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  • Increased depth of young track athletes

    It seems like over the past several years the depth of young distance runners posting fast times has increased to levels that haven't been seen for more than 20 years. Of course, Webb, Hall and Ritz a couple years ago helped the sport on the high school level tremendously. But, I think it must be attributed to more than just one good year.

    My personal view is that the participation of kids in youth sports other than track (soccer, basketball and swimming)is beginning to filter down into track. Kids are raised with competitive sports and exercise. Those who find that they excel at running in other sports (soccer imparticular) are likely to pursue track when they enter high school. They are also more disciplined and already have a "running base" of sorts from the other sports.

    I hope that the our system now does these kids justice and doesn't burn them from both ends - making them earn points for "the team" while sacrificing their personal future development. If these kids are treated right maybe we will begin seeing a new age in American distance running within the next decade.

  • #2
    Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

    Some of it may be due a bump in the birthrate 15 - 20 years ago. One outstanding runner can inspire others. Look what happened in the 60's, look at the depth of the mid 70's. The current depth we are seeing may be traceable to Michael Stember. His 4:04 as a jr. at the state meet in CA was done with a 1:58 last 800. All of a sudden, the talk of sub 4 etc. was the heaviest and most enthusiastic in years. Too bad he was hurt during his sr. season. He MIGHT have dipped under the barrier. Anyway, it's a combination of the above factors. Hopefully it will carry over to all events.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

      The increased young population may be a factor. I doubt whether Stember had a major impact. Though I do think he is a great athlete and saw him compete many times when he was in H.S. His last 300 was awesome. Its nice to see him doing so well on the national scene. But, it is likely a combination of all the factors - more youth sports participation, greater population and athlete's now pushing each other year to year.

      I hope it carries over to better results on the international scene. The futue does look bright - I hope the US college coaches don't blow it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

        I wouldn't get too excited. Yes, perhaps there is now more depth in American distance running than in the last 10 (or even 20 years), but the US is still hardly a major force in world terms in any age category.

        Alan Webb's HS record was received as if it was the second coming, but he was still well behind the best Kenyan juniors on times. Other Americans are well behind Webb, which gives you an idea... I still don't understand what the big fuss is about - you have scores of sprint talents in the US whose results are much more impressive in relative terms than Webb's ever were, yet most everyone is ignoring them and going apes__t over useless distance runners.

        Maybe one reason why American distance runners are mediocre in international terms is that distance running fans in the US are satisfied with mediocrity... Y'all seem stuck in the era of Jim Ryun. It's time to notice the world has moved on since then. You need to run 3:38-3:39 for 1500 (equivalent to around 3:56 in the mile) to even be in the world's TOP 100. Yet everyone here is talking about these kinds of times (or even about 4:00 miles) as if they were some momentous achievement.

        Get real, people...

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

          Sorry Powell, but 3:53 by a high school kid is worth going "apes$$t" over. I disagree that Webb's times was well behind other Jr. times - 3:53 18 year olds aren't a dime a dozen. As for U.S. sprinters, relative to the world our Juniors are competitive, but not dominate.

          I also disagree that the improved performances are not significant. The bar has been raised at the high school level, and those same athletes will have higher expectations at the college level (i.e. Ritzenhein at 13:39 calling his season off rather than risk further injury - 13:39 and not happy is a good thing - also Sylvester in the 800m). The rash of improving milers have raised the expectations of top U.S. High Schoolers, and that is a good reason the get excited. Kennedy ran 4:05 in High School for 1600m, and became competitive on the world scene. In Kennedy's home state of Ohio a soph. ran 4:06 this year - and will not even be close to being the list leader - times are improving and Webb/Ritzenhein are to be credited.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

            >Sorry Powell, but 3:53 by a high school kid is
            >worth going "apes$$t" over. I disagree that
            >Webb's times was well behind other Jr. times -
            >3:53 18 year olds aren't a dime a dozen. As for
            >U.S. sprinters, relative to the world our Juniors
            >are competitive, but not dominate.

            Fact: If we're talking 1500 meter equivalent times, Webb was the 4th fastest junior in the world in 2001. With the same time, he would have been no. 5 in 2002.

            In 2002, US juniors were 1st and 3rd fastest in the world at 200; 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th at 400; 5th at 100; 3rd at 110 hurdles; 2nd and 4th at 400 hurdles.
            On the women's side: 2nd, 3rd and 4th at 100; 1st, 4th and 5th at 200; 1st, 2nd and 3rd at 400 :-O; 1st and 2nd at 400 hurdles.

            The US juniors also won 7 gold medals at World Juniors, setting 2 world junior medals in the process. Meanwhile, the best that any US athlete achieved in a distance race in those championships was an 11th place. Let me reiterate my point: you are celebrating the wrong people here. By considering the 4th best junior in the world a superstar, only because he's a miler, by considering 3:57 college runners major international players, you are actually promoting mediocrity in American distance running.
            Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

              >I wouldn't get too excited. Yes, perhaps there is
              >now more depth in American distance running than
              >in the last 10 (or even 20 years), but the US is
              >still hardly a major force in world terms in any
              >age category.

