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Lap 117: Sponsored by HOKA Summer Mile Club

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Photo: World Athletics

It is hard to keep up with what is happening in the average day of Anna Hall’s life, let alone at a track meet. But it’s much easier to follow along when there is an event specifically for the multis so that fans don’t have to be distracted by all the other noise on the track. Enter: the Hypo-Meeting in Götzis, Austria. Since 1975, specialists need not apply.

The heptathlon and decathlon have a tendency to be forgotten – that is until your team has someone that could be dubbed the best athlete in the world. Do you think Belgium or France pay a lot of attention to the multis right now? Of course, they do.

Well, Pierce LePage (8700), the 2022 world silver medalist, won the men’s competition over his countryman and Olympic champion, Damian Warner (8619). So you know Canada is also in.

But now, after a few-year hiatus, the US is back in contention, baby! Hall won a bronze medal at last year’s World Championships, but the last time an American woman won a global championship was none other than the world record holder herself, Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1993.

It will be a battle to do that as Belgium’s two-time Olympic and World Champion Nafissatou Thiam has been dominant of late. But Hall is starting to close the gap – just look at her performance in Götzis.

For the uninitiated, the seven disciplines, spread over the two-day competition are the: 100mH, 200m, 800m, high jump, long jump, javelin, and the shot put. The mark in each has an associated point value in the World Athletics tables, and whoever has the most points, wins.

For reference, this is the all-time list:

  1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee (7,291 pts)

  2. Carolina Klüft (7032 pts)

  3. Nafissatou Thiam (7013 pts)

  4. Larisa Nikitina (7007 pts)

  5. Anna Hall (6988 pts)

So how did she do it? With five personal bests.

On paper, her 12.75 hurdles time would be considered the best, and is currently the 17th fastest in the world this year. But for distance runners, the solo 2:02.97 at the end of the competition has to be the most impressive. That or the number of fans in attendance at a multi-only competition.

The Rabat Diamond League 💎


Giddy up! We are getting into the heart of the season as the the Diamond League tour made its second stop in Morocco for some mint tea and fast racing. CITIUS’ David Melly already shared his five key takeaways from the meet, but for content’s sake I wrote my own and for variety's sake I made them a bit different:

  1. Can Gudaf Tsegay challenge Faith?: It feels sacrilegious to even consider this. Faith Kipyegon is 14-0 lifetime against Tsegay in the 1500. But 3:54.03 is incredible form to show this early in the season, coming off a short (formerly known as “indoor”) track season where the 3000m world record was within grasp. I am not putting any money down, though this question was posed to capture your attention and force you to appreciate this season opener.

  2. Kiss the steeplechase WR goodbye: It’s been a while since Saaeed Shaheen ran 7:53.63. The record was granted a longer life than it deserves by the dominance of Ezekiel Kemboi and his nonchalance around letting races come down to the last lap, oftentimes drifting into the outside lanes to milk every second on the track. But last weekend Soufiane El Bakkali put on a show for the home crowd, running 7:56.68, and looking like he still has heavy miles in his legs. Throw Lamecha Girma in there, fresh off his 3000m world record indoors, and they’ll be dancing in lane six.

  3. Tough sport for talking game: Track and field humbles you. Right after proclaiming that he would not lose a 100m race this season, Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala lost a race this season. After some entertaining chirping on social media, Marcell Jacobs scratched from both Rabat and Florence. As a former injury-prone runner myself, I would never have been that brave. And there hasn’t been a world record yet, but Fred Kerley does keep winning.

  4. Who is next for Jakob?: Until he gets another shot at Jake Wightman at Worlds, there isn’t much left for Jakob to do during the regular season aside from continuing to play good defense. The logical next step is to chase some records, which we will see in Paris as he attempts to take down Daniel Komen’s 2-mile WR of 7:58.61, set in 1997. Then maybe it’s onto the ghost of Hicham El Guerrouj in Oslo?

  5. The one major upset: Most of the meet went as expected; the best people on paper kept winning. But in the men’s 100mH Jamaica’s Rasheed Broadbell surprised the hell out of everyone, beating the world champion, Grant Holloway, and the Olympic champion, Hansle Parchment. We will find out how serious of a contender Broadbell is because in the words of Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, when it comes to the hurdlers, “there's no ducking over here, we line up.”

