Strong second half: Americans improve to .317 in Daegu vs. Eugene!

September 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Olympic Games, Track & Field 

LOS ANGELES, Sep. 4, 2011 – After a very modest first four days of the World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea, the United States team caught fire in the final four days of competition, collecting 15 medals and executing a series of performances that exceeded those needed to make the American team in June:

• The American men, in a simple comparison of marks made in the finals of the Nationals in Eugene, had only two performances in the finals in Daegu (or their last round of preliminary competition if they did not advance) through the first four days in 28 opportunities, just an .071 “batting average.” After adjusting the sprint results for wind and altitude, give credit to Walter Dix (100 m) and Jason Richardson (110 mH) for performances which are statistically better, so the first-half men’s total was 4-28 or .143.

In the final four days, however, the U.S. men recorded 7 1/2 performances in 26 tries that were better in Daegu than in Eugene for an much-better .289 average, with Bernard Lagat’s mark in the 5,000 m and Will Claye’s in the long jump almost the same.

• The American women “batted” 6-26 in the first four days (.230) and after adjusting the sprints for wind and altitude, Carmelita Jeter’s 100 meters was statistically better in Daegu, so the first-half total improves to 7-26 or .269.

In the second half, the U.S. women were en fuego at 9-26, meaning better than a third of the team performed better in their final round in Daegu than in the finals in Eugene, a very fine .346 average. Not to mention that Jeter’s 200 m final mark, adjusted for the wind, was this close to her Eugene time.

Add them together and the second-half team total is 16 1/2-for-52, an impressive .317 average. The event-by-event details of the second half, with all Daegu placings indicated:

Men:

200 meters: 1-for-3
(finals wind readings: +2.4 in Eugene vs. +0.8 in Daegu)
YES: Walter Dix: 19.95w in Eugene vs. 19.70 in Daegu (silver medalist)
NO: Darvis Patton: 19.98w vs. 20.72 (12th in semifinals; wind: -1.0)
NO: Jeremy Dodson: 20.07w vs. 20.92 (30th in heats; wind: -0.8)

1,500 meters: 3-for-3
YES: Matthew Centrowitz: 3:47.63 vs. 3:36.08 (bronze medalist)
YES: Leonel Mazano: 3:48.16 vs. 3:47.98 (21st in semifinals)
YES: Andrew Wheating: 3:48.19 vs. 3:42.68 (29th in heats)

5,000 meters: 0-for-3
NO: Bernard Lagat: 13:23.06 vs. 13:23.64 (silver medalist)
NO: Galen Rupp: 13:25.52 vs. 13:28.64 (9th)
NO: Andrew Bumbalough: 13:39.94 vs. 13:44.38 (17th in qualifying)

400 meter Hurdles: 0-for-3
NO: Jeshua Anderson: 47.93 vs. 49.33 (12th in semifinals)
NO: Bershawn Jackson: 47.93 vs. 49.24 (6th)
NO: Angelo Taylor: 47.94 vs. 49.31 (7th)

High Jump: 0.5-for-3
NO: Jesse Williams: 7-9 1/4 (2.37 m) vs. 7-8 1/2 (2.35 m) (gold medalist)
TIE: Erik Kynard: 7-5 3/4 (2.28 m) vs. 7-5 3/4 (2.28 m) (14th in qualifying)
NO: Dusty Jonas: 7-7 (2.31 m) vs. 7-1 (2.16 m) (30th in qualifying)

Long Jump: 1-for-3
YES: Dwight Phillips: 25-10 3/4w (7.89 mw) vs. 27-8 3/4 (8.45 m) (gold medalist)
NO: Will Claye: 26-10 1/2w (8.19 mw: +3.2) vs. 26-7 (8.10 m: +0.1) (9th)
NO: Marquise Goodwin: 27-4w (8.33 mw) vs. 26-3 3/4 (8.02 m) (13th in qualifying)

Claye’s marks were pretty close, almost the same after taking the wind into account; he had quite a meet, making both finals and winning a bronze medal in the triple jump.

