2012 USATF National Meeting

I just got back from the 2012 USATF National Meeting in Daytona Beach. Boy, what a new learning experience! I’m grateful to the Oklahoma USATF Association for giving me the opportunity to go and represent other elite athletes. I’ll break it down on what I learned and got out of the whole experience.

What is USATF?

USATF is the National governing body for Youth/Open/Master’s track & field, cross country, road racing, race walking, and mountain/ultra/trail (MUT) racing. While there is the National governing body, they are the umbrella organization to the state/regional USATF associations. Some of the many functions of the USATF include sanctioning races (liability), certifying courses, hosting championships at the regional/national levels, education, coaching certification, and offering grants and services to elite athletes. Having USATF membership acts as “insurance”, discounts on products, eligibility to compete in USATF Championships, and sometimes discounts on race entries.

I’ve learned the higher I go in the sport, the more USATF and the politics of the sport impact me. This is the first time Okla. has ever had and sent an athlete at my level to the National meeting. There was definitely a learning curve! For example, I was registered for the meeting as “Okla. Women’s Track & Field”. Technically women’s T&F only covers up to 10K, whereas women’s LDR covers my event groups. It wasn’t until I went to vote in the elections that we discovered I was representing the wrong group and could only vote for the general/presidential election. Apparently my association should have contacted Dexter McCloud (AAC Secretary) or Jon Drummond (AAC Chair) to get me registered as an AAC rep– the Athlete Advisory Committee. This would have given me greater voting power, so I could vote as an athlete in ~LDR elections. We didn’t know the procedures, but now we know! It was a bummer I couldn’t vote in the elections that directly impacted me (BUT…. I was able to talk to the other delegates and influence their vote! :)).

Anyways, if any of you have an interest in getting involved with USATF at the regional or national level, you should contact the appropriate people to be an AAC rep and have athlete voting power. Also, the National AAC reps for USATF are listed. These are the people who represent the interests of the athletes with the National association. I met Kelly Flathers at the National meeting, and she’s great! She was an elite marathoner ~10 years ago, representing the US Team in the ’03 Pan American Games.

If there’s anyone who WON this past weekend, it was the athletes, both with those elected and new rules. We have two new LDR Chairs, both of whom were former athletes and understand their concerns– Ed Torres is the new men’s LDR chair (replacing Glenn Latimer) and Kim Keenan-Kirkpatrick for women’s LDR (whom helped me a lot at the Pan American Games). Also, Bill Roe is the new LDR Division chair, beating out Glenn Latimer. As Jim Gerweck noted on Twitter, “Bill is more inclusive and democratic”, whereas Glenn ruled Men’s LDR by “decree”. Another +1 for the athletes!

What was discussed

Ok, if anyone has noticed, USATF is a little slow to update their website and get information out there [edit: kudos to Dexter McCloud for updating the newly-elected AAC rep list!). Furthermore, it seems like they’re sometimes out-of-touch with the athletes. This is why more athletes need to attend the National meeting… to know what’s going on and spread the word (SOCIAL MEDIA) to other athletes!!! Can’t rely on updates from USATF, when it might be several months/YEARS for them to update things like their calendar, contact info, and meeting minutes.

What I got out of it is that a lot of the decision making is done “behind closed doors”, via conference calls and board meetings. By the time things go to the National meeting for discussion, the powers-that-be have already pretty much made up their minds, and we can’t really influence them to change anything. It’s more like ‘things are announced’ at the National meeting. Soooo… I’m planning to contact Kim to see if I can sit-in on their conference calls and add input. If anyone else is interested in this, I’d suggest doing the same.

  • Bob Hersh– Bob is the USATF liason to the IAAF. He updated us on a few things. First off, the IAAF is looking at moving the World Half Marathon Championship to the spring or a later date, to free up those running a fall marathon. They are thinking about tying it to a major marathon, to have the ‘big city’ environment (rather than flying athletes to a random place such as ~Bulgaria). There was a lot of discussion about flying athletes in earlier, so they get acclimated to the time change. This obviously comes down to funding and whether USATF or the race host would make those accomodations.

There was also talk about how WADA is looking at moving to a 4 year drug ban. The biggest holdup is trying to get around European law.

He talked about the Olympic marathon course and how it wasn’t great for the athletes. The course was designed to showcase London and be spectator friendly.

