Wednesday, June 11, 2008

400-meter Hurdle “Run Down”

Is this the year that Kerron Clement breaks the world record of 46.78? The 400 hurdles is the next in what seems to be an endless number of events in which the U.S. is extremely deep. So far this year, Kerron has a season’s best of 47.79. He ran this time back on May 3 in Kingston, Jamaica.

Kerron has blinding speed and is arguably one of the most physically gifted athletes on the pro circuit. However, his one weakness is a hurdling technique that he and his new coach, Bob Kersee, are working to improve. Up until now, he hasn’t had to be concerned with his technique, because Clement has been winning by wide margins. But if he gets on the ropes in a tight race, his sub-par technique could be the margin of difference between winning and losing.

Bershawn “Batman” Jackson (48.15) is close to breaking the 47 second barrier this season-- his personal best is 47.30. Runners with something to prove are dangerous. The 5 foot, 8 inch runner is on a mission to prove that he is worthy to be amongst today’s great 400 hurdles after his meltdown at the ’07 World Championships when he failed to make the finals.

The 400 hurdles is one of the most intriguing events this Olympic year, because so many questions remain about the younger runners. After Clement and “Batman”, the remainder of the U.S. field is extremely talented, but lacks experience at the international level. In fact, many of the hurdlers are talented collegiate athletes new to the international scene.

The three factors affecting the success of collegiate runners in the post-NCAA season is how well they react to the big stage, how they handle the enormous pressure, and how many races they have run during the year. Keep in mind that in ’04, Jeremy Wariner won the indoor NCAAs, outdoor NCAAs, USA Outdoor Nationals, and the Olympic Games. So, it is entirely possible to see some blazing competition out of these hurdlers.

This is the second year for Michael Tinsley (48.84) on the pro circuit. The former ’06 NCAA Champion from Jackson State University has ran well this season.

Justin Gaymon(48.53) is new to the elite scene. A junior from the University of Georgia, Gaymon is a hurdler seeking to leap past the competition and make a name for himself.

Is it time for freshmen Johnny Dutch (48.68) to be the next in a long line of superstars from the University of South Carolina hurdlers? Coach Frye has produced Allen Johnson and Terrence Tremmell. Dutch will attempt to launch his career on the international scene with a top three finish at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

This kid is a big time athlete. Robert Griffin (49.23) of Baylor University is a two-sport star who is planning on playing football for the Bears this fall. He has a major asset in Coach Clyde Hart who knows a little something about preparing collegiate athletes for the Olympic Trials.

By Jay Hicks.

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