Many of the major sports do not exist, at least at the professional level, outside of a team format. Professional track and field, like golf or tennis, works mostly on an individual basis. Sure, we get to root for “our team” at international events like the Olympics but these opportunities are limited. Well, now we have the TrackTown Summer Series to fill that void.
The TrackTown Summer Series is a U.S. circuit of professional track and field meets which features scored competition between four teams representing the cities of New York, Portland, Philadelphia and San Francisco. Team rosters are split evenly between men and women. The TrackTown Summer Series is designed to provide top American track and field athletes with innovative competitive opportunities on U.S. soil. The ultimate goal is to make these athletes household names by the time the 2021 IAAF World Championships arrive in Eugene.
There have been track “leagues” in the past but not in this team format. The International Track Association, formed in 1972, existed to allow athletes to compete professionally at a time when participation in most major events, including national championships and the Olympics, was limited to amateurs. But athletes competed as individuals in the ITA. The quality of the competition was fine but there was not enough ticket sales or television revenue to sustain the operation and it folded in 1976. The American Track League held a series of fan-friendly meets over the past few years but again, there were no teams.
We already identified the teams, though we neglected to mention their nicknames – New York Empire, Philadelphia Force, Portland Pulse and San Francisco Surge. Each team has a celebrated track athlete serving as General Manager.
New York – Allyson Felix
Philadelphia – Sanya Richards-Ross
Portland – Bernard Lagat
San Francisco – Nick Symmonds
Last year there was a single meet. This year there will be a series of three meets:
6/29 – San Francisco at 6pm at Cobb Track/Angell Field, Stanford University
7/2 – Portland at 1pm at Mt Hood Community College
7/6 – New York City at 8pm at Icahn Stadium (Randalls Island)
The New York event is more of an evening-long celebration of the sport. The 5K road race, which is part of the team scoring, kicks things off at 6:30pm. But the cool part is that the race is open to the public. Yes, you can toe the line with the professionals. The night includes music, beer, a fan festival, and corporate relays and of course, professional track and field action.
Get this. Tickets for San Francisco and Portland are just $10. Are you kidding me? Consumer Reports best value right there. Even New York is just $20 for general admission, though other options are available. Ticket info can be found here: https://www.gotracktownusa.com/events/tracktown-summer-series-tickets/
Events and Scoring
There are 23 events on the schedule:
- 100 meters (men’s and women’s)
- 400 meters (men’s and women’s)
- 800 meters (men’s and women’s)
- 1500 meters (men’s and women’s)
- 3000 meters (men’s and women’s)
- High hurdles (men’s and women’s)
- High jump (men’s and women’s)
- Long jump (women only)
- Triple jump (men only)
- Shot put (men’s and women’s)
- Hammer throw (men’s and women’s)
- 5K road race (men’s and women’s and everybody else since it’s open to the public)
- 4 x400 relay (mixed teams)
Each event is scored 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The team with the most points wins the meet. To create a “league” aspect for the series, the team results of the first two meets (San Francisco and Portland) will factor into the team scoring for the championship meet in New York. The teams that win the first two meets get nine points towards their score at New York. The second place teams in the opening meets get seven points for the New York finale; third and fourth get six and five points respectively. So, it is possible that a team could go into the championship finals in New York with as much as an 18 point lead on the others.
Let the trash talking begin!
But @NewYork_Empire about to beat Portland anyway— Ms Kendra Chambers (@Ms_KChambers11) June 27, 2017
The New York meet will be covered by ESPN. The West Coast meets will be live streamed on Facebook Live.
Athletes ended up on their respective teams in one of three ways:
- Re-signed with last year’s team
- Drafted by one of the teams this year
- Signed as a free agent this year
Athletes will be paid a combination appearance fees and prize money (and travel expenses) from a pool of $1 million. Full rosters are detailed here. I count at least 18 Rio Olympians. There are 19 medalists from the recently completed USATF Outdoor Championships. ABers are well represented as well, with 32 populating the various team rosters.
|New York Empire|
|Casimir Loxsom | 800m||Johnny Gregorek | 1500m|
|Donn Cabral | 3000m||Kibwé Johnson | Hammer|
|Queen Harrison | 100H||Kendra Chambers | 800m|
|Stephanie Garcia | 3000m||Ashley Higginson | 5k Roads|
|Amanda Bingson | Hammer|
|Curtis Beach | 800m||Craig Lutz | 5k Roads|
|Sean Donnelly | Hammer||Jade Barber | 100H|
|Amanda Eccleston | 1500m||Chaunte Lowe | High Jump|
|Amber Campbell | Hammer||James Harris | 400m|
|Kyle Merber | 1500m||Donald Scott | Triple Jump|
|Raven Clay | 100H||Lauren Johnson | 1500m|
|Kaitlin Goodman | 5k Roads||Dani Bunch | Shot Put|
|Gwen Berry | Hammer|
|San Francisco Surge|
|Erik Sowinski | 800m||Shaquille Walker | 800m|
|Reid Buchanan | 5k Roads||Lauren Paquette | 3000m & Roads|
|Brittany Smith | Shot Put||Lianne Farber | 5k Roads|
|Cecilia Barowski | 800m||Bridgette Owens | 100H|
Looking at the events, some are extremely well-represented by World Champs qualifiers. The women’s hammer will feature 1-3-4-5 (Berry, Price, Campbell, Bingson) from the recent US Championships. Going them one better, the high jump has 1-2-3-4 (McBride, Robertson, Kynard and Robinson). Men’s 1500 isn’t too shabby either with 1-3-4-5. Note that with the compressed schedule of events, some will be competing outside their normal event. This most notably affects steeplechasers, but we are used to this sort of thing. Emma Coburn will compete at 1500 while Ashley Higginson and MJ Erb will go in the 5K road race; Donn Cabral, Stephanie Garcia, Mason Ferlic, Travis Mahoney, Josh Thompson, Alexina Wilson, and Megan Rolland will compete at 3000, just without barriers and water jumps. Also competing in the 5k Road Race as part of the general public (understatement of the year), is Alexi Pappas.
We can’t help pointing out some of the random stuff. Curtis Beach is like a box of chocolates – you never know which event he’s going to be in. He ran the 400H at the USATF Championships but in the TT Series, he’ll be competing at 800m. Sisters Phyllis and Claudia Francis will both be competing for Philadelphia in the 400m. Plenty more information on the series is available at their website: https://www.gotracktownusa.com/events/tracktown-summer-series/.
A Semi-Random Guess
For fun and the chance to be ridiculed again, we ranked each event by place in this past weekend’s USATF Championships or by position in the yearly list. Assigning points using the TT scoring system from those rankings, we get Portland as a healthy favorite for this competition, with Philly and San Francisco fighting for second and NY fourth. You can take these predictions to the bank.
I’m in a New York State of Mind
Musical accompaniment from Billy Joel:
Truly can’t wait for this to get started. The whole AB staff is rooting for this endeavor to be a lasting breakthrough for the sport domestically. Jack, Aaron and I will be in NYC for the championships; we’ll be hanging out with Bob Griefeld, one of the key investors for the Tracktown Summer Series. I’ll be the one with the Philadelphia Force t-shirt. Yo.