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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.

CONTACT DAVE HUNTER

 

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.

 

Last Night In Doha!  2019 IAAF                                                         World Athletics Championships

Joshua Cheptegei, 2019 10,000 meter World Champion

October 6th, 2019

Doha, Qatar


The men’s 10,000 meter run was one of many finals on the 10th and final day of the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships. With the men’s marathon having been held the night before – at midnight, no less – there was no chance for the often-attempted marathon/10,000m double. This 10,000 meter final would be more pure, consisting mainly of 10K specialists and only two athletes doubling back from the 5000 meter races held earlier in this gathering.

Because global 10,000 meter finals are almost always tactical affairs, world-leading clockings are of limited assistance in attempting to project world championship performances. Ethiopian Hagos Gebrhiwet is #1 on the world leader board with a 26:48.78 clocking he notched in winning the loaded Hengelo race earlier this year by beating a number of athletes who will competing in this 25-lap final. The 22-year-old Yomif Kejelcha, #3 on the WL list at 26:49.99, is an incredible young talent who could well be a factor in this final. Rodrigue Kwizera [#4 on the WL], Ethiopian Andamiak Belihu [#5 on the WL], and Switzerland’s Julien Wanders [#10 on the WL] all could contest for the medals. Leonard Korir and Lopez Lomong, the two Americans, lack the flashy impressive sub-27 minute clockings, but could become quite influential in a tactically-paced race.

As the final unfolded, 20 athletes were bunched behind early leader Uganda’s Abdallah Mande who paced the field through the first two kilometers in 5:27. By 3K [8:08], Kenyan Ronex Kipruto led the closely-packed field with Gebrhiwet in 2nd and Ethiopia’s Belihu in 3rd. Kipruto continued to dictate the tempo with kilometer splits in the low 2:40’s until Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei took over the lead just before 6K [reached in 16:16]. The Ugandan’s pacing was short-lived as his Kenyan rival recaptured the front position, picked up the pace, and led a pack of 8 [including Cheptegei, Kenya’s Rodgers Kwemoi, USA’s Lopez Lomong, Canada’s Mohammed Ahmed, Gebrhiwet, Belihu, and Kejelcha] through a 7th kilo in 2:40 [18:56] – the fastest of the race. Kipruto continued pacing the lead pack, now dwindled to 6, until Cheptegei took over just before 9 kilometers reached in 24:20 [2:40]. With the real racing now underway, Kipruto struggled to stay with the two leaders – Cheptegei and Kejelcha – as the trio entered the bell lap. The lead duo battled side-by-side as they raced down the backstretch, with the Ugandan clinging on to a slight advantage as they rounded the final curve for the homestretch showdown. A look back by Kejelcha with 80 meters remaining was the telltale signal that the Ethiopian was letting go as Cheptegei sailed on for the victory, crossing the line in 26:48.36, the 2nd fastest winning time in world championship history. Kejelcha crossed 2nd in a personal best clocking of 26:49.34 while pacing workhorse Kipruto [26:50.32] captured the bronze.

At the post-race press conference, Kejelcha outlined the last lap fight for the gold medal. “I think I had the right plan. Cheptegei is a very strong man and I tried to run with him. It was my pleasure to run with him. I wanted to win a medal at my first 10,000m final and I did everything to be competitive. I did not go too early it was the right time, but Joshua was faster. I was trying to hold him off, but it is not easy because he is a very strong athlete and has a strong sprint. So I had to be strong on the last lap. It is never over till you reach the finish line.”

For the new champion, the victory was especially sweet. Two years ago at London’s world championships, Cheptegei captured the silver medal in the men’s 10,000 meter final, just 0.45 seconds behind by the legendary Mo Farah, a multiple-time Olympic and world champion. “At the last edition of the World Championships in London I learned a lot of things from all the other athletes. I came to these championships with two plans. Plan A, and if that wasn’t going to work, I had plan B and plan C,” explained the reigning world cross country champion. “This was plan A. So it was really successful for me.” The Ugandan world champion shared his pathway leading up to these championships. “My season has been great. Since I started the season it has gone well for me. I spoke to my coach and he supported me with advice and made me believe in myself. And then there have been a lot of achievements from the world cross country when I was maybe 50 per cent fit, and then the track season, of course. I didn’t run in the Diamond League for the whole of 2018 after an injury, although I had the Commonwealth Games. It was only after this year’s Diamond League final that I thought I could win the World Championships. And here I am today. It really was a fantastic achievement.”

As for the Americans, Lopez Lomong was up front in the later stages of the race but he was unable to summon the close over the final kilometer that would thrust him into the mix for a medal. He would finish 7th in a personal best of 27:04.72. Lomong’s teammate Leonard Korir, finished 13th in 28:05.32.

