Now that the 2011 World Championships are complete, I would characterize this championship meet as one full of surprises and unexpected results. The underdogs seem to have come through with big performances at the right time, while the pre-meet favorites seemed to have come up short. In fact, at one point there was a daily program cover jinx. Athletes featured on the cover of the program (usually a pre-meet favorite) failed to win their event on six of the first seven days of the meet, with only race walker Olga Kaniskina breaking the jinx. Finally some of the favorites came through on the final two days of the meet with Sally Pearson winning the 100 meter hurdles and Usain Bolt anchoring the Jamaica 4X100 meter relay team to a world record.
The first surprise took place on day two of the meet, when in the 100 meter final Usain Bolt false started, thus the world record holder and defending champion was eliminated from the race. Yohan Blake of Jamaica seized the opportunity to win gold in a time of 9.92 seconds. Blake’s accomplishment is somewhat tempered by the fact that the three men readily acknowledged as fastest men in the world (Bolt, Asafa Powell, and Tyson Gay) were not in the race.
On day three of the meet, the favorites in the men’s hammer included Primoz Kozmus of Slovenia and Krisztian Pars of Hungary. Way down on the season best list with a mark of 78.10 meters was Koji Murofushi of Japan. Murofushi was the 2004 Olympic Champion and his PR of 84.86 meters was set eight year ago. The thirty-six year old who has battled a back injury was not expected to contend for a medal at this year’s championships. In the third round he threw 81.24 meters and matched that mark again in the fifth round. A final throw of 81.18 meters by Pars in the last round was six centimeters short. Murofushi became the oldest hammer throw World Champion in history. This year’s gold came one decade after winning his first World Championship medal and gives him a complete set of medals; he won the silver in 2001 and the bronze in 2003.
Much of the World Championships hype centered on the day three showdown in the men’s 110 hurdles between David Oliver (USA), Dayron Robles (Cuba), and Liu Xiang (China). All over Korea there were banners and posters of these three under the heading, “Who’s the Fastest?” But that is why they run the race. Oliver has been in a slump all summer and was never in contention. Xiang looked like he was going to make a move for the win over the last couple hurdles but chopped his steps. It turns out that the reason he chopped his steps was contact by Robles. This contact led to Robles being disqualified. That made the somewhat unheralded and certainly overlooked Jason Richardson (USA) the gold medal winner.
Both the men’s and women’s 400 meter races came down to the final strides. In both races the USA had one of their superstars competing. Also in both races, the prime competition came from a runner from a country without a rich 400 meter tradition.
In the women’s 400 on day three of the meet, it was Amantle Montsho from Botswana who held off a late charge by the USA’s Allyson Felix to win Bostwana’s first World Championship gold medal. Montsho ran a PR 49.56 to beat Felix, who also ran a PR of 49.59. Montsho has been dominant in the Diamond League this summer, but her previous record of finishing eight at both the 2009 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics made many skeptical that she could win in Daegu…but she did!
On day four of the meet, in the men’s 400 meters it was 2009 defending World Champion Lashawn Merritt against eighteen year old Kirani James of Grenada. Merritt had the lead down the final homestretch, but in the final strides James overtook him to win Grenada’s first ever World Championship gold medal. Similar to the women’s race the winner ran a PR (44.60) to win by the slim margin of 0.03 seconds over a USA superstar.
On day four of the meet, the women’s steeplechase was expected to be dominated by the Kenyan trio of Micah Chemos Cheywa, Mecy Njoroge,
and Lydia Rotich. Cheywa, having won eight steeplechases in a row this year, was the heavy favorite. But instead it was Russia’s Yuliya Zaripova and Tunisia’s Habiba Ghribi who not only went 1-2 in the race but became the third fastest and ninth fastest steeplechasers of all-time. Zaripova’s 9:07.03 is the 2011 world leading mark. Ghribi’s 9:11.97 was a Tunisian national record. She and her supporters were the happiest people in the stadium. Ghribi jumped up and down – and after handing her a Tunisia flag, three ecstatic Tunisian fans could be seen sobbing. Why? Ghribi was Tunisia’s first woman to ever win a medal at the World Championships.
