Why Isn’t Andrew Evans on Team USA?

I have written before about the ludicrous new IAAF qualifying standards. The men’s discus and hammer were hit harder than perhaps any event. This year is a test run with the new system before they hike the standards up even higher for next year’s Olympic games. The idea was to simplify the system, but in the end it seems that athletes, coaches, and even federations are confused about the process.

Let me take a step back and explain the standards using the men’s discus as an example. The qualifying standard for this year’s world championships is 65 meters. In addition, the winners of area championships such as the NACAC Championships are also considered to have met the standard. The IAAF has also determined an ideal field size for each event. In the throws, the predetermined field size is 32 athletes. If there are fewer athletes over this standard than this field size, the IAAF will go down the world list and extend invitations to additional athletes. That is exactly the case this year as just 26 athletes either met the standard or qualified as area champions. That meant that 6 athletes received at-large invitations.

andrew_evansGo back to USAs and the top three finishers were Jared Schuurmans, Russ Winger, and Andrew Evans. Jared had the standard so he made the team automatically. Winger did not have the standard, but came through with a win at the NACAC Championships to also secure his spot. Evans had only thrown 63.91 meters this year and was passed over for fourth place finisher Rodney Brown, who had achieved the standard earlier this year.

Under the old system this would have made sense. No standard, no team. But under the new policy it gets a bit confusing. The USATF’s general policy is that they want to pick the athletes that perform well at the US Championships. This is reflected in their selection criteria:

The intent is that, to the extent possible, the order of finish at the U. S. Championships shall determine whether an athlete competes in the World Championships.

Read a little deeper and they have even outlined this exact scenario and stated that in the case where someone could be invited by the IAAF, then they should receive the spot even if someone behind them has the standard:

In the event that one or more of the top three placers in the Trials has not met the qualifying standard but has a performance that appears to be good enough to warrant an invitation based on the ranking list and number of known qualifiers, USATF may solicit an invitation from the IAAF for that athlete(s) notwithstanding that other U.S. athletes have met the qualifying standard.

So the only question is then if Evans “had a performance that appears to warrant an invitation based on the ranking list of known qualifiers.” He did indeed. Remember the field size in Beijing will be 32 athletes. He is 33rd on the world list, but when you exclude athletes that were not nominated by their countries such as Chase Madison and Viktor Butenko he was well positioned for an invitation. In fact, he would have been the fourth of six athletes given an at-large selection, just ahead of Daniel Ståhl, who was named to the Swedish team this week with a season’s best of just 63.38 meters.

I have never met or spoken to Evans. I have no personal preference as to who makes the team and have no clue who would actually throw further at the meet. But the point of a selection policy is to provide clarity. As soon as the policy was announced months ago I had a suspicion this type of case would turn up. USATF tried to think this through, but still dropped the ball. This is one of the many flaws in the new system and I hope that it will be reassessed and addressed before the Olympics next year. In the meantime Evans is collateral damage as he has missed out on his chance to make his first World Championships team.

Addendum: When I first wrote this I thought I might have been missing something. Perhaps I am, but at least I am not alone in my conclusions. Coach and Throwholics editor Norm Zylstra has also been writing about this over on the Track and Field News forums and forwarded a quote from E. Garry Hill, editor of Track and Field News:

The way I read it, if Evans is in the top 32, Brown can’t displace him, even with a Q.

21 replies
  1. Peter Miller
    Peter Miller says:

    Let’s not forget that Rodney threw just 1cm less than Evans at the USA Champs and has a better season best. He was not given the chance to compete at NACAC, as Evans was and Evans did not take care of business there…It is far from a perfect system, but if you have the standard you should go over someone else, IMO.

    Reply
    • Martin Bingisser
      Martin Bingisser says:

      You could also say Rodney had the chance at nationals and just didn’t take care of business. You are right, it is not a perfect system. Rodney may indeed have had a better season. But Sanya Richards-Ross and Francena McCorory also have had great seasons and are not on Team USA. My point is that if you take the time to write a policy you should follow it. It’s likely too late to do anything this year, but as with much at the USATF now, they need to tighten their language and resolve ambiguities. If not this will happen again and it will be someone’s spot on the Olympic team up in the air.

