Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Penn Relays kick off Olympic year coverage of Track and Field on NBC

Leo Manzano ran strong and
then plugged his Twitter handle
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
With most of the excitement in the American distance running world coming tomorrow at the Payton Jordan Invitational (at Stanford), I tuned into NBC's broadcast of the Penn Relays pretty casually. It's safe to say that my expectations were exceeded (if you followed my Tweets). While I focus on distance running here, I do appreciate the sprints (and more so, the relays) and it was great to see the American stars competing.

With the 4x100 as the first event, it was great to see a strong squad of Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Doc Patton and Walter Dix looking very strong, especially Gatlin, who appears to be sponsored by Adidas now (in addition to Chinese company XTEP).

So far there have been short pieces with Gatlin, Carmelita Jeter and Allyson Felix. Is Gatlin going to be one of the focal points for public interest stories the Olympic year? It appears that way early. The Women go on and dominate the 4x100 as well.

Now is when I started getting all kinds of interesting inquiries to find more information on certain female middle distance runners. NBC does a short piece on Erica Moore, who came on big during the indoor season to take the US 800 Title and then the Bronze at the World Championships. Unfortunately, her team dropped the baton and she never got to run. With her team's demise, the USA Blue team stormed to victory, thanks to a big last lap and very smartly executed leg by the popular Maggie Vessey. Vessey gives a great interview with Lewis Johnson and the internet starts to explode with Vessey fever.

Dwight Stones then interviews new USATF CEO Max Siegel (who says some nice things) after a piece on Sandra Richards-Ross and you immediately start to think that NBC has done some serious prep for this broadcast. Thank goodness! It was well done from top to bottom with great announcing and nice personal interest pieces to move the story along for some of the most "medal likely" athletes.

You ask & you shall receive "Maggie Vessey nude" googlers
There's plenty of obligatory Bill Cosby shots before they do a recap of last year's Distance Medley. Then the Bernard Lagat party starts. Lagat will be one of the most likely distance medal shots this summer in London (in the 5000). It wasn't his day today, as Leo Manzano got the best of him, but there's few better guys in the sport. Russell Brown and Tyler Mulder had excellent 1200 legs and reminded us of how difficult it's going to be to make the team in the 800 and 1500 this year. David Neville and Michael Tinsley both ran strong 400 legs before a newly shorn Nick Symmonds dominated the 800 leg over Khadevis Robinson. His 1:44.0 split should answer some of the questions that people had about Symmonds early season struggles. He got the baton to Lagat early, but Manzano caught up by lap four and showed his true miler speed down the homestretch.

Now in possibly a planned mention, Manzano plugged his (and his teammates) Twitter account(s). Fascinated by the Darren Rovell numbers side of sports, I immediately hopped over to Manzano's Twitter page and watched the numbers rise and rise. 30 new followers in 30 seconds and probably 100 more in the hour that I paid attention. People are watching and paying attention track and field on television.

The meet ends with an interview with Carl Lewis and US domination in the 4x400's. Sandra Richards-Ross is very fit... and she's married to Super Bowl Champion, Aaron Ross (one thing track fans have heard ad nauseum). Full results are available here. Next up on NBC, Prefontaine (I'll be there).

Future Track on TV broadcasts are available here

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