Every season, thousands of enthusiastic fans watch track meets, guessing which elite runners will separate themselves from the pack.
The difficulty for fans is separating pretenders from contenders. New talent is always coming out of the college ranks, and some existing professional runners may have break-out seasons.
Prerace Jitters has the list of the hottest new and upcoming track runners that will pop their collars in this year’s season. Check out these unsung runners now, or run the risk of being left in the dust when they blow up.
- Natasha Hastings - 400 M
- Donald Thomas - High jumper
- Carmelita Jeter - 100 M
- Jaysuma Saidy Ndure - 200 M
- Asbel Kiprop - 1,500 M
- Craig Mottram - 5,000 M
Some runners are born great, others just have to work harder. Hastings, a University of South Carolina alum, proved by winning indoor and outdoor NCAA Champions and placing second at U.S. Nationals that she is an elite quarter-miler. The only question is whether Natasha is prepared to take on the challenge of facing 400-meter sensation Sanya Richards. We’ll find out this season if she’s a natural – or a talented hard worker.
Donald “No Spikes” Thomas has accomplished more in under two years since picking up high jumping than other folks dream of doing in an entire career. This Bahamian native, who trains at Auburn by way of Lindenwood College, near St. Louis, has come a long way in a short period of time. This 2007 World Champion cleared 7 feet-8 ½ inches during a fairy tale season that left us imagining what he might do when he gets out of pole vault shoes and starts jumping in high jump shoes with spikes in the heel.
Jeter’s debut on the international circuit made two things clear: First, she has played it cool and fought through a chronic problem with her right hamstring. Next, female sprinters have been put on notice. As good as she ran last season, it is now clear that a sub-11-second race is around the corner. Her 2007 bronze medal at Worlds may be the prelude to much greater things.
Who says Norway has no chance to medal in Beijing? Well, whoever it is, they obviously have never heard of Jaysuma Saidy Ndure. The Gambian-turned-Norwegian national may keep the 200-meters in Beijing from being a U.S. vs. Jamaica duel.
Jaysuma smashed the Norwegian 200-meter record running a blistering 19.89 seconds in Stuttgart to win the World Athletics Final. He did not get cleared to run for Norway until after the 2007 World Championships in Osaka. With that matter now settled, he may be the sprint medalist in Beijing whom you’ve never heard of . . . until now.
Only 18, Kiprop is heir apparent to the Kenyan distance dynasty. The 1,500-meter specialist has been described as “brilliant” and “essential” by those in the know. He won the World Junior Cross Country title, the All-Africa Games 1,500 meter crown and took 4th at the 2007 World Championships, where he beat American Alan Webb. Now Kiprop has become a “senior” athlete and is ready to take over the 800 and 1,500 meters in Beijing.
Craig Mottram is not a new face to die-hard track fans, but he is relatively unknown to the casual fan. Mottram is looking to change that. At the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, he became the first non-African to medal in the 5,000 meters since 1987. Last year, he posted some blistering times and while earning the respect of usually territorial Kenyan and Ethiopian runners, who are known to team run to cut an impudent challenger down. Earning this new found respect is a remarkable feat. But a hamstring injury slowed him to place 13th in the 5,000 meters at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka.
The big stage of the Olympic Games has been known to swallow athletes whole. Mottram has shown flashes of brilliance since 2004, but questions remain about whether he can have a brilliant season when it matters most.
By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist