Saturday, June 30, 2012

Talking Trials: Hurdling barriers on and off the Track

Steepling into London are Shay, Franek and Coburn
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the ninth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR.Full results for the trials are here.

Prelims and semis filled the day Friday, with the one final on the track being the Women's 3000 meter Steeplechase. Emma Coburn looked great and would win her second consecutive national championship, but the story was the race behind her. 2010 NCAA Outdoor Steeplechase champion, Bridget Franek, had a rough day at the Prefontaine Classic. Would she recover on the same track that didn't cooperate a few weeks back? Yes. She ran a smart race, conserved enough energy to have a strong last 400 meters and found herself on the podium as the national runner up. Read Franek's account of the race here. Right behind her, 2012 NCAA Outdoor Steeplechase champion, Shalaya Kipp, would fight off New York-New Jersey Track Club's Ashley Higginson for the third and final spot for London. Tom Nohilly, an 8:16 steepler in his day, told me earlier this week that he'd been working with Higginson and that she was ready. He was correct. She looked great and would run a big personal best and the A Standard, which will come in handy for next year. Despite her record run, Kipp was up to the challenge and would join her Colorado teammate, Coburn, on the squad. The last three NCAA Steeplechase champions are now all Olympians, as Coburn won in 2011. Speaking of Coburn, David Monti took the words right out of my mouth at the press conference and asked her point blank, with all her success, had she given thought to going pro? A prepared Coburn answered "I owe it to my coaches and Shalaya Kipp to finish out my eligibility at Colorado." Watch the race here.

Picked this up at the Brooks run
this morning. Fitting, huh?
Off the track, things started to get strange as the news began to trickle in that Brooks' Gabriele Anderson had been disqualified from the Women's 1500 semifinal and would not run the final. The story was that with 300 meters to go, she made contact with Amy Mortimer (click that link for a short video of the contact from crtside). Mortimer would finish seventh in the heat. Her protest would advance the next in line, Alice Schmidt, and not Mortimer, to the final. Anderson's coach, Team USA Minnesota's Dennis Barker has appealed. Here's David Monti's story on the topic.

NEWS FLASH: Gabe just tweeted at 3:30 pm eastern: "THANK GOD I'M BACK IN THE FINAL!"

This brings up the question of what is disqualification-worthy contact? In the prelim heats of the 1500, US Army's John Mickowski, was pushing anyone that got in his way, and that included multiple shoves of Jordan McNamara. Rubbing is racing? I don't know. But I imagine both the finals will have some pushing and shoving, so get ready. There are Olympic berths on the line.

In North Carolina news, it was all smiles for Greensboro’s Calesio Newman. “I feel good. I just wanted to get through the rounds smart,” stated a pleased Newman after his first round of the Men’s 200 meter run. After a tough turn of events in the 100 meters earlier in the week, he would return to run a personal best time of 20.28 seconds. He won his heat in the process and would take the second best overall time into Saturday’s semifinal, trailing only heavy favorite, Wallace Spearmon. Luckily for Newman, both Walter Dix and Justin Gatlin have withdrawn from the event. He'll be back on the track tonight. Watch a short video of the interview I did with him here.

Finally, off the track, the Oiselle "Totally Trials" Fashion show had a special guest DJ. Who you ask? The one and only MC Hammer. It was a fun affair and the only event I've attended thus far where the women outnumbered the men. This week was the first I had heard of the Seattle-based company, but I would expect to hear more about them over the coming year, as they have a great group working for them and some nice clothing to match!

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Talking Trials: Agony and Ecstasy on full display at Hayward Thursday

Photo finishes aren't reserved for the 100 hurdles
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the eighth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

You're not supposed to cheer from the press box. I wouldn't necessarily say I was cheering, but providing words of encouragement for a cramping Julia Lucas as she gutted out a painful last 50 meters of the Women's 5000 final Thursday night, eventually getting out-leaned by a hard charging Kim Conley. Julie Culley outkicked American Record Holder Molly Huddle before the drama for third. You've likely seen it by now, but if you haven't, here's the link to watch the race. Keep in mind, if it would have been a tie, like in the 100 hurdles, there could have been a 5000 runoff. That would have been worth a pay per view special to me.

Lucas is from Charlotte, as am I, and I would be covering her for the Charlotte Observer and the Raleigh News & Observer, as she went to NC State in Raleigh. I've never met Julia, as she's five years younger, but it's not hard to pull for someone that has been through so much and lays it out like that, only to fall .04 seconds short of an Olympic berth.

And as tough as it was to watch, she handled it with class. "I completely went underwater" said an exhausted Lucas afterwards. "I gave that race away." No one would have blamed her if she would have walked through the mix zone, without taking interviews, but she didn't. She talked for at least 15 minutes about the tough ending she faced.

Lucas' personal best going into this season was 15:33, a time run in 2008. Her 15:08 earlier this year at Payton Jordan was a major, major breakthrough. To be so close and to fall so short. "I didn't sense her until the last few meters. I thought this day I would be the best athlete. You can't fake it." No you can't. This one's tough to swallow, but Lucas has been facing adversity for years. She'll press on.

Rupp leads the field and Hills lurks
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
The Men's 5000 went almost to form, except of course, Galen Rupp battled back and beat one of the best of all time, Bernard Lagat, over the same last 50 meters that the Women's race was decided over. The fist pump he gave afterwards was that of pure joy, with a trace of relief.

