Taking It To The Streets | Atlanta City Games

By Kyle Merber

May 10, 2023

What’s the insurance premium like when hosting a street meet? Racing, let alone hurdling, on a makeshift track that wasn’t there yesterday and won’t be there tomorrow is a potential workplace hazard in the making. Thankfully everyone made it out of the adidas Atlanta City Games alive. But there was an occasional bad step on the track that threw some athletes off for a stride (if you ran in lane four then don’t worry, I saw you!).

As always, I never know what to make of a meet that isn’t “real” like this, although these times are legitimate and will count for rankings. I don’t think Sam Prakel is going to need to use that first-place finish in 4:03 for anything, however, it was cool to see the US road mile champ battle it out with the BAA road mile champ, Hobbs Kessler. There should be a polka-dot jersey like in cycling for whoever is the reigning best road miler, except it should have two solid yellow lines down the middle.

It was interesting to have prelims and finals for the 100 and hurdles as that’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see at a conventional meet, and not at an athlete showcase or brand activation, which is what this ostensibly was. Well, that’s clearly not how the athletes approached it, considering Aleia Hobbs ran 10.93 (+1.2) and Oblique Seville posted a 9.99 (-0.2). Okay, so the timing component is sort of complicated as Grant Holloway’s 13.01 (0.0) – which is very fast, even for him this early – and Tia Jones’ 12.46 (+1.0) won’t be certified since the track was not officially marked out.

The premier event of the evening in billing and in results was the 150m, all straight, no curve! Now I don’t have the slightest clue what a good time is here. Simple math for the men looks like this: 10 seconds is good for the 100m, and 20 seconds is good for the 200m, so 15 seconds is good, right? It is helpful to note that the straightaway world records are 14.35 by Usain Bolt and 16.23 for Shaunae Miller-Uibo.

Maybe it was because she is undefeated this year over the 100, 200, 300, and 400, or maybe it was because I am a big denim guy and think she won the red carpet fashion spotlight, but Gabby Thomas was my favorite coming in. But this is why we run the races! And Tamari Davis ran it well, winning in 16.44 and backing up her pair of 10.8s from earlier in the season. Davis finished a painful fourth place at last year’s US Championships, but looks well-positioned this year to make it over the hump. Although she has been a professional since January 2020, we all probably need to be reminded on occasion that Davis is just 20 years old. Probably wasn’t even invited to the real after-party and had to go drink an OLIPOP with Erriyon and Hobbs and a chaperone…

And on the men’s side, Noah Lyles came out guns blazing and put on a show that lasted much longer than his 14.56-second race. Knighton ultimately finished second, but Ferdinand Omanyala was the one who gave Lyles the best scare. While most definitely a short sprint specialist, the Kenyan star, who just ran 9.78 (+2.3) to win in Botswana, was leading through halfway. It wasn’t until just before the 100m mark that Lyles finally overtook him, when the final 50m highlighted a devastating difference of endurance.

Running without the curve takes away Knighton’s greatest strength, but regardless, this was a significant improvement from his 10.13 (+3.3) at LSU a week earlier. I would imagine that after last year’s 19.49 in April, the approach this year has been a bit more conservative early on. He told Katelyn Hutchison before the race that he considers this is his first real pro season and that he has finally discovered the weight room.

The Diamond League will never receive the official Lap Count stamp of approval for turning its final into a street meet. But this is not that – Atlanta was just for fun. We may not know what a good 150m time is, and we may not know if the hurdles were placed in the right position. But what we do know is that much like the IKEA track, times are fleeting, but beating rivals head to head is forever.

Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.