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Lap 162: Sponsored by On

On takes Penn Relays to World Athletics Silver Status

Penn Relays is back. Join us on April 25–27 for the 128th edition of the oldest track meet in the United States. With some help from Swiss sportswear brand On, the meet has been elevated to World Athletics Silver Status in 12 events – providing athletes with an additional opportunity to compete and another chance to qualify for the world's biggest stage. More fans. Faster times. Higher stakes. See you on the track.

Let’s get this season started: Miramar Invite 🌴

The Miramar Invite has become the unofficial season opener for the best sprinters in the world. The problem with trying to hide that first non-relay result of the season at a “low-key” meet, is that if everyone else fast is there, well, then so will our eyes! The meet was initially promoted to be on Peacock starting with the early heats, but when the time came for the meet to start, it was nowhere to be found, which is not uncommon. Sometimes you gotta dig past five Law & Order franchise banners to find what you’re looking for.

Unfortunately, this time around it was not the case of a search bar that badly needed some help from AI technology or a series of strange UX decisions. Instead, a couple of hours later there was a YouTube stream, thanks to Masai Russell’s channel – she was not competing herself. It was a peculiar situation, but I wouldn’t recognize myself in the mirror if I was here complaining about free track!

Diving into the meet itself, it has a reputation for wind. Remember last year when Sha’Carri Richardson set the tone for her season, winning in 10.57 (+4.1)? Well, this time mother nature was coming from the other side and every race was run into a harrowing headwind. So in your analysis of times, just pretend that every race was actually 105% as long as advertised. Or – AS I AM ALWAYS SAYING – just focus on match-ups! (Full Results)

  • Kenny Bednarek defended his event over Christian Coleman’s by 0.08 seconds in the 200m.

  • 2023 NCAA 100m champ Courtney Lindsey made the world team in the 200m last year, but not the 100m. Edging out Ackeem Blake, who’s coming off a bronze medal at World Indoors in the 60m, is a good sign that the 100m side of things may be coming around.

  • Britton Wilson is back from injury and looked stronger over her last 100m than at the Texas Relays, as she beat Shamier Little by three-tenths of a second in the 400m.

  • Coming off a 2:00 win in the 800 at the Texas Relays, Shafiqua Maloney dominated the 600m, winning by four seconds over Sadi Henderson and Ajee Wilson.

  • 2022 World Championship finalist Melissa Jefferson looked like herself again, winning the 100m following a quiet 2023 season that never fully went her way.

Team USA says to Peru 🇵🇪

Hey kids, you can forget about seeing the llamas on top of Machu Picchu, because USATF has canceled your field trip to Peru! And by that I mean an opportunity to compete on the world stage, likely for the first time, at the 2024 U20 World Championships this upcoming August 26th - 31st.

It is a rare occasion when Team USA does not field a full team of qualified athletes for an international championship, let alone not send a team at all. But when it does happen, it seems to disproportionately impact the kids, as was the case in 2021 to Nairobi. The reasons cited are safety, the event date, and the competitive readiness of the potential squad.

These… don’t seem like great reasons…? The state department designates Peru as a place American travelers should take level 2 travel precautions when visiting, which is the same as Sweden or the UK.

While the end of August is fairly deep into the season, especially for teenagers, that seems like a decision for the individual and their coaches to make. If qualified athletes weigh the pros and cons of extending training through the summer, then that should be their prerogative – not their federations.

If competitive readiness is a concern, then the solution is to not go down the descending order list when qualified athletes make the decision to defer their spots. Those who have this meet circled on their calendar will happily study abroad in Leuven this summer to stay sharp.

Boom, just like that I have successfully negotiated a peace-treaty and smoothed out USATF relationships with Peru. I’ll also accept plaudits from World Athletics, who you have to assume doesn’t love that the host of the 2026 event is not participating… again. Let the kids play!

The Run Across Africa: The Hardest Geezer 🌍

9,941 miles in 352 days: an average of over 28 miles per day. That’s what Russ Cook, who is affectionately and appropriately known as the “Hardest Geezer,” did to become the first person to run across the length of Africa from South Africa to Tunisia. The dude is a badass.

The British man raised over £600,000 for charity and inspired countless supporters in the process, despite being robbed at gunpoint, going missing, and battling visa issues all while still having to… well… run almost 10,000 miles.

All that, only to get to the other side of the challenge and be told that someone else is claiming to have done it first! Imagine Roger Bannister waking up the day after breaking four minutes in the mile and raging all night long over the fact that someone else had actually already done it 14 years earlier. This is why it is so important to log your runs on Strava (like Russ)!

