LAST LAP — February

Here’s this month’s collection of generally off-track activities that have gone a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed

USATF hasn’t given Vin Lananna much to smile about of late. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

Lananna Wants Back In As USATF Prez

In the year since Vin Lananna was put on “temporary administrative leave” as president of USATF, there has been much speculation about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering surrounding the decision. The fight could soon become more public, reports Ken Stone of the San Diego Times. Lananna’s legal team had asked for a meeting with USATF’s Board Of Directors, which they say was promised for January. Later, USATF moved the meeting to late February, after the February 18 anniversary of its original decision.

That rescheduling would also put the meeting outside the 1-year period Lananna had in which to file a grievance. A request to extend the window was denied by interim president Michael Conley. That left Lananna “no choice but to file” a grievance, but there has been no definitive word on whether or not such a step has been taken yet. The move to sit Lananna down came a year ago when the board noted conflict of interest issues given Lananna’s role as president of both USATF and TrackTown USA. The awarding of the ’21 Worlds to Eugene and a related Department of Justice investigation was also cited.

At the time, then-BOD chair Steve Miller—who is no longer a member—said, “USATF has no reason to believe TrackTown and/or Mr. Lananna have done anything wrong and understand that they have been told that they are not a target of the investigation.” In July, Lananna stepped down both as president of TrackTown and as chair of Oregon21 (the WC Organizing Committee).

USATF has said that Lananna would remain on leave until the DOJ investigation is resolved, but former board member Curt Clausen has maintained that Lananna’s detractors on the board took advantage of the DOJ angle to force him out. Clausen said, “The DOJ is not going to confirm an investigation is over, even when it’s over. It is not a common practice. I think that is why the board structured the motion that way.”

Stay tuned for more developments, as Lananna has made it clear he does not intend to walk away from the situation.

Semenya Case Now In CAS’s Hands

Caster Semenya’s next battle will be in Switzerland, but it won’t be on the track. Even as we go to press, the South African star’s legal team is taking on the IAAF’s new hyperandrogenism regulations at CAS, and both sides are readying for what many expect will be a landmark case.

The first shots were exchanged when the IAAF released the list of its 5 expert witnesses. Semenya’s team protested, saying the proceedings were supposed to be confidential. The court then allowed them to release the names of their 10 experts. The appeal, in front of 3 judges, is expected to last 5 days. If Semenya’s experts are able to discredit the research the IAAF commissioned that maintains that women with “differences of sexual development” (DSD) have a performance advantage from high levels of testosterone, it will be the second straight CAS loss on the issue for the governing body.

The South African government (which reportedly kicked in close to $2M) has launched an international PR campaign to rally support for its national hero. Said sports minister Tokozile Xasa, “[The IAAF rule] is a gross violation of internationally accepted standards of human rights law.” The regulation had been set to go into effect on November 1, 2018. It has been postponed until the CAS issues its ruling, expected before March 26.

World Records In The Road 5Ks

The roads have always been a challenge for statisticians, but usually the debate on what belongs where has centered on downhill drops, loops and mixed vs. same-sex races. The discussion took a turn after the Herculis 5K in Monaco on February 17 where the winners were Julien Wanders of Switzerland in 13:29 and Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands in 14:44.

The IAAF, which made the decision to start recognizing World Records for the distance (and to stop recognizing the 15K, 20K, 25K & 30K) in November of ’17, accorded both marks the WR treatment. And yes, there were better marks out there from earlier, but the IAAF policy set in ‘17 was to recognize the best performance during 2018 so long as it was faster than 13:10/14:45. When that didn’t happen, on January 1 of this year the IAAF recognized the best ’18 marks, 13:30 by Bernard Kibet and 14:48 by Caroline Kipkirui, both Kenyans running those in Prague last September.

Consigned to the dust heap of history—even though they’ll still be carried on all-time lists—are the fastest-ever 5K road marks, a pair of 13:00s by Kenya’s Sammy Kipketer at Carlsbad in ’00 & ’01. The Wanders mark obviously pales in comparison. The best women’s 5K, though, rightfully belongs to Hassan now, as prior to ’18 it was a 14:46 performance by Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar at Carlsbad in ’06.

Timing Of The Jamaican Nationals In Question

A major kerfuffle has erupted over when the Jamaican Championships—which will also double as the WC selection meet—will be held. With the late date of the World Championships in Doha, the Jamaican meet was originally set for July 25-28 (the same weekend as USATF), during a break in Diamond League action. In late January, however, the Jamaican federation announced the meet would move to a more traditional set of dates, June 27-30. That would clash directly with the Prefontaine Classic (June 30). Then the JAAA issued a new set of dates, June 20-23, which doesn’t clash with the DL.

