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Track & Field

Track & Field (189)

BY DAVE HUNTER 
 
Now that the 2016 track & field season has concluded and while memories of the many electrifying performances of this Olympic year still linger, it is the perfect time to look back on a terrific year for our sport on the track and in the field and determine who is worthy to be named the Track & Field Female Athlete of the Year.
BY DAVE HUNTER—Throughout his track career, Clayton Murphy has been misjudged, underestimated, and frankly unappreciated. Despite truly remarkable progression in both the 800m and the 1500m/mile during his three years as a collegian, Murphy's sparkling performances have never seemed to stimulate much excitement within our sport. That should all change now that the 21-year old ran a patient and exquisite race in the Olympic 800m final - capturing the bronze medal after a stirring stretch drive and crossing the line in 1:42.93 to become the first American medalist in the Olympic 800m since American record holder Johnny Gray grabbed the bronze in 1992. Murphy's clocking now positions him as the #3 performer [Gray and Duane Solomon] on the USA all-time list and the #31 performer on the all-time world list.
BY LARRY EDER—It's Saturday morning, August 20, and I am sitting on my bed in my little AirBnB, right across the street from the Engenhao Stadium. With my brother, Brian, and Victor Sailer, I have been here for the duration. This morning, I'm catching up.
 
So, this is my piece on the women's 400 meters, one of the finest races of the entire Olympic experience, which was marred, for me, by Americans thinking that somehow, the gold medal was taken from Allyson Felix. Shaunae Miller took the gold, because, this time, she got across the finish line first. That is what it is like in all races. Olympic track & field is not a theatre project, where one knows the outcome and it is the interpretation of the experience. It is not professional wrestling, where the outcome is preordained. These are real athletes, who put their regular lives on hold, so that, for a decade or so of their lives, they, run, jump and throw to see just how far they can go!
Updated 9.15 PM, August 17, 2016. Ezekial Kemboi has been DQed over rule 163.3.
 
BY LARRY EDER—In a brilliant and gutty run, Evan Jager took over the steeple final at three minutes and twenty seconds into the race, broke the race open, stayed calm and collected and caught Ezekial Kemboi on the final straight, to bring the US a silver medal, the highest men's US finish since 1952 and the first men's steeple medal since 1984! Conseslus Kipruto won the steeplechase, with Ezekial Kemboi, Olympic champion from 2004 and 2012, taking the bronze.
 
This race was the work of a team. Under the thoughtful eyes of Coaches Jerry Schumacher and Pascal Dobert, the Bowerman AC team were prepared. Schumacher and Dobert honed the skills of Jager over the barriers and the flats.
BY LARRY EDER—Earlene Brown, a USA Track & Field Hall of Famer, who won the last medal by the U.S. in the women's shot put. That was in 1960, and the color of the medal was bronze. I remember writing about Earlene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I wrote about Ramona Pagel and Connie Price-Smith. I was fascinated with Earlene Brown as she competed against the Press sisters of the old Soviet Union. A colorful lady, Earlene was a gifted athlete. But, as a women athlete in her day, Earlene Brown never got the respect she deserved. I love that she competed in roller derby, one of my favorite TV viewing pleasures as a kid in Saint Louis.
 
Well, the ghost of Earlene Brown shone brightly in Rio, watching over Michelle Carter, who just improved nearly all night, starting out at 19.12m, then, 19.82m, then, 19.44m, then, 19.87m, then, bammo! 20.63m.
Thursday, 01 September 2016 15:48

Almaz Ayana Dominates Olympic 10,000m in 29:17.45 WR

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BY LARRY EDER—Almaz Ayana has just destroyed the World Record in the 10,000 meters, running 29:17.45 to take over 14 seconds off the World Record set by Wang Junxia of China nearly 23 years ago! Ayana stayed in the lead pack for 5000 meters, and then, rushed for home, chased by Vivan Cheruiyot. Ayana's style of light running, with a gifted stride took her lead from four seconds to fourteen, as Vivian Cheruiyot guttily held on for the silver medal. Tirunesh Dibaba, the 2008 and 2012 champion, took third from Alice Nawowuna, who lead for the first five kilometers. Here is how I saw the race transpire:
Thursday, 01 September 2016 15:21

