It’s the week of the 2015 USA Track & Field Championships. It might as well be Christmas Week for this kid at heart.
Malinda and I have attended the USA Championships (or Olympic Trials as the meet is called in Olympic years) seven out of the last eight years – 2008 and 2012 in Eugene for Olympic Trials, 2009, 2011, and soon 2015 in Eugene for the USA Championships (qualifying meets for World Championships), 2010 (USA Champs in Iowa) and 2014 (USA Champs in Sacramento). It’s a thrill to watch the best in the country compete for spots on Team USA. It’s been an even greater thrill to watch someone that I coached in high school (Shannon Rowbury) compete at the national level.
As I write this, the meet is two days away. Shannon is one of the favorites to qualify for the 2015 World Championships in Beijing in the 1500 meters. Jenny Simpson has a bye into the World Championships by virtue of her winning last year’s Diamond League series. That means Jenny and three others will represent the US in China in August. Shannon has been in this position before, and knock on wood, has come through like the champion that she is every time to make the team.
- In 2008, she was the newcomer on the scene and she won the Olympic Trials 1500 to qualify for her first Olympic team.
- In 2009, she had very strong competition from Christin Wurth-Thomas and Anna Pierce. Wurth-Thomas surged out fast and had a huge lead but Shannon timed her kick and caught Wurth-Thomas in the final stretch to win the US 1500 title for the second year in a row.
- In 2011, Shannon was not at 100% due to an injury but she gamely fought for a spot on the World Championship team. It took an unbelievable final kick to out-lean Wurth-Thomas at the finish line to grab third place and a ticket to the World Championships in Daegu by one-hundredth of a second.
- In 2012, it seems almost wrong to say it, but it really was just business like usual as Shannon placed a solid 2nd at the Olympics Trials to qualify for her second Olympic team.
- In 2013, the one year Malinda and I didn’t go to the meet, Shannon finished a disappointing 4th in the 1500 meters on Saturday. Showing tremendous tenaciousness, she came back the next day and ran the 5000 meters. She hung around the main pack for most of the race but it still took a pretty amazing final 200 meters to move up to 3rd to secure her spot to the World Championships in Moscow.
All in all, it’s been a pretty good run of success and I have my fingers crossed for a new fond memory next weekend.
In addition to cheering for Shannon, going to the USA Championships also means hanging out and drinking an adult beverage with some fellow running nerds and coaches. Peanut Harms always hosts a fantastic party where running geeks can unite after the meet to re-hash what we just witnessed. I am looking forward to seeing some friends at the Wild Duck Café in a few days.
Just like last year, Malinda and I have been faithfully logging on to the USATF Rewards page every day to accumulate reward points. Last year we used points to hold the finish line for the women’s 5000 and I got to co-host the Cool-Down Show. This year, we will again be holding the finish line for one of the races (not confirmed yet but most likely the men’s 10,000 meters on Thursday night). We also used our points to claim the behind the scenes TV truck tour.
Fresh off of her We Go For Good – Circle the Bay for Breast Cancer ElliptiGo trip, Malinda has made plans to meet up with the ElliptiGo strategic marketing manager, Darren Brown while we are in Eugene. Instead of going for a run together, the plan is to go for an ElliptiGo ride together. Another example of the running community being really small, Darren’s wife, Sarah, is a national class 1500 meter runner who has her own crazy journey to the 2013 Moscow World Championships. Sarah will be competing against Shannon in the 1500 this week. How cool would it be if Shannon and Sarah make it and we can go ElliptiGo’ing with Darren on the Great Wall of China?!
And, as if cheering for Shannon, raising cold ones at the Wild Duck, holding the finish line, getting a TV truck tour, and riding an EllpitiGo weren’t enough, on Friday, I am looking forward to attending a screening of City Slickers – Can’t Stay With Me, a documentary film on former UCLA coach, Bob Larsen (most famous for being Meb’s coach). Bob was the UCLA coach when I was there and I got to be his manager my senior year. When they were putting this documentary together, I sent them some pictures from my era at UCLA which may or may not have made the final cut.
With all this on the horizon, how can I not feel like a little kid on Christmas week?
As a passionate track & field fan, I was excited when United States of America Track & Field (USATF), the governing body of the sport in the US, started a fan rewards program in January 2014. The idea was for fans to log-in to their rewards account daily to receive “wings” and to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to promote USATF and also earn wings. With these wings, fans could buy different reward items such as USATF gloves, signed merchandise, and USATF experiences.