Triple Jump: 2-for-3
YES: Christian Taylor: 57-4 3/4 w (17.49 mw) vs. 58-11 1/4 (17.96 m) (gold medalist)
YES: Will Claye: 56-1w (17.09 mw) vs. 57-5 (17.50 m) (bronze medalist)
NO: Walter Davis: 55-10 1/4 (17.02 m) vs. 52-10 3/4 (16.12 m) (23rd in qualifying)

Shot Put: 0-for-4
NO: Christian Cantwell: 71-9 (22.87 m) vs. 70-1 (21.36 m) (4th)
NO: Reese Hoffa: 71-8 3/4 (21.86 m) vs. 68-10 1/2 (20.99 m) (5th)
NO: Adam Nelson: 72-5 3/4 (22.09 m) vs. 66-7 (20.29 m) (8th)
NO: Ryan Whiting: 70-0 1/4 (21.34 m) vs. 68-1 (20.75 m) (7th)

Javelin: 0-for-1
NO: Mike Hazle: 256-7 (78.22 m) vs. no mark in qualifying

Women:

200 meters: 0-for-3
(finals wind readings: +1.0 in Eugene vs. -1.0 in Daegu)
NO: Carmelita Jeter: 22.23 in Eugene vs. 22.37 in Daegu (silver medalist)
NO: Shalonda Solomon: 22.15 vs. 22.61 (4th)
NO: Jeneba Tarmoh: 22.28 vs. 23.60 (27th in heats)

Allyson Felix ran the 400 in Eugene, but competed as defending champion in Daegu and won the bronze medal in 22.42. Even with the difference in wind, Jeter’s mark in Eugene is still slightly better than her 22.37 in Daegu, but the two are awfully close.

800 meters: 2-for-3
YES: Maggie Vessey: 1:58.86 vs. 1:58.50 (6th)
NO: Alice Schmidt: 1:59.21 vs. 2:01.16 (16th in semifinals)
YES: Alysia Montano: 1:58.33 vs. 1:57.48 (4th)

1,500 meters: 1-for-3
YES: Jennifer Simpson: 4:05.66 vs. 4:05.40 (gold medalist)
NO: Morgan Uceny: 4:03.91 vs. 4:19.71 (10th; fell)
NO: Shannon Rowbury: 4:06.20 vs. 4:11.49 (21st in semifinals)

5,000 meters: 1-for-3
NO: Amy Hastings: 15:14.31 vs. 15:56.06 (15th)
YES: Lauren Fleshman: 15:31.26 vs. 15:09.25 (7th)
NO: Molly Huddle: 15:10.01 vs. 15:42.00 (19th in heats)

100-meter Hurdles: 2-for-3
(finals wind readings: +1.8 in Eugene vs. +1.1 in Daegu)
NO: Kellie Wells: 12.50 vs. did not finish (in final)
YES: Danielle Caruthers: 12.59 vs. 12.47 (silver medalist)
YES: Dawn Harper: 12.65 vs. 12.47 (bronze medalist)

400-meter Hurdles: 1-for-3
YES: Lashinda Demus: 54.21 vs. 52.47 (gold medalist)
NO: Queen Harrison: 54.78 vs. 55.44 (12th in semifinals)
NO: Jasmine Chaney: 55.22 vs. 55.97 (16th in semifinals)

High Jump: 0-for-2
NO: Brigetta Barrett: 6-4 3/4 (1.95 m) vs. 6-4 (1.93 m) (10th)
NO: Inika McPherson: 6-1 1/4 (1.86 m) vs. 5-10 3/4 (1.80 m) (27th in qualifying)

Barrett equaled her lifetime best in the qualifying, but was slightly below it in the final. In this compilation, the emphasis is on performances when the medals are on the line; Barrett certainly showed that she can be a contender for a medal in London.

Triple Jump: 0-for-1
NO: Amanda Smock: 46-2 (14.07 m) vs. 44-2 3/4 (13.48 m) (31st in qualifying)

Hammer: 1-for-3
NO: Jessica Cosby: 234-0 (71.33 m) vs. 226-1 (68.91 m) (11th)
NO: Amber Campbell: 229-10 (70.07 m) vs. 225-11 (68.87 m) (14th in qualifying)
YES: Jeneva McCall: 221-5 (67.48 m) vs. 223-11 (68.26 m) (15th in qualifying)

Javelin: 1-for-2
NO: Kara Patterson: 194-8 (59.34 m) vs. 187-5 (57.14 m) (21st in qualifying)
YES: Rachel Yurkovich: 180-2 (54.91 m) vs. 193-0 (58.84 m) (15th in qualifying)

With the second-half totals added in, the American team’s overall Eugene-vs.-Daegu performance comparison shows:

• Men: 11 1/2 out of 54 (.213);
• Women: 16 out of 52 (.308).

Adding them together and the team-wide average is 27 1/2 out of 106 (.259); good, not great, but a welcome improvement over the opening days of the meet.

