NATIONAL TRACK LEAGUE A REALITY
For those wondering why the our national level athletes are forced to make the pilgrimage to Europe each summer seeking international-level performances, several meet directors at already-existing invitational meets in the Pacific Sport Series as well as the Aileen Meagher Classic have come together with Athletics Canada to reverse that trend and bring the world to Canada.
“It came about as part of some discussion at Athletics Canada about all of our athletes going to Europe every year and ways we can help athletes get some experience and grow the sport,” said John Craig, executive director of Athletics Ontario. “We aren’t going to get all of the Diamond League athletes but wanted to aim just below that with some headliners and give the public exposure to meaningful competition.”
In addition to the meets in British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia, Athletics Ontario stepped up to the plate to build on some of the momentum generated by Toronto’s Festival of Excellence in 2009.
“We were not involved in the Festival of Excellence in any respect and it was disappointing as the sport governing body in the province,” said Craig. “The board of directors steeped up because we felt strongly that we needed to be drivers of the events like this and intimately involved in planning if we are going to be players in track and field in the next five or six years. We certainly don’t have any money to lose on it and there is some risk involved but we hired the people who put together the Festival of Excellence and it is a good relationship. Though we are some ways away from having the money we want, we anticipate this will be a pre-Pan Am games legacy.”
The National Track League is intended to be fashioned on a smaller scale as the Diamond League with prize money for individual events and a full marketing effort to attract fans and a recruiting effort to lure athletes for each meet.
For full information on the National Track League, visit: http://www.athletics.ca/display_news.asp?newsid=1061
It’s not as if there haven’t been mind-boggling distance performances at the NCAA Indoor Championships in the past. Kevin Sullivan and Graham Hood’s 3:55 mile battle in 1995 comes to mind. Still, in a year when two kids from Indiana ran 13:37 and didn’t even score a point at the meet, while men’s times of 3:59.74 (Mile), 7:55.12 (3000m), 13:49.59 (5000m) as well as women’s times of 4:39.86 (Mile), 9:15.60 (3000m), 16:10.01 (5000m) didn’t even qualify, it is worth taking a step back and thinking who is being left out?
It was not long ago (2004 to be exact -- http://www.rtspt.com/ncaa/d1/d1mind04F.txt) that future Olympian Taylor Milne got into the meet by the skin of his teeth with now-relatively pedestrian time of 4:02.18. This season, Milne would have been ranked 39th and been the 24th person NOT in the meet with such a mark.
So is this a blip or a trend? Probably a combination of both as faster tracks and gradually better training in the collegiate scene become more prevalent. There certainly isn’t any one reason – not an influx of foreign athletes (they have been in the NCAA for decades), not simply 300m tracks (they have been around for decades), and it’s not as if NCAA coaches reinvented the wheel this season (many of them are still not even aware a wheel was invented). Not to be overlooked is the phenomena of athletes realizing the bar has been raised each of the last few years and understanding it requires a more profound effort than ever before to clear it. There is no conclusion here, just guesses and hypotheses.
Regardless, it was nice to see Canadians coming home with gold medals (Brianne Theisen-Pentathlon, Derek Drouin- High Jump, Sheila Reid- SMR, Julie Labonte- Shot Put), silver medals (Kate Van Buskirk- Mile, Sheila Reid – 3000m) and All-American certificates (Jeremy Rae-DMR).
HERE AND THERE
I had to check that it wasn’t April Fool’s Day when I read of Iran’s possible refusal to attend the London 2012 Olympic Games because they believe the logo spells “Zion.” As if the powers-that-be in that country have not already proven to be bat-crazy enough. If Iranian leadership is foolish enough to think that’s what the symbol means and bigoted enough not to attend the event because of it then by all means ostracize yourself in the international community some more….Congrats to the men’s and women’s teams from the University of Windsor for strong performances at the CIS Championships. Between the Lancers and Gryphons, it’s beginning to look as if the national championship trophy will remain linked to Highway 401 for some time.