 

 

Last Night In Doha!                                                         2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships

 

Lelisa Desisa Is The First Ehiopian World Marathon Champion Since 2001

Doha, Qatar

October 5th, 2019

Day Nine of these 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships featured many anticipated finals. Miles away from the festive crowds and bright lights of Khalifa International Stadium, 73 intrepid distance runners were preparing to compete in one of those finals: the men’s marathon to be staged along Doha’s famous Corniche, one the most striking city backdrops in the Middle East.

The loop marathon course set out for both genders is really striking. The start line is set 195 meters behind the finish line which is situated right in front of covered VIP seating accommodations. After the opening 195 meters, the competitors navigate 6 repetitive loops of the 7 kilometers. The 42.195 kilo Corniche course – a flat, freshly-paved roadway – would normally be a track conducive to fast times – except for the expected incredible heat.

But after a week of barely tolerable weather with temperatures approaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity, the athletes competing in the men’s marathon received a break. As if through divine intervention, race day arrived with the usual high temperatures, but with humidity levels of 45% - as opposed to the 85% humidity that plagued the women’s marathon. Perhaps the men would race in weather conditions that were merely challenging, not impossible.

There had been much pre-race speculation about which marathoners should be viewed as favorites. While all entrants were expected to struggle in the heat, no one doubted that the East African and Middle Eastern athletes who live and train in sultry, steamy environments would be better suited to perform more near their potential in these oppressive weather conditions.

Just before midnight, the men’s marathon got underway as the field launched out into the darkness. Immediately, Paraguayan athlete Derlys Ayala went to the lead and broke away from the field. By 1 kilometer [15:06] the 29-year-old had a one minute lead. Meanwhile the chase pack of nearly 50 was led by 2-time Boston Marathon champion Lelisa Desisa. With water bottles and sponges flying at every aid station, the chase horde kept the Paraguayan pacesetter in sight as the leader hit 10K in 30:40. The top competitors joined Desisa at the front of the chase pack, including former Olympic and world marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, defending champion Geoffrey Kirui, Scottish marathon record holder Callum Hawkins, and Ethiopian Geremew, fresh off his 2:02:55 runner-up finish in last spring’s London Marathon.

The occasional front running breakout and several lead changes at the front of the chase pack ensued until just around the one hour mark when 37-year old Eritrea athlete Zersenay Tadese threw down the first decisive move of the race. The 4-time world half marathon champion’s surge strung out the pack and Ayala’s lead was quickly reduced to 43 seconds. During the 69th minute and just before the end of lap 3, Tadese and 5 others swooped past Ayala and into the lead. Minutes later and just before reaching the half marathon mark Ayala, who reportedly ran a 2:10 marathon just two weeks prior to this championship race, called it a day and walked off the course.

Tadese’s bold move coalesced a pack of 6, a front-running group that represented those with serious medal ambitions. At 25 kilos, the leaders were Tadese, the Ethiopians Desisa and teammate Geremew, Kenyan’s Kirui and Amos Kipruto, and South African Stephen Moroka. One minute back and chasing the leaders was a 2nd group led by Great Britain’s Hawkins. By 30K reached by Tadese’s gang of 6 in 1:33:13, Hawkins’ chase group had the cut margin to 13 seconds. The real racing was underway. At 35 kilos, Moroka was now in the lead as the front pack had dwindled to 5 with the Kirui sliding away to 9th. The defending champion would eventually finish 14th

Shortly after the bell rang at the start of the final 7 kilometer circuit, Tadese, the athlete whose bold move inspired serious racing nearly an hour before, lost contact with his lead group that had been whittled down to the South African Moroka, the Kenyan Kipruto, and the Ethiopians, Geremew, and Desisa. At 37 kilos, Desisa, sensing the endgame was here, moved into the lead. In the final 5 kilometers, the four leaders cautiously eyed one another, assessing the strength of their opponents and plotting their closing moves. But there was another athlete on the move. Quietly, Hawkins passed the struggling Tadese and set sail for the lead quartet just seconds away. The Scot was not yet done.

