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.
Keep calm and carry on. You hear that a lot here in London. I believe the track & field distance race equivalent is “Keep Calm and Kick”.
The women’s 1500 meter final will take place Friday at 8:55pm London time (12:55pm on the west coast). Shannon Rowbury will be running in her second Olympic final and she’ll be looking to improve on her seventh place finish from Beijing (which as of now is the highest finish by an American woman in the Olympic 1500 meters in history).
Shannon gave us some anxious moments during the qualifying races. On Monday in the first round she finished seventh and we had to sit through the next two heats to see if her time would qualify to the next round. As the Brits like to say, Shannon’s 4:06.03 was the “fastest loser” and she moved on to the semi-final. On Wednesday, Shannon was well positioned throughout the race and inspired by her teammate Leo Manzano’s patient race tactics (more on that in a later post) hung out patiently around seventh place for most of the race. Only the top five would automatically qualify for the final and with 100 meters to go Shannon still had some work to do to move into the top five. She surged down the final homestretch passing two runners to secure the fifth and final automatic qualifying spot by one tenth of a second (4:05.47 to 4:05.57). The times in the second semi-final heat were much faster and it turns out that that one tenth of a second was huge because it was the difference between making the final and being eliminated (as all the time qualifiers came from the second heat).
In many ways, the stress is off. The goal in these first two races was simply to qualify on and Shannon has done that. She’s in the final along with eleven other women – the best female 1500 meter runners in the world. Previous championship meet credentials, PR’s, and season bests are immaterial. Everyone will line up even at the starting line and attempt to run three and three quarter laps around the track and get to the finish line first.
The final is simple and straightforward. You go for it. You leave it all out there. In most of the other distance finals that I’ve seen at these Olympic Games, the top finishers have been very patient early in the race, letting others set the pace and deal with the pushing and shoving that occurs in the middle of the pack of races of this nature. Then at some point later in the race, there comes a moment when it’s time to make your play for the medal. A moment when it is time to put four years of training and dreaming to work.
It is an honor and a privilege to be in London sitting in my hotel room and preparing to watch someone I know and care about run in an Olympic final in less than twenty-four hours time. What a wild journey cheering on Shannon Rowbury has been.
For Shannon, it’s time to Keep Calm and KICK!
For me, it’s time to Keep Calm and wave my banner!
Sacred Heart Cathedral (SHC), a Catholic school in San Francisco founded over 150 years ago and with a current enrollment of 1,257 students, can make a claim that very few other schools around the country can make. SHC has two alumni going to the 2012 London Olympics in track & field – Tina Kefalas, class of 1995 in the marathon for Greece, and Shannon Rowbury, class of 2002 in the 1500 meters for the USA. Even more amazing is the fact that the school does not have a home track.
As the current head cross country and track & field coach I can say that I’ve never seen not having a home track as a detriment to our program. The kids in our program are blessed because there is a lot of variety in their training schedule. It isn’t meet out at the track after school every day at 3:30. In fact, I think the time the kids spend taking the bus together to practice is part of their experience that makes being on the SHC track & field team special and unique. It also helps weed out who is really dedicated to the sport. It takes a great deal of commitment to get yourself to practice off-campus via public transportation day after day.
Kefalas was the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters when she graduated from SHC in 1995. She was the first runner in school history to qualify for the cross country state meet. She remembers going on a road trip to Colorado Springs with her coach, Mr. Denis Mohun (also a graduate of the school in 1979) and some other runners from the team. “It was the turning point for me. My first two years I was playing volleyball and track and after that trip, I finally decided to run cross country,” recalls Keflas. She also is proud to have won the school’s Vincent Contrero Award for excellence in both academics and athletics.
In the fall of 1998, SHC hired a new coach to head both the cross country and track & field
program. That person was me. I had the good timing to arrive at SHC the same season as a freshman who would change my life, a freshman named Shannon Rowbury.
