The 2013 USA Championships are upon us. Athletes at this year’s USA Championships will be vying for spots to represent the USA at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow in August.
This will be the first Olympic Trials or USA Championships that I have missed since 2007. I attended the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials in Eugene and the USA Championships in 2009 and 2011 (also in Eugene) and in 2010 in Des Moines, Iowa.
That means I will be cheering for Shannon Rowbury and other athletes from my computer and television rather than from the stands. USATF just announced that there will be over 50 hours of webcast coverage of the meet on their new internet broadcasting outlet, USATF.TV. In addition, ESPN2, Universal Sports, and NBC will be broadcasting more traditional television coverage of the meet.
The broadcast information from USATF is as follows:
USATF.TV Webcasting Schedule
2013 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and Junior Track & Field Championships
All times Eastern
June 19, 1pm to 7:20pm
June 20th, 11am to 10:25pm
June 21st, 11am to 10:35pm (Only field events from 8-10pm)
June 22nd, 7:30am to 7pm (Only field events from 4-7pm)
June 23rd, 8am to 6pm (Only field events from 3-6pm)
USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships
All times Eastern. Check Local Listings.
June 21, LIVE 8-10 p.m. on ESPN2
June 22, LIVE 4-5 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 5-7 p.m. on NBC Sports Network
June 23, 2-3 p.m. on Universal Sports, LIVE 3-4 p.m. on NBC Sports Network, LIVE 4-6 p.m. on NBC
Athletes who achieved the qualifying standards and entered the USA Championships were required to declare their intent to compete in their event(s) last Sunday and Monday. There were several declarations in the women’s distance races of particular note that directly affected the event I follow the most, the women’s 1500 meters.
Women’s 800 – Brenda Martinez, who had qualifying times in both the 800 (1:58.18) and 1500 (4:04.86), chose to scratch from the 1500 and focus solely on the 800. Her time of 1:58.18 is the second fastest in the world so far in 2013.
— Brenda Martinez (@bmartrun) June 10, 2013
Women’s 1500 – High school phenom Mary Cain, who seems to have set a new record every time she’s stepped on the track to race this year, also had qualifying times in multiple events (including an impressive 1:59.51 in the 800). She decided to declare for the 1500, where her time of 4:04.62 makes her a legitimate contender to make the team for Moscow. There was also some speculation about which event Treniere Moser would chose since she had qualifying times in both the 1500 (4:02.85)and 5000 (15:11.00). Moser is still declared in the 5000, but she has indicated that is just a back-up race and her intent is to compete for a spot on the team in the 1500.
Women’s 5000 – Jenny Simpson, as the defending World Champion in the 1500 meters, has an automatic wild card entry into the World Championships. To get this wild card, USATF rules only require that she compete in an event at the USA Championships. That event does not need to be the 1500 meters and that event could be just a preliminary round race. Simpson decided to make her USA Championship event the 5000 meters. So although Simpson will race the 5000 in Des Moines (and who knows, might qualify in the top three and make the team in the 5000 as well) she will be an automatic fourth qualifier for the USA in the 1500, in addition to the top three finishers in the race in Des Moines on Saturday.
Women’s 10,000 – Neely Spence, who was granted a World Championship 10,000 meter “A” standard by virtue of her top 15 finish at the 2013 World Cross Country Championships, has a stress fracture and had to withdraw from the 10,000 meters.
Women’s Steeplechase – Emma Coburn, a 2012 USA Olympian in the 3000 steeplechase, scratched due to a back injury.
Sadly, I won’t be able to compete at the 2013 USA Championships. Thank you everyone for the support, time to get well! http://t.co/R1BRyQ1ROw
— emma coburn (@emmajcoburn) June 16, 2013
It’s the end of March, the unofficial start to the outdoor track & field season in the United States. The World Cross Country Championships and indoor track & field are behind us. The first wave of major college invitationals are starting, most notably, the Texas Relays and Stanford Invitational.
This is a good time to note some major coaching and sponsorship changes that have taken place since the end of the 2012 track & field season. Track and field is a very cyclical sport that operates in four-year periods, known as “Olympiads.” The last Olympiad ended with the close of the 2012 London Olympics/2012 outdoor track & field season. The start of this next Olympiad, 2013 through the 2016 Rio Olympics is just getting started. As is often the case at the end of one Olympiad and the beginning of another Olympiad, there is much change.
Jenny Simpson has decided to leave her coach from 2010-2012, Juli Benson, who coached her to the 2011 World Championship gold in the 1500 meters, and return to Mark Wetmore, the man who coached her in college and to all of her current PR’s (1500-3:59.90, steeplechase-9:12.50 (American Record), 5000-15:01.70).