Obviously this is an insane accomplishment and it’s not necessarily about whether or not Russ was actually first to do it or not. If you’re on the moon, you’re probably not terribly upset that Neil Armstrong was there first, right? You’re on the freakin’ moon!

But if we were really interested in making this accomplishment into even more of a competition, then you gotta assume Eliud Kipchoge would put this record out of reach. That sort of daily mileage isn’t that much more than what he’s doing. And beyond fitness or pace, Kipchoge won’t run into some of those logistical hurdles that bled the clock. Everyone knows Kipchoge and he DEFINITELY does not need to start a social media campaign to get a visa.

In partnership with the Bermuda Grand Prix

If you’re interested in a spring getaway to a warm weather destination and want to also watch some quality track and field + get a chance to meet some of the biggest stars – the Bermuda Grand Prix has put together several packages to bring you that experience from April 26th to 29th. Spectator/Olympic Alumni Packages include round-trip airport pickup and drop-off and hotel accommodation at the Coco Reefs Resort, tickets to the opening and closing events, access to the USATF Bermuda Grand Prix 2024, ground transportation to the National Sports Centre and more. Packages start at $1,335.

It’s never been easier to get to Bermuda. Plus, your stay at the Coco Reef Resort is just ten minutes from the City of Hamilton, centrally located, close to the track, restaurants and bars and most importantly, just steps from the beach.

The meet at Flora Duffy Stadium on April 28th starts at 3 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBC from 5 to 7 p.m. ET. You can also find general ticket information here.

YOU get a disqualification, and YOU get a disqualification!

It’s like they say: winners occasionally cheat, cheaters sometimes prosper for about 12 years. The then-winner of the 2012 women’s Olympic 800, Mariya Savinova, was stripped of her gold medal back in 2017 due to doping offenses. That moved second-place finisher Caster Semenya up into gold position, Saninova’s Russian compatriot Ekaterina Poistogova-Guliyev into silver, and gave Pamela Jelimo a retroactive bronze medal.

I hope you didn’t get too comfortable up there on this imaginary, years-later podium, because it was just announced that Poistogova-Guliyev will be stripped of her bronze silver medal for… you guessed it! Doping violations, as part of Russia’s state-sponsored doping regime from that era. The 6th place finisher Elena Vladimirovna Arzhakova of Russia was also suspended in 2013.

So we’re now looking at a new theoretical podium of Semenya with gold, Jelimo with silver, and Alysia Montaño with the bronze medal.

On one hand, that’s great news for Montaño. The system took its time but it worked, and she’s likely to get the bronze medal she was unfairly cheated out of. 

On the other hand, it sucks for Montaño! A medal is nice to have in retirement, but it would have done a whole lot more for her while still competing. An Olympic medal to her name would have undoubtedly given her a hell of a bargaining chip come contract renegotiation time. You line up for your next race that much more confident in your own abilities. There’s just no way to make up for all Montaño was robbed of by being displaced initially by two now-proven cheaters.

Does an apologetic, make-up award ceremony in which she’s given her medal move the needle? Montaño would like to receive it on home turf in Los Angeles in 2028.

Maybe the IOC can take a page out of the vengeful 16th century townspeople playbook and incorporate an element of public shame directed at the wrongdoers? Give the upgraded medals to their rightful recipients, while those serving doping convictions get pelted with mushy tomatoes?

Welcome back, Christina Mboma 🇳🇦

Photo: @matthewquine | @diamondleagueathletics

If you only just started following the sport over the past couple of years, then you may not be familiar with Christine Mboma. The Namibian first made headlines in 2021 when she ran 49.24 for 400m a month before her 18th birthday. Later that summer Mboma would go on to win the Olympic silver medal at 200m and then run the U20 record of 21.78.

Despite her underwhelming start, Mboma’s closing speed was cartoon-like. Simply put, she ran so fast it turned heads… too many heads.

The reason she switched from the 400m to the 200m was related to the findings of her elevated testosterone levels, which were north of 5.0 nmol/L. Following the case of Caster Semenya, it was ruled that athletes with DSD could not compete in the 400m to mile, regardless of hormone suppression.

Last spring the rules changed. As it stands, impacted athletes are eligible to compete in events outside of the 400m to mile following six months of reduced testosterone levels below 2.5 nmol/L. After 24 months, athletes with DSD are eligible to compete in any event.

Following reports from New Era Newspaper in Namibia, Christine Mboma’s coach has confirmed that she is now clear to compete in the 100 and 200, but not yet the 400. One can deduce that this news indicates her testosterone levels have been reduced to eligible levels for six months, but not yet 24.

This is the point in the newsletter that I remind myself that one does not need to have a strong (and in my case, uneducated) opinion on everything that happens. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s interesting – has there been such a high-profile athlete to publicly pursue this path to restoring their eligibility in WA’s eyes?

