I'm just a guy leaning on a fencepost, but it sure seems like 2013 has been a good year for American track and field.
Rather than the typical letdown after such an impressive showing in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the U.S. version of the sport has not missed a beat as it rolls toward the 2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, Aug. 10-18.
And it's not as if the 2013 edition of Team USA is simply a carbon copy of the successful Olympic squad.
Not by a long shot. Plenty of new names will ensure that track fans at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium will find a more appropriate use for their souvenir programs than merely fanning their faces.
By the same token, plenty of the familiar, expected names will not be found in those programs—owing in part to a tangible youth movement within the American track system. Yes, some of the kids just flat-out took those Team USA spots from their elder compatriots during qualifying at the recent U.S. Championships in Des Moines.
Mary Cain (1,500 meters), Ajee Wilson (800 meters), Brianna Rollins (100-meter hurdles), English Gardner (100 meters), Octavious Freeman (100 meters), Kimberlyn Duncan (200 meters), Andrea Geubelle (triple jump) and new American record-holder Amanda Bingson (hammer) come to mind on the women's side.
On the men's side, Charles Silmon (100 meters), Isiah Young (200 meters), Arman Hall (400 meters), Gunnar Nixon (decathlon) and Jeremy Taiwo (decathlon) are looking to make a name for themselves on the global stage.
Of course, there is the matter of meeting the qualifying standards before anyone's ticket to Moscow is punched. For example, former Oregon distance star Jordan Hasay finished second in the 10,000 at nationals, but her time was just short of the "A" standard. She and third-place finisher Tara Erdmann have until July 20 to meet the A and/or B standard.
The year started on a positive note with several exceptional efforts during the indoor season. Pole-vaulter Jenn Suhr served notice that she is more than willing and able to challenge the longstanding reign of Yelena Isinbayeva, as she set a new indoor world record at 16 feet, 5.5 inches.
Duncan (200 meters) and Rollins (60-meter hurdles) were the fastest in the world in their respective events.
The real headline-grabber, however, was the 17-year-old Cain (pictured above), who systematically demolished (as in decimated) several ancient national indoor high school and age-group records.
Lopez Lomong established a new American record in the men's indoor 5,000 (13:07.00), and Galen Rupp led the world in three separate distances: the 1,500, the 3,000 and an incredible clocking of 3:50.92 in the indoor mile.
Texas A&M's Ameer Webb had the fastest time in the world in the difficult indoor 200 at 20.37.
Under open skies—apart from another onslaught by Cain on the outdoor high school records—probably the best news for the Americans was the return of veteran sprinter Tyson Gay. A healthy and fit Gay showed the form of his 2007 triple-world champion self with recent world-leading times of 9.75 (100 meters) and 19.74 (200 meters).
Fellow veteran Justin Gatlin gives the U.S. a legitimate one-two punch in the sprints.
For the first time since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Jamaican dominance in the 100, 200 and 4x100-meter relay seems vulnerable.
Rollins, too, with her new American record of 12.26 in the 100-meter hurdles, is a real threat to unseat defending world and Olympic champion Sally Pearson of Australia (who seemed impervious to defeat in 2012).
Even live stream and network TV coverage of the sport was unprecedented this year—at least in terms of quantity. Commentary and event priorities did come under heavy fire during the national championships and have been an ongoing irritant among diehard fans.
It is widely agreed that American track and field by its very nature has all of the elements of a compelling and entertaining major sport. This year the athletes certainly did their part in bringing a top-notch product before the public.
Presentation seems to be the area that needs work.
With the dreaded "off year" (no global outdoor championships at the elite level) of 2014 just around the corner, it will be interesting to see if the inertia generated by the past two years can carry the sport into 2015.
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