Molly Huddle Sets 30:13.17 AR in Oly 10,000m

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BY LARRY EDER—What was so spectacular about Molly Huddle's race was her ability to pull herself back from the precipice. At 4000m, Molly Huddle was near AR pace for her own 5000 meter record! She slowed the pace down, hitting the 5000m in 14:55, nine seconds behind Alice Nawowuma and Almaz Ayana. When Ayana took off after 5,000 meters, Molly Huddle was twenty meters off the seventh placer, but moved past two in the final 4000 meters. Molly Huddle was rewarded with a 30:13.72 for the 10,000m, a new American record!
 
Now owning the 5000m and 10,000m American records, Molly Huddle caps off a fine summer of racing where she won both the 10,000m and 5,000m at the U.S. Olympic Trials. We look forward to her debut over the marathon in the TCS New York City Marathon!
Tuesday, 30 August 2016 21:31

Best Quotes of the 2016 Olympic Games

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Compiled by Elliott Denman—From Opening Ceremonies to Closing, Olympians and those who'd done all the work giving them the opportunity to be Olympians, spewed out the contents of their hearts and of their souls, telling their stories of success and success's opposites. They divulged their emotions as they felt it at the moments of greatest drama, letting the rest of the world know just how they felt about the goings-on at the critical stages of the events they'd just experienced.
By Elliott Denman—Kids of America, we sure hope you were watching.
 
Boys and girls, we sure hope you got to check out Christian Taylor, Will Claye and Keturah Orji in action at Estadio Olimpico.
 
They were agile, athletic, astounding. Sensational and sizzling.
 
They not only doubled the fun for all of us at the Games, they tripled it.
 
They did it playing the old-older-oldest of children's street games - the hop, skip and jump.
 
And making all of us proud along the way.
 
Taylor and Claye placed 1-2 in the men's version of "El Triplo" for a second straight Games. Taylor's winning jump came in round one; he and Claye would far outclass the rest of the world the rest of the way.
 
And Orji showed us that this wasn't just a boys game.
 
For eons, it seems, American women have never been able to catch on to the knack of getting this thing done right.
 
It took a bright young lady out of New Jersey and now Georgia (the University of, to be precise), Keturah Orji, to show us that a U.S. female athlete selecting the triple as her sporting specialty wasn't embarking on a mission Impossible.
 
Keturah - biblically named, for the third wife of Abraham - not only smashed her own American record but came within a silly three centimeters of actually placing third and medaling, which would have translated in any language - which they do routinely here at the Games -into a big slice of American athletic history.
 
The best any American woman had ever finished in the triple, which has been on the Olympic program for women since 1984, was 10th.
 
Taylor's ties over the years have been to New York, Georgia and Florida (the University of, where he and Claye were teammates.) Now, global notable that he is, those ties go Trans-Atlantic, to England and The Netherlands, as he follows the workaday assignments of his renowned coach, Rana Rieder.
 
Double Dutch? No, Taylor triples it.
 
Will Claye's ties over the years have been to Arizona, Florida (with Taylor) and Oklahoma.
He's more than OK, too. While he couldn't match Taylor for a second straight Games - the margin between them was just ten centimeters - he's not giving up the chase, either.
 
Both frown on the mere thought of giving this thing up without at least one more Olympic Games in their resumes. Both have already vowed to be in Tokyo in 2020 - and what a perfect vision that would be.
 
Speaking of vows, Claye traveled in that direction here, too. At some point in his personal road to Rio, he'd packed an engagement ring in his luggage.
 
And he then presented it to his beloved, the hurdler Queen Harrison, after his podium appearance for the silver.
 
Obvious moral of this story-within-a-story: Where there's a Will, there's a way.
 
For the two-time silver medalist, this will be no short-term relationship.
It's the real thing. She will not be his Queen for a day.
 
Many American track and field fans of more recent vintage can tell you of the
exploits of such as Al Joyner, Mike Conley, and Kenny Harrison.
 
