Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in review...


Okay, I’ve taken some time off to enjoy the holidays. However, as 2007 enters the homestretch of the final lap of the year and gets ready to pass the baton to 2008, I thought I’d give you my personal highlights of this year, in a semi-chronological order:

INDOOR TRACK AT THE DEMPSEY: As the public address announcer for the University of Washington, I had the opportunity to call some great races and field events starting with Nick Symmonds’ first sub-four minute mile on January 13th, running 3:56.74. In that meet, Brad Walker began his quest for world superiority by jumping 18-8 1/4. Those in attendance also saw the emergence of Husky freshman vaulter Scott Roth, as the youngster showed the track and field world that he wasn’t a prep flash in the pan.

Other highlights of the indoor series at the Dempsey included US Olympic marathoner Jen Rhines dropping all the way down to the mile to beat Lauren Fleshman; an oh-so-close 4:00.37 mile by Oregon’s AJ Acosta, one of the most entertaining personalities in college track; Sally Kipyego’s sub 9:00 run in the 3000 meters, running 8:56.72; steering the crowd towards Husky fan favorite long/high jumper Norris Frederick; calling Arizona State’s Amy Hastings’ MPSF win in the 3000; and Alex Harcourt’s upset win in the 400 over Olympic 4 x 4 relay gold medalist Darold Williamson, which was probably as loud as the Dempsey got in ’07!

CROSS NATIONALS IN BOULDER: Probably the best cross nationals I’ve seen in a while, with nearly all the major players showing up at the same time, thanks to some heavy recruiting by race director Pete Julian, and some good ol’ peer pressure within the Boulder running community.

Even the queen of American cross country, Deena Kastor, who hadn’t competed in this meet since her last victory in 2003, deemed Boulder important enough to make an appearance and emerge victorious.

WORLD CROSS IN KENYA: Despite all the worrying about the safety of the American team, and the stifling heat and humidity, this was perhaps the most gratifying trip I’ve taken as part of Team USA. We knew that this wasn’t the best team this country could’ve fielded, but those who made the trip to Mombasa, which started in Detroit, with stops in Amsterdam & Nairobi, chose to make the best of it.

I’ve never seen such an enthusiastic crowd for a cross country meet in my life, with an estimated 30000 people on hand in 90+degree heat and 60-plus humidity.

The trip the team took to visit St. Peter’s the Rock school for developmentally challenged students where we donated shoes, was perhaps the most eye-opening part of the trip. I don’t think that anyone on Team USA had ever witnessed the type of poverty we saw en route to the school.

JUNE ON THE CIRCUIT: June took me to Sacramento, Eugene, and Indianapolis for the NCAA, Prefontaine, and US nationals, in short order. The performances at those meets, by Washington affiliated athletes such as Brie Felnagle (NCAA women’s 1500), Brad Walker (USA pole vault), and Bernard Lagat (USA 5000m) made those trips worth it, beyond the fact that I had to be there because of my television obligations (not to mention the meetings in association with those meets I had to attend).

MY HIGH SCHOOL REUNION: What relevance does a 30-year high school reunion have on a blog about track and field? Plenty!

The years I spent at Seattle’s Franklin High School were the years in which I developed my hunger and passion for this sport. I was fortunate enough to be mentored by Don Bundy, and Jack Pfeifer, two men who had a passion for the sport, and who also had the foresight to see the sport from a larger perspective beyond that of most high school coaches.

The friends and teammates that I ran with at Franklin were also very influential and inspirational in the pursuit of excellence in the sport.

OSAKA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: The daily blogs I sent from Japan say it all!

It was a pleasure to stay up until 2 or 3 am nearly every night, and get up early the next day to cover each session of competition at the world championships. The live blog of Uli Steidl’s progress in the marathon was certainly a learning experience, as it was something that I’d never attempted!

The 2007 world championships had the most number of Washington-affiliated athletes competing (11), and gold medals earned (3, two by Bernard Lagat, and one by Brad Walker). Thanks to the magic of Skype voice-over-internet telephone service, I was able to talk to some of the loyal readers and communicate my excitement over the day’s events.

COLLEGE CROSS COUNTRY: For the first time in several years, I was able to attend the Pac-10 and NCAA regional cross country championships, and witness the rise of the University of Washington’s women’s cross country team.

In addition, I also witnessed the emerging talent of Seattle Pacific’s Jessica Pixler, a former soccer standout, who with the guidance of American distance running legend Doris Heritage, won her first NCAA division II cross country title this fall.

OLYMPIC MARATHON TRIALS IN NEW YORK: The host New York Road Runners demonstrated to the country what can happen when you stage the Olympic Marathon Trials in the media capital of America.

Fairly or not, despite Ryan Hall’s Olympic Trials record run of 2:09:02, and the strong finish by blue-collar runner Brian Sell to grab the final spot on the Olympic team, this race will also be remembered for the tragic death of Ryan Shay at the 5-mile mark.