When I reached 25,000 wings, I quickly bought a pair of USATF gloves. My wife, Malinda (a.k.a. the Track Widow), also accumulated points but she strategically held on to hers waiting for something “bigger and better” than gloves. As the USA Outdoor Championships, which were taking place in Sacramento, approached a new reward became available for 25,000 wings – the chance to present an award at USA’s. I didn’t have enough wings but Malinda did! By the time we got Malinda logged in and ready to pull the trigger, the reward was sold out. However, the next day, something even better was available – the chance to hold the finish line for one of the races. We logged in and Malinda got it! Woo-hoo! Malinda was the perfect person for this job because three years ago she wrote a blog about the challenges of holding the finish line for a race. (It’s not as easy as you might think.)
We spent the next day strategizing about her options. Should she choose Shannon Rowbury’s race and risk missing getting to watch the race? I suggested a sprint race which increased her likelihood of a close finish and thus some TV time. Malinda put it to her Facebook friends as well as discussing it with her work colleagues. She decided that it was a non-qualifying year (i.e. no Olympics or World Championship qualifying berths were on the line) and thus there was less pressure and it would be okay to hold the finish line for Shannon’s race.
A couple days later a new reward came up on the USATF rewards page – for 25,000 wings you could co-host The Cool Down show on USATFtv. Now that is something I would love to do… but I didn’t have enough wings. A few days went by and I noticed that the reward was still available. I decided to go for it. I started tweeting with the USATF hashtag to get extra wings. Finally one night at 1:00 A.M. I had 25,000 wings and I bought the reward. I was in heaven! The chance to go on internet and talk about my favorite subject – track & field!
The week leading up to USAs was full of excitement. We communicated with Caleb Bailey, the strategic programs manager with USATF. He set things up for us and confirmed that Malinda would hold the finish line for the women’s 5000 and I would do The Cool-Down show Friday night after the women’s 5000. I was beyond excited. I was going to get to talk to Dan O’Brien and tell him how he gave up his seat on the train one night on the way home from the London Olympic Stadium, which allowed Malinda and me to sit together. I rehearsed in my mind what questions I would ask the 5000 meter race winner, preparing for both Shannon and the other favorite, Molly Huddle. Every night, I would say to Malinda, “Pretend you’re Dan O’Brien; ask me a question!”
When we got to Sacramento, Caleb had a couple more surprises for us. I was going to get to join Malinda and hold the finish line and we would both get to be down on the track to watch the race.
About thirty minutes before the women’s 5000 we were taken down to the finish line area. We got to see behind the scenes for the men’s and women’s 100 meters. Then we were taken onto the track where we watched the women’s 5000 meter race unfold. We were given instructions to stay out of the camera sight lines and to not block any of the sponsor’s signs. We cheered quietly for Shannon, not wanting to create a scene. At one point, some of my friends sitting on the backstretch in the ‘Aggies section’ saw me and started heckling and yelling at me. To their delight, I took their picture as they all waved and cheered. On the track, as expected, Molly was leading and Shannon was right behind her. Being on the track, instead of in my usual seat in the stands, I had a hard time getting a sense of what kind of time they were on pace to run. As the race reached the final laps the small pack of runners who had initially stayed with Molly and Shannon fell back. It became a two woman race.
By this point we were near the finish line and receivinga tutorial about what to do. “Make sure you don’t block the finish line timing camera,” we were reminded. Malinda would be on the infield holding one end of the finish line. She was to let go as soon as the runner hit it. I would be in lane three holding the rolled up end of the finish line and I was not supposed to let go. I remember hearing someone tell me, “After Treniere comes by go on to the track.” It was something I would say at Kezar Stadium at the Tuesday night track workout, “after the guy in the black shorts comes by, let’s get on,” only we were at the USA Championships, not Kezar!
After I got situated on the track I looked up and Shannon had taken the lead with about 200 to go. I felt myself jumping up and down despite knowing I should stay calm. A runner was close to getting lapped so we had to wait until she passed before we handed the end of the finish line to Malinda. Once that was done I looked up and Molly was moving up on Shannon. They were both drifting out. For a split second, Molly was running right towards me. I instinctively backed up into lane four but had the foresight to know that I needed to unspool the finish line tape from the roll or else I would rip it out of Malinda’s hands. Just in time I backed out of the way and Molly crossed the finish line and broke the tape, just 0.15 seconds ahead of Shannon.
It was a great race and a dramatic finish between two of the US’s top runners (they were 6th and 7th place at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow). It would have been a dream situation for me and Malinda had Shannon won, but that’s the drama of sports… you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.
