Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Saints and Shysters...

That's just a taste of the accusations flying back and forth on MLive, as the first "big" high school meet of the year has come and gone, and the results are nowhere to be found. Are directors of these sorts of meets saints or shysters? Personally, I think everyone has a little of both in them. I try to remind myself that virtually everyone on earth means well. It's in the execution of stuff that we sometimes fall apart.

I have to admit I chuckled when a director defended his high meet entry fees by saying the money went to a variety of costs including advertising. The same director took out an ad on the Michtrack website last year... and never paid.

As anxious as we all are to get going with indoor track--heck, it's cold out there!!--remember that the MITS circuit will be there for our high schoolers, just like it has been for 30 years.

Newcomers might not know the philosophy behind the circuit, but it's worthwhile to remember, especially in light of the current ruckus. There has always been indoor track in Michigan, virtually as long as there has been track, period. In fact, since the 1920s, there have been proposals for the MHSAA to sponsor indoor track. The organization has said no, and will continue to say no, until it finds a way to create widespread opportunity for participation on a cost-effective basis... or to make a buck off it. What did I say about saints and shysters? All depends upon your perspective.

In the 1970s, Charlie Janke, the then-Jackson coach, teamed up with a variety of other MITCA coaches and formed the circuit. Charlie's philosophy was plain and pure, and still rules the circuit today: it's all for the kids; it's never about the money. Keep entry fees as low as possible. No official gets paid much more than gas money. Don't blow money on awards and advertising. The awards the kids will get later, if they work hard enough. The purpose of the meets was to provide opportunity to compete. Period. The kids needed a place to sharpen up before the outdoor season.

Much has changed since then. Charlie Janke has retired. MITCA no longer organizes. That has fallen to the MITS organization, which is composed of one man--Mike Jurasek, and his family. And I can personally vouch for his sainthood status, because he has stayed true to Charlie's ideals: it's all about the kids, it's never about the money.

Support the MITS circuit all you can. Talk to athletes in Indiana and Ohio--other states that wish they had what we are blessed with. And in this winter season, when you encounter a meet in Michigan that is not associated with the MITS circuit, ask yourself (and them) why. There is no cost involved with being a MITS meet. A director just has to agree to the philosophy. It's all for the kids, it's never about the money.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Janeen Jones McReynolds, Rest in Peace


The news has come from Atlanta that Janeen Jones McReynolds, a former track standout for Southfield High and All-American for Georgia Tech, died on Christmas Eve of injuries suffered in a car accident nearly a year earlier. She is survived by her husband, Uwezu, and son, Sidney. Our prayers are with her family and friends.

Janeen's Caring Bridge.

Atlanta Journal-Constitiution.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

World Youth Trials set for Ypsi

From our friends at USATF, some very big news:

INDIANAPOLIS - USA Track & Field on Tuesday announced that it has revamped the process for selecting its team for the IAAF World Youth Athletics Championships.For the first time, the team will be selected based on performances at a Team Trials event - World Youth Track & Field Trials - which will be conducted less than two weeks before the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championships.

Since the inception of the World Youth Championships in 1999, the U.S. team has been selected by a committee, which reviewed the performances of athletes who had competed in one of three national championship events - USA Youth, USA Junior, and USATF Junior Olympics - a full year prior to the World Championships. "Our goal is to send the best possible team to the World Championships, and having a selection meet just prior to the World Championships allows USATF to do this," said USATF Youth Division Chair Lionel Leach. "As is the case with our elite athletes and their teams, our youth athletes will be able to 'select themselves' based on how they perform at a qualifying meet."

The 2009 World Youth Track & Field Trials will be held on June 30 - July 1 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in conjunction with the first two days of the USA Youth Outdoor Track & Field Championships. The event will serve as the qualifying event for the 8th IAAF World Youth Championships to be held July 8-12 in Bressanone, Italy. For more information on the 2009 World Youth Track & Field Trials, including qualifying standards to enter the Trials and team selection criteria, please visit http://www.usatf.org/events/2009/WorldYouthAthleticsTrials.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What lurks in Michtrack's basement?

A few people this fall have kindly said they were checking my blog occasionally. I was touched--how nice. Then there are the others who simply seemed surprised to see me alive. My fault entirely. If I were being paid to blog, I'm sure I could be more consistent at it. As it is, at least in the fall, I'm lousy.

I'm not the type to make excuses, but here they are anyway. 1. Coaching-every fall I venture back into the coaching ranks and mentor a middle school XC team. These kids rock. But there are 100 of them, and by the time the season is over I realize why I don't want to coach year-round. Middle schoolers are loud and often unresponsive to our urging them to practice civilized behavior. "Herding cats" couldn't be a more accurate term. My blood pressure always spikes in the fall, and I need a few months of absolute silence in order to regain my equilibrium. I break out the stamp collection. Watch leaves fall. Forbid my family from speaking. That sort of thing. I'm okay now, I think.

2. Teaching. I love it, so I'm not going to complain. But I will trade jobs with anyone for a day. And then you'll know what I'm not talking about...

3. The economy. And trying to sell a house. And putting a wife through nursing school. And dealing with a mortgage at Countrywide. Non-stop fun.

This all leads us to the original question: what lurks in Michtrack's basement? The time has come to clean it out, and sell the mountains of track and running publications. In no particular order, I'm listing it on eBay. Check it out. Of particular interest to Michiganders are some nearly complete sets of Michigan Runner, West Michigan Running News, and Western Runner.

Ranting about track is soon to come.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The news from Beijing


Three days into the Olympics and I haven’t written a blog entry yet? Sounds like slacking, and there’s a pinch of truth to that. The bigger picture is that my time here is owned by the people who are paying me, Track & Field News. It’s all about the money, you see. And the track schedule combined with my deadlines has made blogging a very low priority, somewhere below sleep, which is also getting short shrift.

Let’s see if I can get caught up quickly.

The Chinese: Our perception of them is hugely important to them, and they have worked very hard to make this Games a success. I see their pride and concern in the eyes of everyone I meet here, from track officials to waitresses to street sweepers. As the photo attests, the country is so proud of their Olympics that the symbol is on their manhole covers.

The Food: Bring it on. I have had no problems going native. When I hear my U.S. compatriots saying things like, “Thank God they have McDonald’s” I cringe. My favorite restaurant is a place where the menus have no pictures or English, and the waitresses don’t know English. We order in a bizarre mix of Chinese/English and pantomime. We never know what we’re going to get, but it’s always good because they are so anxious to please. A giant meal with drinks for three people? About $7.

The U.S. Team: Sure everyone’s got a good excuse, but the bottom line is becoming apparent. There is something fundamentally wrong with our team’s preparation here. We’ll probably win some golds as the week goes on, but overall, our track athletes are choking. Consider events we used to “own” in recent years, the 110 hurdles and the men’s long jump. We have a slight chance to get on the podium in the hurdles but we don’t even have any finalists in the long jump. Ouch. And our 1500 team that looked so good in round one came to the semis with zero confidence, and ran like it. The solution? I don’t know. We’re all still in shock here.

Hail the Alternate! In at least three cases, U.S. athletes have competed on the track with preexisting injury conditions. Of course, they bombed out miserably. But they can call themselves “Olympians.” Whoopee. Let me take a strong stand here. They’re not here to represent themselves. They’re here to represent the United States. And when they come here injured and don’t give up their team spot to a healthy alternate, they have betrayed their implicit pledge to do the best thing for the United States. In all three of these cases, we had team alternates who have made the A standard who could have done a better job in the Games. It’s time that U.S. officials have the backbone to boot unhealthy people off the team. I find it maddening to see a runner step off the track after running a few steps when they knew they were injured weeks before. Perhaps they were hoping a miracle would happen as soon as they got inside the Birds Nest. The only miracle I’m looking for is one of our athletes to put their country before their self-interest.

Kickers Rule: I know one journalist who works himself into a frothy rage when the Ethiopians kick their way to gold medals in the distances. I know zillions of high school runners who have been brainwashed by the Steve Prefontaine myth and think the only honorable way to run is to lead from the front. Hogwash. One of these days I’m going to finish my book on running tactics and lead with the first rule: in a race with runners of equal ability, the kicker will win 98% of the time. A coach who doesn’t prepare his runners to win in a variety of ways is not doing a good job. The kick is something every runner should hone. At the highest levels, unless the leader is clearly a superior runner to the field, the leader will lose to a kicker. That’s how our sport works, that’s how the physics of running works. Embrace it. There are no bonuses for leading at the halfway point. The medals are decided only by the finish.