With less than 2 miles remaining, Hawkins not only caught the lead quartet, but he unhesitatingly moved through the pack to grab the lead. At 40 kilometers passed in 2:04:24 with little more than a mile remaining, it was 4 Africans and the Scot poised to battle for the medals. The South African was first to lose contact and shortly thereafter Hawkins, spent after his long heroic grind to the front, let go next. Sensing weakness, the veteran Desisa made the decisive move that would drop Kipruto, prompting finish line cheers from the Ethiopian contingent which knew it would now have the first Ethiopian marathon gold medalist since 2001. But who would it be – Desisa or Geremew? One final turn of the screw by Desisa forced separation from his countryman as the 2013 world champion runner-up would at last cross the world championship finish line first [2:10:40] for the gold. 4 seconds later Geremew crossed 2nd followed by Kipruto [2:10:51] in 3rd. Great Britain’s Hawkins [2:10:57] was dealt a cruel outcome, once again finishing 4th, just missing a medal as the Brit did with his 4th place finish in the 2017 world championships. Moroka [2:11:03] hung on for 5th. "It was hot, but I prepared perfectly for this race," said the new champion afterwards. "I am very tired. But after I took silver in Moscow, this time I kept my power better." A crestfallen 4th place finisher, Hawkins shared his feelings. Maybe I just gave too much in the middle stages. But I couldn’t do any more.”

As was the case in the women’s marathon, a good number of the top U.S. men marathoners elected to bypass these world championships either to compete later this fall in more lucrative marathons staged in more accommodating weather conditions or to engage in additional, focused preparation for the USA Olympic marathon trials at the end of February, or both. The American trio of Ahmed Osman, Elkanah Kibet, and Andrew Epperson performed nobly. Osman, who trains in Flagstaff, Arizona and ran a PR 2:14:40 to place 6th in the 2018 Chicago Marathon, was the first American across the line, finishing 23rd in 2:16:22. “I was just consistently trying to move my way up. I wanted to put myself in a good position which I did in the beginning,” said the San Diego native. “But I got cramps and I was just maintaining my place all the way to the end. I was in great shape coming in. It was just the weather conditions, you know? It’s not about the time. It’s just about competing.” Kibet finished 38th in 2:19:33 and Epperson crossed 46th in 2:23:11]. The American trio was among the 55 athletes of the initial starting field of 73 who finished this world championship final. / Dave Hunter /

 

Last Night In Doha!                                                                 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships

Kenya's Kipruto (left) Edges Ethiopia's Girma For Steeple Crown

 

Doha, Qatar
October 4th, 2019

An anticipated highlight on Day Eight of these 2019 World Athletics Championships was the final of the men’s 3000 meter steeplechase. The complexion of this event was markedly different than in recent years of global contests due to the absence of American record holder Evan Jager who has been sidelined this entire year due to a nagging foot injury. Although Jager, a steeplechase medalist in both the ’16 Olympic Games [silver] and the ’17 world championships [bronze], was out of the picture, the superior quality of the field was beyond question as every single steeplechaser listed in the 2019 top ten world leader list was present for this global gathering and had made the final.

For many, the final was shaping up to be a showdown between two co-favorites. 23-year-old Soufiane El Bakkali, the ‘17 world championship silver medalist, came to Qatar with the world-leading mark of 8.04.82 and three 2019 Diamond League steeplechase wins to his credit, including one here in Doha in the Khalifa International Stadium. The other co-favorite, 19-year-old Ethiopian Getnet Wale, who upset Bakkali in the Brussels DL final, arrived with the #3 clocking [8:05.51] on the world leader list.

But another steeplechaser, not in this year’s top ten world leader list, nonetheless deserved some consideration. Although an aggravated foot injury kept Conseslus Kipruto out of competition until late in this extended season, the 24-year old Kenyan nonetheless came to Doha with glittering credentials: reigning Olympic and world championship steeplechase gold medalist; 16 Diamond League victories and 3 DL steeplechase championship wins, and a personal best of 8:00.12. But having competed in only 3 races this year, including a lackluster 7th place finish in the Brussels DL steeple final, Kipruto remained a mystery. Would he be a factor in this world championship final?

Shortly after the start of the steeplechase – a grueling 7½ lap event featuring 28 barriers and 7 water jumps – two Ethiopians, ’19 DL champion Getnet Wale and his young countryman Lamecha Girma, stormed to the front to lead the field through the first kilometer in 2:39.55 – sub 8:00 pace. The pace eased slightly as Girma hit 2 kilos in 5:22.95. Although the tempo – still on world leader pace – had worked to thin the field, a tight pack of Girma, Bakkali, and now Kipruto were still well positioned for the battle for the medals as the bell lap began. On the backstretch, 18-year-old Girma went first, uncorking a powerful sprint, his bid for the gold. Even Girma’s aggressive final water jump, clearing the water completely, was insufficient to shake Bakkali or the surprising Kipruto. The trio tore around the final curve for the drive down the homestretch. While Bakkali began to sag, a perfect final barrier clearance appeared to give Girma the slight edge he needed to capture the gold. But a relentless closing sprint by the crafty Kipruto positioned him for the all-important final drive to the line. A perfectly-timed lean at the finish was just enough to give Kipruto [world leading 8:01.35] the victory over Girma [8:01.36, an Ethiopian national record] by the slimmest of margins. Bakkali posted a season’s best 8:03.76] to capture the bronze. DL champ Wale [a personal best 8:05.21] was 4th while France’s Djilali Bedrani [a personal best 8:05.23] crossed next to round out the top 5.