Lisa Uhl has also decided to leave her coach from 2010-2012, Jerry Schumacher, to return to her college coach, Corey Immels. Ulh, then Lisa Koll, set the collegiate record in the 10,000 meters (31:18.07) while a senior at Iowa State under Immels.
There was a big change with the Mammoth Track Club, with Coach Terrence Mahon moving to England tobe the United Kingdom’s distance coach. As a result, Morgan Uceny and Anna Pierce (and Mahon’s wife, Jen Rhines), have moved to the UK to continue to be coached under the watchful eyes of Mahon. Amy Hastings, on the other hand, decided to move to the east coast to be coached by Ray Treacy. Others to leave Mammoth include Scott Bauhs, Meb Keflezighi, and Angela Bizzari. The leadership of the Mammoth Track Club now lies with board president Deena Kastor and the head coach, Andrew Kastor, Deena’s husband. A new track opened in November and the High Sierra Striders merged with the Mammoth Track Club. The Mammoth Track Club was the pioneer of elite training groups. Founded in 2001 by coaches Joe Vigil and Bob Larsen, runners from Mammoth led the revitalization of American distance running, highlighted by Keflezighi and Kastor winning medals at the 2004 Athens Olympic marathon.
While the Mammoth Track Club resurrected American distance running, the current dominant team may be the group coached by Coach Schumacher in Portland. This group is currently nameless, as it has been reported that they are no longer part of the Oregon Track Club, and for the time being are an individual Nike club. At the USA Cross Country Championships, Schumacher coached athletes were dominant. In the women’s race Shalane Flanagan was first and Emily Infeld was fourth. In the men’s race, Chris Derrick was first, Matt Tegenkamp was third, and Eliot Heath was fourth. Derrick and Alan Webb are two of the most recent athletes to re-locate to Portland to be coached by Schumaker. In addition to the athletes already mentioned, Schumacher also coaches Evan Jager, Kara Goucher, Chris Solinsky, Lopez Lomong, Andrew Bumbalough, and German Fernandez.
Shoe companies and sponsorship have also been in the news. As often happens after an Olympiad, some contracts are renewed and some are not. Among the higher profile, “see you laters” were Kim Smith and Bobby Curtis being dropped by Reebok, and Lauren Fleshmen being dropped by Nike. Curtis has signed on with Brooks and joined the Hanson’s Brooks team and Smith is now sponsored by New Balance. Fleshman, who also announced that she is pregnant, signed with Oiselle, a company specializing in women’s running apparel located in Seattle, Washington.
Speaking of Washington, that is where Brooks is located. Brooks made news by committing to continue financial support to the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Program (ODP) for at least four more years. The Hansons-Broooks team is based in Michigan and coached by brothers, Kevin and Keith Hanson. Hanson’s biggest stars to date have been 2008 Olympian Brian Sell and 2012 Olympian and 2011 Boston Marathon runner-up Desi Davilla. Brooks also announced the formation of a new middle distance team to be located in Seattle. Already signed on as part of this team are two women with Seattle collegiate ties: Katie (Follett) Mackey (University of Washington) and Jessica (Pixler) Tebo (Seattle Pacific University). The two men on this new team are pace setter extraordinaire Matt Scherer and the 800 runner who was quite impressive in his striped shirt at the Olympic Trials last year, Mark “Stripes” Wieczorek.
There have probably been many more changes within the track and field world since we last saw most of the top US athletes in London at the 2012 Olympics, but these are some of the most notable changes that happened on the ride known as the coaching and sponsorship carousel.
In November 2012 there was a sad announcement that after fifteen years, John Dye, founder of the website DyeStat.com, announced that the website would no longer be updated. However, a few weeks later RunnerSpace stepped up and bought DyeStat. After three months of prep work, the new DyeStat website was re-launched on Thursday, February 28, 2013.
DyeStat.com, when overseen by John Dye, was a major source of information, statistics, and pictures of high school track and field, and cross country. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s DyeStat.com averaged two million views per month. When I first started coaching at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) in 1998, there was very little information about high school running on the internet. I remember checking Dan Cruz’s cross country website which pretty much consisted of just a weekly Central Coast Section ranking. I was thrilled to see his entry one day that had my SHC girls team were ranked number four. As I expanded my interest to include more than just my local section, to encompass the whole state of California, I found California Prep Track & Field. Then, as Shannon Rowbury got faster and faster, I expanded my interest to the national level and that led me to DyeStat.com.
Dye started with a weekly newsletter in 1996 that covered high school track & field in western Maryland. Dye’s interest stemmed from the participation of his children Derek (high jump) and Natalie (pole vault). Dye started collecting results so that he could create rankings and see where his kids ranked not just against the competition in Maryland but across the whole country. In 1997 DyeStat.com became the first national high school track & field website, featuring top 100 rankings in all events for the whole country.