Rowbury would go on to win two state championships and seven section champions during her SHC career. She was nationally ranked in the 800, 1600, 3200 meters and cross country and supplanted Kefalas as the school record holder in the 1600 and 3200 meters.
One of my fondest times during Rowbury’s high school career was her whole senior year of track & field. We both knew that this was the eighth and final season together at SHC. We took time to really soak it all up and enjoy the ride. She set numerous meet records, would sign autographs at meets, and together we would be interviewed for both television and newspaper articles. It was just a lot of fun and we made a point to have fun and enjoy every moment of it.
John Scudder (class of 1972), has been around SHC for thirty-two years and he recalls both students fondly. “I remember Tina and Shannon well. During Tina’s time at SHC, I was the Dean of Students; she was a model student who never found it necessary to take a trip to the Dean’s office. While Shannon attended SHC, I was the Principal. She too was active at school well beyond athletics. It is amazing to think she was so successful on the track, while all the time focusing on her work in the classroom,” said Scudder. Now serving the school as President, Scudder said, “I am so proud of their accomplishments. I know I speak for the entire SHC community in wishing Tina and Shannon the best of luck during the upcoming competition. Go Irish!”
After high school, Keflas went on to run at the University of Southern California. She then moved to Greece, where she continued to run at a high level. In 2008, in her first 3000 steeplechase of the season she ran 9:55.96, less than one second off the Olympic “B” standard, which would have been enough to qualify to represent Greece at the Beijing Olympics. Unfortunately she was injured in her second race and that ended her season and thus her 2008 Olympic dreams. Kefalas then decided to run the 2010 Athens Marathon, which also happened to be the 2500th anniversary of the historic run by the messenger Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. that gave the marathon race distance its name. She completed the marathon in two hours, 40 minutes, and 36 seconds, well under the Olympic “B” standard but unfortunately before the qualifying period for the 2012 Olympic marathon began. Kefalas would need to run another marathon closer to the Olympics in sub-2:43 to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. On April 22, 2012 at the Enschede Marathon in the Netherlands she ran 2:41:00 to stamp her ticket to London.
Rowbury competed for Duke University after high school and since college has been a professional runner, sponsored by Nike. Her breakthrough season was 2008, when she lowered her 1500 meter personal record from 4:12.31 to 4:00.33. She qualified for the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing and has also represented the USA at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. She’s finished in the top three at the US Championships in the 1500 each of the last five years, has been ranked as high third as in the world (2009), and is the eighth fastest women’s 1500 meter runner in US history.
Kefalas will race in the women’s marathon in London, which is Sunday, August 5. She said that her goal is to break 2:40.
Rowbury will race in the women’s 1500 meters in London. The first round race is Monday, August 6, the semi-final race is Wednesday, August 8, and the final is Friday, August 10. In an interview after the Olympic Trials, Rowbury stated that her goal is to “get on the podium,” which means placing in the top three to earn one of the coveted Olympic medals.
As you watch the 2012 London Olympics, almost every athlete you see will have some sort of backstory. They competed in high school, they had a high school coach, at some point making the Olympics became, first a dream, and then reality. But when you’re watching the track & field portion of the Olympics, remember that two of the athletes attended the same Catholic school in downtown San Francisco. The one without a home track.
Shannon Rowbury became a two-time Olympian with her second place finish in the 1500 meters on July 1 at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. In 2008, Shannon was the US Olympic Trials champion and went on to place seventh at the Beijing Olympic Games. That seventh place finish is the highest finish by an American woman in the 1500 meters in Olympic history. This is Shannon’s fourth consecutive national team qualification. In addition to these two Olympic team berths, she was also a member of Team USA for the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. At the 2009 World Championships she earned the bronze medal in the 1500.
The three qualifiers for the London Olympics were Shannon (4:05.11), the number one ranked runner in the world in 2011 Morgan Uceny (4:04.59), and the 2011 World Champion Jenny Simpson (4:05.17). The fact that all the experts were saying that these three were the clear favorites to qualify, didn’t make my race day morning have any less butterflies.
