USATF 2011: Big trouble or bad rap?

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.)

4 Comments

  1. Hi Rich,
    Great analysis of the meets. My only reservation is how this applies to the distance events, especially on the men’s side. Those races were particularly tactical this year but that does not mean this year’s runners have any more or less of a chance of doing well at Worlds. For instance, the men’s 10,000 meters was painfully slow but qualifiers like Rupp and Tegenkamp certainly will contend for medals in Daegu.

    Kevin Liao
    Spiked Up, Psyched Up

  2. I agree with your assessment of the men. Lackluster performances to say the least. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I anticipate a major thrashing of the men in Daegu, particularly in the 100m and 200m by the Thunderbolt and company. My hope is that the USA can redeem itself in the relays. I hope they, at least, get the stick around the track and break the AR in the 4×1. I believe we’ll be okay for the 4×4, but boy do we miss Lashawn Merritt!
    The women, on the other hand, leave me far more optimistic. Jeter ought to be able to eke out a win in the 100m in Korea. She just needs to work on her start and not allow VCB to get too far ahead of her. We’ll see how Fraser-Pryce progresses, but I think CJ is a major favorite. The 200m is where the fireworks lie. Solomon, Jeter and upstart Tarmoh were magnificent in Eugene. Tarmoh, however, may have peaked after a long collegiate season, but who knows… The women shoud fare well in the relays. The USA is poised to challenge the AR in the 4×1. It will be interesting to see who is selected. My preference would be Barber, Felix (because it’s the longest leg and she has superior top-end speed and experience); Myers then Jeter.
    The 4×4, well, if Richards-Ross regains her form of past and does well in Korea, I would still keep her on the anchor leg. But, I would run Felix first, then Richards-Ross, Dunn then McCorory. The name of the game would be to make everybody tie up trying to catch you. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

  3. It’s a good thing that everyone didn’t try to peak for USA’s this year. This means, hopefully, that we should see many more American athletes peak at Worlds instead of the qualifier. If I were a betting man I would put money on more of our athletes peaking at World’s than previous years. No way Cantwell tried to peak for this weekend and he still had an enormous foul. Just hope he can save his big one in Korea. Shot will be a show with Armstrong, Big 3, Whiting, and 2003 WC still around

  4. I THINK THE US MEN WILL GET DESTROYED IN THE 100 AND 200; THE BIG BOSS WILL RULE. I THINK THE US MEN SHOULD TJHINK ABOUT DROPPING THE BATON IN THE 4X1; SO THAT THEY WILL HAVE AN EXCUSE FOR LOSING.THE US IS FINISHED IN TRACK AND FIELD. USA KIDS JUST DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN TRACK AND FIELD ANYMORE. I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT YOU KNOW WHEN AMERICA IS IN DECLINE WHEN WE START PRODUCING GREAT TRACK AND FIELD STARS. THE SUN HAS SET ON AMERICA, IT’S OVER, ITS OVER.THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES THE LONG COLD WINTER HAS SET IN. THE FALL OF THE EMPIRE.

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