      Reply
      • Peter Miller
        Peter Miller says:

        I would argue those are totally different scenarios. The top 3 in the 400 all had the standard before the meet, there was no chasing after that final. The real issue here is with our caliber of discus throwers and the outlandish standards. The USA needs to get better in the men’s discus and the IAAF needs to set reasonable standards in the throws…65m may medal in Beijing and will not qualify you for Rio.

    • Coach P
      Coach P says:

      The problem with meeting the standard as the only criterua is that conditions can play a huge part. A thrower who throws 66 meters with a strong head wind is not throwing as well as a thrower who throws 64 meters in a stadium. If the 64 meter throwers beats the 66 meter thrower head to head in the qualifying meet, he should go.

      Reply
      • gary
        gary says:

        Amazing Evans was left off the team. Especially with that swoosh thingy on his Kentucky uniform.

        Martin is correct, if the time is taken to write the rule, follow it.

  2. Jason Young
    Jason Young says:

    The situation with qualifying for events in track and field seems totally ludicrous to me. The standard for how you qualify (not distance/ time/ height) is ever changing. I doubt anyone really knew the nuances of qualification prior to the meet. Usatf has the difficult but also rewarding job of figuring out how to organize the qualification of the top athletes in the word. To be honest, I think our system is pretty fair (though difficult) until it comes to these matters. Nacac meet was an opportunity to qualify during this particular season, but qualification is also determined by placing at national championships. In order for Evans to have a chance there, Schuurmans needed to turn down the he opportunity. I assume they train together. I’m sure he would also like for Evans to go. Schurmaans competing at nacac also would lessen the chance that Winger would win and qualify and also eliminate the opportunity for Evans. I’ve been part of knocking other guys out, including Winger. I am happy to see him make the team, but I am also happy to see anyone succeed. All gentleman based on prior seasons standards were deserving to go, but this new thing throws a wrinkle into the mix. If I was in Evans shoes I would be raising hell. If I was in the other guys shoes, I would be jumping for joy…. The federation has to forsee and handle these problems with class. It reminds me of Alyson Felix and jeneba debacle… Chase Madison didnt even really have a chance then!

    Reply
  3. Joe
    Joe says:

    I don’t think this is a case of USATF doing anything shady at all. The policy has always been that fourth with a standard trumps top three without. There’s no “A” or “B” qualifiers anymore, so USATF followed their usual procedure and took the three top finishers that had a qualifying mark. It’s only if everyone has a standard that finish at Nationals comes in. If Evans had achieved the standard in the time between USAs and the start of Worlds, then he would’ve displaced Brown based on the higher finish at Nationals. The USA wants to send the maximum team in every event, which means sending three guys with the qualifying mark. There’s no guarantee that the IAAF would’ve granted Evans a place, which would’ve meant only two Americans in the men’s discus instead of three.

    Reply
    • Martin Bingisser
      Martin Bingisser says:

      But the procedures you say are in direct contradiction with what USATF says it will do. If they nominated him there was a gaur ante that Evans would have received an invitation from USATF and USATF should have known that as he was top 32 in the world.

      Reply
      • Joe
        Joe says:

        I think you’re interpreting this wrong.

        Directly from the USATF website:

        The following criteria will be used to select athletes for the U.S. Team for the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Athletics (“World Championships”) in individual events:

        1. The athlete’s rank order of place finish in an event at the 2015 U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the 2014 Men’s 50km Race Walk Championships, (collectively, the “Trials”).
        2. Whether athletes have achieved the applicable IAAF qualifying standard per the entry criteria below.

        The criteria are 1 AND 2, not either/or. Brown had the standard. Evans didn’t.

        If this was still the old way with the “A” and “B” qualifiers, he would’ve been on the team with the “B” (or not at all if he didn’t have whatever that standard would’ve been either), but that’s not how it works anymore. If Lauren Johnson and Kerri Gallagher hadn’t gotten the standard in the women’s 1500, they wouldn’t be going to Worlds, either. Treinere Moser would, and she finished seventh Nationals.