Drugs: Track has a “dirty” reputation because it has made a bigger effort than any other sport to catch the cheaters. Kind of a Catch-22, isn’t it? If you think sports like swimming are clean, you are probably deluded. Denial is a powerful force. I’m kind of extreme on drugs, in that I think that we should just take the offenders out back and shoot them. Bowing to legal reality, however, I accept that probably won’t happen until I’m king of the world. So for now, I say add these to the list of penalties: 1)when a country has a rash of positive tests and evidence of a large-scale doping program (ie. the Russian female runners this summer), we need to come up with significant penalties not just to the individuals but to the country’s federation. 2)when an athlete is found guilty of doping, that athlete’s entire career should be erased. Every record from middle school to the Olympics. Case in point. Marion Jones had her career erased from 2000-forward, in keeping with her admissions to prosecutors. Should she still have her blazing times and gold medals from the 1997 season? Do you really trust that she was clean? (Let’s beat a dead horse here. Do you really think a “clean” drug test means the athlete is clean? We know for a fact the entire story behind East Germany’s doping practices in the 70s and 80s. However, not one East German athlete failed a drug test.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Michigan juniors in Poland

When we say "juniors" we usually mean 11th graders. However, in the rest of the track world, "juniors" means athletes who are 19 & under (technically, they must not turn 20 during the year). So virtually all high schoolers are eligible for these competitions, as are most college freshmen.

The World Junior Championships are going on in Bydgoszcz, Poland, a town in desperate need of more vowels. We have two former Michigan high schoolers on the roster. Shayla Mahan, a Mumford alum running for South Carolina, and Elizabeth Graney, from Grosse Pointe North and William & Mary.

Graney had placed second at USA Juniors in the steeplechase, running a fine 10:34.11 (her best is 10:31.97). Mahan placed third in the 100 at 11.39.

On the first day of competition in Poland, Graney clocked 10:37.96 for 6th in her heat and 16th overall. She did not advance to the final. Mahan's 11.61 won her heat and puts her fourth overall, so she made it to the semifinals. In the semis, she clocked 11.66 and qualified for the finals, as the slowest seed in the field.

Said Mahan, "I wasn't really nervous, but I couldn't get my starts right during the warmup. I didn't want to really get out on my start in case it wasn't right. Waiting around for the last heat was okay, it just gave me extra time to think about it... Running in the SEC this season at South Carolina really prepares you for a meet like this. I'm looking forward to the second round, I know I have to stay calm and get out."

Monday, July 7, 2008

What Alan Webb needs to do


Since everyone else in the world is chiming in on the Alan Webb situation, I’m going to have to finally dive into the debate. And while there are dozens of issues to splash around in, I’m going to keep my point simple.

Alan Webb does not have the instincts to be a champion 1500m man. Period. He can run very fast in paced races, and is capable of breaking more American records in the middle distances. But for Olympics and World Championships, he needs to look at the 5000m (possibly) and the 10,000m (definitely).

The more races I see the more I am convinced that while an athlete can learn better tactics, the very best tacticians have an inborn talent that enables them to instinctually make great racing decisions without a moment’s hesitation.

At the high school and even college levels, a miler can become great simply through great physical talent and conditioning—where Webb has excelled. But in international championships, the difference between champion and failure is razor-thin, and a moment’s hesitation on the track can easily lead to failure.

More than once Webb has displayed that kind of indecisiveness. It doesn’t matter how smart he is, or how good his race plan is, in championship racing, he who hesitates is lost. If he stays in the mile, he faces a career full of public recrimination for “failures” such as his fifth-place run yesterday. To win gold, he will need luck—amazing luck.

Luckily, Webb does have phenomenal skills that can take him beyond four laps. In his first ever track 10,000m he ran 27:34.72 and beat Dathan Ritzenhein. (And don’t look at Ritz’s lackluster Trials 10K performance and conclude he’s chopped liver. He ran 120M that week and his only tapering was going to single runs instead of doubles the three days before the race).

With his speed, and his proven long distance ability, Webb could be very dangerous in a championship 10,000m. He could be the master of the sit-and-kick. (And don’t be deluded by the Prefontaine mythology on sitting-and-kicking. In championship races with closely matched runners, he who leads usually loses.)

And because a track 10,000m is more spread out, and close-contact tactics don’t play anywhere near as big a role as they do in the 1500, Webb could excel at 25 laps, without ever exposing his weakness.

I would love to see Webb regarded as a success. Just because he had the misfortune of running 3:53 in high school doesn’t mean he should be sentenced to the mile for life.

Notes from Raff: Sunday

The Olympic Trials feature the prime events for the last day. Today the short hurdles, the metric mile (the 1500 Race), the 200 dash, women’s pole vault, discus, javelin, and triple jump took place within a three hour time period.

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Two Michigan hurdlers attempted advancing to the finals. Michigan’s Tiffany Ofili and Southern Cal’s Candice Davis were in two separate semi-final heats. Ofili, a two-time NCAA champion, placed fifth in 12.76 just inches from making the finals. Davis, an Ann Arbor Pioneer grad, was more fortunate and placed fourth in the second semi-final also in 12.76.

In the finals Davis placed fifth in 12.66. Both Davis and Ofili can look to Trial hurdling champion LoLo Jones, who was not an Olympian four years ago. Both Washtenaw county athletes have bright futures, and advancing to the final day of competition should give both hurdlers confidence for 2012.

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The women’s pole vault brought about personal and American records and also a frightful few moments.

Erica Bartolini cleared two personal best heights of 14-7 ¼ and 14-11 to become an Olympian headed for China with a third place finish.

April Steiner Bennett, formerly from Arkansas, vaulted 15-1, placed second and also is now an Olympian.

Jennifer Stuczynski missed two attempts at 15-1, her opening height where a third miss would have devastated the record crowd of 21,176.

Next the New York native vaulted 15-7 ½ for a new Olympic Trial record, cleared 16-1 ¾ for a new American record, and just missed two times at 16-5 ½ , which would have been a new world record. She passed her last attempt.

***********************************************************************

In the 1500 race for men, the meet’s final race, our country’s three best milers became our candidates for Olympic medals. Bernard Lagat (3:40.37), Leonel Manzano (3:40.90), and Lopez Lomong (3:41.00) took the Trial’s first three places.

The race began as a “jog,” but former Stanford ace Gab Jennings leaped to the front after the opening 300, as the 12 starters crossed the first lap in 61 – 62 seconds. Jennings increased the second lap to 58.5 seconds, but as always Lagat, Manzano, and Lomong followed the leaders.

Said Ahmed literally pushed his way to first place for a brief moment, but the three Olympians dominated the race’s final lap, which took 54 seconds.

*********************************************************************

The University of Michigan’s Lindsey Gallo ran 4:15.06 in a tactical 1500 meter final as Sharon Rowbury, the pre-meet favorite, strong running Erin Donahue (4:08.20) and Christin Wurth (4:09.48) took the Olympic places.

Spectators always hope for fast 1500 races, but no miler wants to set a fast pace and end up in sixth or seventh; therefore slow-paced, tactical miles take place.

**********************************************************************

The Trials are now history, and I don’t know who is more tired: the athletes or the every-day spectators?

Many of our new tour group members rated the meet as an “A” and many veteran members appreciated the cooler Oregon weather, the knowledgeable fans, historic Hayward Field, and the morning Oregon newspaper accounts of the previous day’s events.

Above all, the athletes appreciated the enthusiasm of the track and field fans.

**********************************************************************

Place 2012 on your track and field calendar of events.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

State record in hammer for Flanary!

Great news today from Ryan Flanary, whose daughter Shana shattered the state record in the hammer throw. The old best was 131-10 by Alana Robinson of Grosse Ile, who went on to a successful collegiate career at South Carolina. On Saturday, Shana, just a sophomore at Carleton Airport HS, added more than 10 feet to the record by throwing 142-4 at the USATF JO Regional in Ohio.

I love it, because I think we need to start working harder to expose Michigan high schoolers to the full range of events available to them in college. It's foolish to think the MHSAA is going to add the hammer, the steeplechase, the decathlon, the triple jump, or the javelin any time soon. However, I would love to see more post-season opportunities in the state for athletes to try these events. Usually, events like the hammer and javelin see athletes thrive who may not have been great in the shot and discus. I think there are many Michigan athletes out there who would try college competition if they had a chance to dabble in these events and find out where their talents lay.

It's called exposing kids to opportunity, and we should all be for it. If anyone wants to host clinics or competitions in these events, you can count on me to help publicize them.

Sunday: Davis misses Olympics by 0.04

She came close, so very close to making the Olympic team. Candice Davis, an alum of Ann Arbor Pioneer and USC, finished 5th in the 100 hurdles today, clocking a wind-aided 12.66. That missed the third place time of 12.62 by just 0.02. Up ahead, Lolo Jones won the race in a scintillating 12.29w.

Davis had made the final by the skin of her teeth, finishing 4th in her semi at 12.76 (w1.7). Tiffany Ofili had worse luck. She ran in the previous semi, ran the exact same time, with the exact same wind reading. She finished 5th, and only the top four qualify. Kellie Wells took 2nd at 12.58, but collapsed injured after the finish line. Under current rules, that left an empty lane in the final, which is a crying shame, since Ofili would probably would have been thrilled to fill that lane.