Just in case not, we'll remind you that Al Joyner (brother of the great Jackie; widower of the late-great Flo-Jo) struck gold at Los Angeles in 1984; Mike Conley won at Barcelona in 1992, and Kenny Harrison set the still-standing Olympic record with his win at Atlanta in 1996.
 
"Sure, I'm aware of all of them, and how great they were; they were role models for me," said Taylor.
 
But, Mr. T, have you ever heard of Meyer Prinstein?
 
"Well, errrr, no," he had to admit.
 
Told that Prinstein, a New Yorker and a Syracuse University guy, had tripled to
Olympic golds in both 1900 (Paris) and 1904 (St. Louis), along with snaring a gold and a silver in his long jumps, Taylor's response was "oh, wow..."
 
So that did not make him the first American to double the triple after all.
Moving right along, another check of the five-ringed archives will tell you that just one man has ever tripled the triple, and that was Victor Saneyev of the Soviet Union at Mexico City in 1968, Munich in 1972, and Monteal in 1976.
 
Two others have done the Paso Doble, you might say: Brazil's immortal Adhemar Ferreira da Silva at Helsinki in 1952 and Melbourne 1956, who was followed by Poland's Jozef Schmidt atop the podium at Rome in 1960 and Tokyo in 1964.
 
When all had quieted down, Taylor said "This is what I live for, this is what pushes me. I will continue to push, the season is not over and I'm healthy. I take everything into consideration, I have a phenomenal coach and I trust the program."
 
He also had a phenomenal but foul leap - maybe world record-long - in the final round to fuel his desire to keep on tripling for years to come.
 
With role models like these, along with the sheer fun of it all, maybe
a great promoter-person - certainly there is some such individual out there somewhere - can elevate El Triplo into the next great national fad.
 
Maybe even in the class of the hula hoop, and needing no such equipment, either.
 
As the Nostalgia Central website tells us about the hula hoop: "The Hula Hoop is the standard by which all fads are measured. Somewhere inside that plastic ring lay the key to the hearts of a generation, and the Hula Hoop won those hearts like no toy before or since."
 
That so, fad fans of the world, would you please unite; you have nothing to lose but your hoops. Go take a hop, a skip and a jump; keep smiling through each phase, and dream big, Olympic big.
 
Big enough to discover new talent in some interesting locations. 
 
Tripoli, for instance.
 
 
One of the finest and most prolific writers in our sport, Elliott Denman has written about our sport since 1956, when he represented the US in 1956 Olympic Games at the 50k race walk, the longest event on the Olympic schedule. A close observer of the sport, Elliott writes about all of our sport, combining the skills of a well-honed writer with the style of ee Cummings. 
 
By Larry Eder—Matt Centrowitz ended a 108-year-old drought in the men's 1500 meters for the U.S. on Sat., Aug. 20, 2016. Centrowitz did it by controlling the race from before the 200 meters on, and putting down one of the finest last laps in the history of Olympic final. It took just 50.25 seconds for Centrowitz to cover the last 400 meters as nearly 60,000 fans screamed from the stands of Engenhao Stadio Olimpico!
 
Here’s how we saw the race build and finish at a crescendo with the young, talented, and tactical Matt Centrowitz taking the gold, against one of the finest fields in the 1500 meters in many an Olympic Games.
 
 
The 1,500 meters started out slow and got slower. 
 
With so many athletes who should have known better, the race was so slow by 200 meters, that Matt Centrowitz was at the front, a position he would not relinquish until the very end, well, actually past the finish! In so doing, Centrowitz managed something no American had done since 1908. The best U.S. finish being a silver in 1968 by the great Jim Ryun, who had called to wish Matt good luck before the race.
 
Centrowitz took the lead just after 200 meters, and stayed right there. He hit 400 meters in 66.83, with Taoufik Maklhoufi, Algeria, 2012 London gold medalist and 2016 800m silver medalist, and Ayanleh Souleiman, Djibouti, always dangerous, who has the 800m bronze from Moscow 2013 to prove it. 
 