The Making of the LA Grand Prix

Photo: Justin Britton

If the goal was to get track fans talking, then the USATF LA Grand Prix was certainly a success. Billed initially as “an athletics weekend unlike any other” and a “first-of-its-kind, star-studded event” that was “designed as a no-holds-barred, maximum celebration of the sport,” there was a lot of hype about what ultimately wound up being a regular track meet. (But give that copywriter a raise!)

Now, I know that probably comes across as a diss, but I promise it’s not! I love track and field and devoured the entire meet with gusto. Much to my family’s chagrin, the event had my undivided attention Friday night and Saturday afternoon! But one meet will not change the game forever, and it will not suddenly activate a gigantic – and at this point, theoretical – sleeping monolith of dormant track fans, converting them into diehards. Except for Owen Wilson. WOW!

According to the World Athletics Competition Performance Rankings, the LA Grand Prix was the most competitive meet of the year. That includes the Diamond League meets. If a single competition could sway the masses, it would have been this one! But I haven’t overheard heated track debates at the grocery store or on the train so far this week… I don’t know about you.

From a PR standpoint, this meet had its challenges. There were many high-profile athletes whose names had been used in promotion for ticket sales that never made it to the start line, or the finals: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, Athing Mu, Rai Benjamin, Kenny Bednarek, Aleia Hobbs, Marie-Josee Ta Lou, Erriyon Knighton, Woody Kincaid, and more.

Again, this isn’t a knock on this meet. This happens all the time, and it’s not the athletes’ fault. This is the infrastructure of the sport. To Rai’s point, even a highly-publicized meet in America’s second largest city, future site of the Olympics, is small potatoes compared to what’s on the line later in the season. Risking injury is not worth it physically because it is not worth it financially.

That said, given the brutal reaction Marcell Jacobs received for dropping out of the Rabat DL, maybe at some point you lose the fans if that card is pulled too often. But if WWE’s taught me anything, it’s that there’s also good money in turning heel, if there’s an interest in seeing the race.

[KYLE MERBER’S SPIN ZONE TIME: If $4,000 doesn’t move the needle for an athlete then that means they’re doing well. A lot of athletes must be getting paid well at the moment!]

One of the major challenges facing the sport is how do you promote an event knowing that top-billing stars will invariably drop out, often at the last minute? We take a page out of Broadway’s small yellow book and drop a small slip of paper into the playbill that informs the audience that the role of Evan Hansen will not be played by Ben Platt that evening. It could say something like:

“The role of Best Runner in the World Who Was Supposed to Be Starting in Lane Five will be played by Unsponsored Guy a Year Out of School Whose Coach is Buddies with the Meet Director, for the optics – an empty lane looks bad on television.”

There’s value in consistently showing up, but since it’s a struggle to get that from athletes, then we need to pursue ways for the meets themselves to remain trustworthy products. That’s one of the main reasons that we need to lean into events of historical significance, whether because they are century-old relay meets, or because they grew organically from a glimmer in a community’s eye. Winning the meet itself has to mean something, because the athletes will naturally come and go. If you’ve considered a mortgage lately then someone has probably told you, “marry the house, date the rate.” In this case, the athletes are the interest rate.

As much as we all love head-to-head competition, it’s not the most reliable storyline, as evinced by… looks aroundBut having your name etched into the trophy and winning a title is meaningful forever and in ten years that memory will live beyond who was or wasn’t in the race. Think of Eric Jenkins’s retirement last week: every article mentions that he was the Wanamaker Mile champion – not who got sick the week before the race and skipped out. Winning then still means something today.

Depending on who you ask, there were either 7,249 people in attendance (according to USATF) or 4,500 (according to pictures) in LA. Either way, Max Siegel, the CEO of USATF, noted that the meet operated at a financial loss, but will return as part of a broader strategic plan. The transparency is appreciated, and is something that from a PR perspective would be helpful in winning over the trust of an average member.

And from a fan-building standpoint, it’s reassuring to hear that this meet is not just a one-and-done. I’d probably do away with the concert/festival element if there are concerns about making money, but the goal of this event should not be about finances. If a federation is putting on a meet then it should be about showcasing athletes to an audience that desperately needs to be won over.

