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The Weekend’s Best Matchups: Shanghai Diamond League and more

The Weekend’s Best Matchups: Shanghai Diamond League and more

| On 15, May 2014

The USATF High Performance Classic at Occidental College is the first of many great competitions this weekend. (Photo: TrackandFieldPhoto.com)

It’s almost track and field overload this weekend. College track has its conference championships, the Diamond League and World Challenge tours each have a meet and there are several more pro-level meets, and the roads offer up some tremendous competition too. Whew!

As always, check out our What2Watch page for TV and webcast listings. Here are your top dozen matchups for the weekend.

1. Texas A&M vs Florida

SEC Championships
UK Track and Field Complex, Lexington KY
Thursday through Sunday

Meet website
Live webcast at ESPN3.com

This might be the best competition of the weekend. A championship is on the line and these are two of the three or four best teams in the nation. The Gators are #1 in the men’s national rankings ahead of the #2 Aggies, and Florida is #1 in the women’s rankings to Texas A&M’s #4. #4 Arkansas is a strong contender in the men’s competition too; they’re going for their third straight SEC triple crown of cross/indoor/outdoor, an amazing accomplishment given the strength of the conference. The SEC is tough and deep that you might as well call it the NCAA semifinals. And if the meet comes down to the 4×400, of course these are the strongest teams in that event.

The SEC is just one of thirteen Division I conference championships this weekend. Others include the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 Championships. The Big Ten men’s competition is often a mad scramble for the top–at the 2013 indoor championships, five teams were still in contention going into the 4×400 relay. The USTFCCCA has all the info you need.

2. VCB vs SAFP

Women’s 200 meters, Shanghai Diamond League
Shanghai Stadium, Shanghai CHN
Sunday, 9:17pm local time (9:17am ET)

Meet website | Live webcasts: WatchAthletics.com, Trackie.ca
Live coverage on Universal Sports

Like Brazilian footballers that go by a single name, you’re big in track and field if you’re known by initials alone. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is a four-time Olympic/World champion at 100 meters and finally added a 200 meter gold at last year’s World Championships. Veronica Campbell-Brown is a three-time Olympic/World champion at 200 meters who was wrapped up in a doping controversy that wiped out the entire last 12 months (she was cleared of any wrongdoing by authorities, which was upheld on appeal). This may not be a great race since VCB is a little rusty from the long layoff, but it’s a matchup that should definitely capture interest.

3. Kenenisa Bekele vs Wilson Kipsang

Men’s elite race, Great Manchester Run 10k
Sunday, 10:34am local time (5:34am ET)

Race website | Webcast link

This race matches up the world record holders for the marathon and the 10,000 meters (and 5,000 meters). This kind of head-to-head race just doesn’t happen very often. Both have done some great things in English road racing; Bekele won one of the greatest half-marathon battles of all time in last fall’s Great North Run, and Kipsang is a two-time London Marathon champion. Both are in rebuilding phases after spring marathons and it’s entirely possible that neither wins the race. But the race organizers should be lauded for landing such star power–the women’s race features 5,000 meter world record holder Tirunesh Dibaba.

4. Amantle Montsho vs Francena McCorory

Women’s 400 meters, Shanghai Diamond League
Sunday, 8:36pm local time (8:36am ET)

Montsho came up short of the gold medal at both the 2013 Worlds and 2012 Olympics, but she’s still the world’s best on a week-in and week-out basis. You have to be in order to collect 15 wins on the Diamond League. McCorory won this year’s World Indoor Championships gold medal and has the year’s best time, and the race should come down to those two. This race will be the season opener for Allyson Felix, who tore a hamstring last year at the World Championships, and I’m not sure what to expect out of her.

5. Lawi Lalang vs Edward Cheserek

Men’s 1500 and 5000 meters, Pac-12 Championships
Mooberry Track, Pullman WA
Sunday, 1:30 and 4:20pm local time (4:30/7:20pm ET)

Meet website

I don’t think there’s any doubt that this is the best individual matchup of the weekend in college track. Between them, they have won ten NCAA titles across distances ranging from 1500 meters to 10,000 meters. Lalang set the collegiate record in the indoor mile earlier this year while Cheserek put on a dazzling display of miling last month at the Penn Relays, and both have been NCAA champions at 5000 meters. These are must-see races.