World Athletics has leaned heavily on many years of data and science to support their rulings. Meanwhile, Mboma’s coach maintains that fast is fast. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, or who you are rooting for, I think we can all agree that some people will be upset regardless! And isn’t that the point of sports?

What do we think of the Australian qualifying system? 🇦🇺

Photo: Johnny Zhang | @jzsnapz

Do NOT call the Australian National Championships the Australian Olympic Trials because it definitely is not that! Because of its open door policy to internationals, and the country’s selection protocols, the winner of their event isn’t guaranteed anything beyond a crown. That’s right. Winning the national championship and having the Olympic standard does not guarantee selection, but it can help!

American track and field has its own set of problems, but the crown jewel of our system is the Olympic Track Trials which operates rather simply: USATF sends the top three eligible athletes from the national championships.

Australia is a bit more complicated and it's not entirely the Land Down Under’s fault; it’s more a consequence of being in the southern hemisphere. You see, I’m something of a scientist, and let me tell you, their weather is flipped! Because the outdoor domestic season wraps up in April, selecting a team four months prior wouldn’t necessarily lead to the most competitive one being fielded.

The current system happens in two phases (three, if you include roads). After the national championships this week, the heavy hitters will be named to the team. Assuming they finish in the top two and have a history of success on the international stage, Athletics Australia will give the early nod to the stars, and the stars only. This is the Nina Kennedy, Eleanor Patterson, Kelsey-Lee Barber round.

For everyone else, they’ll be trying their best until July to prove themselves. In addition to competing well, there are other factors that are considered like, “did you blow it the last time you were selected?” and “how often did you compete in Australia?” 

Forget all that though. The rules are clearly written so that the final say comes down to the will of the selection committee. I like to imagine during the Trials the national championships, the selectors are sitting atop thrones in the center of the track and the athletes bow to them and bring gifts as a sign of respect prior to each race.. If you are an Australian athlete hoping to qualify to the Olympics, it’s in your best interest to send its members a Christmas card.

A few cycles ago, it probably would not have been too difficult to be a selector because there wasn’t enough depth to make it all that complicated in most events. Things have changed! Now there are at least five athletes that would qualify today in the women’s 800m and six women with the marathon standard. 

I have been mulling over ways to improve this selection system, but given the restraints of the event happening in April, it’s hard to think of something much better that wouldn’t still be subjective. One option would be to hold a selection race at a different meet later in the year like Ethiopia has in Hengelo, or Kenya at Pre for the 10,000m. But that isn’t necessarily good for the sport in Australia, and the more events that need to be contested the more complicated it gets.

My hope is that the value of head-to-head match-ups is weighted more highly than season’s bests. The World Athletics rankings are not the perfect system, but it would at least make for a more objective selection. The goal should be to make Olympic selection as simple as possible while the greatest number of fans are watching. That’s why they should bring back the auto-selection for the win and call it the Trials. The other two spots would still be more complicatedly selected, so the six-person committee can continue to receive all the Christmas cards! 

6 Things To Get You To Care About The Boston Marathon 🦄

Photo: Justin Britton | @justinbritton

Marathon Monday is around the corner and runners are already upset with the medals they haven’t yet earned. But don’t let the gigantic Bank of America logo distract you from the fact that there are also a couple of trophies being handed out – or is it just one?

Citius Mag will be getting in on Friday to host our shakeout run with Hoka at 5:30pm from 344 Newbury Street, with a full line-up of fun activities each day to follow.

The weather right now looks what I’ll call “good enough” with a high temperature of 63 degrees and partially sunny skies. That’s the point of equilibrium for the college students dishing out smooches and athletes looking to run fast.

While it’s hard to imagine that someone who subscribes to a weekly newsletter needs much convincing about why they should tune in and care about this year’s Boston Marathon, I’d still like to reiterate some of the key plot points to pique your interest. If there is ever a year where maybe you need a little extra convincing, it might be this one as it is a field scarce of Americans since everyone lined up at the Trials expecting to make it to Paris.

So without further ado, here are the SIX best reasons to be excited for the 128th edition of the march from Hopkinton:

  • Does Obiri solidify her spot? — Athletics Kenya has narrowed its Olympic shortlist down to six women, and given the accomplishments of each, it’s going to come down to recency bias. Given her role as defending champion in both New York and Boston, if selection was today, then Hellen Obiri would likely be on that team despite her modest personal best in comparison to others. That habit of winning is doubly important given the hills of the Paris course. The only other Kenyan athlete in this pool that is competing in Boston is Sharon Lokedi, who would likely be on the outside looking in as things stand currently. But that can change immediately here.

