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LRC: A Fan's Guide To The 2009 Adidas Track Classic
May 15, 2009 - Recently, we've come to the official conclusion that track isn't more popular because it's rarely presented properly. For a race to be truly compelling, people need to have a ton of information about the event and the main participants. If people know the story lines involved in the race, then it's interesting. If they don't, then it's not.
In our minds, information creates drama, which creates entertainment.
In that light, we hope to give you, the visitors of LetsRun.com, the story lines for the major meets this year. Below you will find a preview of the Saturday's adidas Track Classic. We give you a breakdown of all of the mid-d and distance events below in the order that they take place before talking about the non-distance action.
The meet starts at 3:45 pm Pacific with the Discus, with the 800 getting major action underway at 4:45 pm. The meet is on live on ESPN2 from 5 to 7 pm Pacific (8 to 10 pm EST). *Schedule/Results Here
Women's 800: The Return of Alysia Johnson (4:45 PM Pacific)
This race is exciting to us as it really marks the return of Alysia Johnson. Johnson had a sensational 2007 as she won both NCAAs and USAs and broke 2:00 for the first time. As much of 2007 was a dream, 2008 was a nightmare, as she ended up broken and injured at the Olympic Trials. Healthy again in 2009, she seems poised for another great year. She seems to be in good shape as in early April she ran and won her first 1,500 of her life in 4:28 and also ran a 53.9 in the open 400 that day.
The 23-year-old Johnson, who represents the future of US 800 meter running, will be challenged by the past of US 800 meter running in 31-year-old Hazel Clark. Clark a 3-time Olympian and 4-time US champ, may have seen her best days pass her by. Challenging Johnson also will be former Michigan Wolverine Katie Waits. Waits was Johnson's principal rival in 2007 at the collegaite level as at the NCAA meet Waits also broke 2:00 in finishing 2nd to Johnson.
Waits struggled a bit last year in her first year as a pro last year but seems to be back in fine form in 2009, having won the USA indoor title and running 2:01.78 at Stanford on May 2nd.
LRC Prediction: 1) Johnson 2) Waits 3) Clark
Women's 1,500: Sinclair & The Battle For Sub-4:07.00 (5:15 pm Pacific)
This race is interesting on a lot of fronts. It features a ton of of people who just missed the Olympic and IAAF A time of 4:07.00 last year, and they will need to get it soon if they want to go to world champs. Seven different people - Lindsey Gallo (4:07.26), Amy Mortimer (4:07.62), Erin Donohue (4:07:65), Jenelle Deatherage (4:07.87), Marina Muncan (4:08.02), Malindi Elmore (4:07.07) and Hilary Stellingwerf (4:08.56) - ran within 1.56 seconds of the required 4:07.00 last year.
So right there you've got 7 runners who on paper seem to have the potential to be evenly matched. Of those seven, it will certainly be interesting to see how Lindsey Gallo and Erin Donohue perform under their new coaches. Despite making the Olymipcs, Donohue was dumped by her coach John Cook in a much publicized incident earlier this year for not being talented enough. This adidas race is her 2009 debut.
Gallo's early work with Matt Centrowitz paid big dividends indoors as she won the Reebok Indoor games in 4:27.90. Will the positive rewards continue?
The runner-up from the indoor Reebok meet, Ethiopia's Mestawat Tadesse, is also in the field. The short-course bronze medallist in XC from 2004 has run 4:04 in the past. But in terms of who is going to win the race, we think Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair is the woman to beat. She has a 4:05 PB and was 6th in the Olympic 800 final last year in 1:58.
The race also does include high schooler Jordan Hasay, who likely will garner in the press's attention. Her presence certainly will create excitement but she'll have to work hard to avoid a last-place finish, as she was next to last when she ran 4:16 at Stanford in early May.
LRC Prediction: 1) Sinclair 2) Tadesse 3) Gallo 4) Donohue
Men's 1,500: What A Field - So Many Story Lines (6:10 PM Pacific)
This race features a stacked field and represents the first real test of the year for virtually all of the top pro 1,500 meter runners that are based in the US not including Alan Webb. If the field for this race looks familiar, that is because it's basically a replay of the final of last year's US Olympic Trials sans Alan Webb but with a few talented US-based foreigners added into the mix to spice things up. 8 of the top 10 from last year's US Trials are entered, including the 3 Olympians (only the 5th-placer Webb and the 8th-placer McClary are missing).
The race is the outdoor debut for 2007 double world champ Bernard Lagat. Indoors, Lagat showed that maybe his struggles in the Olympics weren't a result of age, but rather his Achilles tendon problem, as he got the best of Nick Willis at Millrose before running a 3:51 indoor mile in France. He won here last year and should win here again. The race is clearly Lagat's to lose.
Who could challenge him? We're sure the casual fan would have Lopez Lomong, who ran a 3:54.51 1,600 split in his outdoor debut at Penn Relays, at the top of the list. However, while we think Lomong is in good shape, we're not sure if he's quite sharp enough to get the win in LA. Lomong's coach John Hayes is purposely bringing him along a bit slower this year and he didn't look real sharp in his kick at Penn and his lack of early season finishing speed was shown the next weekend when he was only 4th in an 800 in Texas in 1:48.42. Canadian Nate Brannen also ran a 3:54 at Penn but he looked sharper as he battled for the win.
