June 25, 2009 - 4:00pm
I just arrived at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. I have been in Oregon just over 12 hours and I have barely seen any events on the track, but already I believe the trip has been worth it. That was the debate just one week ago. Is it really worth using my vacation days from work and spending my hard earned money and taking a super-long flight to watch a track meet that I can watch on the internet and on tv?
It has almost nothing to do with the high school track and field website that I run for Montgomery County, Maryland, although I am very excited to watch two former local athletes in the 1500. It has everything to do with experiencing awesome new things while I am still young and free.
I did not come to the decision to make the trip on my own. My long time friend Chris Webb, who is the younger brother of American record holder in the mile, Alan Webb, urged me to join him for the extended weekend. I consulted Dave Watt of the American Running Association to see if he had any wisdom to give. Dave not only convinced me that the trip was worth it, but also offered me some incentives including a press pass to the meet. It was all the convincing that I needed.
Because it was a late decision, I did not have many options when it came to choosing a nice flight to Tracktown, USA. To keep the cost of the flight from getting too outrageous, I chose a suicide itinerary that started from Reagan National Airport at 4pm EST and ended in Portland at 3am EST. From there I drove two hours to Eugene and arrived at 5:30am EST (2:30am PST).
My connecting flight was in Las Vegas, Nevada. I've never been to Vegas, and in fact I had never even been west of the Mississippi, so I thought it was pretty neat to be in Vegas, if only for just one hour. I had a nice window seat so I would be able to see The Strip as we touched down. Adjacent to me sat five young women who were going to Vegas for the first time after recently turning 21. Their sixth friend was several rows behind them. After some hesitation, they asked if I would trade seats with their other friend so they could all sit together. I obliged and took her seat in the aisle for the flight. At least I would have a window sent for the flight out of Vegas so I would still get to see the strip.
When I boarded my plane to Portland, there was an old woman sitting in my window seat who would not look me in the eye. I gave her a dirty look because I wanted that window seat and she knew exactly what she was doing, but I chose not to make a scene and took her seat. Of course she covered the whole window with her head until the Vegas lights were out of view and I got to see nothing. Poor me, I know, but it was midnight (eastern time) at the point so I crashed and only woke up when we touched down in Portland.
I was concerned about making the 2 hour drive so late, but the power nap on the flight and the adrenaline of being in Oregon had me wide awake. I checked into my sorority house at 2:30 local time (5:30 eastern time), about the time I would be waking up to start another day if I was still on the east coast.
So yes, I am staying at a sorority house. Because I decided to make the trip so late, every hotel in town was booked solid when I started looking. I lucked into a bed in a sorority house on campus for a very cheap price. Of course, all of the sorority girls are definitely gone for the summer, and the rooms and beds are being rented out specifically for this event.
Despite going to bed so late, I woke up at 7:30 (from now on everything will be in Pacific Time). I'm sure I will crash at some point from not getting enough sleep, but I'm so excited to be here, it's hard to sleep.
I was told there would be a continental breakfast provided so I went to check it out. What I found was an amazing spread of pancakes, Belgian waffles, whipped toppings, fruit toppings, chocolate chips, eggs, bagels, muffins, danishes, cereal, milk, juice, and tons of assorted fruits. It was a very nice breakfast that came included with my low cost weekend rental, along with all of the other amenities in the house. I was very pleased. I sat with a few competing athletes and an old timer coach during breakfast and had some interesting conversations.
Coming from the greater Washington area, also known as the land of parking tickets, I was concerned by the fact that I had parked my rental car directly in front of the house. In my experience, if a spot is open, it's too good to be true. When I asked if this was okay to park in front of the house, the house mom looked at me like I was from another planet. She said don't park in front of a fire hydrant but other than that, if it's open, it's yours. Imagine that. A world that doesn't take your money everywhere you go.
I skipped out on the early track events of the day in favor of checking out the town. First stop was Autzen Stadium to pick up my press pass. Autzen Stadium is the University of Oregon's football stadium. It's the first school I've seen with a huge track stadium in the heart of campus with the football stadium a considerable distance off campus (about a mile or two away from the main campus).
