Saturday, February 16, 2013 was a record-setting night at the Armory for the 2013 Millrose Games.
- 1. Chris O’Hare of Tulsa set a new collegiate indoor mile record with a time of 3:52.98 in the Wannamaker Mile race. O’Hare, who placed fourth in the race behind winner Lopez Lomong was the 2012 NCAA Indoor mile champion. The previous record was set by BYU’s Miles Batty at the 2012 Millrose Games (3:54.54).
- 2. Mary Cain bettered her own high school indoor mile record, running 4:28.25, which bettered her mark from the New Balance Games (4:32.78). Cain came in second in the race behind Sheila Reid and ahead of several professional runners and All-American college runners. With Cain’s achievement the high school girls indoor mile record has dropped over ten seconds in 2013. Debbie Heald held the record with a 4:38.5 for over forty years, from 1972 until January 26, 2013.
- 3. Edward Cheserek, who just this week announced he would be attending the University of Oregon next year set a new high school boys indoor two mile record, running 8:39.15 to better Gerry Lindgren’s old record (8:40.0) from 1964.
- 4. Bernard Lagat (in the same race as Cheserek) ran 8:09.49 to re-claim the American record for the men’s indoor two mile from Galen Rupp (8:09.72 in 2012).
- 5. Alysia Montano, in the seldom run women’s indoor 600 meters, shattered the American record, running 1:23.59. The previous record was 1:26.56 by Delisa Walton-Floyd in 1981. Ajee Wilson, who recently decided to skip collegiate competition and signed a pro contract with Adidas, came in second and also bettered the previous American record time with a 1:26.45.
- 6. Erik Sowinski, not Olympians Nick Symmonds or Duane Solomon, set a new American record in the men’s indoor 600 meters with a time of 1:15.61. Solomon was the previous American record holder with a mark of 1:15.70 at a meet in Glasgow in January.
Upon reading about these record performances, one stood out as a little more shocking than any of the others. Wasn’t this 600 meter race supposed to be a battle between Solomon and Symmonds, who placed fourth and fifth respectively in the 800 meters at the 2012 London Olympics?
Who is Erik Sowinski and how did he set an American record over Solomon and Symmonds? Perhaps Symmonds said it best in a post-race interview, “…that’s what’s great about track. You can fly right in, step on the track and get an American record.”
Even more amazing is that Sowinski was not even scheduled to be in the race. Three days before the meet, Kevin Borlee scratched so meet director Ray Flynn called Sowinski. Two days before the meet an excited Sowinski tweeted, “It’s official! I will be running the 600m at Millrose Games this Saturday!”
So who is this man who was a last minute addition to the race, who then went out and set an American Record?
Sowinski attended West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin where he was on the cross country, basketball, and track & field teams. In his senior year he set personal records (PR’s) and school records in the 400 meters (49.46) and 800 meters (1:54.29). He was state champion in the 800, anchored West to the state championship in the 4X800 relay, and also ran a leg on the fifth place 4X400 relay team.
From West, Sowinski moved on to the University of Iowa where he steadily improved each season.
|800 indoor||800 outdoor|
Freshman year he set a school record in the 600 meters indoors and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional as a member of the Iowa 4X400 relay team. Sophomore year he set a school record in the 800 meters indoors and earned All-American honors in the 4X400 relay (Iowa ran 3:05.61 to place seventh at the NCAA Championships). Junior year he earned All-American honors indoors in both the 800 (4th) and 4X400 relay (4th) and outdoors he qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 800 (15th) and 4X400 relay (10th). Senior year he was the Big-10 Indoor champion for the 800 and placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Outdoors as a senior he bettered the Iowa school record in the 800 meters three times. The previously school record was a 1:47.64 set by Bill Frazier in 1962. In front of a hometown crowd at the 2012 NCAA Championships, Sowinski ran his current PR of 1:45.90. Sowinski capped his 2012 season by running at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. He advanced to the semi-finals but was unable to qualify for the final.
Sowinski, who was a five-time All-American while at Iowa, owns or shares seven school records including the indoor 600, indoor 800, and outdoor 800. He was the 2012 Big-10 conference champion in the indoor 800 meters and in 2011 helped Iowa to their first Big-10 conference championship since 1967. In addition he graduated with a degree in integrative physiology and was an academic All-American. In 2012 Sowinski was the recipient of a Big-10 Medal of Honor that recognizes student athletes who have “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”
He had a very solid collegiate track career with some nice academic achievements to go along with his athletic achievements. I think most impressive is his steady improvement every season, both in terms of improving his 800 meter time (see chart above) and doing better each year at the NCAA Championships (not qualifying as a freshman, qualifying in the 4X4 but not the 800 as a sophomore, 15th as a junior, and 2nd as a senior).
Although his college career is now complete, Sowinski’s running career may be just taking off. He is now an American Record holder. He has now beaten Solomon and Symmonds, the two best 800 meter runners in the country. Only time will tell what stories will be added to Erik Sowinski’s storybook career.
Lost in the sea of Nike swooshes, obscured by an ocean of adidas stripes, far below the airplane pulling the Brooks run happy banner, there was a single athlete in the men’s 800 meter final at the US Olympic Trials, with no sponsor. He wore a blue and green striped t-shirt that he bought at American Eagle and a matching blue headband. He looked somewhat out of place next to athletes in state of the art competition uniforms, made to be lightweight, sweat wicking, and aerodynamic. Who was this unattached runner and what was he doing in the 800 final?