        The Top 32 thing is brand new, and USATF likely wouldn’t have requested it (or received it) for an event that already has two Americans, especially since there would’ve been a third qualifier sitting at home (who ranks ahead of the other one on the world list). The only two invites the U.S. got were in the women’s high jump and women’s triple jump, where no one had the standard and the IAAF invited the national champion.

      • Joe
        Joe says:

        You’re not reading the whole thing either. It says USATF “may” solicit a wild card, not “will.” Obviously they chose not to do that in the men’s discus, probably because Winger didn’t have the standard, either, until NACAC. If he hadn’t won there, then it only would’ve been Schuurmans and Brown on the team, pending a wild card for Winger and the argument about Evans would’ve been completely moot. Sorry, but I think we’re gonna agree to disagree here. Fourth place with a standard guaranteed the U.S. three spots.

      • Martin Bingisser
        Martin Bingisser says:

        Well at least I think we can agree that if there is this much room for debate, it would be wise to clarify it before this happens again next year. That’s the main point of the article.

      • Joe
        Joe says:

        If next year is like the last Olympic Trials (which I think it is), they’ll either have to go in with the standard or get it at Trials. Otherwise they won’t go. That’s what they did for London. Last day of Trials was the last day of the qualifying period. No chasing the standard.

  4. Joe
    Joe says:

    In other countries, this wouldn’t even be an issue, because many countries pick their team based ONLY on world rankings. The US is the only country I know of where your world ranking is irrelevant. That’s why Francenca McCorory isn’t running the 400 at Worlds, despite having the fastest time in the world this year.

    Reply
    • Zoe
      Zoe says:

      Joe,

      It is actually kind of stupid to pick a team off of the fastest times. In that case you wouldn’t have athletes like Leo Manzano who dont put up the fastest times but is one of the smartest racers around and ended up with a Olympic Medal because of his racing tactics. Letting the athletes compete for a spot to Worlds is better than saying “go out and run fast or throw far”. It rewards those who can hit the times and are savy racers, which is what you want at Worlds/Olympics.

      Reply
      • Joe
        Joe says:

        I don’t disagree with you about that. I personally think the USA has the best system for picking the team. For the most part, it takes subjectivity out of it.

      • Joe
        Joe says:

        Zoe,
        The U.S. is simply too good at too many events to do it another way. Yes, you have potential medalists getting left home. But that’s going to happen no matter who makes the team. Prime example, the men’s 200. Ameer Weeb is ranked eighth in the world, but is the fourth American, which means a potential finalist/medalist in Beijing would’ve been left off the team if you were determining it solely by top times. The other thing about using only top performances that’s stupid is that you can run the standard early in the qualifying period and sit on it. Thus, there’s no guarantee an athlete will be anywhere near in proper racing form come Worlds. The Americans don’t have that problem. They have to finish in the top three at USA’s just to make the team, so you know the best team possible is going because they all have to be in peak form.

  5. Jason Young
    Jason Young says:

    I feel that selection procedures are overall good, but there is more to the story than that. In events that we have a difficult time medaling, I think procedures should be adjusted and made based on several standards. Some federations require athletes to qualify and also prove fitness to be selected. In that case, we would be likely sending Schuurmans and Winger and the other guys would be fighting it out in competitions for who shall compete. I feel that the main goal is for us to send our top 3 most prepared athletes to the comp. To be honest, it sucks when an athlete qualifies and is not ready to compete well (at their level) in a championship. In events like 110m hurdles, that we have multiple potential medalists, the USA nationals is more than enough to decide a team. The united states gets plenty of medals outside of the long throws and is not concerned with this level of detail. The men’s discus is a bit weak worldwide in 2015 and our primary emphasis as federation should be getting athletes on the team that can throw over 62m on the world stage in Beijing. If not, making the trip will be paid vacation at best. Evans and Winger competed for the standard and at nacac and showed condition. Brown had a series of comps internationally, and not sure if Madison was active or not. From my view regarding who would likely perform best based on the aformentioned considered factors, Schuurmans and Winger are definites and Brown and Evans are close…Brown may have slight edge in preparedness since he did several international comps vs. Better throwers, but yet again Evans has competed more recently and possibly under more pressure.

    Reply

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