WTW: Will Athing Mu Really Just Walk Away, Addy Wiley Rocks It Again & Conner Mantz Gets ShovedBy Robert Johnson
The Week That Was in Running, July 31 – August 6, 2023
Past editions of the Week That Was can be found here.
Athing Mu May Skip Worlds in 2023
The biggest news in the track world last week came to us in old-school fashion, from a newspaper, the LA Times, where Bobby Kersee told Andrew Greif that Athing Mu may not run the 2023 Worlds even though she’s healthy.
LRC Analysis Athing Mu Considering Sitting Out 2023 Worlds
If you want our full take on it, join the Supporters Club as we devoted most of Friday’s Supporters Club podcast to the topic.
(We have a video segment of the podcast below):
but my two main takeaways are this.
1. Let’s be honest, if Athing Mu doesn’t compete in Budapest, she won’t be “training though” to focus on 2024.
Here is what Kersee was quoted as saying about why Mu may not run Worlds. “It’s in our control if we decide we’re just going to go ahead and train through this year and focus on next year, then that’s what we’re going to do. The training is going well but our thought process, openly, is that we’re going to just train here in L.A. for the next two weeks and the next time she gets on the plane it’ll either be on vacation or to Budapest.”
I didn’t love the explanation from Bobby Kersee as it a) doesn’t seem accurate and it b) will only put more attention on Mu if she does compete.
If Mu does miss Worlds, it won’t be because she’s “training through” Worlds to get ready for 2024, it will be because for whatever reason she doesn’t want to compete this year.
Mu has been open about the stress and pressure of competing this year after winning gold in 2021 and 2022. If she chooses not to compete at Worlds, it will be because she believes that is that is the healthiest choice for her, because there is absolutely zero physiological need for an 800 runner to train through Worlds in 2023 to get ready for 2024.
So I wish Kersee had just said that. And if she does end up competing, she’s now going to be barraged with questions about why she almost didn’t go. So I don’t really get why he went to the press ahead of time. Kersee should have let Mu make her decision and if it ends up being not to go to Worlds, then explain the decision at that point in time.
2. If Athing Mu walks away from the sport, she certainly won’t be the first great to walk away in their prime — but most of them come back
If Mu ends up walking away from the sport temporarily or permanently, she will be missed but it’s not like this type of thing is unprecedented. Michael Jordan famously took a break from the NBA in his prime to pursue his baseball itch. Bjorn Borg walked away from tennis at 26. In 2021, Naomi Osaka took an indefinite break from women’s tennis at age 23 and Simone Biles temporarily stopped competing in gymnastics at age 24 before returning last weekend. Heck last year, Tyrell Terry retired from the NBA at 22 due to crippling anxiety.
What’s interesting about the first four examples — Jordan, Borg, Osaka, Biles — is they all ended up going back to what they were great at. Athing Mu may not love the sport of track & field like many of the readers of this column do, but she’s paid very handsomely to run around in circles. Tons of people work demanding office jobs that they are very good at, but that they do not love. Many of them continue to do them as there isn’t anything else on planet Earth that will result in them making seven figures per year.
- the Athing Mu Worlds saga demonstrates something important about track fans…
- ATHING MU: losing her American fan base but I don’t think she cares
- Athing Mu may skip 2023 World Championships and focus on 2024
- Milton Mallard who coached Athing Mu to two gold medals has left Texas A&M, what’s he up to?
Addy Wiley’s Fabulous 2023 Continues
At the Ed Murphey Classic, a World Athletics Continental Tour silver event in Memphis on Friday, the biggest head turner came in the women’s 800 where Addy Wiley‘s remarkable 2023 season continued. The 19-year-old chopped 3.33 seconds off her 800 pb and ran 1:59.00 for the win.
In 2022, Wiley racked up robust high school pbs of 2:04.43 and 4:11.43. One year later, she has improved those marks by 5.43 seconds in the 800 and 8.21 seconds in the 1500! And she’s done all of this while staying at home in Indiana to run for her local NAIA school — the scandal-plagued Huntington University. If Wiley were in the NCAA, she’d be the second-fastest 800 and 1500 runner in history. Only future world champions Athing Mu(1:57.73) and Jenny Simpson (3:59.90) have run faster during an NCAA season.
A day later, Wiley ran the Beale Street Murphey Mile on the roads in Memphis and she had no trouble dispatching three-time NCAA champ Dani Jones by 2+ seconds, 4:37.7 to 4:39.8. Jones had also raced the night before, clocking 4:02.83 to win the 1500.
Given the awfulness of what we know went on at Huntington and true horror of what’s been further alleged, as well as Wiley’s refusal to disassociate herself from anyone intricately linked to the Huntington scandal (Wiley and former coach Lauren Johson are friends and remain close), it’s been difficult for many to celebrate Wiley’s remarkable year. Part of that discomfort is because some of the Huntington allegations involved PED accusations — though Wiley herself has never tested positive or been sanctioned in any way.
Many, including myself, view Wiley and everyone at Huntington as a victim of the Huntington mess, but having talked to her last year, she does not. Is that surprising? I guess not. It can take time to process something like this. Remember, Mary Cain was actively trying to get back into the Nike Oregon Project in April 2019, just seven months before she slammed them in The New York Times. She’s now suing Nike for $20 million.