This story really began on Friday June 22 during the first round of the men’s 800. A runner dressed in the above described attire came out on to the track to run in heat two. I immediately started making fun of him, thinking he was someone who just barely made it to the Olympic Trials. I yelled “Go Stripes!” as he did his warm-up striders. When I stopped making jokes about his shirt, I finally checked my program to find out that his name was Mark Wieczorek. Less than two minutes later, lo’ and behold, Wieczorek placed third in his heat and qualified on to the semi-final.
The semi-final was on Saturday June 23, and out came “Stripes,” dressed the same. I made a couple jokes about doing laundry to wash his striped shirt and then we settled in to watch the race. Stripes placed fifth in the first heat and was on the bubble to make it to the final. Heat two was slower than the first heat and Stripes was qualified for the final as the last time qualifier!
Now that he was one of only eight American men still competing for a shot at the London Olympics in the 800 meters, I started doing more research on Wieczorek. He attended MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, where he was a five-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American and the 2006 NAIA national champion in the 800 meters. He has run for Team XO and the Oregon Track Club Elite. Between training sessions, he did some work for RunnerSpace.com. At the 2011 US Championships he placed fifth. In addition to racing the 800 at a pretty high level, Wieczorek is also a high school coach and in the fall of 2011 he was named Washington cross country coach of the year after leading Gig Harbor to the 4A state championship, a number 10 ranking in the US, and a berth at the Nike Team Nationals meet. Not bad for a first year coach. Despite a fair amount of internet attention, including a story by David Monti for RaceResultsWeekly (RRW), winning a contest on LetsRun.com, and being the topic of a LetsRun.com message board thread, Wieczorek remained unsponsored entering the 2012 Olympic Trials.
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There was no shortage of information about Stripes and I immediately became a fan, even making him the centerpiece of the Pamakids Olympic Trials Question of the Day game. Instead of doing that, maybe I should have been offering him a sponsorship deal to race in the Pamakids uniform. Seriously, the night before the Final, Malinda, John and I speculated whether or not one of the shoe companies would jump on the opportunity to sponsor Wieczorek. What a marketing opportunity – put him in your company’s logo but make the uniform resemble the blue and green stripes that he’s been wearing. Offer him a some up front money with a huge bonus if he makes the Olympic team. The running geeks on LetsRun and RunnerSpace would go crazy and the company would reap the benefit of supporting “the little guy.”
Alas this sponsorship conversation was not being had anywhere but our hotel room. Wieczorek came out for the 800 final in his now trademark shirt and headband. He was still unattached. That didn’t stop him from running a personal record, 1:45.62 and placing seventh.
Wieczorek’s story doesn’t even end here. He’s gotten a bit of a cult following, with his own webpage hosted on the RunningSpace website, a staring role in the Party Run Anthem video, and paparazzi who dress up just like him.
Currently he’s racing in Europe. His familiar striped shirt showed up in a finishlynx photo in Belgium, where he came in second in 1:47.59. On July 17 he ran what I believe is his second fastest time ever, 1:45.96 at a meet in Italy.
I really should have tried to track Stripes down and offered him a Pamakid sponsorship. I would have even thrown in extra singlets so that he doesn’t have to wash his blue and green striped shirt every night between cities.
On July 19, 2011, at a meet in Lignano, Italy, Oscar Pistorius won the 400 meters in a new personal record (PR) of 45.07 seconds. What made this significant is that it was Pistorius’ first time running under the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) World Championship and Olympic “A” standard of 45.25. In fact, it was a PR of over half a second (his previous best was 45.61). Now with a World Championship and Olympic “A” qualifier under his belt, Pistorius has taken another step towards competing at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu and the 2012 Olympics in London.
Pistorius is a double ampute, running on a prosthetic or carbon-fiber blade called the Flex-Foot® Cheetah® from Össur. Both of his legs were amputated when he was eleven months old because he was born without shin bones. He took up running seven years ago to rehabilitate from a rugby injury. Nicknamed the Blade Runner, he is currently the world record holder in the 100, 200, and 400 meters for disabled athletes and is a multiple gold medal winner at the Paralympics. But his goal has been to compete against able-bodied athletes at the IAAF World Championships and Olympics.
In 2007, the IAAF, which is the international governing body for the sport of track & field, banned “any device that incorporates springs, wheels, or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.” This in essence barred Pistorius from competing against able-bodied athletes, notably in competitions like the World Championships and the Olympics. Pistorius appealed the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and in 2008 he won the right to compete against able-bodied athletes.
The next hurdle for Pistorius was to qualify for the South African team for the World Championships or Olympics. In order to do that, he would need to run a qualifying time. For the 2008 Olympics he needed a time of 45.55 but his best that year was only 46.25 so he was not selected to represent South Africa at the Olympics. For the 2009 World Championships in Berlin he needed a time of 45.95 but that season could only run a best of 47.07.
