Friday, July 27, 2007

Hot 800m Action in Belgium Saturday

Alan Webb is scheduled to race again on Saturday, July 28th, 2007 at the KBC Night of Athletics meet in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium. He will race in the 800m this time, taking on Gary Reed of Canada, Dutch European champs Bram Som (outdoors) and Arnout Okken (indoors) as well as Nick Symmonds of the USA. Since the 800m is not his specialty, Webb is in for a hot race. Will he be able to hold his own?

Johnny Gray's American record of 1:42.60, set way back on August 28th, 1985, shouldn't be in jeopardy, but – with Webb in the shape of his life – you never know. He will certainly set a new PB. Reed and Som seem to be the class of the field, both boasting sub 1:44 personal bests, but Symmonds can claim a faster time than Som in 2007. Look for this race to be one of the highlights of the 2007 season.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bad News Day for Track & Field

Bad news seems to come in bunches. Yesterday the IAAF announced that it has provisionally suspended Jolanda Ceplak for a doping violation. Both her "A" and "B" samples failed in an out-of-competition test, showing positive for the blood-doping agent EPO. The Slovakian middle-distance runner is the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and the indoor world record holder for the 800m Run. For what it's worth, Ceplak proclaims her innocence.

Today Walter Dix announced that he will not be competing at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. Here's the pertinent section of the article in case the link gets removed:

FSU's Dix decides to 'call it a season'
By Steve Ellis

Walter Dix won't be adding to his impressive 2007 resume in track. The ACC male athlete of the year has decided against competing in the IAAF World Championships next month in Japan.

“He just decided to shut it down,” Florida State assistant coach Ken Harnden said. “It's been a long year. He's finishing up some classes . . . he just decided to call it a season. I knew he was tired.”

Dix plans to graduate in the spring and has said he'll continue to run for FSU at least up to that point. He was honored by the ACC on Tuesday following a junior year in which he won the 100 meters and 200 meters at the 2007 NCAA outdoor championships. He was also part of the winning 4x100 meter relay team, becoming the first male athlete to claim national titles in each of those three events since 1969. He won the 200 meters in the NCAA indoor championships and also owns the NCAA record in the 200 meters at 19.69 seconds.

Next year's Olympic Games is the obvious target for Dix.

“Certainly it's something we'll discuss the beginning of next year as to how much he wants to run indoor and maybe push the whole training and competition season back a little bit and focus on the Olympics,” Harnden said. “I think his main focus is the Olympics but certainly he wants some collegiate records as well."

Oh, Joy! My First Internet Troll

I received a comment this morning from Anonymous:

I feel bad I have to give traffic to this website.. I wont [sic] be coming back. It sucks that the internet has the power to give complete idiots a voice. You are clueless if you are talking about the nation as a whole.How about this? If one of our American boys, including Webb, (he is a MD athlete), medal at worlds you shut your website down and never return. P.S. Look at how many HS boys broke 9 min in the 2 mile this past year. Andrew

It's ironic that "Andrew" is complaining about "the internet [having] the power to give complete idiots a voice" since he is the spokesman and poster child for their group. "Andrew" likes to disagree – and I certainly don't mind disagreements on this website – but "Andrew" states no position of his own, other than offering up some nonsense about high school runners breaking 9 minutes in the 2 mile. Not only that, but he hides behind a veil of anonymity, not leaving his e-mail message so that I can have a chance to reply directly to his vitriol. That's how internet trolls roll, though. They are not interested in debating, they're only interested in being haters.

Let me give you some advice, "Andrew." Read a book about logic. Take a debate class. Learn some manners. See a psychotherapist. Do something, please, and do it before it's too late! You see, right now you've got nothing to offer society other than your hate. That's not enough. I'm glad you won't be coming back. Not only do you have unresolved issues from your childhood that I'd rather not have to deal with, but – frankly – you're not smart enough, and too cowardly, to debate with me.

P.S. Unfortunately for the rest of my readers, I am disabling the anonymous posting function of my blog. Life's too short to have to deal with trolls. I'm doing it for Andrew's sake. Maybe if we don't enable him by giving him an outlet for his cowardice and stupidity, he will finally seek the help he so desperately needs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

FLP: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is!

Yesterday I wrote that there is no resurgence in American middle-distance running. Today I received a challenge from Christina and Ash Huzenlaub to back up my words. They wrote:

Would you be prepared to shave your head should you be proven wrong (that with the exception of Webb, the US grabs a middle distance medal in Osaka) and post the picture on your blog?

I immediately accepted their challenge in an e-mail reply. Let's define terms: I consider middle-distance running to be events that are between 800m and 3000m long. Other than Alan Webb, whom I expect to be crowned world champion in the men's 1500m run, if any American – man or woman – wins a gold, silver or bronze medal in either the 800m Run, 1500m Run or 3000m Steeplechase, I will shave my head and post a photo on my website. I could be persuaded to include the 5000m Run, but I would need to see some compelling evidence that the 5000m Run is a middle-distance, not a long-distance, race. Since no American has ever medaled in a WC 5000m Run, I think it's safe to say that I'm not risking much by allowing that event to be included in the bet. Still, for those of you who think it should categorized as a middle-distance event, I'd like to hear your arguments.

As for the challenge I received from Christina and Ash Huzenlaub today, I would imagine that Ash, a former 1500m runner at TCU with a PB of 4:13.89, is banking on Khadevis Robinson (a fellow Horned-Frog) to medal in Osaka. Let me say this: I would dearly love to be proven wrong. Nobody is a bigger fan of middle-distance running than I am. If the Americans actually do have a resurgence, nobody would be more thrilled than the Finish Line Pundit. Unfortunately, I just don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. Why not? Two words: the Kenyans. Here's a list of all medals won by American middle-distance runners since the inception of the World Championships in Athletics in 1983:

Steve Scott, 1500m, silver
Mary Slaney, 1500m, gold
Mary Slaney, 3000m, gold

Jim Spivey, 1500m, bronze

Mark Everett, 800m, bronze



Rich Kenah, 800m, bronze
Regina Jacobs, 1500m, silver

Regina Jacobs, 1500m, silver





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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