In the 1500, we saw a typical championship race, in that the place was slow and no one was ready to take the burden of leading on a very windy day. Saline's Steve Sherer ran smart, and stayed near the front of the pack. Finally Gabe Jennings, who lacked the A qualifier for the Games, was forced to take the lead and try to speed the race up. The wind chewed him up and spit him out (he ended up dead last).

When the sprinting started, Sherer had some problems with being boxed in. He also said afterward that breathing/allergies was an issue. In any case, Sherer was left behind in the kicker's race. His 57.9 last lap put him into 11th place at 3:43.41.

When the dust settled on the meet, we realized we had seen some incredible performances. And we do have an Olympian to watch in Beijing, Dathan Ritzenhein in the marathon. I'll probably cheer for Anna Willard as well, even though she made the mistake of growing up in Maine. Four years from now, though, I bet that some of our stars who got valuable experience in Eugene will be back to make the team.

Michigan’s second generation runners


Two notable Trials competitors come from good Michigan bloodlines. Christine Babcock, who held the national high school 1500m record at 4:16.42 until Jordan Hasay broke it Friday, is the daughter of Kelly Spatz, a former Michigan State runner who competed in the 1984 Olympic Trials marathon. She also won a state mile crown for Saginaw Eisenhower.


In the 400 (6th in 51.26) and the 200 is Ebonie Floyd, who is the daughter of Delisa Walton, who held the state record in the 800 for many years until Geena Gall broke it. Walton married Stanley Floyd, a world class sprinter.

Notes from Raff: Saturday

And now there is only one day of the Trials to go...

Our tour group consists of many different people from many different places. Of course most of the group are teachers --English, phy. Ed., math, art, government, biology, athletic directors, social workers, elementary and history. But some are engineers, lawyers, computer networkers, a pipe-fitter, a future financial adviser, truck driver, accountant, business consultant, advertiser, house-maker, laborer, public health researcher, nurse, credit analyst, and author.

Most come from Michigan – Flint, Lansing, Ann Arbor, suburban Detroit, Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Mt. Pleasant, but others come from Minnesota, the East and West coast.

This is the fifth Olympic Trial group tour, which evolved from over twenty-five yearly NCAA indoor championship tours.

And if you would like to make the sixth Trial group, contact tour director Charlie Janke of Jackson, Michigan at 517-592-2346 immediately if not sooner.

***** ***** *****

How about another Carter on the Olympic team representing the United States?? Michael Carter’s daughter Michelle won the shot put today with a toss of 61-10 ¼, the farthest throw of her life. Michael Carter, as you know was an Olympic silver medalist n the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles. (He also was a noted football player for the San Francisco 49ers.)

****** ****** ******

Tyson Gay, who won the 100 dash last weekend, started in the 200 prelims and did not finish because of leg problems. But don’t worry, there will be three top 200 runners on our Olympic team.

***** ****** *******

Michigan’s top two hurdlers, Candice Davis of Ann Arbor Pioneer and the University of Southern California and Tiffany Ofili of Ypsilanti and the U of Michigan, advanced to tomorrow’s semi-finals. Both placed third in their quarter-final heats.

******* ********** ********

Eastern Michigan University’s Jordan Desilets and Corey Nowitzke finished eighth and tenth in today’s 3000 meter steeplechase finals. Tony Famiglietti took the race out fast and led from start to finish in 8:20.24.

Desilits and Nowitzke looked sluggish after running strong and hard in the prelims on Thursday. Maybe both needed one more rest day.

******* *********** **********

Eastern Michigan’s last hope for an Olympic spot in 2008 belonged to Jamie Nieto, a dreaded fourth place finisher in the ’04 games in Greece.

Nieto tied for second at 7-5 ¼ in the high jump today, and the end of the high jump produced much confusion as the officials gave two pairs of jumpers additional jumps for no reason. I’ll investigate the confusion and explain tomorrow.

Anyway Nieto’s second place did not produce an Olympic spot because the EMU alum did not have the “A” Standard of 7-6 ½.

And now there is only one more day of the Trials.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Saturday: Davis & Ofili advance



Candice Davis and Tiffany Ofili both survived the first day of hurdle races, qualifying for the semifinals on Sunday. In her race, Ofili ran 12.84 (1.1w) for third. Davis ran in the last quarterfinal, clocking 12.87 (1.7) for third.

Both Davis and Ofili had easily advanced out of the first round of the 100 hurdles. In heat one, they faced a slight (-0.1) headwind. The first four would automatically advance. Davis won in 12.92, and Ofili ran 13.19 for 3rd. In the final heat, Landria Buckley, a Romulus alum who runs for Howard, finished a non-qualifying 7th in 13.73.

In the steeplechase, we sometimes see athletes produce their best races just to get into the final. That's certainly what happened to our guys, Jordan Desilets and Corey Nowitzke. The two stuck together in the early laps, but never were able to get into the mix. Desilets finished 8th in 8:38.84, and Nowitzke 10th in 8:47.10. PRs from either of them would have put them into 4th place.

Notes from Raff: Friday

Breaux Greer failed to qualify for Sunday’s javelin finals after winning nine straight American championships. Greer’s best throw was, for him, a paltry 220-6, far from his American record of 299-6.

Grand Blanc’s Gwen Wentland cleared two heights, 5-10 ½ and 6-0 ½, but left the competition with three misses at 6-2 ¼ in the high jump. Wentland finished in seventh place as Chaunte Howard (6-5 ½), Amy Acuff (6-4 ¾), and Sharon Day (6-4 ¾) will represent the United States in China.

Saline’s Steve Scherer advanced to Sunday’s 1500 meter finals with a 2nd place finish in the first semi-final heat. The former Michigan State runner now represents the local Oregon Track Club and ran 3:44.20 with laps of 63-63-56 and a closing 400 of 55.

I’m still pulling for Texas’ Leonel Manzano in Sunday’s finals of the 1500. Manzano placed 2nd in the second semi-final with a 3:40.32 pace as the quick Texan miler closed with a 55 last lap.

In the women’s 1500 the University of Michigan graduate Lindsey Gallo won the 2nd semi-final heat with a 4:12.54 as the New Jersey native ran laps of 68-71-63 and closed with a 65 final 400.

Gallo’s training mate Morgan Uceny, former Cornell runner from an Indiana high school, also qualified in 4:13.61.

The 1500 was highlighted by California 11th grader Jordan Hasay who also advanced to the finals on Sunday with a national high school record of 4:14.50.

Hasay’s laps were 68-72-65 and a final 400 of 64 as the crowd noise followed her on that final lap.

I don’t know when the last prep female miler made a national senior final?? If the little senior-to-be runner makes the Olympic team, this stadium will go bananas.

I’m betting on Gallo as one of the final three and that both 1500 races on Sunday will be fast.

As expected Kara Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Jennifer Rhines took the top three places in the 5000 women’s finals.

The race featured kilometer splits of 3:08, 3:01, 3:03, 3:03 and 2:46 as the three Olympians ran the last 400 in 65 seconds and the last 800 in 2:12.

The best three 5000 runners will represent the country in China.

The men’s 10,000 meter final closed tonight’s meet with a crowd cheering victory by Abdi Abdirhman in 27:41.89, but Oregon’s Galen Rupp followed Abdi in 27:43.11, and Jorge Torres’ 27:46.33 as the crowd again roared its approval.

The fireworks began above the north end of the field as the three Olympians finished their last five laps.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Friday: Ritz 8th in 10,000m final

Rockford alum Dathan Ritzenhein, in the midst of his training for the Olympic marathon, struggled to finish 8th in the Trials 10,000. His 1600 splits: 4:27.4, 4:25.1, 4:27.3, 4:28.8, 4:32.9, 4:35.8. For the first part of the race, Ritz stayed in the mix, but after Abdirahman, Rupp and Torres broke off, he ran with the trail pack. For a while he ran in 4th, then it was clear that he ran out of steam. His final time, 28:05.31.

Saline's Steve Sherer looked very strong as he hit his last lap in 54.9 to qualify for the finals of the 1500m. Sherer's 3:44.20 was just 0.03 ahead of Alan Webb, who controlled the pace of the semi and made it into a kickers' race. Times didn't matter, as the top six advanced to the final with no time qualifiers. The top six in the first semi clearly separated from the rest.

Gwen Wentland finished seventh in the high jump with her 6-0.5 leap.

Kermit Ambrose


Photo of 16 year old Jordan Hasay and 97 year old Kermit Ambrose in the east stands at Hayward Field after Hasay's opening race of the trials.
(photo by Matt Gutteridge, cross country coach at Hartland High School)

Notes from Raff: Thursday

Before the evening events begin our National Anthem was sung by a local vocalist. Every night the featured singer raises “goose bumps” on the sentimental patriotic Americans in Hayward Field.

