Two good deeds by track & field athletes this past week made news around the country.
First, on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at the Ohio Track & Field State Meet, Meghan Vogel, a junior from West Liberty-Salem High School, performed a terrific act of sportsmanship. Earlier in the meet she won the Division 3 Girls 1600 meters with a school record time of 4:58.31. It was a hot day and the girls 3200 meter race took place only about an hour later. Perhaps still tired from the 1600, Vogel found herself in last place in the 3200. As she made her way down the final straightaway the second to last place runner, Arden McMath, a sophomore from Arlington, began to struggle in the heat collapsed to the track. She was struggling to get back up to finish the race. Rather than sidestepping her to finish her own race, Vogel slowed to help McMath stand and then literally helped carry McMath across the finish line.
McMath was officially credited with fourteenth place in 12:29.90 and Vogel was officially fifteenth (and last) in 12:30.24. Meet officials chose to ignore the rules that would normally call for McMath to be disqualified from the race for receiving assistance because of the terrific act of sportsmanship that took place.
Vogel received a standing ovation from the crowd at Ohio State University. In a post-race interview, Vogel was very gracious about what she did, saying that helping McMath was more satisfying than winning the 1600 meter race.
The second good deed took place on Sunday, June 3, 2012 in Texas near San Antonio. Tyler Williamson, a junior on the University of Texas-San Antonio track & field team was working as an attendant at Wildhorse Community Pool. A mother reported her three-year old son missing and Williamson flew into action. Apparently the boy, Jaden Muhlenbruch, fell into the pool and sank to the bottom. Williamson called for emergency help and after someone else found and pulled the boy out of the pool, Williamson began CPR on Jaden, who was blue, non-responsive, and had no heartbeat. After a few compressions Jaden started spitting up water and was airlifted to a nearby hospital. He is expected to make a full recovery.
The fact that Williamson was working that evening is an amazing story in itself. He was not scheduled to work Sunday evening but he picked up an extra shift even though he would be traveling to Des Moines, Iowa on Monday to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Willamson is a three-time conference champion and school record holder in the long jump (outdoors-25’8.75”, inoors-25’0.5”).
Williamson was welcomed in Des Moines with a mini-media storm, with print and television news outlets all wanting to hear his story. Seventy-two hours after his heroic rescue at the pool in Texas, he competed in the NCAA long jump final, where he, perhaps emotionally exhausted from the ordeal, fouled all three of his jumps. Something tells me that Williamson, who had a 3.71 GPA this year, is still pretty pleased with his accomplishments this week.
It’s been a week of “oops moments” in track & field.
First there was Katy Andrews at the BYU Robison Invitational. Andrews was leading the 3000 meter steeplechase when her spikes caught just before the water jump and she failed to jump and instead went head first into the water pit.
This spectacular fall, which Andrews herself uploaded to YouTube, has gone viral but if that nine second clip isn’t enough for you, you can see the fall from another angle, in super slow motion, as well as a sequence of photos shot by BYU photographer Jaren Wilkey. Andrews was leading the race at the time of her fall and she resumed running after the fall. But after running two more laps, her coaches convinced her to drop out so they could check her for any injuries.
The next day at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University, 2008 1500 meter Olympian Lopez Lomong, running his first competitive 5000 meter race since his college days miscounted the laps and kicked one lap too early. He started to surge away from the pack at the 4200 meter mark (two laps to go). David Torrance gave chase while the rest of the pack was content to let them go because there were still two laps to go. Torrance would later say that he knew there were two laps to go but he wanted to cover Lomong’s move because he was going for the win. Lomong ran a blistering 54 second lap on what he thought was the last lap but actually was the penultimate lap. After raising his arms in victory and slowing to a stop the crowd and officials started yelling to him that he still had one more lap. No one had passed him yet so Lomong took off running again! He somehow managed to run a 66 second last lap despite the stop and the tremendous lactic acid build-up he likely had in his legs. The results sheet will show him with a 2012 world leading and Olympic A standard time of 13:11.63, three seconds ahead of second place.
Lomong’s early kick reminded me of an indoor race I watched many years ago involving Suzy Favor Hamilton. After some research I found the details from that race. It was the mile at the 1994 Mobil Invitational indoor track & field meet in Fairfax, Virginia. The race was eight laps and pitted Hamilton against the reigning Olympic 1500 meter champion Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria. Hamilton kicked on what she thought was the last lap to pull ahead of Boulmerka. But there was still one lap to go. When Hamilton heard the bell for the final lap ringing she shouted “Oh no!” and you could see the shock on her face. Unlike Lomong, Hamilton did not get back in the race and Boulmerka would win with a time of 4:28.64.
It turns out this was not Hamilton’s only lap counting goof. At the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle, Washington, then still in college at the University of Wisconsin, she got disoriented on the track and didn’t start her kick until it was too late, finishing fourth in a race that many thought she could have won.
To err is human, so next time you make a boo-boo remember at least your mistake isn’t being written up in the newspaper or posted as a video on the internet.