But as a Certified Business Guy, I disagree with the entire notion that this meet lost money. When I used to host the Long Island Mile, it would make money. That’s because HOKA would put up a bunch of money to be the title sponsor. There wouldn’t be an immediate return on investment for them on that night, but the brand awareness grew, and nowadays, you can’t shake a stick in Suffolk County without inadvertently hitting a high school cross country runner out for a shakeout in a pair of Cliftons. In this scenario, USATF is HOKA: only they aren’t selling shoes, but the sport itself. It’ll have all paid off if in the next five years there are twice as many domestic track fans for the 2028 Olympics.

Plus, the title sponsor equivalent here is Nike! Everything USATF has the ability to do is part of that $400M, 23-year deal. Why continue to shakedown fans and rely on overpriced ticket sales to make money when that degree of funding is behind the organization? In my opinion, there is more value in proving that an elite meet can be hosted in a packed Los Angeles stadium, than there is in the proceeds from selling tickets.

The LA Grand Prix was a huge success by all accounts for a first-time event. And with a little bit of luck, more realistic messaging, and cheaper tickets, then it can hopefully grow to be a routine event on the circuit with a little less off-track drama.

The Return of American Milers 🇺🇸

Photo: Justin Britton

The vibes were off in 2022 for Timothy Cheruiyot – who, correct, is not American. If it were not for the fact that your author is a former American miler then the next few paragraphs would focus exclusively on him. Last year, despite running 3:30 on three different occasions, something rare happened for Cheruiyot; he didn’t win a single meet.

That all changed on Saturday as he comfortably ran away from the field over the final 100 meters to establish a new world lead of 3:31.47, about a half second ahead of Reynold Kipkorir Cheruiyot. This all makes sense, since Timothy has already run 1:44 for 800m and 7:36 for 3000m so far this season. We’ll see soon enough if that will be enough to reclaim his 2019 dominance, which included a W over Ingebrigtsen.

This is all great! But you’ll excuse me if I was most fired up about the American performances behind the Kenyan duo – they were voted most likely to have this analysis sent to their inboxes. Following in third and fourth was Hobbs Kessler (3:32.61) and Cooper Teare (3:32.74). These results are not surprising on paper, but so refreshing to see.

It feels like it was just two years ago that some random 17-year-old kid without a World Athletics profile stumbled onto the track in Arkansas and ripped the national high school record. Later that year, Hobbs of course ran 3:34 and the world assumed the rest would come easy.

For any college freshmen except Hobbs, a pair of 3:36s would mark a praiseworthy first post-prep season, but that’s the problem with precocious performances: the lofty expectations that come with them! Now back spending time in Ann Arbor again under the watchful eye of coach Warhurst alongside the rest of the Very Nice Track Club, Kessler is clearly in a good place.

If we had to categorize all the athletes in the track & field kingdom, then the initial hunch of Carl Linnaeus would likely be to place Cooper Teare in the 5000m guy bucket. How quick we are to forget that he holds the NCAA record in the mile and is the US 1500m champion! Or maybe I’m just projecting my own preconceived notions on the entire running community? That’s what this entire newsletter empire is built on, after all.

Teare never had an opportunity to see where his fitness would have landed him last year at Worlds, having lined up with a stressie in his tibia. But in order to see how he matches up now, the road ahead will likely be even tougher, albeit less confusing. (We’re almost certainly going to be able to send our top-three finishers at USAs to Worlds, this year.)

That’s because with Yared Nuguse’s 3:33.02, there are currently three US men underneath the standard of 3:34.2, plus five more ranked in the top 42, and it’s still only May. The last time America had this many dudes running this quickly was 2010, when there were four men, led by Andrew Wheating, under 3:33.

Who wins the men's USATF 1500 title?📊

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And this current list doesn’t even include Craig Engels, who won his first race of the year after a few months out with achilles issues taking the second section of the 800m in LA in 1:47.32. Nor does it factor in Matt Centrowitz, whose progression right now puts him at 3:25 in two months, and who has somehow managed to claw his way back into fighting shape, running 3:36.64.