              Alan Webb's HS record was
              >received as if it was the second coming, but he
              >was still well behind the best Kenyan juniors on
              >times. Other Americans are well behind Webb,
              >which gives you an idea... I still don't
              >understand what the big fuss is about - you have
              >scores of sprint talents in the US whose results
              >are much more impressive in relative terms than
              >Webb's ever were, yet most everyone is ignoring
              >them and going apes__t over useless distance
              >runners.

              Maybe one reason why American
              >distance runners are mediocre in international
              >terms is that distance running fans in the US are
              >satisfied with mediocrity... Y'all seem stuck in
              >the era of Jim Ryun. It's time to notice the
              >world has moved on since then. You need to run
              >3:38-3:39 for 1500 (equivalent to around 3:56 in
              >the mile) to even be in the world's TOP 100. Yet
              >everyone here is talking about these kinds of
              >times (or even about 4:00 miles) as if they were
              >some momentous achievement.

              Get real,
              >people...

              I wholeheartedly agree! Webb is/was a talent, but Kenyan juniors were still ahead of him.

              El Supremo claims U.S. junior sprinters "are competitive, but not dominant." Let's see. 2002 Top 10 world junior times, from the IAAF 2002 junior performance lists:

              junior women's 100 -- 5 Americans, 2 Jamaicans, 1 Ghanaian, 1 Brit, 1 Russian

              junior men's 100 -- 3 Americans, 2 Trinidadians, 2 Nigerians, 1 Antiguan, 1 Qatari, 1 Jamaican

              junior women's 200 -- 5 Americans, 2 Jamaicans, 1 Brit, 1 Italian, 1 Canadian

              junior men's 200 -- 4 Americans, 1 Brazilian, 1 Antiguan, 1 Jamaican, 1 Belgian, 1 South African, 1 Trinidadian

              junior women's 400 -- 4 Americans, 3 Nigerians, 2 Jamaicans, 1 Russian

              junior men's 400 -- 5 Americans, 1 Indian, 1 Zimbabwean, 1 Jamaican, 1 Barbadian, 1 Brazilian

              Hmmmm...Contrary to El Supreme's assertions, looks like USA junior sprinters dominate to me. Even people abroad agree. Not even counting the sprint hurdles or relays either. Not to mention the medal tally at 2002 World Juniors, where distance hardly pulled its own weight.

              Felix is the 200 world junior recordholder, U.S. junior recordholder, AND is the season world leader regardless of age! Yet while she is getting media attention, it's about 1/10 of what Webb got in 2001. But then again, it helps that Webb is white & Felix is just another black girl. Who cares, right?

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                How is getting excited about Webb's achievements "promoting mediocrisy" among American distance runners. I don't understand. No track savy fan considers a 3:57 college kid an "international player" either. The fact is that the U.S. has had 1 miler (Holman) of international significance since 1990 - and he wasn't a very effective racer - to put it kindly. In the 5000m it was Kennedy and then ???. I won't even mention the 10,000m, and other than Spence's medal in the Marathon, well.......

                The point is, why can't we get a little excited at finally having a pipeline of talent in the distances? Maybe we should put Magness, Solinsky etc. in a room with you so you can tell them how bad they suck - that'll get em' motivated!!

                I'll continue to cheer the upcoming talent.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                  To Anonymous,

                  I'm not on to give advice, but on the off chance you might take it...you had a good post/reply with some good research/facts, and until the last sentence I was with you - then you lost it by bringing up race. I'll assume your young, and therefore cannot remember our "heros" of the past 20 years - Carl Lewis, Mike Powell, Michael Johnson, Marion Jones, Cathy Freeman, M. Mutola, and my favorite of all-time - JJK.

                  Ms. Felix is anything but "another black girl" and you offend many with such remarks (including, likely, Ms. Felix should she read your post).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                    >To Anonymous,

                    I'm not on to give advice, but
                    >on the off chance you might take it...you had a
                    >good post/reply with some good research/facts,
                    >and until the last sentence I was with you - then
                    >you lost it by bringing up race. I'll assume
                    >your young, and therefore cannot remember our
                    >"heros" of the past 20 years - Carl Lewis, Mike
                    >Powell, Michael Johnson, Marion Jones, Cathy
                    >Freeman, M. Mutola, and my favorite of all-time -
                    >JJK.

                    Ms. Felix is anything but "another
                    >black girl" and you offend many with such
                    >remarks (including, likely, Ms. Felix should she
                    >read your post).


                    Some people couldn't recognize sarcasm if it hit you on the head with a hammer...
                    I may be too presumptuous, but this Anonymous sounds a lot like someone I know from another board... which would mean she's black herself.

