LAST LAP — December

HERE’S THIS MONTH’S collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone/will go a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed.

Los Angeles will be the new training ground for World/Olympic 800 gold medalist Athing Mu as she has joined Bobby Kersee’s training group. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Siegel Being Well Compensated

Nice work if you can get it: USATF has made public its IRS Form 990, revealing that CEO Max Siegel took home $3.8 million in tax year ’21. The news gained traction when decathlete Harrison Williams tweeted, “In a sport where the best athletes in the country only receive a $12,000 stipend from USATF (and have to be top 15 in the world to get it), it’s absolutely absurd that our CEO Max Siegel just made $3,819,264 in one year.”

With $33.6 million in revenues for ’21, that means that Siegel’s pay was more than 11% of that figure, a percentage that some say is out of whack for a non-profit.

For comparison’s sake, the top executive of the USOPC earned $1 million in ’21, off revenue of $457 million (0.21%). Internationally, the director of FIFA, the governing body for soccer, made $3.19 million in ’21, off revenue of $766 million (0.41%). Looking at WA, Seb Coe’s salary in ’21 stood at $272,500, while revenues were $43.3 million (0.06%).

Mike Conley, chair of the USATF Board (a non-paying position), defended Siegel’s compensation to Runner’s World: “The USATF Board is comfortable with Max’s salary level and as a part of this year’s evaluation, we will do a deep dive with an outside firm to analyze his salary based on his level of expertise and how it compares to organizations with similar or smaller operating budgets.”

Anger on social media measured high in the fallout from the news. Tweeted Lauren Fleshman, a 5-time NCAA champion distance runner and former USATF Board member, “I don’t care how good you are at your job. This is a non-profit running on the fumes of athlete dreams and underpaid coaches and countless volunteers. It’s mind-blowing USATF thinks this kind of pay disparity is remotely appropriate.”

Mu Joins Kersee Training Group

In early November Olympic/World champion Athing Mu announced a move west to work with Bobby Kersee.

“I’m excited for this opportunity to train with the track and field legend Bobby Kersee,” she posted on Instagram.
“Coach Kersee has the capability to further enhance my running skills and implement the tools needed to reach my greatest potential.”

The LA-based coach has worked with numerous world-beating athletes. Most recently, he guided Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone to WC gold in the 400H in a stunning WR 50.68.

It appears the Kersee group is undergoing a major expansion for ‘23, as a number of other notables have announced their own decisions to work with him. Among them: Keni Harrison, the former WR holder in the 100H; Brandon Miller, who won the NCAA Indoor 800 for Texas A&M; Jenna Prandini, Olympic/WC medalist in the 4×1.

A Payday For Katelyn Tuohy

No, Katelyn Tuohy did not turn pro after winning the NCAA cross title. Well, not exactly. The relatively new NIL (name-image-likeness) rules have dramatically blurred the lines between the pros and what the NCAA defines as acceptable amateurism.

When Tuohy announced on Instagram that she had signed an NIL contract with adidas, that marked the first time that a high-profile track & field collegian had signed on with a major shoe company and remained eligible for NCAA competition. The NIL rules went into effect in July ’21.

The amount of the Tuohy deal remains private; it was negotiated by agent Ray Flynn (the NCAA allows agents to negotiate NIL deals).

All the more convenient for Tuohy and adidas is the fact that NC State is an adidas school already. Though it should be pointed out that a shoe company could make an NIL deal with an athlete whose school has a contract with a competitor. In competition, the athlete would still have to wear the school-approved apparel. Outside of team events, the athlete could promote and wear their NIL apparel.

An analysis of the deal by Jonathan Gault of pointed out that we’re still not at the “play for pay” stage. That means the contracts cannot offer bonuses based on hitting specific performance goals, like setting a record or winning an NCAA title.

Scantling Draws A 3-Year Suspension

Decathlete Garrett Scantling won the USATF title in May with the year’s highest score, 8867, but when Team USA was named he inexplicably wasn’t on the roster for the World Champs.

In July the news broke that he was provisionally suspended for whereabouts and tampering violations.

The usual penalty for whereabouts violations is 2 years, but in November his suspension was made official and set at 3 years. The term might have been 4 years — he was penalized for tampering when he provided an altered e-mail in his defense — however USADA took a year off when he cooperated fully after that. According to USADA, Scantling had clean results on 9 occasions between his first whereabouts failure in August ’21 and the start of his provisional suspension.