Not sure if this is finally the year the United States sweeps the global men’s 1500m podium, but having more than one guy in the final again would be a win.

“Nobody makes me break my own record, but me!”

Photo: Justin Britton

Does everyone appreciate how cool this is? Ryan Crouser, the self-coached best shot putter ever, leveraged his engineering background to invent a new technique to throw even farther! Crouser beat the old game and then changed how it’s played.

Rather than starting at the very back of the ring, Ryan begins his sequence just off to the side, and “Crouser slides” himself to the back for added momentum. It will likely become the Fosbury flop of the 21st century.

The mark would have been a home run had Crouser managed to throw it just a bit farther than the 23.56m that he did – the wall was only 24 meters from the ring. The architects didn’t build a big enough cage for a monster like this, one who unironically says that he hasn’t even started speedwork yet.

Crouser’s previous world record of 23.37m was actually bettered by himself indoors at the Simplot Games. However, that mark of 23.38m was never ratified – the ground he launched it from did not pass regulations. I wouldn’t dare take this one away from him.

Connor Burns Before Festival of Miles

Photo: Liz Dozier | Dyestat

If the newsletter is getting you so hyped up about track that you can’t wait to watch some high octane action around the ol’ oval, I’ve got great news. You can do just that tomorrow! The 2023 HOKA Festival of Miles gets started this Thursday in St. Louis at 6:30pm CT. This is one of my favorite community events on the calendar each year, and the fields assembled this time around will likely be enough to get you on board too. Be sure to tune in for free (courtesy of HOKA) on RunnerSpace.

The high school boys start list alone features three sub-four guys (Connor Burns, Simeon Birnbaum, Rocky Hansen), plus two more with 4:00 PBs (Aaron Salhman, Devan Kipyego). Suffice to say, it’ll be a fast one, so I reached out to future Oregon Duck Connor Burns who recently ran 13:37.30 for 5000m to hear about his goals for this one, his postseason ambitions, his unique training setup, and more.

How did the state meet go? I saw that you ran 4:13, 9:20, and a 1:53.

It was rough. I was not feeling good!

You don’t run many 800s – was this a special occasion?

Last summer at Nationals I won in 1:51 so I was hoping for faster. I definitely could do it because I won in 1:53 – winning – to qualify and I felt super smooth and easy. We thought I could go sub 1:50, but I think I stayed up a little too late the night before and I didn't really take it seriously because the other races I didn’t have to, so that’s definitely on me.

You're lining up against professionals some weekends but still have these high school obligations. Are you like, “I can’t believe I have to do this?” or is it fun that you have gotten this fast that winning states is routine.

I would call it “playing track” because I don’t have to run them too hard. In the mile and two-mile I get to sit back, and at my sectionals, I ran 10 flat to win so I get to have some fun with it and maybe flex a bit the last lap and open up the stride. They had some water stations out there because it was so hot. I grabbed a couple of those and felt like Jakob – that was pretty fun.

I would imagine a lot of the local athletes have seen your success and enjoy getting to say they have raced you. But speaking of Missouri running, Thursday is the Festival of Miles. What’s the goal going into it?

I have made it pretty clear at this point that I am gunning for that national record, me and Simeon Birnbaum [of South Dakota]. We have Erik Sowinski pacing so it should roll through pretty fast. And I guess we will see what’s possible.

With this good of a field is it just a matter of winning the race or are you willing to be the guy to push in those middle laps?

I am staying with Sowinski through 1,000 or 1,200 meters, and when he drops off I am ready to take it. It’s not supposed to be windy.

It seems like you've really taken to sharing the journey this year. You are open on Strava or TikTok about ripping workouts. What's motivated you to start doing that?

I think everyone is curious how different people are training, but for me, there is no secret, it's just me and my dad. I posted a workout on TikTok and got a ton of views and followers so that’s pretty cool. My friend Dominic is always encouraging me to put more content out to continue to grow.

Is that your high school track that you work out on? That has to be one of the worst an American sub-four miler is training on.

Oh, it is rough. We haven't been able to host meets there for a while. Thankfully, it's getting it redone this summer, which will benefit my brothers, but I will be driving 30 minutes to work out.

Is everything you do as solo as it looks?

Yea. Easy runs, workouts, and everything.