After two laps that were led by Treniere Moser and Brenda Martinez, the big three made their way to the front of the pack. With 500 meters to go there began to be some separation between these three and the chase pack. In reality, the drama of who was going to make the team was gone. The three battled it over the last lap before the final order was settled.
After screaming our heads off from the stands during the race, we hustled down to the fence to give Shannon a hug as she took the traditional Hayward Field victory lap. After the meet we headed to the Wild Duck Café. Tamalpan Mike Fanelli insisted on buying us a pitcher that we drank while watching NBC’s west coast broadcast of the meet (it was almost as exciting watching Shannon qualify for the Olympics this second time). Another highlight was taking a picture with Dave Frank, a coaching friend who used to coach at St. Francis and run for the Aggies. He now coaches in Portland and was the head coach at Cathedral Catholic when one Galen Rupp attended school there. I feel that Dave and I share some common emotions. Then we headed for some coffee and dessert. Finally Shannon finished her Olympic processing so we met up with her, her parents, her boyfriend (Pablo) and others in her core support group to raise a glass of champagne in celebration.
We got back to our hotel room just shortly before midnight. I was still pretty excited and couldn’t pull myself away from the computer to go to sleep. I read every e-mail, text, and Facebook comment. I re-lived the race and conversations with people at the meet. I watched a FloTrack interview where Shannon even gave me a shout out.
When I woke up this morning, I checked to make sure this wasn’t all a dream. Nope, it wasn’t. It all really happened. Shannon Rowbury is now a two-time Olympian! Congratulations!
Four years ago today, Shannon Rowbury qualified for her first Olympic Team by winning the 2008 Olympic Trials 1500. It doesn’t seem that long ago. And yet here we are again. Same place (Eugene, Oregon). Same butterflies.
Yes, I’ve got some butterflies flying around in my stomach this morning but not nearly the swarm that Shannon probably has. Her first round race last Thursday and her semi-final race last Friday both went very well. She has looked smooth, in control, and FAST in both races. She won her heat on Thursday in 4:16.17 and won her heat on Friday in 4:09.96. I’m not surprised that she looked good in those races but it was still nice to see.
There has been some controversy in the women’s 1500 over the last two days. None of it has involved Shannon. After Friday’s semi-final the twelve women who qualified for the final were announced. However, late Friday night we read on a message board that Gabrielle Anderson, who took second place in Shannon’s heat, had been disqualified for illegal contact with another runner. It was rumored that the disqualification was due to a protest by Amy Mortimer. By Saturday morning the list of entrants for the 1500 final had been changed. Anderson was out and as a result Alice Schmidt moved into the final qualifying spot. Mortimer was not added to the field.
There was also a lot of energy on social media suggesting that Anderson would protest her disqualification and sure enough she did. By mid-day on Saturday, Anderson had been reinstated into the Friday results and back into the entry list for the final (“un-disqualified” if you will). Schmidt was back to being a “did not qualify.” However this changed again a few hours later. When we got to the track a friend informed us that Schmidt was back in the final and that there would be thirteen women in the final instead of twelve.
This is all very bizarre but hopefully will not affect the outcome of the 1500 final. Schmidt’s status is of particular interest because she is already qualified for the Olympics in the 800 meters and she is one of five runners with the Olympic A standard of 4:06.00 or better. The others are Shannon, Morgan Uceny, Jenny Simpson, and Anna Pierce. If history is any indicator, the race will go out slow on Sunday and few if any runners will be under the 4:06 mark. If that’s the case, then the London-bound athletes will be the top three finishers who already have the A standard. You can see how Schmidt’s presence or lack of presence is significant. If Schmidt is out of the race there will only be four runners with the A standard and the battle for three spots will likely be between those four. With Schmidt in the mix there would be another legitimate contender for one of the three spots.
