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New Balance Nationals 🏆
If you ever lose faith in humanity, then I’d suggest spending an hour outside of arrivals at an international airport to be reminded that there is happiness left in the world. And if you ever lose faith in track and field, then I’d suggest attending the New Balance National meet to be reminded of all the charm in the sport that us grumpy curmudgeons occasionally forget about.
The almost six thousand athletes that christened The TRACK in its inaugural national meet were more than happy to remind us why this sport can be so great, and also to receive one of the iconic backpacks seen on college campuses across the country. (For a sense of how culturally important these meet backpacks are, I failed to find a kid willing to trade me theirs for a Venmo payment, the equivalent of many weeks of allowance.) For four days the building was buzzing with excitement and while there was ample attention and positive feedback following the Indoor Grand Prix earlier this season, it was no match for this one.
The facility was built for this exact moment and the young fella proved up to the task. And while there are many little details that went into making it a unique experience like the dramatic intro music, enthusiastic on-field announcers, a superstar in concert, customized gear, pacing lights, professionals signing autographs, the fact that the meet was actually running on schedule, plus a million other things that would only matter to the most particular of track & field newsletter writers, there is one thing that truly made this meet special: the athletes.
It would not be the national meet if it were not for the best performers in the country coming together to put on a show and that’s exactly what they did. Believe me. I’d love nothing more than to just publish a list of every athlete who competed so I can take the night off of writing. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out specifically the top seven names to remember from the New Balance National meet:
Adaejah Hodge - There was no one more impressive this weekend than the junior from Montverde Academy, and that’s not a matter of opinion. Entering the weekend the national high school record was 22.89, which was set earlier this year by Mia Brahe-Pedersen. In the prelims, Hodge ran 22.77 to break it. But that was only a preview of what was to come. With a match-up against the sensational Shawnti Jackson, Hodge was able to power away on the second curve to run 22.33 – an ABSURDLY good time for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old. For context, this is the third-fastest time in the whole world this year. Unfortunately for American sprint fans, Adaejah represents the British Virgin Islands in international competition. But the great news is that the World Championship standard is 22.60 and so we are likely going to see the best high school 200m runner of all time this year in Budapest.
Issam Asinga - Hodge wasn’t the only athlete from Montverde breaking records this weekend. Granted, this is not a consequence of gerrymandering or a coincidence. The Florida powerhouse has two of the all-time best prep athletes because it is a destination for talent. This is Asinga’s first winter away from Missouri and it’s paying huge dividends. He tied the 60m national record of 6.57 which has stood alone for 24 years. Then he returned to blast a 20.48 second 200m to break Jaylen Slade’s previous mark of 20.62 set in 2021 — before that it was Noah Lyles’s record, set in 2016, and later that year he went on to finish 4th at the Olympic Trials. Asinga is heading to Texas A&M.
Jackson Heidesch - Somehow a group of elite distance runners swindled their way into the CITIUS MAG box suite at the TRACK, presumably looking for internships. I was asked if I ran in college and then told that Johnny Gregorek is the oldest pro that they know of, but it was still super fun conducting some focus groups to get a pulse on how the youth consume the sport. The Duke-bound senior finished second in the 2-mile (8:44.45) before coming back to win the mile (4:02.25) in a wild final 200m. Both times are obviously good, and although they’re not national records, if a kid from Iowa runs 4:02 indoors then you should pay attention to it.
Connor Burns - Predicting that someone who ran 3:58 for the mile as a junior would go on to have a successful career isn’t exactly a hot take. But after running 8:43.24 to win the 2 mile, Burns confirmed what we already knew – he is strong. This winter he did a 10-mile tempo in under 50 minutes. His father was the coach at the University of Missouri for eight years, and coached Karissa Schweizer to a number of NCAA titles. I feel confident that Connor is the perfect prototype of a Jerry Schumacher-ready athlete.
Ellie Shea - If there is one thing the junior from Massachusetts is not afraid of it is racing – an SEC coach’s dream. Following her tenth place – and top American finish – at the U23 World Cross Country Championships, Shea returned to Boston to win the 5000m (15:46), the 2 mile (9:49), and finish second in the mile (4:40.76). I don’t think there were team scores this weekend, but if there were she would have placed quite well on her own.
Quincy Wilson - The world fell in love with Quincy this weekend. Yes, running 46.67 to win the 400m as a 15-year-old freshman is pretty incredible. But listen to this kid speak! He is a joy to listen to and his positivity is infectious. Mac Fleet described him as being better at media than an NFL veteran. Ahead of the race, he said that the thing he was looking forward to most was having the chance to meet Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone. Well, guess what a national title will get you…
Tyrone Gorze - Do you remember how freaking good Ed Cheserek was in high school? If any one of his records were to ever go down, that’d be a testament to the potential of the individual who dethroned the king. Tyrone doubled back the next day after anchoring his team to a DMR victory to upset the pre-race favorite Lex Young (14:00) and the man responsible for pushing the pace, Daniel Simmons (13:59), to run 13:56.82. The future Washington Husky stayed remarkably patient before unleashing a final kilometer of 2:34 to slowly close the gap on the pacing lights representing the national record, before passing it with less than two hundred meters to run. Don’t sleep on him.