Long jumper Tara Davis vented on Twitter about the suspension, calling it “absolutely insane” and added, “USADA hasn’t updated the app since 2016… We have the technology of tracking our every location, but we have to go in there and change our whereabouts every time we step out of the house.”

For his part, Scantling was more measured in his response: “Just such an unfortunate situation,” he told NBC. “I worked so hard to get into the position that I was in. But one mistake alters the whole course of my career. I own it, and I take responsibility no matter how harsh the consequences may seem for a clean athlete. Now I am going to start training youth and keep building my coaching resume while I take care of my body for a possible return in 2025.”

No Comeback For 800 WR Holder?

David Rudisha, the 2-time Olympic 800 champion, says that at age 33 it is very unlikely he will ever make it back to competition as an athlete. The Kenyan superstar, who last raced in ’17, has had his efforts since then derailed by a litany of woes including quad, ankle and back injuries, as well as a car crash.

Now, he tells a Kenyan paper, he is looking at coaching: “Actually, I was thinking of coming back but at my age, I can’t make it in my specialty. I have been discussing with my coach about coaching so it is an avenue I look forward to exploiting.”

He added, “I would have liked to shift to long-distance races, but my body is meant for short races. It won’t be long before I make my retirement plans public, but it’s a joy to watch the [Kenyan] boys rule the world because that means we are still strong in the specialty.”

More Aid For U.S. Hammer Throwers

In terms of winning medals, the recent success of American hammer throwers is unmatched. Now the USATF Foundation is creating a new financial incentive to help make sure the momentum continues.

“Operation Hammer Sweep” will award athletes who make the top 3 at the USATF Championships and achieve the Olympic qualifier an additional $5000 grant on top of the usual financial payout. (The prize money scale for last year’s Nationals was $8K-$6K-$4K for the first three places.)

The plan is the brainchild of Foundation director Ken Flax, himself a 2-time hammer Olympian. Says Flax, “From the Foundation’s early days we have been committed to funding the throwing events, which lived in obscurity and were underfunded for far too long. I am thrilled that Operation Hammer Sweep might be part of the breakthrough our hammer throwers need for future breakthroughs beyond what was achieved in Eugene this summer.”

At the Worlds all 6 U.S. hammer throwers made the finals, with Brooke Anderson taking gold and Janee’ Kassanavoid bronze. All are recipients of the first round of Hammer Sweep funding.

Orlando To Host OT Marathons

USATF has announced that the ’24 Olympic Marathon Trials will be hosted by Orlando, Florida, on February 03 of that year. It will be the first time the event will take place in Florida.

There had been rumblings in the running community that a host would be difficult to find, given the financial challenges of staging a relatively small, one-time event and the reports that Atlanta lost money on the last Trials Marathon. Chattanooga, Tennessee, was reportedly the other finalist.

The primary organizers will be Jon and Betsy Hughes of Track Shack. “This has been an 8–10 year process,” Jon Hughes told Dyestat. “We’re just so excited that this is going to happen.”

The selection process will be straightforward: the top 3 men and women across the line who have made the Olympic standards (2:09:40/2:28:00) will go to Paris.

Big Prep Indoor Meet Back In The Armory

The Nike Indoor Nationals will return to the Armory this winter. This will be the first time since before the pandemic that the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation has hosted a meet at the legendary venue in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

“We couldn’t be more excited to return to a facility where we have countless memories of fantastic meets and unforgettable performances,” said new NSAF CEO Josh Rowe.

Last year the Armory hosted the New Balance Nationals that weekend, while the Nike/NSAF meet was held at Ocean Breeze on Staten Island. Through ’19, NSAF organized the New Balance meet. This winter’s New Balance meet will be held at the shoe company’s sparkling new facility in Boston.

‘23 World Relays Postponed

The World Relays has hit some organizational bumps in the road since it debuted in ’14. The latest is that the Guangzhou23 edition, scheduled for May 13–14, has now been postponed to ’25, a victim of China’s no-COVID policy.

WA has had to scramble to come up with new relay qualification procedures for Budapest23, as the fields at the coming WC were to be selected primarily at Guangzhou. The new setup will qualify the top 8 teams in each event at Eugene ’22, plus the 8 remaining fastest teams on the qualifying list (the window closes July 30). The U.S. has qualified in the 5 relevant events: both sexes for 4×1 and 4×4 plus the mixed 4×4. ◻︎

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