Our summer vacation in 2008 included a trip to Eugene for the Olympic Trials and a trip to Beijing, China for the Olympics. In 2009 we went to Eugene for the USA Championships and to Berlin, Germany for the World Championships. This summer’s trip is a 4,500 mile road trip from San Francisco to Des Moines to Eugene, and then back home to San Francisco. Along the way we will see the 2010 USA Championships in Des Moines and the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene. For Malinda and me, summer vacations like these combine three of our passions: 1) travel, 2) track & field, and 3) cheering for Shannon Rowbury.
Our latest journey began last week. We have stayed in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and are now in the heart of the heartland, Iowa! Along the way we have had a great time. In Reno, Nevada we met up with 1984 Olympian Ruth Wysocki and went for a thirty minute run with her (shake out run after a long drive…although Malinda said it was more like a tempo run for her). In Boulder, Colorado we stayed with our friend, and running and triathlon enthusiast, Jim Moriarity. Jim drove us up to 8,300 feet so we could run on the road made famous by the University of Colorado and Chris Lear’s book, Running with the Buffaloes – Magnolia Road. Also in Boulder we met two elite athletes who were staying with Jim, Fiona Docherty (who competed in the 2009 World Championships Marathon) and Alice Mason.
It’s been an exciting week for a sports enthusiast. Before starting our drive on Wednesday we were riveted in front of the television set like many others just hoping the USA could score a goal against Algeria…and Landon Donovan delivered in extra time! I just read about the Wimbledon match that lasted eleven hours and five minutes, spread out over three days. 70-68 in the fifth
set! That is crazy! The final day’s drive to Des Moines brought us through Omaha, Nebraska and it just so happens to be the week of the College World Series. So of course we made a quick stop to see Rosenblatt Stadium, which has hosted the College World Series since 1950. It turns out this is the last
College World Series in the famous stadium as a new downtown stadium will be completed in time for the 2011 event. Perhaps even more memorable than the stadium was the street outside the stadium, jam packed with vendors selling College World Series merchandise.
Anyway, back to track & field. You never know what’s going to happen at a USA Championship in a year like 2010 when there is no international championship later in the summer (like it was in 2007, 2008, and 2009). There is less pressure on the athletes to place in the top three to qualify for the Olympics or the World Championships. Some of the top athletes are not even here; they are skipping this meet in favor of the Prefontaine Classic next week or for meets later this summer in Europe. Some other athletes are competing in their “off” event.
Shannon ran a very controlled race in the 1500 trials on Thursday evening. It was a very slow pace early on (2:22 at the 800 meter mark) and she just stayed with the pack. When the pace picked up (63 for lap three) she smoothly put herself in the top three. In the last lap she looked effortless, covering the lap in 60.8 seconds to win her heat easily and qualify for the final at 2:26 P.M. central time on Saturday.
It’s fun to look back at what I was thinking over the last four years.
Four years ago – 2006
Shannon placed 6th at the 2006 USA Championships in Indianapolis:
1. Treniere Clement, 4:10.44
2. Lindsay Gallo, 4:10.72
3. Sarah Schwald, 4:11.60
4. Carrie Tollefson, 4:12.23
5. Christin Wurth, 4:12.82
6. Shannon Rowbury, 4:12.86
At the time, I remember the feeling was, “she needs to move up three places in the next two years to be an Olympian.” Easier said than done….or was it?!
Three years ago – 2007
Shannon was injured and Malinda and I spent the summer focused on our wedding.
Two years ago – 2008
Shannon was the favorite in the 1500 at the 2008 Olympic Trials after her breakthrough 4:01.61 at a meet in May. She would win the Olympic Trials and go on to place seventh at the Olympics, but boy was it nerve-racking at the Olympic Trials.
One year ago – 2009
Suddenly the competition in the women’s 1500 jumped up a level. Jenny Barringer broke four minutes at Prefontaine. Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Willard were on top of their game. Running four minutes low in the 1500 was no big feat anymore. With this backdrop Shannon stepped up when it counted, and even though Wurth-Thomas had built up a big lead, Shannon made up a lot of ground on the last lap to win her second straight USA 1500 championship.
Just three weeks ago Shannon was at Kezar posing for a compression sock photo with the Pamakids.
Now it’s the day before the 1500 final and this more or less marks the halfway point between Beijing and London. Shannon will go after her third straight USA championship. Wurth-Thomas, Willard (now Anna Pierce), and others will do everything they can to beat her. What better way to spend your summer vacation!