When you go down the record boards of the top ten all-time list in high school there are quite a few names that might not pop off the page in a flash of Olympic glory. Many you may only vaguely recall and nostalgically misremember a race you think they won. But unlike your high school classmates whom you may still occasionally stalk on Facebook, there are probably fewer answers about what may have happened within the sport to these former phenoms.
The truth is that running fast as a teenager doesn’t automatically lead to fast times as an adult. The talent is on display, but to make it to the next level requires a mentality that isn’t as tested when competing against athletes who are not on the same level. It also requires a tremendous amount of luck!
And while it is tempting to go through the list of “where are they now?” types, check out this list of 2015 New Balance National Indoor Champions:
Noah Lyles, Grant Fisher, Rai Benjamin, Teahna Daniels, Sydney McLaughlin, Grant Holloway.
So it does work out quite well sometimes…
CITIUS MAG at New Balance Nationals
This past weekend in Boston was the first-time the whole CITIUS MAG team got together since the World Championships, and I almost forgot how much fun it is when we meet up outside of the group chat. One night at the hotel bar we were hanging out and reminiscing about how each of us fell into our respective roles – I started at the Trials of Miles meet in Austin after a popular exit-interview on the podcast.
It’s a constant source of debate when Chris says that CITIUS was established in 2017 because it makes it feel much older than it actually is. It was a blog back then, but now it’s a difficult to describe media/marketing/PR/hype-machine company occasionally criticized for being too positive – which we are okay with! But over the course of this conversation I was reminded that the first time we ever incorporated video into our coverage of the sport was a year ago at the Millrose Games. For something that has recently become a huge focus of ours (the kids are on “the YouTube,” evidently) it put into perspective how new this still is.
Last year we experimented with a number of things, trying to carve out a niche for ourselves and where we best fit into the overall ecosystem of track and field. Ultimately, I do think the thing we do best and enjoy the most is sharing athlete stories. Oftentimes that is best done through interviews, which are my favorite. While we have spoken with athletes like Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone in the mixed zone after a race, those conversations feel quite a bit different once the adrenaline stops pumping and they’ve taken a breather. And those moments allow you to more accurately see who they are.
But another thing that has become a personal mission of mine the past couple of years is to lean into the analysis of what we are watching a bit more. On the surface, track is a simple sport – it does not need to be dumbed down any further. Adding some layers of complexity to the way we describe each event by diving deeper into the numbers and stats helps elevate the viewing experience for fans.
This national meet was unique in that New Balance served as the rights holders to the event and we were a media partner. Most races would have strict parameters around what a third-party like us might be able to use without encroaching into the territory of NBC, USATF, World Athletics, or whatever other entity might have final say. This was an awesome situation for a few reasons: the meet was free on YouTube and over 100K viewers tuned in to watch the live event on Friday. What does the number look like if it was behind a paywall like NCAAs?
But from the CITIUS perspective, it was an opportunity for us to experiment with a different type of post-race interview. After the awards ceremony we were able to sit-down with the athletes and watch their races together, using a “track pad” to draw on the screen and have them talk through their mindset and decisions. It’s not as straightforward as it seems! While there is certainly some room for improvement on how we do this in the future, the athletes’ excitement about being given the chance to share their big moment in greater detail says that we might be onto something.
We’ll check back in a year…
The Tyreek Hill thing 🐆
What if I told you that Tyreek Hill running in a masters track meet is neither good nor bad for the sport? This isn’t the polarizing world of your parent’s YouTube algorithm – some things don’t have to operate on a binary scale. Having an NFL player enter into a nothing competition and running 6.70 for 60 meters does not move the needle at all, in either direction.
First off, let me start by saying that obviously Hill would not beat Usain Bolt or Trayvon Bromell in a race of any distance and to call them out is nothing more than a play for attention. That is not to dismiss his natural abilities. He has run 6.64, 10.19, and 20.14 – all great times for ten years ago. But Bromell ran 6.42 this season, which would essentially make Hill look like all the other guys in his heat. As a reminder, a high schooler ran 6.57 this weekend!
If he hadn’t talked such a big game and returned to the track with some level of humility, then I think the overall sentiment of track fans would have been significantly more welcoming. When DK Metcalf ran 10.37 for 100m two years ago, he showed his respect to the eight athletes who beat him and in return received ample praise for his willingness to step in the ring. The truth is that 6.70 is a pretty solid time given the circumstances and with a few more races under his belt that it would likely improve.
