“A,B,C … easy as one, two, three,” captivatingly sung for the first time by a young Michael Jackson as The Jackson 5 lead singer, coincidently on the ABC television network via American Bandstand in 1970, provides a creative source for the musings of this article. While placing “one, two or three” in the Women’s 200-meter is far from “easy,” it will unequivocally prove to be a “thriller” in the lead up to the U.S. Olympic Trials with the qualifying round of the Women’s 200-meter event commencing on June 28th at 6:45pm pacific.
This weekend’s 38th edition of the Prefontaine Classic at Hayward Field provides viewers the first glimpse of head to head competition amongst the “A B C ” trio, Allyson, Bianca, and Carmelita. So could the 42 year-old number one hit song foreshadow a prediction for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials? Now until this very moment you probably thought track’s only MJ was limited Michael Johnson or I should be drug-tested! Either way, it brings the U.S. Women’s 200-meter into focus.
Allyson Felix, having a set a new personal best 100-meter time of 10.92 seconds earlier this month in Doha, will make her debut in the 200 meters at the PreFontaine. The three-time World Champion and two-time Olympic Silver Medalist at the distance has clearly communicated her 2012 training is focused on restoring her “sprint speed” which was compromised for the speed endurance requirements of the 400-meter Daegu World Championship race in her attempt at the 2-4 double. While providing valuable experience in round progression that may well have served as a dry rehearsal for Felix on the London Olympic stage in 2012, it was not without a costly price tag as the three-time World Champion’s 22.42 Bronze place finish saw her title fall to arch rival Jamaica’s Veronica Campbell-Brown (22.22) as well as 200-meter emerging compatriot and 2011’s 100-meter World Champion, Carmelita Jeter (22.37).
Fueled by two Olympic defeats spanning an eight year waiting period, coupled with nine-months of post-Worlds motivation and the labors of her training, Felix is poised to give birth to a string of statement races starting this weekend.
Felix last ran the 200-meters at Hayward Field in 22.02 (+3.2) USA Championship winning seconds in 2009 ahead of Muna Lee, Marshevet Hooker, Charonda Williams and a then 20 year-old Bianca Knight who registered a fifth place finish in 22.54 seconds.
Now 24, the youngest of the A, B, C trio, Adidas sprinter Bianca Knight currently owns the fifth fastest time in world clocking a 22.49 first place finish in her 200-meter season opener on the 5th of May at the Jamaican International Invitational.
Knight found herself in the painful position of a fourth place finish at the conclusion of the 2011 USA Outdoor Championships after posting three consecutive personal bests which now sits at 22.35 (+1.0) for the Mississippi native. Ahead of her last June 26th, were Shalonda Solomon (22.15), Carmelita Jeter (22.23) and Texas A&M Senior now turned professional Nike sprinter Jeneba Tarmoh (22.28).
A competitor, running a strong turn and close, there’s no question Knight will be pushing it dead to the track to assure she makes her first U.S. Team for the 200-meter event.
2011 World 100m Gold Medalist and World 200m Silver Medalist Carmelita Jeter, the “C,” equally looks to make her first US Olympic Team this June after failing to book her ticket to Beijing in both the 100-meters and 200-meters at the 2008 U.S. Trials. As the 2008 U.S. 200m Championship Title would go to Allyson Felix in 21.82 (+5.6) seconds, Jeter’s sixth place finish in 22.35 seconds would ironically find herself a tenth of second behind the at-the-time 18 year-old Knight who finished fifth clocking 22.25. Muna Lee took second and with a memorable lean/dive/fall across the line, Marshevet Hooker (22.20) finished third to edge Lauryn Williams by one hundredth of a second. The aforementioned 2011 U.S. 200m Champion Shalonda Solomon finished seventh in 22.36 seconds.
With “A” (Allyson) and “B” (Bianca) racing at this weekend’s PreFontaine Classic, history shows finishing 1, 2 or 3 will not be “easy as A, B, C” despite the convincing melodic vocal charm and animation of the future King of Pop.