Those are the circumstances leading up to this afternoon’s race. It really is an honor and privilege to be so emotionally invested in such a high level race. I’m just a high school track & field coach with some great timing. I never imagined when I started my first season at Sacred Heart Cathedral in the summer of 1998 that I was about to meet a young girl who would change how closely I follow elite distance running and that fourteen years later I would have butterflies in my stomach all day in anticipation of watching her race. Go get’em Shannon!
Since 2008 Andy and I have spent pretty much all vacations, certainly all major vacations, traveling to watch our favorite Olympian compete. We’ve been to Eugene, Oregon countless times, and Des Moines, Iowa to watch the national championships; China (not just Beijing) for the Olympics; and Berlin, Germany, and Daegu, South Korea for the World Championships. We’re planning to be in London for this year’s Olympics. From all this track related travel, and because I live with the Chanman, I’ve learned a thing or two about professional athletes. This holiday season I learned a bit more by spending a week at elevation at “Fantasy Track Camp.” At some point when Shannon was planning her winter elevation training she invited Andy and I to come visit her in San Luis Potosi, we took her up on the offer.
I arrived in Mexico already knowing that professional athletes are focused individuals, that being the best in the world requires a lot more than just running – and that those things are very time consuming. I didn’t feel a need do any serious sight-seeing and expected that wouldn’t be on the agenda. Shannon has traveled the world to compete but her job is a lifestyle, one that doesn’t often include taking in the sights. I’m sure that Andy and I have seen more of every city we’ve traveled to, to watch her compete than she has. I arrived in serious need of some real down time, so it was easy to come without any expectations, with a fat book, and let the week just flow. Even so, I learned a couple of things from our week with the professionals.
Part of what I love about running is the adventure. I love exploring new places. I enjoy the beauty and challenge of a trail run. I don’t want to run in the same place too many days in a row. I want to see new things. Even though I understood that structure and routine are important for a professional athlete, I was still startled to discover how important. We ran eight times, in only three places – and one of those places while familiar was obviously not a regular part of the routine. We visited a very large park a number of times. I explored a different route with each visit. The others focused on accomplishing their specific workout goals on the flattest most convenient route. We went to a familiar although out of the way place for a long run. I enjoyed the scenery (as much as I could while searching for foot prints to make sure I didn’t get totally lost – since the backsides of everyone else were a distant memory). The others focused on their pace and how to run a course that minimized running into the wind. The hills I love to challenge myself with at home were something the group drove to avoid. We went to La Loma Altitude Training Center and I mixed in swimming. Bolota Asmerom was perfectly content, and consistently fast, running lap after lap after lap on the one mile trail woven between the pool, track and tennis courts.
This all makes sense. For me a run is a break from work, a physical challenge, a release from sitting in a chair, a reward in itself. When you’re training to win, and training involves: running, generally conditioning, strength, treatment, mental preparation, and recovery your goals and objectives are to get it done, done well, maybe with some free time left.
For the first time in my life, mystical “Double Days” make total sense. Since I first heard the term some fifteen years ago I’ve associated it with really hard core runners working to rack up the miles. But I lined that up with an ultra-marathoner or marathoner type of hard core. Tough. Really long. It turns out a few miles here, a few miles there, a few miles later in the day. All on the same one mile loop can add up to a substantial run. One that was less challenging and exhausting than those miles would have been all strung together. I might try this again.
The last thing that startled me was diet. I expected the group to be somewhat uptight about their meals. While I would say that everyone in the house paid attention to their diet, the pros ate more meat and eggs than I do. Not uptight. They’re worried about getting the right amount of protein and other nutrition; I’m worried about keeping my cholesterol low. I felt that we all want to be the appropriate weight. The pros consistently ate small portions slowly and stopped. To win they need to; There is some pressure with this profession. I struggle with that one; I’m working on it again.