But it is shocking that there are track fans who are still dim enough – or provincial enough in their thinking – to think that a one-off gimmick will ever make any impact on the sport. Our “problem” is not a lack of awareness. Everyone knows what track and field is. It’s not like Tyreek Hill participating has suddenly opened up the world’s eyes to a brand new sport that they didn’t know existed. (WE ARE NOT PICKLEBALL!) And I promise you anyone who is a borderline fan of the sport has absolutely no concept of what a good 60m time is anyway.
Athletics is the oldest and most participated in sport in the country. Tyreek Hill won’t solve the retention problem. Do you know what is actually “good for the sport?” Things that make track easier and more interesting to follow. Think accessibility of watching events – that doesn’t necessarily mean free, it could be as simple as one consistent streaming platform or television channel becoming the home of track. But in absence of that, making it easy for fans or would-be fans to know where, when, and how to watch the races is a good step. From there, we just need competitive head-to-head match-ups of the stars who fans are invested in and for the athletes to buy-in to the benefit of promoting themselves.
Tyreek Hill does none of that. So who cares?
RIP Dick Fosbury 🙏
Many of us knew the term the ‘Fosbury Flop’ well before we knew of the man for who it was named. On Sunday, the 1968 Olympic champion from Portland, Oregon, passed away at 76-years-old from lymphoma. While obviously sad, it’s been awesome to see fans of the sport and regular internet citizens alike come to the realization that there used to be another way people competed in the high jump, until a legend came along, for whom today’s ubiquitous high jump technique is named. If there is one lesson to be learned from his life it’s that just because the whole world is doing things one way, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a better method.
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NCAA Indoor Nationals 🏆
Records are meant to be broken, right? Well, the NCAA Indoor Championships lived up to that idiom this past weekend as 10 collegiate all-time marks were set. Putting on my commentator hat to provide some analysis for this banner weekend in track and field does require me to acknowledge the elephant in the room — altitude matters.
Although Albuquerque is a preferred location for many reasons — such as being one of the few venues that is consistently bidding to host meets and the track is pretty — the
downside upside is that it’s situated above 5000 feet. That thin air makes it a big factor in the pacing of distance races. If you believe in conversions, what you run for 5000m in ABQ is ‘worth’ a time over 20 seconds faster. Meanwhile, there is a significant advantage in the sprints and field-side of the sport, you just won’t hear about it from the athletes.
If you asked Oklahoma State’s Fouad Messaoudi how fast he ran to win the 3000m, then he might say 7:48.10*. He’d then give you a meaningful look that intimates that asterisk signifies “at altitude,” so think of how that may have been faster than Drew Bosley’s collegiate record had it been run at Boston University. But if you ask one of the newly minted collegiate record holders then there’d be no mention of the thin mountain air. All of this concern that super shoes are distorting our perception!
Okay, now that the obligatory comments have been made let’s zap your memory of those facts using the bright light thing from Men In Black [editor’s note: it’s called a neuralyzer, Kyle, you uncultured fool.] and dive head first into the laudation. While ten records might sound like an outlier, it’s consistent with how wild the season has been as a whole; there had already been 11 broken on multiple occasions, making a total of 25 record breaking performances in 2023.
Here are the record breakers in New Mexico:
Julien Alfred - The Texas standout from St. Lucia was perhaps the safest bet that you could have made as she had already lowered her personal best from 7.04 to 6.97 this year, setting the NCAA 60m record on three occasions. And with two rounds to attempt it, she did it twice more, ultimately ending at 6.94 — the second fastest time ever. Alfred has always been a great starter and that was expected, but the 200m not as much as LSU’s Favour Ofili ran sub-22 last year outdoors. But if there were any doubts as to whether or not Alfred would find that final 40m come outdoors then she answered it with a final 140m as she doubled back to grab a second collegiate record of 22.01.
Britton Wilson - The defending NCAA 400m hurdles champion experimented with some longer distances this season, setting the collegiate record for 600m and running an extremely respectable 2:02.13 in her first ever 800m. The Arkansas sophomore reminded everyone that she split 48.6 last year in her fourth race of the weekend at SECs as she surprised the former American Record holder Talitha Diggs in the final 100m to run 49.48. This would have been a world record a month ago! I took a lot of heat earlier in the season for doing my best Stephen A. Smith impression suggesting that at some point in the next eight years that Wilson might beat Sydney. Do I look slightly less crazy now?
Ackera Nugent - This was supposed to be Masai Russell’s weekend as she had broken the record first in January, but Nugent ran 7.72 in the 60mH prelims to usurp that mark before backing it up in the final. The 20-year-old from Arkansas won the World U20 Championships for Jamaica two years ago. Two years ago she won this same title, but in a Baylor uniform. This is the fastest time in the world this year.