Dye also went to big meets where he posted results and race re-caps, while his wife Donna took pictures not of the athletes in action but the sidelines – the spectators, coaches, and families. Donna’s section of the website, Donna on the Side, was a favorite place to see pictures and one of my favorite photos is one that Donna took of Shannon Rowbury and me after Shannon’s last high school race – it was both a joyous (Shannon had just won the state championship) and a sad (this was the end of our time together at SHC) occasion. One picture down and to the right of Shannon and me is 2012 800 meter Olympian Duane Solomon and his high school coach.
Around 2004, DyeStat.com added regional coverage and the California Prep Track & Field website that I visited for California high school information became part of the DyeStat family, as DyeStatCal.com. This led to an even larger internet presence, and interest in DyeStatCal surged to its peak during the years 2004-2008. The message boards were filled with discussions about top runners and teams. I excitedly checked DyeStatCal daily for the latest rankings and results. On occasion the SHC team was featured on the front page of DyeStatCal after strong performances.
DyeStat created a new level of interest in cross country and track & field among the participants themselves, especially distance runners. I truly believe that the recent resurgence in American distance running can be partially traced to DyeStat. In 2000, three years after DyeStat became a website, three of the greatest prep runners in history were seniors. Before the internet and DyeStat, each of these three may have run fast against their local competition and been satisfied at that. But thanks to DyeStat, the kid in Virgina who would break four minutes in the mile knew that the kid in Michigan was throwing down some fast times in the two mile. And both of them knew that the kid who lived at altitude in California was right on their heels. When these three future American distance stars faced off at the 2000 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships they already knew all about one another. Perhaps they were motivated by the others’ success, which drove each of them to be better. The end result: Alan Webb, Dathan Ritzenheim, and Ryan Hall led American distance running into a new era – an era that has seen Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Galen Rupp medal in the 10,000 meters and Shannon Rowbury, Jenny Barringer, Matthew Centrowitz, and Leo Manzano medal in 1500 meters at the Olympics and World Championships between 2007-2012.
Other than Shannon and Leo, I don’t personally know any of the other successful American runners. But I do feel like know them. These great runners grew up before my eyes, starting when I first read about them on DyeStat. Thank you John Dye, for promoting the sport. You played a big role in the resurgence in American distance running and it was just plain fun to go to your website and read stories.
2013 is a different year and different era than 1997. Websites are no longer new and hip. Today it’s all about smartphones, apps, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s hard to know what sort of influence the RunnerSpace’s DyeStat will have on high school track and field and cross country but I am glad that it’s going to be around. Thank you John Dye for starting this and thank you RunnerSpace for taking the baton and continuing onward.
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.
Being sick stinks! There’s no two ways about it. I should know. I’ve been battling a scratchy throat and lingering cough since December 27, of last year. Those were my symptoms until last week when it turned into a full-on pneumonia. But just like I tell the runners that I coach, try to take away something positive from every experience. In this case, my illness reminded me (or taught me depending on who’s perspective you like to take) that I can’t and don’t have to do it all.
My excellent assistant coaches (and one emergency volunteer) at Sacred Heart Cathedral ran track practices on Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday. The athletes may have missed my witty banter but they still got their workouts completed. We took positive steps towards our more immediate goal of having people in shape for the tryout trials next week and our longer term goal of having people prepared to compete at their best come championship time in May.
The week leading up to the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon is one of my favorites of the year. There are the countdown blog posts on this site, the data collecting of Pamakids’ projected time, and constant race tips and motivational words delivered both in person and via e-mails. On Friday night I send out the much anticipated meet sheet. Saturday I lead a pre-race run and striders, followed by Goodie Bag stuffing. Sunday morning we all gather in Golden Gate Park. Fifteen minutes before the race we take a Pamakids group photo. Then everyone gathers around me and I lead our Go Green cheer. It’s a moment I look forward to all year long.
This pneumonia thing really put a damper on things. Living in the digital age I was able to do many of the usual things. Others stepped up to fill in where I was missing. Notably, my wife Malinda, who led this year’s Go Green cheer, delivering my motto for this year’s race: “The running starts here at 8:00 A.M. But the racing starts on the Great Highway!”
The day after the race, all things Pamakids continued to roll right along even with me still lying in bed. Monica ran the Board of Directors meeting while I “attended” via speaker phone only.
The 2013 KP Half itself was a great success. Although, perhaps due to the same bug that hit me, and also due to the 49ers playing in the Super Bowl, we had a higher than normal no-show count. But the race sold 10,200 bibs and nearly 8,300 runners crossed the finish line in either the half marathon or the 5K fun run.