Your dad is out there coaching you and holding the watch, but do you ever have input in what you are doing? You probably have a better grasp of training theory than most high schoolers.

It is probably equal parts me and my dad. He is making sure I know what it’s supposed to feel like on the day and if it’s not then to adjust. My dad was a college coach for twenty years and so it’s super beneficial to get some running IQ from hearing his insights.

My friends – who are also old – see high schoolers today and the times you are running and they think it’s all about the spikes. But you actually know what is going on, so how are you all doing this?

I think it's mostly just the training and not so much the racing. Everything's online now and coaches can see what people are doing because everyone has become willing to share.

And then the other thing is social media is showing everyone what is possible. Colin [Sahlman] runs 3:58 indoors and I am like, “alright, I guess I have to run 3:58 now to be a top high schooler in the country.” When you know someone else is doing it then it’s like, I want to do that too.

Similarly, twenty years go by and no one can break Galen Rupp’s high school 5000m record. Then you go and do it and a couple of weeks later Lex Young breaks it. Did you watch him do it?

I did – I stayed up. It was a hard effort because some of that was solo for him, which I respect a lot. It was pretty crazy.

Do you want to go and give it another shot?

We are definitely doing at least one more 5000m this year [either at the Portland Track Fest or in Europe]. The record will definitely be in the 13:20s after that, so I am excited about it.

We keep seeing the professionals talk about head-to-head and 1v1 match-ups. Is it time for the high schoolers to have their turn?

I would love to race Lex 1-on-1 in a 5K, and I have extreme confidence that I would win. He is a great runner and I think that would be really fun.

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Cordell Tinch may have received one of the most generous wind readings on record with a +6.0, but the DII national champion ran 12.87 in the 110mH for the fourth fastest all-conditions time ever. He also won the high jump and long jump and would you believe it? His school won the team title.

  • What a Memorial Day Weekend for Team USA at the BOLDERBoulder 10K! Conner Mantz and Emily Durgin made it an American sweep in what used to be the most attended event at Folsom Field before Prime Time showed up for pre-season camp.

  • In hot and steamy conditions at the Ottawa International Marathon,Ethiopia’s Yihunilign Adane (2:08:22) and Waganesh Mekasha (2:24:47) took top honors. The top Americans were Parker Stinson (2:13:57) and Jacqueline Gaughan (2:31:37) for 5th. I am keeping a close eye on Jackie – she ran a three minute personal best in a race where everyone ran far off their previous times.

  • At the British Milers Club, Australia’s Abbey Caldwell ran 1:58.92 to beat Ciara Mageean, whose 1:59.27 is a new Irish 800m record.

  • Robert Farken is best known for once running a 23.36 200m in the middle of a 1500, but now the German can hopefully get some recognition after running 3:32.10 this weekend in Rehlingen.

  • Watching Rabat, you could see Hillary Bor limp across the finish line as he ran 8:11.28. Unfortunately, it turns out that the United States’ best steeplechaser broke his foot on the last water jump and will be out 4 to 6 weeks to recover.

  • The US has Connor Burns and Lex Young, but the Netherlands has Niels Laros. Sure, the 18-year-old ran 13:23.01 in Oordegem, but did he have the take the SATs?

  • There were two good entries for this week’s most ridiculous disqualifications. First up, we had a regular in the category, Brody Buffington, who has a long history with Maryland officials for their anti-celebrating position. And next up is Ethan Gregg who was removed from the DIII National 5000m for having bad balance.

  • I appreciated this write up and transparency from the Gouchers about their contracts and appearance fees over the course of their careers. Undoubtedly there is more power to be had by athletes through knowing more about others’ contracts, but it also demonstrates that the numbers have steadily grown across the industry. Someone of Adam or Kara’s caliber coming out of college today would receive a few hundred thousand dollars. And if she received $175,000 to run New York in 2008, then one can only imagine what some other top runners are getting today. (I deservedly received nothing for my efforts in NYC last fall.)

Thanks so much to HOKA for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! I am not in high school, but will do everything in my power to lock down one of those most coveted Summer Mile Club bucket hats. And looking forward to seeing some fast times this week at Festival of Miles. CITIUS MAG will have boots on the ground providing photos and interviews.