******* ******* *******

For the Michigan group, which increased by four today, the Trials are not all Track and Field. This morning, the third annual Mark Corless Open took place at the local put-putt course. Dave Miller, rookie group member and coach at Jackson Luman Christi, took the men’s championship with a solid score of 40. Becky Turbin, and Jan Janke, wife of our tour director, shared the women’s honors with solid 41s, including handicap. Tomorrow the group will celebrate the Fourth of July with an old fashioned picnic with hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, watermelon, and all the rest. Paul McMullin, his father, Mike McGuire, Fred LaPlante, and Bettie Wade, will honor us with their presence.

For the first half hour this evening, field events occupied our attention, but then the running began at 7:30 p.m., with the exciting 1500m heats. In the women’s trials, high school wonder from California, Jordan Hasay, finished seventh in her heat and advanced to round two; at first was to run one round and then travel to Poland to represent our country in the world junior championships Monday. However she will run in Friday’s semi-finals.

The University of Michigan’s Lindsey Gallo won heat three in 4:17.47 with laps of 70, 70, 70, and final 400 of 65. She looked smooth as she advanced to Friday’s semi-finals.

Sanya Richards, our country’s best 400 meter runner, easily controlled the 400 finals in 48.89, a new Olympic Trials record. DeeDee Trotter and Mary Wineberg captured the other two Olympic places. It looked as if Richards had two or three more gears left in her one lap victory.

******* ******* *******

The former Eastern Michigan University’s Jamie Nieto, now representing Nike, out of Chula Vista, California, easily advanced to the high jump finals by clearing 7-1 and 7-2.5. Nieto is striving for his second Olympic birth.

******* ******* *******

Jeremy Wariner was disappointed in his second place finish in the 400 with a time off 44.20, but former Indiana sprinter David Neville, running out of lane eight, excitedly celebrated his third place finish in 44.61, a fitting reward for Neville in his long quest for stardom. Saline's Steve Scherer impressed fans with his second place finish for the NowTrack Club and sped to 63, 63, 60, and a last 400 of 55 seconds to easily advance with second place 3:44.71 behind 2000 Olympic trials winner Gabe Jennings.

******* ******* *******

My favorite in the 1500 is Texas’ Leonel Manzano who finished second in heat two with a 3: 43.31 race in laps of 61, 62, 60, and last 400 in 56 seconds. Texas coach and head U.S. team coach, Bubba Thornton calls Manzano, “the University’s greatest ambassador,” with his humble personality.

Some have said that Alan Webb can’t race anymore as if Webb is a forty year old miler. But the American middle distance star looked springy in a quick 3:41.27 to lead all 1500 meter contestants with laps of 58, 61, 61, and a closing 400 of 55 seconds.

The semi-finals and especially the finals of the 1500 will offer us a few more exciting moments.

******* ******** *******

Randy Enders an Oregonian whose great-great-great- grandfather settled in Watervliet, Michigan, in 1847 told me the sunset that blazed behind the west stand of Hayward Field whas the most spectacular he has ever seen in the 44 years he has lived in Eugene.

******* ******** ********

Monroe and Eastern Michigan’s Corey Nowitzke ran a gutty 8:27.75 in the 3000 steeple chase and advanced to Saturday’s 3 p.m. finals. Nowitzke’s performance was a lifetime best. He ran most of his race in 8th and 9th place, but closed strong to finish fourth in his heat. Nowitzke’s teammate Jordan Desilets of Lake Orion also qualified with a third place 8:34.74 in the steeple's second qualifying heat. Eastern Michigan again showed its steeplechasing prominence under coach John Goodridge.

******* ******* *******

Another sell-out crowd at Hayward stadium saw the first ever official female's steeplechase Olympic trial. Former U of M middle distance ace Anna Willard won the championship and a China trip when she broke the race open with a 2:10 last 800 as she claimed the American record in 9:27.59.

Spartan Nicole Bush finished in the dreaded fourth place, but with a personal record of 9:40.27, eight seconds below her former record set in Monday’s prelims.

Thursday: Nicole Bush takes 4th


An incredibly brave race tonight by Nicole Bush highlighted the meet. Wearing the Michigan State colors, the Kelloggsville alum raced to a Michigan all-time record of 9:40.27 in the fastest race in U.S. history. Bush was able to stay with the torrid pace until the last kilometer, but she rallied well to finish 4th. She will be the Olympic alternate. The University of Michigan's Anna Willard easily won the race in an American Record 9:27.59.

Afterwards, Bush said the Trials will give her a big boost heading into her senior year at MSU. "It's confidence and experience. It all comes down to experience."

Other Michigan athletes also fared well tonight. Corey Nowitzke, a Monroe alum, ran a lifetime best 8:27.78 to make the finals of the steeplechase. In the following heat, Lake Orion grad Jordan Desilets ran 8:34.74 and also qualified.

Steve Sherer (Saline alum) ran 3:44.71 and easily qualified for the 1500 semis. Said Sherer, "I was happy. This is the first-time I have ever got out of the first round. I usually let my nerves get the best of me and run out like a scared rabbit, but I'm finally learning how to run a championship round. My goal for the next round is to just place in the top-six."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Track Town or Nike Town?

This is not about facts. This is about appearances. Nike is the major sponsor of USA Track & Field, and of the Olympic Trials. This is the Nike that makes the shoes I wear. This is the Nike that has driven much of its marketing with the inspirational images of a runner who died 32 years ago. This is the Nike that has weathered international criticism over the low wages it has paid workers in its Asian factories.

Before I left Michigan for the meet, I joked to a friend that I wondered if I would see the Nike swoosh on the Oregon state flag. For better or worse, Nike's influence on this event is massive. Now I fear we may be seeing some of the worse.

For years I have heard athletes and agents say words to the effect that, "Nike gets what it wants; Alberto gets what he wants." Alberto Salazar that is, former great runner who is now a noted coach and a big power in the Nike machine. Whether or not that's really true, I can't say. I'm writing about appearances.

Today the town is abuzz with talk about Adam Goucher, one of Salazar's top runners, being added to the 10,000m field on appeal. He will apparently run the race, but he was added to it over seven athletes who are not being allowed to race.

Tonight, USATF released a statement saying that the addition of Goucher to the 10,000 was not unusual. It concluded, "“It is not unusual for past national champions who lack qualifying standards to be granted entry into national championship events, and Mr. Goucher's case is no exception.”

Unfortunately, it will appear to many as if big money is pulling strings behind closed doors, and guys who deserve to be in that race are getting screwed. The appeals process needs to be clarified so that we don't get these public relations disasters in the future.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The race of the meet!



Little noticed by the media was perhaps the most dramatic and enthralling race of the Trials, in my humble opinion. The Oregon TC put on a joggers mile, and--because I had made the silly promise to you and my daughters--I ran. This only two days after my back went out on me on an hour run in Alton Baker Park. This would be my first track race since I was outkicked by a heavyset French woman in the media 800 at the World Champs in 2001. She smoked a cigarette afterwards. Sometimes my foolishness knows no bounds--I try not to let pride limit me.

At Hayward Field, an amazing 300 runners showed up for the mile race. The 5-6 heats were grouped by projected times, so I went with the 8-minutes and up crowd. The earlier races were nothing to sneeze at. The fast heat went in 4:24, with Pinckney grad David Emery running 4:26 in training flats, after a seven mile morning run. In another heat, Paul McMullen dusted off his legs and ran 4:52.

Then the gun went off for my race: I had resolved to start slow, so my back wouldn't spasm on me. I went through the 400 in 2:02.6--right on target. I eased into a faster pace, and his 3:52.8 at 800. Then I got into the fun of passing people (to give you an idea of how slowly I started, I had to pass a race walker). Lap three was my fastest yet at 1:45.6. Then I looked up and saw the green grandstands towering over me. Hayward Field--the track where so many legends have run. I almost got a little misty-eyed. I unleashed my devastating kick--so called because it looks especially devastating when used in an 8-minute mile heat. My last circuit of the track took 1:37.1, and my final time was 7:15.5 (keep in mind this was no namby-pamby 1600m. This was a full mile--1609.34 glorious meters).

My back cramped so badly I felt like Quasimodo. But I had raced at Hayward Field in the footsteps of ghosts and legends. And most importantly, I beat my 12-year-old's best time. I've still got it. Not much of it, but I've still got it.

Will the Eugene magic affect the 1500?

Unmistakably, one major ingredient in the magical crowd roar of Monday night was the Oregon element. All three mens 800m qualifiers—Symmonds, Wheating, Smith—train in this town.