I’m so glad that Shannon, Pablo Solares, Bolota, and Nick Alvarado worked us into their routine for a week. Andy enjoyed the San Francisco and track talk. It was a gracious, generous, interesting group. We had fun, really relaxed, and I will take an even deeper perspective with me to my next professional track meet to watch my favorite runners tear it up on the oval.
The 2011 World Championships have come to an end. For a track & field geek like myself, this meet is pretty much Christmas everyday for a week. I am in heaven when I am attending the World Championships. For this year’s World Championships to end with a world record was icing on the cake.
The meet itself is spread out into morning and evening sessions. Heats and qualifying rounds are run in the mornings, with semi-finals and finals in the evenings. The schedule is timed perfectly. In less than a three hour period in the evening there will be eight to ten events plus medal ceremonies. The events are spaced so perfectly that you can watch pretty much all the action on the track and in the field events. With the jumbotron screens, Seiko scoreboards on the field, and expert announcing, spectators are kept abreast of all the action as it happens. The events are timed in such a way that there is never anything happening on the track when the final attempts are made by the medal winners in the jumps and throws. That way all the attention is focused on the often overlooked field event athletes. David Storl of Germany used this attention from the fans to his advantage, throwing 21.78 meters on his last throw in the shot put to move from the silver medal to the gold medal.
I am also particularly fortunate that my wife, Malinda Walker (a.k.a. The Track Widow) is willing to foresake typical vacations to travel across the world so I can watch track & field. Our experience at these meets is enhanced thanks to the kindness of Shannon Rowbury, who does all that she can to get us access to things like the Nike hospitality area and athlete’s village. It was quite an honor to time some of her 200’s on the practice track one day during our trip.
This year’s meet in Daegu was particularly interesting because of the great seats that we had. The price of the ticket was 112,500 Won, which is in the ballpark of $112 (USD). They weren’t cheap but they were quite reasonable for where they were located. We were in the section just adjacent to the press area, right on the finish line. I had a better seat for World Championships than I did for the California High School State Meet.
From our vantage point, I was able to get to Shannon to give her a hug after her semi-final race. We could also see the look of pure joy on Jenny Barringer Simpson’s face when she realized that she had won the 1500. We were just yards away from Vin Lannana as he reached over a railing to congratulate Matt Centrowitz on his bronze medal. After the 200 and 4X100 relay, hundreds of fans crowded the press area hoping to get a picture or autograph of The Man, Usain Bolt. I was one of those hundred. Malinda and I proudly waved our American flag throughout the meet and I swear if we had been in row five instead of row 10, Bernard Lagat would have taken our US flag to use for his victory lap (he looked up at us and I could tell he was trying to decide if we were close enough for him to get our US flag).
In addition to the best seats I may ever have for an international championship meet, our tickets came with dinner in the Premiere Lounge every night before the meet. The same menu got a little tiresome but how could I turn down free kimchi and beer?
Sadly this year’s meet is now over and it’s time to head home. I’ll post a blog or two about the meet when I get home before I turn my attention to London 2012 and Moscow 2013.
One one hundredth of a second. That’s faster than you can blink. That’s faster than the time it takes to read the word “fast.” That can also mean the difference between qualifying for the USA team for the World Championships in Daegu and staying home.
Ten years ago in 2001, at the end of her junior year, in the middle of a rainstorm at the Adidas Outdoor National Championships, Shannon Rowbury edged out Adrienne Anderson by one one-hundredth of a second to win the 800 meter national championship, 2:12.00 to 2:12.01. That day, just like at the 2011 USA Championships today, I would be cheering on Shannon at the 200 meter to go mark and would be unable to see the finish, relying on the video scoreboard and public address announcer to find out the result.
After battling injuries this past off-season and then running two races that by her own definition were “mediocre,” Shannon arrived at the 2011 USA Championships in a different position than she has been. For the first time in the last three years, she was not one of the favorites for a top three finish.
