Are you looking for a darkhorse to cheer for at the US Olympic Marathon Trials on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles? Perhaps a runner from the small town (less than 500 population) of Fawn Grove, PA, who will also be celebrating his 28th birthday when he makes his marathon debut in a couple weeks?
Jonathan Grey ran PR’s of 4:18 in the 1600m, 9:11 in the 3200m, and 15:41 in 5K cross country while at Kennard-Dale High School. He began his collegiate career at the University of Oklahoma before transferring to William & Mary after his freshman year. At William & Mary he was a 3-time All-American, with top finishes of seventeenth at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships and fifth in the 5000 meters at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
After graduating in the spring of 2011, he joined Team Minnesota. Although I didn’t know him or talk to him at the 2011 XC Club Nationals in Seattle, we both raced there. I came in 92nd in the Masters Men’s race with a time of 36:06. He was 1st in the Open Men’s race with a time of 29:38. We both had really good races that day.
Jon has been running some fast times of late. In the spring of 2015 he set PR’s on the track in back to back months at Stanford. In April he ran 13:37.79 in the 5000 meters and then in May he ran 27:59.88 in the 10,000 meters.
I first met Jon at the 2015 USA Championships. We ended up at the same table after the meet for dinner at the Wild Duck Café. He had just come in 14th in the men’s 10,000 meter race. It was really hot that night and the next day he tweeted a picture of the Hayward Field track, melted on the bottom of his spikes. After I was introduced to Jon, I made sure he quickly got a beer in his hands to re-hydrate. We then talked a little bit about the upcoming XC Club Nationals meet in San Francisco. As often happens after something like this, a couple weeks later we became Facebook friends.
Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook (and doesn’t hide me) was well aware that I was a tad bit excited about Club Nats. At Club Nationals, towards the end of the day, the Pamakids were hanging out at our tent. A young runner walks over and immediately starts talking to me – it’s Jon Grey! He has a big smile on his face and he says that he’s been following me on Facebook. He knew I would be here and just wanted to come over and say hi. We talked a little about our races. I think he told that he came in second. I may or may not have told him how proud I was of our open men’s team for coming in 57th and beating the Wednesday Night Laundry Runners. It was only later that I realized that I had seen him during the race because he was the runner leading the pack for most of the race, running with a white baseball cap on backwards. Garrett Heath passed him in the final 100 meters but it was still a pretty awesome race. And I think it shows what a cool person he is, that after this race, he wasn’t down and disappointed. Instead he decided to come find a friend he met once at a restaurant six months earlier just to say hi.
In the summer of 2015, Jon moved to Boulder, CO to be coached by Lee Troop and run for the Boulder Track Club. He has been racing very well including top 10 finishes at the October USATF 10 Mile Championships and the November .US National 12K Championships (both part of the USATF Running Circuit)
At the 2016 Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon, he not only ran under the Olympic Marathon Trials half marathon qualifying standard of 1:05, to qualify for the Marathon Trials, but he won the race in 1:02:47. He’ll be one of 168 runners toeing the line with their eyes on a top three finish and a trip to Rio for the 2016 Olympics.
This marathon on his 28th birthday will be his debut. But Jon seems ready to go. The team just got back from a three week sea-level camp in Tucson, AR. (I guess when you live at altitude, instead of an altitude camp, you go to a sea-level camp). He told me that they were able to get speed/turn-over work in at sea level that would not have been possible at altitude. Jon says his race plan is simply to be patient. Because it’s his debut he wants to focus on being tactically efficient. That being said, he also says his goal is to be top three. He will focus on running a smart race that gets him the highest possible place, whatever that may be.
So if you’re not sure who to look for or who to root for at the 2016 Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials, consider rooting for Jonathan Grey. I will be.
Congratulations are in order for Cory McGee, who by running under the IAAF B standard for the 1500 meters with a time of 4:06.67, stamped her ticket to the World Championships in Moscow later this summer. McGee’s time was well under the 4:09.00 that she needed and was more than a three second PR.
McGee’s previous best time of 4:09.85 came on July 6. On July 13, running at the KBC Night of Athletics meet in Heusden, Belgium, McGee shattered the 4:09 mark. She went out hard and was right behind the rabbit, coming through the 400 and 800 meter marks in 63 and 2:08. She hit the bell at 2:59 and the 1200 mark at 3:16 and was in second place. She faded somewhat over the last half lap to finish in seventh, but what was important was the time, which was easily under the B standard. She now joins Treniere Moser, Mary Cain, and Jenny Simpson as the US representatives in the 1500.