That prompted agent Cubie Seegobin to protest that some of the top Jamaicans he represents, among them Yohan Blake and Warren Weir, would have to miss the nationals because of contractual obligations to the adidas Boost Boston Games, reportedly set for June 27. Said Seegobin, “If they miss the meet, they will lose heavily. There is a clause in their contracts that says if they don’t appear in the sponsorships meet, they will lose a substantial amount of money. They [JAAA] are putting them in a situation to choose between their sponsors and running at the National Championships. It is nonsense what the JAAA is doing.”

Warren Blake, the president of the JAAA, warned that athletes skipping nationals would miss Doha: “We can only select a team based on who come to our championships. If the athletes don’t turn up to our championships, they cannot be included.”

Muir Miled In New Shoes

After Laura Muir blasted to a British Record of 4:18.75 in the Birmingham mile, rumors flew about the possible illegality of the spikes she wore. On her feet were a Nike prototype based on the Vaporfly shoe that Eliud Kipchoge wore in his World Record marathon. Reports emerged that a rival shoe company planned to consult lawyers on the issue. The complaint would be based on IAAF rule 143.2, which says, “any type of shoe used must be reasonably available to all in the spirit of the universality of athletics.”

The IAAF, explaining that it had not seen a complaint yet, said, “Shoe technology is improving all the time. The IAAF has no evidence that this particular shoe does not conform to rule 143.2. If we do receive a complaint, our process is to refer the shoe for study and if it is proved to be non-compliant, it may be prohibited in competition.” The Vaporfly spike is not available to the public at this point.

A&M Loses Watson To The Pros

Sammy Watson, in the midst of her soph year at Texas A&M, has decided to go pro, informing coaches in February of her decision after several early-season races in her Aggie uniform. The 19-year-old New Yorker plans to stay in school to study Civil Engineering and continue training with her current coaches. “The plan really wasn’t to run four years collegiately,” says Sharon Outler, Watson’s mother. “We told coaches that during recruiting visits.”

Of winning the NCAA 800 title as a frosh, Watson says, “Accomplishing that my freshman year, it felt so big and great, that I felt I can keep riding that wave, and keep doing bigger and better things.” She adds, “Starting now, I’ll have plenty of time to train, so I can be 100% and be race-ready.”

Watson’s PR of 2:00.65 came as a high school senior in ’17. Last year she ran 2:01.46 for No. 18 on the yearly U.S. list.

Kemoy Campbell’s Millrose Scare

One of the biggest shocks of the Millrose Games came in the most alarming way when Jamaican Kemoy Campbell, rabbiting the 3000, collapsed onto the infield unconscious.
Campbell, the Jamaican record holder at 3000, 5000 and 10,000, was treated with a defibrillator at the scene with anxious athletes, officials and spectators looking on before he was taken to the hospital across the street.

Early reports and rumors were frightening—and no real specifics have been released—but it soon emerged that he was sedated at the hospital and was undergoing testing. On Tuesday his family reported he was in stable condition, awake and talking. The family asked for donations to cover his medical expenses, a plea that was promptly answered with pledges from Reebok, the Jamaican federation and a GoFundMe account.

Said agent Ray Flynn, “We are thankful for the team of doctors and first responders who assisted Kemoy and for the outpouring of support from the track & field community.”

Revisiting Our Gundersen Analysis

Sharp-eyed Olympic historian Bill Mallon notes an error in last month’s story on Gundersen Method multis scoring, which staggers start times based on standings after 9 events in the decathlon. In the battle for silver in the ’11 World Champs 10-eventer, Ashton Eaton finished the javelin just 32 points behind Leonel Suárez, who stood 2nd. Thus, with a Gundersen handicap the American would have started the 1500 about 5 seconds (not 0.5 secs) behind the Cuban. He raced the 1500m 5.22 faster to secure silver so, yes, that would have been a “pursuit race” worth watching.

However, the point remains that the race for gold is of primary interest to most fans. In this comp Trey Hardee led Suárez by 244 points after 9 events and would have started nearly 40 seconds ahead, an insurmountable lead in the real world barring a catastrophic 1500 for the eventual gold medalist.

Mallon also observes also that Rafer Johnson’s 58-point win on today’s scoring tables over C.K. Yang at the ’60 Olympics—with his lead shaved from 67 points after the javelin—also would have made for a nerve-tingling spectacle in a Gundersen finish.