Is there any possibility we’ll see a similar result in the 1500? Hmmm. Consider the fact that Wheating is entered and declared, with his qualifier of 3:38.60. The University of Oregon also has Andrew Acosta (3:40.52) and Jordan McNamara (3:41.13). The Oregon TC is fielding William Leer (3:38.11) and John Jefferson (3:39.44). Plus, 2000 Trials champ Gabe Jennings (3:39.59) trains here now.

It’s an impressive Eugene line-up, to be sure, but so far we’ve heard no one talking about any of them as major factors. Yes, Jennings is an intriguing talent and someone to watch. Wheating, many think, will not even run, now that he is on the 800 team.

And then you have the big guns who aren’t from Eugene. The World Champion, for instance, would qualify as a big gun. Bernard Lagat qualified for the 5000 on Monday and the next day announced, “I will race both.”

He added, “Last year, everybody knew that I had problems with my stomach. I have no problems this year, I feel stronger this year so if I make the team in the 1500, I'm going to pursue the 1500 very hard. I did it last year.”

It would be a mistake to count out Alan Webb, the mile AR holder. He said Tuesday, “I feel good, my training's been going well and I've had a lot of inspiration the last 12 hours on the track. I'm really excited about participating in this meet. It's been pretty awesome to watch.”

Webb said that pulling out of the 800 gave him an extra week of training and more confidence for the 1500. “It's just a matter of getting out there and executing.”

Then there’s newcomer Lopez Lomong, who missed making the 800 team by 0.11. The tactically inexperienced immigrant from Sudan has been tabbed by many in the know as a world class force in the future. But is he too tired from the 800?

“Actually it helps,” he said the day after the final. “I finished my 800 yesterday and I felt very fresh. I just wanted to do some rounds. I finally made my PR yesterday. I didn't make the team, but I wanted to see what my speed was. It really helped me a lot.”

Also high on the formchart are Texan Leonel Manzano, Rob Myers, Chris Lukezic and so on. Plus, there are those who are floating under the radar of the formchart, so to speak, like Steve Sherer (3:36.81 a few weeks ago).

So, will the race be magic? Almost certainly. Will it be Oregon magic again?

Anything can happen, but that’s never the way to bet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Notes from Raff: Monday

Sunday evening we had the honor of dining at a local Italian place with former University of Michigan middle distance star Lindsay Gallo, who began her Olympian quest on Thursday. Gallo is confident she can compete with the best for one of the three places. She told us, “Whatever the pace, I will compete, and I’ll make sure it won’t be a slow race.” The New Jersey native’s mother’s family background claims Russian ancestry and longer distance genes in combination with her father’s northern Italian spring background make her an ideal miler. Watch the women’s 1500 finals on Sunday and follow Gallo’s race to China.

Writing about Gallo reminds me of Michigan coach Mike McGuire. Where would U-M distance and middle distance fortunes be if McGuire was not the coach? McGuire’s expertise in recruiting, training, and mentoring Wolverine female athletes compares equally or surpasses any famous track coach in the United States and Canada. Let’s hope Michigan realizes his value to the University and its track and field program.

________________________________________________________________________

A new addition to the ranks of national caliber decathletes is the University of Oregon’s Ashton Eaton, who is only a sophomore and comes from Bend, Oregon and was this year’s NCAA champion, stood in fifth place after the first day’s competition. He began his Olympian attempt with a 10.61 in the 100, long-jumped 24-7, high-jumped 6-5, and sprinted 47.07 in the 400. The future world class decathlete’s shot put at 40-3 showed Eaton’s youthfulness in the ten disciplined events. If you have ever been to Hayward Field, you know how the crowd reacted to the performance of the host school’s entry in the pole vault when he PRed three times at 16-8 3/4. Eaton’s 8122 points was good for fifth place; not bad for a college sophomore.


You don’t know how glad I am to be in Eugene. It took me four days to arrive here because I blacked out on the plane from Detroit to Denver. When the plane landed in Denver an EMS team took me to the University Hospital in Aurora, Colorado. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday undergoing cardiac testing, and on Friday at noon I was given a “clean bill of health,” hopped the plane to Portland where my former manager and assistant coach Mark Corless picked me up, and we arrived at Historic Hayward Field in time for the majority of Friday’s events. I’m taking it easy and enjoying the year’s best track and field meet.

________________________________________________________________________

My Olympic Trial experiences began in Indianapolis in 1988, when my son Michael, then 17 years old, and I left Holly at 3:00 a.m. in an old Chevette and arrived in Indy at 9:00 a.m. in 95 degree heat. We motel sixed it for eight days at $19.95 per evening. The thrill of the Olympic Trials still exists as I sat in this stadium for the 2008 Trials.


Next update: Friday

Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday: Michigan report

THE NOISE! The loudest noise I have heard in my life at a track meet erupted when Oregon's hometown favorites swept the men's 800m. Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating, and Christian Smith--all of whom train in Eugene, finished like maniacs in the last 100 and grabbed the three spots for Beijing.

In the women's 800, the crowded field of 12 (yes, MHSAA, more than 8 is considered too crowded for an 800 final) changed the nature of the race significantly. The athletes raced out much faster than usual so they wouldn't get buried in the pack. Katie Waits hit the 200 in 27.0, in third place. At 600m, however, Waits clocked 1:28.0 and visibly hit the wall. The team spots went to the athletes who could survive the anaerobic pain the best. Geena Gall finished 7th in 2:02.35 (0.11 slower than her PR), Becky Horn 8th in 2:03.87 (0.14 off her best), and Waits--who ran the brave race she had to run--faded to 9th in 2:04.60.

Nicole Bush looked great in breaking away from the pack in the steeple heats to run alongside Lyndsey Anderson in the lead, easily qualifying. She broke her own best time (and Michigan alumni record) with a 9:49.52.

Joe Cebulski stayed in the decathlon, despite no-heighting in the vault. He finished 18th with 6629 points.

Gwen Wentland leaped 5-11.5 to make the finals of the high jump.

Brian Richotte, a Royal Oak Shrine grad competing for Oregon, finished 16th in the hammer qualifying at 219-5. Lela Nelson leaped 20-1 in the long jump qualifying, missing the final by 9 inches. Mandi Zemba finished 10th and last in her 5000 heat at 16:15.72.

Age group stuff

Some results have trickled in from the first day of the weekend's AAU Junior Olympic meet in Southfield:

Brittany Mann, 8th grade 41-4.25, 119-7 DT
Dynasty McGee 35-1.75 TJ

The link: http://www.thinkdetroitpal.org/programs/pdf/track/AAUStateResultsDay1.pdf

And from Charlotte, NC, we had a few Michigan results at the USA Youth Championships:

Ariel Roberts 5-7, 17-4, 1:04.60, 62.21 @ 400H
Amanda Maher-Balduf 15.52, 1:07.03
Christina Wade 26.48
Demetrius Addison 14.60, 14.32w, 55.01, 57.04
Xavier Parnell 22.34, 50.99

Notes from Raff: Sunday

Duane Raffin is the former Holly coach, an astute observer of the sport, and a terrific writer. He, too, is at the Trials, and is sharing his observations:

Sunday: Michigan puts 3 athletes in the women’s 800 finals. After two ultra-competitive qualifying heats, Cadillac’s and the University of Michigan’s Katie Erdman Waits, Grand Blancs and U of M’s Geena Gall, and Battle Creek’s and Western Michigan University’s Becky Horn are finalists.

A dozen are finalists because four women tripped and fell during a semi-final heat, including Horn, and were added to the finals.

Chances are one Michigander will be in China representing the United States as an Olympian.

If you have ever been to Eugene’s historic Hayward Field, you would be impressed by the major additions. The new “Mondo” track has produced scorching times during 90 degree and humid conditions. The temporary bleachers create a seamless transitional blend into the historic east and west Hayward grandstands. “I would love to watch one 100 meter final from the Bowerman balcony.” The revisions to the field events venues enhanced the neatness of the infield.

Sunday: Tyson Gay sprinted 9.68 seconds for 100 meters, the fastest ever run in history; however, the 4.1 aiding wind negated any world record. If the wind had been legal (a 2.0 wind), Gay’s time would have been 9.76, which would not have broken Usain Bolt’s pending world record but a 9.68 100 meter performance was a fitting way to end a day of track and field.

Becky Breisch, another Michigan connection from Edwardsburg and the University of Nebraska finished fourth place in the discus at the Olympic Trials. Breisch first spun her way into second place with a fling of 198 feet, and improved to 200-3 feet, and was in third place as she began her final three attempts. Breisch looked the fittest of her life in her Olympian attempt, and let’s hope she continues the pursuit of her dream.

Another of my favorite Michigan track and field athletes is Steve Manz, who has given Michigan high school coaches many informative tips at his presentations at MITCA clinics. The former Spartan threw 63 feet – 3 inches, good for 15th place and inches short of qualifying for Saturday’s high powered shot put final. The sub 5 foot - 10 inch athlete always shows solid competitive spunk as he competes against much taller and muscular shot putters.