McGee’s 4:06.67 ties her for third fastest collegian in history, with some pretty illustrious company. The three women with her on the chart have all won medals at international championships. Two of them are foreigners who attended US colleges, so out of American collegians, McGee is number two behind only her 1500 meter Moscow teammate, Jenny (Barringer) Simpson.
|Jenny (Barringer) Simpson||Colorado||3:59.90||2009||2011 World Championship Gold in the 1500|
|Hannah England||Florida St||4:06.19||2008||2011 World Championship Silver in the 1500 for the UK|
|Sally Kipyego||Texas Tech||4:06.67||2008||2011 World Championship Silver and 2012 Olympic Silver in the 10,000 for Kenya|
I have been paying particular attention to McGee’s pursuit of the B standard because whether or not she got the time would have a direct effect on Shannon Rowbury. If McGee didn’t get the time by the July 20 deadline, Shannon would have been the final USA qualifier in the 1500. Having also qualified in the 5000 meters (and having been training for the 5000 for the last several weeks), Shannon would have had a tough decision to make. But now that decision has been made. The 5000 it is for Shannon!
I must admit that prior to June 22 of this year, I did not know who Cory McGee was. But on June 22, at the USA Championships, possibly acclimated to the hot and humid conditions from growing up in Mississippi and attending school in Florida, McGee placed third in the 1500 meters in a slow tactical race. Ahead of her were Moser and Cain. One place and less than half a second behind her was Shannon. It was a great accomplishment for the twenty-one year old from Florida University, who came into the USA Championships as the twelfth seed and out of the finalists had only the eighth fastest PR. Her third place finish did not ensure a birth on Team USA for Moscow, however. First she had to chase the B standard, which she successfully did.
Prior to all of this, McGee has had a very solid career that, in lieu of her recent 4:06, deserves some attention. Her dad, Jim, played football in the mid-70’s at Florida. Jim took a job as FBI security liaison for the 2004 Athens Olympics so the family moved to Greece temporarily. While there, as a sixth grader, she ran cross country for an American school and her first meet was in Egypt. Shortly after her family returned to the US, Hurricane Katrina devastated her town of Pass Christian, Mississippi (a beach town along the Gulf of Mexico between New Orleans and Mobile). The McGee’s temporarily lived in New Mexico with Cory’s great grandmother.
When they returned to Pass Christian, McGee’s running career really took off. This is all the more amazing when you consider that Pass Christian High School, with an enrollment of four hundred, did not have a cross country team when McGee first started there. In 2006, at the age of thirteen, McGee set a new world record in the indoor mile for her age (4:49.32). During her high school career she won 22 state championships (17 in track and five in cross country). She was the Gatorade Mississippi Runner of the Year three times in cross country and three times in track. She holds Mississippi state records in cross country and on the track in the 800, 1600, and 3200. In 2007, in cross country, she qualified for Foot Locker Nationals where she was 27thplace. Also running at the same 2007 Foot Locker Nationals meet were her future Moscow teammates Jordan Hasay, Chris Derrick, and Ryan Hill.
An interesting comparison is the high school PR’s by McGee and Shannon.
|Cory McGee ‘10||Shannon Rowbury ‘02|
Currently a junior in college, McGee has accumulated numerous accolades at the NCAA level. She has earned All-American status seven times in her first three years at Florida. In 2011 she was the Southeast Conference (SEC) Freshman Indoor Runner of the Year. In her primary event, the 1500 meters, she has steadily improved each year, tenth as a freshman in 2011, sixth as a sophomore in 2012, and second as a junior this past June 2013.
Given her impressive past, it probably should come as no surprise that the latest addition to McGee’s running resume is Team USA for the 2013 World Championships. Good luck, Cory!
Saturday, February 16, 2013 was a record-setting night at the Armory for the 2013 Millrose Games.
- 1. Chris O’Hare of Tulsa set a new collegiate indoor mile record with a time of 3:52.98 in the Wannamaker Mile race. O’Hare, who placed fourth in the race behind winner Lopez Lomong was the 2012 NCAA Indoor mile champion. The previous record was set by BYU’s Miles Batty at the 2012 Millrose Games (3:54.54).
- 2. Mary Cain bettered her own high school indoor mile record, running 4:28.25, which bettered her mark from the New Balance Games (4:32.78). Cain came in second in the race behind Sheila Reid and ahead of several professional runners and All-American college runners. With Cain’s achievement the high school girls indoor mile record has dropped over ten seconds in 2013. Debbie Heald held the record with a 4:38.5 for over forty years, from 1972 until January 26, 2013.
- 3. Edward Cheserek, who just this week announced he would be attending the University of Oregon next year set a new high school boys indoor two mile record, running 8:39.15 to better Gerry Lindgren’s old record (8:40.0) from 1964.
- 4. Bernard Lagat (in the same race as Cheserek) ran 8:09.49 to re-claim the American record for the men’s indoor two mile from Galen Rupp (8:09.72 in 2012).
- 5. Alysia Montano, in the seldom run women’s indoor 600 meters, shattered the American record, running 1:23.59. The previous record was 1:26.56 by Delisa Walton-Floyd in 1981. Ajee Wilson, who recently decided to skip collegiate competition and signed a pro contract with Adidas, came in second and also bettered the previous American record time with a 1:26.45.
- 6. Erik Sowinski, not Olympians Nick Symmonds or Duane Solomon, set a new American record in the men’s indoor 600 meters with a time of 1:15.61. Solomon was the previous American record holder with a mark of 1:15.70 at a meet in Glasgow in January.
Upon reading about these record performances, one stood out as a little more shocking than any of the others. Wasn’t this 600 meter race supposed to be a battle between Solomon and Symmonds, who placed fourth and fifth respectively in the 800 meters at the 2012 London Olympics?
Who is Erik Sowinski and how did he set an American record over Solomon and Symmonds? Perhaps Symmonds said it best in a post-race interview, “…that’s what’s great about track. You can fly right in, step on the track and get an American record.”
Even more amazing is that Sowinski was not even scheduled to be in the race. Three days before the meet, Kevin Borlee scratched so meet director Ray Flynn called Sowinski. Two days before the meet an excited Sowinski tweeted, “It’s official! I will be running the 600m at Millrose Games this Saturday!”
So who is this man who was a last minute addition to the race, who then went out and set an American Record?
Sowinski attended West High School in Waukesha, Wisconsin where he was on the cross country, basketball, and track & field teams. In his senior year he set personal records (PR’s) and school records in the 400 meters (49.46) and 800 meters (1:54.29). He was state champion in the 800, anchored West to the state championship in the 4X800 relay, and also ran a leg on the fifth place 4X400 relay team.
From West, Sowinski moved on to the University of Iowa where he steadily improved each season.
|800 indoor||800 outdoor|
Freshman year he set a school record in the 600 meters indoors and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional as a member of the Iowa 4X400 relay team. Sophomore year he set a school record in the 800 meters indoors and earned All-American honors in the 4X400 relay (Iowa ran 3:05.61 to place seventh at the NCAA Championships). Junior year he earned All-American honors indoors in both the 800 (4th) and 4X400 relay (4th) and outdoors he qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 800 (15th) and 4X400 relay (10th). Senior year he was the Big-10 Indoor champion for the 800 and placed third at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Outdoors as a senior he bettered the Iowa school record in the 800 meters three times. The previously school record was a 1:47.64 set by Bill Frazier in 1962. In front of a hometown crowd at the 2012 NCAA Championships, Sowinski ran his current PR of 1:45.90. Sowinski capped his 2012 season by running at the Olympic Trials in Eugene. He advanced to the semi-finals but was unable to qualify for the final.
Sowinski, who was a five-time All-American while at Iowa, owns or shares seven school records including the indoor 600, indoor 800, and outdoor 800. He was the 2012 Big-10 conference champion in the indoor 800 meters and in 2011 helped Iowa to their first Big-10 conference championship since 1967. In addition he graduated with a degree in integrative physiology and was an academic All-American. In 2012 Sowinski was the recipient of a Big-10 Medal of Honor that recognizes student athletes who have “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.”