"I'm on cloud nine right now" were Rupp's first words at the press conference. "It's a huge confidence boost for sure," he claimed in reference to outkicking Lagat.

Lagat's reaction was a little different "Our mission as a team is to bring back a medal, whether it's me, Lopez or Galen. I'm at 90% right now. I'll be at 100% in London."

In somewhat of a surprise, recent NC State graduate, Ryan Hill, had an excellent race and a strong last lap, where he went from seventh to a strong fifth in a personal best time of 13:27.49. "I'm still trying to decipher in my mind if I'm happy with that or not. You can always get fourth and third. Hopefully four years from now, it will be more like third," said a slightly surprised Hill at how well he closed on the leaders over the final 400 meters. "It's to Europe from here to go after that A standard for the World Championship next year." A great race by a guy with a bright future. Watch the race here.

The future of the Men's Steeple
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
The Men's Steeple has been looking for a new star since Anthony Famiglietti's reign and it looks like they may have two. Evan Jager, of the Jerry Schumacher group, has learned the event fast and is going to be a force internationally. His 8:17.40 in only his fourth steeple ever shows the kind of promise he has and the potential to compete with the east Africans for years to come. Donn Cabral was in his Princeton uniform during the prelims, and then a new Nike kit during the final. And luckily for Nike, he delivered with a runner up finish, making the London team. I ran into him later at the Wild Duck Cafe and he couldn't have been happier. He "donned" his Team USA sweats, while being surrounded by many of his college friends who had come out west to watch him compete. What a rush. Kyle Alcorn rounded out the team and left it all on the track; literally. Possibly a P&J sando. Watch the race here.

The Women's Steeple final concludes the evening tonight and if Emma Coburn doesn't win, I'll be shocked. She's extremely smooth and is likely a year away from challenging Jenny Simpson's American Record of 9:12.50. There's a big group behind her that will contend for those last two spots, including her Colorado teammate, 2012 NCAA National Champion Shalaya Kipp, 2010 NCAA Champion Bridget Franek, Delilah DiCrescenzo, Sara Hall, Stephanie Garcia and a steadily improving Ashley Higginson. The easy money would be on Kipp and Franek, but anything can go wrong in the steeple. We'll see later. Buckle up!

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Talking Trials: Back to the Track

Will Bumby be ready to kick again tonight?
(Photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the seventh installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

It's Thursday morning here in Eugene and track is back! The Flotrack/Brooks run was packed again and we were joined by Neely Spence and Shayla Houlihan, who just announced her retirement from the track, after a disappointing steeple preliminary heat on Monday. She didn't rule out the roads though, including a potential fall marathon. Best of luck to her. It just shows the intensity of the trials and the training these athletes have been putting in to excel to the fullest extent during these 10 days that come along only every four years. The grim reality is that many of the athletes running here this week will move on from the sport if things don't go their way. A true reminder that it's "do or die time."

The 1500 prelims will kick off this afternoon and they are stacked. Some excellent runners will not make the team and a few will likely not make the final. A few of the men and women are right on the outside looking in at the Olympic A Standard times and I wonder how that will affect the way the rounds are run. The stars should have no trouble getting through to the semis, but that's where it will get interesting.

The Men's Steeplechase final goes off later in the evening and six guys have the A standard. College standout Donn Cabral has had a very long season, but has a great kick and will contend. Dan Huling has the best PR in the field at 8:13.29 and looked good in the prelims. Kyle Alcorn has been very consistent this year and also always has a great last few laps. Evan Jager has only run three steeples ever now, but looked flawless in the prelims. He looks to be the obvious choice to take the win. Billy Nelson got in by the skin of his teeth on time (from the prelims), but is good at showing up in big races. Finally, Ben Bruce hasn't run great yet this year, but is a tough competitor and will be in the mix. He could be rounding into shape at just the right time. The darkhorse pick will be Brian Olinger. Olinger ran within a second of the A Standard last year before committing to the 10k and the marathon. He now is back steepling again and looked good on Monday. Expect him to make an honest push towards the podium like he did at the Marathon Trials. He'll stick his nose in it for as long as he can. If I had to pick the three, I'd go Jager, Alcorn, Huling, but would not be surprised if Cabral snuck by Huling if he is there with 400 to go.

The Women's 5000 final will send some new faces to London as American Record Holder Molly Huddle will look to make her first team and will bring two newcomers with her. My Charlotte roots will have me pulling for former Myers Park Mustang, Julia Lucas, as she continues to have an excellent season and incredible comeback. Also, Liz Maloy looked effortless in the prelims and looks to be in shape to do something big. Those are my top three, but I think Julie Culley has as good of a shot as any of those women. Lisa Uhl is already on the team in the 10,000, so I am not sure she'll contend, but we can't forget Magda either. She'll lay it all out there as she has in the past. Kim Conley, Emily Infeld and Abbey D'Agostino looked great in the prelims, yet lack the standard. In 2008, it took 15:02 to make the team, so if it's anything like that, the standard will come as the byproduct of a great race.

The Men's 5000 final will be interesting. On paper, Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp and Lopez Lomong look like the cream of the crop, but Andrew Bumbalough looked great in the prelim and could break up that party. He can kick with the best of them and has run many more 5000's than Lomong, so his experience may help him. Ben True and Brent Vaughn looked good in the prelims, as did recent NC State graduate, Ryan Hill. Will they have enough to crack the podium? Maybe not, but will hopefully make it interesting.

