going to tell you that I saw it coming. There were always obstacles that came across me this year. I've had a rough year physically and mentally. So for me to be able to do what I did today, I am more happy than anything in the world."

The tiny sprinter comes alive when she thinks about the chances of the USA women's 4x100 squad in these world championships. "I am so excited for the relay. I will probably run 4th or 3rd - one or the other. It depends. It is really up in the air. I think we are going to do fantastic. We have a very talented team." And with a smile, she adds, "I don't think for one second that we won't grab a medal."
When Gardner looks ahead - beyond this season - she likes what she sees. "There is so much more I have to learn. I am so young - just turned 21. I've got so many years ahead of me. So for me to come out here - my first year as a pro - to take 4th at world championships by just a fraction of a second, it's shuddering to me."

English Gardner is an exceptional and focused athlete who exudes a strong inner confidence. And given that Gardner - at the tender age of 21 - has this year faced and ultimately overcome a series of unexpected challenges to assemble a most impressive internationally-elite track & field season, she has reason to be.

 

 

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Luzhniki Stadium, photo by PhotoRun.net
 
Day Four of the 2013 world championships here in Moscow was a superlative day of track & field. Nearly every event was gripping, but several special moments stand out. From the concluding 800 in the Heptathlon - where a half dozen athletes still had pathways to medal - and the m800 final - where Nick Symmond's career long pursuit for a championship medal was at last fulfilled - and the m400 final - where LaShawn Merritt reestablished his event dominance - to the wPV - the long-awaited east/west vault showdown between Jenn Suhr and Elena Ishinbaeva which may prove to be the signature event of these championships, athletic drama prevailed during a truly magical evening session.

The so-called mixed zone - the inter-active post-event meeting place for athletes and the media - is always a frenetic bundle of energy. It was never more so Tuesday evening as competitors - some elated, some introspective, some hopeful, some dejected - stumbled in from the battlefield of championship finals. Here is some of what was said:

 
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Duane Solomon, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Duane Solomon, crestfallen 6th place finisher in the m800: "I went out too quick. I didn't race smart today. I think my competitors' game plan was to take me out in 22 [actually 23.6] and then they backed off. It took me out of my game plan a little bit. But once I was already there, there was no backing off. I just had to try to keep it. I'm only human. I didn't think anybody Dave_Hunter_Right_On_Track.pngcould hold that pace and be able to close." On his decade-long rivalry with Symmonds: "It just comes with the territory. I am just so lucky that he's one of my countrymen and I have to race him all of the time. We get ready for the competition, because when we come out here and race these guys it is not dissimilar. I am happy for Nick. He got us a medal. And that's what we wanted. I am glad that one of us did." On the homestretch war: "Once I saw Nick go by and Aman working to try and hold me, I went to see if I had another reserve in there, but I didn't have a reserve of anything."

 
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Nick Symmonds, Duane Solomon, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

 

Nick Symmonds, 2013 m800 silver medalist: "I am disappointed for Duane. My hat goes off to him. I don't know if I could have been the silver medalist without him in that race. It would have been an absolute cluster. And I would have been fighting traffic like I've done the last three finals. He really made that race and inspired me down the homestretch [the first time] and I said to myself 'I got get up on Duane's shoulder.' I knew it was a hot pace [50.28], but it was still very crowded and so I wanted to be as close to Duane as possible. I keyed off him the entire race. With 100 to go, I flipped that switch like I did in Edmonton, like I did in London. And at 750 meters, I was pretty sure I was going to be the next world champion. But Aman is tough. He finds a way to get to that line and that's why he's your world champion. I feel like I raced for gold tonight. I wasn't content to sit in the back and try to hang on for dear life for a bronze or a silver. I raced for gold. And there is no shame in finishing second." On the backstretch box that he and Solomon had imposed on Aman: "As we were coming around the turn, I looked over and saw Aman and I thought 'there is no way he's going to get through this.' I boxed him in. I was on Duane's shoulder. But he's sneaky and he found a way by." On the race's first furlong in 23.6: "You're hanging on my PR for 200 meters!" His own tactics in the final: "I think I ran a tactically solid race and was able to save just enough to be able to close that last 100. I do wonder if I had run just a little bit more conservatively if I could have run slightly faster. But I did that the last three finals and found myself in traffic. And I was sick and tired of having the legs in the last 100, but not having a clear shot to the finish line. And tonight, I risked running a slightly slower time to have great position." What the medal means: "To have a medal, I will not go down in history as the guy who couldn't get it done in the finals. I have one now. There is always a sense of wanting more. And this is enough to give me the joy and peace of mind to keep staying here and continuing throughout the season, but also enough fire for the furnace to keep me hot and training hard for 2016."