I was particularly proud of our Pamakids. First of all, we had ten runners race at the Jed Smith 50K on Saturday – that’s a 31.1 mile race. Of those ten, eight of them were out on the course volunteering at the KP Half on Sunday, no doubt reporting to their station sometime around 6:45 A.M. or earlier. That’s bleeding green! I’ve been recording in great detail all the finishing times and places of all the Pamakids at the KP Half since 2008. Over those six races, three people have run all six races in Pamakid uniform – Denis Glenn, Danielle Bisho Jones, and Monica Zhuang. Congrats, you three! Also, congratulations to our five medal winners. The medalists were: Adam Lucas-2nd, M45-49, Mike Axinn-3rd, M50-54, Roy Clarke-2nd, M55-59, Theo Jones-2nd, M70-74, and Patrick Lee-3rd, M60-99 in the 5K. Our Pamakid masters men continue to defy age with their outstanding races.
However, the last three runners I particularly want to highlight are three Pamakid women. First is Sarah Goins, who two years ago ran this race in 2:38:23, which is 12:05 per mile. On Sunday she was 28 minutes faster at 2:10:00, 9:55 per mile. Kudos to Sarah who knocked over two minutes per mile off her time from two years ago!
Marlyss Bird last ran this race in the rain in 2008. Since that time she has been beset with injury after injury. She saw therapists, did exercises, took a patient approach, and after five long years made her return to the half marathon on Sunday, running only 21 seconds off what she did in 2008. Well done, Marlyss!
Jodi Thirtyacre was featured before the 2011 race in the San Francisco Examiner. This year, the Kaiser employee, was even more active than usual in the lead-up to the race, arranging for guest speakers at the Saturday Sports Basement Training Runs and writing a blog to help Kaiser employees get ready for the race. Jodi’s enthusiasm for this race was rewarded this year. She’s been knocking on the door of breaking 2 hours for the last four years – 2:02 in 2009 and 2010, 2:05 in 2011, and 2:00 last year. Her goal this year was to go sub-2. And she did it! Chip time: 1:59:49. Gun time: 1:59:59. Either way you look at it, Jodi joined the ranks of the sub-2 hour half marathoners!
The ride home from the State Cross Country Meet in Fresno, California is one filled with different emotions. I have been fortunate to take this ride home fourteen times in my fifteen years as the SHC cross country coach. The last three years (2010, 2011, and 2012), I’ve been particularly lucky that both the boys and girls teams have qualified for the State Meet and thus, this ride home from State Meet was made in the front seat of a charter bus, not from behind the steering wheel of a van.
My mind wanders a lot during this ride home. I think about the season that has just concluded and the various highs and lows that have occurred. I think in particular about the obstacles that were overcome to qualify whoever was able to qualify for State. And like any good coach, I am already thinking about the next season – who is not graduating and will be back next year, what do we need to do to be even better, which people will step up to be the new varsity? All these thoughts usually make me feel a weird combination of emotions that makes me cry and smile at the same time.
The 2012 ride home from the State Meet was particularly sentimental. Of the fourteen kids who raced at State, half of them were seniors, many of them ran at the State Meet three times in their career. It was a veteran group and we had achieved and experienced a lot together, not just this season but over the course of the last three or four years.
This season’s high and lows were many. At Woodbridge, we experienced a high as both teams ran incredibly fast at this night cross country meet in Southern California (84:53 for the Boys and 101:13 for the Girls). But the next couple weeks made me question if we were not as good as I had thought. The Boys ran 92:06 at Stanford and 90:10 at Baylands and the Girls were even further away – 108:44 at Stanford and 107:56 at Baylands. But we turned it up a notch and ran well at Crystal Springs, 85:28 and 101:12 respectively, and my confidence that both teams would qualify for State returned. The next two meets brought mixed results. The Boys ran well but not great at the Polo Fields (86:10) and Toro Park (86:55). The Girls were beset with injuries and I wondered if I was going to be able to motivate them to “bring it home” come championship time. At the Polo Fields (102:28) the Girls had a horrible last mile where we fell from third place to fifth place. At Toro Park (105:01) we ran a pretty un-inspiring race that left a bad taste in our mouths heading to league finals. But that led to the perseverance that will forever define this year’s team.
Two days before league finals, we had yet another injury and I was forced to move a girl up from the JV, to run Varsity. The Boys needed to hit the time standard to qualify for the section meet. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as worried about simply qualifying out of league as I was this year. But, the kids showed their toughness and made it look easy. The Girls beat two teams that had been beating us all season to easily qualify. The Boys were over a minute and a half faster than the time standard.
The road to Fresno went through Saratoga on the boys side and Valley Christian on the girls side. I had decided that the key to achieving our goal was for the kids to have fun. We didn’t need any special workouts or fancy race plans. We needed to have fun. If we were having fun, we’d be relaxed. If we were relaxed, we’d run well. And I truly believed that if we ran well, we would qualify both teams for State.
