LAST LAP — March

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.

Runs in the family. UMBC coach David Bobb, 2nd in the ’97 NCAA 100, cheered on daughter Caitlyn at the America East Champs. (Brian Foley Photography)

Football’s Version Of A Sub-4

Gridiron fans place a lot of stock in that sport’s basic speed metric of a 40-yard dash. Problem is, none of football’s various timing methods use proper automatic timing, so it’s tough to know how good their times are.

Commentator Robert Griffin III recently offered world 60 champ Christian Coleman $100,000 if he could break the 4-second barrier.

The same weekend as the World Indoor Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy ran the fastest 40 ever at the NFL Combine, 4.21. Worthy ran the 100 in 10.55w as a California prep soph in ’19.

Michael Johnson Thinking About Money

Another “pro track league” venture is apparently coming along, and the one thing that sets the latest apart from the many that have floundered before it is the involvement of sprint great Michael Johnson. The as-yet-unnamed setup aims to court fans with a “TV-friendly product to promote the sport’s biggest stars and draw new audiences through unique storytelling.” The league, set to debut in ’25, will be set up to resemble major pro sports leagues.

Winners Alliance, a for-profit arm of the Professional Tennis Players Association, is behind the plan. Says president Eric Winston, “We just felt like it’s the right time, right person and right place. And with our engine we can really give this the boost it needs to get it going.”

The crucial details so far are in development. Winners Alliance says that it is in talks with WA, and Johnson has said the league will elevate the Diamond League. He adds, “I’m in a position to help this sport get back to where it should be.”

’29 Worlds Back To Britain?

The next outdoor Worlds is scheduled to be staged in Tokyo in ’25, and a WA Council meeting in Glasgow tabbed Beijing for the ’27 meet. So what about ’29?

Fresh off the successful staging of the World Indoor in Scotland, UK Athletics CEO Jack Buckner told the BBC, “We’d love to have another crack at 2029 and a World Championships. We just do a great job. Everyone talks about the atmosphere and every event we’ve done.”

Buckner also said “it would be in his mind” that London would be the city to host the event if the bid was successful: “We can’t definitely say it’ll be London, but it would be in our mind given the success of it before. I think London [2017] was transformational and it built off 2012. It was transformational in all sorts of ways.”

USATF Junior Champs Gets Company

The teen set is looking at a new twist on the post-season circuit, as USATF has announced that its Junior (U20) Championships will be held in conjunction with the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene. The Nike meet is scheduled from June 12-15, with USATF U20 events on the afternoons of June 12-13.

Said USATF’s Max Siegel, “This partnership with the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation signifies USATF’s dedication to nurturing and showcasing the incredible talent within our youth track & field community. By combining forces, we are poised to deliver an extraordinary event for the next generation of track & field stars.”

Many of the details have not been announced, such as if any Nike events will be somehow combined with U20 results. That seems unlikely, as U20 events will also include college frosh. The U20 meet this year will be a qualifier for the World U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia (August 27-31).

Some Boltian Bucks For Lyles?

Noah Lyles may be the best-paid track athlete since Usain Bolt. We can’t know for sure, since the sport’s contracts are generally not public, but Lyles’ management agency is trumpeting his re-upping with adidas in what they are calling the richest track contract since the Jamaican legend retired.

The new deal will run until the end of the decade, according to the release. Says Lyles, “When I first signed with adidas in 2016 along with my brother, Josephus, that was like a dream come true for us.

“adidas is not only taking care of me and my family at a level I could only imagine, but they understand me and my vision — not only do I want to achieve all I can in this sport both on and off the track, but I want to make real change and improvements in the sport and how it’s run for the generations that come after me. That is what drives me.”

It is estimated that Bolt’s contract with Puma was worth some $10 million a year.

Katie Moon, Meet Promoter

And here’s one for the home folks. In early March OG/WC gold medalist Katie Moon posted, “It’s officially happening! The Katie Moon Pole Vault Classic! I am so unbelievably excited to announce that, with the help of Nike and my agent Karen Locke, I am hosting my very own professional pole vault meet in Olmsted Falls, Ohio!”

Given the camaraderie the fiberglass folk share, we’d expect to see multiple high-end performers.

Moon continued, “On Saturday June 8th, the track where I fell in love with this sport [20-odd miles from Cleveland] will host some of the best women in the world in their leadup to the US Olympic Trials and Paris Olympic Games! Clear your schedules, and come out to cheer us on!”

The End Of A Long Sprint Career

Having an Olympic sprint career spanning 4 Games is amazing, but Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is going for No. 5 this summer. That’ll be it for the 37-year-old Jamaican legend, though.