 
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Merritt, James, photo by PhotoRun.net

Kirani James, pre-race m400 co-favorite and baffling 7th place finisher in the final: "It didn't go as planned. I shouldn't have died in the last 100 of the race. That usually doesn't happen. I don't know what happened in this final, the last 100. I need to just move on from that: go over the tapes, see what went wrong, go over this whole event and see what happened." How he felt: "I think I was healthy. If you look at the previous rounds, I looked pretty sharp." As a defending champion: "I never looked as myself as a defending champion, because I knew all the guys here are hungry and prepared. So I just looked at it as a clean slate for everybody. Everybody wanted a medal and everybody wanted to perform well to get on the podium." Thoughts on the new champion: "I think he had a good race - the way he ran the rounds to the last race here. He was very hungry. He wanted it really bad. He did a great job here - being prepared and having a great race plan."

 
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Tony McQuay, photo by PhotoRun.net
 

Tony McQuay, m400 silver medalist in 44.40: "Today it was just about coming out and competing and that's what I did. My coach told me to just set up the race the first 30 meters and just move down the backstretch comfortably. The whole goal was to get to 300 meters as comfortable as possible. And once I got to the homestretch, it was just about giving it what I had." On the war zone that was the final 100: "My coach had prepared me with sit and kick drills. That was the whole goal: keep my form. I was focused on my body posture and putting myself in a good position to make my next move. And that's what I did. At 300 I felt great. I felt like I hadn't even started my race. So I knew I was going to be in a great position once I was able to step on the gas. I left it all out on the track." On the USA's Men's 4x400 team: "We are going to have a great team - a young team - coming in. I gonna run the second leg. And we're definitely going to go out there and close the door." Can he get the USA the lead on the pole on that critical second leg? "That's definitely why they put me there. For the USA, I definitely have to step up to the plate and close it."

 
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                                                               Jenn Suhr, 
                                                    photo by PhotoRun.net

Jenn Suhr, silver medalist in the epic pole vault showdown with Elena Ishinbaeva: "Everyone definitely got their money's worth. It was one of the best pole vault competitions ever put on. 4.82m took third. 4.75m took fourth. There were great performances all the way around. Not to mention the crowd: the cheering, how into it they were. I have to look at it as a success. I am happy with the silver. I look at the whole year: Olympic gold, a world record indoors, and a silver at the worlds. That's quite a year and I am happy with that." On the challenges in preparing for the world championship and the heels of her Olympic gold medal performance and post-Olympic obligations: "It is hard. I didn't take indoors off. I jumped indoors. I jumped 5.02m indoors. And to come out and start competing again outdoors, I felt it at the end. My legs were tired, my body was fatigued. But I was glad to be a part of this." On her unsuccessful attempts at 4.89m: "I was just tired. I put everything I had into it early. The anxiety, the adrenalin, all the emotions, they got to me at 4.89m and I was just tired. I couldn't put anything else into it." On the gold medalist: "I am happy for her. She had a great night. And the support she had was fantastic. I am happy with how it turned out." On Ishi's possible retirement: "I have to look at it knowing there is always someone coming up. If it's not Elena, it's someone else coming up. And if it is not that person, it is someone else. If she's out, I can guarantee you someone else is going to come and push it. That's the way the event is." How she was accepted in Moscow: "I was nervous coming in. I didn't know how I would be accepted. But after doing the victory lap, I understood the crowd: they got their winner and they also cheered for me. That was special. I really felt the love as I was going around. For me, that meant a lot."