The Boys race between us and Saratoga was incredibly close. It was impossible to tell at the finish line which team was ahead. We’d have to wait for the official results. Our nervousness was heightened because I thought I saw Saratoga’s fifth runner finish with our fifth runner. But it turned out that that runner was from another school that had a similar white uniform top. Twenty agonizing minutes later, in the middle of the girls race, we learned that the boys had qualified. The Girls, bless their hearts, made it much easier on all of us watching. Our 3-4-5-6 runners got themselves ahead of Valley Christian’s third runner and stayed there to clinch it.
I relived all of those memories in my head as the bus made its way towards San Francisco. I then started thinking about next year. I would really miss these seven seniors. The boys team will return five runners, and the alternates and underclassmen are pretty strong so they are in good shape. The girls, on the other hand, graduate all but two runners. Plus we are losing a lot of leadership…
At that point I decided that worrying about next year was something to do tomorrow. Today, I should be celebrating the achievements of this year’s team. I got up and looked toward the back of the bus. It was very quiet. A lot of people were asleep. Some were talking quietly to their seatmate. Others had their headphones on and were playing a game or watching something on their phone or laptop. I wished that I could freeze time. These were the final moments of the 2012 cross country season. For the last month, these fourteen runners, five alternates, and four coaches had spent a lot of time together. We’d experienced nervousness together and we’d celebrated success together. There were team dinners, a Zumba class, a team service project, tons of group photos, and a unity ceremony with colored sand that will forever unite us.
This 2012 ride home from State Meet was particularly emotional for me. I think I summed it up best with a Facebook status post: Cried a little. Smiled a lot. Thanks, Seniors!
In 2010, I was like a nine year old boy. I couldn’t wait for my birthday. Only I wasn’t nine. I was thirty-nine, and just as I couldn’t wait to turn ten, I couldn’t wait to turn forty. Why the eagerness of a little boy for a birthday? Because turning forty in the running world means entering into a whole new world. The world of Masters races, where young, fast twenty- and thirty-somethings no longer exist (or at least run in a separate race that I get to spectate instead of participate in from the back).
My first year as a masters runner went quite well, but it was nothing like this past year. All of a sudden my team, the Pamakid Runners, have a kick-butt team. Our transformation from not having a team, to having a mid-pack team, to having a podium-worthy team has happened gradually and slowly or, if you prefer, we just went out on pace rather than too fast.
The Pamakids participate in the USATF-Pacific Association Road Grand Prix and Cross Country Series. In 2011 we were fifth on the roads and fourth in cross country. We were solidly in the middle but were not really any threat to the top teams. Our top places were third place finishes Across the Bay 12K and Zippy 5K in the road race series, and at the Presidio race in the cross country series.
2012 looked like it would be a similar story. But after a second place at Zippy followed by back-to-back third place finishes, our team started thinking we might be able to challenge the “big boys” from the Aggies, Strawberry Canyon, West Valley Track Club, and New Balance Excelsior. At the San Rafael Mile we pulled a first place team finish, winning on a tie-breaker. It was our first PA first victory in at least a decade.
The win at the mile, spurred interest and hope for the fall cross country series, which is made up of eleven races plus the championships. Teams score their best five races out of the eleven, plus the championships. The season began typically with a fourth, a third, and a sixth. Then things got interesting. After being somewhat disappointed with our sixth place at Garin Park in early September, we were ecstatic two weeks later when we placed third at Golden Gate Park. We rode that positive momentum to our first PA cross country victory at the Presidio race, a race in which we had three runners in the top nine and five in the top 21. The next two weeks brought a second and another third place finish. All of a sudden we found ourselves in third place for the season and nipping on the heels of the second place team, the West Valley Joggers & Striders.
Back on the roads, the grand prix resumed with the October 21 Humboldt Half Marathon. Sensing a chance to make a serious impact on the rest of the PA, we made sure we had a full team at the race. Roy Clarke, Denis Glenn, Carlos Urrutia, Tomas Palermo, Steven Pitsenbarger, and Theo Jones as the sixth runner, just in case, came through in a big way. The Pamakids took first place, by a scant twenty-two seconds! That’s two PA road race wins in a row!
What’s been the key to our success? Depth. “Scary” depth as we’ve heard one team call it. At any given race any number of our runners could step into the scoring role for the Pamakids. Out of the five scorers in the half marathon team victory, only Carlos was among the five scorers at the road mile team victory.
In this cross country season so far eleven different runners have placed in the top five at one time or another. The Pamakids aren’t reliant on a core of five runners who do all the heavy lifting. We’re a team in the true sense of the word. That’s how we’ve weathered injuries to Tony, Carlos, and Adam; me missing races due to coaching obligations; and others missing races as they prep for fall marathons.