It appeared that despite the ruling, Pistorius might not ever compete at the World Championships or Olympics because he could not run the qualifying standard to be able to represent South Africa. Needing a time of 45.25 for the 2011 World Championships, Pistorius ran 45.61 at a meet in March. But he failed to improve on that time at meets in the Czech Republic, France, New York, and Eugene during the spring and early summer. In Padova, Italy, two days before the Lignano meet, he ran 46.65. Time was running out for him to run the time standard in order to be selected for the South African team. However, with his 45.07 at Lignano, Pistorius is all but assured a spot on the team (three South African runners would have to run faster than 45.07 between now and the end of the qualifying window for Pistorius to not make the team).
Pistorius is now in position to become the first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes at the track & field World Championships. In order to qualify for the South African Olympic team in 2012 to become the first amputee to compete against able-bodied athletes in track & field at the Olympics, he will need to run under 45.25 two times during the 2012 season to satisfy the South African Olympic Committee’s selection criteria.
The initial scientific research on the Pistorius’ blades was done by the IAAF in 2007 and it concluded that Pistorius gained an unfair advantage and thus ruled that he could not compete against able-bodied athletes. The CAS reversed this ruling based on evidence that the IAAF research was not scientifically supported. They did not base their decision on scientific evidence that the blades were not an advantage.
The best scientific explanation of the findings I’ve seen appeared on The Science of Sport website by Ross Tucker, PhD and Jonathan Dugas, PhD in 2009. These two scientists were strongly of the opinion that Pistorius gains an advantage from the carbon-fiber blades. Their opinion is based primarily on the finding that Pistorius uses 17% less oxygen than elite 400 meter runners.
In late 2009, Peter Weyland and Matthew Bundle published an argument that Pistorius runs the 400 meters ten seconds faster with the carbon-fiber blades than he would if he had his own legs. Ironically Weyland and Bundle provided the evidence that led to CAS’ reversal of the ban in the first place. One year later they reversed their position, saying that they made their initial conclusions based on incomplete evidence at the time. Their claim that the blades are worth ten seconds in the 400 meters is based on the facts that Pistorius can reach a speed using 20% less ground force, and that his blades are lighter and springier than real limbs, allowing him to have a faster stride rate during the race.
Now that Pistorius is qualified for the World Championships, the debate over whether or not he gains an advantage from his carbon-fiber blades is raging once again. The above research suggests that he does gain an advantage. However, there is a counterpoint.
Geoff Turner of the Pamakid Runners in San Francisco also uses a carbon-fiber blade made by Ossur. Turner’s are made for distance running and Pistorius’ are made for sprinting. Turner states that although the prosthetic can “return ninety plus percent of stored energy while your tendons return twenty percent,” what is missed in the research is the fact that “your ankles, feet, and calves return anything from 250 to 400 plus percent in active force.” The implication being that without ankles, feet, and calves, Pistorius is not gaining active force that an able-bodied runner is gaining. In the end, Turner may sum it up best, “all of that said, Oscar would take his unborn feet over blades.”
Two apparently unrelated high profile track & field job openings were reported on the week following the 2011 USA Championships. Despite knowing nothing more than what I’ve read on the internet, I will suggest that maybe these two items are more related than one might think.
First, the governing body of United States of America Track & Field (USATF) announced that it would not hire a new CEO until after the 2012 London Olympics. Mike McNees will continue as the interim CEO. You may recall that in September 2010, USATF’s board of directors relieved then CEO Doug Logan of his position. This led to a lawsuit for wrongful termination by Logan that eventually settled out of court in May 2011.
The CEO search committee has apparently had trouble finding the right candidate for the job. Vin Lananna, the Director of Track & Field at the University of Oregon, was apparently a candidate but did not want the job. Lananna stated that he preferred to remain at Oregon. Initially the search committee said it would not consider a USATF board member for the CEO position, but there have been reports that suggest that the committee is considering current USATF Board President Stephanie Hightower for the CEO job. In September 2010, Hightower indicated that she was not pursuing the job but now seems to be reconsidering.
If nothing else, this announcement takes the pressure to identify and hire the right candidate off of USATF until after the next Olympics.
Second, Mike Reilly, the Associate Athletic Director at the University of Oregon accepted a position with the London Olympic Committee as Training Venue Manager. Reilly has been well known as Lananna’s right-hand man for the last nineteen years. The two first met when Lananna arrived as the new head coach at Stanford University in 1992 and Reilly was a redshirt senior. After that season, Reilly remained at Stanford as an assistant coach for Lananna. Later at Stanford Reilly became the administrator and director of track & field operations. When Lananna became the Athletic Director at Oberlin College in 2003, Reilly moved to Ohio with him where he held various jobs, including associate athletic director, chief financial officer, chief operations officer, and head of NCAA compliance for all twenty-two of Oberlin’s sports. When Lananna accepted a position at the University of Oregon in 2005, Reilly followed Lananna back to the west coast. Lananna has praised Reilly for his work as competition director for such things at the 2008 Olympic Trials, 2009 USA Championships, and the 2010 NCAA Championships. One of Reilly’s nicknames is the “Answer Man” because he comes up with all the solution for Lananna’s problems.
