July 25, 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa — The men’s and women’s 100m finals were the featured track events on Friday, capping day 2 of the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium. One went according to form and the other was totally unexpected.
There was also plenty of distance action (men’s and women’s 800 semis, men’s 1500 semis, women’s steeple semis), which we recap here: LRC Distance Day 2: Hoppel’s Winning Streak Ends, High School Mu Makes First Final, Sowinski’s Final Streak Ends
The final event of the night was the men’s 100, where Christian Coleman started as a big favorite — and became an even bigger favorite when defending champion Justin Gatlin, who has a bye into Worlds, decided not to start the final.
Coleman got an easy win in 9.99 into a 1.0 m/s wind as veteran Michael Rodgers was second in 10.12. Christopher Belcher, who was 3rd in 2017 but only 4th in his semifinal heat tonight, grabbed the final spot to Worlds, also finishing in 10.12.
Coleman’s time was pretty modest for him — even into a headwind — as it only equates to 9.94 according to the wind/altitude 100m calculator.
Despite that, Coleman won comfortably and said he felt like he’s in the best shape of his life right now.
“I just feel like if you look at my progression throughout the years, I feel like I’ve always gotten better and better, and I take pride in that, just always trying to be better than I was last year, just trying to be better than I was last week and yesterday,” Coleman said. “Yeah, I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, but I still feel like I’ve got more to go.”
Since the start of 2018, Coleman has been the dominant force in the short sprints, not just in the US, but globally. He has set a world record and won the World Indoor title at 60 meters, and last year became just the eighth man in history to break 9.80 in the 100. But until tonight, he had never won a US outdoor title. Coleman said he hoped it would be the first of many, but he has his eyes on a bigger prize.
“The mission’s not over,” Coleman said. “I came into the year, I wanted to win the gold medal in Doha. And this is just a step that I had to do to get there.”
Ronnie Baker, who hadn’t competed all year until USAs but won his semifinal, was 5th in 10.20. He said, “I hadn’t turned it on in any competition so I think I just got out of sorts a little bit trying to take it to that next gear. But that happens. It’s part of the learning process, part of not having the races coming into this and not competing, trying to push my body where it hasn’t been yet.”
Daniels wins unpredictable women’s race
If you printed out the results of tonight’s women’s 100-meter final, traveled back in time, and showed them to a track nerd a month ago, you’d drown in a sea of questions. A winning time of 11.20? (Only once in the last 36 years has it been slower). Teahna Daniels, the NCAA 4th-placer, winning it all? Morolake Akinosun and English Gardner, who ranked 20th and 28th in the US coming into the meet, both making the team? Reigning champion Aleia Hobbs a nonfactor in 6th? NCAA champion Sha’Carri Richardson dead-last in 11.72 — nearly a full second behind the collegiate record of 10.75 she set in Austin last month? How to make sense of all this?
Let’s start with the time, which is the simplest to explain: there has been a headwind in the sprints in Des Moines this week, and it continued in the final tonight (1.7 m/s).
The rest of it is a little tougher to square. Hobbs, who won in Shanghai and was third and second in her other Diamond Leagues in Rome and Stanford, just never looked comfortable this week. Richardson — who gave up halfway through the race when it became clear she wasn’t in contention — quite clearly seems to have peaked seven weeks ago at NCAAs. Last year, she was racing high schoolers in Texas; in retrospect, asking a 19-year-old whose season began on January 12 to stretch all the way through late July was always going to be a challenge.
Yet how then, to explain Daniels? The 2016 NCAA indoor champion in the 60 meters, Daniels’ senior track campaign at the University of Texas began all the way back on December 8, a full month before Richardson debuted. Daniels took 2nd at NCAA indoors in the 60 and 4th at NCAA outdoors in the 100 — impressive, sure, but nothing to suggest a US title was on the horizon. But she looked springy at the Prefontaine Classic, defeating Richardson to finish 3rd against a world-class field in 11.13, and in Des Moines, she backed that performance up and then some.
After Dezerea Bryant got off to her traditionally fast start in tonight’s final, it was the 22-year-old Daniels who seized control of the race over the final 20 meters, earning the biggest win of her career — and ensuring that an already long season will stretch until the World Championships in September.
