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By Dave Hunter (July 30, 2017)
 
In the wide-sweeping mosaic of collegiate track & field, there definitely are recognized pockets of event excellence. When you think about high jump proficiency, you think of Cliff Rovelto's program at Kansas State. The 400 meters? Well, Baylor's Clyde Hart and his one-lap thoroughbreds led by Michael Johnson and Jeremy Wariner certainly come to mind. Top flight hurdling encourages many to reflect upon South Carolina's Curtis Frye and his prodigies Lashinda Demus and Terrence Trammell. And terrific sprinting and horizontal jumping immediately prompt thoughts of Florida's Mike "Mouse" Holloway and his legion of dash men and sky pilots at the University of Flight.
 
Well there may be a new university poised to join this fraternity of event excellence. The University of Akron - with 5 NCAA pole vault championships since 2014 - is making quite a name for itself in this vertical jump and is increasingly being recognized as an incubator of collegiate pole vault superiority. Canadian Olympian Shawn Barber kicked off the current streak when he captured the 2014 NCAA indoor vault crown. German athlete Annika Roloff followed suit for the Zips when she was victorious in the 2014 NCAA outdoor championship vault. Barber kept it rolling in 2015 - his storybook year - when he successfully defended his NCAA indoor title, captured its outdoor vault crown, and later won the world championship pole vault gold medal in Beijing.
Published in Track & Field
by Dave Hunter
 
Last month in Sacramento, the sunbaked fans in Hornet Stadium raised eyebrows as they witnessed a relative unknown - a former Div. II champion in a florescent yellow singlet - uncork 3 consecutive furious finishes in the 3-race 800 meter war of attrition to gain a spot on the U.S. world championship team. For Drew Windle it was the fulfillment of a dream concocted nearly a decade ago. "My senior year in high school I set a goal that you set even though it is super far-fetched at the time,” notes the Brooks athlete as he reflects on that promise he made to himself to make a national team. “We kept working at it. I went to a Division II school [Ohio’s Ashland University] and did really well there - enough to get me a contract with Brooks in Seattle, Washington. The stars kind of aligned on the right day. And it happened. It was kind of a dream come true.”
 
Windle came to track & field in a curious way. Growing up outside of Columbus in New Albany, Ohio, Windle first fell in love with football - and he saw track & field only as a vehicle to secure more gridiron playing time. "In my freshman year of high school, the football coach was my track and field coach and I thought I would do track to maybe kind of suck up to the football coach so I could get some extra playing time later in my high school career. In track I ran the 100 and the 200," reveals Windle, whose calculating plans ultimately were scuttled. “My sophomore year, we got a new coach - my middle school history teacher - and he turned me into an 800m runner. And I was pretty average until my senior year.” But in the final weeks in high school, Windle experienced a breakthrough. “I ended up running 1:51 
Published in Track & Field
By David Hunter
As is the case in virtually every undertaking in life, goal-setting is an essential ingredient for track & field success. The better athletes in our sport reflect upon past accomplishments, assess their fitness level, target their goals, and map out a strategy to achieve them. Yet without the athlete’s commitment, the prospects for goal achievement are slim indeed. Studies show that when an athlete does commit, but then also verbalizes and shares the targeted goals with others, it serves to strengthen the resolve of the athlete who has gone public with the dream. Some athletes - who see risk in sharing their goals with others - are coy about their annual or long-range objectives and are reluctant to share their goals with others. Other bolder and more confident track & field performers do not fear publication of what they hope to accomplish and see it as technique to inspire them to employ their best efforts to succeed. Kerron Clement is one such athlete.
Published in Track & Field
By David Hunter — Albuquerque (Originally published Mar. 4, 2017; Updated Mar. 7, 2017)
 
As has frequently been the case over the years, this weekend Albuquerque, New Mexico will once again host the USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. Many elite American athletes have made the pilgrimage to the Land Of Enchantment to test their fitness, to race against their most challenging domestic foes, and to pursue the glory of capturing a national championship. Yet others have elected to bypass this championship gathering for a variety of reasons that include: nursing injuries; avoiding the high plains' altitude challenge; and acknowledging that this championship meet does not fit into their build up for what they consider to be more challenging and important contests during the upcoming outdoor season.
Published in Track & Field
David Hunter—Albuquerque—Mar. 4, 2017
 
The pursuit of national indoor track & field indoor championships here in the high plains began in earnest with a full slate of Day Two events on the track and in the field. While impressive performances were expected, the day became special very quickly.
 