  • Virginia Brophy-Achman (Now the former chair of women’s LDR)– Virginia talked about how the Open age category was being changed from 14 to 16, to be in line with men. Apparently at one time (1980s?) it was thought that because women developed earlier than men, they should have a younger minimal age.
  • Linda Barnhart– Linda is the chair of the Athlete Development Program (ADP). Linda talked about the ADP program and how it funds athletes for $150-200 travel, hotel, meals, and entry to US Championships. They’ll fund up to 3 athletes per US Championship. There’s certain time standards that need to be met, and they generally consider “developmental” athletes from ages 18-29 (although this is negotiable). I’ll post the page info about the ADP program to the left.
  • I wish I had known about this program when I was 29 and younger! I got some of my travel paid to US Championships when I ran for Team Indiana Elite. However, being ‘independent’ now, I can’t justify going to a US Championship and being financially ‘in the hole’, if I don’t have a shot at placing top 10. I enjoy many of the US Championships though and think they do a fine job of putting on first-class events. I’m glad to see there’s a program in place that financially helps athletes have competitive opportunities.
  • I learned about the website www.rrtc.net , which has everything you’d want to know about course certification. The umbrella committee for this is the Road Running Technical Council– had no idea they existed either.
  • Hy-Vee– apparently Hy-Vee, a grocery store in Iowa that sponsors triathlete events, is sponsoring the Drake Relays. They are pumping a TON of money into the track events, along with $120,000 for road events– 1 mile, 10K, HM, and 6K.
  • Running USA– Running USA is an organization that’s intended to help promote and market the sport. It’s board of directors consists of 6 event reps, 6 corporate members, and 3 at-large positions. They give out grants, awards, and also do surveys (‘state of the sport’).
  • Barbara Palma- Barbara serves as the Women’s LDR liason for Organizational services. I’m honestly not sure what this committee’s purpose is, but she said they need more young women to get involved.
  • There was discussion on whether to approve the LDR chair should serve a 2 year or 4 year term. They voted, and the vote was split, but 4 year term won.
  • Bob Larsen- I really enjoyed hearing Bob talk about Meb. He talked about the less-than-ideal preparation for Meb, leading up to the Trials. He also talked about Meb’s blister problems, which he contributed to his shoes shifting him from a heelstrike (in his prior shoes with Nike) to more of a midfoot/forefoot strike (in his Skechers) and how that created extra pressure/friction on the balls of his feet (to go along with all the turns of the London course= blister heaven).

THE BIGGIES:

  • My biggest reason for wanting to attend the National meeting was to sit in on the discussions about the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials standards. To give some background– we were surveyed after the 2012 Olympic Trials on what we thought the 2016 standards should be. I did a lengthy statistical analysis with my thoughts here . My impression is they had already made up their minds, through the survey/in executive committee/through conference calls, BEFORE they got to the National meeting for open discussion. Thus, we couldn’t really influence them to change their minds. I’ve come to the conclusion that I want to be in on these conference calls, so I can offer input.

What they decided on is setting the standards according to the Olympic standards:

  • 2:15/2:18 and 2:37/2:43 A and B standards
  • 1:05/1:15 HM B standards
  • No 10K standard
  • Possibly 3 guaranteed spots  (?) from 25K Champs, in line with HM standards
  • Window opens next year on Aug. 1st, to allow those running at the World Championship to qualify, and closes 30 days before the Olympic Trials.
  • They’ll solicit bids for the site next year

I’m in full agreement with the marathon standards that were set. I’m all for equality/equal fields– based on these standards you’d have 109 women and 120 men qualify from the 2012 qualifying lists. Given how large the fields were in 2012, I believed they needed to tighten the standards. I’ve heard people argue that tightening the standards this much hurts development– I disagree. The field sizes continue to grow, even with gradually tightened standards, with more and more women and men running under 2:43 and 2:18, respectively.

There are always breakthroughs and exceptions to the rule, but a woman just under 2:43 could have a legitimate shot of making the Olympic Team (as happened in 2008 with Magdalena, who qualified with 2:42). Ironically, Desi in 2008 would NOT have made the Olympic Trials with the new standards. The marathon is largely a developmental sport, so people need to understand if they don’t hit the B standard this time around, they should continue to work hard and train consistently, to develop to that point (and beyond). On the whole though, the Olympic Trials should be an honorable achievement, and it’s priority is to select the Olympic Team.

I’m in disagreement with the HM standards. I tried to point out in the LDR meeting that 1:05 equals 1:16:10 for a woman, based on the IAAF performance lists and equivalents. They argued that they used the 2012 US HM Championships as their model for determining the standards. From a statistical standpoint, I’d rather rely on several YEARS of data, rather than a single race! I predict that the 2016 men’s field will be larger than the women’s field, as more men will pursue the “weaker” HM standard and have more potential shots at qualifying, as happened in 2012 (which btw, equates to 2:19:53 according to the IAAF scoring tables). On the other hand, most women will pursue the marathon standards, since their HM standard is tougher (1:15 equals 2:40:49)– they’ll have less shots at qualifying.

My friend Jake did an excellent analysis on the standards and prior history. I was messaging him while I was in the LDR meetings. Judging by the 1992 standards, 2:20 and 2:45 produced similar field sizes– I would have agreed to these standards, if the LDR people were open to looser standards (Kim brought up 2:45 as the woman’s B standard to help developmental athletes). One point he made was that he thought they should open the qualifying window at the 2013 US Half Marathon Championship.