On day six of the meet, the women’s 1500 meters produced an upset for the ages. Most of the focus was on the two-time defending champion, Maryam Yusuf Jamal of Bahrain. American Jenny Barringer Simpson was hardly mentioned, and when she was it usually centered on the fact that she was fifth at the 2009 World Championships….in the steeplechase; but for some reason known only to her and her coach she was competing in the 1500 meters at these championships. Simpson’s 2011 season best in the 1500 ranked her ninth out of the twelve women who started the race. It was a typically tight race but with 300 meters to go, Simpson moved into contention. With 150 meters to go she looked poised to move into the top three to secure a medal. With 50 meters to go she had the same look that she had at the 2009 Prefontaine Classic when she shocked the world by running a new collegiate record of 3:59.90. After seeing that look, I knew she was going to win it…and she did. That’s why she was in the 1500 instead of the steeplechase…to win a gold medal!
Day seven featured the men’s shot put, which was a who’s who of past champions: 2009 World Champion, Christian Cantwell (USA), 2008 Olympic Champion Tomasz Majewski (Poland), 2007 World Champion Resse Hoffa (USA), 2005 World Champion Adam Nelson (USA), and 2003 World Champion Andrei Mikhnevich (Belarus). Despite the presence of these five throwers, the pre-meet favorite was Dylan Armstrong of Canada, who had the 2011 world leading mark (and Canadian national record) of 22.21 meters. Lost in this crowd was twenty-one year old German, David Storl, who had only the eighth best mark in 2011 among the twelve finalists. Storl took the early lead with a throw of 21.60 meters (a PR) in the second round. Armstrong pushed him back to second with a throw of 21.64 meters in the fourth round. In the final round, on the second to last throw of the competition, Storl launched the shot 21.78 meters (another PR, giving him 28 centimeters of improvement in one day, which is just short of one foot). On the last throw of the competition Armstrong could not re-take the lead and Storl was the champion. Among the historic oddities from this event were Storl wining Germany’s first ever gold medal in the shot put and the USA getting shutout of the medals for the first time in twenty years.
The final upset winner came on day nine in one of the last events of the meet, the men’s triple jump. The field included three former World or Olympic Champions: Phillip Idowu of Great Britain (2009 World Champion), Nelson Evora of Cuba (2007 World Champion and 2008 Olympic Champion), and Christian Olsson of Sweden (2003 World Champion and 2004 Olympic Champion). With Teddy Tamgho, the 2011 world leader, out with an injury Idowu wore the hat as the favorite. After one round of jumping the three former world champions held the three medal spots. However, it was the young American jumpers who leaped to glory. In round three twenty year old American Will Claye leaped a PR of 17.50 meters to take the lead. Idowu responded with a 17.70 meter jump to re-take the lead. Twenty-one year old American Christian Taylor then jumped 17.40 meters to move into third. Taylor followed that up in the next round with a jump of 17.96 meters, making him the fifth best triple jumper of all-time. Idowu would improve to 17.77 meters but that was only good enough for silver. The gold went to Taylor, the youngest triple jump gold medalist in history, with bronze to Claye, the youngest triple jump medalist in history.
The difference between winning a world championship and coming up short is a fine line. That fine line is often measured in milliseconds and millimeters. That’s why an underdog can pull off the upset. The unpredictable nature of track & field is what makes watching a World Championship meet so very exciting.
Note: All the great photos in this blog entry were taken by the Track Widow from our fantastic seats in row ten right by the finish line.
Team USA’s strong performance at the 2011 IAAF World Championships cements America’s claim that we have the best overall track & field team in the world. There were some disappointments, like the fall in the men’s 4X100, getting no one on the medal stand in the men’s shot put for the first time in twenty years, and despite high expectations, having a best finish of only sixth place in the men’s 400 hurdles.