Sitting in the very back was Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, the man everyone thought was going to win. Nick Willis, New Zealand, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist at 1500 meters, and the 2016 World Indoor bronze medalist. Nick has lots of experience and brutal finishing speed. Also in the mix was Nate Brannen, Canada, always dangerous. Of the latter two, their coach Ron Warhurst told me a few days before, "If I don't get them into the final, then I’m not that good a coach."
 
Centrowitz was managing a fast-moving train, and keeping that train very slow.
 
The 800 meters was hit in 2:16.59-yes, that is slow. The slow pace continued and Centrowitz continued to control the pace. Those finely honed elbows were in place, tuned over all of the indoor races Centrowitz had run as a high schooler. That’s one of the things about Matt Centrowtiz, Jr. that I have always liked: he seldom gets in bad positioning when the medals are on the line. Centro continued that modus operandi in this race. How close was it? Just before the 800-meter mark, Ronal Kwemoi, Kenya, who should have been a player, hit the track and would end up finishing last.
 
The problem was, the rest of the world was on Centrowitz's back. Asbel Kiprop was moving up and, as the field came close to the bell, all the players were there: Makhloufi, Iguider, Kiprop, Bustos of Spain, Ben Blankenship of the U.S.
 
After the race, Centrowitz told USATF: "I didn't know how this race was going to be. After about the first 800 and no one went around me, I said, ‘Okay we're getting now into latter stages where I can't let anyone get around me at this point.’ Early on, if someone came around me, I'd be content with that. Souleiman kind of pulled up, kind of went around me but kind of left the inside. I've made that maneuver before at previous world championships and I saw that he left it open. I thought ‘We’re going into the last lap right now, it's now or never’ [so] I took my opening and went from there."
 
As the field hit the bell lap in 3:00.00 flat, one knew the pace had to quicken. Centrowitz, began the long drive for home. His speed is deceptive.  and he was churning up the track and controlling the race. No one could get by him on the back stretch. Souleiman made the toughest move with less than 200 meters to go, but there was no way Centrowitz would let him get by—it was running for medals now!
 
Off the final turn, Centrowitz was flying down the track. Makhloufi tried to get by but he was held at second, as all the rest tried. Kiprop began to move, his long legs and tall frame moving fast, but he just didn’t have the gear he had used so many times before, and finished sixth. Abdalaati Iguider, Morocco has serious finishing speed and his 50.58 last lap got him fifth. Ayanleh Souleiman ran 50.29 gave the Djibouti star fourth.
 
Best movers? Willis stayed in perfect position the entire final straight, knowing that he who moves last wins the big prize. He used that finish—built on the track at Michigan under the watchful eye of Ron Warhurst—with precision and took the bronze, with a 50.24 last lap, just missing the silver. Willis's bronze medal put a large smile on the Kiwi's face!
 
Makhloui, the 2012 defending champion would be closest, but he could not get the top position, as that was reserved today for Matt Centrowitz. Makhloufi took silver, in 3:50.11. Yep, that was slow, the slowest since 1932 Olympics.
 
But as John Walker, 1976 Olympic bronze medalist once noted, one preferred a field full of senior citizens. Finishing time didn’t matter. All that mattered was who won gold, silver, and bronze.
 
And for the first time since 1908, a U.S. runner had earned the gold. Centrowitz ran 50.25 for the last 400 meters, getting the jump on the field and putting so much lactate in their legs that most couldn’t challenge those few feet of advantage.
 
At the finish, Centrowitz exclaimed to his father, "Are you kidding me?" His father, Matt Centrowitz, Sr., a fine coach and a fine runner in his own right (and former American record holder), was a bit more profane, "Are you **** kidding me?"using a a bit more colorful language in the exchange.
 
I’m taken to two final comments. Back in May 2012, I was in the Amsterdam airport with Dathan Ritzenhein, after he’d run 27:51 at Hengelo. We were speaking about the then-very young Centrowitz. Dathan told me that Alberto Salazar, their coach, believed that Matt was one of his most talented runners. A few weeks later, I wrote on runblogrun: "Matthew Centrowitz had the talent, the speed, and yes, the arrogance, to win it all."
 
I’m sure glad that Matt Centrowitz won the 2016 Olympic gold medal, as it has not been often, in track & field prognostications, that I’m right.
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