Given the timing of these two announcements, I speculate that after the 2012 London Olympics Lananna and Reilly will change jobs again. I wager that Lananna will leave the University of Oregon to become the CEO of USATF. This would be a great move for USATF as Lananna has the vision and skills necessary to make track & field more popular among the public, more financially lucrative for the athletes, and to insure the highest possible level of performance by the athletes at the international level. Lananna’s departure to take on the challenges of CEO of USATF would create a big hole at the University of Oregon, where Lananna has worked for the last seven years building up the program and marketing Eugene as Track Town USA. Who could fill that void? Mike Reilly.
I may be way off base. I may be looking for a conspiracy theory that isn’t there. I have absolutely no insider knowledge. But if all this happens sometime in the late summer or early fall of 2012, remember you read it here first.
With Father’s Day right around the corner, I thought of two young men who are making their fathers proud – Aric Van Halen and Russell Hornsby.
Aric is the son of Alex Van Halen, drummer and co-founder of the band Van Halen. As the story goes, originally Alex played the guitar and
his brother Eddie, played the drums. Over time the two switched instruments. In 1974 they partnered with David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony to form Van Halen. Alex has been married three times and Aric is the son of his second ex-wife Kelly Danniels.
Aric Van Halen attended Oakwood High School in Los Angeles. In 2007 he was the California Division V State Champion in cross country, running 15:59 for the 5K course at Fresno’s Woodward Park. Interestingly in 2005, Van Halen led Oakwood to their first ever team qualification for the state meet, the same year that Sacred Heart Cathedral’s (SHC) boys had their first ever team qualification for the state meet. Although Oakwood and SHC ran in different races, when all the results are combined, out of the 113 total teams at state, Oakwood was eighty-eighth (88:47 team time) one place ahead of SHC in eighty-ninth (88:38). In track & field, Van Halen set school records of 2:00 (800), 4:22 (1600), and 9:19 (3200).
After high school, Van Halen went to the University of Colorado, where he has been a very successful cross country runner for the Buffalos. In 2009 he was the team’s number seven runner for most of the season, saved his best race of the season for the NCAA Championships where he was fifth man, helping the Buffalos come in sixth. Van Halen followed that up in 2010 by earning all-conference and all-regional honors and again placing as Colorado’s fifth man at NCAA’s. In track & field he has developed into Colorado’s top steeplechaser. He ran 9:12 in the 2010 season, but improved his time to a best of 8:52 in 2011.
Russell is the son of Bruce Hornsby, a three-time Grammy Award winner known for songs such as “The Way It Is” and “Mandolin Rain,” and also for playing in more than 100 shows with the Grateful Dead from 1988-95. Bruce was a very good athlete himself, earning a basketball scholarship offer to Division II Randolph-Macon. Russell is named after rock ‘n’ roll legend Leon Russell. His twin brother Keith, who will attend North Carolina-Asheville on a basketball scholarship was named after jazz legend Keith Jarrett.
Russell Hornsby began his high school career at Jamestown High School where he was part of their 2008 cross country team that won the Virginia state championship and went on to qualify for Nike Team Nationals. His teammates at Jamestown included Andrew Colley, who beat Alan Webb’s state meet course record, and Colin Mearns, who would go on to be the 2010 national indoor mile champion.
More of a middle distance runner, Hornsby decided to transfer to Georgetown Prep in Maryland, where he felt he would get better training for his specialty, the 800 meters. He ran 1:54 in his first 800 race for Georgetown, a six second improvement. In the fall of 2010, with a then personal best of 1:53 in the 800, he signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Oregon. With his college plans already secured, Hornsby has been
able to relax and run some fast times this spring during the track & field season. First he helped Georgetown set a school record in the 4X800 meter relay at Penn Relays by running a 1:50.6 split. One week later he ran 1:50.82 against collegiate runners at the Liberty Twilight Qualifier. That time currently ranks him as the sixteenth fastest 800 runner in the nation, according to Dyestat.
With Colorado joining Oregon in the new Pac-12 Conference, it’s quite possible that Van Halen and Hornsby will compete head-to-head against each other. When that day comes, perhaps their famous musician fathers, Alex and Bruce, will be in the stands cheering.
One of the best performances at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University on Sunday May 1, 2011 was turned in by Sally Kipyego in the women’s 10,000 meters. Twenty-five year old Kipyego edged out Shalane Flanagan, 30:38.35 to 30:39.57.
To some it may be a surprise that Flanagan, the 10,000 meter Olympic bronze medalist and American record holder (30:22.22) coming off a bronze medal performance at the 2011 World Cross Country Championships, was beaten. But Kipyego has plenty of strong credentials as well.
Kipyego, who hails from Kenya, had a storied NCAA career for Texas Tech University from 2006-2009. She won nine individual national championships during her collegiate career (three in cross country, four in indoor track & field, and two in outdoor track & field). In May 2009, Kipyego graduated from Texas Tech with a degree in nursing.
She has put off a career in nursing to pursue a career as a professional runner. She is currently coached by Mark Rowland and runs
for the Oregon Track Club. Last summer she ran a 14:38.64 for 5000 meters at a meet in Brussels. That was six seconds ahead of Molly Huddle, who set the American record in that race with a 14:44.76 (Flanagan held the previous American record of 14:44.80).
