USATF 2011: Big trouble or bad rap?

June 27, 2011 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Track & Field 

LOS ANGELES, Jun. 27, 2011 – When NBC’s Ato Boldon told host Tom Hammond that the U.S. male sprinters had a lot of work in front of them after their performances at the 2011 USATF Championships, he said what a lot of American track fans were thinking.

Certainly Walter Dix’s 9.94 winning performance in the 100 meters in Eugene didn’t scare anyone in Jamaica, and one can only wonder why Jeremy Wariner faded down the stretch in the 400, losing to Tony McQuay’s 44.68.

And with injuries and other medical issues sidelining Tyson Gay, Hyleas Fountain and others, was this really a bad U.S. Championships, or one that just had some too-obvious lowlights.

To answer this question, it seemed best to compare it to the three previous USATF Championships which served as IAAF World Championships qualifiers: 2005 in Carson, California (for which I was privileged to serve as meet director), 2007 in Indianapolis and 2009 in Eugene. The meet vs. meet comparisons:

Number of World-Leading Marks:
• 2005: 6
> Men-3: 400 m, 110 m Hurdles, 400 m Hurdles;
> Women-3: 200 m, 400 m, 400 m Hurdles.

• 2007: 6
> Men-4: 100 m, 200 m, 400 m Hurdles, Javelin;
> Women-2: 400 m, 400 m Hurdles.

• 2009: 3
> Men-2: 400 m, 400 m Hurdles, but also a wind-aided 100 m;
> Women-1: 400 m Hurdles, but also wind-aided 100 m , 200 m, 100 m Hurdles and Long Jump.

• 2011: 5
> Men-2: High Jump, Decathlon;
> Women-3: 200 m, 100 m Hurdles, Long Jump.

First-place vs. First-place marks, scored 5-3-2-1 among the four meets:
• 2005: 94 points, fourth place:
> Men: 52.5 points, 2nd;
> Women: 41.5 points, 4th.

• 2007: 100 points, third place:
> Men: 54.5 points, 1st;
> Women: 45.5 points, 3rd.

• 2009: 116 points, first place:
> Men: 52 points, 3rd;
> Women: 64 points, 1st.

• 2011: 108 points, second place:
> Men: 50 points, 4th;
> Women: 58 points, 2nd.

First vs. First, Second vs. Second, Third vs. Third, scored 5-3-2-1 for each place:
• 2005: 281 points, fourth place:
> Men: 146.5 points, 4th;
> Women: 134.5 points, 3rd.

• 2007: 289 points, third place:
> Men: 158.5 points, 2nd-tie;
> Women: 130.5 points, 4th.

• 2009: 116 points, first place:
> Men: 52 points, 3rd;
> Women: 64 points, 1st.

• 2011: 108 points, second place:
> Men: 50 points, 4th;
> Women: 58 points, 2nd.

The complete breakdown is here.

So what does all this analysis tell us about the 2011 meet? Three things:

(1) That the winning men’s performances, overall, were not up to recent standards. On the meet vs. meet scoring for first-place marks, the 2011 meet was fourth among the last four U.S. championship meets.

(2) That the U.S. women’s team should be strong, as its first-vs.-first performances were second only to a great meet in Eugene in 2009.

(3) That U.S. depth is fine, as the top three vs. top three comparison showed the 2011 meet tied for second among the four meets on the men’s side, and was best on the women’s side.

But what about winning medals in the World Championships? Interestingly, the 2009 team, which had the best overall performances among the last four U.S. Championships, brought home only 22 medals, worst among the last three U.S. World Championships teams. In fact, its medal total would have been only 24 if the American 4×100 m relays teams had gotten the stick around the track and medaled.

By contrast, the 2005 team won 25 medals, losing two in the men’s relays and the 2007 team won 26, winning all four relays. But the 2007 and 2005 teams ranked first and second, respectively, in our first-vs.-first comparison.

That could mean trouble for the American team – especially the men – in Daegu in August.

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