See if you can find the Picky Bar founders
Yesterday was the first truly nice day out here in Eugene, with the sun out and the temps around 70 degrees. Since my shin was hurting pretty good after Tuesday's double, I opted for a five mile walk around town to explore and take some photos. After that, we went out to Ninkasi Brewing Company for the Picky Bars event. It's been fun to watch the company grow since I bought my first batch in September of 2010 and all the Picky staffers were in attendance, including Lauren Fleshman and her husband Jesse Thomas and Stephanie Rothstein and her fiance' Ben Bruce. It's freaking science dude.

Later in the evening, after some table sports with the Tar Heel contingent, we headed out to Taylor's Bar & Grill, before capping off a low key night at the usual Wild Duck Cafe. For the next two days, Saucony will be hosting the post meet parties there and if it's anything like the first few nights, you won't want to miss it! Alright, off to the track. Tune in to NBC Sports Network tonight at 9pm eastern for some great action on the oval!

Here are some photos of my Eugene walkabout (taken with instagram):

Home of the Ducks
Oregon being Oregon
The block is hot
The Autzen Footbridge on the Willamette River
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Talking Trials: A barefoot 4:30 mile in rolled up jeans

Nike ain't got nothing on Levi's
This is the sixth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

Tuesday was the first off day out here in Eugene, but Track Town was still alive. As people filed out of the dorms, my roommate Jeff Caron and I hit up the morning Flotrack run per usual. Felt great, better than I have in a while. 7:00 miles felt easy again. I've been injured for the past two years and am on the running every other day plan right now. So why not double back and run the All Comers meet "Jogger's Mile" later in the afternoon after a good one? What could go wrong?

That's right. I outkicked a 13 year old.
After yet another meal at Big Mouth Burrito on campus, we discussed and prepared for what could be a disaster. The goal for me was 5:30. I ran 5:02 on the road and 5:03 indoors a couple years ago before getting injured (at 31), and still hope to get back under five before I go under. But that's neither here nor there. The story of the day was Jeff's race.

The first heat was for those 4:40 and under. Jeff mentioned he thought he could run "maybe high 4:30's at best." He didn't realize what he'd be up against. Your typical bunch of skinny dudes hit the starting lines with two outliers. One was a guy in a full grey sweatsuit and the other was a guy wearing a green cotton shirt, rolled up jeans and no shoes. Is this for real? No, it's Oregon. Weird stuff goes down. As my friend Steve Edwards (aka Mr. Flanagan) said, "Portland is not like Raleigh. I saw a woman taking her paper mache pig for a walk last week, then a guy riding a unicycle, covered in mud."

The truth would soon come out. Contenders or pretenders? Sweatsuit guy, joker. Got lapped. In the mile. Barefoot and in jeans guy? Legit. He had a few strides on Jeff going into the final 400. Luckily, Mr. Caron went to the well and beat the hipster by a stride in a very nice 4:30. Video proof, you ask? Yes, right here.

My heat was the 5:15-5:30 heat and of course some clown won it in 4:40 something. How did I do? Straight 81's baby. 5:24, 6 seconds under prediction. Not bad after a steady diet of beer and burritos all week and a good run earlier that morning. One day, my body will function correctly and I'll run fast again, in a hobby jogging sense of course.

By now, you know where we would venture off to later in the evening. The good ole Wild Duck. Awesome beer selection, awesome crowd full of track dorks and athletes. As Maggie Infeld mentioned in an articled today, this is "an alternate reality." Holding court would be the funniest guy on the oval, Khadevis Robinson and the one and only Amy "Hasty" Hastings. She's as cool as you've imagined.

One more off day and then it's back to the track.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Talking Trials: So Nick Symmonds walks into a bar...

Nick Symmonds takes his fifth national 800 title in a row, while
 Duane Solomon celebrates making his first Olympic team
(Photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the fifth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

Sunday at Hayward Field was a distance fan's dream. The day started off with the steeplechase prelims, then would have the 5000 prelims and the 800 finals. It was around 60 degrees, with some light rain, but no one seemed to notice once the first gun went off.

Emma Coburn looked incredible in the first heat of the steeple. She uses so little energy in getting over the 30" barriers that it looks like she's running a different race than the rest of the field. She's a virtual lock to make the team in Friday's final, but the race for second and third will be a dog fight, as there are at least seven other women whose credentials show they've got a shot. The Men's steeple showed how close everyone will be Thursday night's final. The only notable competitor that didn't make it through was Steve Slattery, yet top seeded Billy Nelson was the last one to get into the final on time.

Emma Coburn makes it look easy
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
The women's 5000's had some shakeups, as the first heat went out at 17:20 pace through the first 1000 meters (3:28) and then ground it down going 3:10, 3:05, 3:03 and then closing in 2:55 for the lead pack of Abbey D'Agostino, Julie Culley, Julia Lucas, Emily Infeld and Deborah Maier. Expect Thursday's final to have a similar feel. In the second heat Liz Maloy, Molly Huddle and Kim Conley showed their fitness in separating at the end. But the highlight of the prelims was Lauren Fleshman's gutsy last 100 meters to automatically qualify for the finals. She's been running 10 miles a week for months and really put everything on the line to get to this final. I wouldn't say she'll contend, but she's proven to be pretty darn tough, so we'll see.