Grand Blanc high school has three Michigan athletes at the trials. Sharon Dickie, the former Tennessee All-American, competed in Friday’s 10,000 meter run. Monday Gall will be in the 800 finals, and later high jumper Gwen Wentland will make her fourth attempt at Olympic birth. Wentland inspired Mid-West Meet of Champion’s athletes as she served as the Meet’s Grand Marshall and speaker at the Meet’s banquet. Wentland told the seniors about her role as a wife, a mother, and an athlete. Many of the three state’s girls mobbed Wentland after the banquet for an autograph and personal conversation.

Paul Terek was not a participant in the decathlon today. Many wondered about the Livonia and Michigan State athlete.

Forty-seven Michigan fans from across the state are staying together at Springfield’s Village Inn and are seated directly across from the finish line in the East stands. Former Jackson coach Charles Janke arranged the housing that includes a daily breakfast buffet, free newspaper, ice-cold water for the track, an entertainment room; all for $100 a room.



Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday update: Michigan athletes

The heartbreaker for Michigan fans was the fourth place by Becky Breisch in the discus. Second after her first throw of 198-0, she improved to 200-3 in the third round, but dropped to 3rd place. When Stephanie Brown Trafton threw 205-6 in the next round, that knocked Breisch off the team. Breisch was unable to respond, and ended up 4th for the second straight Olympic Trials. Katie Corner threw farther than her qualifying round best on all three of her throws, and finished 9th at 175-6. That's puts her in the running for a Track & Field News U.S. ranking position at the end of the year.

Joe Cebulski finished the day at 3769 in the decathlon, which is holding down 17th place. He high jumped 6-6.25, and ran the 400 in 50.93.

Sherita Williams finished 9th in the triple jump with a leap of 43-7.25, missing making the final three jumps by 2.25 inches. Still, her leap was the third-best of her career. Not bad.

Yes, bad wind readings can happen to good people

Wow. Tyson Gay just blasted a 9.68. The crowd roared, thinking it had just witnessed a new world record. Then all eyes turned to the wind gauge operator. A few seconds later, the digital sign at the gauge flashed "+4.1", more than double the allowable wind for a record. So the crowd had to settle for talking about the fastest 100m run under any conditions.

No matter what the wind speed, a thrilling race.

Sunday: Cebulski in decathlon

Paul Terek might have scratched from the decathlon competition, but Joe Cebulski, a graduate of Grand Rapids Baptist, made it in. He has started out the day fairly well, with marks of 11.68, 21-6.75, and 44-2.

I'll have more updates tonight. The buzz is that we may likely see Tyson Gay run a world record in the 100m. This is the fastest "soft" track (ie. non-Mondo) that I have ever seen, and the sprint times so far have been stunning.

Today we'll also see Becky Breisch and Katie Corner in the discus, and Sherita Williams in the triple jump. It should be a good day.

We also can recommend the sourdough French toast at the Glenwood.

I crush Flanagan

This is me running with Shalane Flanagan on the bike path through Baker Park. I am not in the frame anymore, because I just crushed her with a monster surge.

That'll teach her a lesson.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday: Waits, Gall and Wade impress

Katie Waits (2:02.38) and Geena Gall (2:03.03) snagged 3rd and 4th to grab the last two qualifying spots in the 800 final. However, Becky Horn ran into trouble she didn't expect in the first semi. A massive pile-up knocked half the field to the ground. It looked from my vantage point as if Horn hit the ground first. She got up and finished 6th in 2:15.72. A flurry of activity at the protest table ended up letting Horn into the final on appeal.

The photo of the fall.

In the heptathlon, the key event for Bettie Wade would be the long jump, where she has a best over 20-4. Here she had trouble, jumping only 18-4.5. Her javelin was a decent 114-2, and her 800 was 2:22.24. She ended up in 9th place at 5723, just 15 points shy of her lifetime best.

Friday report on Michigan athletes

The women's 800m was the highlight last night. Both Katie Waits (2:03.73) and Geena Gall (2:05.04) looked to be in top form, and ran like potential Olympians. And Becky Horn came fighting back after nearly losing contact in the first lap. Her 2:05.10 made her the last time qualifier.

Sherita Williams came here meaning business. Considered a long-shot in the triple jump, she opened up with the best leap of her life by nearly six inches, a Michigan-alum record 44-4.25. She will be in the final.

Our discus throwers also did well, both Becky Breisch (198-2) and Katie Corner (174-4) making the finals.

In the heptathlon, Lela Nelson ran into problems. She hit 13.46w in the hurdles, 5-5.25 in the high jump, and 38-10.5 in the shot. However, she did not show up for her 200 heat, and is out. I suspect an injury but I haven't heard anything specific. Meanwhile, Bettie Wade is tearing it up, at 13.85, 5-11.25, 42-9, and 24.72w. She is currently in 5th at 3633, 356 points behind leader Hyleas Fountain.

In the 10,000, Sharon Dickie Thompson ran a game first half (16:24), but then faded in the heat and ended up 20th in 34:10.46.

Michigan's 400 hurdlers did not fare well, with none advancing to the next round. Kathleen LaValley was 4th in her heat in 59.62. Danielle Brown was also 4th, at 58.62. And Kenneth Ferguson finished last in his with a lackluster 53.13.

In the men's 800, Abraham Mach finished far out of the running at 1:53.92. In the shot, Steve Manz threw a decent 63-3.25, but finished three spots away from the final.

Paul Terek has withdrawn from the meet with a knee injury, so no Michigander will be in the decathlon.

Finally, in our best-lessons-for-high-school-runners-department, after the 10,000m race, and the victory lap, and the interviews, and the award ceremonies, Shalane Flanagan could be seen all alone on a practice field, following a vigorous stretching routine, while Kara Goucher ran laps around the field, cooling down. Most people, having just made the Olympic team, would be kicking their feet up and celebrating. The pros got that good because they do the right thing. It pays off.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The toaster controversy of 2008

Okay, so I take an easy run on Pre's Trail, nursing my Achilles tendon, which is on fire right now. I'm kind of ticked off that the London bookies have increased the odds on me not breaking 7:00 in the mile next week. And when I limp back to the hotel, I go straight to the complimentary continental breakfast room. And I put my English muffin halves in the toaster. And when they pop out, some lady takes them!

Now maybe I'm old school, but isn't there supposed to be some kind of etiquette about hotel toasters? The track meet starts tonight, but after my experience this morning, it had better be good.

Ritzenhein's in!

Dathan Ritzenhein, who was unexpectedly on the bubble in the 10,000m, has been told he will be able to run in the 10,000m. According to one of his agents, he successfully appealed and was allowed in on the basis that his qualifying time was set last year, in which his only two 10,000m races were hot weather, championship affairs--the USA Champs and the World Champs (in which he placed 9th). Allowing him in seemed like a reasonable proposal to all involved, especially since most of the automatic qualifiers achieved their times in cool weather "time trials," as opposed to the challenge of an international championship race.

And moving from reliable information to the realm of rumors, word is that one of our 800m stars (I'm not saying whom) has said that they will be running the 1500 next year in order to be competitive at the top level. No hints on whom, but if you send me money or gift certificates to Nina's Tacqueria in Battle Creek, I'll consider spilling the beans.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Michigan's chances at the Trials

Okay, here it is. My honest assessment of how we might do in Eugene. Note I said "honest." Not necessarily "nice." I don't want to hurt any feelings, but these are my feelings based on years of watching the sport. Underdogs don't win in real life anywhere near as much as they do in Disney movies. So here goes, our entries in the order of the schedule. (And keep in mind these are just predictions--nothing I would love better than to be proven wrong!)

A word about automatic and provisional qualifying. The dual setup is just to make sure we have the right number of athletes in each field. Once the final list of qualifiers is published, there is no such thing as “provisionally qualified.” An athlete is either a qualifier or a non-qualifier. A number of Michigan athletes with provisional qualifying marks did not bother to even enter, after seeing the numbers of faster entries already confirmed.

Athletes listed only by their high school, because that’s all that matters in my world.

Friday, June 27
Heptathlon
Lela Nelson (Det. Mumford), Bettie Wade (Farmington) - Nelson has a chance to make the team. Let’s say a 50-50 chance to be third. Wade would need a huge breakthrough to get to that level.

6:30 400mh quarterfinal
Danielle Brown (Kalamazoo Central), Kathleen LaValley (Forest Hills Central) – Both relative rookies to this level. What would be important this time around is getting experience that can help them in 2012.

7:05 pm 400mh quarterfinals
Kenneth Ferguson (Det. Mumford) - Going out on a limb here. Ferguson has been laying low this year, but he is apparently training in LA with Bobby Kersee. The recent death of his father may give him extra motivation. I think Ferguson is going to shock a lot of people.

