This Week In Track and Field: What We Think Of World Athletics' Changes

On this week’s show, Chris Chavez, Kyle Merber and Mac Fleet do quite a bit of problem-solving and explain recent rule changes by World Athletics including their decision to rename indoor track to ‘short track’ and removing the time qualifiers for the distance races at the World Championships. We also look into the United States’ path to getting a man to qualify for the Olympic marathon.

Our thoughts on the latest news and headlines:

World Athletics Renames Indoor Track To Short Track

“You can imagine what it could be and that’s pretty cool. Courtyards and open spaces in urban areas now have the potential to create an electric atmosphere but it has to be a big enough production around it for people to be excited for it. If it’s just some rinky-dink, badly-built track that’s dangerous then that’s not going to work. I like the ceiling potential.” - Mac Fleet

“I have long argued that it’s really easy to create a cool atmosphere indoors because you need half the number of fans to line the track, which we struggle to do outdoors quite often. We can do it indoors or now, we can do it anywhere.” – Kyle Merber

“The change is coming from the top at World Athletics but it’s going to be a while before I think we have high school kids saying, ‘Hey, I’m signing up for short track this season.’” – Chris Chavez

World Athletics Is Getting Rid Of The Time Qualifier For Distance Races

“Everyone who understands anything about track and field should be in support of this rule. It’s a real litmus test of whether you deserve to have opinions on track and field. This is the most universally-beloved thing that World Athletics has done in such a long time. I do think that they gave us the repêchage heats so they could eventually take it away to similar applause. It’s simple. You show up to watch the World Championships as a fringe fan. You no longer have to sit there and calculate the decimals from the previous couple of heats if the guy from your country made it through. That was too complicated.” – Kyle Merber

“There were a lot of people thinking that everyone is just going to jog now. I think it’s the opposite. Before, if you knew your heat was slow then you’d double down and run even slower. The field would say, ‘OK. We’re not going to be the time qualifiers immediately.’ Now, it’s equal for everyone and there isn’t one heart influencing another...Now, you have to think, ‘What is giving me the best shot in this race.’ Since 2016, the 1500m has gotten way faster. People don’t mess around and run 62 or 60 seconds for the first lap anymore. The fitter guys will go to the front and run hard. I would wager that heats will be faster in this format than previously.” – Mac Fleet

The United States Men’s Marathoners Need Fast Times, Big Performances Soon For Paris Olympics

The problem could be fixed if World Athletics published their Road To Paris tool before the fall, which is when they plan on releasing it so that we can get an idea of rankings. The rankings require two top performances and right now the American men would have three men in that top 65 position and therefore be OK. But, those three men do not have two performances within the Olympic qualifying window so we don’t know where everyone sits and what needs to be done. That’s the big question mark.

I was talking to a top agent who told me that he thinks: ‘U.S. is going to be fine. We’re going to have three men ranked in the top 65.’ But, that does require a number of people to go and run well this fall. If everyone is sitting back and thinking that the beginning of February is too close to the fall marathons so they’ll just let someone else knock out the ranking and they’ll just beat them on the day that it counts – then that’s where we run into an issue.

If you don’t think you can go run 2:08:10, then finishing pretty high up at something like the World Championships – which has the biggest number of bonus points available can help secure the U.S. men’s ranking that we need. I’m on the team that hopes our best guys go to the World Championships and let’s hope that they run well there. Budapest is a great opportunity because it’s a flat, fast 10K course and the conditions at the end of August are pretty good at 7 a.m. Another race that people will be targeting if they still want an appearance fee then Berlin and Chicago are good options. It starts to get close but can be done. I don’t want to be too alarmist.

If I had to be a betting man, everyone is going to do what they need to do in order to get three guys to Paris. If things stay as they are and everyone is just waiting for three guys to go and do it, then there’s a high likelihood that no one goes to the Games.” – Kyle Merber

“How does a person who doesn’t follow running understand this? I’m struggling to understand how we get people to qualify!?” – Mac Fleet

“I wanted to put the conspiracy theorist hat on this one and why doesn’t Chicago trim down on the number of international elite runners invited to this year’s race and then you’ll have a better chance of putting three Americans in the top 5 – so they get the qualifying mark via the Platinum Marathon finish. Just a thought. It doesn’t have to look all that obvious. Invite the defending champion back and then maybe a handful of other international athletes but make it American-heavy.” – Chris Chavez

What race we’re looking forward to this weekend…

That Rabat men’s 1500m has a stacked field. It’s close to a World Championship final kind of race.” – Mac Fleet

This men’s 100m! This is an Olympic-final style 100m with Marcell Jacobs and Fred Kerley, who have been talking crap. I hope that they don’t give each other a high-five or a handshake after the race. I hope that they actually don’t like each other.” – Kyle Merber

“I’m here for the Sha’Carri Richardson show in LA.” – Chris Chavez

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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.

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