The race at Stanford was not the first time Kipyego and Flanagan have raced over 10,000 meters at Payon Jordan. At the 2008 Payton Jordan, Flanagan placed first with a new American Record of 30:34.49 while Kipyego set a then collegiate record, placing third in 31:25.45. Kipyego’s record has since been beaten by Lisa Koll, who ran 31:18.07 in 2010 while a senior at Iowa State.
Kipyego’s PR’s put her with the current to American runners, people like Flanagan and Huddle. Her current goals are to represent
Kenya at the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics. However, Kipyego has indicated she is applying for American citizenship. Down the road she could be a Team USA teammate of Flanagan’s and Huddle’s and a possible American record holder. After becoming a citizen she would need to wait one year before she could represent her new country in international competition if her old country agrees to the change, and three years if her old country does not agree to the change.
She is hoping to avoid the controversy that occurred when Bernard Lagat became an American citizen. Lagat was born in Kenya and came to the United States in 1996 at the age of twenty-one. He attended and graduated from Washington State University. While in college he met Gladys Tom, who he eventually married. He and his wife now live in Tucson, Arizona with their two children. Lagat technically became an American citizen on May 7, 2004, more than three months before the 2004 Olympics in Athens. At those Olympic Games, while wearing the Kenya uniform, Lagat won the silver medal in the 1500 meters. In March of 2005, Philip Hersh of the Chicago Tribune broke the story that Lagat had become an American citizen before the Athens Olympics. Kenyan federation rules do not allow dual citizenship, so as soon as Lagat became an American citizen he lost his Kenyan citizenship. Despite this controversy, Lagat was allowed to keep his silver medal from the 2004 Olympics. He was declared ineligible for the 2005 World Championships as part of the three years he was required to wait before competing for his new country. Lagat made his debut representing the USA in international competition at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, where he won gold in both the 1500 meters and the 5000 meters.
Unlike some Kenyan athletes who have been lured by money to become a citizen of an oil-rich Gulf state (like Qatar), Lagat’s desire to become an
American citizen was genuine. He said in an article by Cool Running that, “I want to settle (in the United States) and I want to be able to bring up my family here. I want to live here and work here,” It appears Lagat started the process of becoming an American citizen in late 2003, thinking it would take over a year. However things happened fast and he ended up being sworn in as a US citizen before the 2004 Olympics.
An interesting note due to his citizenship history is Lagat’s records. His 1500 meter personal record of 3:26.34, run in 2001 when he was a Kenyan citizen, still stands as the Kenyan record. The United State of America Track & Field (USATF) rules state that an athlete has to be a US citizen competing in a sanctioned competition to be eligible to set a national record. However, at the 2005 USATF annual meeting, Lagat’s 3:27.40 in the 1500 meters, run on August 6, 2004 in Zurich, was not ratified as an American record. It’s unclear why it was not ratified since the race took place after Lagat was sworn in as an American citizen, even though hardly anyone knew it. The USATF did however ratify three American records for
Lagat from races in 2005. First was the indoor mile (3:49.89) run on February 11, 2005. En route to that 3:49.89, his 1500 meter split was 3:33.34, which also was ratified as an American record. This performance also took place before it became public knowledge that Lagat was an American citizen so it’s unclear why the indoor marks were counted as records but not the 3:27.40 from Zurich. Then in Rieti on August 28, 2005, after publically announcing his citizenship change, he ran 3:29.30 for the 1500 meters outdoors. This mark was ratified by USATF and currently stands as the American record. Since 2005, Lagat has set more American records (with less controversy), including the outdoor 5000 meters record (12:54.12) in Bislett on June 4, 2010.
While his citizenship was controversial at first and it is somewhat confusing as to which of his performances count as American records and why,
six years after becoming a citizen, Bernard Lagat is generally well accepted as an American citizen. Like Lagat, Kipyego was born in Kenya but attended college in the United States and is making the US her post-collegiate home and training base. The next step for Kipyego will be to become an American citizen. Then she can attempt to set records and win medals for Team USA like Lagat has.
The 2011 Boston Marathon is going to be remembered for a long time. The number one reason in my mind is the amazing race by Desiree Davila.
Davila, a member of the Hansons-Brooks Team and coached by brothers Kevin and Keith Hanson, came into the race as the fourth fastest American marathoner in US history (2:26:20 at the 2010 Chicago Marathon). The only American women who had run 26.2 miles faster than her were Deena Kastor, Joan Samuelson, and Kara Goucher.
Despite being the fourth fastest American in history, Desi seemed to be overlooked when America’s top distance runners are mentioned. Goucher, with a 2:25:53 PR and Shalane Flanagan, who ran 2:28:40 in her marathon debut at the 2010 NYC Marathon, are the “cover girls” for America’s hopes at the 2012 Olympic Marathon in London. Runners like Desi, Magdalena Lewy-Boulet (2:26:22, fifth fastest American in history) and Amy Hastings (2:27:03 marathon debut at the Los Angeles Marathon in March 2011, the eight fastest marathoner in American history, and 1:37 faster than Flanagan’s debut marathon) just don’t seem to get the same publicity that Goucher and Flanagan get.