He had a very solid collegiate track career with some nice academic achievements to go along with his athletic achievements. I think most impressive is his steady improvement every season, both in terms of improving his 800 meter time (see chart above) and doing better each year at the NCAA Championships (not qualifying as a freshman, qualifying in the 4X4 but not the 800 as a sophomore, 15th as a junior, and 2nd as a senior).
Although his college career is now complete, Sowinski’s running career may be just taking off. He is now an American Record holder. He has now beaten Solomon and Symmonds, the two best 800 meter runners in the country. Only time will tell what stories will be added to Erik Sowinski’s storybook career.
Lost in the sea of Nike swooshes, obscured by an ocean of adidas stripes, far below the airplane pulling the Brooks run happy banner, there was a single athlete in the men’s 800 meter final at the US Olympic Trials, with no sponsor. He wore a blue and green striped t-shirt that he bought at American Eagle and a matching blue headband. He looked somewhat out of place next to athletes in state of the art competition uniforms, made to be lightweight, sweat wicking, and aerodynamic. Who was this unattached runner and what was he doing in the 800 final?
This story really began on Friday June 22 during the first round of the men’s 800. A runner dressed in the above described attire came out on to the track to run in heat two. I immediately started making fun of him, thinking he was someone who just barely made it to the Olympic Trials. I yelled “Go Stripes!” as he did his warm-up striders. When I stopped making jokes about his shirt, I finally checked my program to find out that his name was Mark Wieczorek. Less than two minutes later, lo’ and behold, Wieczorek placed third in his heat and qualified on to the semi-final.
The semi-final was on Saturday June 23, and out came “Stripes,” dressed the same. I made a couple jokes about doing laundry to wash his striped shirt and then we settled in to watch the race. Stripes placed fifth in the first heat and was on the bubble to make it to the final. Heat two was slower than the first heat and Stripes was qualified for the final as the last time qualifier!
Now that he was one of only eight American men still competing for a shot at the London Olympics in the 800 meters, I started doing more research on Wieczorek. He attended MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas, where he was a five-time National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) All-American and the 2006 NAIA national champion in the 800 meters. He has run for Team XO and the Oregon Track Club Elite. Between training sessions, he did some work for RunnerSpace.com. At the 2011 US Championships he placed fifth. In addition to racing the 800 at a pretty high level, Wieczorek is also a high school coach and in the fall of 2011 he was named Washington cross country coach of the year after leading Gig Harbor to the 4A state championship, a number 10 ranking in the US, and a berth at the Nike Team Nationals meet. Not bad for a first year coach. Despite a fair amount of internet attention, including a story by David Monti for RaceResultsWeekly (RRW), winning a contest on LetsRun.com, and being the topic of a LetsRun.com message board thread, Wieczorek remained unsponsored entering the 2012 Olympic Trials.
<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/ekXRpb0EuZA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
There was no shortage of information about Stripes and I immediately became a fan, even making him the centerpiece of the Pamakids Olympic Trials Question of the Day game. Instead of doing that, maybe I should have been offering him a sponsorship deal to race in the Pamakids uniform. Seriously, the night before the Final, Malinda, John and I speculated whether or not one of the shoe companies would jump on the opportunity to sponsor Wieczorek. What a marketing opportunity – put him in your company’s logo but make the uniform resemble the blue and green stripes that he’s been wearing. Offer him a some up front money with a huge bonus if he makes the Olympic team. The running geeks on LetsRun and RunnerSpace would go crazy and the company would reap the benefit of supporting “the little guy.”
Alas this sponsorship conversation was not being had anywhere but our hotel room. Wieczorek came out for the 800 final in his now trademark shirt and headband. He was still unattached. That didn’t stop him from running a personal record, 1:45.62 and placing seventh.
Wieczorek’s story doesn’t even end here. He’s gotten a bit of a cult following, with his own webpage hosted on the RunningSpace website, a staring role in the Party Run Anthem video, and paparazzi who dress up just like him.
Currently he’s racing in Europe. His familiar striped shirt showed up in a finishlynx photo in Belgium, where he came in second in 1:47.59. On July 17 he ran what I believe is his second fastest time ever, 1:45.96 at a meet in Italy.
I really should have tried to track Stripes down and offered him a Pamakid sponsorship. I would have even thrown in extra singlets so that he doesn’t have to wash his blue and green striped shirt every night between cities.