Tune in on Saturday, October 29 for an exciting cross country conference championship. The West Coast Conference (WCC) Championships are taking place at Crystal Springs in Belmont, CA. If you can’t make it to Crystal, the meet is to be streamed live at wccsports.com.
The highlighted showdown will take place in the men’s race, which starts at 9:00 A.M. The University of Portland has won the WCC men’s team championship an amazing thirty-two straight years. That’s every conference championship since 1979. Their streak is in jeopardy due to Brigham Young University (BYU) joining the WCC this year.
BYU arrives to run at Crystal Springs and in a WCC Championship for the first time as the third ranked team in the nation. Miles Batty has led BYU to a win at the Notre Dame Invitational and to a second place at the Wisconsin Invitational.
Portland, however, is no slouch. Led by Trevor Dunbar, Portland took second at the Pre-Nationals Meet and is ranked number eight in nation. Portland also has the advantage of experience and knowledge on the challenging Crystal Springs course.
Portland’s streak is one of the longest in NCAA history in all sports. Arkansas won thirty-four consecutive conference championships between 1974 and 2007, the first seventeen while members of the now defunct Southwest Conference (SWC) and the last seventeen as members of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Over the thirty-two years of the streak, Portland has also had the individual champion every year except 2007, when University of San Francisco’s (USF) Cheyne Inman edged out Portland’s top runner by five seconds. Current Portland coach, Rob Connor, was the 1984 WCC Champion, which was also the last year the WCC Championships were not held at Crystal Springs. The last team other than Portland to win the conference championship was the University of Nevada Reno, which won four straight titles from 1975-1978.
Some years Portland has been particularly dominant, scoring a perfect fifteen points (sweeping first through fifth place). They have done this nine times, including five years in a row between 1995 and 1999. Of late, however, the rest of the conference has been closing the gap on Portland. In 2010 Portland’s margin of victory was just seven points over USF and in 2008 the margin of victory over Loyola Marymount was just ten points.
Will Portland continue their conference winning streak or will BYU crash the party and win the WCC on their first try?
This summer there was some major track & field news from the state of Oregon. No, I am not talking about the USA Championships, Prefontaine Classic or any of the other meets that took place at Hayward Field in Eugene. I’m talking about Corvalis, Oregon, home of Oregon State University. When your neighbor to the south is Track Town USA (Eugene) and your rival school is the University of Oregon, it’s easy to not be noticed. That’s probably how Corvalis and Oregon State University feel. But maybe any feelings of inferiority are about to go
Oregon State was a strong program in the 1960’s, winning the men’s NCAA cross country championship in 1961 and dominating in the high jump the way the University of Oregon continues to dominate in the distance events. Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the high jump with his Fosbury Flop technique, competed for the Oregon State Beavers on his way to the gold medal in the high jump at the 1968 Olympics.
But in 1988, the school decided to drop men’s and women’s cross country and track & field. For the next sixteen years, the Pac-10 conference was really the Pac-9 conference in those sports. A generation of kids grew up never seeing an Oregon State athlete compete in the orange and black school colors in cross country or track & field.
In 2004, the school brought back the women’s program but not the men’s program. Since their return the Beavers have had solid cross country team finishes of sixth at the 2008 Pac-10 Championships and ninth at the 2008 and 2009 NCAA Western Regional Meet.
Head Coach Kelly Sullivan has spearheaded a campaign to build a track on-campus to raise the exposure and quality of the team (they currently practice at Corvallis High School). Part of the campaign includes raising money to reinstate the men’s program and to construct a national class cross country course.
In the spring of 2010, some Oregon State football players with track & field experience helped bring attention to Oregon State. Jordan Bishop, a wide receiver on the Oregon State football team, who was an Oregon high school state champion in the long jump and runner-up in the high jump and 400 meters, asked if he could compete in an indoor meet in the high jump. In his first meet, he won the Husky Classic with a jump of 7’0.5”, and became just the eighth athlete in school history to clear seven feet. Throughout February and March of 2010, after their spring football workouts, eight athletes joined Bishop at track practice. Other football athletes competed in the high jump and 60 meter events. This was the first male Oregon State representation at a track meet in twenty-two years. At the 2010 NCAA Championships that were held in Eugene, Bishop placed ninth in the high jump to earn All-American status.
Oregon State football coach Mike Riley deserves mention for his support of the track & field program. Not only does he allow his football athletes to compete in track & field, he has been vocal in his desire for Oregon State to have a men’s track & field team. Riley has stated that he lost out on recruits who chose to attend a different school because Oregon State did not offer track & field, so there was no chance for them to compete in both sports.
On June 14, 2011, groundbreaking began on a new track facility on the Oregon State campus. University of Oregon dignitaries Vin Lananna and Tom and Janet Heinonen were on-hand to lend support to their in-state rivals. Fosbury, who is chairman of the committee to bring back men’s track & field, was there with a ceremonial shovel in hand. There’s even been talk that the stadium should be named Fosbury Field.
It’s the first of multiple phases, but hopefully this is the start of Oregon State’s return to prominence in cross country and track & field.