The USA system for selecting its team for the World Championships is very objective. In a nutshell, the top three finishers in each event get to represent the USA. Having a bad race two weeks before the USA Championships doesn’t matter. You just have to get it together and be in the top three at the USA Championships. Having the fastest time so far this season does not guarantee anything. You still have to be in the top three. Having the fastest lifetime PR does not guarantee anything. You still have to be in the top three. Having the potential to improve over the next two months to be the fastest runner in the country come the week of the World Championships does not matter. It’s what you do at this meet. You have to be in the top three. Two-time USA champion? World Championship bronze medalist? Highest finish by an American woman in the Olympic 1500 meters in history? That looks good on the resume but to stamp your passport to Daegu, you still have to be in the top three.
Those were the circumstances facing Shannon and the third place spot would come down to one one-hundredth of a second.
Christin Wurth-Thomas set a blistering early pace, running 62.1 for the first lap. She built up a lead of up to thirty meters. With 300 meters to go Shannon, Morgan Uceny, and Jennifer Barringer Simpson started to go after Wurth-Thomas. Uceny would take the lead at the top of the final straightaway. Simpson would move into second place with about twenty-five meters to go. Shannon was closing ground on Wurth-Thomas. Wurth-Thomas’s form was really tying up. The question was, would Shannon run out of real estate or would she pass Wurth-Thomas to claim the third and final ticket to Daegu? From my vantage point at the 200 meters to go mark, I had no idea. I could hear the crowd gasp and the announcer say that it was too close to call. It took maybe 1500 one one-hundredths of a second (15 seconds) for the result to flash up on the scoreboard.
4:06.20 to 4:06.21. Third place and a ticket to the World Championships in Daegu….by one one-hundredth of a second. Congratulations, Shannon!
Day one of the 2011 USA Championships are done. Whew! Trials meets are very nerve-raking! As a coach and fan of the sport, I know that trials are part of the sport. But that doesn’t mean they are easy to stomach. My feeling is that nothing great can happen at trials. If you are seeded high and expected to qualify for the finals, then if you qualify it’s no big deal. If you don’t qualify, it’s pretty much a disaster. The higher one is seeded, the worse the disaster. My favorite mantra at trials meets is, “live to run again.” Championships are not won on trials day, but they can be lost.
This year alone I’ve anxiously lived through our league (WCAL) and secion (CCS) trial meets. Both those days were pretty successful with the bulk of the athletes that I coach qualifying for the next round. No one that I expected to qualify “stubbed their toe” and failed to move on.
On day one of the 2011 USA Championships, I sat in the stands nervously awaiting the women’s 1500 trials. Unlike the WCAL and CCS trials, I wasn’t on the track talking to the athletes. I was up in the stands with nothing to do but be nervous for Shannon Rowbury’s race. How many times have I told her, “All you want to do is live to run again.”?
With one lap to go, Shannon was boxed in. At about fifth place she fought her way out of the box and started moving up around the curve. With 300 meters to go she was pressing Jennifer Simpson for the lead. Then she passed Simpson and took the lead with 200 meters to go. She held the lead down the homestretch until a couple athletes inched by her. It was a blanket finish:
1 Jennifer Simpson 4:14.20
2 Gabriele Anderson 4:14.25
3 Anna Pierce 4:14.32
4 Shannon Rowbury 4:14.40
5 Treniere Moser 4:14.41
6 Jackie Areson 4:14.42
The top four were automatic qualifiers so by virtue of beating Moser and Areson by 0.01 and 0.02 seconds respectively, Shannon was automatically qualified for the final (with Simpson, Anderson, and Pierce). Moser and Areson would have to await the results of heat two to see if they qualified for the final based on time. I felt that up to eight runners in heat two could potentially break 4:14 so I would have been unbelievably nervous if Shannon were in Moser and Areson’s position. As it turned out heat two went:
1 Christin Wurth 4:08.32
2 Morgan Uceny 4:08.68
3 Katherine Follett 4:09.94
4 Brie Felnagle 4:09.95
5 Emily Infeld 4:10.02
6 Jordan Hasay 4:14.85
Wurth, Uceny, Follett, and Felnagle were automatic qualifiers from heat two with Infeld, Moser, Areson, and Hasay the four qualifiers for the final on time. Hasay beat out Lauren Hagans from heat one by one hundereth of a second, 4:14.85 to 4:14.86. That is why coaches always train athletes to run through the finish line, those hundedths of seconds can make a big difference.
