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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.

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.

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 /

Last Night In Doha! 2019                                            IAAF World Athletics Championships

 

 Dina Asher-Smith On The Way To Victory In Women's 200 Meter Final

Doha, Qatar
October 2nd, 2019

As Day Six of these 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships was devoid of any middle distance or distance events, the focus today is upon the only two track finals of the day

In the women’s 200 meter final, the question appeared to be this: Which of the winners of the preceding day’s semi-final races would prevail in the final? Would it be Great Britain’s sprint sensation Dina Asher-Smith, victor of semi-final #1 in 22.16? Or could one of the two American semi-final winners – Brittany Brown [winner of semi #2 in 22.46] or Anglerne Annelus [first in semi #3 in 22.49] – be able to pull off the upset?

The race was essentially over shortly after the gun. The Brit authored a terrific start [with the fastest reaction time at 0.138] and never looked back. After racing a great curve, Asher-Smith maintained magnificent turnover as she powered down the homestretch and hit the line in a season’s best 21.88 to set a new British national record, #2 on the world list. Dina Asher-Smith’s world championship 200 meter victory was the first ever by a British woman. A personal best 22.22 by the American Brown earned her the silver. And Swiss athlete Mujinga Kambundi got up for the bronze in 22.51. Annelus clocked 22.55 for 4th, and her USA teammate Dezerea Bryant was 5th in 22.63.

Grant Holloway Nears Victory In Men's 100H Final

In the men’s 110 meter hurdle final, the championship race featured all of the finest hurdlers in the world. 5 athletes appeared to have a realistic opportunity to stand on the top step of the podium: Jamaica’s Omar McLeod [the reigning Olympic and world champion, WL #4, and the winner of semi-final #2 in 13.08]; USA’s Grant Holloway [NCAA champion; SB of a world-leading 12.58; winner of semi #1 in 13.10]; France’s Pascal Martinot-LaGarde [#T5 on the WL list; runner-up in semi #2 in 13.12]; Spain’s Orlando Ortega [WL #3; winner of semi #3 in 13.16]; and the wily Authorized Neutral Athlete Sergey Shubenkov [2015 world champion; WL #T5; and runner-up in semi #1 in 13.18]. Rookie professional Holloway got the best start as he instantly bulled his way to the front. His start gave the Florida alum an advantage that he would never relinquish as he powered his way to the gold medal, crossing in 13.10. Meanwhile, behind the new champion full-contact hurdling was on display. Defending champion McLeod, who has developed an annoying habit of lane drifting to his right, was making frequent contact with the late-race hurdles as well as clearly making contact with and obstructing Spain’s Ortega on his right. The tangle crescendoed while both McLeod and the fast-finishing Ortega were clearing the 10th hurdle. A mid-air collision over the final barrier sent McLeod falling to the track and further impeding the Spaniard who was on his way toward either a silver or bronze medal. Unimpacted by the Jamaican’s bumping, it was Shubenkov [13.15] who crossed 2nd for the silver and Martinot-LaGarde [13.18] who finished next for the bronze. Spanish officials timely filed a protest citing McLeod’s obstruction and requesting the race be re-run – a remedy unprecedented at this level of global competition. Request for a re-run denied. The protest also requested in the alternative that Ortega be awarded a duplicate bronze medal - as was granted earlier in the day pursuant to the protest and request filed on behalf of Polish hammer thrower Wojciech Nowicki. Request for a duplicate bronze medal denied. Later on, Hurdle great Renaldo Nehemiah, well aware of and experienced with mid-race contact during hurdle contests, noted the unfortunate absence of any adequate remedy for those fouled in hurdle finals. He cited Ortega as “a casualty of the sport.”

After the race, the 2019 world championship 110H hurdle victor reflected on his new status as a professional and the earlier honors he had garnered in his very long season as a collegian-turned-pro. “When you step on the line, no one cares what you’ve done before,” declared the new champion, “It’s all about the here and now.” / Dave Hunter /

Last Night In Doha!                                                                2019 IAAF World Ahletics Championships                                                                                      

Doha, Qatar
October 1st, 2019


As a member of the media I am supposed to be impartial, not expressing any kind of support of enthusiam for a particular country or athlete. We journalists are supposed to be neutral - a like Switzerland. That said, as an American track & field fan I find it difficult to adhere to that required posture when the USA has three athletes - Donovan Brazier, Bryce Hoppel, and Clayton Murphy - poised to compete in the world championship final of the men's 800 meters.

Getting three American middle distance athletes into the men's 800 meter final doesn't happen all the time. In fact it has only happeded on one prior occasion. In 1995 Mark Everett, Jose Parrilla, and Brandon Rock represented the red, white, and blue in the championship race. None of them made the podium. No medals.

