Well everybody, we didn’t forget about the field events.
We just relegated them to being written about by me, one of the biggest doofuses on the track and field blogging circuit today! Let’s take a peek at the whirring hamster wheel that drives most of my thoughts, to see what I think about the exciting state of American tossin’, jumpin’, and vaultin’.
Women’s Pole Vault
The athlete to watch here is Sandi Morris. The reigning Olympic silver medalist is just 24, and sits at second on the US all-time list behind Jenn Suhr, who managed a seventh-place showing in Rio. Suhr is 10 years Morris’s senior, but she hasn’t exactly slowed down in the probable twilight of her career; Suhr lowered the indoor world record last winter to 16-6, so it’s likely the Olympics were an off-competition for her.
So why is Morris the woman to watch here? Momentum, baby.
Morris was last in the occasionally skimmed track headlines for a silver medal. Couple that with her youth, and you’d be a fool to not expect her to claim the title at USATF outdoors. Plus, her lifetime best of 16-4¾ was set outdoors, and is the highest ever jump by an American not inside of a building. That’s just 1-¼ shy of Suhr’s AR/WR-hybrid. Morris only failed to win one of the six contests she entered this indoor season too, and naturally won the USATF meet in Albuquerque.
Suhr has been around longer, and boasts a more medal- and accolade-laden career. She even set the indoor world lead this winter and won three of the five meets she entered this season. But folks, you’re only as good as your last meet. And while Morris most recently made a splash for grabbing a national title in an underrated mid-sized US cities, Suhr created ripples with a mysterious Facebook screed explaining her late withdrawal from the same meet.
Momentum, baby. Game. Set. Morris.
And my prediction can’t lose!
If I’m right and Morris cements herself as the preeminent vaulter in the States, then I look like Nostra-fucking-damus.
If I’m wrong and Suhr and Morris have a series of vaulting duels this outdoor season, pushing each other to raise the bar quite literally, then that’s just fun to watch!
Men’s Shot Put
If we’re to believe Ray, the spastic child character from Jerry Maguire, then the human head weighs eight pounds.
Portrayed by Jonathan Lipnicki, Ray’s aesthetic is best described as “stuck a fork in an outlet and lived to tell the tale,” so perhaps we can discount the veracity of his claim on those grounds. But suppose this fictional five-year-old is right? What do we make of it? Eight pounds sounds light. And indeed, for most folks, eight pounds is fairly easy to heft above one’s head. But what about two human heads, which we’ll assume would combine to weight 16 pounds? Now we’re cooking with gasoline.
Now condense those two heads into an iron-y ball, and that’s a standard men’s shot put, approved for international competition.
If that doesn’t get you hyped up then maybe the next set of information will: last year, each of the ten farthest American tosses in the event came from the beefy hands of two men: Joe Kovacs and Ryan Crouser.
Crouser came out on top, securing Olympic gold on the strength of a 73-10¾ toss, while Kovacs placed right behind him in second. Yet in terms of lifetime bests, Kovacs’s mark of 74-¼ sits third on the US all-time list to Crouser’s sixth. The AR is 75-0, set in 1975 by the recently-departed Brian Oldfield. And you better believe both of these hunks have their sights set on rewriting the record book. Fans of American shotput, this will be a fun year for you. (Note: Track and Field News gives the American record to Oldfield because Barnes tested positive for steroids in the same year that he tossed his 75-10¼ world record.)
Women’s High Jump
Well if you’d told me when I sat down to poorly research and write this piece that it would be about dueling rivals across field events, all capable of setting a new American Record this outdoor season, I’d have probably been confused as to what you were talking about.
But that’s just where we’ve gone with this thing, so naturally, the women’s high jump shall be no different.
Chaunté Lowe vs. Vashti Cunningham.
Lowe’s jumped 6-8¾, which is the American Record. She got fourth at last year’s Olympics but medaled in Beijing. She’s a mother of two, and a recent masters graduate. She’s been doing this a while, having competed in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Cunningham’s 19, and won last year’s World Indoor Championships in a PB height of 6-6¼i. She’s a Las Vegas native, who went pro out of high school, and who has several close relatives who were also professional athletes. She’s still kinda new to this.
If you want, feel free to grab a pen and paper at this point and draw yourself a little graph, charting the two athletes’ probable career trajectories from this point in time onward. If they haven’t formally crossed yet, indicating a true changing of the guard, they soon will. It may not be this year, as Lowe looked like her old self this past outdoor season, but that’s good! That means we’ll get two of the best high jumpers in American history at several of the same meets, duking it out.
I may be an uninformed rube, but the high jump is extremely fun to watch. And while I have your attention, let me plug my great idea to make it an even more popular event: have real human beings of the same height as the bar stand underneath it during competition. The human high jump watermarks would wear plain white shirts with their height (in both feet and meters) clearly on display for additional context. Ideally they are celebrities. Imagine opening height requiring these women to bound over the 5’9″ Paul Giamatti!
Assuming the cats at USATF read this (they might!), we can expect both Lowe and Cunningham to delight us by leaping over recently retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant at a track meet near you soon.