Once I got my press pass, I dropped it off in my car and went running right from the entrance football stadium parking lot. Touching the football stadium parking lot is Pre's Trail. Pre's Trail is a series of loops totaling four miles. The trail is on very soft ground, covered lightly in wood chips. It was the way that Prefontaine envisioned a perfect running trail in Eugene before he died. The trail was complete just shortly after his death.
After running for about ten minutes I noticed something was missing, something I've grown so accustomed to. It was that 99% Washington DC humidity that I've been running in all summer and every summer for the last ten years. The weather was warm and sunny, but the air was crisp and the humidity, or lack thereof, was not draining every ounce of water from my body. It was very refreshing.
When I was running it dawned on me that I didn't have my camera and I wish I did. I don't have any photos from the early part of my trip.
Driving back to campus, I noticed something funny. The billboards leading into this college town did not feature the tallest basketball player or the meanest looking football player. These billboards featured javelin throwers, hurdlers, and distance runners. I knew I was in Tracktown, USA, but I could not help but be surprised to see these billboards marketing their track athletes and not their football tickets for next fall.
I checked out Tracktown Pizza, a small pizza joint recommended to me by Dave. It was cheap and delicious. While I waited for my pizza to be cooked, I wandered around the small restaurant. Covering the walls were dozens of framed photos and newspaper clippings (many autographed) of track stars who competed at Hayward Field. I did not know most of the athletes immortalized on the walls. I couldn't help but think that not only am I in the track capital of America, the level of knowledge and appreciation for track in this town makes me feel like I don't know anything about track. And I love it. It makes me wonder, "Why would an elite athlete choose any other school." Of course there are many reasons, but I can't imagine a community in the world that appreciates its track athletes more.
I am finally at the stadium and watching some of the best athletes in the world compete. I was expecting the crowd and the announcer to be knowledgeable and appreciative of everything going on at the meet, such is their reputation here in Eugene. From what I've seen so far, they are living up to that reputation very well.
I'll talk about the track meet more later, but of course I am not trying to compete with the serious track news websites. Visit those other sites for the best coverage. These notes are more like a journal for myself and anyone who wants to hear about my trip.
June 25, 2009 - 9:30pm
10K Womens' and Mens' FINALS
With 200-meters to go in the ten thousand meter race, Shalane Flanagan made the move that everyone was expecting. She and Amy Begley switched off leading for the entire race, although it seemed like Begley may have had an unfair share of the leading duties. After they had broken everyone else in the race, Begley was again leading on the final lap, setting up Flanagan perfectly to pace off of her and swing around her on the final curve. So when she made the move, no one was surprised. When Begley responded back, there was a deep, "oooooooooohhh" from the crowd. She responded with confidence and pulled away definitively.
It was announced that she had broken the Hayward Field 10k record by twelve seconds with a time of 31:22.69. The record was previously held by Flanagan who also smashed the old record. She finished in second in 31:23.43. Katie McGregor was the last runner to drop off the pace set by the top two, but she finished a distant third in 32:08.04. Begley, who had been training with the Oregon Track Club, was proud to put on such a performance in front of her home crowd.
Next up was Oregon's golden boy, Galen Rupp, to try to give Oregon runners a sweep of the 10k.
Abdi Abdirahman took the race out hard, exchanging leads with Meb Keflezighi early on. But after 5000 meters, it was Dathan Ritzenhein and Tim Nelson who moved into the lead. The two runners were obviously working together while Rupp moved into third and sat and waited. And so Nelson and Rupp exchanged leads until Rupp moved past Nelson with 5 laps to go. Nelson could no longer keep the pace and faded. It left Ritz all alone up front with Rupp just sitting on him. It was an impossible task for Ritz to continue leading for five more laps and still expect to outkick Rupp.
|Spectators could see from a mile out that the race was in hand for Rupp. Rupp executed perfectly and took the lead with 600 meters to go. He put 6 seconds between himself and Ritz. When he knew for sure that the race was in hand, he waved and smiled to the crowd for the final 100 meters. He finished in 27:52.53. What a way to finish his final race as a Duck at Hayward Field.|
June 26, 2009 - 11:00am
Recalling the Previous Day
One of the reasons that I love running the mocorunning website is to inform athletes, parents, and fans about the local competition. A track meet can be outright boring to spectators who don't know anything about the athletes competing. When spectators know about the opposing athletes, the personal records of each athlete, the meet records, the team implications, and the storyline behind each event, the crowd becomes more engaging and excitable. The more people in the stands who know what is going on, the more enjoyable the competition will be for everyone.