In terms of the medal count, Team USA won 25 medals, twelve of them gold. That bettered the 2009 performance in Berlin that saw the USA win 22 medals, ten of them gold and was just a tad behind the 2007 performance in Osaka that saw the USA win 26 medals, fourteen of them gold.
However, as any coach will tell you, the strength of an overall team is based on not just your athletes who win medals, but also those who make the final. Using a scoring system like the NCAA Championships, with 10 points for first, 8 points for second, 6 for third, 5 for fourth, 4 for fifth, 3 for sixth, 2 for seventh, and 1 for eight, I scored the 2011 World Championships. The top eight countries were:
2. Russia, 223
3. Kenya, 194
4. Jamaica, 113
5. Germany, 89
7. Ethiopia, 69
8. China, 65.5
Again, Team USA lives up to the billing as the best team in the world. See scoring table for all the statistics (2011 World Champs Results Table_country scoring).
Some countries are strong in certain subsections of the sport but are not strong in others. Jamaica, for example scored 111 out of their 113 points in the sprints events (100, 200, 400, 110/100 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4X100, and 4X400). Germany scored all of their 89 points in the field events (high jump, pole vault, long jump, triple jump, shot put, discus, hammer, javelin, decathlon/heptathlon). Kenya was actually the best team in the distance events (800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, 3000 steeplechase, and marathon) by a wide margin. But those were almost the only events they scored in (191 out of their 194 points came in the distance events). Ethiopia’s 69 points were good to make them the second best distance nation in the world. But again, those were the only events Ethiopia scored in. I am a little biased against race walking because it’s not a particularly high profile sport in the US. Despite scoring no points in race walking, Team USA won the scoring competition. Russia and China, meanwhile, improved their point totals with big points in the race walking. Russia scored 56 points (25% of their points) in race walking and China got 23 points (35%). Russia is the country closest to the USA in terms of being good in many different events. However, it’s worth noting that the Russian women outscore the Russian men almost two-to-one and eleven of their thirteen non-race walking medals came from the women.
Team USA had strong numbers of medal winners and point scorers in all event subsections except race walking. The point balance between USA men and USA women was virtually fifty-fifty. Team USA was particularly strong in the sprint, outscoring all other countries in these events, including the Jamaicans. There is a lot of talk that the Jamaicans are a better sprint country than the USA, but at the 2011 World Championships the USA sprinters won 14 medals (six gold) compared to Jamaica’s 9 medals (four gold). Team USA even outscored the German men in the men’s field events. USA men’s distance held their own behind Kenya and Ethiopia. And the USA women’s distance and women’s field, although not scoring a lot of points, did not get shut out either.
One reason for this is that the USA has strong athletes in almost all of the events. Team USA had 129 athletes (66 men and 63 women) entered in the meet, by far the largest team. Russia was second with 83. Even Great Britain, the only other country besides the USA and Russia to have athletes score in all the event subsections (not counting race walking), had 67 athletes, 62 less than Team USA. Some countries are only able to get one or two athletes to achieve the necessary standards to qualify for the meet. It certainly speaks to the strength and depth in USA track & field that our country can qualify so many quality athletes for the World Championships. Before a team can be the best in the world, you first have to get athletes in all the events qualified for the World Championships.
The 2011 World Championships have come to an end. For a track & field geek like myself, this meet is pretty much Christmas everyday for a week. I am in heaven when I am attending the World Championships. For this year’s World Championships to end with a world record was icing on the cake.
The meet itself is spread out into morning and evening sessions. Heats and qualifying rounds are run in the mornings, with semi-finals and finals in the evenings. The schedule is timed perfectly. In less than a three hour period in the evening there will be eight to ten events plus medal ceremonies. The events are spaced so perfectly that you can watch pretty much all the action on the track and in the field events. With the jumbotron screens, Seiko scoreboards on the field, and expert announcing, spectators are kept abreast of all the action as it happens. The events are timed in such a way that there is never anything happening on the track when the final attempts are made by the medal winners in the jumps and throws. That way all the attention is focused on the often overlooked field event athletes. David Storl of Germany used this attention from the fans to his advantage, throwing 21.78 meters on his last throw in the shot put to move from the silver medal to the gold medal.