We waited awhile for Shannon and then got to give her a hug before she went for interviews and drug testing. Then we were whisked off to the set of The Cool Down show. We got to talk to Dan O’Brien and told him our London train story. I quickly changed into the red USATF polo shirt they wanted me to wear for the show and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the set with a microphone in my hand. The producers were all very nice as they made some small talk to put me at ease. Running friends and fellow coaches saw me and started gathering around the set hooting and hollering and taking my picture. Molly Huddle sat down next to me and put on a headset. We had to wait thirteen minutes for a segment on Kirani James to finish and then the red light went on… we were on the air. After some introductions and opening questions by Paul Swangard, I got to ask Molly a question, and then to close the segment I got asked a question. And then it was all over. Molly and I came off the stage and in our place came Dan O’Brien and Bernard Lagat.
All in all it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had at a track meet… and I’ve been to a lot of meets. At one point last week, Malinda had remarked, “I hope this lives up to our expectations.” Not only did it live up to expectations, it exceeded them. Thanks #USATFrewards!
Andy and I have been going to the USA Track and Field Championships to watch Shannon compete since 2008. At the five meets we’ve transformed from rookies to experienced spectators. Andy loves track, he lives and breathes it and from him I’ve transformed into a knowledgeable track geek, more informed than the many less dedicated fans that fill the stands around us. For this sixth meet in 2013 we stayed home; did nothing to help fill the vacant backstretch in Iowa.
In 2008 everything was exciting and new. Alone in the stands waiting for Shannon’s race I was a bundle of nerves. Andy’s return before Shannon’s final didn’t really help. I don’t think I really relaxed until she had won the race. The race spectating nerves have subsided, but only a little. Nervous anticipation, screaming with the crowd, and celebrating; every year we’ve been there to be a part of it.
We both wanted to be there in person again this year to support Shannon, and to enjoy the meet in a way that’s not possible on TV, but we just couldn’t swing it. Other obligations were going to make the travel expensive, complicated and on a very tight schedule. Our prior experience in Des Moines didn’t help. We stayed home, made plans instead to go to Russia if Shannon made the US team.
When we started traveling to international track meets to cheer on our favorite runner I was thrilled. It was a way to get Andy out of the US and travel! However, after trips to Beijing, Berlin, Daegu and London I now just want to go camping in the desert…. and Moscow has never been on my list. I love Andy and am extremely fond of Shannon, so it was with some guilt and conflicted emotions that I admitted that I really wanted Shannon to qualify for the US team, but also really didn’t want to go to Russia. I reminded myself that I should enjoy this while it lasts, because no athletic career lasts forever.
At home in San Francisco, busy at work on Thursday I missed Shannon’s preliminary round; a first for me. Andy sent me an email message summing up the race, and I watched it later on the computer and felt confident about her chance of making the team.
The day of her final I was at an out of town event. Andy made plans to watch the race at his parents’ house, where they have cable. On the way back I used my cell phone to call Andy, eager to hear him confirm that she had made the team. Instead, over the noise of the car on my cheap phone I heard that it was the worst possible scenario as far as us making travel plans. Shannon had finished fourth, but the woman who finished third lacked a required time standard. Shannon might get to the World Championships, but we might not know until mid-July, depending on her competitor’s ability to obtain a qualifying time standard by the deadline.
I hung up and discussed with the friend I was with the complexities of the situation, both for Shannon, and for my own plans. After a short time I remembered the 5000. Would Shannon run that race? She had entered it as part of her back up plan. I called Andy back. He told me that a lot of good women were entered in the race and he didn’t know if she would run it or not.
Sunday morning Andy and I were hanging around the house, getting ready for the Pamakid’s Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run kick-off picnic at a very leisurely pace, when we decided we should go to Andy’s work, where they have cable, to watch the 5000. We picked up the pace, and made it with enough time for him to get the TV on and find the right channel. Not much later the womens’ 5000 began. The start list on the TV screen was a mess, it included the names of women who had scratched, and flashed two pages of information very quickly. It didn’t answer our question about whether Shannon was running or not. We scanned the starting line and didn’t see her. I figured Shannon must have decided not to run it. I couldn’t really blame her; terrible weather for distance races, physical and mental exhaustion from the 1500, not the event she’s been training for. Oh well.