“There’s not a day I’m getting up to go practice and I’m like, ‘I’m over this,’” she told Essence in February. But her decision to retire after Paris isn’t due to the restraints of age or the desire to stop racing; she’s essentially forcing herself to retire to spend more time with her family.

“My son needs me,” she says. “My husband and I have been together since before I won in 2008. He has sacrificed for me. We’re a partnership, a team. And it’s because of that support that I’m able to do the things that I have been doing for all these years. And I think I now owe it to them to do something else.”

Kerr Wants Bigger Paydays

Those who climbed on the podium in Glasgow shared $70,000 — $40K for gold, $20K for silver and $10K for bronze.

The 3000 winner, Josh Kerr, doesn’t think that’s enough. “That seems crazy versus other sports,” he told Sean Ingle of The Guardian. “We need to bring some validity to these championships.”

He continued, “We are very lucky to have the likes of Noah Lyles, Grant Holloway, Femke Bol; having amazing ­athletes come here and do their job. But those numbers are lower than appearance fees now for athletes of that caliber. We’ve got to find ways to attract athletes to race more and to race head-to-heads more. We need to race and we need to have head-to-heads and the way to do that is pay athletes good money to race a series of events.”

Ingebrigtsen With His Eyes Closed?

Absent from the indoor season, Jakob Ingebrigtsen is still in the running for trash-talker of the year. His reaction to Josh Kerr’s 2M World Record: “It is a race that is not run very often… I would have beaten him in that race blindfolded.”…

Ingebrigtsen later told the London Standard, “Us 1500-meter runners are an interesting breed. We all have got quite big egos, we all want to win and we think we’re the best ever. We’re not in a contact sport, so it’s this weird balance of all this shit-talking and going out and running fast. It’s fun and hopefully it’s interesting for people to watch.

“Some things have been said on both sides but there’s no ill will. There’s mutual respect and we’re all looking to compete for an Olympic title. You’re finding a real clash of personalities and hopefully people enjoy it.”

Rethinking The OT Marathon

Is staging an Olympic Trials 26-miler an idea that America is going to have to do without? There are a number of reasons the future of the event may be in trouble, according to fine analysis by writer Erin Strout, published in Outside.

For starters, organizers have to spend up to $2 million, and they don’t get help with that expense from USATF or the USOPC.

“An additional factor is the somewhat convoluted multi-pronged Olympic qualifying standards instituted by World Athletics,” writes Strout. This year we saw those standards, on the men’s side, complicate the idea that the top 3 are Olympians. “In other words, who would sink $2 million into a race that may or may not determine the U.S. Olympic team?”

The Atlanta TC’s Rich Kenah says the system is broken. He adds that it’s foolish for the sport’s leaders not to find a way to fix it. “I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that the Olympic Trials Marathon is the most valuable commercial asset that the USOPC, USA Track & Field, and NBC have outside of the 17 days of the Games.”

What A Day For Washington!

The “U-Dub” will head to the NCAA Indoor as the nation’s dominant DMR power. Running in two different meets on the same day Husky foursomes claimed records in both the men’s and women’s events.

First came the men, at the Arkansas Qualifier as a strong foursome ran 9:18.81 to eclipse the American Record 9:19.93 set by the National Team in ’15.

The quartet: Joe Waskom 2:51.34, Daniel Gaik 46.37, Nathan Green 1:46.57, Luke Houser 3:54.53. Virginia’s 9:18.95 in 2nd was also under the old record.

A few hours later the school’s women produced the fastest collegiate medley ever, running 10:43.39 at Boston U’s Terrier Classic. That demolished the 10:46.62 set by another Washington team last year. Providence (10:44.07) and BYU (10:44.67) also finished under the old mark.

The Husky squad was composed of Chloe Foerster (3:15.29), Anna Terrell (54.74), Marlena Preigh (2:03.34) & Carley Thomas (4:30.02).

A Call To Embrace PEDs

Imagine an Olympic Games or World Championships without drug testing — that’s what the proposed “Enhanced Games” is aiming at. According to the group’s website, “When 44% of athletes already use performance enhancements, it is time to safely celebrate science… Sports can be safer without drug testing.”

Details — and, not surprisingly, endorsements from major athletes — are missing. The organization claims to have the support of “the world’s top venture capitalists.”

The International Fair Play Committee has joined WADA and the IOC in condemning the plans. “Such an event would be devoid of any fair play and sportsmanship. Moreover, they represent a potentially catastrophic healthcare risk to its participants as athletes and their collaborators will inevitably try to push beyond healthy limits.”

“Bollocks,” was one of Seb Coe’s reactions. The WA head added, “If anyone is stupid enough to want to take part in this, and they come from the traditional and philosophical end of our sport, they will be banned and they will be banned for a long time.” ◻︎

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