2018 USATF Outdoor Championships

Best Of The Mixed Zone: US Championships Edition

Best Of The Mixed Zone: US Championships Edition

Five of the best quotes from the mixed zone at the 2018 USATF Championships!

Jun 27, 2018 by Kevin Sully
Best Of The Mixed Zone: US Championships Edition

The mixed zone in any championship meet is a maelstrom of emotions. The interview area where athletes speak to the media puts all the happiness, shock, disappointment, and relief of a track meet on full display. In Des Moines, Iowa, this area was a small room underneath the track. Athletes caught their breath in an adjoining recovery room before facing the microphones and cameras.  

There were over 100 interviews from the four days in Des Moines (For a look at the full archive, click here). In this post, I narrowed it down to five highlights, but it was impossible to capture all of that went on last weekend. Not included is this Jordan Mann interview, which is too hard to encapsulate in a single quote (more on Mann later this week). 

“You can’t cancel the meet. I was ready to go at 1, 2 (AM), it didn’t matter. If they wanted to bring us back tomorrow that was fine with me.”

-Evan Jager on the weather delay


Lightning in the area put an indefinite pause on the meet on Sunday. In the early stages of the delay, there was little indication of when the meet would resume with the running of Jager’s event, the men’s steeplechase. During those three hours did Jager ever think of scratching from the competition? He had, after all, won the race six times in a row and was not expected to receive any serious competition. With a string of European meets lined up in the coming weeks and the stated goal of breaking eight minutes, few would have questioned Jager’s decision to call it a meet and move on to Europe. 

Everyone except Jager, that is. 

It turns out he had no intention of leaving Des Moines without his seventh title in the event. So, he waited for three hours and would have been willing to wait even longer if it meant tying Henry Marsh for most consecutive titles in the event.  

“That boy is something else. I can’t say nothing else about him. I don’t like him right now because he told me wasn’t going to run fast and the next thing you know he runs 9.8.”

-Grant Holloway on the exploits of Noah Lyles


Like most, Holloway was in awe of Lyles’ world-leading 9.88 in the men’s 100m on Friday night. You can watch Lyles’ full interview here. It has too many good lines just to choose one. 

Lyles, along with Holloway and Michael Norman, is part of the youth movement in the United States men’s sprints and hurdles. All three men are 20 years old and all hold, or previously held, the world-leading time in their event (Holloway’s 13.15 was surpassed last week when Sergey Shubenkov ran 12.99). Holloway himself had a good meet after a long collegiate season. He finished runner-up to Devon Allen by 0.002 seconds in a thrilling finish.  

“My reaction was, duhhh!”

-Emma Coburn on news of the alleged Ruth Jebet positive test


Coburn’s interview after her preliminary heat of the women’s steeplechase touched on a wide range of topics, from steeple barriers at the wrong height, her strategy for the final, and performance-enhancing drugs. 

Earlier this year, news broke that the 2016 Olympic champion in the event Ruth Jebet has tested positive for a banned substance. While there has been no sanction levied against Jebet as of yet, reports of a failed test weren’t a surprise to Coburn. Jebet’s world record time of 8:52.78 wasn’t the red flag—Coburn thinks it’s possible for a woman to run that fast. It was Jebet’s rapid improvement that signaled to Coburn that something was amiss. In 2015, the year before she ran the world record, Jebet’s best time was 9:21.40.

“I was like, well….it just got easier.”

-Ameer Webb on what he was thinking when he learned Michael Norman was scratching from the 200m.


An hour into the weather delay, the 27-year-old saw that Norman was packing up his things and leaving the track. His thoughts at that moment would have been anyone’s reaction if they learned that an overwhelming favorite was skipping their event. 

Norman has been an unstoppable force in 2018 and has run historic times with such comfort that he was a lock to leave Des Moines with his first U.S. title. Victory assured, how fast he could go was the dominant subplot of the final day. 

But that was before the delay, and Webb was perfectly content to take advantage of the waters that were parting before him. Without Norman, Webb played the role of favorite—running 20.47 into a -1.9 m/s headwind and winning by almost three-tenths of a second.  

“I definitely would like to learn how to run a 57-second last lap like Shelby.”

-Vanessa Fraser on her new Bowerman Track Club teammate Shelby Houlihan


The Stanford grad finished fifth in the 5000m, her first race since joining the Bowerman Track Club after a successful career at Stanford. She had mixed feels about her race, but was excited to be starting her professional career. Her joking response to what she’d like to learn from the other team members, echoed the sentiment of every athlete and fan in attendance over the weekend as Houlihan kicked to pull off the 1500/5000m double.  

In the 1500m she flew past Jenny Simpson with a final lap of 57.67, putting some serious distance on a woman who has done the same thing to countless others throughout her career. On Sunday, she motored down the final straightaway to take the 5000m. The time of her final 400m (1:02.85), doesn’t do justice to how hard she closed in the last 100 meters, where it looked like she’d been increased to 6x speed while everyone else in the race was still at 2x.