I am also particularly fortunate that my wife, Malinda Walker (a.k.a. The Track Widow) is willing to foresake typical vacations to travel across the world so I can watch track & field. Our experience at these meets is enhanced thanks to the kindness of Shannon Rowbury, who does all that she can to get us access to things like the Nike hospitality area and athlete’s village. It was quite an honor to time some of her 200’s on the practice track one day during our trip.
This year’s meet in Daegu was particularly interesting because of the great seats that we had. The price of the ticket was 112,500 Won, which is in the ballpark of $112 (USD). They weren’t cheap but they were quite reasonable for where they were located. We were in the section just adjacent to the press area, right on the finish line. I had a better seat for World Championships than I did for the California High School State Meet.
From our vantage point, I was able to get to Shannon to give her a hug after her semi-final race. We could also see the look of pure joy on Jenny Barringer Simpson’s face when she realized that she had won the 1500. We were just yards away from Vin Lannana as he reached over a railing to congratulate Matt Centrowitz on his bronze medal. After the 200 and 4X100 relay, hundreds of fans crowded the press area hoping to get a picture or autograph of The Man, Usain Bolt. I was one of those hundred. Malinda and I proudly waved our American flag throughout the meet and I swear if we had been in row five instead of row 10, Bernard Lagat would have taken our US flag to use for his victory lap (he looked up at us and I could tell he was trying to decide if we were close enough for him to get our US flag).
In addition to the best seats I may ever have for an international championship meet, our tickets came with dinner in the Premiere Lounge every night before the meet. The same menu got a little tiresome but how could I turn down free kimchi and beer?
Sadly this year’s meet is now over and it’s time to head home. I’ll post a blog or two about the meet when I get home before I turn my attention to London 2012 and Moscow 2013.
The 2011 International Association of Athletic Federation (IAAF) World Championships are set to begin on August 27 in Daegu, South Korea. The inaugural World Championships competition was held in Helsinki, Finland in 1983. The meet took place every four years (the year before an Olympic year) until 1993. Beginning in 1995, the World Championships have been held in every odd numbered year, making the 2011 competition the thirteenth World Championship meet. The World Championships in Athletics (track & field) is the third largest international sporting event in the world, ranking behind only the Olympics Games and the World Cup (soccer).
I will be in Daegu, Korea at the World Championships for the final five days of the nine-day competition. My first and foremost interest is cheering Shannon Rowbury in the women’s 1500. I am biased towards this event because I was Shannon’s high school coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral. But besides the women’s 1500 meters, here are the other eleven events that I am particularly looking forward to seeing. They follow in chronological order they will take place:
1. Men’s 100 Meters (Aug. 28)
Will the Jamaican team of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, and sweep the medals? Who will win out between the pre-race favorites, Bolt and Powell. Bolt is the world record holder and has seemed untouchable at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships but he’s been a little off his game in 2011. Powell, on the other hand, seems to be on his game.
2. Men’s 110 Hurdles (Aug. 29)
This is expected to be a three-way battle between Daryon Robles (Cuba), Liu Xiang (China), and David Oliver (USA). Robles is the world record holder at 12.87 and won the 2005 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics. Xiang’s PR is 12.88 and he won the 2004 Olympics and 2007 World Championships. Oliver is the American record holder at 12.89 and was undefeated in 2010.
3. Men’s 400 Meters (Aug. 30)
After years of American dominance in this event (think: Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner), this year’s 400 meter event seems up for grabs. Any one of eight to ten athletes seem to have a legitimate chance to claim the gold. Countries that aren’t always thought of as 400 meter hotbeds have athletes in the running – Grenada, Belarus, and the Ivory Coast.