Early in the afternoon, in the women's weight throw, Gwen Berry electrified the crowd when her first attempt - only the second throw of the competition - sailed 25.22m/82'9", a throw that set a new indoor national championship and Albuquerque Convention Center record, a new world leader, and ranked #3 on the all-time world list. But Berry - coming off an injury and undecided about her championship participation as recently as Monday - was far from done. Not letting her monster opener break her concentration, Berry went on a tear, throwing 24.45m/80'2¾ and 25.21m/82'8½ on her second and third attempts. After two successive fouls, the Olympian saved her best for last. On her final attempt, Berry let it all go with a tremendous, arcing throw that measured 25.60m/84'0" to set a new world record and take down the previous global best of 25.56m/83'10¼ set in 2007 by American Brittany Riley. "I honestly didn't know what I had in store for me today," admits the new champion. "I was injured four weeks ago. I worked my butt off. I didn't think I had world record potential in me. I thought I could win with a good 80 foot throw, but a world record was not in my sights." With no fair throws less than 80 feet, Berry - now a three-time national weight throw champion - completed a sensational series that in addition to her world record throw also included the 4th and 5th weight best weight throws of all time.
Published in Track & Field
By Dave Hunter—Albuquerque—March 3, 2017
 
As the 2017 USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships got underway, the nation's top multi athletes found that on Day One they had the resurfaced Mondo track and field at the Albuquerque Convention Center all to themselves. It was a special opportunity they didn't squander.
 
In the opening event of the women's pentathlon - the 60 meters - Erica Bougard took advantage of a great start to rocket down the sprint straight, crossing first in 8.21, and ringing up 1082 points. Defending national champion Barbara Nwaba earned 1037 points claiming 2nd in 8.41. Her Santa Barbara Track Club teammate Chari Hawkins - 3rd in this event a year ago - finished 3rd in 8.44 to garner 1030 points. Multi veteran and American record holder in the pentathlon Sharon Day-Monroe clocked 8.56 to finish the first event in 6th with 1004 points.
Published in Track & Field
Jordan Hasay is an iconic runner from the Golden State. Countless times during her high school years, she made the pages of California Track & Running News, one of our publications. She was featured in Athletes Only during her college career and as an elite athlete, she has been featured in runblogrun as well. I was in Houston last month when Jordan Hasay ran 68:40 for the half marathon. It was a wonderful race for Jordan Hasay. Coming back from injuries in 2015, short on training in early 2016, Jordan is starting 2017 with a strong statement of fitness. Perhaps fitness and the dedication of her further career to her beloved mother, who she lost in 2016, are part of answer to her fantastic run in Houston. Renewed fitness and extra inspiration are hinting at an exciting 2017. David Hunter's feature puts her last five years in perspective, and her renaissance in 2017.  —Larry Eder
Published in Roads
By David Hunter, 1/7/17
 
While arctic temperatures and bone-chilling winds punished most of the country, a select group of elite pole vaulters were heating things up inside the Stiles Athletic Center on the University of Akron campus at the 5th annual Akron Pole Vault Convention.
 
Members of pole vault royalty were in attendance. In the women’s competition, the headliner was Jenn Suhr. The 2012 Olympic vault champion and the indoor world record holder had made the trip down from her upstate New York home to take on a worthy field that included former national champion Mary Saxer and emerging young star Katie Nageotte. 
 
In the men’s event, reigning world champion Shawn Barber and former Zip vault star was looking to make it three Convention wins in a row. Although not competing, retired 2004 Olympic champion and former Olympic record holder Tim Mack was present along with several of his Knoxville vault pupils here to compete and to pick up some technical pointers during the 3-day instructional seminar. Even though she has yet to open her 2017 season, the reigning Olympic champion Katerina Stefanidi and her husband Mitchell Krier, new northeastern Ohio residents, were also in the house.
Published in Track & Field