The men's 5000 heats answered one big question. Was Alan Webb ready to contend? The answer to that was a definitive no. He looked tight the whole race and once he couldn't hang on, really went backwards, finishing last in his heat. He'll now end his run to make the team by scratching the 1500 and will try and get healthy and retool his approach. Who did look good? In the first heat, Galen Rupp and Andrew Bumbalough both did. Bumby made it a little exciting by accelerating down the homestretch to out lean Rupp at the line. I don't think Rupp liked it as he refused the handshake after the race. In the second heat, Bernard Lagat and Lopez Lomong looked like the class of the field with Ben True and NC State's Ryan Hill also looking excellent down the stretch. The easy money would be on Lagat, Lomong and Rupp to make the team, but you never know what's going to happen in an Olympic Trials final.

The 800's were both excellent and the ladies took the stage first. As usual, Alysia Montano took it out. She didn't have quite as much in the tank to dominate the field, but had enough to hold them off and take the national title. With 10 meters to go, it looked like Molly Beckwith would be second. That wouldn't be the case as a hard charging Geena Gall would pass her for second and former Tar Heel Alice Schmidt would nip Beckwith at the line for third. With all the former heels in town, it was great to see Schmidt make the squad.

Historic Hayward Field would explode for the Men's 800 as Nick Symmonds looked to take his fifth consecutive national title. Similar to 2008, the University of Oregon had some skin in the game, with Elijah Greer lining up and getting the loudest ovation of all the competitors (including Symmonds). The gun would go off and Charles Jock would bolt to the front, running 49.86 for the first 400. After he would slow, Duane Solomon would take over, as he said afterwards "the whole plan was to follow Jock and pick him off." Symmonds bided his time. As they hit the last 100, Symmonds would rocket ahead and take the title, with Khadevis Robinson coming on strong to pass Solomon at the line for second. Solomon would hang on for third and was the most emotional of the bunch as he cried tears of joy on national television.

Afterwards, I asked KD if after getting kicked down (by Christian Smith) in 2008 to miss making the team would lead to his change in race tactics, as he was once a notorious frontrunner, and is now more of a wait and go from 300 out guy. He said it was more that he was hurt in '08, than a matter of tactic. Either way, he's changed; and for the better as his last two seasons have been phenomenal (watch the video of the question and KD's response here).

It was New Balance night at Duck Town and they had
"baseball cards" made of all their athletes (with gum)
(taken with instagram)
The party got started soon after the press conference was over, and man, it was a good one. Shortly after gathering the troops and heading to the Wild Duck Cafe, none other than Duane Solomon would walk in with his coach and hold court at a booth all night. It kept getting better from there. Plenty of athletes that would be done competing would arrive one by one. One thing overlooked today in the Men's 800 final was the fact that Mark Wieczorek would run a big PR and would finish in 1:45.62, just .02 off the Olympic A Standard. Yet, he is sponsor-less. He showed up rocking his signature striped v-neck and headband, along with his two sisters that were wearing virtually the same thing.

Not long after, I was having a conversation with fellow writer, Jon Gugala, when some guy wearing an OTC singlet stormed in and gave him a big bear hug. Who the heck? It was indeed Mr. Nick Symmonds; still in his race gear, ok, he had pants on. This wouldn't be a quick pop in. Symmonds stayed the duration of the night and talked to everyone, took pictures with everyone and then near closing time, watched himself make his second straight Olympic Team with the fans by his side. Track is different like this. Things like this happen because it's a tight knit spot. It was a night for all involved to remember. It was a night I'll never forget.

Check out the video of Symmonds watching Symmonds:

More photos from Day Four at Hayward: 

KD thanks the fans after the 800
Make top three and get your name etched in glass
Wild Duck Cafe aka Duck Town
Nick Symmonds greets the fans
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Talking Trials: Justin Gatlin gets it done and Women's 100 tie is resolved

It was take your kid to work day as Justin Gatlin
was in 2004 form in Eugene
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the fourth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

It was a day full of finals in Eugene as multiple field events, plus the Men's and Women's 400 meters and the Men's 100 meters would be selecting their teams for London. Many familiar faces stood atop the podium at the end of the day, but new stars emerged and some old stars faltered, as the agony and ectacy of an Olympic berth on the line was on full display.

The Men's 400 was up first, and in no surprise to anyone, former ECU Pirate, LaShawn Merritt took the win in a world leading time of 44.12. In second, Tony McQuay showed off his new threads in an excellent 44.49. In the prelims, McQuay wore his Florida kit, but signed a few papers somewhere in between that the final and would now be part of the Adidas team. The third spot was where things got exciting. 2004 Gold Medalist Jeremy Wariner would have a rough day and would only finish sixth. This would pave the way for former high school star, Bryshon Nellum, to finish third at get the final spot for London. It's been quite a journey for Nellum as he was shot in both legs in a drive-by in 2008 and has been slowly recovering over the past few years, while running for USC. A great story of perseverance!

Wariner crouched on the track in disbelief after
failing to make his third Olympic team, but 
will be in the pool for the 4x400 relay
(Photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
The Women's 400 was the Sanya Richards show as she continued her excellent season and would tie Chandra Cheeseborough's 1984 Olympic Trials record of 49.28. Behind her would be Dee Dee Trotter and Francena McCorory, all running 50.43 or below. Debbie Dunn was fourth in 50.78 to round out the 4x400 relay team.

