Marquee Performers Share Insights, Track & Field Stars Poised For Championship Challenges by Dave Hunter

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Tracktown 2015, photo by PhotoRun.net

David Hunter wrote this piece on Thursday, as a bit of a preview of the USA Outdoors. It goes well for a nice, relaxed read as you battle the sun and heat in the track capital of Lane County (this was how James Dunaway referred to Eugene), Tracktown USA. 

Enjoy....
2015 USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships
Marquee Performers Share Insights
Track & Field Stars Poised For Championship Challenges

June 25th, 2015   
Eugene, Oregon   

On the eve of the USATF Outdoor Track & Field Championships - the most important domestic track and field gathering of 2015 - four of the sport's biggest stars took part in a pre-meet press conference  less than 24 hours before the battles on the track and in the field commence for the coveted positions on the tema that will represenet the United States at the IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Beijing later this summer.  Here is what the four had to say:

Christian Taylor, 2012 Olympic champion in the triple jump, on returning to compete in the U.S. in the long jump:  "It is always a pleasure to be back in Oregon .  I've been away for about three years now.  I moved overseas:  the first two years were in England.  It was quite an experience.  I am happy that my coach has allowed me to see the world.  And track and field is really in Europe. It has enabled me to compete more and to really fine tune my talents.  And now I have moved to Holland - with really great facilities.  But no matter what, it is really great to be back in the U.S. and to compete on U.S.  I am very excited to compete this weekend."

Emma Coburn, America record holder in the 3000m steeplechase, on running her first steeplechase of the year at these championships:  "It is a little strange not having an entry time for 2015.  But I have raced well in my first steeple of the year, usually.  I don't need a big rust-buster.  So I think it should be fun.  I am looking forward to getting back to my main event."  

Justin Gatlin, ranked #1 in the world in 2014 in the 100m and 200m and a wild card entrant to the world championships in the 100m, on competing only in the 200m:  "One thing I definitely love about being here in TrackTown USA is that you see so much energy in the crowds.  To be able to come out here not run just one race for everybody, but come out and to hopefully run 3 races is really a dream come true.  So the fans get what they want out of the 200.  I hope to come out here and put on a very good show."

Jasmin Stowers, world leader in the w100H, on her first year as a professional:  "It has definitely been a very interesting year so far.  I came out with a world leader in my first race.  That surprised me.  I am very glad to be here.  This is the first big time for me.  I want to go out there and perform well and make the world team.  I'll be out there and be competitive - and to make the world team would be amazing."

Taylor,  with a wild card entry into the triple jump in Beijing, on what he hopes to accomplish in this meet in the long jump:  "I love the long jump.  It's a lot of fun and it's a lot easier on my body than the triple jump.  It was a pretty easy decision on what I was going to do [in this meet].  My best jump is 8.19m [26'10½"] from 2009.  It bugs me.  I get really mental about old PB's. Not to take from anyone else, but for the triple jump my PB was from 2011 and that really bothered me.  Getting that [a new PB of:  18.04m/59'2¼"] this year was a big confidence boost  and showed that I was going in the right direction and hopefully that will  carry over toward the long jump.  It's going to be a solid field:  Marquis Goodwin is coming back out; and Jeff Henderson; Marquis Dendy - I have to talk about my fellow Gator.  Let's just go out there and have some fun.  Hayward Field is a very special place.  The crowd is always rocking.  So I hope I can use that in this spot."  And his thoughts about possibly competing in both events in Beijing:  "That's what comes down to my coach.  I trust him.  I just follow his lead.  I get to let him do all the thinking and I just go out there and do it."

More Taylor, on his flirtation with running 400m during last year's non-championship year:  "To be honest, my coach wasn't a big fan of the 400.  Since college, he's been trying to get me to just be a jumper.  But I have a love for the 400.  I have a lot of respect for the 400 and I've competed in it.  It's something I've really just held on to.  And it's usually a kind of reward:  If I do well in training or a do well in a meet, he'll say, Ok, go do a 400.'  But I think it is more just the mental strength that carries over.  The lactic that you get at the 300-350 mark - it's just mentally pushing through that.  That's what I take into my 5th or 6th round - that mental toughness I take.  If someone jumps further than me, that completive edge, to really challenge myself, to push myself to the limit that I didn't know I had."

