USA Track & Field’s Pan Am Debacle Gets Even Weirder: An Arbitrator Has Apparently Ruled Against USATF, But Only In Certain Events

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By Robert Johnson
June 28, 2019

If you thought USA Track & Field’s (USATF) 2019 Pan American Games team selection debacle couldn’t get any crazier, you were wrong. Since December, USATF has said they would pick the team based off of 2019 results only. Then last week they sent out an email stating that, actually, they were going to defy their own selection criteria and pick the team off of 2018 and 2019 results. Then the team came out on Monday and it reflected neither of those options as some of the team came from the 2019 list, while some came from 2018 and 2019 list, the result of multiple clerical errors. On Wednesday, without telling the public, USATF quietly changed the roster so that the entire team came from the combined 2018 and 2019 list.

That didn’t please A LOT of people, but many of them didn’t know what to do. One who did know what to do was American Distance Project coach Scott Simmons. Simmons, who coaches at least two athletes who were not initially named to the team but were poised to make it if USATF chose it off of 2019 marks, filed a Section 9 grievance on behalf of them. On Friday, Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey told LetsRun.com that the arbiter has ruled in Simmons’ favor and said that the team should be chosen using the 2019 marks only as the that’s what USATF initially said would be the case. However, the ruling only applies to the men’s steeple and men’s 10,000 (we’re not sure if it applies to everyone in those events or just Simmons’ athletes), presumably because those are the two events where Simmons filed an appeal (another source told us that the hearing did discuss the men’s 5,000, but it’s possible that Simmons withdrew that appeal as he has an athlete that gets in off of the 2018-19 marks in the 5,000).

Five of the six men on the 2019 USA XC team were coached by Scott Simmons

What’s mind-boggling is that with the arbiter limiting the ruling to just two events, it means that Simmons now has athletes on Team USA under both sets of rules. Shadrack Kipchirchir will run for the USA in the 5,000 based off of 2018-2019 marks being incorrectly used (he would not make it in the 10,000 if it was only 2019 marks). And now thanks to Simmons’ appeal, Benard Keter (who only recently got his US citizenship and has run 8:29.94 this year) is in the steeple, as is Lawi Lalang in the 10,000 (28:03.34 in 2019), and those two only get in if only 2019 times are used to qualify.

As a result of the ruling, the Brooks Beasts’ Garrett Heath has been told he is no longer in the 10,000. Presumably that would also mean that Jordan Mann (8:28.55 in 2018) is off of the steeple team, but we do not know if Isaac Updike (8:25.38 in 2018) is also off the steeple team because the man in line to replace him, Travis Mahoney (8:28.76 in 2019), is not one of Simmons’ athletes and thus may not have been affected by the arbitration. It’s going to blow my mind if Mahoney is left off of the team even though he’s run faster than Keter this year simply because Mahoney didn’t know to file an appeal on his own behalf. Update at 7:09 am on 6/29/19: We’ve been told Mahoney is on the team.

Regardless, the team would be drastically different if the 2019 standards were used for all events. Someone told me that it would impact as many as 39 individuals. As things stand, tons of 2019 studs like NCAA leader Tyler Day of Northern Arizona, who ran 13:25 this year and would be on the team if the 2019 list was used, are still being screwed over royally.

I spoke to Day’s coach, NAU head coach Mike Smith, both last night and today, and he was extremely frustrated by the fiasco and the lack of transparency coming from USATF. “Will someone just own this and take responsibility?” he asked. Smith said all week long he’s been trying to reach a human being at USATF — to no avail — to get an explanation as to why Day was initially told he was on the team and then was taken off of it. After leaving six different voicemails, he finally got a call back this afternoon from USATF Managing Director of International & Championship Teams Aretha Thurmond, but that call left him just as confused as he was before. Smith said he thought Thurmond told him they were using 2019 times to select the 5,000 squad and that Day was initially put on as a result of a clerical error (but the part about using only 2019 times can’t be true as Day has run faster than both Riley Masters and Shadrack Kipchirchir this year — the two guys currently on the team).

We’re now five days into this debacle, and things still may not be over as one source told us that someone at USATF told him more arbitration hearings could be coming. If you are interested in filing arbitration, please email me at [email protected].

Talk about this fiasco on our world famous fan forum/messageboard: MB: USATF completely botches selection of 2019 Pan American Games team.

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