Three Americans made the steeplechase final. Knowing that medals were unlikely, each hoped to run a competitive race that evidenced progression. 29-year-old Hillary Bor finished 8th in 8:09.33, just missing his PR clocking of 8:08.41 set at Doha’s Diamond League meet earlier this year. Stanley Kebeni finished 10th in 8:11.15, his best clocking this season. And former Indiana University athlete Andrew Bayer finished 12th in a personal best of 8:12.47. Standing with his steeplechase teammates in the mixed zone after the race, Bayer served as the spokesman. “Honestly my goal was to come in and finish in the top half of the field and break 8:10 in the final,” revealed the former NCAA 1500 meter champion. “I can look at places where I can still improve a lot. So I am excited to take a little break here and get ready for next year. This has been a really good learning experience. I’m frustrated that I was 12th, but it kind of lights the fire to be better next year. The goal here is to be vying for medals and we have a big jump to go there. But we start by seeing if we can get into that top 5. It’s great to be here with these guys [Bor and Kebeni]. It’s been a good time.”

/ Dave Hunter /

Last Night In Doha!                                                           2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships

 

400m Champion Salwa Eid Naser Sees Her Winning Time

Doha, Qatar

October 3rd, 2019

On a day dominated by the concluding, second-day competition in the multi-events, one of the most anticipated track finals in this the 7th day of these world athletics championships was the women’s 400 meters. After a preliminary round on Day 4 followed by 3 semi-final heats the following day, the stage was set for what should be one of the most exciting track finals at these championships.

The final looked to be a showdown between USA’s Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas and Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain. As the only athletes to break 50 seconds in the early rounds, 2016 400m Olympic champion Miller-Uibo [semi winner in 49.66] and ’17 world championship 400m silver medalist Naser [semi winner in 49.79] were expected to lock horns in what was anticipated to be a titanic homestretch battle for the gold. USA’s defending champion Phyliss Francis [50.22 in her semi], her teammate Wadeline Jonathis [a personal best 50.07 in her semi], and the Jamaican athlete Shericka Jackson [50.10 in her semi] all stood ready to pounce if the two favorites would falter.

As the 400 meter final got underway, both Naser and Miller-Uibo got out quickly followed closely by the defending champion Francis. Yet none in that trio appeared to have a sizeable advantage as they entered the final furlong. But it was on the ensuing curve – that 3rd 100 meter segment – when Naser really went to work. Using her superior leg speed, Naser blazed around the bend. And just like that, the Bahraini athlete had forged a sizeable advantage – perhaps 10 meters – heading into the homestretch. Stunned by her rival’s lead, a startled Miller-Uibo attempted to mount a charge. And while the Bahamian athlete made initial inroads into Naser’s lead, the gap proved too large. Racing all the way through the finish line, Naser stopped the clock at 48.14 – the fastest 400 meter time by a woman in nearly 34 years. Miller-Uibo [48.37], soundly defeated, finished strongly as well for the silver while Jamaica’s Jackson finished in 49.47 – a superb mark that would normally win this event under ordinary circumstances – snared the bronze medal. PR’s by Jonathas [49.60] and Francis [49.61] earned the two Americans the 4th and 5th spots.

The quality and depth of this 400 meter final is breathtaking. The top 5 finalists all set personal best times. Naser’s jaw-dropping 48.14 is now #3 on the all-time world list, behind only Germany’s Marita Koch [47.60 set in 1985] and the Czech Jarmila Kratochvilova [47.99 set in 1983]. Miller Uibo’s mark of 48.37 now ranks 6th all-time just behind France’s Marie-Jose Perec [now #4 all time in 48.25 set in 1996] and the Soviet Union’s Olga Bryzgina [now #5 all time in 48.27 set in 1985].

Afterwards, every one of the stunned finalists acknowledged the special nature of this historic race. “I felt pretty good,” said 5th-place Francis as she analyzed her race. “I was just trying to get out. I fell a little back. I was hoping to finish stronger. I kind of lost form with 4-5 meters to go. But I came out with a PB.” Surprise 4th place finisher Waseline Jonathas saw the race as her opportunity to run a personal best time – and she did. “Shaunae and Naser were the targets. I knew it would be a fast race. And I knew I could get something out of this. I was pushing myself to the limit. I am happy.” / Dave Hunter /

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