Track fans in Oregon have a reputation for being the most knowledgeable and appreciative track & field fans in America. I came into this meet knowing this and hoping for this. They did not disappoint.
It was the first time I've experienced a crowd more interested in the triple jump than the 100-meter dash. As the fans were clapping and cheering on athletes in the javelin and high jump, the announcer would remind the crowd to quiet down for the start of the sprints.
I enjoyed watching the javelin, an event I am not too familiar with. The one thing I knew about javelin was that Breaux Greer, a very animated character in USA track and field, held the American record and was not competing at this meet. Still I found myself getting into it along with hundreds of other fans.
Mike Hazel took the lead on the first throw with a mark of 269-03. The crowd knew immediately that he could win off of a throw like that. But in the next round, Chris Hill through 275-02. The announcer proclaimed it was the best mark in America this year and a personal best for Hill. He followed it up with another throw over 270 feet, and passed on his remaining three throws to win the competition.
While the javelins were hitting some wind resistance mid-flight, the sprinters in the 100-meter dash had that same wind at their backs and dropped some amazing times, albeit wind-aided and not legal for record purposes. Each heat of the women's 100 had wind recorded over three meters per second. Three women ran under 11 seconds and a dozen or more ran under 11.20. These were the type of times that I am used to seeing from high school boys, so it seemed very fast to me.
|Then came heat one of the men's 100 and wow. Tyson Gay came out flying, and with 3.4 m/s of wind at his back he clocked 9.75, the sixth fastest time ever under any condition. |
He later said it was a horrible race. Everything was sloppy in his opinion. Scary. He may not run anymore rounds.
Gay is pictured here on the left in lane two at about the 40 meter mark.
Former Montgomery County athlete Andrew Jesien was competing in the first heat of the 1500. Jesien came off a disappointing performance at the NCAA Championship where he failed to qualify for the finals (he made the finals the previous year). This race was a type of redemption race for him, even though the competition was much tougher and a spot in the finals would be much harder to come by.
The race went out at a reasonable pace and Jesien tucked into last place. For 800 meters he remained in the back of the pack before starting to move up. He joined the top six after coming through in 2:01 close to last place. He held position until there were 100 meters to go in the race. He was still 2 meters out of fourth place but he kicked like crazy and moved past three runners into second place. Top two automatically qualify for the finals, so he made it! He PR'd by a tenth of a second in 3:41.78.
I went to try to talk to him but he said he was really trying to watch one of his buddies in the third heat. I wanted to watch a few more 1500's, too, so we agreed to meet up later.
I joined my buddy Chris Webb and his father in the stands to watch the third heat of the 1500. Alan Webb was in the third heat and Webb took out the race in the lead at a relatively slow pace. David Torrence took over the lead on the third lap and pushed the pace allowing Webb to sit behind and follow. Torrence held onto the lead until there were 100 meters to go when Will Leer passed both Webb and Torrence.
With Webb now in third place, the Webb family and myself were now very nervous for Alan. Webb surged and initially could not gain ground on Torrence. He surged again and moved past Torrence into second place right at the finish line.
Webb said later that he was satisfied to advance. It's all about continuing to advance.
In the final heat of the 1500, the pace was much faster than the previous three heats. Leo Manzano won in 3:39.91 and dragged along all four runners who qualified based on time. No one from any other heat qualified based on time.
When I was planning out my trip to Oregon, I wanted to get the full Eugene experience including the night life, but by the time I finished writing about the 10k last night, I couldn't hold my eyes open. I was still on eastern time with just a few hours of sleep the night before. The bars will have to wait one more night.