Midway through the race, with no butterflies in my stomach for a change, Andy said something to the effect of, “Is that Shannon there, in the middle of the pack with sunglasses on?” Sure enough, there she was, in the race and well positioned. So much for the lack of nerves, suddenly I was on the edge of my seat. As the race neared the end the top six runners stretched out. Shannon wasn’t racing for first, but she wasn’t out of it either. She could still make the team. I began yelling at her through the TV. She was just as unlikely to hear me as she would be if I were in the stands in Iowa – but I felt a bit sillier. The camera began to focus on the top two runners. The race for third was obscured. I yelled loud. The camera cut away to the victor and Andy and I were left to wonder, did we just see Shannon take third? We thought so, but not without some doubt.
The internet! Andy rushed up to his office. I followed him trying to connect my iPod to the network. Then I ran back to the TV and arrived just in time to see Shannon’s name listed in third. I ran back upstairs to tell Andy. And then back downstairs hoping there would be an interview. Success with the internet! Since I wasn’t there to hug Shannon on her victory lap, I sent a Facebook message instead. I sent a text message to my colleagues that I will be going to Russia for vacation this year. Excited and happy Andy and I collected ourselves and headed off to the Western States picnic.
I’m suddenly thrilled to be going to Russia, thrilled for Shannon and impressed with her guts and determination.
You never know what is going to happen in sports. A five point deficit with 28.2 seconds left in a basketball game usually means you will lose the game. But not always. Trailing by three goals with ten minutes left in a hockey game is usually an insurmountable deficit. But not always. Not if you’re tenacious. It’s the unpredictable nature of competition that draws so many of us to sports in the first place.
At the 2013 USA Championships, the women’s 1500 meters was predicted to be a tightly contested race but most experts figured the three runners who would place in the top three and qualify for the World Championships in Moscow were Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Shannon Rowbury. But that’s why they run the race. In the USA spots on national teams are earned on the track, not on paper. If this race were run ten times, there might be ten different outcomes. But the only outcome that matters is what happened on the track at Drake Stadium on Saturday, June 22, 2013.
The pace was extremely slow – 85 seconds for the first 400, 2:40 at 800 meters. I have result sheets with splits faster than that from some of our high school meets this season. It was over ninety degrees Fahrenheit. It was windy. The humidity was high. No one wanted to lead the race and that led to a lot of pushing and shoving and a bunched up group of twelve runners. The race would come down to who could run the fastest last 400. For Shannon, this probably wasn’t the ideal scenario, but she had to deal with it. Cain, Moser, and Shannon pulled away from the rest of the field with 200 to go, but over the last 100 Cory McGee, a junior from the University of Florida, kicked by Shannon to get third place. Shannon found herself in unfamiliar territory – fourth place.
The bad news was that this meant Shannon was not guaranteed a spot on the team for the World Championships. She would have to wait to see if McGee achieved the B standard (4:09.00). Having another athlete’s performance determine your fate is not a situation any athlete wants to be in. The good news was that Shannon’s 2013 USA Championships did not have to be over. The next day was the 5000 meter final, in which she was entered. It’s not her primary event. It’s 12.5 laps. Her legs would be tired from two 1500 meter races (the preliminary round and the final) she had already run this week. It would still be hot, windy, and humid. But if Shannon wanted to clinch a spot to Moscow, this was her way to do it.
The situation reminded me of another Sacred Heart Cathedral track & field athlete – Christina Young. Christina was in the class of 2004, two years behind Shannon. They were teammates in the 2002 season. When Christina was senior, her primary event was the long jump. At our WCAL Trials meet, however, she had a bad day, jumping 15-4 (15 feet, 4 inches) well less than her season best of 16-5. She finished thirteenth and failed to qualify for the final. As I said at our awards banquet in 2004, “all Christina had left was the triple jump, which was not her best event…but it was about to be.”
Some background on Christina’s triple jumping. In late April of her senior year Christina would often jump less than 30 feet in the triple jump. As of April 27 her best mark was 30-11. She improved to 31-10.5 at a meet against Valley Christian. That next weekend she missed a meet in Carmel. At that meet in Carmel, Christina’s teammate, just out from the basketball team, jumped 34-7 in the triple jump to become the team leader in that event. At our next dual meet Christina had a one foot PR, improving to 32-10. Then at WCAL Trials, with her back against the wall as she had already failed to qualify for the final in the long jump, she placed fourth with yet another PR of 33-1. Then on May 15, she had the meet of her life. She not only set a new PR of 35-5.75 (that’s a 2 foot, 4 inch PR). She took first to become the WCAL Champion…in her off event! Over the last 18 days of the season she improved 4.5 feet. I’ll never forget Christina. She was versatile and she was tenacious. When the long jump didn’t go well, she didn’t let it bring her down. She set her sights on the triple jump. Not only did she PR in the triple jump, she became the league champion.