4. Men’s 400 Hurdles (Sept. 1)
This appears to be a five-person battle between American athletes and L.J. van Zyl of South Africa. Van Zyl is the world leader for 2011 at 47.66. But don’t discount American’s Bershawn “Batman” Jackson (47.93), newly minted 2011 USA champion Jeshua Anderson (47.93), and thetwo-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor (47.94). And, although he has been a little off this year, the defending World Champion Kerron Clement should not be ignored.
5. Men’s Shot Put (Sept. 2)
The USA has traditionally been very strong in this “strong man” event. The threesome of Adam Nelson, Christian Cantwell, and Resse Hoffa are TEAM USA teammates again after representing America at the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships. Cantwell won silver in Beijing and gold in Berlin. Can he medal again? An American has won the shot put at the World Championships every year since 2003. But the 2011 world leader is a North American but not an American – it’s Dylan Armstrong from Canada.
6. Women’s 5000 Meters (Sept. 2)
I believe this will be a two-person race between Kenyan Vivian Cheruiyot and Ethiopian Meseret Defar. Cheruiyot has a 2011 best of 14:20.87. But Defar is the defending World Champion and although her 2011 best is “only” 14:29.52, she holds the World Record of 14:12.88.
7. Women’s 200 (Sept. 2)
All the attention for this event will be focused on Allyson Felix. Why? Because she is the three-time defending champion in the women’s 200 meters. However, she’s not taking the easy route to a historical four-peat. Before she begins her defense of the 200 meter title, she will compete in the 400 meters. By the time she steps to the starting line at the 200 meter final, she will have already run five races (400 meter heats and final, plus 200 meter heats).
8. Men’s 1500 Meters (Sept. 3)
Championship 1500 meter races are very unpredictable. The pace is often slow which leads to a mad dash for the medals in the final straightaway. Tactics is the key. On paper Kenyans Silas Kiplagat and Asbel Kiprop are the favorites. But given the unpredictable nature of this event, just about anyone who makes the final is going to be in the hunt.
9. Women’s 100 Hurdles (Sept. 3)
This is another event that could be won by any one of several athletes. The nature of the short hurdles race is such that often there is a surprise winner. You have to negotiate ten hurldes and one slight misstep can mean tenths of seconds in a race where athletes are separated by hundredths of seconds. Keep in mind that after they successfully clear one hurdle, they are just 8.5 meters away from another possible disaster. That’s the challenge that Sally Person (12.48), Kellie Wells (12.50), Danielle Carruthers (12.52), Dawn Harper (12.58), Tiffany Porter (12.60), Lisa Urech (12.62), Perdita Felicien (12.73) are faced with.
10. Men’s 200 (Sept. 3)
As I mentioned before, Bolt is a little off his game this year. Of course for Bolt, “a little off his game” still makes him one of the fastest human beings in the world. The question in the 200 is, Can American Walter Dix take advantage of Bolt’s vulnerability? Bolt appeared unbeatable in 2008 and 2009. If ever there was a time he might go down, the 200 in Daegu seems like the race where it could happen.
11. Women’s 4X100 Relay (Sept. 4)
Winning a medal in the 4X100 meter relay is both about speed and the ability to pass the baton. One could argue that passing the baton is more important than speed. The US women’s 4X100 meter relay team won the World Championship in 2005 and 2007. But at both the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships, the US failed to advance to the final, dropping the baton in the heats. If the US can successfully move the baton around the track, they have the speed to match the Jamaican team, who themselves have to pass the baton successfully. There will be a lot of breath holding when the gun goes off on September 4, and a big exhale by some country’s coaching staff 41-42 seconds later when the first team crosses the finish line with a baton held firmly in their hand. Who will it be?
In part one, I introduced the twenty veteran distance runners and three college kids that will represent the USA at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu later this summer. In part two, I introduce the final six members of the team.
First-Timers – But get used to seeing them (4)
This is the first international outdoor track & field championships for these four athletes, but I believe that you will be seeing these four in the USA jersey in the future. All four are young, have tremendous potential, and as proven by their success at the 2011 USA Championships are already competing at a high level.