In other mid-d news, last week at the CITIUS Meeting in Switzerland, Abby Caldwell set an Australian record in the 1000, running 2:34.63 with Linden Hall second in 2:35.12.
USA Rocks Pan Ams Despite Passport Snafus
The Pan Am U20 meet was held last week in Puerto Rico. The US team was not as strong as it could have been since several athletes missed out due to passport issues (even though Americans do not require a passport to visit Puerto Rico), but the US still dominated, winning 28 golds (14 men, 13 women, 1 mixed). Mid-d and distance golds went to Sophia Gorriaran (2:04.68) and Daniel Watcke (1:48.86) in the 800s, Ellie Shea (4:16.61) in the women’s 1500 and 3000 (9:05.78), Caleb Jarema (9:05.92) in the men’s steeple and Ethan Coleman in the men’s 5000 (14:44.58). US phenom Simeon Birnbaum, who is headed to Oregon this fall, ran the 800 and finished second in 1:49.31.
However, the US did not win gold in the men’s 400 where Virginia Tech star Judson Lincoln IV, who has a 45.47 pb, wasn’t allowed to compete despite having a valid US passport (it expires within the next six months, which is why Lincoln was barred from the meet). That event was won in 45.62.
On the bright side, we guess the team selection snafu was not as bad as four years ago when LetsRun.com had to fund a lawsuit to make USATF honor its selection criteria for the senior Pan Am Games.
If you are a teen hoping to someday make a US team, get your passport now. We normally are sympathetic toward USATF requiring passports to be presented the day you qualify, but not in this case where no passport is required to get to Puerto Rico. (USATF staffers told athletes the passport requirement was a World Athletics rule, but World Athletics has said that is not the case). And for USATF not to explain themselves when asked for comment is simply unprofessional.
Jonathan Simms Runs 45.12/1:51.69
The top teenage 400 performance from the US last week came at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines where 16-year-old Jonathan Simms of Allen, Tex., set an age-16 world record of 45.12, eclipsing the 45.14 that Obea Moore ran 28 years ago at the World Youth champs in Santiago, Chile.
45.12 400m by rising HS junior Jonathan Simms! 🤯 pic.twitter.com/bKjmrLjc0E
— Travis Miller (@travismillerx13) August 5, 2023
It probably needs to be pointed out that Moore, who won World Youth and World Junior 400 golds, never ran faster than 45.14 in his life.
Simms, like Moore back in the day, also likes to dip his toes in the 800 as earlier in the meet he won that event too.
HE’S BACK‼️ Jonathan Simms fights off a dive at the line from Stefon Dodoo to win the 15-16-year-old boys 800m in 1:51.69!
Simms hadn’t raced the 800m at AAU Junior Olympics since 2021, focusing instead on the 400m. He clocked 45.90 for the quarter-mile earlier this season 😳 pic.twitter.com/IMCET2XUsl
— MileSplit US (@milesplit) August 2, 2023
Conner Mantz Gets Run Into a Barricade And Loses
US marathoner Conner Mantz was battling 2022 world junior 5000m champ Addisu Yihune, 20, for the win and the $10,000 first-place check at Beach To Beacon 10k in Maine over the weekend when this happened.
Beach to Beacon 10K
Regresó Carmela Cardama (34:12 )
Polémica en hombres. Yihune metió el codo a Mantz en el sprint.
Mantz se quejó en meta y parece que señala como si fueran 2 veces las que le golpeó. https://t.co/AlSwHpIF5h pic.twitter.com/fxbQK9DFnx
— Óscar Fdez. (@gabyandersengz) August 6, 2023
In the end, Yihune ended up winning in 27:56 to Mantz’s 27:58, but the above was a clear infraction by Yihune — just like how we thought Wesley Kiptoo almost running someone into the barriers at the Houston Half was a foul as well.
A straight DQ isn’t the appropriate penalty here, though. The rulebook needs to be tweaked in situations like this so that Yihune — who was clearly going to finish in the top two no matter what — is awarded 2nd ($5,000) and Mantz 1st ($10,000) as an outright DQ is too harsh.
Regardless, it’s a bit surprising to see Addisu Yihune on the US road scene since he’s so young. After running 12:58 in 2021 and 13:02 in 2022, he’s only run one track race outdoors in 2023 (13:17 at the USATF LA Grand Prix).
In the women’s race, Boston Marathon champ Hellen Obiri edged Fotyen Tesfay of Ethiopia, 31:37 to 31:38, as Keira D’Amato, who is three weeks out from the World Championships marathon, was third in 31:58.
Tragedy at a 100-Miler in South Africa
In the 45-year history of the Washie 100-Miler in South Africa, no one had ever died. Sadly this year, two people died as 46-year-old Mcebisi Yose, the 2016 race champ, was hit by a bus and killed and a second unifidentified runner died of a heart attack.
If you are a true running fan you should be coming to LetsRun each and every day to get the latest news or share the latest gossip on our forum, but if you do miss a day, you can catch up on archive page. You might also like our weekly audio recap — the Track Talk Podcast.