Friday, June 3, 2011

Why US track and field is still behind?

The United States has some of the top runners in the world, no doubt. In my opinion, we have the talent pool to win or have Olympic medalists in every event. The problem is that there are too many other more popular sports with greater notoriety that pull great athletes away from track and field.

I opened a recent issue of Sports Illustrated and was reading the Faces in the Crowd page when I noticed two great athletes. Mac McGuire (wonder who he was named after), ran a 47.8 400m split in his HS relay anchor leg to win the Texas state championship. He is also a team leader in goals scored for the state champion soccer team and an all-state kicker for the football team. He will be playing SOCCER for Boston University in the fall.

Alyssa Lombardo ran a 56.9 400m for a district record in PA. She won the 100, 200, 400, and 800m at her league meet. She is an all-state athlete in track and soccer. She will be playing SOCCER at Stanford next year.

Mac’s 400 split is equivalent to a 1:45 800m time and a sub 4 min mile. With the right endurance training this kid could be a top NCAA middle distance runner.

Alyssa’s 400m time is equivalent to a 2:03 800m and a 4:13 1500m, both of which would be top NCAA times.

Give them 4 more years and they could be Olympic hopefuls in track. Instead they picked soccer. Most likely they will not be Olympic soccer players or even professional soccer players. They probably did get athletic scholarships and who can blame them for taking the money to play and get a college education, but with those times I’m sure they could have both received scholarships to run track. I am not faulting either of these kids, but athletic American kids have so many options that the track talent gets only a small drop from the pool.

There certainly is more pressure on track athletes when it comes to performing in competition. If you have a bad day on the soccer field your teammates can pick up the slack and still win the game. Have a bad day on the track and you will get dusted! No one can help you run faster in the open 400m except yourself.

Luckily, US track and field gets an Andrew Wheating every once in a while to drop soccer and become one of the top mid distance runners in the world! In the mean time we will all just have to wonder how far Lebron James could have thrown the discus? Or How far Michael Jordan could have long jumped or high jumped? Or how far a young Vladimir Guerrero could throw the javelin? Or how high Shawn Johnson or Nastia Liukin could pole vault? Until the minimum salary for team USA track and field pushes 7 digits we will never know.


Mr. Orlando said...

Karl, I agree with you that there are too many sports and the athletes are spread thin among many different sports. I am not a soccer or lacrosse fan but it seems like all the high school kids want to play those sports. The two athletes you mentioned seem like phenomenal athletes who had a tough decision to make about which sport to pursue. Alyssa Lombardo I found on line is a softball player and not a soccer player. She received a scholarship to play softball and run track at Stanford University. She runs a 54.65 in the 400 and her time of 56.9 was while running 4 events, including 2 prelim races in the 100, 200, 400, 800 at championships. Who knows, maybe Coach Floreal at Stanford will convince her of her Olympic potential. Or maybe she'll realize the money she can make post college in track & field. I don't think we have seen the last of both these kids in their other sport.

Karl Stutelberg said...

Mr. Orlando, thank you for your comment, and thank you for correcting me on Ms. Lombardo's sport. She is obviously a phenomenal athlete. I hope that she continues to compete in track and field to some degree although softball is usually in the same season as track. In my Div. III school we did have some guys and girls that would play soccer and run track but there was no athletic scholarships to loose. Thanks again.