Sifan Hassan Adds Another WR, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce Becomes Fastest Woman Alive + More

This is the CITIUS MAG Newsletter, a weekly round-up of the biggest stories in the running and track & field community with analysis and commentary by me, Chris Chavez. If you’ve been forwarded this email or stumbled upon a link online, you can sign up and subscribe here:

Hello, friends! Happy Monday! We have three weeks until the qualifying window closes for the Tokyo Olympics and just one day until the deadline for entry into the U.S. Olympic Trials so the sport isn’t taking any breather. If you enjoy getting this newsletter in your inbox, you can support my work by pledging any dollar amount on Patreon.

Sifan Hassan Smashes A World Record by 10 Secs

Dutch star Sifan Hassan added a fourth world record to her resume at the FBK Games in Hengelo on Sunday when she lapped the entire professional field and ran 29:06.82 for 10,000m. That’s 10 seconds faster than when Almaz Ayana destroyed Wang Junxia’s dirty 29:31.78 that stood atop the all-time list from 1993 to 2016. 

You can make the case for advances in shoe technology, lightwave pacing technology and better training but I admittedly found it a bit interesting that when Ayana broke the record in Rio, the syringe emojis got put to use on social media (Ayana has never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drug) and there was so much skepticism on how clean the mark was. And yesterday, there was much less of that talk after Hassan’s record. I remember Ayana faced some questions from reporters in the press conference that followed and she delivered one of the oddest replies saying, “My doping is my training. My doping is Jesus. Otherwise, I’m crystal clear.”

Hassan’s world record didn’t come at the sport’s biggest stage and it happened on a Sunday where if you’re on the West Coast, you could’ve slept through it. So maybe those are some of the reasons why there’s been less open criticism on social media but it could also be that this comes as less of a surprise. We know Hassan has been really good since she made the national allegiance switch from Ethiopia to the Netherlands in Nov. 2013 and then started medaling at the European championships in 2014. When Ayana broke the world record, it was just her second career 10,000m but she did have a 5,000m gold and bronze medal from the previous two world championships but she was lesser-known.

In her 10-year career, Hassan has run excellent times from 800m (1:56.81) to the half marathon (65:15). In 2019, she underscored that range by becoming the first woman to win the 1,500m and 10,000m at the same world championships. That all came just days after her then coach, Alberto Salazar, was banned for four years for anti-doping violations. Hassan has never tested positive for any banned substance. When she was pressed by the media about her ties to Salazar, she said, “I’ve been clean all my life. I work hard.” and “The door is open. If they're going to test me every day, I'm open for it.”

Maybe part of the reason why that skepticism wasn’t discussed now is because the discussion has already been had. Hassan said her piece in the mixed zone in Doha and has since moved forward and found success under her new coach Tim RowBerry.

Obviously, there are people out there with their doubts about any great performance nowadays and there are people who are fans until someone is proven guilty. I doubt a performance like this did much to sway anyone from either camp.

Lastly, it would’ve sounded crazy in like 2015 but now I wouldn’t be shocked if we see the women’s 5,000m (14:06.62) and 10,000m world records dip under 14 minutes and 29 minutes, respectively.


Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Becomes The Fastest Woman Alive

At a meet in Kingston, Jamaica, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce notched a personal best of 10.63 (+1.3 m/s wind) to become the second-fastest woman of all-time. Only Florence Griffith Joyner has gone faster with her 10.49. It’s the fourth-fastest performance ever because FloJo also went 10.61 and 10.62 in 1988. With the run, Fraser-Pryce takes sole possession of the Jamaican national record that she previously held with a 10.70 from 2012 but shared with Elaine Thompson-Herah (10.70 in 2016). Fraser-Pryce won the Doha world championships with a 10.71 run after having her first child.

In Tokyo, Fraser-Pryce is looking for her third Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters to go with her medals from Beijing 2008 and London 2012. At the 2016 Games in Rio, she finished third for bronze. I’d say the women’s 100m in Tokyo is shaping up to be more of a must-watch than the men’s race because just a few weeks ago we were ready to give Sha’Carri Richardson the gold medal after her 10.72 earlier in the season.