June 26, 2009 - 5:00 pm
Continuing with the touristy things to do in Eugene, I went for a jog up to Pre's Rock today. I ran across campus and down a few blocks through town. I was hoping to see a sign to Pre's Rock and luckily I did. The sign pointed me up a steep road and another sign reinforced that I was going the right direction. I climbed and I climbed until I came to an intersection and I didn't see a sign. Pre's ghost did not guide me in the right direction. If I had gone right, I would have found it a few meters up the road, but I went straight. I continued climbing the mountain (it's a very small mountain that overlooks Hayward Field and the University of Oregon. I could hear the track meet going on below me).
I came to a small park and hoping that maybe Pre's Rock would be somewhere in that park, I jogged around for about fifteen minutes. I came out on another road that seemed to be leading back down the mountain the way I came. I was ready to give up on my search for Pre's Rock when I saw, "PRE LIVES" traced into the concrete road. I thought that was pretty neat and kept running. A few seconds later I saw it - the memorial to Steve Prefontaine. There were signs that other diehard runners had recently made the pilgrimage to this shrine. People had left cheap bracelets and watches and race bib numbers. I thought all the little items that people left there were pretty cheesy, but it was fun to see. I may go back later with a camera and take a picture, but you can do a google image search and see dozens of pictures of it.
June 26, 2009 - 7:00pm
Women's and Men's 100m Finals
|Carmelita Jeter said she caught a little cramp on her way to the finish line, but she was going to get to the line no matter what. She won the race with a wind-aided time of 10.78, but Muna Lee essentially caught her. The race had to be broken using thousandths of a second. Jeter's official time was 10.776, while Lee was credited with a time of 10.777. The announcer declared that Lee was the first woman to ever run 10.78 and lose. Lauryn Williams finished third in 10.96.|
When asked what kind of a message her performance sends to the Jamaicans, she responded, "It says we're ready to run." Her response was met by a roar of applause from the crowd.
|Tyson Gay did not run the semi-finals, leaving the men's 100-meter dash finals wide open. It was anyone's race, but Michael Rodgers stepped up to win in a wind-aided 9.91.|
Rodgers, along with second place Darvis Patton and third place Monzavous Edwards, all Nike athletes, embraced after the race. The three fell to the track together in celebration.
In a post race interview Rodgers said that it had been a good season and he was just doing what he had to do.
When asked what to expect from the US men in Berlin, Rodgers told fans to get their popcorn ready because the US sprinters are going to put on a show.
June 26, 2009 - 9:00 pm
Men's 5000 meter finals
You have to admire the heart of Anthony Famiglietti. He led the 5000 meter race for eight laps and when one athlete finally moved by him, seven more followed. Finding himself falling from first to eighth place over 300 meters, he surged all the way back to the front over 50 meters. He held the lead for two more laps before fading to eighth place again. This time it would be for good.
Matt Tegenkamp and Chris Solinsky carefully paced behind Famiglietti the entire race, and when Bolota Asmerom took over the lead with 800 to go, they paced behind him for a lap.
With one lap to go, Tegenkamp challenged Asmerom and moved into the lead. Solinsky held onto third place while Evan Jager moved up with the leaders with 300 to go.
With 200 meters to go, it was an all out sprint between Solinsky and Tegenkamp. The two flew to the finish line with Tegankamp outkicking Solinsky 13:20.57 to 13:20.82. The announcer proclaimed that Tegenkamp closed the final lap in 53 seconds. Jager finished third in 13:22.18 and Asmerom was fourth in 13:24.00.
Finishing in fifth was German Fernandez who just completed his freshman year at Oklahoma State University. Still under the age of 20, Fernandez's time of 13:25.46 was a new American junior record.
June 27, 2009 - 2:00pm
Morgane Breezes Through Prelims
Just one year ago, Morgane Gay was running over the local competition in a Whitman uniform, but she was no world beater. She was never mentioned among the top US high school runners on Dyestat or Milesplit. She was our local gem that we had all to ourselves to admire.
Seeing her before her race earlier this afternoon, she was still the same Morgane. I asked her if she remembered me.
She asked me, "Why would you think I wouldn't remember you?"
I responded, "Because you are a star now."