Prep Vault History Clarifications

Longtime vault maven David Bussabarger (the ’71 NCAA 8th-placer for Colorado) provides us with some relevant commentary on January’s HS vault history story:

“The article states that the introduction of metal poles vastly improved vaulting performance. In fact, metal poles were only introduced because of the inability to get the specialized bamboo vaulting poles from the far east during WWII. Most vaulters at the time felt that the new metal poles were inferior to a good bamboo pole. Note that the WR only increased 1½ inches from ’42 to ’60 after vaulters began using metal poles. The article also states that Jim Brewer used metal poles. In fact he was a very early pioneer of fiberglass poles, although he reportedly used traditional rigid pole technique and did not bend the pole.”

Finally, Bill Mallon clarifies that the W.W. Hoyt listed with a trio of HS Records in the event went on to be William Welles “Bill” Hoyt, the first Olympic gold medalist in the event.

Despite his visa problems, Edward Cheserek is running well, including a mile win at the Camel City Invitational. (CHERYL TREWORGY/PRETTY SPORTY)

Immigration Problems For Cheserek

After a high school career in New Jersey and a college eduction at Oregon, Ed Cheserek was eager to become a U.S. citizen but his quest has hit repeated snags, reports the New York Times.

Still a Kenyan citizen, he moved to Flagstaff to train, but was denied a green card, because he had not proved himself to be a world-class competitor—this despite 17 NCAA titles. He currently is training in the U.S. on a P1 (“athlete & artist”) visa. However, he only has a 1-year visa instead of the usual 5 years, and he is currently working to extend it. Immigration agents have questioned whether Cheserek’s competitions require athletes of “international recognition.”
Even if his visa is extended, he still won’t have a green card, and the wait for citizenship is 5 years after he gets one. “All I can do is just keep running until they decide what they decide,” the 25-year-old Cheserek said.

Coe Ready For Another IAAF Go

Seb Coe is a man on a mission and he indicated in January that he intends to keep pursuing it into a second term as IAAF president. Now 62, the former middle distance great has spent much of his time weathering doping scandals and the Russian situation.

He told Reuters, “The first two or three years were very clearly about reform, about creating structures that were safe and secure, about providing foundations that would give confidence… that we are a sport worth investing time, resource and finance into.” He added that the next step “has to be about innovation, it has to be about growing the sport, creating an exciting experience, particularly for young people. That’s the fun bit, so clearly I would like to be part of it.”

Rethinking The Walks

Big changes are coming to the walks if the IAAF Racewalking Committee has its way. Not everyone in the walking community is pleased, however. Among the recommendations:
•Equality between the sexes means two events for both men and women at all major championships.
•Distances should be cut, with the current 20/50K mix dropping to 10/30K, starting at the ’23 Worlds.
•Electronic chip insole technology—to detect “lifting”—should be incorporated into major races by ’21.

The committee suggested a gradual implementation of the new distances, starting at the ’21 Worlds where they envision 20/30K races before dropping to 10/30K at the following year’s IAAF Team Championships.

Committee member Robert Korzeniowski, a 3-time Olympic champ in the long walk, said, “As you know my heart is passionate about the 50K, and all the great achievements and medals I won were in 50K, but the world is changing fast and we need to be realistic, to move forward and be brave in order to be relevant with the broadcast and digital media and to secure the future of race walking in major competitions. The numbers in 50K are not very promising and if we care about the development and the healthy status of our event, this is the only way to do it. I have no doubt that 30K is a distance that will provide equal opportunities to endurance race walkers to perform and achieve their goals.”

A January meeting of international race walkers came out with a statement opposing the IAAF proposals. Some have been quite sanguine. Tweeted Canada’s Evan Dunfee, “thank you IAAF for giving me a clear timeline to know exactly when to evacuate this sinking ship.” Longtime (43 years) committee member Peter Marlow of Britain has resigned in protest.

A New Olympic Champion: Erik Kynard

In track’s version of “the king is dead, long live the king,” another Olympic champion has been tossed, and Erik Kynard of the U.S. has been promoted to gold. Russia’s Ivan Ukhov has been banned for 4 years as a result of a CAS doping ruling, and his results from the ’12 Olympics have been erased.

That moves Kynard to the top spot on the podium—nearly 7 years later—far too late to capitalize on many of the monetary advantages that generally fall to gold medalists.
Derek Drouin of Canada, who—along with Britain’s Robbie Grabarz and Qatar’s Mutaz Essa Barshim—will be promoted from bronze to silver, said he feels for Kynard.

“The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is I feel bad for the silver medalist, who was never given the chance to listen to his own national anthem at the Olympics,” the Rio gold medalist told the Canadian Press. “Speaking from experience, it’s something that I’ll never forget, and it’s something that he should have experienced, and he might never now.” □

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