7:50 discus throw qualifying
Becky Breisch (Edwardsburg) – Don’t get thrown off by huge qualifying marks. Most of them in this event have come in crazy wind conditions. Breisch is one of the nation’s top five throwers. She will need to be totally on to make top three. Also watch Katie Corner (GR Catholic Central) - the Calvin grad is ranked #13.

8:00 pm W800m quarterfinal
Katie (Erdman) Waits (Cadillac), Geena Gall (Grand Blanc), Becky Horn (Battle Creek Central) – Waits has lost some training time, but is one of five women in the field who already have the Olympic qualifier. She is very dangerous in big meets. I’d give her a 50-50 chance. Gall is also a terrific racer, but will need to break through to sub-2:00 to make the team. Horn is a promising up-and-comer; let’s hope she sticks with it to 2012.

8:20 pm 800m quarterfinal
Abraham Mach (East Lansing) – Far, far outside chance. Should be happy if he makes the semis.

9:00 pm shot put qualifying
Steve Manz (Ogemaw Heights) – I like this guy’s attitude. I think he would need a big breakthrough, but I’d like to see it happen.

9:20 pm 10,000m run final
Sharon (Dickie) Thompson (Grand Blanc) – Hasn’t been racing much track, and it’s hard to come in from road racing and compete at this level.

Saturday, June 28
Heptathlon - Nelson

3:55 pm 400mh semifinals
Ferguson

4:10 pm 400mh semifinals
Brown, LaValley

4:25 pm 800m semifinal
Gall, Erdman, Horn

4:40 pm 800m semifinal
Mach

4:40 pm shot put final
Manz

5:40 pm triple jump qualifying
Sherita Williams (Det. King) – Everyone seems to have forgotten the MSU grad after she moved to Boston. She’s done a great job sticking with the sport, and may be able to make the finals.

Sunday, June 29
Decathlon
Paul Terek (Livonia Franklin) – A strong chance to make the team, but I think we’ll know in the first few events if he’s “on” or not.

2:25 pm triple jump final
Williams

3:15 pm discus throw final
Breisch, Corner

4:02 pm 400mh final
Brown, LaValley

4:17 pm 400mh final
Ferguson

Monday, June 30
Decathlon – Terek

7:05 pm long jump qualifying
Lela Nelson (Det. Mumford) – On a great day, she could do it. But she hasn’t focused on this event as much as some of the other top contenders, so she’s not as consistent.

7:15 pm high jump qualifying
Gwent Wentland (Grand Blanc) – The greatest high jumper in state history is coming back after a few down years. An outside chance to make the team, if she can put her experience to use.

7:40 pm 3000m steeplechase semifinal
Nicole Bush (Wyoming Kelloggsville), Andrea Parker (Livonia Stevenson) – Bush is my darkhorse pick to make the team. Her 9:49.92 in recent weeks was a breakthrough. Put that together with her 4:14 in the 1500 (which would have qualified her in that event), and she’s very, very ready. Parker is on the bubble, and may only get in if several people scratch from the event.

8:15 pm 800m final
Gall, Erdman, Horn

8:25 pm 800m final
Mach

8:50 pm 5000m run semifinal
Mandy Zemba (Menominee) – An outside chance, but even though the race might be slower than 15:00, count on the fact that it will take 15:00 fitness to qualify.

Thursday, July 3
7:20 pm long jump final
Nelson

8:25 pm 1500m run quarterfinal
Steve Sherer (Saline) – Why has everyone in the nation forgotten Sherer? He has come on like gangbusters this year, and his 3:36.81 in recent weeks is truly amazing. I’d say he has a good outside shot in a race that’s wide open.

9:10 pm 3000m steeplechase semifinal
Corey Nowitzke, and it looks like both Jordan Desilets and Tom Chorny will make it in by the skin of their teeth. To make the team, it will take at least a 10-second PR.

9:45 pm 3000m steeplechase final
Bush

Friday, July 4
7:30 pm high jump qualifying
Wentland

8:05 pm 1500m run semifinal
Sherer

8:55 pm 5000m run final
Zemba

9:20 pm 10,000m run final
Dathan Ritzenhein (Rockford) scratched from the 5000, hoping to run this as a marathon tune-up. But he can only get in if one person ahead of him on the list scratches. Good chance he’ll be watching from the stands.

Saturday, July 5
11:00 am 100m hurdles qualifying
Candice Davis (Ann Arbor Pioneer), Tiffany Ofili (Ypsilanti), Landria Buckley (Romulus) – Davis has a strong chance to make the team. She’s doing everything right. Ofili has all the tools, but a collegian is at a disadvantage after a long season. Buckley is the rookie—watch our for her in 2012.

1:15 pm 100m hurdles quarterfinal
Davis, Ofili, Buckley

2:45 pm 3000m steeplechase final
Nowitzke, Desilets, Chorny

Sunday, July 6
3:35 pm 100m hurdles semifinal
Davis, Ofili, Buckley

5:40 pm 100m hurdles final
Davis, Ofili, Buckley

5:50 pm 1500m run final
Sherer

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

In praise of cheap

[Stay tuned for Olympic Trials reports. Right now I'm just stuck in the Portland airport, and I've been meaning to write about this issue for a while...]

I’ve seen a bunch of summer running schedules floating around, but none of them focus on what is the number one criterion for me: cheap.

Now, despite the fact my wife accuses me of being an actual cheapskate, hear me out. We have a family of four runners. And for all of us to participate in the same running event, the cost is usually around $100. Ouch. Especially this year. I imagine I’m not the only runner who’s in dire financial straights. Wife laid off a year ago, buried with student loans, and negotiating with my good friends at Countrywide for a short sale of our house, in hopes of avoiding a worse alternative.

So $100 for a road race really hurts right now. Yet the attraction of running—versus so many other sports—is that it can be a very inexpensive family activity. Except around here, it sometimes seems. I basically live near Ann Arbor, and this town hosts oodles of races. However, they’re all fundraisers for great causes—either that or for the shoe store putting them on.

Charity’s wonderful, and I must admit I feel a little scrooge-like when I look about for low-cost alternatives. They’re hard to find! And yet, there needs to be a place for them. There have to be other runner families like mine, and I know there are plenty of student runners who are operating on minimal funds. So where do you go to find the cheap races?

Wayland: We all need to live near Wayland. That’s my conclusion. The Wayland Road Runners, thanks to Ray and Jennifer Antel, have been putting on cheap races for years on Wednesday nights. Says Ray, “My wife wanted to double the entry fee this year but I thought we should keep it at 50 cents.” You have to love the guy. And his wife. Here’s their schedule: http://www.waylandroadrunners.com/.

Linden: Wednesday nights until July 23, the folks at Linden are putting on great family oriented cross country races at Linden County Park. They start at 6p.m. with the munchkins, running a 0.75M loop. Then the middle schoolers run 1.5M, and the high schoolers and adults run 3 miles. They give out ribbons for awards, and the entry fee is $2 per individual, or $5 per family. Lots of fun, nice people, and anyone of any speed should feel comfortable making a race or a workout out of this.

Grand Ledge: Wednesday nights (except July 4 week), starting at 6:30pm, the folks here have been putting on all-comer track meets for the past 35 years, thanks to the ongoing efforts of Kim Spalsbury and friends. $5 entry fee, athletes of all ages and speeds (the championship meet is $10). Very professionally done and lots of fun—they give out popsicles!! Their schedule: http://www.grand-ledge.com/pdf/RECREATION%20INFORMATION%202008.pdf

Ann Arbor: Tortoise & Hare running store has two more track meets coming up at Huron High School. Cost is $5. Information: http://www.tortoiseandhare.com/races/track.htm

Ionia: This just in from John Carlson: One more site for cheap track meets - Ionia HS on Thursdays - $5 limited race schedule (no meet on July 2nd); last meet is $10 on July 23rd.

Northville: U-D coach Guy Murray puts on two XC races for $5 at Northville's Cass Benton Park (fun course). "I have 2 the Tommy Titan Tune-up on 8/13/08 and the Running Fit-Detroit Titan Invite Open 5k on 9/6/08 both are $5. You can get the details at the sidebar at www.DetroitTitans.com/crosscountry.jsp "

Saline: From Tom Micallef: "Come out and have some fun! Thursday July 10 and Tuesday, July 29 at Saline High School Track 5:00 pm start. Field Events - High Jump and Long Jump only. Track Events - in this order of competition...110 / 100 Hurdles, 800 M Run, 100 M Dash, 300 M Hurdles, 1600 M Run, 400 M Dash. $3.00 entry fee for spectators and athletes. No pre meet entry. Races will be set up ability levels. No awards - just fun! Contact Coach Mick 734.649.2091 for more details."

I missing any other opportunities out there for $5 or less? Let me know and I’ll try to spread the word. If you’re really lucky, I’ll make a special guest appearance! (The folks at Linden got to see my 14-year-old daughter outkick me for the first time... ouch!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Live from the Olympic Trials!