Jaydon Hibbert - Jamaicans had plenty to celebrate this past weekend. The future looks bright with another young talent who was a U20 champion now winning NCAA titles and breaking records… national ones! Hibbert triple jumped an outstanding 17.54m just a few months after his 18th birthday. But do you know the best part? Hibbert did this in a 12-step approach (most elites do 18).
Kyle Garland - Six points shy of Ashton Eaton’s world record. The Georgia senior’s athleticism was on full display as he amassed a mind boggling 6639 points in the heptathlon. Kevin Mayer, the defending World Champion in the Decathlon just won Europeans with 6348 points. When you look at his performances, there is no weak link… well maybe the 1000m, but that’s everyone’s worst event!
Sondre Guttormsen - The European champion from Norway may unfortunately go to Princeton, and he may have accidentally bumped into an athlete during the DMRs, but he is also now a 6.00m jumper. For context, imagine how big of a deal it must have been to break four minutes in the mile during the mid-1960’s. And I know we are trying to downplay the altitude thing right now, but earlier this season he only cleared 5.90m in the same venue.
Arkansas Women’s 4x400 - This gets complicated. The NCAA record of 3:21.75 is now faster than the World Record of 3:23.37. That’s because all four ladies were not from the same country — BUT WHAT ABOUT HOG COUNTRY?! Pig sooie?! Anning is English, Reid is Jamaican, Britton Wilson is American, and Rosey Effiong is from Texas. This race locked up the double win for the Razorbacks.
Jasmine Moore - This Florida Gator’s resume just keeps getting longer and longer! This was going to be a difficult year for Bowerman Award voters anyway, but Moore is trying to make it a bit easier as she eclipsed the all-time marks in both the triple jump (15.12m) and long jump (7.03m) again! Only four women have ever cleared the 15m and 7m barrier in their lives and she is the ONE one to ever do it indoors.
And as everyone would have been able to predict, there were no distance runners on this list. Okay fun game, try to rank the nine individual performances as rated by World Athletics. The answer is at the bottom of the newsletter.
Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥
The USATF Foundation (not affiliated with USATF) continues to invest in the health of the sport as they have provided grants to 28 youth clubs around the country. Additionally, it was just announced that maternity grants were being given to Leah Falland and Rachel Schneider.
Almaz Ayana (1:05:30) and Nibret Melak (59:06) of Ethiopia won the Lisbon Half Marathon. This was a nice PB for Ayana who will be in London next month, meanwhile the men must have had issues syncing their GPS watches. They went out way too fast going through 5k in 13:32. Melak didn’t do that, but caught the brave ones who did.
Kara Goucher’s memoir, The Longest Race has hit bookshelves and her PR tour is in full-swing, including an appearance on Good Morning America. I just received my copy, but have yet to read it because I got it yesterday and have a job, kid, and this stupid newsletter. I used to read a book a week and now I haven’t read one since Christmas. My brain is slowly deteriorating into mush.
Berihu Aregawi ran 26:33 for 10K in Laredo, Spain, the second fastest time ever. It was a WR attempt, but his rabbit missed a flight and so he was alone after one kilometer. Side note: I really enjoyed last week’s Coffee Club podcast, specifically Geordie Beamish’s epic rant about the 10,000m and the many issues surrounding the difficult standard. Primarily that it requires athletes to plan their entire season around a time trial, which is counter-intuitive to the interests of the sport as a whole. I’d like to see more American-based athletes go for the standard on the pancake flat courses within the Iberian peninsula.
The NYC Half Marathon is on Sunday at 7am and you can watch the broadcast on the ESPN app or ABC locally.
The Fred Kerley Australian tour continued at the Sydney Track Classic as the 100m World Champion reminded us that he could still be called upon for the 4x400 should we ever need him. He won in 44.65. Australia’s Jess Hull set a national record taking the 3000m in 8:31.81, which should come as no surprise given her leg at World XC. And Abbey Caldwell ran 1:58.32 for 800m. Don’t worry America. Our outdoor season starts at the Texas Relays in two weeks.
Ruth Chepngetich has now made a half million dollars in prize money the last two years, just from winning the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Her win in 2:18:08 came after an early separation as she strolled it in to win by over three and a half minutes. And on the men’s side, there is a 22% wage gap in Japan, so maybe let the ladies have their day on the roads, fellas.
I was a guest on the Ali on the Run Show this week and did a fun episode answering all of her listener’s questions about professional running. Ali is good at disarming guests and getting them to spill the beans so I shared a ton of information about the business side of the sport and how things work behind the scenes.
Answer Key: 9. Hibbert (1222) 8. Moore LJ (1223) 7. Nugent (1225) 6. Moore TJ (1233) 5. Alfred 60m (1241) 4. Wilson (1260) 3. Guttormsen (1267) 2. Garland (1268) 1. Alfred 200m (1274)
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