It sure helps to have a guy like Jerry Flanagan, who has run at all the cross country races where we’ve scored a team this year. And like Richard Martinez, who ran a great last mile at Presidio after Carlos was injured in the race to help us secure the win. We are lucky to have fifty year olds like Mike Axinn, Paul Zager, and Roy, who can drop down to help score for the Masters team when needed. Our incredible depth showed at Golden Gate Park when we lined up thirteen runners, enough for a “B” team of Colin Alley, Galen Carnicelli, Tomas, Steven, David Ly, and David O’Connor that beat one other team. Since John Spriggs was instrumental in the rejuvenation of the Pamakid Masters team, we sure hope he can heal his injury and be able to step on the starting line and race at the championships with us.
If I had known that turning forty was going to lead to so much fun, I would skipped right past that tenth birthday and gone straight to masters!
I had my first experience coaching at a night cross country meet last week when I took the Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC) cross country team down to Orange County for the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic. It was a unique experience for all of us.
The first order of business came in the days before the trip. We would be travelling to Southern California by charter bus, leaving San Francisco early in the morning and making a lunch stop along Interstate 5. But what about dinner? High school kids are not used to racing at a time normally reserved for homework or Facebook. The Varsity Girls raced at 8:15 P.M. The Junior Boys at 8:50 P.M. The Senior Boys at 9:20 P.M. These were all pretty late starting times, well after most people’s usual dinner time. Our coaching staff instructed the kids with the late race start times to have a late afternoon/early evening snack in order to fuel up for their night race.
September 14, 2012 turned out to be a record setting day for heat in Southern California. The temperature topped out at 99 degrees in Costa Mesa, where the meet took place and it was still in the high-90’s when we arrived at Estancia High School around 4:00 P.M. Thankfully, the temperature dropped into the 80’s for most of our races.
Another challenge for us was the fact that, for the first time since 2009, we went to a meet that I had not been to before. We didn’t know which way to walk after we got off the bus. We didn’t know where to check-in to get our race bibs or where the best place to set up our tent was. I hadn’t realized how much easier it is when you and the upperclassmen on the team know all these details before arriving.
We eventually found our way to a spot among the other 100 or so teams who were also at the meet. It turns out that the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic is the third largest high school cross country meet in the country. The two-day event attracts 225 teams, and approximately 10,000 runners cross the finish line.
The next challenge was to figure out the course. Our Junior Varsity (JV) Girls had the unenviable task of racing first. Something as simple as getting to the starting line was a challenge as they ended up on the wrong side of a fence and had to walk all the way around it to get to the starting line. It was still in the 90’s when they raced but they ran tough and learned some things about the course. We had a mid-meet team meeting where the JV Girls gave tips on racing the course to the rest of the team. I was very proud of our JV Girls for providing such good information for their teammates.
The rest of the meet was a bit of a blur. As the sun set, the large temporary lights stationed
throughout the course started to take effect. I found it difficult to spot the SHC kids due to the poor light, and taking pictures with my point and shoot camera was near impossible. I changed my focus to just enjoying the meet and running to as many spots as possible to try to see our runners in the darkness. Most races had very strong competition with fields of 250-300 runners. As a result the SHC runners always had other runners around them and this pushed our kids to keep racing hard.
We ran some phenomenal times. The energy of good competition and racing at night combined with some good nutritional prep work and tips from the JV Girls about the course resulted in a terrific experience at my first cross country night meet.
The 2012 track & field season is just about over. The London Olympics came to an end over a month ago and the final Diamond League meet of the season took place in Brussels last week. Two news items that serve to close out the 2012 season and get us thinking about 2013 recently caught my attention.
Shortly after winning the Olympic shot put competition, Nadezhda Ostapchuk of Belarus was stripped of her gold medal because she failed a drug test. Ostapchuk was tested for drugs sixteen times between April and the start of the Olympics and passed every test. Her last test that showed no drugs was on July 30. She was tested when she arrived in the Olympic village in London and again after the shot put competition on August 6. Both these tests showed she had an anabolic steroid in her system. Ostapchuk denied using steroids but was disqualified nonetheless.
After some investigating, it is now being reported that Ostapchuk’s coach, Alexander Yefimov, has admitted that without her knowledge he “spiked” her food with the banned drug metenolone after the July 30 test because he was worried that she was not performing well.
Athletes are responsible for anything they ingest or that is found in their bodies so Ostapchuk is still disqualified from the Olympics, but her drug ban has been reduced from two years to one year. The coach, Yefimov, has been suspended for four years.