Today is Friday, June 24, 2011. The 1500 meter final is tomorrow. That means the nervousness from yesterday’s trials is behind us and the sweaty palms for the final are still a day away. Today is a day to just enjoy some track & field action. But tomorrow? With a trip to the 2011 World Championships on the line and only the top three earning a spot on the team, tomorrow is bound to be filled with heartpounding excitement. Go Shannon!
In order to qualify to represent the USA at the IAAF World Championships later this summer in Daegu, South Korea athletes must place in the top three at the upcoming USA Championships (June 23-26) in Eugene. One of the most intriguing events will be the women’s 1500 meters (trials on Thursday, June 23, finals on Saturday, June 25). I have a rooting interest in this event, having been Shannon Rowbury’s high school coach.
The competition in Eugene in the women’s 1500 meters will bring together possibly the best USA field in history. The third, fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth fastest women in US history in the 1500 are all scheduled to compete. The USA Champions from the last six years (2005-2010) will all be there. Team USA’s 1500 meter runners from the 2005, 2007, and 2009 World Championships and 2008 Olympics are all competing for a spot on the 2011 World Championship team.
In alphabetical order here are the leading contenders.
Gabrielle Anderson (PR-4:12.06)
The former University of Minnesota runner has made an amazing comeback from cancer and now runs for Team USA Minnesota. She was seventh at the 2010 USA Championships and ran her PR of 4:12.06 last summer in Europe. In 2011 she has placed third at both the USA Indoor Championships (mile) and at the USA Road Mile Championship.
Erin Donohue (PR-4:05.50)
After graduating from the University of North Carolina in 2005, Donohue has been a presence in the 1500 for the USA. She qualified for the USA team for the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics. Her PR of 4:05.55 was the fastest time by an American in 2007. She has placed third (2007), second (2008), fourth (2009), and second (2010) at the last four USA Championships. She is currently coached by Frank Gagliano.
Brie Felnagle (PR-4:08.54; 2011 best-4:10.12)
Felnage had a storied high school career at Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Washington that included eight state championships (two in cross country, six in track & field). In college at the University of North Carolina she excelled in the 1500, winning the 2007 NCAA Championship and setting the school record (4:08.54). After college she has returned to Tacoma and is being coached by her former high school coach, Matt Ellis. She is sponsored by Adidas.
Katie Follett (PR-4:07.44, 2011 best-4:07.44)
Follett graduated from the University of Washington in 2010. During that 2010 season she ran a school record 4:10.66 at Mt Sac. She is now sponsored by Brooks and still coached by Greg Metcalf, her college coach. So far in 2011 she lowered her PR twice, winning two races against strong competition, the Payton Jordan Invitational (4:08.95) and the Oxy High Performance Meet (4:07.44).
Jordan Hasay (PR-4:10.28; 2011 best-4:10.28)
The sophomore from Oregon drew national attention when as a high school junior she qualified for the 2008 Olympic Trials Final in the 1500. She set a US high school record of 4:14.50 in the semi-finals at those Olympic Trials, which got the crowd at Hayward Field to chant “Come to Oregon! Come to Oregon!” Three years later she did come to Oregon. She’s coming off the NCAA Championships where she placed fourth in the 5000 and eight in the 1500. She set her PR earlier in the 2011 season, running 4:10.28 at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford.
