The Trials of Jim Dunaway, by Jim Dunaway, note by Larry Eder

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Eaton_AshtonSH-USAout.jpg
Ashton Eaton, 2011 USA Outdoor, photo by PhotoRun.net

Many of you have known James Dunaway through his sixty plus years of covering our sport. Dunaway decided, at the age of 85, he just would not be comfortable walking up and down the stairs of Hayward Field to cover his 15th Olympic Trials, I believe.

We asked Jim, instead, to review the TV broadcast each and every day, of the 2012 US Olympic Trials.

Our TV critic, James Dunaway, Editor of American Track and Field, has worked on hundreds of track and field telecasts for ABC, CBS and NBC's Triplecast, and has covered track and field action at fourteen Olympics.


Here is his first column.

The Trials of Jim Dunaway

 

A week ago I decided to skip the Olympic Trials for the first time since 1972. I had a press credential, and I had several reporting assignments, but I also was having some serious problems with allergies. And 10 days in Eugene is no way to deal with allergies.

 

Then I was asked write this column, with the object of reviewing and appraising what I heard and saw of the Trials

on TV, and when appropriate, suggesting improvements.

 

Tonight was to be my debut as a TV critic. I was expecting to see two hours of streaming video on NBCSN (NBC Sports Network, formerly Versus). But after a mixup with my cable company - a mixup I helped cause - my streaming didn't stream, my video didn't vid, and I was left to glean what information I could from the summaries.

 

And you know what? The summaries are pretty damn good. They're on the USATF web site, and tonight's looked like this:

 

June 22

Friday June 22

 Status

Start Time

Event

Round

Start List

Results

 Completed

2:20pm

Women's Discus Throw

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

3:10pm

Men's 400 Meter Dash

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

3:35pm

Women's 400 Meter Dash

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

5:00pm

Women's 800 Meter Run

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

5:20pm

Men's 800 Meter Run

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Cancelled

5:30pm

Women's Pole Vault

Prelim

Start List

 

 Completed

5:40pm

Women's 100 Meter Hurdles

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

5:45pm

Men's Long Jump

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

6:00pm

Women's 100 Meter Dash

Prelim

Start List

Result

 Completed

6:45pm

Men's 10000 Meter Run

Final

Start List

Result

 Completed

7:20pm

Women's 10000 Meter Run

Final

Start List

Result

 

When you click on "result" for an event, you get a lot of information. Take the heats of the women's 800 meters, for example. First you see all the entrants in the event ranked by their first-round results, with a "Q" or a "q" indicating that they have advanced to the next round. Scroll down and you'll see the finish order of each of the four heats, which gives you an idea of how each heat was run, and who beat who or lost to who.

 

And if you were surprised, as I was, to see that Erica Moore, the 2012 World Indoor bronze medalist, finished fifth in Heat 4, you can click on "View Splits," and see each runner's time and place every 200 meters. And you can see that Moore, despite running what seems to have been a somewhat sluggish race, was still in contention at 600 meters - 5th but less than 4 meters behind the leader - but just didn't have the finishing kick to make the top three.

 

As I went through the list of results, I found myself, like a poker player looking at his cards, slowly, slowly, one by one, peeking first to see the top performer, then scrolling down to see the second best result and then, after wondering, "What the hell happened to soandso?!" slowly revealing, one by one, the others in the event.

 

Then I would look more closely at the non-qualifiers, to see if any of the year's top performers hadn't made the cut.

 

Finally, I was down to the last two events, the day's only finals, the men's and women's 10,000. Once you've digested the results, you can use the 400-meter splits to analyze what happened, and build a real mental re-creation, lap by lap, almost as if you were watching if unfold. In the women's 10,000, you can use the splits to see how Lisa Uhl stayed close to her training partner Shalane Flanagan, and how when leaders Amy Hastings and Natosha Rogers picked up the pace at 8,000 meters, Uhl was able to follow Flanagan and finish fourth, unless Rogers has picked up an "A" qualifier of 31:45 that I don't know about, means that Uhl will be on the U.S. team going to London.

 

Similarly, looking at the men's 10,000 splits, you can see how Chris Derrick lost contact with Galen Rupp, Matt Solinsky and Dathan Ritzenhein also at 8,000 meters, and despite a sizzling 62-second last lap, couldn't catch the top three.

 

In other words, as Yogi Berra said, "You can see a lot just by looking."

 

Don't get me wrong. I'm eagerly awaiting Saturday's and Sunday's one-hour NBC telecast, and I just wish they were going to be two hours.

 

In the meantime, I'm just gonna make lemonade.

 

Jim

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