The final event on the track would be the Men's 100 meters. Was Tyson Gay ready after running only one race this season? The field was stacked and Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist, would get out strong and run a personal best to take the title in 9.80, which was .05 faster than the 9.85 he won Athens in. Gay would be second in a very fast 9.86; a time that was the World Record (set by Carl Lewis) in 1991. The third and final spot would go to Salem, OR native Ryan Bailey. He looked great in the heats and proved it was no fluke as he crossed the line in 9.93, more importantly, booking his trip to London. Walter Dix ran only 10.95 after pulling up lame in the semifinal. Hopefully he'll get some work done and will make it back for the 200 prelims on Friday.

After the days events, we got word that USATF had resolved the Allyson Felix/Jeneba Tarmoh tie situation. What would happen is they both would be give the option of a coin toss or a run-off. If both choose same, that option is used at the tiebreaker. If they disagree, the tie is broken by a run-off. This seems fair to me and will be used as the tie-breaking method going forward. What if it were to happen in the 5000?

Brooks Foam fingers
On the social front, the group keeps getting bigger for the 9am Brooks/Flotrack group run. Today we were joined by Neely Spence, as she comes back from injury, and Kevin Hanson (of the Hanson Brooks Distance Project), as we did a nice out and back 8 miler down the Amazon Trail (and bumped into Ryan and Sara Hall along the way). 

After the meet, I interviewed former NC A&T sprinter Calesio Newman for an article in the Greensboro News & Record and learned that his lane and heat were changed three times within 30 minutes of his race. There's always something going on behind the scenes that makes you scratch your head.

Later in the day, Brooks had a nice cookout at the fraternity house they're renting that resides a few footsteps from Hayward Field. They've been great hosts thus far and have some cool posters and signs for their athletes (I'll get photos and post the next time I get over there).

Later in the evening, a few fellow Carolina alumni hit up the always good Track Town Pizza before heading over to Karaoke night at the Wild Duck Cafe. Lots of competitors were out, but Ryan Bailey was certainly the star of the night, being as he had just qualified for his first Olympic team a few hours earlier. That's the kind of thing we start to become accustomed to, but it never gets old!

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Talking Trials: A World Record, a dead heat and Lolo time

The brotherhood that is the decathlon was on full display
as Curtis Beach lets Ashton Eaton win the 1500 meters
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
This is the fourth installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR.Full results for the trials are here.

On Saturday, the weather started out rough once again, but ended beautifully. The Women's 100 meter hurdles were delayed 30 minutes because of hard rain, but that would be the smallest of the problems at Hayward Field on this day, as an Olympic spot would remain in limbo after a three hour deliberation of who finished third in the Women's 100 meter final. The official statement was that the race's third and final Olympic spot would end in a tie.

The stars would be on display as Lolo Jones would reach the 100 meter hurdle final and then would run just fast enough to finish inside the top three in the final; taking the third spot on the podium and booking her trip to London. After finishing and realizing she made the team, she did a version of "the worm" on the track. To say she was excited to be an understatement

The story of the day would be Ashton Eaton and his pursuit of the World Record in the decathlon. Needing to run 4:16.37 for 1500 meters to set the mark, Eaton would run an inspired 62 second last lap and finish in 4:14.48 to break Roman Sebrle’s 11 year old record by 13 points, scoring 9039. Joining him on the London team would be 2009 and 2011 World Champion, Trey Hardee. Beijing Gold Medalist, Bryan Clay, would fail to qualify after a disqualification in the 110 meter hurdles ended his quest. 1976 Olympic Gold medalist Bruce Jenner was in attendance to watch the athletes compete in the event that made him famous. I was able to sit behind he and his sons as they watched the decathlon and it was very surreal to watch him go down memory lane, while being inspired by what he was witnessing.

Allyson Felix on the phone during the review
And while Eaton's performance was the most exciting, it wasn't the only one people were talking about when they left Hayward Saturday. Carmelita Jeter would take the 100 meter title, with Tianna Madison finishing right on her heels. The true battle to make the team would be in third. Jeneba Tarmoh was initally declared the victor over Allyson Felix for the last spot on the team, but then the photo finish was reviewed to the 1/1000th of a second, showing a dead heat. As of the release of this post, there was still no resolution to who would go to London. I'm hoping for a run-off.

The after party facet of the event was once again an exciting one. The fans were out in droves and there was quite the who's who of past stars at the Wild Duck Cafe. If you want to see some runners, throwers and jumpers, this is the place. You'll have to trust me on this one!

More instagram photos from Day Two at Hayward:

Nike had a lot of cool signage
Ashton Eaton, World Record Holder
Lolo and the hurdle team
The Women's 100 was a great example of this!
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Talking Trials: Wet 10,000's lead Day One at Hayward Field

Ritz was pumped up after making his third Olympics
(taken with instagram)
This is the third installment of "Talking Trials." There will be more to come every day during the 2012 USA Olympic Track and Field Trials from Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene, OR. Full results for the trials are here.

After getting off the plane Thursday night at 11pm Pacific and rolling into Eugene at 1am, I was pretty wiped out. That didn't keep me from the 9am Brooks/Flotrack 6 miler that included all of Pre's Trail. The day only got better from there. The rain though, got heavier and heavier. The Men's 10,000 had a cross country feel to it that made it all the more exciting.