Amy Mortimer (PR-4:06.55)
Mortimer has quietly been the most consistent American woman in the 1500 over the last decade. Although she’s never qualified for the Olympics or World Championships she has placed in the top 10 of the USA Championships 1500 every year since 2003, when she was eighth as a senior from Kansas State. Her highest finish was third in 2005 but she failed to achieve the “A” standard and thus did not compete at the World Championships in Helsinki. Note: Mortimer has scratched from the race.
Treniere (Clement) Moser (PR-4:03.32; 2011 best-4:07.57)
The three-time USA Champion from 2005-2007 (when she went by her maiden name, Treniere Clement), Moser is making a return to the scene after some injury-plagued seasons. She is now coached by John Cook and has run 4:07.57 (1500) this year and ran an 800 best of 2:00.51 to place fourth at the 2010 USA Championships. She represented the USA at the 2005 and 2007 World Championships in the 1500 and her 4:03.32 PR is from the 2006 season.
Anna (Willard) Pierce (PR-3:59.38; 2011 best-4:10.38)
She qualified for the 2008 Olympics in the steeplechase and for a time held the American record in the steeplechase with her 9:27.59 at the 2008 Olympic Trials. In 2009 she started running more 800’s and 1500’s and qualified for the 2009 World Championships in both the steeplechase and the 1500 (she ran the 1500 only and placed sixth). She was the 2010 USA Champion in the 1500 and her PR of 3:59.38 (run in 2009) ranks her as the third fastest American of all-time.
Shannon Rowbury (PR-4:00.33; 2011 best-4:11.67)
Rowbury was the USA Champion in 2008 and 2009. She represented the USA at the 2008 Olympics (where she was seventh) and the 2009 World Championships (where she earned a bronze medal). She was third at the 2010 USA Championships. Her PR of 4:00.33 set in Paris in 2008 makes her the seventh fastest woman in US history. Rowbury is featured in the July/August edition of Running Times, where she discusses missing some training time in the most recent off-season due to injury, and her prospects for the upcoming USA Championships and 2012 London Olympics.
Jenny (Barringer) Simpson (PR-3:59.90; 2011 best-4:09.56)
While still a college runner at Colorado coached by Mark Wetmore, she qualified for the 2008 Olympics and 2009 World Championships in the steeplechase. She’s the current American record holder in that event with a 9:12.50 in placing fifth at the 2009 World Championships. She is now sponsored by New Balance and coached by Julie Henner. She has not run the steeplechase the last two years, instead competing in the 1500 and 5000. Her 3:59.90 in 2009 makes her the fifth fastest American of all-time. She missed most of the 2010 season due to an injury but returned to compete well during the 2011 indoor season.
Moran Uceny (PR-4:02.40; 2011 best-4:06.32)
Uceny was primarily an 800 runner in college at Cornell. She’s placed in the top six at the USA Championships in the 800 the last four years. In 2008, after finishing sixth in the 800 at the Olympic Trials she doubled back and was a surprise fourth place finisher in the 1500. It wasn’t until 2010, however, that she has fully committed to racing the 1500. Coached by Terrence Mahon as part of the Mammoth Track Club she became the tenth fastest American of all-time in 2010 by running a 4:02.40.
Christin Wurth-Thomas (PR-3:59.59; 2011 best-4:03.72)
Wurth-Thomas is the fourth fastest American in history with her 3:59.59 in 2010. She represented the USA at the 2008 Olympics, and the 2007 and 2009 World Championships (fifth in the 1500 final in 2009). She has placed second (2007), third (2008), second (2009), and fourth (2010) at the last four USA Championships. She is the only American 1500 contender to have raced in Europe already in 2011, where she ran a USA season best of 4:03.72 in Rome in May.
Tune in on Saturday, June 25 (live television coverage on NBC) at 2:33 P.M. west coast time and see which three women emerge from this dogfight to represent the USA at the World Championships.