The Monday Morning Run: A Weekend Full of Records
Jesse Squire | On 13, Feb 2017
This is my second weekend of subbing for Kevin Sully for the Monday Morning Run and I’m still working on warming up to the format.
The Millrose Games dominated the domestic action and rightly so. There was a wide variety of competition and it was generally close and often ended in upset. Naturally, the New York Times is the place to get the story.
The meet got a good two hours of live coverage on NBC. I did not in fact get to see it yet since I spent sixteen hours over two days working at meets, but I’m told that the usual problems with the American broadcast model made themselves known basically right from the start. One of those problems is that all the attention prior and during a race is centered on the pre-ordained stars/favorites, which leaves the announcers flat-footed when the inevitable upsets happen. An example: yes, Tianna Bartoletta was, under normal circumstances, by far the best sprinter in the women’s 60 meters. But it was her season opener and Dezerea Bryant had already run several good races this winter, facts which significantly leveled the playing field. The audience was not made aware of this, but should have been.
I’ve also been told that USATF CEO Max Siegel was interviewed during the broadcast and made positive comments about broadcasts that include storytelling and making sure the stars are known. I do actually agree with him, but those things should not make up the entirety of the broadcast. One of the things people love about sports is that they are unscripted and upsets happen, and that should be a cause for celebration rather than an inconvenience.
On to the weekend’s medal winners.
Gold: Peres Jepchirchir
The reigning world half marathon champion toed the line at the Ras Al Kaimah Half Marathon on Friday morning (which is Thursday evening in the USA). The competition was top-notch: three-time New York City marathon winner Mary Keitany, London and Olympic marathon champion Jemima Sumgong, and three-time Olympic track champion Tirunesh Dibaba.
Jepchirchir suffered from pneumonia for two months late last year but it didn’t affect her performance here. Her 5k splits were 15:37, 15:27, 15:24, and 15:10 and then finished with 3:26 for the final 1.1k for a new world record of 1:05:06. That’s right, her second 10k was 30:34.
Keitany made it a race and finished just seven seconds in arrears and was closing near the end. She briefly led at 15k before Jepchirchir surged with the move that won the race and got the record.
Silver: US Women’s 800 meters
The American record, collegiate record, and US high school record in this event all fell on a single day.
On Saturday at 12:24pm in Clemson’s Tiger Paw Invitational, Texas A&M sophomore Jazmine Fray broke the collegiate record with 2:00.69. The previous record was held by Tennessee’s Nicole Cook, set back in 2005. It’s been a mercurial rise for Fray; her PRs have dropped from 2:09.07 (high school) to 2:07.05 (’16 indoor) to 2:03.25 (’16 outdoor) and now to 2:00.69. Never even a state champion in high school, now she is suddenly thrust into the status of co-favorite for the NCAA indoor title.
The other two records fell at 5:41pm in the Millrose Games. Ajee Wilson ran an evenly-paced race from the front and was rewarded with the American record, 1:58.27. The old record was 1:58.71, set by Nicole Teter in 2002. It’s not just a world-leading time for Wilson but the world’s fastest non-Russian indoor time since 2004.
Three and half seconds later, Samantha Watson of Henrietta, New York, crossed the line in 2:01.78 and erased the oldest indoor record on the books: Mary Decker’s 2:01.8, set back in 1974. Watson is no newcomer to success – she is a gold medalist at both the World Youth and World Junior Championships – and the fact that Watson wasn’t even shooting for the national record tells you how good it was. Decker was just 15 when she ran what was then the world indoor record at the San Diego Indoor Games.
Bronze: Hannah Cunliffe
The Oregon sprint star won the 60 meters at the Don Kirby Invitational in a time of 7.07, which breaks the collegiate record. The NCAA long ago stopped keeping a record book, but both the USTFCCCA and Track and Field News keep their own sets of records. Both will amend an “A” next to the record since it was set in the high altitude of Albuquerque, which is kind of like the asterisk next to Roger Maris’ home run record.
In any case, it indicates that Cunliffe is completely over the season-ending injury that cut her down at the NCAA outdoor championships last June, and her Oregon Ducks are in a good position for winning yet another national indoor championship.
Surging: Clemson’s new track
In addition to Fray’s new collegiate record, the Tiger Paw Invitational at Clemson produced another outstanding mark: Texas A&M’s Fred Kerley ran 45.02 in the 400 meters, the #6 indoor time ever run, collegiate or otherwise. Christian Coleman (Tennessee) put up a collegiate leader in the men’s 200 (20.46) and Shakima Wimbley (Miami) did the same in the women’s 400 (51.28). Clemson’s brand-new banked track is apparently the new title-holder for the fastest indoor oval in America.
Slowing: International relations
President Trump may not be the only person who doesn’t know if his administration will have a detrimental effect on Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympics. IOC members live on a plane of existence quite different from, well, anyone else, and anyone who says they know what drives their voting (aside from financial incentives) is fooling themselves.
On a much smaller level, though, there are problems developing. University of Sherbrooke runner Yassine Aber, a sophomore born and raised in Canada, was denied entry to the US last Thursday when his team was traveling to a meet in Boston. He has passed through the border on many occasions in the past with no problem, and the rest of his team was allowed to cross. Canadian Running magazine has the story.
Canadian university teams compete in US track meets with a great degree of regularity, and the movement goes both ways. For example, the University of Detroit’s team practices at the University of Windsor’s indoor facility twice a week. Despite the stereotype of a mostly-white heterogeneous society, a greater portion of Canadians (20%) than Americans (13%) are foreign-born. On the other hand, this particular problem was centered around a young man who has never resided anywhere but the Great White North.
Take the above and now imagine the more than three thousand runners in the Detroit Free Press Marathon who cross over into Windsor and back again during the race and what kind of headaches might be in store this October for race organizers and participants.
Surging: Ronnie Baker
Lost in all the attention on domestic action was a pair of quality European meets. One was the Copernicus Cup in Poland, the fourth stop on the IAAF’s World Indoor Tour, where Ronnie Baker made an impression when he won the 60 meters in 6.46. No American has run faster* since Justin Gatlin’s 6.45 at the 2003 USATF Indoor Championships. It ties him for #12 on the all-time world list.
(*that is, if you ignore Trell Kimmons’ 6.45 at Albuquerque’s mile-high altitude, which you probably should since the altitude is worth about 0.02 over that distance.)
Does this mean that the US has a new prospect? Maybe. Or, maybe, it could mean that most top American post-collegiate sprinters have skipped the indoor season for the last 14 years. Or it could mean he’ll be another of the long line of athletes who were just a lot better at the 60 than at the 100. In any case, this is the man to bet on at the USATF Indoor Championships; he won the last two NCAA 60 meter titles, so you know he can run when it matters.