A storm that drifted by on the outskirts of Des Moines forced a ninety-minute evacuation of Drake Stadium at the start of day three of the 2019 Toyota USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships yesterday. But Mother Nature could not slow down the Force of Nature that is DeAnna Price.
DeAnna provided one of the highlights of the meet last year when she blasted a fifth-round toss of 78.12m to break the American record. The crowd had to wait a bit longer this time—round six—but you could tell from her first attempt that she was locked in. Her series went: 75.66m, 77.51m, 76.40m, 75.77m, 76.72…and then the big one, 78.24m for an American record, facility record, personal best, and world lead.
That last bit carries a more legitimacy right now than it might have in years past because Poland’s Anita Włodarczyk will not be defending her World title in Doha. She is on the mend from knee surgery and has shut it down for the year.
So a solid case can be made that DeAnna is the favorite going into Worlds where a seventy-seven or seventy-eight meter throw will likely win.
Talking to her after the competition (you can find that interview here) I was surprised to learn that her season was almost derailed by back and hip issues that have plagued her for weeks.
She credits former hammer thrower and current chiropractor Brian Murer with keeping her in one piece and is confident that with his help she can keep the train rolling through Doha.
Second-placer Gwen Berry took a very different route to the podium, opening with two long fouls out of bounds to the right. Thus she found herself in the nightmarish situation of having to dial down the intensity to get a mark in round three while still putting enough juice into the throw to make sure she advanced to the final.
Complicating matters was the way she set up at the back of the ring. From my perspective, looking down from directly behind the cage, Gwen stood way to the left, almost facing the landing area as she began her wind.
I’m not an expert on hammer technique, but it seemed like she would have to consider altering her stance and moving over a bit to make sure she placed her third attempt between the sector lines.
And while messing around with the start of your throw is no big deal during practice, it’s not something you want to do in the middle of a competition when you basically have one attempt to keep your dreams and maybe your career alive.
To her great credit, Gwen kept her composure and squeezed out a 68.62m toss that moved her into sixth place and guaranteed her three more attempts. Again, my knowledge of the hammer is superficial, but it looked like she moved over a bit at the start of that throw to avoid the disaster of a third foul.
Since the prelims consisted of one flight of fifteen, there was only a brief pause for reordering before the finals. And while making those finals was essential, Gwen still faced the task of climbing into the top three. She did that with a 76.46m toss that vaulted her into second and knocked Maggie Ewen to fourth.
Maggie, maybe the greatest thrower in NCAA history, has gone through some first-year-as-a-pro struggles this season, compounded no doubt by the challenge of competing in both the hammer and shot put.
So it was a nice surprise to see her launch a PB of 75.04m in the second round. Unfortunately for her, business is booming in the women’s hammer in this country (seven of the fifteen competitors came in having already achieved the Worlds standard) and that throw did not get her on the podium.
She was in great spirits afterwards though, and is looking forward to defending her title in the shot put today. You can view my interview with Maggie here.
Brooke Andersen arrived in Des Moines with a season and personal best of 76.75m but could not find her rhythm in warmups. That’s not a good feeling when a World Championship spot is on the line, but she kept her composure and her round three toss of 76.46m held up for third place. I think you’ll enjoy her rather delightful account of this rather terrifying experience. My chat with Brooke can be found here.
Alyssa Wilson of UCLA is determined to follow in Maggie’s footsteps as a triple threat. She is the only thrower competing in the hammer, discus and shot put here in Des Moines, a task that today’s predicted high of eighty-eight degrees will make all the more challenging. The disc starts at 3:00 today, with the shot following at 6:20, so she won’t have much time to recover between events.
I spoke with her after the hammer, in which she finished a very respectable eighth place, and something tells me we will be hearing a lot more from her in the future. Alyssa’s comments are here.
The second throwing event on Saturday was the men’s javelin, and unlike the women’s hammer, not one competitor in the jav came to Des Moines having achieved the Worlds standard, which is 83.00m.
Nor, after five rounds did it seem likely that anyone would.
As the sixth round began, the top three spots were occupied by Michael Shuey (77.32m), Riley Dolezal (76.82m), and Tim Glover (76.33m).
Not the kind of marks likely to cause a stir in a world where it often takes close to ninety meters to win a Diamond League meet.
Then strange things started happening.
In hindsight, it seems that Curtis Thompson may have been responsible. In round six, Curtis hit his best throw of the day, 76.56m, to jump Glover for third place.
Glover responded with a season’s best toss of 77.47m, which moved him into the lead.
Dolezal, throwing next in the order, then hit a season’s best of 82.84m.
Shuey, now sitting third and no doubt filled with vexation, responded with a PB of 82.85m.
It was crazy and wonderful to watch and very fun to talk over afterwards with the three medalists in this interview during which I once again demonstrate my ignorance regarding the process of qualifying for Worlds. Though none of these gents has attained the qualifying mark, it turns out that Michael and Riley have a decent chance of being added to the field in Doha based on current world rankings.
So, to sum up, here are the various paths to Doha for American athletes:
-Achieve the qualification standard by today and finish in the top three here in Des Moines.
-Finish in the top three here, and if you don’t have the qualifying mark hope that the IAAF will need dip into the list of world-ranked performers in order to fill out the field in your event.
-If you are Jon Jones, supply Ryan Crouser, Joe Kovacs, and Darrell Hill with all the protein shakes and foot rubs they need because if one of them wins the Diamond League final in August you are going to Worlds.
If anyone out there knows another path to qualifying, please keep it to yourself. My brain is full.
As always, full results for the 2019 Toyota USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships may be found here.