A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Sprint Capitol Group Prepares for 2006 Season
NORTH CAROLINA — As the memories of 2005 fade into the background and a new track season dawns on the horizon, the members of Sprint Capitol, led by coaches Trevor Graham and Randall Evans, begin to look forward to the 2006 season. Shortly before the Christmas Holidays, the male team members discussed their goals for the upcoming year, and their feelings about how training has been going thus far. Here’s an overview of what they had to say: Otis Harris
Harris, in his first year with Sprint Capitol, comes to the group with strong credentials already in hand. Having earned a silver medal in the 400 meter dash at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Harris was injured throughout most of 2005, but plans to come back strong in 2006. “I might run a few 100′s and 200′s early on to work on my speed and sprint mechanics,” he said, “but my main event will still be the 400 meters.” Harris, who won’t be competing indoors, will target the U.S. Outdoor Championships in late June as the meet he wants to peak for, as well as the Golden League meets in Europe later in the summer.
Harris decided to join Sprint Capitol because he feels he needs to improve his speed if he is going to reach his goal of running under 44.00 in the 400 meters. “In running the quarter,” he said, “there are speed runners and there are endurance runners, but you want to be able to combine the two. So I’m just looking to improve my speed, and Coach Graham has the credentials when it comes to making people faster.” Harris is pleased with how his training has gone early on, in his first three months with the group. “Training’s going great,” he said. “I’m definitely pleased with the results thus far. I’m looking forward to having a great year.”
Besides the medallists from the Helsinki World Championships, Harris sees his main competition coming from his Sprint Capitol teammate, Gary Kikaya, whose personal best is 44.53, and has an NCAA victory in 2002 under his belt. Nevertheless, Harris prefers not to focus on his competition, but on himself. “I have the responsibility,” he said, “to do what I need to do in my training and preparation. If I do that, everything else will take care if itself.”
Now in his third year with Sprint Capitol, Gatlin has become the world’s fastest sprinter in the short period he has been with the group, having earned an Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters in 2004, an Olympic silver medal in the 200 meters, and having won World Championship gold medals in both the 100 and 200 meters in 2005.
Heading into 2006, Gatlin plans to focus on the 100, as he feels he has nothing left to prove at the moment in the 200. Without mentioning any specific goals, he says that he seeks to perform at a very high level on a regular basis in 2006. “I don’t want to run decent times,” he said. “I want to run fast times, and I want to run fast times consistently.” Although he has created some separation between himself and the other top 100 meter sprinters in the world, he sees his main rivals as being teammates Shawn Crawford and Dwight Thomas, as well as Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, “and you can never count out Maurice [Greene],” he noted.
Gatlin feels that his training is going very well at this point. “[Coach] Trevor [Graham] and [Coach] Randall [Evans] are surprised that I’ve been able to hold my technique together,” he said. “Usually, coming back to practice in the beginning of a new season, my technique is pretty sloppy. But I’m a veteran now, with this being my third year with the camp, so that’s just me stepping up and trying to be a leader.”
Gatlin feels very confident that he will be as successful in 2006 as he has been the past two years. With Sprint Capitol, he explained, “you have the camaraderie, the family orientation. Trevor’s like a father figure, the teammates all get along. Plus, our conditions make us tougher. We don’t have an indoor track, so when it’s cold or raining outside, we train in that kind of weather. That’s why the Worlds last year were no problem for me. It rained every day in Helsinki, but I felt ready and it didn’t bother me.”
Entering his second year as a member of Sprint Capitol, Thomas boasts personal bests of 10.00 in the 100 and 20.41 in the 200. Formerly of the University of Florida, where he trained under Mike Holloway, Thomas has continued to blossom since turning professional. He came to Sprint Capitol last year because “I had seen the talent they produced at this camp,” he said.
“I knew Justin and Shawn, I saw how fast they were running, and I knew my potential was in the same range as there’s. In my first year here, I went from 20th in the world to 3rd. My goal this year is to run in the 9′s as many times as I can. I ran so many 10-flats last year, so I just want to make that incredible achievement, where I’m in the 9′s five times, six times, eight times if I can.”
Thomas says that he would also like to run under 20.00 in the 200 meters. Although his goals sound lofty, they are not out of reach when considering his training is geared toward doubling in both sprint events. He feels that being with Sprint Capitol has enabled him to mature physically and mentally. “Here,” he said, “I’m learning things that other sprinters won’t learn because they’re not a part of this camp. Trevor studies the sprints, he understands how speed and strength and flexibility all work together.”
