Wallace Spearmon in the 200m heats at the 2007 IAAF World Championships (© Getty Images)
Fayetteville, Arkansas, USAThere is only one comparison that matters to Wallace Spearmon Jr. when it comes to his father Wallace Spearmon Sr.
“Everything he did, I want to do better and I want to do what he didn’t do,” Spearmon Jr. said.
Spearmon Jr. took care of one when he won the silver medal in the 2005 IAAF World Championships in Helsinki for the family’s first World Championships medal. He added a second with a bronze medal in Osaka in August.
The elder Spearmon’s best finish was fifth in the 200m semifinals in the 1987 World Championships in Rome.
Next on the agenda is to become the family’s first Olympian. A gold medal in Beijing would go a long way toward redemption in what Spearmon called a forgettable showing in Osaka.
“It was a letdown and I felt that I was better than third place,” Spearmon said. “I shoot to win and if I don’t win I have some work to do. It’s a simple fact since I have been young. I always want to win even if it’s a game of Scrabble.”
Coaching Change strengthens father-son bond
The biggest question mark in Spearmon’s preparation for Beijing has been a coaching change from Lance Brauman to his father this fall.
Brauman, who coached Spearmon since his freshman season at Arkansas in 2004 and who has worked with World champions Tyson Gay and Veronica Campbell, was convicted of embezzlement, theft and mail fraud in 2006.
During the 2007 season, Spearmon trained from workouts that Brauman had written in notebooks for Spearmon, Gay and Campbell for the year before he went to prison. It was a difficult transition working out unsupervised but even more so as he pondered his training situation for 2008.
“We just tried to stick together as a group, but it was pretty difficult being the baby of the group and kind of trying to motivate myself,” said Spearmon, who turned 23 on 24 Dec.
Brauman moved to Orlando after serving a 10-month sentence at the Texarkana Federal Correction Institute in Texas on five counts related to paying athletes for work not performed while he was the coach at Barton County (Kan.) Community College.
Gay is continuing to train with Brauman in Florida. The burden of relocating weighed on Spearmon throughout the USATF and World Championships. “It was of the most difficult decisions that I have made, it was not easy to concentrate,” Spearmon said.
In the end, Spearmon, a self-proclaimed country boy who enjoys horseback riding, said that he felt more comfortable staying in Fayetteville where he attended high school and won the 2004 and 2005 NCAA Outdoor 200m titles while attending Arkansas.
“I didn’t need any new distractions,” Spearmon said. “If it works, I’ll stick with it. If not, I am still young and have time to recover.”
Thus far, things have been progressing well with the relationship between Spearmon and his father. The elder Spearmon, who began working with his son toward the end of the 2007 season, has incorporated “explosive” workouts in contrast to the overdistance and hill training that his son had done in the past.
“It all starts in the fall; that carries me through the whole season,” said Spearmon, who is often joined in training with college teammate Maurice Bridges.
Expanding sprint horizons while focusing on 200m
Spearmon’s fall training program has been designed in an attempt to run under 10 seconds in the 100, sub-20 in the 200 and sub-45 in the 400. The 400m is the event that has provided the most difficulty for Spearmon, who ran 9.96 in the 100m in Shanghai in September and 19.65 in the 200m in 2006 – a mark that ranks as No. 4 on the all-time performance list.
“Right now, I am still trying to figure out the technique,” Spearmon said about the 400m where he has a best of 45.22 from 2006. “I give a lot of respect to Jeremy (Wariner) and what all those guys and doing there.”
Spearmon plans to run only one indoor meet in 2008 – the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville – with his outdoor season commencing in April with the Texas, Mt. San Antonio College and Penn Relays in preparation for 200m in the U.S. Olympic Trials 27 June-6 July in Eugene, Ore.
In 2007 Spearmon posted wins in the adidas Track Classic, Reebok Grand Prix and Prefontaine Classic and finished second in the USATF Championships and ran a season-best 19.82. He failed however to match his PB of 19.65, but did produce four sub 19.9 clockings, running with his trademark gold necklace clenched in his teeth during races. There’s little concern, however, for Spearmon heading into 2008.
“I didn’t have any goals but to win (the World Championships),” Spearmon said. “You can’t run a PR every year so it wasn’t really a let down. It just means it is something special and to look forward to when you do PR.”
As in the 2007 national championships, the 200m figures to be among the most competitive events in the U.S. Trials with reigning World 100m and 200m champion Tyson Gay (19.62), Xavier Carter (19.63) and Spearmon (19.65) who hold the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 spots on the all-time performer list. There’s also collegian Walter Dix of Florida State, who ran 19.69 for the second-fastest time in the world of 2007.
“There’s a lot of guys and it’s deeper than the 100m, but I think to make the team, I just need to stay motivated and do everything correctly. From eating right and dedicating myself to track to make it this year,” Spearmon said.
Kirby Lee for the IAAF