When I went to bed Saturday night, I didn’t know if Shannon would be running the 5000 or not. From the interviews I’ve seen, she may not have known herself. But Shannon, like Christina, is a fighter. She wanted to be on the team to Moscow so she had to put the disappointment of the 1500 behind her and take her best shot in the 5000.
The early pace of the 5000 was modest, which was good for Shannon. With about a mile to go, Shannon was well positioned. The others in contention were Jenny Simpson, Molly Huddle, Amy Hastings, Kim Conley, Abby D’Agostino, Chelsea Reilly, and Shannon. Hastings, tired from the 10,000 on Thursday, would drop out. Six runners remained. With a lap to go, all six were still in it. Conley led with a lap to go. On the backstretch Huddle would take the lead from Conley and a few meters later Simpson would take the lead from Huddle. Simpson and Huddle would battle to the line for the top two places. Meanwhile with 300 to go Shannon was in sixth place and slowly losing ground on the others. With 200 to go, Shannon started moving up on D’Agostino and it looked like she might have a shot at fourth. Suddenly Reilly started to tie up in the last 100 and Conley surged by her. But Shannon, who later said she was thinking about Moscow and her late grandmother, Nonie, kicked it into another gear in the last half lap and passed Reilly and Conley to get third place!
I’ve been privileged to witness some amazing kicks by Shannon over the last fifteen years. Her kick to get third place by one hundredth of a second at the 2011 USA Championships stands out. And her kick at the 2013 USA Championships, again to get third place but this time in her “off event” showed Shannon’s tenaciousness.
Athletes that are tenacious, don’t make excuses when things don’t go the way they want. They don’t let a disappointing performance get them down. They can comeback from disappointment in their main event. They fight for a spot or a championship no matter how the odds are stacked against them. By being tenacious and not giving up, these athletes sometimes shock everyone with a performance that earns a lot of people’s respect. That’s tenaciousness. That’s Christina Young and Shannon Rowbury.
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
When you’re at a track meet there is a lot to look at, not only are there running, jumping and throwing events, there are also volunteers all over the place. I don’t really envy most of these people, I genuinely appreciate that they give their time to make the events possible, but I wouldn’t want to spend my day in the sun raking the long jump pit. I’d get really stressed out flipping over the lap counter, especially in a long race where some contestants get lapped. I am fascinated by the work they do, mundane tasks over and over, essential to the competition. (Editor’s Note: One job is calibrating the javelin, hammer and discus for meets.) You don’t usually see their work when watching a meet on television or the internet – however the volunteers and the job I’m most fascinated with do play a vital role for TV.
Running events are timed by an electronic and photographic system. In a close race the officials analyze a photo taken at the exact finish line and determine who has won the race. Before this system was in use some other method was necessary for determining close races. When I imagine a classic photo of a close race, I imagine a string across the finish line. What I suspect was once a very functional low tech tool to help call close races, is today a television moment.
If you’re at a big track meet, only some events are part of the television broadcast. While race after race has been run relying simply on the electronic finish line technologies, the TV time races are different. Prime time races have sponsors, and those sponsors have their logo printed on a finish line tape. Not a simple string, these wide sturdy finish lines are marketing in action.
When the television broadcast begins, a couple of volunteers are suddenly on duty to hold the finish line tape (a step or two away from the actual finish line where it would interfere with the real electronic timing system and finish line camera). If it’s a windy day the volunteers have an extra challenge. Here are some photos of volunteers successfully and not so successfully in action.
This must be a sprint race. Look at the determination on the volunteer’s face. They are working hard to keep that heavy plastic finish line across the track with the printed side clear and readable to the camera.
For a distance race it’s not necessary to lug that puppy full across the track – a good thing in difficult conditions. You can tell the wind is blowing and they’re working hard to keep the short tape steady. Also, I understand that while it’s exhilarating to be the person breaking the tape it doesn’t feel so great when you hit it. Those arms raised in victory may also be up to help with the sting. Notice the volunteer timing her release of the tape.
Sometimes, even with a short tape the volunteers have problems.
When the logoed finish line ends up on the ground for a high profile race, and not visible for the television camera, it is not good for the sponsor. When problems like that occur, reinforcements are inevitably called in to help.
The next time you see a runner head on coming down the straightaway on her way to victory, remember that the logoed tape she’s about to run into is being held up by people working almost as hard as the runner.
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!