FloJo died in 1998 at the age of 38. Carmelita Jeter, who ran 10.64 in Shanghai in 2009, was considered the Fastest Woman Alive until this weekend…


More Notable Results from Around The World

Staying on the sprints for just a moment longer...At the NACAC New Life Invitational in Miramar, Fla., Trayvon Bromell continues his hot streak with a 9.77 (+1.5 m/s wind) to become the ninth man under 9.80 seconds in history. His previous personal best of 9.84 was set at the U.S. Championships in 2015. When we thought that the United States would be scrambling to find a replacement for Christian Coleman as the gold medal favorite for Tokyo while he serves his anti-doping suspension, Bromell has made it clear he’s the guy. Fellow 2016 Olympian Marvin Bracy was just behind him in the race for a 9.85. They now sit at No. 1 and 2 in the world leading up to the Olympic Trials.

Francine Niyonsaba, who won the 800m silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, has qualified for the Tokyo Summer Games in the 5,000m with a 14:54.38 in Montreuil, France. After debuting at the distance with a 15:12.08 in late May, she successfully got under the 15:10 Olympic standard in her second crack at the distance. She is unable to run the 800m in Tokyo because, like her fellow Rio medalists Caster Semenya and Margaret Wambui, she has naturally high levels of testosterone and World Athletics implemented a rule in 2019 that bars these athletes from competing in events from 400m through the mile unless they undergo testosterone suppressing measures. On April 15, Semenya ran a season's best of 15:52.28 in Pretoria, South Africa to win the 5,000m national title. She has until June 29 to record a qualifying mark. Wambui has not raced since June 2019.

– The best performance of the Stumptown Twilight meet in Portland, Ore. was Josh Kerr of the Brooks Beasts running the fastest outdoor 1,500m on American soil with a 3:31.55 to beat the field by four seconds. Some big personal bests followed in tow as Rob Napolitano, the former New Jersey-New York Track Club miler now competing for Puerto Rico internationally, lowered his personal best from 3:38 to 3:35.63 in second place. (The challenge is now for Napolitano is to find a fast enough 1,500m race before the World Athletics deadline to get the Olympic standard of 3:35.00 or improve his current World Ranking.) Empire Elite’s Colby Alexander ran his fastest 1,500 since 2016 with a 3:35.81. His teammate, Eric Holt, snapped his undefeated season at the distance but ran a personal best of 3:36.62 to secure his Olympic Trials spot. On Athletics Club’s Joe Klecker is going to be dangerous at the trials in the 5,000m and 10,000m with a new personal best of 3:37.00 to flash some closing speed.

One quick thing that came to mind: I’ve joined the masses in recently getting into Formula 1 by watching Netflix’s Drive to Survive and even tuned into Sunday morning’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. I was texting a friend about it and he mentioned how track and field can take a page in its discussion of super shoes or spikes when athletes are performing well in competitor footwear. On Instagram, there’s plenty of accounts sharing close-up shots of shoe choices that don’t match the logo on their main kit. When Brooks Running posted about it on Instagram, someone commented: “Cropped out the dragonfly’s lol”

 So maybe it could be talked about at least on the broadcasts? I’m guessing there’s also a slight fear of upsetting the shoe sponsors that sometimes help fund coverage. In F1, they openly talk about how Aston Martin uses Mercedes’ engine and how Alfa Romeo uses the Ferrari engine. The announcers quickly pointed the finger to suspect Pirelli’s tires were at fault for two crashes in Sunday’s race and they’re a big sponsor. 

Right now, it’s one of the worst-kept secrets in track when we see athletes paint over kicks or crop out spikes in photos. Kerr ran a spectacular time that can be credited to a flurry of things like solid training, great pacing, etc. On top of that, he’s proven he’s one of Great Britain’s best middle distance runners so it’s not all about the spikes. So this shouldn’t dominate the conversation because we already get enough banter on super shoes but it’s just some further context on the performance that can be provided. Brooks came forward a few weeks back and said it is allowing its athletes to compete in competitor spikes. On threw its support behind Chris Thompson when he ran in Vaporfly shoes to win the British Marathon Trials. With all things in the sport, transparency is important and appreciated. 


HOLTAMANIA!