The USA's world championship medal harvest in the men's 800 meters has been meager indeed. In the 17 world championship gatherings since the initial championship in 1983, only three times have American men earned 800 meter medals: Everett [bronze in 1991], Ruch Kenah [bronze in 1997], and Nick Symmonds [silver in 2013]. The American women are only slightly better. The 2-3 finish by Raevyn Rogers and Ajee Wilson last night in the women's 800 meter final pushed the USA women's all-time world championship 800 meter medal count to 5: 2 bronzes for for Alysia Johnson Montano [in 2011 and in 2013]; a silver for Brenda Martinez [in 2013]; and a silver for Rogers and a bronze for Wilson last night.

And you will note: In the world championships no golds have been earned by American half milers of any gender. Ever. In the 17 world championships and heading into tonight's competition, the IAAF has awarded 99 medals to the various 800 meter athletes who have made the podium. Eight - 8! - have been earned by American medalists. 5 bronze and 3 silver. And no golds. Could this be the night? It's time.


The men's 800 meter final got underway as expected with Puerto Rico's Wesley Vazquez chargin to the front. His rush to the lead was a tactic that proved successful for him in winning his semi-final race. USA's Donovan Brazier tucked in behind the early leader with American Clayton Murphy on the rail in 4th. Vazquez led the field past 200 meters in 23.51 as the championship field got settled in. On the first lap homestretch, Vazquez continued to lead, completing the first circuit in a quick 48.99 and stretching his lead to 15 meters. With 300 meters to go, Brazier, stalking the Puerto Rican from the start, stepped it up and rushed into the lead. With 200 meters remaining, the American had quickly created separation from the field. With 150 meters to go, Bosnia's Amel Tuka began his charge, moving up to 2nd. But Brazier, not to be deined, powered unchallenged down the homestretch to hit the line in 1:42.34, a new championship and American record. Tuka [1:43.47] crossed 2nd for the silver. Kenya's Ferguson Rotich [1:43.82] finished strong for the bronze while USA's Bryce Hoppel [a PR 1:44.25] charged from off the pace to finish a surprising 4th.


The Americans shared their thoughts with the media in the mixed zone. Hoppel, the former University of Kansas athlete and NCAA 1500 meter champion who signed with Adidas earlier this summer, was overwhelmed by his success in the final. "If you would have asked me a few months ago or at the beginning of the season about finishing 4th at the world championships, I would have said, 'What are you talking about?' But this is kind of a sstorybook story for me. But now it has become a reality and I am kind of excited from it and will just try to get better and better.," shared Hoppel who was tantalizingly close to the bronze. "The medal was right there within reach. I am so glad that Donoan won the gold. I think it is a great thing for the sport and a great thing for the USA. I was just happy to be a past of the whole rce and the experience." When asked what he needs to do to reach the posdium, the former Jayhawk sadi, " I think confidence is the bedrock of that. Now that I've been here, I'm looking forward to next season. I thik I need to work a little bit on the speed. Being out of postion doesn't make me happy. I like to be up in the pack at all times. That's probably gpoing to be one of the things I'll work on."


Clayton Murphy, who suffered through a last lap meltdown to finish last in 1:47.84, was clearly devastated by the bombshell announcement earlier in the day that Alberto Salazar, his Nike Oregon Project coach, was found guilty by abitrators of doping violations and hab been given a 4-year ban from the sport. Peppered by the mixed zone press for his reaction to Salazar's ban and its conseqeunces on his relationship with Salazar and the NOP, the reignng Olympic 800 meter bronze medalist provided a frank response. "I really don't know what happened with Alberto. Everything with that happened before I was in the camp," said Murphy. "I never had any kind of pressure from Alberto; never took anything; never was asked to do anything away from the camp. I've always competed clean. Everything that happened was before I was a part of the team." The multiple-time national champion made it clear he has not yet considered how today's news would impact, if at all, his relationship with Salazar and the NOP. "I've completely focused on tonight. And I would say it was a poor performance tonight." It is clear that the ill-timed release of the arbitrators' decision will prove to be an ongoing distraction for Salazar's athletes for the remainder of these championships.

Donovan Brazier - also a Nike Oregon Project athlete, but coached by Peter Julian, not Salazar - shared his thoughts on his record performance which took down the the American 800 meter reocord: the 1:42.60 clocking set by Johnny Gray in 1985. "Pete Julian told me that Vazquez is going to take it out hard and to stick with him, make my move, and take full responsibility whether I finish strong or die," revealed the new American record holder and world champion. "The payoff means a lot to me with the time and the record." / Dave Hunter /

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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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