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Track Trials: When Will the Next Generation of US Men's 100M Sprinters Arrive?

Beau Dure@duresportFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2016

A familiar sight: Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay chasing Usain Bolt.
A familiar sight: Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay chasing Usain Bolt.Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

USA Swimming’s Olympic trials saw a changing of the guard, with Natalie Coughlin and Tyler Clary showing no veteran’s spot is safe.

Don’t expect the same at USA Track and Field’s Olympic trials, at least not in the marquee event of the men’s 100 meters, where familiar 30-somethings like Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Mike Rodgers have not yet passed the torch to the new wave. The succession from Carl Lewis to Leroy Burrell to Dennis Mitchell to Maurice Greene to Gatlin and Gay seems stuck in place.

Thirty isn’t ancient by sprinting standards. Usain Bolt turns 30 on the last day of the Games. Kim Collins is still a contender at age 40. But where is the next generation?

The breakthrough sprinters this season have been Ameer Webb and Trayvon Bromell. But Webb has opted to focus on the 200 meters, where he’s second-fastest on the 2016 IAAF list behind fellow American LaShawn Merritt.

Bromell sprained his Achilles in June. But two weeks ago, he told the Tampa Bay Times he was recovering well.

“I'm going to come in fresh for the trials,” he told the Times.

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Gatlin singled out Bromell for praise in a pre-trials press conference, as reported by USATF: “Now you have a lot of athletes who are coming up and understand the grit and the honor to be a sprinter and how tough you have to be. You see that in guys like Trayvon.”

The Old Guard has thinned out in numbers over the last four years. Darvis Patton wrapped up a distinguished career. Rae Edwards and Mark Jelks switched nationality to Nigeria.

Some of the remaining runners are still seeking redemption after running afoul of anti-doping authorities. Some just want one more shot.

Here’s a look at who’s who. Seed times are taken from USA Track and Field’s “status of entries” page, which lists each runner’s top time between May 1, 2015, and June 26, 2016. Personal bests and ages are taken from the IAAF’s comprehensive database.

          

Old Guard

Justin Gatlin
Justin GatlinShizuo Kambayashi/Associated Press

Justin Gatlin

Gatlin won Olympic gold in 2004, followed up with a world championship in 2005, served a four-year doping suspension in the late 2000s, then came back to be Usain Bolt’s closest pursuer in the 2010s, medaling in the London Olympics and the last two World Championships.

He’s the overwhelming favorite to win at trials and make another Olympic team, and he’s the favorite for silver (behind Bolt), according to Odds Shark.

Seed time: 9.77 seconds

Personal best: 9.74 (2015)

Age: 34 (Feb. 10, 1982)

        

Tyson Gay

Gay hasn’t come close to his own American record (9.69) since his hip surgery in 2011, but he is still consistently among the fastest U.S. sprinters.

The 2007 world champion crossed the finish line fourth at the 2012 Olympics, 0.01 seconds behind bronze medalist Gatlin, but that result was voided (along with the USA’s silver medal in the 4x100-meter relay) when he accepted a doping suspension in 2013.

Seed time: 9.97

Personal best: 9.69 (2nd all-time, 2009)

Age: 33 (Aug. 9, 1982)

          

Mike Rodgers

Rodgers finished up a nine-month doping suspension just in time for the 2012 trials, but he barely missed out on the top three. Then he missed a chance to run the relay in London with a stress fracture in his left foot.

He rebounded to make the next two World Championship finals, finishing fifth last year in Beijing. He’s Mr. Consistency, usually around the 9.90 range when it matters most.

Seed time: 9.86

Personal best: 9.85 (2011)

Age: 31 (April 24, 1985)

         

Walter Dix

Dix gutted out the 2012 Olympic trials final with a leg injury. He collects medals in pairs: two silvers from the 2011 World Championship 100 and 200; bronze in the same events in the 2008 Olympics.

He hasn’t broken the 10-second mark since 2013 but has been getting closer this year.

Seed time: 10.03

Personal best: 9.88 (2010)

Age: 30 (Jan. 31, 1986)

           

In Between

Ryan Bailey

Bailey earned his spot on the 2012 team by outleaning Rodgers at the finish, and he moved up to fourth in the London final when Gay was disqualified. He matched his personal best of 9.88 seconds in that race and nearly matched it last year, but he has not run the 100 this year.

Seed time: 9.93

Personal best: 9.88 (2010/2012)

Age: 27 (April 13, 1989)

         

Jeff Demps

A national champion in track and football at Florida and briefly an NFL player, Demps has a score to settle. He, along with Gatlin, Patton, Bailey and Trell Kimmons—lost their silver medals from the 2012 relay as a consequence of Gay’s doping infraction.

Seed time: 10.06

Personal best: 10.01 (2008)

Age: 26 (Jan. 8, 1990)

       

Next Generation

Trayvon Bromell
Trayvon BromellRick Bowmer/Associated Press/Associated Press

Trayvon Bromell

Bromell posted his personal best of 9.84 seconds a couple of weeks before his 20th birthday last summer. In his freshman year at Baylor, he was the NCAA Division I championship and placed second in the World Juniors. He turned pro after his sophomore year in 2015 and tied for third behind Bolt and Gatlin in last year’s World Championships.

This year, he won the 60-meter World Indoor title. If not for the Achilles injury, he might be a lock for the team.

Seed time: 9.84

Personal best: 9.84 (2015)

Age: 20 (July 10, 1995)

        

Marvin Bracy

Bracy is another two-sport athlete from the state of Florida, playing wide receiver at Florida State and now starting a high school coaching career, the Orlando Sentinel reported. He was second in the 2014 World Indoors and has gone sub-10 each of the last two years.

Seed time: 9.94

Personal best: 9.93 (2015)

Age: 22 (Dec. 15, 1993)

The other young runners who’ve broken the 10-second mark did it only once, last year, with a barely legal tailwind. Charles Silmon, the 2013 NCAA champion and World Championship team member, hasn’t been sub-10 since that breakout year.

        

Prediction

Gatlin, Gay and Rodgers have the resumes. They’ve also broken the 10-second mark this year, as has Bracy. Before his injury, Bromell was close to the sub-10 form he showed last year.

Dix and Demps have been near the 10-second mark this year, and they have the experience. What sort of form will Bailey show?

Three qualifiers for Rio: Gatlin, Rodgers, Gay
Fourth place (automatic spot in relay): Bromell
Added to relay pool: Dix, Bailey

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