Reno report: Cleary tells exhibition events: 400, 1500
Elite masters quarter-milers and milers, rejoice! Your events have been chosen as masters exhibitions at the USATF open nationals. The rest of you, especially field eventers, can go back to your cave. At yesterday’s Masters T&F Committee meeting at the USATF annual meeting, Mark Cleary (masters invitational program coordinator for life) announced his picks for our showcase events: Indoor nationals will feature the 1,500 for men and 400 for women. Outdoor nationals (aka IAAF worlds trials) will have the 400 for men and 1,500 for women.
In presenting this year’s slate of events, Mark took pains to justify the picks. He said there’s “been some concern about too much middle-distance events” at USATF open nationals. (Ya think?) So he prepared a list of all masters events contested at indoor and outdoor masters nationals in his eight years of doing this.
Mark said these events were run:
60 — once
100 — once
200 — seven times
400 — five times
800 — six times
1,000 — two times
1,500 — once
Mile — seven times
3,000 — twice
110 hurdles — once
In telling of his annual selections, Mark said he was “trying to spread it around to the event groups.” As long as those groups met some exacting criteria of his choosing.
Here’s why field events aren’t included in the exhibition program:
1. It’s hard enough to persuade meet organizers to make room for running events. Mark tells horror stories of having to deal with John Chaplin of the USATF Men’s T&F Committee and others involved in the meet schedule.
2. It’s hard to get an exciting field in the field events. “We’re not going to do a women’s high jump,” he said as an example. “We (may) have one good jumper and four average jumpers.” He says that when he asks folks who will be in that event, “there’s a big dead silence.”
On top of that, add the complexity of getting people to pay their own way to the event and stuff.
And don’t even THINK of having masters events with older athletes (60-plus). Mark apparently focuses on the 40-55 age range because they’re easier to arrange. But have you checked out the M70 sprinters lately? Incredible talent.
On the other hand, finding good middle-distance runners is a breeze, Mark says. An M50 middle-distancer himself, Mark crowed about the quality of the men’s 3K field at the Eugene Olympic Trials, where he fought hard with Chaplin to add four men to the field. (Tony Young won, you’ll recall.) “We had a final that was unbelievable,” Mark told masters delegates. A dozen were under 9:01 and 10 were sub-9, he said.
Mark also answered critics who say the qualifying standards are too high. In fact, he says, the standards helped improve the field, since “people will start going after that (standard).” But Mark confessed that in choosing the 3000 for the Trials, he shot himself in the foot” for the Drake masters mile exhibition, since folks who might otherwise have run at Drake stayed out to save their nickels for a trip to Eugene. The 2008 Drake masters mile was relatively weak, with only five entrants.
Of course, setting the bar high might work as well for non-running events. What field event might generate great competition with excellent marks? Try the men’s high jump. (Bruce McBarnette will travel ANYWHERE to compete, BTW.)
Mark held out the hope that the 2009 USATF indoor nationals (scheduled for Boston in late February and early March) might accommodate an additional masters event.
Moreover, I reminded Mark (and the rest of the audience) that newly elected USATF President Stephanie Hightower had told us she supported more masters events at open nationals, “so why not call her bluff?”
“Use the bluff and ask for more,” said Bob Weiner, the masters media chair.
“OK,” Mark replied weakly.
Masters will produce great fields in the 400, no doubt. America owns the event, delegate and masters sprinter Thomas Jones noted. He told Mark that he’d get online and “have your fields by Christmas.” Details will be posted here eventually.
In other masters exhibition news, Mary Rosado – Mark’s program sidekick on the East Coast — announced that she had just “confirmed that Millrose will be running masters relays.” As usual, men’s and women’s 4×4 relays will be contested at the Millrose Games. Mary said: “Get your teams ready and start running your qualifiers (for time).” She didn’t specify the qualifying time.
She also didn’t mention when in the Millrose schedule the relays will be contested. If tradition holds, the masters relays will go first on the track — before many people arrive for the elite events.
And as long as we’re on the subject, Mary, raise some hell with meet orgainizers. Demand better treatment for the masters entrants. Last year, masters women were barred from the best warmup areas.