Who knows how much of the story of the “spiked” food without her knowledge is true. If the reported facts are true it seems that the penalty for Ostapchuk is fair, but if so, I think Yefimov should be banned for life for such an unsportsmanlike act. It’s certainly interesting final news from the Olympics.
Now we turn our attention towards the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Countries will have the usual allotment of sending up to three athletes, with the required standard per event, to compete. An exception is that 2011 World Champions and 2012 Diamond League winners are granted a wild card entry into the 2013 World Championships. That means countries could have a fourth athlete in an event. For example in the women’s 1500 meters, Jenny Simpson of the USA, gets a wild card entry into the World Championships so the USA can send Simpson and three other runners in the women’s 1500 meters. Another example is in the men’s shot put where USA thrower Reese Hoffa won the 2012 Diamond League competition. The USA can send Hoffa and three others to the 2013 World Championships in the shot put.
However, countries cannot send five entries in an event. In the rare instance that the 2011 World Champion and 2012 Diamond League winner is from the same country but are a different person, each country’s national federation will have to decide who gets the automatic wild card entry. There are five instances where this happened, all in men’s events.
|Country||2011 World Champ||2012 Diamond League Winner|
|100 meters||Jamaica||Yohan Blake||Usain Bolt|
|200 meters||Jamaica||Usain Bolt||Nickel Ashmeade|
|110 hurdles||USA||Jason Richardson||Aries Merritt|
|1500 meters||Kenya||Asbel Kiprop||Silas Kiplagat|
|3000 steeplechase||Kenya||Ezekiel Kemboi||Paul Koech|
It will be interesting to see how the three national track & field federations, Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), United States of America Track & Field (USATF), and Athletics Kenyan (AK), handle this unique situation. Usain Bolt has already stated that in the 100 meters he will give up his wild card spot to Yohan Blake but in the 200 meters he will await a decision from the JAAA. The coach for both Bolt and Blake, Glen Mills, has recently criticized the IAAF for limiting the wild cards. Mills complains that athletes who have fulfilled the requirements to earn a wild card entry by either winning the 2011 World Championship or the 2012 Diamond League competition are being punished because someone from their own country was successful.
In four of these events, the national federations could use the 2012 Olympics as the tie-breaker. If that were the case, Bolt (100 and 200), Merritt (110H), and Kemboi (steeplechase) would get the wild card as the Olympic champion in that event. AK would still have to use a different tie-breaker in the men’s 1500 meters.
Four athletes won both the 2011 World Championship and 2012 Diamond League. Those double winners are Amantle Montsho (BOT) in the women’s 400, Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) in the women’s 5000, Valerie Adams (NZL) in the women’s shot put (Adams was awarded the gold after Ostapchuk failed a post-competition drug test – see above), and Christian Taylor (USA) in the men’s triple jump. If you add the 2012 Olympic results to the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Diamond League results, only Adams and Taylor made a clean sweep of all three competitions.
There are twelve Olympic champions who are not receiving a wild card entry into the 2013 World Championships because they neither won the 2011 World Championship nor the 2012 Diamond League competition. They are:
- 1. Taoufik Makhloufi (ALG), men’s 1500
- 2. Felix Sanchez (DOM), men’s 400H
- 3. Greg Rutherford (GBR), men’s long jump
- 4. Ivan Ukhov (RUS), men’s high jump
- 5. Tomasz Majewski (POL), men’s shot put
- 6. Keshorn Walcott (TRI), men’s javelin
- 7. Allyson Felix, (USA), women’s 200
- 8. Sanya Richards-Ross (USA), women’s 400
- 9. Asli Cakir (TUR), women’s 1500
- 10. Meseret Defar (ETH), women’s 5000
- 11. Natalya Antyukh (RUS), women’s 400H
- 12. Jenn Suhr (USA), women’s pole vault
These are some quality athletes, who will have to fight for their spot in Moscow via their national governing body’s qualifying procedures. Not included in this list are the hammer throwers, decathletes/heptathletes, and 10,000 meter and marathon runners, whose event are not part of the Diamond League series.
Click below on “Wild Card Entries_13″ for a full list of winners by event from the 2011 World Championships, 2012 Diamond League series, and 2012 Olympics.
The 2013 track & field season is still a long way away but there are some interesting stories developing already.
Last week I completed one of my least favorite tasks as the head cross country coach at Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC). I finalized our team’s final roster by making some final cuts following our team’s annual eight minute time trial run. The 2012 season’s final roster is 54 runners strong.
As an athlete and then as an assistant coach at Lowell High School there were no cuts (at least to my knowledge). Everyone who wanted to be on the team got to be on the team, provided that they came to practice and worked hard. The only people dropped were people who stopped coming to practice by their own choosing or those who came to practice infrequently enough that the coach told them to turn in their uniform.