She quickly said, "No I'm not."
|Watching her race for the first time in over a year was like watching a totally new person. She appears taller, stronger, and more confident. She was in charge of the race and she dominated. |
From the gun she took off at a pace that made the other girls uncomfortable. She built a large gap between herself and the second place girl and cruised in for an easy win. Her time of 4:31.42 was 16 seconds slower than her PR, indicating she should be feeling fresh for the finals tomorrow.
The final race will not be so easy. She is up against the junior American record holder in the event, Jordan Hasay. Hasay ran the 1500 in the senior race, but had a disappointing last place finish in her heat in a time of 4:19.61. She decided to run the junior race today and easily won her heat in 4:28.96. Hasay's junior record is 4:14.50.
Morgane told me weeks ago that she was only running this meet for fun. After the prelim race, she said she was confident but again reinforced the fact that it is all just for fun.
Her coach Jason Vigilante said that she did what she had to do and now they will begin to prepare her to run in the finals.
June 27, 2009 - 7:00pm
Women's 1500m Finals
|The first lap of the women's 1500m final went out at a reasonable 67 seconds for the first lap, but it was not nearly fast enough for Christin Wurth-Thomas. Wurth-Thomas moved into the lead after 600 meters and kept going. She opened up a 15 meter lead on the rest of the field over the next 200 meters. |
Meanwhile Shannon Rowbury sat back in the pack hoping that someone would try to catch Wurth-Thomas. She said that she did not want to be the one to go after her, but nobody else did. With one lap to she realized that if she didn't go, she had no chance so she just started moving.
Wurth-Thomas looked strong but her lead slowly shrank over the final lap. The crowd roared as Rowbury evened up with Wurth-Thomas with 50 meters to go. She continued kicking and won the race by almost a full second in 4:05.07.
Wurth-Thomas finished second in 4:06.00 and Anna Willard was third in 4:07.70.
June 28, 2009 - 1:00pm
Last night, I went to Olive Garden with Chris and his dad. Also with us was an elderly couple that was friends of their family. Alan was to meet us there.
We were waiting outside for a table when Alan approached with a grim look on his face. He had just come from the doctor and had decided to withdraw from the 1500m finals on Sunday. Long story short, he tweaked his achilles in the preliminary round and felt that he would not be able to run full strength and would probably hurt himself more if he did run. He won't be racing today at the US Championships and of course will not be racing at worlds in August.
The first part of dinner was a little depressing, but eventually we talked about some interesting topics including the origins of Nike and the stipulations of being contracted with Nike. Alan tried to explain to me the complex web of track clubs in Oregon. Between Oregon Track Club and Oregon Elite and who coaches who, it's hard to keep it all straight.
After dinner, Alan called it a night and Chris and I went out. The Villard Street Pub is the place to go if you are looking to bump into star athletes in a casual setting. Some of the athletes we bumped into between Friday and Saturday night included Galen Rupp, Andrew Wheating, Kara Goucher, Adam Goucher, Amy Yoder-Begley and the list goes on. Some I talked to longer than others and some I was content just to see from across the room.
I hung out with the guys and girls from Runnerspace.com a good bit. I was never too big on Runnerspace.com, but I'll start using it more now. They are good guys behind the scenes. I might try to get on their Runnerspace Live broadcast later this evening after the meet, so tune in.
June 29, 2009 - 2:00pm
Men's 800m Finals
There was such a flurry of activity in the final few hours of the meet that it became impossible to organize my thoughts and put up a timely blog. I was rushed after the meet ended to meet up with the Webb's for dinner again. Sunday was another night out at Villard St. Pub, a short night of sleep and a long, long series of flights home. Now, three days after the meet, I have a moment to relax and collect my thoughts.
Excitement mounted as the men set up to run 800 meter finals. The announcer reminded the fans of the moment from a year ago in the 800 meter run at the Olympic trials, as if anyone could forget. In that race, Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating, and Christian Smith, the three men from Oregon, came from behind to outkick four time national champion Khadevis Robinson and sweep the top three spots in the most memorable moment of last year's US trials.
