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A Pandemic, Junk Food, Wildfires...and AR and WR Performances

 

Bowerman TC meeting, Shelby Houlihan, Karissa Schweizer, photo by Cortney Ware

September 18th, 2020

For those of us who so far have been fortunate enough to sidestep the Coronavirus, there is still inconvenience. Even though we realize we must collaborate as one to defeat this pandemic, each of us must choose our own way to react, to adapt, whether it is shuttering at home; conforming with recommended protocol; working remotely; collaborating with family members; assisting with school-aged children and aging parents; etc. Decorated distance runner Shelby Houlihan has her own distinct manner of dealing with the seemingly-unending challenges of 2020 - and has nonetheless been able to set an American record and a world record along the way.

 

 Young Discus Specialist Has Displayed Impressive Progression

 

September 17th, 2020

In an individual sport like track & field, ultimately it is event performance that propels any athlete's ascension in the sport. To climb the ladder of success on the track or in the field one must, rung by rung, run faster, throw farther, or jump higher. But when we witness a track or field athlete compete, we see only the tip of the iceberg. That finished athletic performance is the product of commitment, direction, and work which comes not only from the athlete, but also from critical contributions by the coach and other key members of the athlete's circle of support. Valarie Allman, who set a new American record in the discus on August 1st of this year, would be the first to agree that her Coach Zebulon Sion has been an essential ingredient in her impressive progression.

 

Resourceful USA Olympic Women Marathoners Find Ways Forward

 

 

2020 U.S. Olympic Trials, the women's start, photo by Kevin Morris

[Part II of a two-part series]

"Life is What Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans." -- John Lennon.

Earlier this year six American male and female athletes secured their spot on the USA Olympic team by placing among the top three finishers in the USA Olympic Marathon Trials. Amidst the joy, relief, and celebration that day, those athletes, some of USA's earliest-selected 2020 Olympians, had no idea of the fear, the confusion, the anger, the grief, and the emotional roller coaster that would soon follow. Just about a week later the country, indeed the whole world, changed: the stock market crashed; the economy tanked; educational institutions at all levels closed; businesses were shuttered; and sports and entertainment were suspended as the COVID-19 virus gripped a world suddenly shrouded in a fog of uncertainty.

Last week's article focused on the men. In this final segment of a two-part series, here is how the three newly-minted Olympic women marathoners, each of whom were able to call upon patience and poise to earn a place on the USA team, have handled the challenges of the new pandemic environment.

Going into the Trials, Sally Kipyego had a quiet confidence about her chances to make the U.S. Olympic team, even win the race. "I was really in good shape. And I thought I had a chance to make the team, explains the former Texas Tech star, whose outlook was elevated by her sterling 2:25:10 clocking in the '19 Berlin Marathon - an all-time top-ten USA women's performance. "I went in with the confidence that I could win the race. And I went into the race to win. Still, anything can happen in the marathon. If things didn't go so well, I thought I would still make the team. I knew it was not going to be an easy race. And it felt even more difficult than I expected."

The Men's start, 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, photo by Kevin Morris

Pandemic Challenges USA Olympic Men Marathoners to Craft a New Plan B

 [Part One of a two-part series]

 

"Life is What Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans." -- John Lennon.

The best marathoners possess an array of skills. They are disciplined and goal-oriented as they map out a training build-up for a season-capping race. They are resilient enough to rise above the inevitable injuries, the interruptions in training, And they respond quickly and adapt to unexpected challenges: last-minute changes in race day weather conditions; a mid-race surge; a missed aid station; even an untied shoe lace. But no marathoner has been prepared to face the unprecedented and pervasive challenges currently presented by the COVID-19 virus. Here are the stories of 3 of the 6 American marathoners who have made Team USA and will compete in the marathon in the Tokyo Olympic Games, if held as currently scheduled for next summer.

 

One of the world’s hottest sprinters two years ago, Ronnie Baker numbered London among his 4 Diamond League wins. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)
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IN THE FIRST YEAR of the post-Bolt era Ronnie Baker impressed: he won the ’18 Millrose 60 in a meet record 6.48, captured the 60 bronze at the World Indoor and won 4 Diamond League 100 titles, including a successful defense of his Pre crown, defeating reigning world champ Christian Coleman, who had set the indoor 60 WR just months before. By season’s end, the former TCU sprint star had posted the year’s second-fastest clocking (9.87) and earned the No. 2 Ranking heading into ’19’s World Championships campaign.