It was discussed in the LDR meetings that they didn’t want to open the window too early, as people ~retire, lose interest, get hurt, and quit the sport. A good example of this is Ed Torres, who ironically is now the men’s LDR chair and qualified in 2008 but retired soon after (he attended the 2012 Trials, for free, but didn’t compete). When I look at the 2009 Twin Cities results (the first qualifier), it’s amazing how many of those women have gone off the deep end! Furthermore, the ‘success rate’ of those who qualified through the HM is NOT GOOD– 33% of men and 38% of women who qualified with a 10K/HM time DNFed at the 2012 Trials.

As far as who might bid? I talked to Ed one-on-one about this. It sounds like NYC hasn’t been interested at all. Twin Cities is hosting the US Championship in 2013 and 2014, so I’d be curious if they would potentially host the Olympic Trials. The timing of the event is key! I personally wouldn’t mind Houston hosting the Trials again– it was a reasonably affordable place for Trials participants and their friends/family. If you’re interested in adding input, I’d suggest contacting Ed/Kim about getting in on their conference calls…. and attending the USATF meeting next year!

My second reason for attending was to know the 2013 and beyond events. As many of you may have noticed, USATF isn’t the most punctual at updating their event calendars (and their whole website in general). Some events are already in the calendar, so we only talked about newly bid events. What I’m about to list is what was discussed in Women’s LDR– I do NOT know if these are the same events for men, and I definitely don’t know the Master’s calendar (which was a separate meeting).

    • Drake Relays, 1 mile for 2013 and 2014
    • Twin Cities, 1 mile for 2015 and 2016
    • Peachtree 10K, 2013-2014
    • Tufts 10K, 2015-2016
    • Gate River 15K, 2013-2016
    • New Haven 20K, 2013-2016
    • Fifth Third Bank 25K, 2013-2016
    • Twin Cities Marathon, 2013-2014
    • Tufts 10K– planning to host a 10K Team Championship for 2013-2014, Bring up to 5 and score 3
    • Shamrock 8K in Chicago, Team Championship with 3-woman teams
    • Cherry Blossom 10 mile, still in discussion (don’t know what they decided) for 2013
    • Grandma’s/Gary Borjkland HM, 2013 (already in calendar)
  • Logo rules– they tossed out the logo rules for USATF events, so you can wear whatever you want! IAAF and USOC logo rules will only apply to those sanctioned events (~Olympic Trials).
  • They passed a rule where they will never lower the Olympic Trials standards beyond the Olympic A and B standards. This is a GREAT rule, as some countries (CANADA) have standards that are next to impossible to achieve and hurt athlete development.
  • They had discussions with athletes from various events on how to decide a tiebreaker. I don’t know if they’ve come to a decision yet.

AAC Meeting

Lastly, I attended a few of the AAC meetings. I felt a bit out of place here, as most of the athletes were sprinters/jumps/throws/multi/race walkers. In general, I felt a bit out of place at the whole USATF meeting– track and field is like a wholllleeee other sport from road racing! They voted on all the different AAC positions, who sit in on various meetings and attend meets/meetings to offer athlete input. As I mentioned, the women’s LDR go-to person is Kelly Flathers. I had a great time talking and spending time with Kelly.

There were also several speakers at the AAC meetings– learned about Athletes for Hope, Eniva (a neutraceutical company), and Jack Wickens talked about how they’re creating opportunities where athletes get paid to ‘volunteer’ (~Spokesperson for a health cause). Apparently they’re working on creating a video game featuring track & field athletes that can be used in the classroom– they did a demonstration, and it was pretty wild (imagine kids running in place in the classroom).

Cool people and things I saw

  • Got to meet Ashton Eaton
  • Saw many Pan American Teammates, including race walker, Mike Mannozzi
  • Was out running on Sat. morning and a lady asked, “Ma’am, do you have a lighter?”. 5 min. later, a guy skateboards barefoot across the street! Wild!!!
  • Got to meet/see lots of Olympians
  • Saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee up close!
  • Spotted a rainbow going across the ocean
  • Did GoKarts with my sponsor, John, and others
  • Apparently my claim to fame is “Spiderwoman”– I introduced myself to people, and the first thing many of them said was, “You’re Spiderwoman!” Even someone burst out in the LDR meeting, “You’re Spiderwoman!”
  • Watched my sponsor, John, survive the “Slingshot”– heck no was I going on that thing, being accident prone!


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Comments

  1. Dexter McCloud says:

    Camille,

    I am the AAC Secretary and the person you spoke to regarding your vote. I want to clarify a couple of your comments…first, the link to the “national AAC reps” is, in fact, our AAC page depicting our officers and event leaders. That page consists of the people who won their respective elections that you witnessed in our AAC meeting. And, yes….I willmake sure it gets promptly updated with the names of the new winners from the elections.