Molly Huddle (5000 meters, 1st) – It almost comes as a surprise to me that this is Huddle’s first time to qualify. She set the American record in the 5000 meters when she ran 14:44.76 in 2010. Huddle was ranked number one in the US in the 5000 meters and number three in the 10,000 meters in 2010. Her debut 10,000 meter time was 31:48. Huddle has also been a USA Champion on the roads for the 10K, 5K, and 7 Mile distances. This All-American from the University of Notre Dame held the high school outdoor two mile record until Aisling Cuffe broke it on June 17, 2011.
Amy Hastings (5000 meters, 2nd) – Hastings quietly made her marathon debut at the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon, running 2:27:03 in windy and rainy conditions. Her former college teammate at Arizona State, Desirae Davilla, got more publicity for placing a close second at the 2011 Boston Marathon, but Hastings’ time is the third fastest American debut marathon behind only Kara Goucher’s 2:25:53 in New York (2008) and Deena Kastor’s 2:26:58 in New York (2001). Hastings and Davilla should both be in contention to earn spots on the 2012 Olympic marathon team.
Angela Bizzarri (5000 meters, 3rd) – Although Bizzarri just graduated from Illinois University in 2010, the 23 year-old has already been a top three finisher at the USA Championships. In 2009 she placed third in the 5000 meters, this time behind Kara Goucher and Jennifer Rhines. Bizzarri, however, did not have the “A” standard and thus did not run at the World Championships. Although sometimes overshadowed by record-breaking performances by Lisa Koll when they were both in college, Bizzarri was NCAA Champion in the 5000 meters and cross country.
Morgan Uceny (1500 meters, 1st) – Uceny was primarily an 800 meter runner in college. She was sixth at the 2008 Olympic Trials in that event, and then doubled back to place a surprising fourth in the 1500 meters. This foreshadowed her future move up to the 1500 meters. In 2009 and 2010 she continued to race the 800 meters and placed in the top six at the USA Championships both years. She claimed her first USA Championship by beating Shannon Rowbury at the 2010 USA Indoor Championships in the 1500 meters. Later in 2010 at an outdoor meet in Europe she ran 4:02.40 in the 1500 meters (making her the tenth fastest 1500 meter runner in US history). This race probably cemented her decision that her future lay in the metric mile.
The Breakthroughers – i.e. Patience and determination pay off (2)
Two runners I am happy for are Scott Bauhs (10,000 meters) and Delilah DiCrescenzo (3000 steeplechase). Both of them have worn the USA uniform before at the World Cross Country Championships, but to qualify in outdoor track & field is a whole different level of achievement. Neither Bauhs nor DiCrescenzo were heralded as future stars when they graduated from successful collegiate careers. But, thanks to the various elite training groups that now exist around the USA, they have continued to train with the goal of making a World Championship or Olympics. It’s taken persistence and a lot of commitment for both Bauhs and DiCrescenzo, and it was all worthwhile when their dreams came true at the 2011 USA Championships.
Twenty-five year old Bauhs runs for the Mammoth Track Club and is coached by Terrence Mahon. In high school, he ran at San Ramon Valley High School. His freshman PR’s were 5:01 (1600) and 11:00 (3200). He graduated with PR’s of 4:16 and 9:09. He was second at the State Meet in the 3200. Bauhs first burst on the national scene in the fall of 2007. While redshirting the fall cross country season for Chico State he was the top American finisher at the San Jose Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon, running 1:03:04. In February 2008 he placed tenth at the USA Cross Country Championships to earn a spot on the USA team for the World Cross Country Championships. At the 2008 Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, Bauhs ran a race that he himself describes as perfect. His time of 27:48.06 was a new division II collegiate record. Since that 27:48 race Bauhs has had subpar races at the USA Championships – sixteenth in 2008, did not finish in 2009, thirteenth in 2010. He seemed to be stuck on the cusp of national success but not actually there.