 
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LaShawn Merritt, photo by PhotoRun.net

LaShawn Merritt, 2013 m400 world champion: Do you think you're back? "I never left. I've always be around. I've always worked hard. Even last year, I had an undefeated season up until the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, I got hurt. I was ready to go last year. So I went and broke my body down and came in to have a great season this year. I said in the semi-finals that this was not a two-man race. Eight men were going to the line who were hungry to represent their country and their sponsor. I wanted to go out and put a great race together. I was ready mentally and physically to put a :43 race together. That was what I did and that is what it took." The long road back? "Life is full of ups and downs. I am a type of guy for whom things happen. You always have to move forward. I've never stopped training. I never stopped being confident. I've always kept God first. And I've always let my hard work be my confidence. I feel confident in my ability and my speed and it showed tonight." What does this championship mean? "To be on a world stage and to run around this stadium with the flag, and to stand on top of the podium later this week, is big for me. And it is big for the USA when we didn't have anybody in the final last year. And we come here and get 1st and 2nd . That's big." On his rival Kirani James: "There is a lot respect among 400 meter runners. He's won a world championship. He's won an Olympic Games. He is in the book of great champions. We'll go at it a lot more. There are young kids coming up every day. I am not as young any more, but I am not old either. I am going to continue to work hard and come out and put great performances together."

Reflection upon Tuesday's terrific evening session could suggest that the best of these championships may now be history. Yet a great deal of comfort is gained by perusing the remaining sessions - an examination that affirms that many equally compelling battles for world athletic crowns remain to be fought. And that is a good thing.
 

 
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Evan Jager, August 12, 2013, steeplechase semi-finals, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

 

 

It is a question that will always be asked: Why in the world would any accomplished track & field athlete actually choose to run the 3000 meter steeplechase? There is a certain school of thought that suggests that because the steeple - with daunting water jumps and those damn sturdy barriers that simply don't move - is such an arduous and technically-complex event, steeplechase competitors are desperate distance running outliers - forced to run this crazy event because they simply can't reach the performance level that would allow them to compete in more sane events like the 1500 or 5000.

USA's Evan Jager may be the best evidence that this theory of universal disdain for the steeple - if not completely without foundation - is grossly overstated. "I definitely love it," Jager unabashedly proclaims shortly after qualifying for the 3000 meter steeplechase final here at the 2013 world track & field championships. "When I first started training for the steeple, it took me like two weeks to get hurdling down. And once I did that and it felt really comfortable for me, I just knew I was going to have a lot of fun with the event because it just felt so natural," adds Jager with a smile.

Make no mistake, the young Wisconsin graduate didn't retreat to the steeplechase due to an inability to compete at, say, 5000 meters. Jager's nonetheless-impressive yet certainly-outdated 5000 P.R. of 13:22.18 - set four years ago when he was a 20 year old pup - does not accurately reflect Jager's current 5K potential. "I definitely feel I can still be relevant and race the 5K on the international level - probably not the 15. I definitely just choose to do this event [the steeplechase] because I really enjoy it and obviously I think it is my best event."

To appreciate fully Evan Jager's steeplechase accomplishments and his ongoing upside potential in the event, it is important to understand how far he has come in such a short period of time. Jager redirected his focus to the 3000 meter steeplechase in early 2012. His first steeple competition - an auspicious debut at the 2012 Mt. SAC Relays where he won in 8:26.14 - was in April of the Olympic year. Less than 3 months later, he won the U.S. Olympic Trials steeplechase in 8:17.40. Just like that, this then-23 year old nascent steeplechaser was off to the Olympic Games to compete in an event which is traditionally dominated by older, more experienced athletes who have honed their steeple skills over many seasons. In London, Jager made the final and finished a most credible 6th. His Olympic performance - while stunning for one so new to the new event - was not completely unexpected. In Monaco - just weeks before the Games - Jager had offered a further glimpse of his massive upside steeplechase potential by running a sparkling 8:06.81 in Monaco to set a new American steeplechase record.

Evan Jager is an immensely talented athlete with a free-spirited, understated personality. His unbelievably rapid steeplechase progression combined with his youthful good looks and legendary wavy, flowing blond hair have accorded him a sort of rock star status. Hell, his abundant locks alone have spawned a Twitter account...for his hair. @JagersHair has 461 followers! While the young steepler categorically denies ever being a skateboarder ["I never really skateboarded," he insists.], he admits to enjoying snowboarding. "I used to snowboard, but I don't do it anymore," offers Jager. "I would get killed if I got hurt snowboarding."