The community came through this past weekend. It’s no secret we’ve enjoyed following Holt’s journey to the Olympic Trials with three stops on the Trials of Miles Qualifier tour, close finishes and passionate post-race speeches every time. I’m in a text group with a few friends and thought it would be a fun idea to help support his trip to the Trials with a t-shirt fundraiser. Kyle Merber suggested Holtamania as a riff on Hulkamania. I quickly mocked it up and set the campaign live on Thursday night. Within 24 hours, we sold more than 100 shirts and finished the weekend with 205+ shirts sold and $1,409 raised for the unsponsored runner.

CONTEST: I’ve decided to give away three shirts to lucky readers. The first three people to respond to this email correctly with the following three facts from his episode of the CITIUS MAG Podcast will get tees.

  1. Who are the two Binghamton runners who broke four minutes for the mile before Holt?

  2. Name the two Empire Elite coaches.

  3. What is Eric’s main job when he’s not running? (Hint: 61:53 mark of the podcast)


– Also at the Stumptown meet, Matt Centrowitz did a 3x800m workout by entering three heats and went 1:50.33, 1:49.72 and 1:53.92 with eight minutes between the first two races and six minutes before the third one. Afterward, he tweeted: “It’s funny that a decade ago when I was preparing for my first world championship I ran an 800 TT “trying” to negative split it. I went 55.5-55.5 for a 1.51 flat. Not to mention I had a running start. I felt ready to roll & later went on to medal. 10 years later….I start a workout in 1:50.3 with a 56.0-54 negative split (standing start) and I’m contemplating what kinda shape in. To be young and naive……”

The British 10,000m selection for the Tokyo Olympics was held at the European 10,000m Cup on Saturday. Mo Farah returned to the track for his first 10,000m race since winning the 2017 world championships in London. It didn’t go as planned. He finished eighth in 27:50, which was his first loss at the distance since the epic close by Ibrahim Jeilan at the 2011 world championships in Daegu.

The race was won by France’s Morhad Amdouni in 27:23:27. Bowerman Track Club’s Marc Scott was the top British finisher in seventh place in 27:49.83 so he will head to Tokyo since he also has the standard with his 27:10.41 from February. Farah said his plan has been to run the 10,000m at the Olympics but he doesn’t have the 27:28 standard. He’s got to find a 10,000m race between now and June 29 to get it.

– In the women’s race, Eilish McColgan secured her Tokyo berth with a 31:19.21 win over Israel’s Selamawit Teferi. Jessica Judd clocked a 31:20.84 personal best and qualified for her first Olympics. It’s a big moment for Judd, who made a name for herself with medals in the 800 meters at the world junior and world youth championships in 2012 and 2011. She’s had her own ups and downs in her career but finally has been able to get it together at the longer track distances. McColgan still sits at No. 5 on the British all-time list with her 30:58.94 in February – just a little over a second slower than her mother Liz. Judd is now No. 8 on the all-time list.

Hobbs Kessler is a state champion. At the Michigan state meet this past weekend, Kessler went for a triple in the 4x800m relay, 800m and 1,600m. He got started with the relay and you have to watch this close…

Kessler went 1:47 on his anchor leg and just missed catching the Novi High School anchor by .035 seconds. He went on to capture the 1,600m title in 4:16.68  and 800m title in 1:54.13.

 – Karsten Warholm picked up right where he left off in 2020 and bettered his own world best in the 300m hurdles with a 33.26 showing in Oslo. Last year, he ran 33.78 before giving Kevin Young’s 46.78 world record a scare with a 46.87 at the Stockholm Diamond League.

– The women’s 400m hurdles world record could trade hands for the next few years. Dalilah Muhammad has held onto it since she set it at the 2019 U.S. Championships and then lowered it to 52.16 in the world championship final in Doha. Muhammad ran a season’s best of 54.50 this weekend in Florida but it was world championship silver medalist Sydney McLaughlin, who made some noise with a 52.83 season opener in the 400m hurdles at the Music City Track Carnival in Nashville, Tenn. It was her first time contesting her main event since she ran 52.23 for silver in Doha. This is her third-best time ever. As noted by statistician Jon Mulkeen, she ties Lashinda Demus as the most prolific sub-53 performer in history.

– Also some kudos to Dani Aragon of Empire Elite and Oiselle, who started the season with a 4:09.03 PB and has dropped it down to 4:05.46 in recent weeks and secured the U.S. Olympic Trials qualifying mark with her win at the Music City Track Carnival women’s 1,500m. Jenny Simpson finished second in a season's best of 4:06.18. That was just her second race of the year. We’ll preview the women’s 1,500m in our Olympic Trials preview podcast but she’s definitely not as assured of an Olympic team spot as maybe she would’ve been before the Olympic postponement.