                    As for Webb - I'm not saying he was mediocre. For his age, he was world class, but still not a superstar the media made out of him. The hype surrounding him was so grotesquely out of proportion with his actual achievements that I'm not surprised he's failed to deliver since... When talking about promoting mediocrity, I meant treating those 3:57 types as if they were major players. They may end up thinking that winning the NCAAs (or just making the US Olympic team, or achieving other goals of this sort) really is the pinnacle of all achievements, if the fans tell them it is. They just don't set their sight high enough.
                    Było smaszno, a jaszmije smukwijne...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                      I thought I was automatically logged in when I wrote my last post. Yes, I was being sarcastic! El Supremo, you brought up good heroes. However, that doesn't negate the fact that everyone here goes apes__t over Webb. Meanwhile, we have Allyson Felix producing world-class times at age 17 & what support does she get? Do a search on this very website's message board, & you'll find 175 results for Webb, only 76 for Felix. Hence my sarcastic comment. Webb's performances just doesn't match the media hype. What's offensive is that others whose achievements are way better get way less media attention -- when they GET media attention. Why aren't the people, especially those abroad, who are running faster times getting their due? Especially since Track & Field News is the self-proclaimed "bible of the sport" (& I understand TFN has little control over what topics people wish to discuss, but hopefully you understand my point).

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                        << Do a search on
                        >this very website's message board, & you'll find
                        >175 results for Webb, only 76 for Felix. Hence my
                        >sarcastic comment. Webb's performances just
                        >doesn't match the media hype. >>

                        While I agree with you that Felix's sex and color certainly play some part in it, the most important component is EVENT. Milers/distance runners (see Gabe) are always going to generate more chatter.

                        But the real key here, actually, is a critical analysis of your stats. You're ignoring the fact that Webb (like Gabe) has drawn an inordinate amount of NEGATIVE commentary. So in terms of having nice things to say, I suspect Felix is a perfect 76 for 76, whereas Webb might be something like 100 positive, 75 negative. They may not be all that far apart when it comes to "fan mail"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                          >since... When talking about promoting
                          >mediocrity, I meant treating those 3:57 types as
                          >if they were major players. They may end up
                          >thinking that winning the NCAAs (or just making
                          >the US Olympic team, or achieving other goals of
                          >this sort) really is the pinnacle of all
                          >achievements, if the fans tell them it is. They
                          >just don't set their sight high enough.

                          I agree. El Supremo brought up Magness, Solinksy. I'll add McGrath. Do these juniors have some skill? Yes! Should the U.S. track the progress of our distance athletes, celebrate any progress? Yes. However, it must be put into perspective.

                          From what I can tell: Magness' PBs are 4:01.02 mile & 3:43.87 (1500m en route). Solinsky's are 4:06.75+ mile & 8:47.24+ two mile. McGrath's is 3:47.5 (1500m en route). Correct me if I'm wrong here, as I don't religiously follow distance.

                          Looking at the IAAF 2002 world junior performance list, Alan Webb shows up 9th on the 1500m list (there is no junior mile list), 3:41.46. He is the top American on the list. Certainly a credible rank. Yet five guys above him are a year, even two years, younger than he was. In terms of sheer marks, he gets slapped silly. Comparing their 2003 marks to the 2002 list, McGrath wouldn't even make the ranked junior list & Magness would be almost at the bottom. Yet I don't hear people here discussing Cornelius Chirchir (3:30.24), who tops the list, as a superstar.

                          U.S. distance athletes & fans must set their sights higher, buckle down & get serious if we are to significantly achieve in this area. Stop glorifying so many athletes who aren't producing by global standards. Dreaming about the days of Ryun & Pre -- before much of the world made its mark in distance -- just won't cut it anymore. I doubt it will happen, but more Americans should head over to Kenya's training camps (like the one Lornah Kiplagat has). Or training more with the Kenyans who live in the States. Why not train with the best?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                            Of course the US HSers aren't comparable to the best in the world yet, but hey we're making progress. You can't just go from being no where close to the Kenyans of comparable age to competing with them. It's a gradual step in the right direction. Look at all this year's depth in the mile in HS! Compare it to the past 10 years and you'll see that we are making progress. Once someone runs fast, other guys start thinking they can run that fast. It opens up doors, like a domino effect. I believe if we keep the momentum going 4min might not be as big a barrier in HS, then we can start comparing ourselves to the rest of the world.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Increased depth of young track athletes

                              The difference between celebrating the accomplishments of distance runners and sprinters is that we have always had excellent sprinters. There has never been the drought we have seen in the distances. So, even though Felix's marks are incredible in this country we are not suprised by another sprint prodigy. We are surprised when we see a distance runner elevate himself.

                              Over the past ten years we have had a handful of internationally competive distance runners (Corghan, Kennedy, Holman, Williams) but our sprint talent has always been busting at the seems. So it is interesting that we now seem to have more potentially international competitors (Lunn, Goucher, Stember, Krummenacker etc.) and more talent than in 20+ years on the high school scene.

                              So while I "expect" our sprinters to be there in the Olympics and WCs I am "hopeful" that we will soon see some of the young distance talent succeeding as well. It appears to me that this may be happening - Kennedy (and to a lesser degree Todd Williams and Mark Croghan) probably had a lot to do with it - showing it can be done by US athletes.

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