The day at Hayward kicked with a roar. Ashton Eaton ran a Decathlon World Record of 10.21 in the 100 meters and then followed it up with a Decathlon World Record in the Long Jump (27'). He'd end the day 17 points ahead of schedule on the American Record, and he did it in the rain.

The prelims in the Women's 100 and 100 Hurdles and Men's and Women's 400 and 800 went pretty much to prediction, with a few outliers. Tavaris Tate hitting the track with 150 meters to go was pretty ugly, but not as bad a watching Latavia Thomas trip, hit the ground, and then get kicked in the head in the 800 prelims. That one looked like it hurt. Erica Moore also failed to qualify for Saturdays semifinal.

But as writing about running is an American Distance Running blog, the 10,000's were the highlights for me. When the guys started, it was absolutely pouring. The track was covered in puddles and there seemed to be no end in sight to the rain. Right from the gun, Galen Rupp and Dathan Ritzenhein took it out. Ritz needed the Olympic A Standard, so weather be damned, it was going down! Oregon's Luke Puskedra took the lead for a while and when it looked like he would blow up, he soldiered on, and would later rally and finish 8th overall in a 17 second PR of 27:56.62, concluding an excellent career in the Oregon Ducks uniform.

Over the last mile, Rupp, Ritz and Matt Tegenkamp would breakaway from the field and would take the podium, with Rupp winning in an Olympic Trials Record of 27:25.33. He looked great doing it and has to be considered in medal contention in his signature event in London. Teg motored home eight seconds later for the Silver; but no one was more elated than Ritz. After finishing fourth in the Marathon Trials, he looked like a broken man. Today, he looked like a kid on Christmas. This would be his third consecutive Olympic Team. Raleigh's Bobby Mack would finish a strong 9th in 27:58.07.

Shalane Flanagan leads the pack
When the Women's 10,000 started, the rain slowed. This is when it got fun to be a fan. I met Steve Edwards when I was at Carolina. This was before he met his now wife, Shalane Flanagan. He is a sometimes guest on one of my favorite podcasts, "3 Non Joggers," and is as down to earth and fun as they get. He invited the guys up from Portland to come watch Shalane compete and I was lucky enough to tag along for the ride. According to Edwards, Shalane had run 104 miles already this week. She still looked great the whole way.

It was fun watching Steve watch Shalane, but an even more exciting byproduct of this was watching Kiel Uhl cheer on his wife Lisa. Flanagan and Uhl train together and emotion was pouring out. At one point, (Lisa) Uhl had to stop and re-tie her shoe. She fell 100 yards behind the pack, but would recover to finish fourth, qualifying for her first Olympics, as she was one of only three women to have the Olympic A Standard (sans Flanagan, as she will run the marathon). Despite Flanagan and Uhl's success, Texas A&M's Natosha Rogers was the story of the day. Rogers fell to the track early in the race and rallied late to finish second, between eventual winner, Amy Hastings, and Flanagan. Her personal best time of 31:59.21 would be just over 14 seconds off the Olympic A Standard.

After the competition, I finished my piece on local runners competing, for the Greensboro News & Record, and then hit the dorms before heading out for Saucony night at the Wild Duck Cafe. The place was packed and looks to be the "after hours" spot for the trials. One of the people in attendance was a very excited Matt Tegenkamp, who would qualify for his second Olympics. Now the question is, will he double back in the 5000? or is his work complete? Will he run the 5000 and help teammates Andrew Bumbalough and Lopez Lomong? We'll find out soon as the trials march on!

More photos from Day One at Hayward:

Galen Rupp greets the fans after his 10,000 win
The crowd at the Wild Duck Cafe
Coach Bill Bowerman welcomes fans to Track Town
Brooks/Flotrack run with the legend, Derek Rubis, and Spiked Up, Psyched Up's Kevin Liao
If there's anything specific you want to see, email me!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Talking Trials: The Olympic Trials represent everything that's right about Track and Field

Gabe Jennings leads the three eventual Olympians
through the 2008 Men's 1500 meter final
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
I'm not sure if you remember where you were in 2008 when the Olympic Trials returned to Historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. I was in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina with my family of runners and ex-runners. We dug in like we do every July when the Tour de France is on. Two weeks earlier, I had run a scintillating 20:18 5k at the Run for the Cure in Raleigh, and,at almost 30 years old, was slowly starting to get interested again in the sport that I lived and breathed in high school. The next week and a half would be the launching pad for what has inspired most of the words on this blog today.

From the first day, I was hooked. I had followed distance running even after my days of competing were over, but this would be the first meet I was truly excited about in some time. To fuel the fire even more, my cousins had recently shown me and more importantly, the "World Famous Message Boards." It was all downhill from there. I remembered guys like Gabe Jennings and Alan Webb, but there would be many new faces.

On day one, I got to watch former Tar Heel, Shalane Flanagan, win the 10,000 and then got to watch Amy Yoder-Begley outrun the clock to hit the Olympic A Standard. The crowd roared as she clipped off the last few laps and came in 1.4 seconds under the mark to greet her then-teammate, Kara Goucher, and grab the flag and book her ticket to Beijing. A moment like this could happen again as soon as this Friday night, with both the Men's and Women's 10,000 Finals kicking the distance events off. I loved every second of it. It would only get better from there.