When I became the head coach at SHC in 1998 I employed this same no-cut policy that I had experienced at Lowell. My goal was to build up the SHC program and making cuts was not the way to grow the team. As it was, we had so few people that often times we ran incomplete teams in the freshmen/sophomore (F/S) and junior varsity (JV) races. We were so thin, that sometimes I didn’t even have enough bodies to put the maximum seven runners on the line for varsity races. We had plenty of back of the pack runners during my early years at SHC. There were also plenty of instances when the coaches had to pay particular attention to make sure we didn’t lose one of the slower runners on a run through Golden Gate Park, and when faster runners had to wait for a slower runner to catch-up. The 2000 season in particular was quite small. I had no seniors and a total of 32 runners. We often joked that they had one of the best athlete to coach ratios in league history.
Over the years, my athletic directors encouraged me to make cuts. They believed that it was a privilege to be on the SHC cross country team and that the runners should feel that they’d earned something. I was against this and clung to my belief that you never knew who might improve a lot and grow to really love running, so it was best to keep everyone while I searched for diamonds in the rough. We compromised and I began to use the eight minute run as a tryout time trial in 2002. In the eight minute run, runners run laps on the track and try to cover the most distance that they can in eight minutes. This gave me an objective number to use for making cuts.
The reality of the situation, however, was that hardly anyone was ever cut. An occasional returning runner who was not very dedicated or badly out of shape would be cut but almost no freshmen were ever cut after the eight minute run. The only freshmen that got cut were ones so slow that I felt it was unsafe to have them on the team because they couldn’t keep up with the rest of the group. I would have needed to dedicate an assistant coach to give them special attention at every practice and that didn’t seem fair to the rest of the team. I would estimate that 95% of the freshmen who ran the eight minute run during this era, made the team. They didn’t know it, but it was pretty easy for freshmen to make the team.
The poster child for the “diamond in the rough” theory is a kid named E.J. In 2006, E.J. was one of fourteen freshmen boys who ran the eight minute run. E.J. bordered on that “so slow I need a special coach for him” line. In eight minutes, E.J. ran three laps or 1200 meters. Actually he ran 1200 meters in seven something minutes and then spent the remaining 40 or so seconds of the trial grabbing his stomach and gasping “I can’t run anymore.” I must have had a soft spot in my heart for E.J. that day because he ended up making the team. Of course this story has a happy ending. E.J. would improve tremendously over the years. He ran varsity his junior and senior year and we share the same personal record at Crystal Springs – 17:13. In E.J.’s final high school race he ran the 3200 meters (just under two miles) in 10:41. It brought tears to my eyes when we realized that in this final race, E.J. came through 2400 meters (six laps) in eight minutes – he ran twice as far in eight minutes in his last race (and kept going for two more laps) than he did at the trial his freshman year.
E.J. is also part of why I started to make cuts. As I mentioned, E.J. was one of a fourteen boy freshman class. By 2007 the group grew to be fifteen sophomore boys. That group would be known as “The Sophomore Boys” and it wasn’t exactly a term of endearment. Whenever there was trouble, “The Sophomore Boys” were in the middle of it. It wasn’t one or two of them. It was ALL fifteen of them. That same season, I followed my usual policy of not really cutting any freshmen and ended up with a 77 person team with 24 freshmen. It took two buses to get us to meets. In addition to some discipline issues with “The Sophomore Boys” we had a huge number of DNF’s (Did Not Finish) from the freshmen. They were just dropping out of races all the time. The team captains and I were quite frustrated. We felt the freshmen were a bunch of quitters – but due to the sheer size of the team, I really didn’t get to know the freshmen very well. I didn’t instill the passion for running cross country that I normally did. I couldn’t give my usual personal attention. At the end of the season I decided that the large team had negatively affected the program. I made the decision that starting with the 2008 season we would have a smaller team.
The philosophy of shaping the team roster that I use currently has been the same since that 2008 season. I believe that having approximately fifty kids on the team is what works for me. We fit on one bus to travel to meets and I feel that the athlete to coach ratio is perfect for providing proper guidance and instruction. I use the same eight minute run as a tryout trial. Veteran runners who are pretty certain they are going to make the team still get excited and run hard at the eight minute run because they are trying to improve on their mark from previous seasons. Borderline non-freshmen know that they are going to have to run up to a certain standard for me to keep them. The freshmen get three days from the first day of tryouts until the eight minute run. Over those three days, some quit because they just don’t like cross country. Of those that stick around and do the eight minute run, approximately 80% make the team – still the majority, but it’s also something to be earned, just like what my athletic director wanted.
We have had some tremendous team successes since I went to the smaller team size in 2008. However, I know that my cut-policy is always evolving. I will make adjustments based on the circumstances with the team. For now, this is what works for me and my team and my coaching style, so I am going to stick with it.