Wheating scratched from the prelims, but Symmonds, wheating and Robinson were all in the field.
|The race opened with Karjuan Williams taking it out in 25 seconds for the first 200 meters followed closely by NCAA runner up Tevan Everett, while Symmonds was tucked in last place. Williams held the lead through 400 in 51.5 and through 600 in 1:19 while Symmonds moved up into second place. |
Around the final curve, Williams faded while Symmonds and Robinson moved into the lead. The kick to the tape by Symmonds and Robinson over the final 100 meters was not quite as exciting as last year's finish, but it was worth the cost of admission for fans in attendance. Symmonds barely edged out Robinson 1:45.86 to 1:45.97.
Ryan Brown took outkicked Christian Smith for third place 1:46.67 to 1:46.92.
June 29, 2009 - 3:00pm
Women's 100m Hurdle and Men's and Women's 200m Finals
Dawn Harper won the women's 100m hurdle finals in a blazing 12.36, with a wind of 2.2 meters per second, calm relative to the rest of the races this weekend. With that, she moved into the lead in the VISA Championship Series. Harper said the biggest difference this year was remaining healthy. She was not completely healthy for years and had knee surgery last year.
The only woman in Harper's way from winning the VISA Championship Series and a nice $25,000 bonus was training group teammate Allyson Felix in the 200. Felix could retake the lead with a time of under around 22.1 with legal wind. Felix won the race in 22.02 but with a wind of 3.2 meters per second, the VISA Championship Series was not scored in her favor and Harper walked away with the VISA Bonus.
It was by no means a loss for Richards. She was happy with the win and felt relaxed and accomplished what she set out to work on.
Another member of Richards' and Harpers' training group was Shawn Crawford. Crawford, the 2004 olympic gold medalist, is now a veteran by track standards, but he sent a message to the world that he can still compete with the best in the world. He flew out of the blocks and won the 200-meter race in a wind-aided 19.73. It was faster than the time that broke the stadium record and won the US Olympic Trials last year, but was not legal due to the 3.3 meter per second wind.
June 29, 2009 - 3:00pm
Men's 1500m Finals
Leo Manzano and Lopez Lomong were the class of the 1500-meter field from start to finish, but that didn't prevent Stephen Pifer from making it interesting just as he had done in the preliminary rounds.
The race was taken out at a pedestrian 2:03 for the first 800 meters. The pace dragged for another 100 meters until Pifer made a move from nearly last to first place by the end of the curve. All hell broke loose.
Runners from the back started to move up, and runners from the front started to fade. It was an all out sprint with 500 meters to go - probably earlier than some wanted but it was exactly what Pifer wanted.
Manzano, Lomong and Will Leer followed Pifer. The third lap was much quicker in 58.
Lomong and Manzano regained the lead with 200 to go and pushed all out to the finish. Lomong would have the best kick and win in 3:41.68. Manzano was second in 3:41.82 and The Arkansas Razorback Dorian Ulrey moved into third place down the stretch for a finish time of 3:42.84.
Lomong described it all as "fantastic." It was the type of race he expected and he just went when everyone else went. He says he will be more prepared for world competition this year than he was last year.
I'll just wrap this up by saying congratulations to the two former Montgomery County athletes, Andrew Jesien and Morgane Gay. I started off this blog by saying I didn't travel all the way to Oregon just to see them run, but they sure helped make the trip special.
Morgane led the race early before Jordan Hasay took over the lead on the second lap. The two separated from the rest of the field by nine seconds, but Morgane just couldn't outkick Jordan in the end. Hasay won in 4:18.99 while Morgane was second in 4:20.81.
The two runners qualified to run at the Pan American Junior Athletics Championships which will take place on July 31 and August 1. Elite athletes under the age of 20 from the United States, Chile, Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Jamaica will compete.
Watch Race Video Watch Post-Race Interview
Watch Post Race Interview Watch Race Video
The men's 1500 championship run started out slowly and Andrew tucked himself in the back. When Stephen Pifer made his move at the 1k mark, Andrew also went with him, but not all the way to the front.
Andrew later said that Pifer stole his move and that he was about to go right when Pifer did.
The final 500 meters was a furious sprint and Andrew held his own. He finished seventh in the heat of eleven finishers in a time of 3:45.39.
He said it was a good experience and he will definitely be back at the US Championships next year.
Maybe I will be there next year, too. Just maybe.