At LetsRun.com, we've been hearing great things all spring about the fitness of Leonel Manzano and we'll see on Sunday just where he stands. 2009 is the year we'll also start to find out just how good Manzano is (or isn't). For the last 4 years, he dominated the collegiate level but his PB has only come down by 1.84 seconds since his freshman year. He will get into some big races this year so he won't have the "I win everything I run" excuse for lacking a better PB.
At Penn, Manzano was smoked by Canada's Matt Lincoln on the 1,200, but with that rust buster out of the way, we should start to see where he stands. This race is a big one for Manzano.
Honestly, we don't see anyone challenging Lagat in this race. The most talented guy in the field besides Lagat is probably Kenya's Boaz Lalang. He made the Kenyan Olympic 800 team last year in a shocker. From a freshman at Rend Lake to Kenya's Olympic team. Very impressive. He ran two 2:19 1ks indoors and did run 1:44 last year but he's not experienced at 1,500 at all. If he weren't Kenyan, we wouldn't think he'd be confident enough to even really try for the win. But
since he is, maybe he'll have the guts to go for it??? We'll see on Sunday.
Lastly, we may even be able to see "How good (or bad) is Alan Webb going to be ths year?" We'll certainly learn something about Webb, as Peter Van Der Westhuizen, who has twice finished 2nd to Alan Webb this spring, is in the field. Van Der Weshuizen ran 3:37 at Stanford, so one would think Webb's in at least that type of shape. Speaking of 3:37, Chris Lukezic also ran that at Stanford and he's in the field as well. It's been four years since he ran 3:33. Can he get back to that? We'll start to find out.
LRC Prediction: 1) Lagat 2) Brannen 3) Lalang 4) Manzano
Women's 5k: Can Flanagan Win & Get The American Record? (6:32 PM Pacific)
This race is being billed by some as an American record attempt by Shalane Flanagan. Considering Flanagan did run 14:47.62 indoors and that her record is 14:44.80 and that the race includes 2004 Olympic silver medallilst Ejegayehu Dibaba, who has run 14:32 before and 14:36 last year, it seems like it's possible. However, at 6:32 when the race goes off, it's likely to be just over 70 degrees, which is a bit warm. It's going to be tough for her to get the record. It's also going to be tough for her to get the win. Look for this to be a two-person race.
LRC Prediction: 1) Dibaba 2) Flanaagan 3) Kipyego
Women's Steeple: How Fast Can Willard Run? (7:10 PM Pacific)
2008 US Olympic Trials runner-up Lindsey Anderson has been running well so far in 2009. A 9:30 performer last year at the Trials, she's already run 9:35 this year. The being said, we know who is going to win this race and it isn't Anderson.
The Olympic Trials champ Anna Willard is the class of this field and will win. The only issue in our minds is whether will she go for the American record of 9:22.26. Willard is in great form as she won the USA 1,500 title indoors before dominating the 1,500 at Stanford a few weeks ago, where she ran 4:06.90 and won by two full seconds. If Willard was running the 1,500 on Saturday, we'd pick her as the top American and the likely winner.
In the steeple, we know she will win, it's just a matter of how fast she runs.
LRC Predictions 1) Willard 9:19 AR 2) Anderson 3) Allen
Men's 5k: A 2-Person Race (7:25 Pacific)
Based on 2008 seasonal bests, this race should and will be won by Ethiopia's Dejen Gebremeskel, who ran 13:08 last year for 2nd here as an 18-year-old. Some might be concerned that it's his first track race of the year but the adidas Track Classic was his first track race last year and it ended up being his seasonal best.
Looking at the rest of the field, former Arkansas Razorback Alistair Cragg is certainly the best of the rest. Cragg ran 13:16 last year and was the winner at Stanford earlier this month in 13:22 in a race where 2008 Olympian Ian Dobson stopped a lap early. So this race certainly presents a chance at redemption for Dobson.
Really the only question in our minds here is "Who is going to finish 3rd?" If it's not Dobson, it might be another former Hog in Josphat Boit, who ran 13:28 in that Stanford race.
LRC Predictions: 1) Gebremeskel 2) Cragg 3) Dobson
The men's 100 is almost as good despite the loss of Tyson Gay. If Gay was in the race, this would be THE race of the meet for us. Nonetheless, even without Gay, you have the Olympic silver medallist Richard Thompson versus the Olympic bronze medallist Walter Dix. Throw in 9.89 guy Darvis Patton, who was 8th in the Olympics and ran 10.02 for the win last week in Jamaica, as well as Travis Padgett, who got the win in Doha in 10.00 last week, and you've got a fantastic race.
It will be interesting to see how Olympic 400 meter champ LaShawn Merritt does in the men's 200, where he'll face 2004 Olympic gold and 2008 Olympic silver medallist Shawn Crawford in Crawford's specialty. The X man, Xavier Carter, also is in the race. Merritt ran 19.98 at adidas in 2007 while the X man seemingly looks a bit more focussed this year as he split 44.94 at Penn. The 400 has Jeremy Wariner, while the 100 hurdles has 4-time silver medallist Terrence Trammell, who will be looking to make amends for his Beijing disappointment.
The women's 100 has the 3 US Olympians in 4th-placer Lauryn Williams, 5th-placer Muna Lee and 8th-placer Torri Edwards. In the 200, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards square off in Felix's speciality. In the 100 hurdles, Olympic champ Dawn Harper goes up against 2003 world champ Perdita Felicien. The pole vault has both Stacy Dragila and Jenn Stuczysnki.