THE PROBLEM IS A PLEASANT ONE for Fred Kerley: where does he direct his varied talents this year?
The eighth-fastest 400 runner in history is coming off an Olympic silver in the 100 that was supposed to be about building his speed. At 9.84/19.76(A)/43.64 he is — with Usain Bolt, Michael Norman & Wayde van Niekerk — one of only four members of the sub-10/20/44 club; his ultimate dream is to be the first sub-43 quartermiler.
There is an answer to the wither-2022 question, but the 26-year-old Texas A&M alum starts with a different picture.
“I’m enjoying myself,” he says of his buildup in the post-Tokyo year. “Nobody is forcing me, ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’ My coaches and I sat down and talked, at the end of the day they want what’s best for me. I want to enjoy myself when I’m running.
“I’m capable of doing everything. I want to enjoy myself and compete at the end of the day.”
At the end of this year, that should be in the 100 and 200, where his goal is to win the short-sprint double at the World Championships. He had health concerns last season that kept him from an Olympic bid in the 200, but that’s behind him and the half-lapper is now ahead of him.
“For me it’s all about keeping healthy,” he says. “If I’m healthy it’s a crazy world for me. Keep healthy, do all the small things, do all the big things.”
In February he was doing those things at camp in Grenada with his Grenadan coach Alleyne Francique; that’s where he opened his season in March — with a 400 clocking of 44.47, the second-fastest ever in March — and that all factors into his mantra of enjoying himself.
“I’m getting fresh air, good food, running on grass, running on hills,” Kerley says. “I’m eating fruits off the trees, eating stuff out of the garden. It’s a wonderful thing to come to Grenada.”
The Texas native is all about finding good places. While his success in the 100 last season was surprising on one level, Kerley points out that before he was a 400 runner that’s what he did.
“I didn’t start the 400 until I got to college,” he clarifies. “My base was the 200 and I did the 4×1 in high school. I wasn’t so much surprised [the 100] went well. I’m not injured, I’m not doing multiple sports like I was in high school.” As a prep at Taylor High he pretty much flew under the radar, claiming a 200 best of just 21.56.
And now? “Right now I’m working on all aspects of the 100, 200, including the 400. For me in track & field, I’m still learning. The ultimate goal [is a sub-43]. Right now it’s about building my strength and speed in the 1 and 2, then do the unthinkable in the 4.”
As to when that could be, Kerley isn’t looking beyond this year. His focus is on a Eugene double that won’t include the 400, and how he does there is how he’ll measure this season.
“It’s all about titles,” says Kerley, who won 400 bronze at the ’17 WC. “A gold medal would capitalize on all that stuff. Gold medals would speak for themselves. I can win both. I just want gold medals to prepare my future for the next couple of years.”
As for what that future holds, Kerley doesn’t have specific plans beyond ’22: “Right now I have to sit down and talk to my coach, see how this year goes, then concentrate on this season. Next year will take care of itself.”