Where did the time go? One minute we’re reveling in two weekends of awesome indoor action in Portland, the next we’re sitting on the far turn at the Penn Relays in a cold drizzle thinking how good the weather is compared to Drake. The athletes are chomping at the bit in this Olympic year so April and early May have been busy. With the OT and OG on the horizon it’s always a little tricky to interpret results at this point. Some athletes move up or down to modestly unfamiliar distances, some are training through these early events with an eye towards the summer; others are chasing Olympic qualifiers. So there’s a pile of results that we’ll try to sift through, plus the road action has been hot too.
Never Can Say Goodbye
Two icons of the sport made their farewell appearances at the Penn Relays as part of the USA vs the World relay action. DeeDee Trotter put down a fine second leg and Sanya Richards-Ross anchored the US to a win in the 4 x 400. Afterwards, they struck a pose (see below) and SRR commented, “There have been a lot of girls coming up to me asking me not to retire, and I’m trying not to get emotional because every race will be my last one. The Penn Relays is special because even in college I was here running. I love my teammates and being out here doing what I love and I’m being the best I can be. I love all of my fans for supporting me.” On the men’s side, Je’von Hutchison ran a speedy 3rd leg to earn a watch as part of the USA Blue squad.
Ashley Higginson took the Olympic Development Mile in 4:33.90, “holding off” Chanelle Price, who was doing some overdistance work. Ashley now has individual titles at Penn as a high schooler, collegian and pro. I don’t know if they give the traditional Relays watch to winners of individual titles but if so, she’s got a bunch. Brandon Hudgins kicked a little too late and had to settle for 2nd in the men’s mile.
Women of the Drake Relays
As we noted last year, the Drake Relays is really a week-long celebration of the sport.
Two of the special events are the downtown pole vault and the road mile. Those would also be the domain of AB athletes. Sandi Morris took the Capital Square pole vault at 15-05 with Mary Saxer 4th. Sandi showed that she is unaffected by the venue, duplicating the height and place back at the stadium on Saturday. You know if it’s a road mile, Heather Kampf is there and probably winning. Yes and yes. She followed it up with a third in the 1500 on the track; fellow ABer Rachel Schneider followed her to the tape with a 4th place, both posting very good early season times. Triple Jumper Andrea Geubelle claimed the longest jump on the day, leaping out to 43-07. Tia Brooks also had a special moment at Drake. Sitting in second going into the fifth round she launched a 63-06.75 effort to win the event by over two feet.
Great Coach, Great Meet
Payton Jordan was one of America’s greatest coaches and the meet held at Stanford each year is a quality affair, worthy of his memory. Though it’s not just for distances, the meet always attracts deep fields in those events and ABers were there to take advantage. At 10K, Alexi Pappas may have punched her ticket to Rio with a 31:46.85 that will likely get her named to the Greek Olympic team. In the other 10k section, Katy Moen, Meghan Peyton and Susanna Sullivan finished inches apart (.31 seconds on the watch if you’re keeping score at home); Katy’s 33:05.31 and Susanna’s 33:05.62 were PRs. At 5K, Stephanie Garcia laid down a 15:16 PR while Garrett Heath, Donn Cabral, Amy Van Alstine and Kaitlin Goodman all got in solid performances as they prepare for Eugene. Lauren Johnson got her 2016 campaign off to a good start with a 4:08.18 for third in the 1500. And Katie Mackey dropped down to 800 for some speedwork and posted a more than creditable 2:01.47 while Kendra Chambers moved well in the backstretch to come home in 2:03.23.
Best of the Rest
Surveying other April events, we find a smattering of wins, PRs or otherwise notable efforts for AB athletes. For example, Chanelle Price (800) and Ashley Higginson (1500) were winners at the Florida Relays. Tara Welling hit an OT qualifying 32:03 while Sarah Pease notched a 49 second PR in the 10k at Stanford Invitational. Tori Bowie was a winner at 200 in the Bahama Invitational in 22.26, a world leader at the time. At the same meet, Queen Harrison took the 100H with Jasmin Stowers 3rd.
This may have been my favorite season opener so far. FUN(ning), SUN(ning) and RUN(ning)! & let's not forget WINNING! #GoQueenGo— Queen Harrison (@goQueengo) April 17, 2016
Let us not forget the field events. Amber Campbell took the hammer at Mt. SAC with PR, then came back the next day to win at the Beach Invitational with a stadium and meet record. Yeah, that’s a good weekend. Tim VanLiew and Riley Dolezal traded javelin wins at the Stanford Invitational and the Beach Invitational. Britney Henry also had a pair of hammer wins at Oregon and the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersee Invitational in Los Angeles.
After getting her 10K OT qualifier, Tara Welling was out to the roads, impressing all with her margin of victory in the US Half Marathon Championship over Olympic marathon qualifier Desiree Linden. That’s her second national road title this year, adding to the 15K title she grabbed last month; no grass growing under her feet right now. Esther Atkins was a solid ninth in the race.
Sara Hall was in London and ran a personal best 2:30:06. Joe Gray, dropping down to the “dash” was the third American in the Bloomsday 12k in Spokane. And for those for whom a marathon is just not enough, we bring you the Mad City ultra events. Tyler Andrews won the 50k race while Traci Falbo was first in the 100k (6th overall).
Rob Molke tested his fitness in the Pittsburgh half marathon and got 6th (first American) in 1:07.
Records Along the Way
Maria Michita-Coffey “walked away” from the field at the USATF 20k Championships in early April; the better news was that she snagged an American record for the 10K along the way. Miranda Melville was second and the two will be competing in Rome this weekend at the IAAF World Race Walking Championships. Maria also did some speedwork at Penn Relays with a solo 5K win.
Lauren Fleshman has an apt description of this pivotal moment in the season
"Pre-competition training phase" has ended. "Competition phase" is here. Athletes respond individually. Some have arrived, some will rocket.— Lauren Fleshman (@laurenfleshman) May 3, 2016
The forecast calls for more competition in May. There’s Diamond League events in Doha (5/6), Shanghai (5/14) and Rabat (5/22). The Jamaica International Invitational is 5/7. Domestically there are a bunch of “twilight” meets and the Hoka Distance Classic in Eagle Rock California on 5/12. And the month ends with the always popular Prefontaine Classic on 5/27-28. The USATF has three championships this month – Road Mile on 5/12, 25k on 5/14 and 15k Race Walk on 5/15.
And even as we’re trying to put this issue to bed, Gwen Berry uncorks a world leading hammer toss of 75.11m or about 246 ft. Seriously, do you guys ever rest?