Other top matchups in the weekend’s conference meets…
SEC: every event, all weekend long
MAC: Brooke Pleger (Bowling Green) vs Brittany Funk on Thursday morning in a battle of hammer All-Americans
Big 12: Kennedy Kithuka (Texas Tech) vs whatever Oklahoma State throws at him in the long distances
Mountain West: Elmar Engholm (New Mexico) vs Zach Wiles (Boise State) in Friday afternoon’s steeplechase
Big Ten: Brannon Kidder (Penn State) vs Austin Mudd (Wisconsin) in Sunday afternoon’s 800 and/or 1500 meters
Missouri Valley: Zach Dahleen (SIU) vs Sam Penzenstadler on Sunday afternoon in the 1500 meters
Conference USA: Bryce Robinson (Tulsa) vs Trey Hadnot (Louisiana Tech) in Sunday afternoon’s sprints

6. Abeba Aregawi vs Jenny Simpson

Women’s 1500 meters, Shanghai Diamond League
8:13pm local time (8:13am ET)

This is a rematch of the gold (Aregawi) and silver (Simpson) medalists at last year’s World Championships. Aregawi’s best indoor time this year, 3:57.91, is faster than Simpson’s PR (3:59.90 from the ’09 Pre Classic), but Simpson may have an edge by having been in east Asia for an entire week leading up to this race.

7. Chris Tomlinson vs Greg Rutherford

Men’s long jump, BT Great CityGames Manchester
Albert Square, Manchester ENG
Saturday, 1:24pm local time (8:24am ET)

Meet website | Live webcast link

The BT Great CityGames Manchester is one of the best of the “street athletics” competitions that have become so common. “The Beast”, Yohan Blake, is slated to run the 150 meters and of course there will be comparisons to Usain Bolt’s record time of 14.35 seconds run here five years ago. He has no real competition, though, and the most interesting matchup will take place a few blocks away in the men’s long jump.

Rutherford, the 2012 Olympic champion, and Tomlinson shared the British long jump record at 8.35 meters (27′ 4¾”) until Rutherford jumped 8.51 meters (27′ 11″) at a low-key meet in southern California last month. After viewing a video of the jump, Tomlinson insisted it was a foul (USATF stands by its officials here because, you know, it’s not Salazar whinging this time) but insisted that he was not attacking Rutherford, who he considers a friend as well as rival. This is their first head-to-head competition since the ruckus.

8. Piotr Malachowski vs Robert Harting

Men’s discus throw, Halle Werfertage
Halle, Germany
Saturday, 1:30pm local time (6:30am ET)

Meet website

There were two major discus competitions last week. One was the Diamond League meet in Doha, where eight of last year’s top ten were in attendance and Worlds silver medalist Malachowski came out the winner. The other was the Werfer-Cup in Weisbaden, Germany, where everyone else of any note was in attendance and Worlds gold medalist Harting came out the winner. If those were the early-season semis, then this is the early-season final. It would be an upset if Malachowski wins because Harting has won 55 of their last 56 head-to-head meetings.

9. Christian Cantwell vs Ryan Whiting

Men’s shot put, Shanghai Diamond League
Sunday, 6:25pm local time (6:25am ET)

Whiting dominated the men’s shot last year and lost only one important competition last year–the most important one, the World Championships. His foil there was Germany’s David Storl, who is on the start list here but doesn’t tend to do quite as well on the Diamond League tour as he does in championship meets. Whiting dominated the indoor season this year too, but got off to a bit of a slow start outdoors. The man with the hot hand so far this spring is old pro Christian Cantwell, who missed most of last year to injury and has come back strong in 2014.

10. Brenda Martinez vs Maggie Vessey

Women’s 800 meters, USATF High Performance Classic
Jack Kemp Stadium, Eagle Rock CA
Thursday, 8:20pm local time (11:20pm ET)

Meet website | Live webcast link

This has inadvertently turned into a great meet with good fan support despite the fact that it’s not meant as a spectator event. It’s meant for recording fast times, and that leads to things like splitting the best runners in the top heats. Matt Centrowitz is the best American miler of the last few years and Will Leer is the best American miler of 2014, but they won’t go head-to-head. The women’s 800 has inadvertently put together a very interesting race between Martinez and Vessey. Their PRs are just 0.07 apart, but Martinez ran hers last year while Vessey’s PR is five years old, so you’d think this should be one-sided. But Martinez has been running longer races this year and does not appear ready for a blazing fast time, and Vessey just broke her 400 meter PR and probably is ready to roll. This one could be very interesting, and watch out for Pheobe Wright as a spoiler.

11. Jehue Gordon vs Michael Tinsley

Men’s 400 hurdles, Shanghai Diamond League
Sunday, 8:04pm local time (8:04am ET)

This is a Worlds gold/silver rematch between Gordon (Trinidad) and Tinsley (USA). Tinsley is off to a slightly better start so far this year. He won the Drake Relays over top hurdlers Javier Culson and Johnny Dutch, while Gordon finished second at the Kingston IWC meet behind Felix Sanchez, the 2012 Olympic champion.

12. Lucy Kabuu vs Linet Masai

Women’s race, TCS World 10k
Bangalore, India
Sunday, 8:25am local time (10:55pm Saturday ET)

Race website

Kabuu is the defending champion at this race and just finished third at the Tokyo Marathon, the newest member of the World Marathon Majors circuit. Masai is an accomplished long-distance runner, winning 10k bronze at the 2011 World Championships and four medals at the World Cross Country Championships.

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