  • Did they forget about Evans Chebet? — Twice the Boston Marathon champion and once the king of New York, there is a glaring omission from that Kenyan shortlist. Evans Chebet was a scratch in New York this fall due to injury, but prior to that race I was arguing in bars around the Hudson Valley that he was the best marathoner in the world. One conspiracy theory that I am happy to spread is that because Chebet and Benson Kipruto are training partners and under the same management, both won’t be selected. In my humble opinion, that’s silly because they could quite possibly go 1-2 in Paris. No one from the shortlist is in Boston so this won’t help his head-to-head argument.

  • What’s a fast time worth? — At the top of every marathon field, athletes are ranked in descending order of their time. But what’s a seed time from two years ago on a fast course worth in the case of the “favorite” Tadu Teshome, who ran 2:17:36 in Valencia in 2022? Overlooked will be the sixth fastest athlete in the field, Workenesh Edesa, who won Osaka in January and is averaging 2:19:39 for her last five races.

  • Can Sisay keep the momentum going? — The Valencia Marathon has developed the reputation of being the place where new stars break out. That was not the case this past iteration. Sisay Lemma won in a new course record of 2:01:48 to become the fourth man ever under the 2:02 mark. But we knew who he was because he is 33 – my contemporary! – and had already won the London Marathon in 2021. But that was his most dominant and impressive run of his career. Now he is going to have to do it on a REAL course (I dare you to fill my inbox up!).

  • Welcome back Emma Bates! — One year ago you would have had to look far and wide to find someone who would not have placed Emma Bates in their Trials top three. But following a plantar injury in Chicago, she made the tough decision to not run in Orlando on a highly abbreviated build-up and instead took the stance that there is more to life (and running) than the Olympics. Though I am sure that’s still a painful realization, social media suggests Bates is fit. And I’ll be damned if the Internet has ever misled me. And right alongside her looking for redemption will be Sara Hall as she comes off a bittersweet fifth place at the Trials.

  • What do the alternates have in them? — As far as 26.2 miles goes, it was a close finish at the Trials for that third spot on the men’s side as Elkanah Kibet and CJ Albertson were both within 10 seconds of Lenny Korir. They’ll both be in this one and although I don’t generally give much weight to platitudes such as “they’re hungry,” because that’s not necessarily a replacement for fitness, we do know that they’re probably still quite fit! It’s still a long ways away from Paris, but it is worth noting that Conner Mantz has not logged a run on Strava since March 5th…

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • I’d prefer if the Arcadia Invitational was an actual 2-mile rather than the 3200m, but then there might be slightly fewer than 69 high school boys breaking 9:00. And there is no one who would find that figure funnier than high school boys! Daniel Simmons came out on top, winning in 8:34.96.

  • The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler serves as the USATF Championships and for the second year in a row, Hillary Bor (45:56 AR) won the race inside the race. But it was Wesley Kiptoo who won outright in 45:53. Emily Durgin won the title, but finished second behind Sarah Chelangat (51:14), which would be a very confusing situation to explain to a someone you don’t really know.

  • Get fired up! Athing Mu, Mary Moraa, and Keely Hodgkinson will all face off at the Pre Classic on May 25th. Thank you, contractual obligations.

  • In big throws news, Oregon’s Jaida Ross broke the NCAA shot put record 19.71m and Cal’s Mykolas Alekna furthered his best discus toss, going 71.39M to set the U23 Euro mark. He is not competing in uniform this season so it is just a world leader… not an NCAA record.

  • I am fine with male pacemakers in a women’s marathon, but can there be some sort of cut-off point? This move at the Paris marathon is so stupid. You have two women battling it out all the way to the line and rather than there being a morsel of tactics or gamesmanship involved, he brings them all the way in. Anyway, Mestawut Fikir (2:20:45) won and Mulugeta Uma (2:05:33) held on despite being shown the wrong way at the finish…

  • Daniel Ebenyo went out hard trying for the world record at the Berlin Half Marathon but missed by a good bit. He still won in 59:30. Tekle Muluat crossed first in the women’s race in 1:06:53 (Results). Meanwhile, one week after competing at World Cross Sabastian Sawe was back on the roads, taking the Prague Half in 58:24. 

  • Montverde Academy continues to show why the high school had $33.5M in revenue last year, as Skyler Franklin posted a sophomore class record in the 400m, running 51.66. And quarter mile sensation Quincy Wilson flexed his range, running his first open 800m in 1:50.44. You might say, “he runs 45.1 so of course he should be able to make 55s feel good!” Well everyone thought Jeremy Wariner would be a 1:43 guy and he ended up running 1:53!

Thanks to On for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! We’ll continue to roll out all of the Penn Relays fields in the coming days, but at this point you have probably noticed — it’s stacked this year!

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