With 25 medals in all, the U.S. topped the medal count, won a quarter of the events held, collected 46 top-eight placings in 47 events and topped the placing table by 50 points. There’s no doubt that the U.S. is the world’s best track & field nation.

But what do the Daegu results say about the performance of the American team in an even tougher competition, against its demonstrated ability from the U.S. selection meet? More on what we learned from Daegu – and Eugene – on Tuesday.

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at www.twitter.com/RichPerelman.)

Halfway through the Worlds: A leaderless USA Track & Field may be the way to go

August 30, 2011 by · 5 Comments
Filed under: Olympic Games, Track & Field 

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30, 2011 – The United States track & field team hasn’t had an especially brilliant World Championships so far in Daegu, South Korea. The depressing facts showed:

• Only one finalist in the men’s 100 m and 400 m in events where the U.S. is traditionally strong, if not dominant.

• No better than ninth in the men’s pole vault.

• Less than hoped-for performances from stars like Nick Symmonds in the 800 meters, David Oliver in the 110-meter Hurdles, Sanya Richards-Ross in the 400 meters and Shalane Flanagan in the 10,000 meters. Not to mention that injuries have sidelined Tyson Gay, Jeremy Wariner, Bryan Clay and impacted the efforts of Jenn Suhr and Hyleas Fountain, among others.

After four of the eight days of track & field competition, the American team has nine medals, but could optimistically forecast a final total of about 25, which will clearly keep them at the top of the standings. And there have been heartening performances from sprinter Carmela Jeter, shot putter Jillian Camarena-Williams, a barely-in-shape LaShawn Merritt and decathletes Trey Hardee and Ashton Eaton.

If this were baseball, or football, or basketball, or soccer, you’d been seeing some close questioning of the team’s head coach, especially on NBC and Universal Sports. Can you even name the head coaches of the American men’s and women’s teams?

Give up? It’s Vin Lananna for the men and Connie Price-Smith for the women.

Now that you know, maybe it’s just as well that you don’t. One of the striking aspects of the pre- and post-event interviews in Daegu is the total irrelevance of the national team coaches and the continuous referrals to personal coaches, like John Smith, Bobby Kersee and even former sprint star Harvey Glance, who tutors Grenada’s 400-meter world champion Kirani Jones (who competed for Glance at Alabama this year).

And that’s our sport today. A bunch of individuals who are just as likely to get their workouts via e-mail as from a coach who sees them daily, whose racing schedules are set by agents they hear from by telephone, text message and voice mail and a few family and friends who may be the only ones with them for their daily workouts, often at a local high school track.

For those who know the joy of teammates, it’s a sad reality really. But if the goal of USA Track & Field is to maximize its medal count in the World Championships and the Olympic Games – remember ex-C.E.O. Doug Logan’s “Project 30″ goal for London? – it might be better off dropping any pretense of trying to make track & field a higher-profile sport and maybe just forget about finding a chief executive at all.

Under the current structure, there is accountability for the performance of the American track team at USATF in the person of Chief of Sport Performance Benita Fitzgerald Mosley. And there is direct responsibility for the always-exciting American relay circus in national relay coach Jon Drummond.

Why not just take whatever revenues the USATF receives and hand it out to athletes and coaches. Forget about trying to put on a bunch of track meets to get people interested in the sport.

For the most part, the athletes don’t seem to care anyway. Look at this year’s schedule, with most American stars running very few events prior to the U.S. Nationals in June and then the IAAF scheduling a total of 13 Diamond League or World Challenge meet days in the 87 days prior to the World Championships!

Just like NFL pre-season games, no one wants to run any more for fear of getting hurt. Just train, train, train and get to the Nationals, so you can make the Worlds team. Then run only enough to maintain some race sharpness, satisfy your sponsors (if you have any) and collect enough appearance and prize money for living expenses before going home to spend several weeks in training for the Worlds. That’s what our sport is now . . . not only in the U.S., but for most of the world. Except for two meets a year – the Nationals and the Worlds – the whole season is the equivalent of the NFL’s pre-season.

Thus, is it any wonder that the big money – in television, sponsorships and ticket sales (have you noticed that huge sections of seats in the second tier of the Daegu Stadium are covered?) – goes to sports which have a well-defined regular season, followed by a climatic playoff season?

But that’s not track & field, or swimming, or gymnastics today. In track, USATF is being run by three committees in concert with Chief Operating Officer Mike McNees. Twenty-five medals is pretty good; maybe it should stay that way.

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at www.twitter.com/RichPerelman.)

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.

(You can stay current with Rich’s technology, sports and Olympic commentaries by following him at www.twitter.com/RichPerelman.)