Coburn, on how her 1500m racing helps her for the steeplechase:  "Luckily, Tom Jordan [meet director for the Prefontaine Classic] thinks I'm an OK 1500 meter runner so he put me in the field.  I ended up being the slowest American [her time:  4:05.10] , but I was still pretty happy with it.  It was a personal best.  I ran pretty close to that a year ago the week after running 9:12 [her steeplechase AR] so I am running a little bit more race sharp regarding the steeple.  I think I'm in that kind of shape again.  My workouts indicate I'm even faster than that.  So Pre was a great way to give me confidence to move forward.  But the 1500 meters is a whole different animal than the steeplechase.  It [the 1500] is a fun event but for me it is less painful than the steeplechase and there are fewer variables about things that can go wrong in the 1500.   I just have to focus on Thursday and Saturday - running my own race and using the race at Pre to give me confidence, but not to get too overconfident."

More Coburn, on how she can take it to the next level:  "Domestically, the women's steeplechase is the strongest it has ever been.  We have several women who have "A" standards in other events - proof that they are not just steeplechasers but they are very good runners all around.  The competition domestically is just going to get better and better.  So even though it has been 4 or 5 years since I have lost to an American, I don't count out this domestic field at all.  They are very competitive.  I can't dismiss any of those girls.  On the international level, for me it's about running aggressively and not being intimidated by them.  I think earlier in my international racing career, I looked down the line and was a little intimidated seeing Kenya, Ethiopia, and Russia on their jerseys.  Now I just have to think that I belong there and that on any given day I can beat them too.  So domestically, I think it is a little bit more fierce and internationally I'm feeling a little bit more at home racing those women."

More Coburn on the success of Wetmore-trained athletes in the steeple:  "I think coach Wetmore has done a really great job in developing steeplechasers into all around athletes.  I am an 8:40 - 8:45 3000 meter runner.  To me that is what a steeplechaser is.  That is more where their focus lies - just developing good runners in general."

Gatlin on what he hopes to accomplish in this meet in the 200m:  "I don't look at any individual going in - be it Tyson Gay or anyone else.  I think there are a lot of guys who have prepared themselves for this race.  I train with a couple of guys who have prepared hard and want to be on the team as well.  The thing about championships is it's about being the best you can be on that day.  There a lot of guys who sneak in, get on the podium, and make the team, and make a new career for themselves.  I watch out for those guys just as I watch for guys who are the veterans in the sport."

More Gatlin on his increased confidence this year in the 200:  "Last year when I ran in Monaco, it was a star-studded field.  I was basically there because I had a name, I wasn't projected to win or run very fast compared to go guys.  I think at Pre [last month] I had a little more confidence going in there and running fast.  I just wanted to get out there and be technically sound.  And that's what I wanted to do.  So at Pre, I just went out there and ran the curve very hard, and didn't run the home or the straightaway.  I am not a great curve runner, but I worked on certain things in the aspect of my race just trying to get better.  I ran very hard in the first half of the race, but coming home I got kinda "long" technically.  That kinda takes more energy out of me.  That's something I have to go home and work on - make sure I keep my turnover  going like I do in the 100 now, have a better turnover rate.  That's what I want to do in the 200 when I come out here as well: have great turnover and attack the last 20-30 meters."

Stowers on the depth of talent in the w100H:  "It could be a really deep field.  We had 6 in the top ten in the world [last year].  That means a lot - especially among Americans."

Taylor on his goals for the long jump in this meet:  "Everything is about the jump, no doubt.  I have so much fun with the long jump and when I am actually on the runway, it comes out.  I like to believe I have a lot more in store.  I believe it is like my 200 time.  I feel like it doesn't really reflect who I am and my ability.  That's only going to change when I make it happen.  I think the progression is there and everything is there.  It's just get on the board and make it happen. I'm in great shape and the competition is going to be there.  And I really feed off competition.  I like to get pressure on.  I like to get the fans into it.  I like it to be a production.  And so that's what I'm really going for.  I like being an entertainer.  People pay to come out and watch what I do.  So let's go."

Coburn on the recently-unveiled gender-segmented meet format used by the NCAA earlier this month:  "I prefer to have us compete together simply be being able to watch.  I think we are able to experience each other more and appreciate each other more."  

Gatlin on his hunger for a world title - which would be his first in a decade:  "I am getting ready for Beijing, to be able to go out there and run against some of the best in the world.  I want to get back to a world championship round like I did before 2013.  I want to just go out there and just prepare myself.  I've looked at my race which was in thunder, lightning, and rain in the 100 meters in Moscow.  And hopefully it doesn't do the same thing out in China.  Other than that, I am excited to go out there and run the best I can."

Tomorrow the waiting will be over.   These four will join dozens of other elite American athletes in the 4-day competition for coveted positions on the USA world team which will compete in the World Track & Field Championships later this summer in China.  

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Dave Hunter, who ran his marathon P.R. of 2:31:40 on the highly revered Boston Marathon course back in the Paleozoic era, is a track and field announcer, broadcaster, and journalist. To find out more about Dave, please visit www.trackandfieldhunter.com.

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