Jager's chilled-out, breezy exterior can camouflage his perfectionist tendencies, his precise attention to detail, and his competitive fire. The young emerging star didn't become the American record holder in the steeple through a casual, unfocused approach to the event. His meteoric rise was fueled by a carefully constructed regimen founded upon perfection - an approach developed by Jager and his coach/event specialist Pascal Dobert. Jager and Dobert - himself a three-time U.S. national steeplechase champion and two-time Olympian - have forged an athlete-coach union which has cultivated Jager's fast-paced, steep improvement. "He's been huge," insists Jager, who is quick to attribute much of his success to Dobert's skillful contributions. "He's been with me every day from Day One when we started training. Right away, he is telling me how to do it perfectly. It obviously is a long process to get everything down correctly - hurdling technique and water jumping. But he just expected me - and he was teaching me how - to do it perfectly right from the get go. So there was no babying around to learning it. And I think that was part of the reason why I have taken to the event so fast."

Jager credits Dobert with starting him out correctly, preventing him from developing bad habits during the learning process, and perfecting his textbook either-leg hurdling technique. "We started out from Day One doing both trail legs, both lead legs so that is the only way that I've practiced. I am sure I have one leg that is better than the other. But I can definitely do both." Dobert taught Jager that practice doesn't make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.

Jager - swift to learn the steeple - is also a quick study on championship racing. In Monday's preliminary round, the young American stayed alert and out of trouble in his qualifying heat. Ready to go when the pace picked up, Jager moved with efficiency over the final 600 - his picture-perfect hurdling never wavering - as he won his heat in 8:23.76 - .08 seconds ahead of championship favorite Ezekiel Kemboi - the world leader with an earlier-posted 7:59.03. "I felt pretty good," the relaxed athlete confided after the race. "Coming down from altitude, I felt really good the last two days. So I was excited to get into the prelim and just kind of see what it felt like again to get into a high profile steeple race. I stayed in the top four for most of the race. That was the goal: to stay in the top four and finish in the top three. It felt good." Over the final circuit, Jager was on the watch to protect his qualifying position from any attempted homestretch heroics. "I looked [at the big screen] on the backstretch so I knew there were people there. I guess I didn't know we had gapped all those guys until just a little bit before the last hurdle. But when I was over the last hurdle, I heard the French guy [Noureddine Smail] trip up on the hurdle. And I knew that pretty much secured my top three spot. I felt really comfortable the whole time. The last lap was a little bit of a grind. But I was just trying to compose myself and stay as energy efficient as possible. So I think that has something to do with it. I've got two days rest and I think I'll be ready to go for the final."

It is easy to sense that Jager will be bringing a quiet assuredness into Thursday's final. "I don't feel like it is a new event for me anymore. I feel like I gained a lot confidence last year," he explains. "And opening up in the steeple at Pre with an 8:08.60 [a time never matched by any other American] gave me a huge amount of confidence. So I am definitely feeling comfortable being in the top five with the Kenyans and Mekhissi [France's Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad]. Beaming, Jager adds, "I am starting to really love the event now."

What is Jager's ideal tempo for Thursday's final? "I am hoping for a fast race" confides Jager, whose Pre mark makes him #8 on the WL list. "I think that the Kenyans - assuming all four get into the final - might take it out hard or maybe they'll share the lead in duties and try to get all three medals. Mekhissi is fast and he has run 8:00 already this year. I am not really sure. We're just going to be ready for everything. But if it is really fast, I am not going to be upset."

The American record holder has a plan for pre-final chilling. "Stretching. Message, definitely. Ice bath," says Jager. "Luckily, I have four other teammates here so I'll have someone to hang with." And with a smile he adds, "I won't be doing any skateboarding, for sure."
 

 

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Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, August 13, 2013, 
photo by Pretty Sporty Photos, Cheryl Treworgy

 

On a cool, sun-drenched morning in Luzhniki Stadium, the world's top distance runners stepped out onto the blue oval for the qualifying rounds of the 2013 world championship 5000 meter run. All harbored the same goal: run efficiently, run comfortably, minimize effort, stay out of trouble, and - most of all - qualify for Friday's final. They give no medals for these qualifying rounds. It's all about moving on.