More Notable News…

Keira D’Amato, who was one of 2020’s best stories with her slew of personal bests capped with a 2:22:56 marathon, announced that she will not be running at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She notched the 10,000m qualifier with a 32:16.82 in humid conditions at the Trials of Miles Texas Qualifier in February but has not raced since.

– The Athletics Integrity Unit’s Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended 2016 100m hurdles Olympic champion Brianna McNeal for five years “for tampering within the results management process” The ban started on Aug. 15, 2020. This marks her second anti-doping violation. She’ has appealed to CAS and will be able to compete at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials. If she finishes in the top three at the Olympic Trials, the fourth place finisher will be waiting for CAS’ decision because if the ban is upheld then she will miss not just Tokyo but the 2024 Olympics in Paris as well. The details of what the tampering entails have not been published and remain confidential.

Athletics Canada announced its marathon squads for the Tokyo Olympics. Malindi Elmore returns to the Olympics after 17 years. She competed in the 1,500m at the Athens Olympics and briefly retired in 2012 to compete in Ironman triathlons. Now a mother of two, she gave the marathon a shot in 2019 and set a Canadian national record of 2:24:50 at the Houston Marathon in Jan. 2020. Dayna Pidhoresky earned her Tokyo spot by winning the Canadian marathon title in 2019. Natasha Wodak, who ran a 2:26.19 personal best at the Marathon Project last December, was named for the third spot. On the men’s side, Trevor Hofbauer has held his spot since 2019. The chase paid off for Cam Levins as he got the Tokyo qualifying mark on May 23 and made his second Olympic team. He made the finals of the 5,000m and 10,000m in 2012 but missed the team in 2016. Ben Preisner, who ran 2:10:17 at the Marathon Project, got the final spot.

In last week’s newsletter, I wrote a bit about how it’s not quite that easy to explain how to make it onto the Canadian national team for Tokyo. This past week, they announced Mohammed Ahmed and Andrea Seccafien will get spots for the 10,000m in Tokyo since they’re both the Canadian record holders in the event. The other spots will be determined based on performances, qualifying standards and world rankings.

– In news that feels like it’s about 10 years late: Mile American record holder Alan Webb will be making his marathon debut at 38 years old at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. on June 19. His longest race during his pro career was a 27th place finish in 49:23 at the USATF 10-Mile Championships on Oct. 7, 2012. He recently ran a half marathon in 1:13:14 and has been working as an assistant track coach at the University of Arkansas Little Rock.

– Berlin Marathon organizers are aiming for a maximum field of 35,000 runners for the 2021 edition of the race on Sept. 26.


Hobbs Kessler On The CITIUS MAG Podcast…

"I have a really unique privilege of being able to do both worlds. I don't know if anyone's been able to work out with pros and do their easy runs with their high school team. It's super cool. It just works because of the circumstances of my dad being the coach and Ron (Warhurst) being the assistant coach at Skyline. I definitely wish a lot of people knew I'm not just training like a pro. I work out with those guys but I'm a high schooler and I treat running like I'm a high schooler. I just have fun with my teammates and jump in the river on runs and stuff."

Hobbs Kessler is a high school senior competing for Skyline High School in Ann Arbor. He just made history by running 3:34.36 for a new U.S. high school 1,500m record but it’s also now faster than the recent 3:34.68 NCAA record. Kessler’s time is faster than Jim Ryun’s U-20 record of 3:36.1 that was run back in 1966. And of course, this guarantees Kessler’s spot at the U.S. Olympic Trials later this month.

In this episode, you’ll learn more about his backstory including a better understanding of just how great of a rock climber he is, why his parents are his role models as runners, how coach Ron Warhurst plays the Yoda role in the Very Nice Track Club, the buzz about turning pro and much more.

You can catch the latest episode of the podcast on iTunes so subscribe. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify!

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That’s it from me in the latest edition of the CITIUS MAG Newsletter. As always, thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this, learned something new or have any questions or commentary on anything featured in this issue, feel free to hit my inbox by replying or writing to chris@citiusmag.com

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