Ferdinand Omanyala, photo by Kip Keino Classic LOC
This weeks’ Deji’s Doodles, Deji writes about the pride of Kenyan sprinting, Ferdinand Omanyala, Fred Kerley, Shericka Jackson and the Penn Relays. This is a column where Deji opines about the deep thoughts in the sport for that week.
Omanyala relieving the form of last season, Kerley and Jackson have to pick their events early and the Penn Relays promises to thill in late April.
As the Track and Field outdoor season continues to gain momentum after what was a spectacular indoor season that cumulated in Belgrade, Africa’s fastest man, Ferdinand Omanyala, continues to rack up races under his belt as he notched up another win in South Africa, Fred Kerley and Shericka Jackson are showing their prowess over the full range of sprints while the Penn Relays later this month is set to be the highlight of this month.
Ferdinand Omanyala continues from where he left off last season.
Ferdinand Omanyala ended the season on a flourish last season. It felt strange, considering no male African sprinter could make a mark on the World stage last season, with the pinnacle of the Tokyo Olympics. Regardless, Omanyala’s emergence to finish the season as the second-fastest man in the World in 2021 made many tongues wagging. Who is this Kenyan? Where did he pop out from? 9.77… We couldn’t wait for the thrill that 2022 would bring.
Ferdinand Omanyala, photo by Kip Keino Classic LOC
And it didn’t take long. Although the Kenyan didn’t get to the final of the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, most observers didn’t expect him to blow his opponents out of the waters considering it was new terrain for him. Still, he put up a show by getting to the semifinals.
However, where Omanyala is looking to blossom is his form outdoors. So far, it is going pretty well. On Thursday, he clocked a modest 10.11 to win the ASA Athletics Grand Prix in Potchefstroom, South Africa. The time isn’t that special as he controlled the race from start to finish, while he seemed to have eased off at the end of the line. A month back, he had run 10.00 in Nairobi.
What does this tell us on the surface level? Nothing much, really. He isn’t even the fastest African this season. That mantle belongs to Ghana’s Benjamin Azamati (One which I wrote about here).
A deeper look at what Omanyala could offer is worth taking a bite at. This time last year, he had already broken Kenya’s National Record at the Making of Champions Grand Prix in Lagos, where he ran 10.01. Judging by his form, he’s on the right trajectory to reach the heights of last season. This time, with a better experience of what to expect at a major championship.
Fred Kerley and Shericka Jackson seem to be the ultimate sprinters but still…
Fred Kerley, 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials, photo by Kevin Morris / @kevmofoto
What makes the ultimate sprinter? Is it an athlete’s ability to run the 100m, 200m, and 400m in the famed sub-10s, the 20s, and 45s for men or sub, 10.8s, 22s, and 50s for women, or is their ability to continually dominate one of the three sprints?
On a basic level, the common idea is to tilt towards the former. How possible is it to build a training plan that makes an athlete excel over the three events? It seems impossible. Not to USA’s Fred Kerley and Jamaica’s Shericka Jackson. They seem to have cracked the code. But not without consequences.
Kerley already has raced to 9.99, 20.04, and 44.47 over this distance, and we are still in early April. He quickly gets in as one of the favorites to win any significant race over these distances going by his 2021 standards.
The same goes with Jackson. A large chunk of her World championship medals and her Olympic bronze medal from 2016 came in the 400m. Last season, she popped up and gave the likes of Elaine Thompson-Herah and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce a run for their money over the 100m and 200m. In fact, she only raced thrice over the 400m before setting her sights on the shorter sprints.
Shericka Jackson, Meeting de Paris 2021, photo courtesy of Sport.De
The thing is, being that good at all three events comes with its downside. First off, picking one or two events to focus on at a major championship comes with its perks. The timing and scheduling always seem to clash. The Oregon22 schedule makes a 100/200 or 200/400 double possible, but the 400m heats go off the morning of the 100m final. Something has to give.
Also, it’s almost impossible to be the top athlete in all three sprints at any given time. Top-level athletics will simply not allow it. Thompson-Herah found that out the hard way when she ran a 51.29 on the 2nd of April over the 400m. And she’s unarguably the best sprinter over the 100 and 200m in the last year.
Kerley and Jackson will eventually have to pick from the three. Yes, it isn’t fair they find themselves in such a situation, but something has to give.
The Penn Relays promises to delight this month with the women’s 600m the main course
Penn Relays, photo by Penntoday.upenn.edu
For 125 years, Penn Relays has been one of the premier events in track and field. Jesse Owens, Usain Bolt, Roger Banister, Wilma Rudolph, and Alyson Felix are some of the legendary athletes to compete in this meet.
It’s special. Held annually at the University of Pennsylvania, America’s largest amateur track meet promises to feature some of the biggest stars this year, with the women’s 600m-an event that is rarely run, set to be the biggest thrill of what is expected to be a large audience in Philadelphia.
Olympic 800m Gold medalist Athing Mu, Ajeé Wilson, Natoya Goule, Sadi Henderson, Olivia Baker, Nia Akins, Jazmine Fray, and Sophia Gorriaran have all been confirmed to race over the 600m.
It’s a straight-up battle between Mu and Wilson. Mu easily comes out top, knowing how adept she is over the range of 400m to 800m, unlike Wilson, who is more of an 800m specialist. The question now is whether can take down Caster Semenya’s 1:21.77 from 2017.
To add to the main course, Felix has confirmed she will be racing over the 300m, a decision that brought into question if she actually hopes to go all the way to the National Trials ahead of the World Champs or if she just wants to show up. Also, NCAA athletes across the country will look to leave their mark at Franklin Field, hoping to add their names among the Penn Relays legends.