International track racing can sometimes appear to be a full contact sport. Tactical racing creates cramped conditions where skittish, aggressive athletes can get testy. A shove here, a heel clip there and - before you know it - a heated tangle can develop.

The qualifying rounds produced no major casualties. While a felled Kenyan runner marred the first heat, all of the marquee athletes stayed cool, avoided disaster, and posted qualifying times. Here's what four of the more visible western athletes had to say in the mixed zone:

Ryan Hill / U.S. qualifier in 13:24.19:

"The competition is just like everything you hear about international races," offered the North Carolina State product. "There was lot of pushing, shoving, guys falling down. I almost fell down once or twice in that race. I was fortunate just to get through, really. It was really aggressive. That was the thing that stands out in my mind after that race."

What about the Kenyan going down near you with a couple of laps to go? "That one was really close. That could have been it for me. But fortunately I think the guys up front were waiting for that last kick so I was able to regroup with them. And fortunately I had a kick at the end. Because that's what it's about in these prelims."

How do you define success for yourself in the final? "Now that I have the USA jersey on, all you hear about is medals. That's the only thing that matters. So I've got myself the chance to get one. So I'm just going to go for it. I'm going to attach myself to that group, try not to get dropped, and kick as hard as I can. Anything less than a medal will be just kind of 'I just made the finals.'"

The best scenario for you in the final? "That is a good question. If they could probably make it like a 13:30 beat race - something right in the middle between fast and slow but with a big kick at the end." And with a smile he adds, "I doubt very much they will consider my views on this, so I'll just stick in there."

Bernard Lagat / U.S. qualifier in 13:23.59:

Sporting a new beard "to look wiser", the irrepressible Lagat gladly fielded all questions

On skirting racing disasters: "It is easy to get caught up in that mess in there. So that is the first thing that I wanted to tell myself, 'Get out of that mess.' Because you can get tripped and then you can fall and all of those things can happen to you. And so I didn't want to have any trouble. So I was actually running a little bit on the outside quite a bit today. The guy from Uganda, I clipped him maybe two times because somebody did that also to me and somebody pushes me. And so when I finish, I told the Ugandan that I am sorry for that messy mess. There's a lot of bumping in there.

How did you feel over the final 600 meters? "Good! I trained well in Germany, but the only problem is that I developed a little bit of a hip problem. And in Monaco, I did not finish. But then I have been taking care of myself doing good training in Germany and feeling better every day. So now I'm fit."

Ideal pace for the final? Lagat's coy response: "I think not crazy in the beginning would be a good one. I would say it would slow in the beginning, but even better toward the finish."

Measure of success in the final? "Top three. That's what I want."

Galen Rupp / U.S. qualifier in 13:23.91:

On the goal of qualifying: "The only thing we wanted to accomplish today was to get through it and make it as easy as possible. That's all we were thinking about."

Coming back after the 10,000: "I feel pretty good. We didn't need to sprint at the end [of today's qualifying heat] so that was nice. It's kind of rough kicking it in."

Mo Farah / U.K. qualifier in 13:23.93:

How was the prelim? "It's good to get it out of the way and get ready for the final."

A job well done then? "Yeah, yeah!"

Anticipation for Friday's final has been growing as speculation of an array of differing pacing and race strategies becomes more rampant. Will the Africans once again seek to employ a multi-athlete team tactic in an attempt to thwart Mo Farah's attempt to replicate his London distance double? Can ageless Bernard Lagat rise up for one more international medal? Can Galen Rupp earn the medal that escaped him in the 10,000 through a run of redemption in the 5000 final? 15 finalists will provide answers to these questions - and others - when the starting gun fires and combat in the 5000 begins in earnest Friday evening.

 

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Jenny Simpson, photo by PhotoRun.net

 

 

Jenny Simpson Cites Joys, Challenges Of Being Champion

The United States can take pride in having its middle distance star Jennifer Simpson as the reigning world champion in the 1500. She is bright, articulate, and an exemplary personification of all that is right in the sport of track & field.