After her breakout freshman campaign, Daniels didn’t make much progress over her next two years at Texas, failing to even make the NCAA final in 2018. But she has been revitalized under first-year Texas coach Edrick Floreal, previously better known for his hurdle expertise.
“Just listening to my coach, really, that’s pretty much all I can sum it up to,” Daniels said.
“Flo knows” is the phrase that his disciples cling to, and for Daniels, that’s the truth. To hear her talk about Floreal, a two-time Olympian in the triple jump for Canada, was akin to hearing a monk describe the Buddha.
“What he took away from me was negativity and doubting myself,” Daniels said, adding that, before the meet, she shared a private Instagram post with friends telling them she would win in Des Moines. “I feel like that’s what he really helped me take that out of my being. Just his words, just something that he says makes you want to keep doing and do your best.”
Floreal doesn’t get all the credit for Daniels’ turnaround, however. She has also overhauled her diet, limiting her favorites such as fried foods, sweets, and ice cream, and instead piling an extra helping of fruits and vegetables on her plate. She said she has lost 19 pounds since December.
“Losing weight was definitely a maaajor thing for me,” Daniels said. “It was really just dedication. I had to really dedicate myself to be in the best shape I could be. There are power runners — I am a power runner — but when you have that extra fat, it’s just not gonna work.”
After tonight, though, Daniels has earned a reward. A shake at Zombie Burger, a Des Moines staple, Daniels said, would be on the menu post-race.
“After this weekend, I will definitely be treating myself,” Daniels said.
It will be a battle-hardened US team that heads to Doha in the fall. Between Tori Bowie (the fourth member of the team who has a bye to Worlds as reigning champ), Gardner, and Akinosun, the US features women who have torn their ACL (Gardner), hamstring (grade 2 tear, Gardner), quadriceps (Bowie), and Achilles (Akinosun), all since July 2017.
After finishing second, and making her first US team since the 2016 Olympics, Gardner summarized the mindset that propelled her back to the World Championships.
“Throughout that entire process, I just kept telling myself, no matter what, you cannot quit,” Gardner said. “I think the most distinguished quality of a person that becomes great in this sport is that they never quit. I joke around with my dad and all my friends and say like I’m Freddy and Jason of this sport. You can’t kill me.”
Gardner, who has returned home to New Jersey to be coached by her father, Anthony, said she “stunk up the place” in her first two 100s this season in Rome (11.42) and at Pre (11.24). But now that she’s healthy, with two months to prepare for Doha?
“It’s dangerous,” Gardner said. “If I’m able to have two months, who’s telling what’s gonna happen?”
But first, Gardner has to rest up. She’s entered in the 200 meters at USAs, which begin on Saturday afternoon, and she fully intends on running. Why?
“Because I’m a beast, that’s why,” Gardner said. “And we don’t quit! I want more. I’m hungry.”
Alyson Felix makes 400m final
Super mom Allyson Felix struggled and ran 52.20 in round 1 of the 400 in her first race back from pregnancy to make today’s semis on time. She got a huge cheer tonight at the start and then ran much faster, 51.45, to make the final with an automatic qualifying spot. Can Felix work her magic and earn a spot to Doha?
Blade Runner Blake Leeper makes 400m final despite not yet being cleared by IAAF to compete at Worlds
Blake Leeper, a double amputee, won heat 1 of the 400m semis in a pr of 44.38. USATF let Leeper compete here despite the fact the IAAF disqualifies all of his performances and says he is not eligible to race against able-bodied athletes with the prosthetic legs he uses. (His legs are taller than some other prosthetic legs, although Leeper says he is competing at the height he has always been at). Leeper is appealing his situation with the IAAF and USATF let him compete. Leeper’s law firm said, “Mr. Leeper has no overall competitive advantage with his prosthetics,” but it’s clear to the human eye he does. He loses tons of ground at the start but then finishes like a freight train. A very inspiring story, but he should be competing in exhibitions or the Paralympics, not the USATF championships.
Ryan Crouser wins great shot put
Only three men all year had thrown over 22 meters, three Americans did it in tonight’s shot put final as Ryan Crouser won a very strong competition in 22.62 with Joe Kovacs at 22.31 and Darrell Hill 22.11. 4th placer Jon Jones will get to go to Worlds if one of the top three wins the Diamond League final this year.