This is the second in a a series of articles
that will highlight the 2012 Olympic Trials;
aptly called "Talking Trials"
A few days later, the race of the trials would take place; the Men's 800 (video here). I probably watched this race 10 times that night and have probably watched it 20-30 times since. It really doesn't get any better. That kind of drama was as good as it gets. Christian Smith gets into the 800 only because Alan Webb scratches, opening up the last spot. He navigates through the heats and then runs the race of his life to take third place, in a falling dive, and hits the Olympic A Standard, securing his trip to China. In doing so, he helps complete an Oregon sweep of the podium, with the Oregon Track Club's Nick Symmonds taking the win and the University of Oregon's phenom, Andrew Wheating, rallying late for second. That race will be run again this Monday night. Can it live up to that hype? With the field assembled, it's certainly possible.

With all the talk that track "needs to find it's audience," this is an event where the audience will be captivated, knowledgeable, and won't need much cajoling. In 2008, it inspired me to go from a sometimes jogger to a three time Boston Marathon Qualifier and to run some pretty decent times in the process (for a hobby jogger). It also inspired me to write this blog and to get active in the sport I love. I've attended the Prefontaine Classic the last two years, the 2012 Marathon Trials in Houston and multiple other meets that have been great. This is the granddaddy of them all. I hope many others can get inspired the way I have. I can't wait to get back to Eugene and take it in firsthand. 

Follow along on television (all times Eastern):

Friday, June 22 NBCSN 9:00 p.m. (10,000 Finals)
Saturday, June 23 NBC 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 24 NBC 7:00 p.m.
Monday, June 25 NBCSN 9:00 p.m. (800 Finals)
Thursday, June 28 NBCSN 9:00 p.m. (5000 Finals & Men's Steeplechase Final)
Friday, June 29 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. (Women's Steeplechase Final)
Saturday, June 30 NBC 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 1 NBC 7:00 p.m. (1500 Finals)

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Talking Trials: 5 Breweries worth visiting in Eugene

This is the first feature for the Talking Trials series. I'll be getting into Eugene this Friday and will be covering everything from the races, to the nightlife, to the morning runs and everything else that you won't see on television. If there's something you think I should cover while in Eugene, send me an email

Portland, along with Asheville, NC, is known as Beer City, USA. Let's just say there's a nice spillover of excellent beer about two hours south down the I-5. Here are some breweries well worth your time if you'll be visiting Eugene this week for the 2012 Olympic Team Track and Field Trials. If can't get enough or don't have time during the trials, check out Eugene Beer Week every year in May. Cheers!

5 Breweries worth visiting in Eugene

Falling Sky Brewing
30 East 13th Avenue

Recently featured in Draft Magazine's "8 New Oregon Breweries you should know," Falling Sky has "creative-but-not-too-wacky house beers and a locavore’s dream pub-grub menu."
1243 High Street

One of the three McMenamin brewpubs, High Street is known for it's excellent outdoor beer garden and is "the first microbrewery in Eugene since the days of Prohibition."

Ninkasi Brewing
272 Van Buren Street

After Pre, I made a stop to the brewery and beer garden at Ninkasi and had a blast. They had a yacht rock cover band playing outside and I enjoyed a Total Domination IPA in this truly Eugene neighborhood.

Oakshire Brewing
1055 Madera Street

I've never had Oakshire, but I can't wait to try it. It comes highly recommended. They are big on single batch beers and recently had a "Black Jack Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter." Need I say more?

Rogue Ales Public House (aka Track Town Ales)
844 Olive Street

Another stop on my recent Eugene trip, Track Town Ales is going to be a hot spot during the trials. They will have shuttles running to and from the trials every day and trivia, a Track & Field Arcade game challenge and more.

Worth Mentioning: 
1580 East 15th Street (beside Hayward Field)

This will be right by Hayward and will likely be a fan favorite. Deschutes won't be brewing beer, but they should have a nice selection of their excellent beers.

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Wesley Frazier and Edward Cheserek win New Balance Outdoor 2 Mile Titles

The New Balance Outdoor Nationals once again returned to the beautiful Irwin Belk Track at Aggie Stadium this weekend. Greensboro, North Carolina would once again host the best high schoolers from across the country. The featured distance events of the evening would be the Boys and Girls Championship 2 Mile Runs.

Leading the boys would be St. Benedict Prep's Edward Cheserek. Would he challenge German Fernandez' meet record of 8:34.40, which was set in 2008? Would he challenge Lukas Verzbicas' 8:29.46 set last year at Pre? Those were the questions stirring through the stadium as the 80+ degree day started to cool into the mid 70's at sunset approached.

The day got off to a rough start for the Newark, NJ Senior, as he lost control and dropped the baton during the Sprint Medley Relay. This is coming off a disappointing 12th places finish at the Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile, where he "only" ran 4:07.29. How would he respond in quite possibly he last race of his season?

Of course, Cheserek isn't the only story. The 2 Mile would be the last high school race for Cary, NC standout, Thomas Graham, before heading out west in the Fall to join the powerhouse that is the Stanford Cardinal. Graham's career as one of the top distance runners in North Carolina history includes multiple state titles, two trips to Foot Locker Nationals, an 8:56.21 for 3200 meters at the storied Arcadia Invitational and most notably, a 14:11.23 for 5000 meters at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. How would he fare against King Edward and the rest of an excellent field that spanned from coast to coast.