Two years ago - in Daegu - Simpson roared off the final curve in the world championship 1500 final to sprint on to a most unexpected world title. Forgiveness would been extended had this young, rising star - then only two years out of college - been unprepared to be champion, uneasy wearing the crown.

But Simpson rose to the challenge. She saw the world championship as an honor - an honor that came with significant responsibility. She saw in her reign the responsibility to conduct herself as a humble ambassador for the sport - behaving in a manner befitting the other great 1500 meter champions who had come before her. In a world where accomplished sports stars increasingly denounce any sense of responsibility as a role model, Jenny Simpson embraces it.

As is the case in virtually all walks of life, it is easy for those tasting success in sports to be gracious. But the true measure of character is how one responds when the inevitable difficulties arise. In 2012 - the year following Simpson's Daegu triumph - much was expected of the new world titlist. But as can be the case in track & field, it was not to be. The Olympic year proved to be an undistinguished period of challenge for the world champion: garnering no wins of great consequence, just grabbing the final spot on the US Olympic team, and failing to make the Olympic 1500 final. It was a sequence of events that would have rattled a lesser champion. But Simpson stayed strong, stood strong. Unwavering in her commitment to be an admirable champion, Simpson never once allowed personal disappointment to interfere with her self-imposed obligation to honor the position of champion by recognizing and fulfilling the several responsibilities that accompany a world championship title.

Now on her 4th U.S. World Championship team, Simpson has begun her quest to defend her world 1500 crown. And it comes during a period when Simpson is recapturing the middle distance performance skills that she demonstrated two years ago in claiming the title. In the first round of the women's 1500, Simpson ran with the air of a confident champion - controlling the race from the front, forsaking the opportunity to make a meaningless early-round "statement", and utilizing a beautifully controlled acceleration down the final straightaway. The defending champion finished second in her heat - in 4:07.16 - to easily move on to Tuesday's semi-final round.

In the mixed zone, Simpson assessed her first round performance. "I just felt like I needed a clean, smooth race," offered Simpson. "My best effort would be if I got out there and just really took control of myself from the start. I tried to stay to the outside and just pick a good spot up with the leaders." And with that trademark smile, she laughed, "I just said to myself, 'The top half of the race makes it through, so don't ever not be in the top half."

As a veteran of world class competitions on the big stage, Simpson knows well that patience and self-control are needed to navigate through treacherous rounds and to make the final with gas in the tank. "I tried to hold back the temptation to showboat," confides Simpson. "In these rounds, there is a temptation deep inside of you - because all of us have big egos once we get here - to show people what you've got. But I held back and said, 'Save it. You're in.' If you're in, it means you get another chance to do that." And with a flashing smile, Simpson adds, "So I am trying to save the turbo boosters for when I'm really going to need them."

In a serious mixed zone moment, the reigning world 1500 meter titlist reflected on what it is like to be the defending champion. "It is really different walking around the village," Simpson admits. "I think of it this way: there is a form chart. Somewhere the USA has a form chart on how they're going to get their medals. And this is the first time ever I've made the form chart. So I think to myself that I need to honor that. And what that means to me out here is to be the best representative I can be and not have any excuses filled in on the form chart at the end."

Jenny Simpson brings an uncluttered thought process to her role of world champion. "I think of it this way: the work is mine to do, but the burden [of being champion] is not mine to carry. There are four very capable U.S women on the team in the 1500 meters. And I have a lot of work to do to make it to the finals. But the burden is on my whole team which is a wonderful thing. I have a great wonderful, supportive team.. I like to think of it that way. I sincerely wish all of my teammates the best."

So what's ahead for the reigning world champion as the rounds progress? "I'm really fit. I'm really confident. And I'm racing like I'm really confident. And so it is translating well. So I am excited about today's round."

It is, of course, uncertain whether or not Simpson will be able to successfully defend her title. There are two more steps in her quest to repeat - and the competition will be fierce. But amid this uncertainty, one thing is known for sure. Win or lose, Jennifer Simpson will respond as she always has: as a composed young woman and a poised athlete - humble in victory, gracious in the wake of any setback, and always a tremendous representative for the sport of track & field.
 

RunBlogRun Some photographs on this site have been reproduced with permission from runblogrun.com.