USATF Muddies Mile Heat Selection, Athletes Left Without Explanation
Obscure selections for 2014 USATF Indoor Championships heats raise long-standing questions about procedure of the sport's governing body.
by Jon Gugala
On Thursday evening, February 20, 2014, Riley Masters of the Brooks Beasts Track Club checked his lane assignment for the mile at the 2014 USATF Indoor Championships. While only one heat is scheduled on the USATF website, Masters had come to understand that there would be two.
One would be fast, the other slow.
The fast heat would be used to decide a national champion and, most importantly, a national team for the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in March. The slow heat would be an exhibition.
Masters scanned the fast heat of 12 or 13. Galen Rupp was on the list, though he didn't have a qualifying time. So was David Torrence, also without a time. Going into the championships, Masters he was ranked seventh overall by time with his 3:58.35 mile (https://www.usatf.org/Events---Calendar/2014/USA-Indoor-Track---Field-Championships/Status-of-Entries.aspx), ahead of Lopez Lomong (also on the list), and he says he "felt safe."
But his name wasn't on the list. Instead he'd been placed in the slow heat.
Masters wasn't allowed to take a picture of the heat sheets--the USATF official said they would forward it to his agent, which has not been confirmed--so Masters called his coach immediately to let him know about the situation.
"It's upsetting," Masters says. "I would like to be in the fast heat. I would like to take a shot at making the Worlds team. Someone made the decision to put me in the slow heat, and that truly is unfortunate. I really think I could compete well this weekend."
While he says he's "hopeful something can be done," at this point he's still a heat away from contention for a world team spot.
This situation is only the most recent example of the opaque nature of USATF policy. CEO Max Siegel overruled his unanimous Long Distance Running Committee in January to select Los Angeles as the site of the 2016 Olympic team trials marathon, drawing criticism from athletes who felt he was placing politics over the financial well being of the athletes.
USATF has not immediately responded for comment. RunBlogRun will update should their response become available.
In the meantime, Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey calls the situation "sad and frustrating," going on to say that the process is made to seem so straightforward online. "I can see why Galen Rupp is pushed into the fast heat, but it makes no sense why those other athletes were."
The Brooks Beasts meet for practice on Friday at 9:30 a.m. MST, at which point Mackey says he will be filing a formal protest if the issue has not been resolved. In the meantime, all Masters can do is wait.
"Hopefully something changes before then," Masters says. "The logic behind it, you have to assume it was a mistake. Common sense would say that I'd be in the fast heat, but unfortunately I'm not right now."