FROM THE EDITOR — They Call It TrackTown USA For A Reason

HAYWARD FIELD 2022: has any other venue on the planet ever had as much world-class track action crammed into it over the course of 4 different meets in just 59 days?

That was 5 weekends out of 9 busy with these:

May 27-28: Pre Classic Diamond League
June 08-11: NCAA Championships
June 23-26: USATF Championships
July 15-24: World Championships

And set aside the 59-day window: how many cities have ever staged 4 meets that good in a whole year? I can’t think of one. We’re talking something epic in the history of the sport.

The stadium witnessed these marks during those 4 meets (* = yearly outdoor leader as of August 05):

Men — 9.76*, 19.31*, 43.56*, 1:43.71, 3:29.23*, 3:49.76, 8:15.76, 12:50.05, 27:27.43, 13.00, 46.29*, 37.48*, 2:56.17*, 7-9¼/2.37*, 20-4½/6.21*, 27-5¼/8.27, 58-10¾/17.95*, 75-10¼/23,12*, 233-4/71.13, 268-11/81.98*, 297-0/90.54, 8816.

Women — 10.67=, 21.45*, 49.11*, 1:56.30*, 3:52.59*, 8:53.02*, 14:12.98*, 30:09.94*, 12,12*, 50.68*, 41.14*, 3:17.79*, 6-7½/2.02, 15-11/4.85, 23-4½/7.12, 50-9¼/15.47*, 67-3½/20.51*, 226-9/69.12, 259-1/78.96, 219-6/66.91*, 6947*.

If you’re a numbers freak like I am, there’s just so much to revel in in there. (And all that doesn’t include the June 16–19 staging of the Nike HS Nationals.)

But there were also numbers I didn’t like. Specifically, the seats filled at all four of those meets underwhelmed me. Particularly the USATF meet, by far the greatest national championship meet on the planet. I’d consider anything under 10,000 fans an abject failure in a WC year. But look at its numbers: 2751/3314/3664/3577 for a 4-day total of only 13,306.

I see two logical possibilities. Either the overall ticket scale was way out of whack and organizers priced themselves out of the market or the local appetite for track meets reached a saturation point. Or worse, both.

And then there’s the point of view that even with the best facility going and a great history of supporting the sport, perhaps it’s unhealthy for so many of the nation’s major meets to be concentrated in one spot.

The problem is, those four meets were placed in Eugene by four different bodies. Nike puts Pre where it wants, the NCAA puts its meet where it wants, USATF puts its meet where it wants and WA puts the WC where it wants. (Be it overtly or covertly, of course, the heavy hand of Nike is always very much in play.)

Pre is obviously targeted for Eugene forever. On the other hand, it’ll be many years before it (or any U.S. site?) sees another WC. That leaves the NCAA and USATF meets, which are sited by separate bidding processes.

The False Start Issue

It was distressing to read/hear so many “experts” say that the Devon Allen false start in the hurdles couldn’t have been one because they didn’t see any movement.

Guess what? That’s why we have false-start blocks; to catch small movements that no one — not even the starter — can possibly be expected to catch with the naked eye. There’s no position on the track where a human can fairly judge all the lanes. The obvious solution is taking that ultimate decision out of his/her hands.

I also heard calls that the acceptable RT (reaction time) should be decreased. I don’t think it should be cut, but even if the rules were tweaked, an Allen-like 0.001 fail remains possible. There will always have to be a cutoff point, and if somebody beats it, even by that frustrating 0.001, they’re toast.

Having said that, there was definitely something wonky about the block readings overall. They were markedly faster than usual and to my way of thinking were almost surely responsible for the DQ…

It’s About Those Victory Ceremonies

In an editorial in the February ’88 edition Bert Nelson wrote, “More and more athletes and spectators are complaining about seemingly endless interruptions of competition in order to hold victory ceremonies.

“… It was at its worst on the final day at last year’s Worlds when the dramatic high jump [Stefka Kostadinova’s still-standing WR] was stopped 10 times to allow ceremonies taking an average of 8 minutes apiece.”

So here we are 35 years later and finally an outdoor WC with a change (see “Last Lap”). Thanks to Executive Director Niels de Vos for instituting the “instant medal” concept, with the flag-waving and anthem-playing parts moved outside the competition windows.

Let’s hope it becomes permanent. ◻︎