    The “AAC reps” that you referred to is a list of athletes names that were submitted to Organizational Services by myself. It has nothing to do with the associations and there is no one in your association that can “designate” you as such. As I explained to you on election day, the only way you would be allowed to vote is if you are a “delegate”. Your ASSOCIATION secretary should have sent an email with a list of delegate names to USATF. This has nothing to do with AAC; this is a matter of governance.

    Please feel free to contact me at Secretary@aac.usatf.org if you have further questions.

    • runcamille says:

      Hi Dexter, thank you for the clarification. We talked to Kim Keenan-Kirkpatrick about this, and she said my association needed to contact Jon Drummond about getting the AAC to designate me as an AAC rep.. I understand that this is the responsibility of the National AAC. We did not know this. As an example, my fellow PanAmerican Teammate, Mike Mannozzi, was an AAC rep from Ohio. He was paid to attend by the Ohio association. I noticed Bridget Franek was an AAC rep from Oregon– the Oregon association paid for her to attend. There was another race walker from Ohio who was an AAC rep (not sure if she’s even made a US team). My association, nor did I, knew the policies and procedures for being designated as an athlete and allowed to vote. It was really unfortunate we didn’t know this ahead of time, but now we know how it works!

    • runcamille says:

      Also, thank you for your punctuality with updating the AAC rep list/contact info! That’s great!

  2. You should know what really goes on behind closed doors…

    • runcamille says:

      Totally! This is why everyone wants transparency. Heck, they should have a webcam in there, so people can watch on the computer. Someone did this last year in the AAC meeting, and the Nike rep got mad when he found out they were videotaping! Even during the Men’s LDR meeting, Glenn didn’t want us announcing anything about the standards until it had been voted and approved. Is he saying he doesn’t want feedback? Only those in the room can offer input? Even input by those in the room didn’t matter. He had already made up his mind on what he thought the standards should be. With all the modern technology that exists, meetings should be far more public. Social media, alone, is a great outlet for getting info out there. Nancy Hobbs did a fantastic job of updating everyone about MUT decisions.

  3. Craig McMahon says:

    Camille-

    This is only tangentially related to this post, but I’m enjoying your comments re: Men vs. Women Olympic Trials Marathon standards on Letsrun. Perhaps now is the time to revisit the analysis you did of the two fields this time around. I myself am biased toward just having the race (for both genders) letting in the top 100 fastest Americans on USATF-certified courses and hanging the the half-marathon standards.

    • runcamille says:

      Hi Craig! Thank you– I don’t post very often on Letsrun, but I was at the USATF National meeting and feel pretty strongly about this, since it directly impacts me and other friends. Are you suggesting they have a field size limit for each gender, rather than a time limit? That’s actually a great idea! They do it on the track, so why not the marathon? I’m all for equality, and that would definitely be equal.

      • Craig McMahon says:

        If I can recall (this is way before my time, the ink on my college diploma hasn’t even dried yet) that’s kind of the way the qualification worked at one point. I think the 1984 Mens Trials took the 100th fastest time from 1982 and made whatever that was the standard with the aim of having the total field size be somewhere in that range.

        The way I see it, rather than quibble over field sizes and B qualifiers and all that nonsense, just set the size. Keep the Boston Marathon as the standard for net drop.

        I’m not against the idea of higher standards and creating better competition, but I think a race of 20-40 people (as some USATF officials were rumored to favor) is a waste of a marathon. If you’re going to close the roads and go through all the hoopla anyway, you might as well let the horses run. 100 people is a round enough figure- the 100 fastest male/female marathoners racing head to head to pick the team. No muss, no fuss.

        I kind of dislike the differentiation between A/B qualifiers. I’d prefer to just have one standard and let the chips fall where they may during the race itself.

        • runcamille says:

          Great points Craig! I think this has been discussed on Letsrun at one point. The marathon is different from the 10K, whereas you only get so many opportunities. I can’t imagine 50 people ‘on the bubble’ duking it out at CIM, a month before the Trials! That would kinda stink, with all the planning that goes into the Trials.

          Totally agree though that the more the merrier! 20-40 people in a road race is too small, boring, and too many resources for such a small field. Less national media attention with less people. It still should be a prestigious thing– marathoning is far more competitive and lucrative than track racing, and naturally there should be a larger field size to reflect the competitiveness. 2:18/2:43 are legitimate times– probably won’t see as many Master’s women, Moms, and full-time working athletes in the field. You have to be pretty focused and dedicated to the running to hit those times.

          I told Ed I was more in favor of 1 standard for both men and women– the Olympic B standards (2:18/2:43). He said they have to consider the financial aspect of it, so that’s why there’s an A and B.