The women’s 200-meter event was last run at the Pre Classic eleven years ago in 2001 which witnessed Marion Jones produce a victorious (+3.3) wind aided 22.26 seconds which has since be rescinded due to a doping conviction and subsequently rendered Jamaica’s Juliet Campbell’s 22.75 (+3.3) the event’s winning time.
Fast forward to the 2012, the women’s 200-meter Pre Classic entry field start list, in addition to Felix and Knight, features the aforementioned Jeneba Tarmoh, who currently has the sole ownership stake of the world’s sixth fastest time at 22.51, just two-hundredths off Knight’s 22.49.
While the “A, B, C ” acronym creatively fits the narrative of this article, it is by no means indicative of the event’s top three placements much less a forgone conclusion as to which three talented female sprinters will ultimately make the U.S. Olympic Team. Of course, sequential alphabetical curiosity begs the question of “Who is D?”
Look no further than 2011 NCAA 200m Outdoor and Indoor Champion, LSU’s Lady Tiger Kimberlyn Duncan who currently owns the world leading time of 22.22 (+0.1) seconds; the very same time that the events two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Veronica Campbell-Brown captured the World Title in at the Daegu World Championships last year.
The nineteen year old LSU Junior having a dominate 2012 season, equally showing promise in the 100-meters with a 10.96 (+1.9), currently fifth in the world, has already repeated as 2012 NCAA Indoor 200m Champion and is well on her way to capturing the Outdoor Title to complete the match set.
To the betterment of the relay pool, the “D” can also signal “depth” as American women presently occupy five of the six top 200-meter times in the world. Currently ranked third in the world credited with a 22.37, is the 2012 U.S. 60-meter Champion Tianna Madison.
The 2005 World Championships Long Jump Champion’s strong start to the season saw her best both Allyson Felix and Veronica Campbell-Brown over 60-meters at the USATF Classic early in February of 2012. Campbell-Brown would ultimately return the favor capturing 2012 World Indoor Championships Gold in Istanbul, Turkey with 7.01 world leading time relegating Madison’s 7.09 third place finish to the Bronze position. One notion remains, if we refer back to Michael’s ABC lyrics, “T-T-T Tianna’s gonna show you” that in an Olympic Year, the “D” may very well stand for “dark horse.”
Whatever the “D” may come to signify, no one will want to marry themselves to the gnawing agony of the fourth place finish assuring “the fire’s in their eyes … and no one wants to be ‘defeated’ so they will just Beat It” into the track.
And with that power-packed, high stake intensity comes the hopeful promise of fast times potentially leading to new personal bests and meet records. The PreFontaine Classic and Hayward Field record stands at 21.81 set in 1999 by none other than … Marion Jones. And adding to the intrigue, that very same time of 21.81 seconds also equals the personal best time of, you guessed it, Allyson Felix; set on August 31st at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan where Felix won the second of her three World Championship Gold Medals.
And as far the one non-American woman currently ranked in the world’s top six, Jamaica’s Double Olympic Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown, who’s personal best set at 21.74 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Games, holds steady at 22.38 good for fourth just one hundredth behind Madison. Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce currently is seventh with 22.53 seconds.
Weather permitting, the Women’s Olympic 200-meter event will provide a stellar athletic confrontation this August in London 2012. With Florence Griffith-Joyner’s Olympic and World Record of 21.34 seconds, set in 1988 Seoul, well without of range, perhaps the motivation of a third consecutive Olympic 100-meter Gold Medal for Campbell Brown or the first for Allyson Felix and in the process best her rival will take down the 21 year old 21.64 second mark set by Jamaican great Merlene Ottey in September of 1991? A daunting task, but time will tell.
But before any Olympic storylines can be written, the U.S. Trials must first write its A, B and C for one, two and three anticipating “D” aware “E” for Evelyn Ashford set the USA Outdoors Championship record at 21.88 seconds in June of 1983.