Friday, June 17, 2016

Russian Olympic Ban Solves Nothing

The IAAF, track and field's world governing body, said Russia should be barred from the 2016 Rio Olympics.  A new report from WADA, the world's doping organization, showed that systematic doping is ingrained across the board in sports in Russia.  So now the ball, so to speak, is in the hands of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC can decide to ignore the indiscriminate cheating and allow Russian track and field athletes to compete in Rio.  I think that's the right move.  Doping is a worldwide problem.  It's just as out of control in Kenya as it is in Russia and yet it appears Kenya will be allowed to compete in Rio.  I suspect doping is supported in other countries like Turkey, Ethiopia and Jamaica.

What separates Russia from a lot of countries where doping is prevalent is that it appears the government had a hand in supporting efforts to gain the edge that performance enhancing drugs give athletes.  But if the IAAF is alone in a ban on Russian athletes, why should weightlifters, wrestlers and swimmers be allowed to compete?  Those respective governing bodies have remained silent on Russian doping and probably for good reason.
By punishing an entire country you punish the clean athletes competing under its flag.  This leaves me uneasy because it falls into the realm of politics and that has no place in the Olympics.  The boycotts of Moscow and Los Angeles could have derailed the Olympic movement.

The Olympics will implode on its own without the help of the various sporting bodies that rule the individual sports.  The corruption inside the IOC will be its undoing.  It's no longer economically feasible for countries to host the Olympic Games.  Rio has found this out the hard way and I won't be surprised if these games aren't an unmitigated disaster.

It takes a wealthy, economically strong country to host the Olympics.  Even Tokyo, which is hosting the 2020 games, is finding out that the costs may not be worth it anymore.  It's money, not drugs, that will be the undoing of the Olympic ideals.

Friday, June 10, 2016

50 years ago

A promising miler made history 50 years ago.  Jim Ryun ran a world record in the 880 on June 10, 1966 in Terre Haute, Indiana.  The world of track and field was anxiously waiting on Ryun to break the world record in the mile, but sometimes things don't happen the way you would expect.

Ryun traveled with his University of Kansas team to compete at the now defunct USTFF outdoor championships.  Only some grainy 8 mm film exists of the record run.  It shows the college sophomore destroying the field winning by more than 30 yards.  Ryun didn't expect the record, 1:44.9.

Coach Bob Timmons said he had no idea what his 19-year-old prodigy was capable of doing at the distance.  In a conversation with the great coach two decades ago he told me the race in Terre Haute came with a lot of criticism.  Reporters were questioning Timmons why he was running Ryun in the 880 when it was obvious his runner's destiny was in the mile.  Timmie told me he just wanted to see what Jim could do.

The mile world record would come a little more than a month later in Berkley, California.  Ryun would break Michael Jazy's record running 3:51.3, a mark he would lower by two-tenths of a second the following year.

Those who keep track of records gave Ryun the World Junior Record in the 800, grading the 1:44.9 for the longer 880 yards as equivalent to 1:44.3.  The math was sound as Peter Snell had clocked a then world record for 800 meters in 1:44.3 in route to a 1:45.1 for 880 yards. 

Tonight, on this 50th anniversary in ideal conditions in Eugene, Oregon another 19-year-old finally took the last of the standing records held by the great Jayhawk miler.  Texas A&M freshman Donovan Brazier ran an astounding 1:43.55 at historic Hayward Field to take down the ancient mark.  Needless to say, Brazier's potential is amazing.  In this age of instant reaction Ryun quickly congratulated Brazier over Twitter.

Ryun cast his shadow in the record book for 50 years.  He still stands as the greatest miler in American history with two world records in the mile, one at 1500 meters along with an Olympic silver medal at that distance.   Needless to say, he still holds the school records at the University of Kansas in the 800, 1500, mile, 5000 as well as a couple of relays.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Girls Run Wild

I love high school distance running.  If you follow the sport at all you're well aware that this has been an exceptional year across the United States for fast times.  Two boys have already broken 4 minutes in the mile, Drew Hunter and Michael Slagowski have both dipped under the magical barrier and another Austin Tamango is just a tick above that mark.

But that's not the point of this bit of writing, I want to revisit a subject I touched on about a year ago.  Southwest Florida remains a red hot when it comes to girl's distance running.  The cast of suspects didn't change much from 2015 to 2016 and the competition remains fierce.

The Oliveira sisters continue to make headlines for Evangelical Christian.  Twins Sierra and Moriah will only be in the 9th grade when the 2017 season rolls around.  The two finally laid claim to their first individual state titles this spring, Sierra in the 800 and Moriah in the 400.  But if you think of Moriah as just a sprinter think again because she runs the 800 just as well.

Sierra runs in the 2:15 range with Moriah just a tick or two slower.  My guess is their futures lie in the 1500/mile.  They've both got wonderful speed but neither is dazzling fast.  Their potential is mind blowing.

Estero's Megan Giovanniello carried on the tradition of stellar distance runners that continually rise from this program.  The shocking death of Coach Jeff Sommer last year hit the Wildcats hard.  Ben Pignatone stepped up ably to fill Sommer's considerable shoes and I'm sure he'll have Giovanniello ready to take on cross county rivals Kayla Easterly and Krissy Gear when cross country rolls around in three short months.

Easterly from North Fort Myers was the emerging star over the last year.  She backed up a strong cross country season by handing Gear a rare defeat at the county track and field championships over 3200 meters.  Another year of mileage could put Kayla in the sub-11 minute club along with Gear.

Fort Myers High senior to be Krissy Gear remains the class of the county.  She extended her range to the 3200 where she followed up her 1600 meter state title by running for gold over the longer distance in 10:50.55.  The fact that Gear can also run 2:15 for the 800 tells me that next spring could be a history making one.  If she stays healthy a 4:45 1600 and 10:30 3200 are not out of the question.
That would put her among the national elite.

Should it all come together, the Oliveira's, Gear and Giovanniello could all be sub 2:15 in the 800 next year.  Gear, Easterly and Giovanniello could all be sub-5 in the 1600 and sub-11 in the 3200.  Remember, most state's don't produce girls capable of running these kinds of times much less five girls from one county doing it.