At the 2011 Melbourne Track Classic three athletes, perhaps not widely known to United States distance running fans, had strong performances. In two cases their performance included personal records (PR’s) of fourteen and fifteen seconds in the 5000 meters, which is a huge PR for an elite athlete to make. Let’s get to know those three runners a little bit better.
Riseley is only twenty-four years old. But the Australian middle distance runner coached by Nic Bideau has already competed at the 2007 and 2009 World Championships and the 2008 Olympics. Riseley won the 1500 meters at the Melbourne Track Classic for the third straight year. In 2009, the win went relatively unnoticed. In 2010, he beat Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis and Olympic gold medalist Asbel Kiprop, taking advantage of the later’s fall early in the race. In 2011, however, no one could dispute the outcome. Riseley was the better runner, winning again over Willis and Kiprop.
Riseley’s PR for the 1500 meters is 3:32.93, which ranks him as the third fastest Australian in history. That PR race was run in Rome in the summer of 2009 when Riseley was just twenty-two. The Australian record holder is Ryan Gregson, who in 2010 at just twenty years of age, ran 3:31.06.
Riseley is definitely a name to remember. He had plantar fasciitis and missed most of the 2010 season but if this early season race is any indication, he is ready to take on the likes of Willis and Kiprop come next summer at the World Championships.
Ben St. Lawrence
St. Lawrence is another Australian runner who had a big race in front of his home country fans at the 2011 Melbourne Track Classic. He entered the race with a 5000 PR of 13:25.88 from 2009. However, after hanging with the lead pack for the first eleven and a half laps of the race, and then challenging eventual winner Bernard Lagat over the last lap, St. Lawrence earned a fifteen second PR. His time of 13:10.08 makes him the number two Australian over 5000 meters in history. The only Aussie to run faster is Craig Mottram, who finished sixth at this year’s Melbourne Track Classic. This was Mottram’s first race after a long layoff. Mottram owns the seven fastest times in Australian history over 5000 meters, all under 13:10.
This meet was also the Australian National Championships, so St. Lawrence captured the national title and since his time was well the World Championship “A” standard of 13:20.00, he clinched a berth on the Australian team to the 2011 World Championships.
After a promising junior running career, St. Lawrence gave up the sport and put on some weight while partying and drinking on a regular basis. He was watching the 2006 Commonwealth Games with some friends and decided to make a running comeback. Four years later and some twenty-two kilograms lighter, he was representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games in the 5000 and 10,000 meters. Next up is the even bigger stage – the World Championships.
Bumbalough who is just a couple weeks shy of his twenty-fourth birthday attended high school at Brentwood Academy in Tennessee. While in high school he won the 2004 Arcadia Invitational two mile with a time of 8:49.87. He was also second at the 2004 Foot Locker Cross Country Championships.
After high school he attended Georgetown University. As a junior athlete (nineteen and under) at Georgetown he got his first taste of elite international racing. He was the 2006 USA junior national champion for 5000 meters and competed at the 2006 Junior World Championships in both cross country and the 1500 meters.
During his 2005-2010 career as a Georgetown Hoya, he was a seven time All-American and a three-time Big East conference champion (2008 1500, 4X800 relay, and cross country). He improved his finish at the NCAA Championships in cross country from 22nd in 2007, to 13th in 2008, to 8th in 2009. He was the 2008 NCAA Indoor runner-up in the 3000 meters. Despite battling injuries and illness during his last year and a half in college, he still managed to run a 5000 PR of 13:30.77 at the 2009 Payton Jordan Invitational and to place third at the 2010 NCAA Championships in the 5000 meters, his final collegiate race. He followed this with a third place at the 2010 USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Bumbalough has since moved to Oregon and is now coached by Jerry Schumacher. He came in second at the USA Cross Country Championships, earning a spot on the US team for the 2011 World Cross Country Championships to be held in Spain on March 20.
With his 13:16.77 (a fourteen second PR) at the Melbourne Track Classic Bumbalough now shares something his Oregon Track Club teammates Chris Solinsky and Matt Tegenkamp have – a World Championship “A” standard.
Riseley, St Lawrence, and Bumbalough. Not household names yet. Not like Rudisha, Bekele, and Lagat. But file those names away because if they can keep having success like they did at the Melbourne Track Classic, they could be among the big names during the 2011 track & field season.