“He doesn’t just understand each aspect separately, but he understands how they work together as a whole, so he enables you to maximize your speed. He’s not just a coach, he’s a student.” Another important trait of Graham’s that Thomas has found beneficial is that “he teaches you to be patient. In a hundred meters, everything’s moving so fast, and it’s over so fast, but still, you have to be patient, you can’t rush things. That’s maturity. Being in this camp, my maturity level has been raised so much higher.”
Rodney Martin Jr.
A 2005 graduate of the University of South Carolina, Martin enters his first year as a member of Sprint Capitol, and feels excited about his prospects for success as a professional track athlete. Like other athletes in the group, Martin, who owns personal bests of 10.25 and 20.35, was motivated to join the camp by a desire to be coached by Trevor Graham.
“I didn’t understand sprinting,” he said. “I never had a coach who understood sprinting. I knew Trevor, and I felt I could grow in the program. I was untouched talent, and I felt he could mold me.” More of 200 meter specialist at USC, Martin says that Graham intends to mold him into more of a 100 meter sprinter, and that is the event he will focus on in 2006.
Martin feels that his training in the past few months has already produced noticeable results. “I’m faster and stronger than I’ve been all my life,” he said. “The coaches here are like personal trainers. They make sure you do all your reps, and they make sure you do ‘em right, so I’m developing like crazy.”
As for his teammates, Martin enjoys being having so many experienced runners to learn from and grow with. “They bring me along like a little brother,” he said. “Three of the fastest men in the world are in this camp, so just being in this atmosphere makes me a better athlete.”
Another first-year member of Sprint Capitol, Kikaya, whose homeland is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specializes in the 400 meters – the event in which he won an NCAA championship in 2002, while a member of the University of Tennessee Volunteers.
A teammate of Justin Gatlin while at Tennessee, Kikaya has been hoping to join Sprint Capitol for the past three years, but stayed in college to get his degree first.
Now that he is here, things are going well. The biggest adjustment thus far for Kikaya has been the intensity of the weightlifting program. “I’ve gotten much stronger,” he said, “lifting five times a week. The way we lift, it helps you with establishing your tempo out of the blocks, and also with pumping your arms coming off the last curve, into the final hundred.”
Kikaya knew many of his teammates prior to joining the group, as he saw many of them on the European circuit or in college. What he likes about the camp is that “there are no personality clashes, everyone is supportive of each other, everybody pushes each other through the workouts. There’s a mutual respect here; everybody’s down to earth, from the coaches to the athletes.”
Kikaya’s goal in 2006 is to lower his personal best in the 400 from 44.53 down to a 44-low, or even a high 43, and to rank as high as third in the world in the 400. In 2005, he ranked eighth in the world in that event.
***image7***Like Gatlin, Crawford is also in his third year with Sprint Capitol. After a difficult 2005 in which he struggled with foot injuries (inflammation under the metatarsal heads, which caused much pain in the balls of his feet), and never was able to run at top form, Crawford, the Olympic gold medallist in the 200 meter dash in Athens in 2004, plans on regaining his elite level status in that event, as well as in the 100 meter dash, in 2006.
He states that his goals this year are to, “number one, remain injury-free, and if I can do that, my number two goal is to be able to put together a more technically sound race from start to finish. If I can accomplish my number one and number two goals, then I should be able to shatter some records, which is my number three goal.”
Crawford feels that he has improved in a lot of ways in the time he has spent with Sprint Capitol. After graduating from Clemson University in 2000, he spent a couple years training on his own before joining the group. What he likes about Sprint Capitol is “the consistency in the training program. You have quality coaching here, people with expertise in the sprint events. The coaches know how to apply strength training to sprint mechanics. A lot of coaches know strength training, and a lot of coaches know sprint mechanics, but not many coaches know how to combine the two.”
Crawford says that, specifically, he has learned how to use proper technique when sprinting, which, he says, makes it easier to run faster. “Knowledge is power,” he explained, “so when you know how to run fast without a lot of wasted effort, you’re the most powerful runner on the track.”
NOTE: This article can also be found at the Sprint Capitol website (www.sprintcapitolusa.com). An article on Sprint Capitol’s female sprinters will be coming soon.