In the men’s 10,000 at the 2011 USA Championships, the pace was painfully slow. I’ve seen it described as a 9200 meter warm-up for an 800 meter sprint. The first mile was 4:38. After 5000 meters the split was 14:40. Even after 8000 meters of the race, the pace was projecting for a 29:10. Note that the World Championship “B” standard is 28:00, which means the group was more than capable of running 14:00 for the first 5000 or 4:28 per mile. Seventeen of the twenty-two runners who started the race, were still in contention with two laps to go. With one lap to go it was a seven person race and Bauhs was in contention for a top three finish. I figured that Galen Rupp and Matt Tegenkamp would secure the top two places, and they did, by running 1:52 and 1:54 for their last two laps. The battle in this race was for third. By running what I’ve been told was his 800 PR (about 1:54.5), Bauhs claimed the coveted third place and a spot on the team to Daegu.
DiCrescenzo graduated from Columbia in 2005 after winning several Ivy League titles. She was the 2007 USATF Cross Country Club Nationals Champion and a member of the USA team for the 2009 Cross Country World Championships. However, she was probably more known for the hit song, Hey There Delilah written and performed by Tim Higgenson, lead singer of the Plain White T’s. She even appeared with the band at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
Not wanting to be famous only for having that song written about her, DiCrescenzo has kept pursuing her dreams of being an Olympian. She is one of only two Puma-sponsored US track & field athletes and is coached by Frank Gagliano. She’s a member of the NJ-NY Track Club. Her teammates include Erin Donohue, Julie Culley (the runner who went to the 2009 World Championships in Bizzarri’s place), Frances Koons, and Christine Whelan (a Bay Area native from Archbishop Mitty). Over the years DiCrescenzo has qualified for the USA steeplechase final but, never been in the top three when it counted. She was third in 2006 (a non-World Championship/non-Olympic year), did not compete in 2007, fourteenth (last) in 2008, ninth in 2009, and ninth in the 5000 in 2010 (she did not run the steeplechase).
At the 2011 USA Championships, a pack of five broke away from the group with two laps remaining. Sara Hall fell off from that pack with about 600 meters to go and it became a four person battle for the three spots to Daegu. Bridget Franek and Emma Coburn pulled away slightly and ultimately took the top two spots. When DiCrescenzo stuttered on the penultimate water jump, Stephanie Garcia, the NCAA runner-up from Virginia, seized the opportunity and moved into third place. DiCrescenzo gave chase but it looked like she may have to settle for fourth. On the last water jump, however, Garcia fell into the water pit and this time it was DiCrescenzo who seized the opportunity, kicking hard down the final straightaway to claim the coveted third place and a spot on the team to Daegu.
Puma has really hit the marketing jackpot with DiCrescenzo. Before the USA Championships they build an advertising campaign (DELILAH – Series) around her, and had a camera crew follow her to film episode one of the series at the USA Championships. I applaud Puma both for getting some great track level footage of the steeplechase including Coach Gags’ reactions during the race, and also for not showing Garcia’s fall on the last water jump when DiCrescenzo moved into third place. It was a big moment for DiCrescenzo but a devastating moment for Garcia, one that she probably would not want replayed over and over in a Puma video. The DELILAH – Series rolls on, with new episodes every week as DiCrescenzo trains in New York, races in Europe, and ends her summer racing at the World Championships.
Go Team USA! Good luck in Daegu!
In the distance events, 800, 1500, 3000 steeplechase, 5000, and 10,000, the USA will send twenty-nine athletes to the World Championships in Daegu. The majority of the distance team (twenty of them) are what I would call veterans, people who have competed at international championships before. Three are college runners, who in addition to competing all spring for their college and competing at the NCAA Championships, managed to place in the top three at the USA Championships to extend their season another two months. Four are first-timers but I think they will become regular wearers of the TEAM USA jersey. Two others are first-timers who in my mind had breakthrough performances at the USA Championships to qualify for what the people in Track Town USA like to call, “the hardest team to make.”
Before naming the veterans, let me ask you a trivia question. No fair looking anything up. Off the top of your head, name the nine (9) USA distance runners who have qualified for the last four international championships (2007 Osaka, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2009 Berlin, and 2011 Daegu). Ready? Go! Tick-tick-tick-tock.