On April 18, 2011, Davila, or “Desi” as most everyone will now call her, ran a race that will be remembered forever. New Zealand’s Kim Smith started the race fast and opened up a big lead. At 25K Smith led second place by forty-five seconds. By 30K, Smith’s calves started cramping and the pack caught and passed her. Davila, who was running a patient and smart race, was part of this pack. As the runners came through the 20 mile mark, it was apparent that Davila might do something special. Chants of U-S-A came from the crowd. At one point Davila raised her arms, calling for more crowd noise. The last American woman to win the Boston Marathon was Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach in 1985. Davila pushed for the lead several times over the final 10K. One by one runners dropped off the lead pack. Finally, Davila, Caroline Kilel, and Sharon Cherop approached the finish line together. A surge dropped Cherop and now it was a two woman race for the crown. The women traded surges and the lead changed hand several times. As late as two blocks to go on Boylston Street, Davila had the lead. In the end, Kilel made one final surge and hung on to win in 2 hours, 22 minutes, 36 seconds. Desi was second in an amazing and gutsy 2:22:38.
After this race, more people are going to know who Desi is. There was quite a tailwind for the race and the course was point-to-point with a net elevation loss. But the fact of the matter is that Desi “stuck her nose in it” with the race leaders and battled for first place in the most prestigious marathon run on American soil.
Davila is someone who didn’t win a state championship in high school or an NCAA championship in college. Her best finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships was forty-first place. Her best outdoor NCAA track & field performance was in 2003 when she placed fifth in the 5000 meters. A look at her personal bests and professional highlights shows a solid national class runner, but until last Monday maybe not one of the best in the world.
That’s part of what makes her so loveable and her story so inspiring. She hasn’t been on the cover of Running Times or Runner’s World. She doesn’t sleep in an altitude tent or use fancy and expensive technological devices that her sponsor and coach help procure. She has a part-time job at a retailer called Moosejaw. According to a pre-race interview she drinks Orange Crush and has a whisky collection. From personal experience I can tell you that she sits in the stands at the USA Championships with her friends and watches the meet after she’s done racing. She comes across as just another runner.
But at the 2011 Boston Marathon she was David fighting against the “Kenyan Goliath.” Even her competition’s coach Alberto Salazar cheered for Desi. Salazar has been quoted as saying that while watching the race in the media area he started shouting at the screen, “I was so excited I was yelling and screaming with 300 (meters) to go.” Weldon Johnson of LetsRun.com said, “There was no doubting Davila earned all of our respect. Most of us will never have the chance to win the Boston Marathon, but if somehow we were put in the situation, we hope we’d respond like Desiree. Twice defeated in the final 800 meters, Desi easily could have given in, but she never wanted to be left wondering “What if …?” She may not have won the race, but she won our hearts and souls. There is nothing more American than the underdog believing against all odds that anything is possible.”
By battling it out all the way to the finish line at the Boston Marathon, Desi reaffirmed to runners everywhere, that’s it’s not about being flashy, it’s about working hard and racing with heart. Thanks for the inspiration, Desi!
In recent weeks, Ato Boldon has shared his thoughts on Team USA’s 4X100 relay team selection and has given advice to current athletes about money and planning for retirement.
4X100 Relay Team Selection:
- Rule 1 running the 4×100 is a privilege not a right. No camp, no run, no like the rules, sit in the stands.
- Rule 2 Pat Henry is in charge.
- Rule 3 is managers/agents stay the $%&* out of practice/discussions. What YOUR client “wants to run” means nothing.
- Rule 4 for the next 3 years no collegians and no newbies. Look at the drops/miscues since 1988 and the experience level of those involved.
- Rule 5: camp is 3 deep at every leg, and no switching. You train/practice with dif runners, but everyone is grouped by the leg u run.
- Rule 6: see rule #3. Start there and the US may not win the next 3 years but the stick will actually travel 400m around an oval.
Advice to current athletes:
- 10. Save some of all that free gear you constantly give away. It will end.
- 9. No one ever remembers the pain, but medals are forever. Push! No pro track athlete ever died from a workout. Post-career regret sucks.
- 8. No one from that shoe company you love so much loves you. Romance with no finance is a nuisance. The more in love you are, the less you make.
- 7. The competitors you think you hate so much now will be your friends when you are retired. Dont take it that seriously. Compete without hate.
- 6. Figure out what job you will do next, in early or mid-career, not post career. Few get to decide when they retire, most get forced out.
- 5. One day you’ll awake and won’t be fast anymore. Does your career define your whole life or existence? It shouldn’t! Have a life so you dont have to go get one after.
- 4. Make use of the best thing about being a track athlete – the travel. Years in exotic locales, but all you know is hotels and McDonald’s is pointless. Get outside, take pictures, learn something. Experience other lands.
- 3. Your career is infinitely more fun with a good training group. Choose your training group wisely. Chances are if you hate your career after, it’s because you hated your training partners, bounced around to several, or had none.
- 2. Europe can be wild and crazy and fun… and it can also shorten your career drastically if you are incapable of not acting a damn fool there. Euro “wine and men/women” have prematurely ended many a promising career.
- 1. Save your money like your life depends on it (it does) and make it earn more while you are earning a lot of it. And yes, get a pro to do this. “Your cousin who’s good with money” doesn’t count.
Both lists were very insightful and show that Boldon is a wise and thoughtful person.
But who exactly is Ato Boldon?