January 27th, 2020

On February 29th – dubbed by many as “Leap Day” – hordes of finely-tuned American men and women will take to the Atlanta streets to compete in the 2020 USA Olympic Team Marathon Trials. The task here – the first of two pre-race pieces on the men’s and women’s Olympic Marathon Trials – is to analyze the field, forecast who the top performers will be, and predict the athletes who will represent the USA in this summer’s Olympic Games marathon races in Japan. The men who make the Olympic team will likely by the top 3 finishers. An accurate prognostication is virtually impossible in this 26 mile 385 yard event where anything can happen (and almost always does), the weather on race day is unknown, and the event boasts a field containing nearly all of the country’s best athletes who have trained in solitude, hidden any physical tweaks or aches, and – for many – purposely haven’t raced a marathon in quite a while. One would have to be very good to get it right. Just a little bit of luck will help make these predictions look wiser than deserved . Here goes:

January 27th, 2020

The USA Olympic Team Women’s Marathon Trials race is likely to be distinctly different than the men’s race. Unlike the men’s competition where veteran marathoners Leonard Korir and Galen Rupp have been viewed as the favorites, the women’s race will feature a handful of athletes who have rung up closely-bunched impressive times, shown great progression, and displayed toughness in prior marathons and other championship competitions. And with the announced retirement earlier this fall by 3-time Olympian and 2-time Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan, an emerging pack of young and accomplished marathoners is eager to show the more seasoned competitors that this is their moment. The women who make the Olympic team will be the top 3 finishers.  Let’s assess the field.


Carrie Dimoff ’05, center, at the 2019 World ChampionshipsNoushad Thekkayil/Shutterstock

By Dave Hunter '72

November 27, 2019

Few athletes have as lengthy and circuitous a path to athletic success as Carrie Strickland Dimoff ’05. After walking on to Princeton’s cross country and track teams, she struggled to figure out her best event, trying middle-distance runs and the 400-meter hurdles before finding a niche in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. She set a school record in the steeplechase in 2004, but soon after, heel woes and stress fractures interrupted her training. “I had a great experience running at Princeton,” Dimoff said. “But my running talents and abilities really didn’t develop fully there.

Carina Viljoen and coach Lance Harter had plenty to celebrate about as the Razorbacks won not only their first XC crown, but also claimed a calendar year triple of national titles.

(KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Terre Haute, Indiana
November 24, 2019

On an NCAA XC Championships day when the prevailing weather was unfit for man, woman, or beast, brimming-with-confidence Weini Kelati gained separation early and galloped on to an impressive individual victory in 19:47.5. Meanwhile a talented and experienced Arkansas squad captured its first-ever crown, edging BYU by 6 points, 96–102.

After overwhelming performances in winning her Conference and Regional races by 49 and 57 seconds, New Mexico junior Kelati stepped into the starting box as the cofavorite with Wisconsin senior Alicia Monson. With athletes facing a steady, annoying rain, temperatures in the mid-30’s, and the LaVern Gibson Championship Course softened by several days of an intermittent precipitation, which athlete would better handle the weather, the competition and the moment?

“This is easy,” Weini Kelati thought of her decision to throw down an early move.

(KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Terre Haute, Indiana

November 23rd, 2019

IN LAST YEAR’S NCAA Women’s XC Championships, Weini Kelati threw down a strong move midway through the race, but her bold attempt to capture the individual title proved to be ill-fated as Colorado’s Dani Jones reeled in the Lobo star on the snow-covered final stretch to snatch the win.

Fast forward to this year: the 22-year-old Eritrean native employed a similar strategy. This time it worked. “I wasn’t planning to get away, but I was trying to find a place that I couldn’t get tripped or blocked out,” Kelati said after the race. “So, I saw it and I was like, ‘The risk is kind of crazy, but I didn’t know how far I can go like this.’ So, I decided to wait a little bit and then I was like, ‘I kind of feel pretty good and I was like why not just try the risk?’ And I tried to pull away from everyone else.”

Once separated from the field and free from future jostling, Kelati suspected she had made the right move. “I thought to myself ‘This is easy,’” she said on her decision to throw down an early move. “I knew I was fit. I have been running 6M of tempo every day. And this race is less than 4M. Why not just try it? And then I decided to take off and it was like, Wow!”

Hardly threatened and in control after her early surge, Kelati sailed on for the win, ultimately extending her margin of victory to about 60m by the finish. With the win, the New Mexico junior joined Notre Dame’s Molly Seidel to become only the second woman to win both a Foot Locker HS title and later an NCAA individual crown.

Pressed to consider how her dominating NCAA individual cross country victory ranks among the many other wins she has notched over the years, the reigning track 10K champion responded without hesitation: “I would have to say this is the greatest victory.” Being mindful that she has remaining eligibility, her response to that same inquiry may well change before her collegiate career concludes.

 

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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.”

2020 Mid-American Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships

Dave HunterOn February 28-29, Dave served as the Color Analyst on the live ESPN3 broadcast of this championship gathering. Coverage of this 2-day conference championship can be viewed on the ESPN app.

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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