TRACK SHORTS — January

France’s Jimmy Gressier scored a 10 for degree of difficulty in his Euro XC finish. (GIANCARLO COLOMBO/PHOTO RUN)

SAFE! As we reported in December’s On Your Marks section, France’s Jimmy Gressier took finishline theatrics in an interesting new direction with his victory in the European U23 XC (see picture). Planning to slide across the muddy finishline, he dropped to his knees just before the tape, proudly holding a flag in each hand, and slid for a short way before hitting a snag that caused him to flop forward, taking down the finish banner with his face. He came up smiling and said, “I’m very happy to win for a second time.”

One of the most anticipated collegiate debuts of the year (ever?) was that of Mondo Duplantis at the Pole Vault Summit. On the surface, his 18-1 (5.51) for a share of 4th could be viewed in a negative light, given that the last two years of his HS career found season-openers of 19-1½ (5.83) & 18-5 (5.61). It’s instructive to note, however, that he was vaulting off the same huge pole he used when he set the World Junior Record of 19-10¼ (6.05) last summer. The Reno competition was won by Akron senior Matt Ludwig, who raised his indoor PR to 18-8¾ (5.71) for a share of =No. 10 on the all-time U.S. collegians list.

“Honestly, I consider myself a football player who was running track,” says Marvin Bracy-Williams. The ‘16 Olympic semi-finalist in the 100, PR 9.93, is now 25 and throwing all of his efforts into professional football. After being signed by the Colts and the Seahawks over the last couple of years—but not making it to the regular season roster—Bracy-Williams (he’s added his father’s last name) is trying out for the minor league Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football. He told the Orlando Sentinel, “The thrill of the game is everything, I’m not knocking track… You can do everything right and false-start. That’s your race. “You can play 69 bad plays of football. On play 70, if you get it done, you can win the game. There’s just something about that that speaks to my soul.’’

TASS says high jumper Mariya Lasitskene is prepared to move abroad if WADA again rules Russia non-compliant with its anti-doping guidelines. “We will first start looking for a country which allows visit of doping officers,” she says, “because Russian track and field athletes were required in the past 3 years to be under constant supervision of anti-doping services.” She clarified that she is not considering changing her citizenship and that any decision about a relocation will wait until Russia’s status with WADA is clarified. “I keep hoping that it will end well,” she says.

Molly Huddle is planning to continue her progress as a marathoner, with her fourth 26-miler coming up on the streets of London in April. She told Runner’s World, “I’d love to run in the 2:22 to 2:23 range. I think that’s fair to shoot for. Looking at past years, that time would be put me in the top 6 or so—London will be the deepest marathon I’ve ever run talent-wise, so that would be a solid result.” She ran her PR 2:26:44 at New York last fall.

Last year Twanisha Terry took 3rd in the NCAA 100 and won silver in the World Juniors. Teammate Angie Annelus, the defending NCAA 200 champion, tells the LA Times to keep an eye on Terry: “We’re gonna see crazy things from TeeTee this year. The way she’s practicing this fall. The world’s gonna be shocked by TeeTee.”

Larry Young, the last U.S. walker to medal in the Olympics (‘68 & ‘72) was asked by blogger Gary Cohen why the U.S. hasn’t scored a podium spot since. “It’s kind of surprising and I don’t really have a good answer for that,” he said. “Here in the United States, especially when I was race walking, there was very little emphasis on the sport. It was not a part of the high school track and field program. It was only an AAU event. Kids in high school were not exposed to the sport. The United States hasn’t ever focused on it. Now we do have a training center in Colorado Springs and there are race walkers training there… but for some reason we’ve never been able to get somebody even close in the Olympics.” Young noted, however, that Curt Clausen won bronze in the ‘99 Worlds 50K.

The show must go on? Safety concerns regarding the ’20 World Juniors in Nairobi have been heightened since a January terrorist attack that killed 21 people. Jack Tuwei, the president of Athletics Kenya, assured an IAAF delegation that everything will go ahead as planned and that maximum security will be provided. “I’d like to assure all that security in all aspects has been taken care of and the meetings will take place,” Tuwei said. “There shouldn’t be any panic.” He added, “[The IAAF] visit is extremely important for Kenya and will effectively kick off an extremely important leg of our preparations to host yet another successful global competition. The stadium and our accommodation is on the other side of Nairobi from Tuesday’s attack and there has been extra security at all hotels across the city.”

Tom Walsh will be 27 when he heads to Doha to defend his World crown in the shot. He tells the New Zealand Herald that he has retooled his training in order to stay intense. “You see a lot of people plateau in their sporting career in particular around this age and that’s something that me and the team don’t want to do.” One method he is trying is making his training sessions shorter. “It’s just about doing little things to keep you on your toes,” he explains. “For example, rather than having a 12-throw training session where you can bugger up one or two throws, have a 4-throw training session, so each one of those throws is just as important and you know if you stuff up one you’ve only got 3 good ones.”

Steepler Courtney Frerichs says that she is working with a USOC sports psychologist now and it has helped her get past some of the challenges that arose after her silver in ‘17. “I think I tried to strive for perfection too much in my training and races,” the AR holder told Runner’s World. “It actually started to become very overwhelming, and I started really struggling through training. I felt that I wasn’t mentally putting races together as well as I could have. More than anything, I really needed to figure things out. I was putting so much pressure on myself because of the accomplishment I had from Worlds.”

When marathoner Stephanie Bruce lines up for the 5000 at the New Balance Indoor GP, it will be new territory for her. Not only will she be facing the likes of Jenny Simpson, Konstanze Klosterhalfen and Katie Mackey, she will be in her first-ever indoor race. Says coach Ben Rosales, “It’s unique what Steph is trying to do, but that’s what she’s done over the past year or two, is take on all sort of different challenges. This is just another one of those and she has a personal best in the 5,000 from a long, long time ago.” Her PR, outdoors, is 15:49.40 from ’12.

The Dubai Marathon cut its prize money from $816,000 last year to $385,000, leaving Boston as the biggest payday race, at $746,000. According to the Dubai director, the decision stems from the race not being accorded an IAAF Platinum Label in its new road running hierarchy. Peter Connerton said In a release, “For the time being, we are going to continue our policy of paying very good prize money ($100,000 for both winners), but not appearance money, as other top races do. Because we believe it’s the performance on the day that counts.”

Kaliese Spencer, the 4-time DL 400H champion, got married in early January and will be adding “-Carter” to her last name.

At the big Virginia Showcase prep meet, Britton Wilson & Athing Mu overlapped a pair of wins each, raising the possibility that if/when they do finally meet, we could be in for a barnburner. On Friday Wilson (Godwin, Henrico, Virginia) covered 300 in 37.71, to move to No. 5 ever. Mu (Central, Trenton) blitzed the 400 in 52.55, also No. 5 all-time. The next day, Wilson moved to No. 2 all-time in the 500 with a 1:10.82. Mu then moved to No. 2 all-time in the 600 with a 1:28.54.

British distance vet Jo Pavey, now 45, says she will be attempting to make her sixth Olympic team in 2020, admitting, “It’s a difficult ask, I’m totally aware of that, but something that’s fun to try.”

After 12 years on the IAAF Council, Pauline Davis-Thompson is not going to be put forth for reelection by the Bahamian federation. “There is much more that I wanted to do a the IAAF Council level,” she says, “but it is what it is.” □

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