He was born on December 30, 1973 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. As a teenager he moved to New York City, where, while playing soccer, he was discovered by head track coach Joe Trupiano at Jamaica High School in Queens. In his first season of running track he ran 10.83 in the 100 meters, 21.44 in the 200 meters, and 48.52 in the 400 meters. He later moved to San Jose, California and attended Piedmont Hills High School. In his senior year he ran 10.57 in the 100 and 21.07 in the 200, and placed third at the 1991 California State Meet in the 200 meters.
In 1992, at the age of eighteen, Boldon represented his home country, Trinidad and Tobago, at the Barcelona Olympics. He ran the 100 and 200 meters but did not advance out of the first round in either event. However, later that same summer he made history as the first athlete to win gold medals in both the 100 meters and 200 meters at the World Junior Championships.
After high school he attended San Jose City College and in 1993 won the California Junior College state championship in the 100 and 200 meters, earning the meets Most Valuable Performer award. That same year we competed in the 100 and 200 meters at the World Championships in Stuttgart. By 1995 he was competing as a member of the UCLA Bruins track & field team. At the beginning of the summer he was the NCAA Champion in the 200 meters and by the end of the summer he was the World Championships bronze medalist in the 100 meters. This began a string of successes that lasted for the next six years.
- 1996 NCAA record of 9.90 seconds (100 meters) that stood until 2008.
- 1996 Olympic two-time bronze medalist (100 meters and 200 meters).
- 1997 World Championship gold medalist (200 meters).
- 2000 Olympic silver medalist (100 meters) and bronze medalist (200 meters).
- 2001 World Championship silver medalist (4X100 relay) and bronze medalist (100 meters).
- PR’s of 9.86 (100 meters) and 19.77 (200 meters).
All told Boldon won eight medals at the Olympics and World Championships between 1995 and 2001, medaling at five out of the six major international championships during that period.
In 2004, after representing Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympics for the fourth time, Bolden retired from the sport.
This does not mean that Boldon has slowed down in his pursuits. From 2006-2007 he was a member of the Senate of Trinidad and Tobago. Also in 2006 he produced and directed a film entitled Once In A Lifetime: Boldon in Bahrain which documented his voyage with fellow fans and Trinidad and Tobago nationals to Bahrain, where the country’s soccer team defeated Bahrain 1–0 and became the smallest country to ever qualify for the FIF World Cup. He is now a television broadcast analyst for track and field, and can be seen and heard offering insights during track & field meet coverage for CBS, NBC, and ESPN.
It was three years ago on November 3, 2007 during the Men’s US Olympic Marathon Trials race that Ryan Shay collapsed and died around the five and a half mile mark. The Shay family is a running family. There were eight kids and they all ran at Central Lake High School. Three years later, despite the tragedy, running is still a big part of their lives.
Shay’s parents Joe and Susan were coaching runners from Central Lake High School at the Michigan state cross country meet when their son Ryan died. In an AP story that ran in 2007, Joe said he saw an online interview about his son the night before the Olympic Trials race and got an urge to catch a 5 A.M. flight to New York to surprise him. Instead he stuck with his original plan, to coach his high school runners. “God, I regret it,” he told the Associated Press. Driving to the meet that Saturday morning, the Shay’s received a call saying Ryan had fallen down during the race. Then came a second call with worse news: Shay’s heart had stopped. After the tragic news, Kari Johnson of Central Lake placed twenty-fourth out of 254 runners in the Division 4 race at the Michigan state cross country meet. This weekend, the Shay’s will again be coaching at the Michigan state cross country meet, with one boy (Jordan Becker) and one girl (Anastasia Bragg) qualified to compete.
Ryan’s sister, Sarah Shay, will be in New York this weekend running her first NYC Marathon. Sarah, 34, ran her first half marathon last year and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with Lupus. Despite the condition, that is aggravated by sunlight, and its side effects (headaches, joint pain, and skin rashes), Sarah will run this year’s NYC Marathon to honor her brother’s memory.
Ryan’s widow, Alicia Shay, is a national level runner herself. She was a two-time NCAA champion at 10,000 meters while at Stanford University. Alicia and Ryan married on 7/7/07, meaning they had been married for less than four months when Ryan died. New York conjures up many memories for Alicia. It is where she first met Ryan after the 2005 NYC Marathon. And of course, it is where she last saw her husband in 2007. Since the tragedy Alicia has understandably struggled with running, training, and racing. But she will be in New York this weekend to cheer on Sarah as well as her sister’s husband. In an interview with the New York Times, she says, “If I could run the New York marathon, where Ryan and I met, where Ryan breathed his last breath, yes, that would be full circle — and sad, and incredible, and all those things. That would be a dream. That would be an absolute dream.” In that same article it is mentioned that Alicia is a coach for a group called The Run Smart Project and that she is running 60 miles a week and may be close to making a return to racing.
Ryan’s youngest brother, Stephan, is now 24-years old. At the time of Ryan’s death he was a 21-year old on the Brigham Young University (BYU) cross country team. Immediately after the tragedy Stephan flew home to be with his family. But less than one week later he rejoined his BYU teammates and was slated to run at the NCAA Mountain Regional Meet before flying back home for his brother’s funeral. Sadly, Stephan came down with food poisoning and did not race. But BYU placed fourth and qualified for the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA Championships, BYU wore black wristbands inscribed with the words “believe in yourself” (those were the words Ryan shared with a fellow runner at the start of the Olympic Trials Marathon). Stephan wore red gloves that said “Ryan Shay” on them. Ryan’s alma mater, Notre Dame, wore the same red gloves at the NCAA Championships also to honor Ryan.