Last night, Winona Lake, Indiana's Ashley Erba ran a meet record of 16:18.21, distancing herself from last year's champ, Raleigh Ravenscroft's Wesley Frazier. Frazier has had another excellent year, most recently running an impressive 4:42.78 at the Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile. She would have her hands full tonight with Wilmington, Delaware Tatnall's Haley Pierce coming in with the strongest run of the year at 10:16.35 for 3200 meters.

The girls would go off first at 8:10pm and Wesley Frazier would bide, a the field was tightly bunched the whole way and went through the mile in 5:07. Frazier came on strong over the last 100 meters to take the win in 10:13.43, outkicking Salt Lake City's Natalie Shields in the process

Edward Cheserek on the last lap
The guys would follow at 8:40pm. Edward Cheserek would play it cool and not take the lead until about 400 meters to go. When he went, Thomas Graham bided his time and got up on his shoulder with 200 meters to go. It wasn't until the last 100 meters that the speedier Cheserek would pull away and take the win in 8:55.12. Graham would PR in the process with a strong 8:56.56 for the 2 mile distance.

Although the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships would be going on this weekend as well and there would be an obvious divide of talent, the New Balance Outdoor Nationals is always an excellent event, and is a great place to see some emerging talent. I know I had a blast in 1995! Come back tomorrow for the mile and plenty more.

Make sure and check out RunnerSpace's videos of the races here

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

5 Questions with Matt Scherer

Matt Scherer paces the 1500 field at Payton Jordan
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
Today we have 5 Questions with the self-proclaimed "best 800 meter pacer/rabbit in the world." With what he's done on the track lately, how can we argue? As Canadian Olympian Marathoner Reid Coolsaet recently tweeted "the guy is a billboard for 400-500 meters in every important 800."

Matt Scherer is that guy. The one you keep seeing leading high profile races for a lap or two. The guy barking back at the guy behind him to speed up or stay calm. He's fast, even keeled and wide bodied; perfect for blocking wind. He was asked to go through an 800 recently in 50.50. His FAT split? 50.50. Solid as a rock. He's also sponsorless. He'll be running in Diamond League London, and probably more. He'll be pacing the 800 at the  Victoria International tonight. Check it out live on Flotrack. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter @mscherer

5 Questions with Matt Scherer

1. Writing About Running: You were a part of the fastest 800 meters on US soil Saturday. What does it feel like to be involved in something so historic?

Matt Scherer: To be honest, I'm not even sure I appreciate the magnitude of it yet. I've been busy as of late with a lot of races and travel, so I've had to stay very focused on just doing what I'm supposed to on the track. This was the first time I'd paced for Rudisha, and at the very least, I didn't want to screw anything up for him, that was the main objective. Past that, hitting the 400 meter split at a consistent pace was the only thing on my mind.

I was beyond excited to see the clock stop on 1:41 when he crossed the line. In the past, Rudisha has always had his friend/training partner Sammy Tangui pacing him, so I hope that he liked me enough to request me for more races later in the season and I can help him do something even more special.

2. Writing About Running: On Sunday, you were pacing the 800 on the other side of North America (Harry Jerome in Canada), which has become the norm for you of late. How difficult is it to bounce back and perform on target, when so many are expecting you to hit a time?

Matt Scherer: After having a decent amount of success pacing last year, I prepared myself this year, mentally and physically, for an increased work load. I've always been good at going with the flow and not getting stressed out over little things. That has come in particularly handy with all the things that never go right when traveling. The back-to-back New York and Vancouver races haven't even been my toughest turnaround this year. A couple weeks before that, I paced in Shanghai on Saturday, flew to Phoenix via Chicago and paced again on Monday. That was about a 26 hour travel day. But just like most athletes do, when it's show time, you put on a game face and go do your job and perform. You can't let travel ever be an excuse.

Pacing Kaki at Prefontaine in 2011
(photo: TrackAndFieldPhoto)
3. Writing About Running: The 600 you ran against Nick Symmonds at Hayward in 2008 was a great showcase of quite possibly the perfect distance for you. Did this race give you an idea that you might be pretty good at pacing longer races?

Matt Scherer: At the time of that 600 with Nick, pacing wasn't on my radar as a career. But what that race has done for me since I became a full-time pacer is give me a solid credential on my resume. (#6 All-Time) Now when meet directors see PB's like 45.1, 1:14.4, and 1:46.1 it doesn't hurt in getting jobs.

4. Writing About Running: Do you prefer Rabbit or Pacemaker? Does it matter?

Matt Scherer: It doesn't matter to me. It seems like in the US it's usually rabbit and most everywhere else it's pacer or pace maker. You usually can get better jokes with rabbit, which I always appreciate. Sometimes my friends introduce me as a professional quitter.

5. Writing About Running: You've been very busy in pre-Olympic action. What do you have on the schedule coming up?

Matt Scherer: It's still early, but I have the London Diamond League 800 meters on my schedule. I think fields will solidify a bit more once country's national meets and the European Championships are over. I would love to continue pacing at Diamond League and World Challenge meets as much as I can. And am hoping that Rudisha liked me enough to maybe use me for a world record attempt later in the year. For a pacer there isn't anything bigger than being part of a world record.

Watch Scherer pace David Rudisha to the fastest 800 on US soil (1:41.) below:

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