Monday, July 23, 2007

There is No Resurgence in American Middle-Distance Running

The most overused word in marketing is "revolutionary." Similarly, the word "resurgence" is bandied about so often in American track circles lately, one would think that the Kenyans have decided to boycott the World Championships next month. But other than Alan Webb's season in the sun, who do we have in United States Middle-Distance Running? Let's take a peek at the IAAF top lists.

In the women's mile, American Donna MacFarlane's time of 4:33.52 is some 18 (17.89, to be exact) seconds behind Russian Yelena Soboleva's world-leading time of 4:15.63. In the 800m, Alice Schmidt has posted a respectable 1:58.75 for 3rd place in 2007, just 0.42 seconds behind Maria Mutola's 1:58.75. But a quick look at the 2006 top list reveals that, at season's end, the American women weren't even within striking distance of the indomitable Mutola or the Russians. The top 800m runner was Hazel Clark, who finished the 2006 season with only the 19th fastest time. This year, once the season-end rankings are posted, is unlikely to be any different. American women just don't have the kicks or the stamina to compete with the world's best.

Same story over on the men's 800m side with Khadevis Robinson's 7th best time of 2006. I will admit that his times, both in 2006 and 2007, are much closer to the world's best than are the womens' mediocre times, but, there's much left to be desired. Nick Symmonds' name is often associated with the phrase "resurgence in American middle-distance running," but so far he's being eaten alive in the European circuit this summer. I could be surprised, but I'm not going to bet on him to win, place or show in Osaka. In the 3000m Chris Solinsky's American best time of 7:36.90 is over 10 seconds behind Kenenisa Bekele's world-leading 7:26.69. On the women's ledger, Jenelle Deatherage's 8:57.36 (21st in the rankings) isn't even within shouting distance of Vivian Cheruiyot's 8:43.85.

No, there is no resurgence in American middle-distance running, not even close. Our hopes rest solely on Alan Webb's Nike's. He may be the only reason we don't get a goose-egg in the middle-distance medal count in Osaka.

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