Starting Wednesday or Thursday, check in here regularly to get at least daily updates from the Olympic Trials. I'll be there helping Track & Field News cover the action. And because so many existing media outlets are going to be doing such a great job of covering the action on the track, that won't be my primary focus. Instead, you'll see me covering things from a Michigan angle, and presenting some of the stories that aren't fit for mainstream media, like "Will running on Pre's Trail help Hollobaugh's Achilles problem?" or "Can Hollobaugh break 7 minutes in the mile in the all-comers meet on the rest day?" or "Has Nike paid enough to put a swoosh on the Oregon state flag?"

In the meantime, the process of fine-tuning the Michigan high school lists continues, but you won't see any updates there until I get back. I do have the results of the USATF state JO meet, however. Be patient.

Speaking of catching up on things, who might be the Michtrack athlete of the year for 2008? On the girls' side, I think it's pretty clear. However, I don't yet see a dominating choice on the men's side...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How They Did It

Comparing Mumford's splits from the State Finals with their Nike record run:
State: G. Jackson 1:55.6, S. Dukes 1:56.2, K. Washington 1:58.5, I. Ward 1:54.5
Nike: G. Jackson 1:55.1, S. Dukes 1:55.9, K. Washington 1:54.9, I. Ward 1:52.1

And from Becca Addison, how to run a 2:05.61. First, start out as the extra (behind) runner in your lane. Then run splits of 29.2, 32.6, 31.6, 32.2, or 61.8/63.8. That should do it.

Addison blasts 2:05.61!

Becca Addison of Grand Haven finished 2nd at the Nike Outdoor meet tonight, clocking an amazing 2:05.61 that just missed Geena Gall's state record of 2:05.05 (set in the same meet three years ago). In what turned out to be a two-woman race at the end, Addison lost to Jillian Smith of New Jersey by just 0.37. For Addison, it was a PR by 4.99 seconds, as well as a state record for 11th graders (beating Ramzee Fondren's 2:06.81 from last year).

Motor City's women clocked 3:53.97 in the 4x4, a time only good for 10th. Spirit of Pre (Saline) finished 7th in the DMR, clocking 12:11.96 (#13 all-time in MI).

In the boys 800, Isaiah Ward won his section in 1:52.39. In the fastest section, Tommy Brinn ran 1:54.25 for 7th.

In the distance medley, Motor City (10:20.75) and the Jackalopes (10:30.35) clocked decent times but did not crack the top 10. Bobby Aprill came back from his 8:59 two-mile the night before with a 4:17.58 for the mile. Andrew Evans threw 58-4.5, the day after he placed 7th in the discus with his 183-7.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kinney still improving

Thank goodness Monica Kinney didn't hang up her spikes after the state finals! The Grand Rapids West Catholic senior improved her 800 to 2:12.89 at the Midwest Distance Classic, and now has won the emerging elite race at Nike in 2:12.11. That puts her in the all-time top 20. Meanwhile, Nick Thomas of Brother Rice improved his PR to 1:53.74 to take 3rd in the boys emerging elite race.

Help me with the mysteries of 2008

One of the goals I aim for in keeping my yearly lists is to save as complete as possible a record of what happened in track this year, for history's sake. Out of 3,000+ names on the lists, I have tracked down schools and grades for all but a handful. It's a grueling process, one that's helped along quite a bit by the Internet. I check results, local newspaper wesbites, school newsletters, and yes, students' MySpace pages. (Coaches, you'd be shocked at some of the school/legal violations some of your athletes broadcast!) However, I'm still missing details on a few names... Can anyone shed light on these people?

6.20 Derian DeFranco (Benton Harbor)
6.25 DeAngelo Bean (Fruitport)
6.28 Dante Williams (Lansing Sexton)
6.54 Eric Fahnenstiel (North Muskegon)?
11.11 Greg Turner (Battle Creek Central)?
11.12 D’angelo Stevenson (Portage Northern)?
14.9 Chris Stretton (Greenville)?
14-0 Aaron Moore (Kalkaska)?
21-11.5 Alex Robinson (?)
21-5 Kolin McClendon (Battle Creek Central)?
21-2 Ryan Lane (Flint Kearsley)?
21-1.75 Alex Eisenheimer (Alpena)?


60.88 Paige Patterson (Detroit MS?)?
12.86 Nicole Black (Detroit Ford)?
12.89 Christina Wade (Ann Arbor Pioneer)?
12.94 Kanisha Harris (St Joseph)?
26.14 Ang-Gaelle Renfro (Ann Arbor Pioneer)?
17-2.5 Jackie Coon (Linden)?

Nike: Saturday morning 4 x Mile

Several Michigan teams ran well this morning. On the girls side, Runnin' Gear (made up of Rochester students) placed 6th in 21:00.82. To put that in perspective, it's the #5 time in state history, behind only Rockford and Clarkston. Townsend TC (Rockford) placed 12th in 21:47.63, and Breen (Troy) ran 13th in 21:52.69.

In the boys race, the Jackalopes of Pinckney placed 3rd in 17:40.26, the #8 time in state history. Red Tide of Milford placed 6th in 17:54.05.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nike Outdoor - State Record for Motor City!!

Wow! At Rockford, Brandon Jiles told me that the Mumford guys would be going for the all-time state record of 7:40.68 at Nike. Did they ever! The Motor City foursome stormed to a 7:37.99 to win the national title, and cut 2.69 from Saline's 2004 record, set at the same meet. Mumford now ranks among the top 15 teams in U.S. history! I'm awaiting the splits anxiously, but the math is easy. Mumford's men averaged a pinch under 1:54.5 each!

The highlight of Thursday belonged to Tiffany Abrahamian. Always a smart racer, the Rochester senior managed to hold a solid pace to run the 5000m in 17:20.07, becoming the #3 performer in Michigan history, after Marissa Treece (16:36.34) and Emily Anderson (17:06.98). Kristen Smith of Clarkston (17:43.59) and Rockford's Katie Haines (17:46.16) also ran great. A fourth Michigan prep also broke into the top 10 all-time: Erin LaFave of Lahser clocked 18:09.32, a time that is being hailed as a world junior deaf record. She is reportedly planning to run in the World Deaf Championships in Turkey later this summer.

On Friday, Brooke Eilers of Holland Christian continued her fabulous improvement, clocking 10:37.93 for 11th in the two mile. That converts to 10:34.24, a state-leading mark, making her the #5 performer in state history behind some memorable names: Morgan, Van Tuyl, Bews, and Boyd.

In the boys two mile, Maverick Darling and Bobby Aprill renewed their rivalry, both placing well, behind German Fernandez's national record 8:34.40. Darling ran 6th in 8:57.80 (converts to a list-leading 8:54.69, moving to #6 all-time, a hair ahead of Olympian Doug Brown's 8:54.7+). And Aprill missed Dan Jackson's Dexter school record, but clocked 8:59.50 in 7th (8:56.38+), which moves him to #8 all-time, ahead of Foot Locker XC champ Brian Grosso.

I should also point out that Rochester soph Megan Goethals won the emerging elite mile in 4:59.26 (4:57.23+). The state record in the mile for sophs? Still 4:54.7 by current EMU coach Sue Parks, 36 years ago at the Drake Relays.

In the girls 4 x 800, Breen TC, made up of Troy students, ran 9:29.64 in the first heat. Then in the fast section, Spirit of Pre from Saline ran 9:13.63 for 4th (in an 8:55 race!). That ranks #11 all-time, and is 0.44 behind Mumford's D1 winning time. Motor City (all Mumford students) placed 6th in 9:15.25.

Meanwhile, at the USA Juniors, Joe Wesley tied for 5th in the vault, with his opening (and only) clearance of 15-11. Brandon VanDriel, who ran a 10.52 at the state finals that I called wind-aided (and got a lot of grief for) ended up running 10.95 in the 100 heats with a very legal 0.2 wind. I truly hope that next year there is a wind gauge at all of Sparta's meets (and all the meets of every top sprinter/hurdler/long jumper in the state), so we can all start being more honest with kids about the significant effects of wind in the speed events.

Let's not forget Irene Cooper. Two years ago she won the Oakland County shot put at 43-1 for Lahser. Today she captured the USA junior championship in the hammer throw, hitting 186-3. Only six former Michigan preps have ever thrown better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bannister's feat not unprecedented...



But still amazing. After last weekend's state finals we wondered aloud whether Albion's Amelia Bannister (right) was the first ever to win victories in the 100 and 800 in the same state finals, clocking 12.21 and 2:16.42. Reader Rob Lutz, who taught at Camden-Frontier High, remembers that a student there pulled off the double in 1989 at the Class D finals at Hillsdale. It was Jackie Clark, who clocked hand times of 12.3 and 2:19.5. Anyone remember another?