Wallace Spearmon Jr. has always been one of the most soulful guys on the track and field circuit. He runs with heart. He speaks from the heart. If only he could stay healthy, he could capture America's heart.
Maybe this is his year.
A few days ago, at the UTA Bobby Layne Invitational meet in Arlington, Texas, attended by track geeks along with wives, girlfriends, cousins, aunts and uncles and a few dozen other people who apparently thought that hanging out at a track meet might beat going to the mall, Spearmon ran the 200 meters in 19.95 seconds.
That was a world-leading time.
No one -- but no one -- runs 19.95 in March.
That 19.95 was the earliest anyone has recorded a sub 20-second time in the Northern Hemisphere, according to USA Track & Field.
A second note:
At that same meet, Spearmon's training partner, Darvis "Doc" Patton, ran a 10.04 100. That was the fastest 100 of the year.
A third note, and this -- particularly if you know track and field, and the potential of both these athletes -- borders on the amazing:
That race -- you can watch it, as well as Patton's, here -- was the first time in 2012 Spearmon had been in spikes past 90 meters.
"This is top-secret info," Spearmon said with a laugh. "We have been doing 30s, 40s, maybe 60s. 90 meters is the farthest I had run in spikes all year. I had been wearing flats," adding a moment later, "In that race I felt sloppy."
Spearmon also said, and here he was back to his serious self, "I have never been 100 percent. This is the first year people are starting to see what I am capable of. I have no idea what I'm capable of. I want to find out."
Spearmon has always had talent. No one has ever doubted that.
His father was the 1987 bronze medalist in the 200 at the Pan Am Games, and in college, at Arkansas, Wallace Jr. won the NCAA title in the 200 in 2004 and 2005.
Running the 200 at the world championships, he won silver in 2005, and bronze in 2007 and 2009.
Again in the 200, he finished in the bronze position at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. But then he was disqualified for stepping out of his lane.
That 2008 DQ claws at him still.
"I dreamed as a child of being an Olympic medalist. Not a world championship medalist.
"Not to take anything away from that. I have between four and eight [world championship] medals. I need that one from the Olympics. If I can get that one from the Olympics, and then when my career is over, I can say I achieved what I was after."
Last year, Spearmon was hurt -- a bad Achilles. That's why there's no "2011 world championship medal" among the string.
That's why, too, he's being cautious and yet aggressive about 2012.
"Doc came up to me the other day and said, 'You want to go home?' I said, 'I just want to go to practice and run 'til I can't walk anymore.' This is how I express myself."
"Typically at practice, I am The Man," Patton said, reflecting on his own long career in the sport. "I run the times. Now he comes in and runs faster than I do. We feed off each other."
Patton also said, "I think that if we both stay healthy, God willing we stay healthy, we are going to have a great year. And we are having fun."
You can see the fun in a series of YouTube videos that peel back the curtain on what Spearmon and Patton have been doing this year, along with others in their training group and coach Monte Stratton.
Tyson Gay, according to ESPN, won't attempt to make the U.S. team in both the 100 and 200; Gay, the 2007 100 and 200 world champ who himself has been dogged by injury, said he plans to focus only on the 100.
Spearmon said he hopes Gay is in the 200. Along with Walter Dix, the 2008 Beijing 100 and 200 bronze medalist and 2011 world championship 100 and 200 silver medalist. And anyone else. All comers.
"If I am ever going to medal," he said, "I would want everyone there, everyone at their best. That way you wouldn't be able to say, 'Oh, he only won because so-and-so wasn't there or this guy had a bad day.'
"I love to compete … I love track and field but I love to compete. Track and field has given me an opportunity to compete."
And he said, "Man, not to toot my own horn, I am trying to be humble and modest, I am healthy. I am healthy for the first time in a long time."