You probably got Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Bernard Lagat right off. You’ve definitely been paying attention if you got Matt Tegenkamp and Nick Symmonds. It’s hard to believe but Galen Rupp and Jenny (Barringer) Simpson also qualified for all four championships, three of them while they were still in college. The often over-looked Jennifer Rhines makes this list, too. Rhines may be overshadowed by the more marketed Flanagan and Goucher, but you cannot deny that Rhines is tough as nails and knows how to run a gutsy race in order to make the team. The ninth member of this exclusive club is Leo Manzano, another scrappy and tough runner who comes through at the championship races (and I’m not just saying that because he’s Shannon Rowbury’s teammate).
Other veterans who will compete in Daegu are:
Kyle Alcorn – ’09, ‘11
- Bridget Franek – ’09, ‘11
- Daniel Huling – ’09, ‘11
- William Nelson – ’08, ‘11
- Khadevis Robinson – ’07, ’09, ‘11
- Shannon Rowbury – ’08, ’09, ‘11
- Chris Solinsky – ’09, ‘11
- Maggie Vessey – ’09, ’11
- Andrew Wheating – ’08, ‘11
Two veterans deserve a special mention for making this year’s team. The two were 800 meter teammates on the 2007 team in Osaka. Both also suffered through injuries that threatened to derail their careers.
Alysia (Johnson) Montano was the 2007 USA Champion but injuries essentially wiped out her 2008 Olympic dreams and her 2009 season. She returned to be the 2010 USA Champion and ran the fifth fastest time in US history in 2010, a world-leading 1:57.34. Her win at the 2011 USA Championships to qualify for her second World Championship team, completes her return to the top of the 800 meter world.
Alice Schmidt was a World Championship qualifier in both 2005 and 2007 and competed at the 2008 Olympic Games, but she was not on top of her game at all in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 she was out all season with a stress fracture. In 2010 her best time was only 2:01 and although she qualified for the USA Championships 800 meter final, she did not run the race. It seemed like her time in the upper echelon of USA 800 meter running had come to an end. Schmidt had other plans, and battled back to place third this year and qualify for her third World Championship team.
The College Kids (3)
Every USA Championship seems to produce at least a couple of college runners who qualify for the international championships. College athletes who have been representing their schools by competing in an indoor season, and at invitationals, conference meets, regionals, and—just two weeks before USA’s—at the NCAA Championships (NCAAs). The college kids are race ready but may have tired legs. On the other hand, leading up to the USA Champs, the non-collegians have often only raced a handful of times. When the two groups meet head-to-head, it is a battle between the peaked but potentially worn out college athlete and the more experienced but possibly competition-rusty post-collegiate runner.
Over the last few years, Galen Rupp and Jenny (Barringer) Simpson have insured that at least two college runners would make the team. Rupp and (Barringer) Simpson are what I consider outliers, as it is pretty unusual for a runner to qualify for international championships during their sophomore, junior, and senior years of college. But that’s exactly what they did in 2007, 2008, and 2009.
Here is a list of collegians who have qualified:
2007 – Aaron Aguayo (3000 SC), Lindsay Anderson (3000 SC), Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Alysia Johnson (800), Leo Manzano (1500), Galen Rupp (10,000), Michelle Sikes (5000), Duane Solomon (800), Anna Willard (3000 SC).
2008 – Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Leo Manzano (1500), Galen Rupp (10,000), Andrew Wheating (800).
2009 –Jenny Barringer (3000 SC), Bridget Franek (3000 SC), Geena Gall (800), Galen Rupp (10,000), Dorian Ulrey (1500).
In 2011, three collegians made the team. They are Emma Coburn (another Colorado steeplechaser), Matthew Centrowitz Jr. (another Oregon Duck in a middle distance race), and Charles Jock (the front running UC Irvine 800 meter runner, who escaped war torn Sudan with his family at the age of three by walking for nearly two years through Ethiopia and Kenya).
I’ll introduce the First-Timers and the Breakthrough Performers in part two.