One fortunate thing for Stephan was that he had a great coach, Ed Eyestone, who could help console him through this difficult time. Ironically, Eyestone was doing commentary for NBC television at the race where Ryan died. Eyestone was able to offer amazing support to Stephan because Eyestone himself lost a brother while he was running in college, just weeks before a big NCAA race.
Now Stephan is following in his brother’s footsteps as a professional runner. Stephan runs for the Bay Area Track Club and is coached by Magdalena Lewy-Boulet. He has had a slew of top fifteen finishes this year in USA championship road races, and in October he represented the USA at the World Half Marathon Championships in China. One race that is on Stephan’s radar – the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.
Ryan Shay was only twenty-eight years old when he died three years ago. Shay’s college coach at Notre Dame, Joe Piane, said that three words come to mind when he thinks of Shay, “focus, discipline and sacrifice.” Please take a moment on November 3, to say a prayer, or have a moment of silence, or raise a glass in memory of Ryan Shay.
Here’s to Ryan Shay and the traits of focus, discipline, and sacrifice.
The track and field world lost a great contributor to the sport on August 18, 2010. Scott Davis, a long-time track and field announcer, passed away in his home in Cerritos, CA at the age of sixty-six. He’d been battling cancer for several years and with his compromised immune system picked up an infection, which would lead to his death, while announcing at what would be his final track meet – the IAAF Junior World Championships in Moncton, Canada.
You may not have known what Scott Davis looked like, but if you’ve ever been to a big track and field meet you’ve probably heard his voice. His track and field announcing most likely enhanced your understanding and enjoyment of the meet. He provided pre-race statistics and background information so you knew what to look for and he called attention to the field events that were taking place concurrently. “I never met him, but I think of his voice as the voice of track and field,” said frequent track and field meet attendee, Malinda Walker.
Lloyd Stephens often “spotted” the distance races for Davis. That meant Stephens kept Davis abreast of which runners were in which place during the races. Stephens spotted for Davis at the 2010 NCAA Championships, USA Championships, and Prefontaine Classic – Davis’ last three domestic meets. Stephens recalled how Davis, “got excited about the races and he got the crowd excited, too.” One of his favorite expressions after a great performance was, “Oh my!” “He really could communicate his enthusiasm with his inflection,” said Stephens. Davis was known to keep everyone in the announcing booth laughing, cracking jokes off-mike between events.
At last June’s NCAA Championships the Oregonlive.com website had a nice write-up about Davis because it was the thirtieth NCAA Championship (Indoor and Outdoor) that he’d announced. Davis recounted a memory from the 1988 NCAA Championship Meet involving Oregon State’s Karl Van Calcar. Van Calcar was the last Oregon State athlete to compete at the meet and because he won the steeplechase, and because Oregon State had already announced they were dropping their track and field program after the 1988 season, Van Calcar would be the final Oregon State NCAA Champion. Van Calcar was leaving the track but Davis pointed him out to the crowd and got him to take a victory lap. Davis’ understanding of the significance of this moment is just one example of the insight that he brought to the track meets that he announced.
A few weeks after the Oregonlive.com story, at the USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, USATF interviewed Davis about track announcing:
In addition to announcing major track meets in both the United States and abroad, Davis was the long-time meet director for the Mt. Sac Relays. He also worked at his alma mater, UCLA, as announcer at UCLA home track and field meets for twenty-eight years and as part of the stats crew during football games held in the Rose Bowl. His love of statistics led him to co-found the Federation of American Statisticians of Track (FAST) in 1983, and to serve as the Secretary General of the Association of Track and Field Statisticians (ATFS) since 1994.
I had the good fortune to work with Davis when I was the UCLA team manager. As manager one of my jobs was to know the up to the minute meet score, which meant I needed to know both running and field event results for men and women. Anytime I missed something or was unsure about a result, I ran up to the announcers booth and Davis let me look at the official results sheet. The meets were often close. “Thinking” so and so got third in the discus wasn’t good enough, I had to know who got third. Thanks to Davis’ result sheets I was able to report back to coaches Bob Larsen, Bobby Kersee, and Jeanette Bolden with accurate team scores so they could make appropriate line-up decisions for the final events of the meet. It was a high pressure job but I loved it. I wouldn’t have been able to do it accurately without Davis’ help.
The respect and appreciation that legions of track fans have for Davis has been exemplified in the numerous write-ups about him since his death. Meb Kelfezighi shared his memories with LetsRun.com, the IAAF issued a press release, the Eugene Register Guard wrote a nice article, and the Orange County Register also ran a story.
I’m going to miss hearing Davis’ familiar voice the next time I’m at the Prefontaine Classic or the USA Championships. I’ll miss the anecdotes and information that he skillfully provided to the spectators, building up each event’s excitement and drama. But, I bet he’ll be looking down and taking in the meet, with the best seat in the house, just waiting for a great performance so he can exclaim, “Oh my!” Thanks for calling all those track meets, Scott. Rest in peace.