With 2008 itching to grab the baton from 2007, what do we as fans have to look forward to?

Obviously, the build up to the Olympic track & field trials in Eugene in late June, and the lead in to the Beijing Olympics in August.

There will be some other sub-plots in the next several months leading to the trials:

--Can the University of Washington’s Amy Lia, the 2006 NCAA champion in the 1500, recover from an injury plagued 2007, and unseat ’07 champ Brie Felnagle of Tacoma and the University of North Carolina?

--Will the Huskies’ Norris Frederick get that elusive NCAA title in the long jump?

--Will the Huskies’ Alex Harcourt, who was so brilliant in defeating Olympian Darold Williamson indoors in 2007, make another step towards becoming one of America’s top quarter-milers?

--Will 2007 Washington State grad Diana Pickler, who ended this year ranked number one in the heptathlon by Track & Field News, be ready to step up to the next level, and gun for a top 10 or 12 finish at the Olympics, assuming she makes the team?

--How will world champions Bernard Lagat & Brad Walker fare in 2008 under the increased scrutiny that the sport receives in the Olympic year in the United States?

Hopefully, we will have clearer answers to these and other questions all of you have about the 2008 season when the competition gets underway in just a few short weeks.

Before signing off with the final post of 2007, I want to personally thank you for visiting my blogspot site. I started this site this year in order to give you the opportunity to see the things and read about the topics that I can’t cover in Northwest Runner, due to space constraints.

I set a personal best in 2007 for most miles traveled at 77,406, as my journalistic pursuits of this sport took me to Osaka and Mombasa, along with three trips across the USA from the little corner called Seattle. Hopefully, the miles I flew in '07 translates into seat upgrades for '08 (travel hint--always ask for the exit row seat, preferably on the aisle--most leg room in coach!).

Also, I want to thank the athletes, coaches, and others in the track & field/running community who helped make this possible.

Happy 2008!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Καλά Χριστούγεννα


...or Merry Christmas to all!



And remember, "see the cat-be the cat!"

NOTE: Photos courtesy pet-fun.blogspot.com

Monday, December 24, 2007

Huskies ranked #2 in USTFCCCA men's pre-season rankings...


The University of Washington men's track team is ranked #2 behind Florida State in the USTFCCCA pre-season rankings, the highest ranking a Husky track team's ever received, according to the UW Sports Information office.

The Huskies tied for seventh at last year's NCAA Indoor Championship meet with 22 points, a program best finish. Washington returns five indoor All-Americans including five-time All-American long jumper Norris Frederick, and four-time All-American mid-distance runner Austin Abbott.

"We are very excited for the upcoming season, and the ranking just goes to show the level where our standards have risen to," said sixth-year head coach Greg Metcalf. "Obviously it is not where you start but where you finish on March 15th at NCAA's that counts. We felt capable of winning a title last season but didn't quite have our best performance at Nationals. It was a learning experience that should help take us even higher this year."

Florida State is ranked first, followed by Washington, Tennessee, Florida, and LSU. The Seminoles finished second to Wisconsin at the 2007 NCAA Indoors and won the title at NCAA Outdoors. No. 7 Stanford, No. 13 Oregon, and No. 19 Arizona State are the other Pac-10 schools in the early forecast.

The USTFCCCA Division I indoor track and field rankings are compiled solely from NCAA descending order lists. The preseason rankings are based on the final descending order list of the previous season. Washington's previous high was a No. 4 ranking in Trackwire last season, and No. 5 in USTFCCCA.

The Husky women are unranked with LSU owning the top spot.

NOTE: The University of Washington sports information office contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bernard Lagat seeks 6th Wanamaker Mile Title...

Bernard Lagat (left, wearing hip #7 /photo by Paul Merca), who last summer became the first man in history to capture gold medals at both 1500 and 5000 meters in the World Championships, will return to defend his Wanamaker Mile title at the 101st Millrose Games, according to meet organizers

He will be challenged by Australia's Craig Mottram, the 2005 World Championships bronze medalist at 5,000 meters who last year battled Lagat in a Wanamaker duel that came down to the final lap. It is a rematch that took shape just moments after that race, when Lagat told the media: "I love New York and I love running in this competition. So why not come again and try for a sixth one? Hopefully, my friend Mottram will be there."

Lagat and Mottram will be among the headliners on the Madison Square Garden track as "A New Century Begins" on Feb. 1 for the Millrose Games, which last year celebrated its 100th anniversary.

With his fifth victory last year (2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007), the Kenya-born American moved into a tie for third-most Wanamaker titles. A 2008 victory would put him just one win away from tying the legendary Eamonn Coghlan's record of seven. In 2005, Lagat broke Coghlan's 24-year-old meet record.

The 101st Millrose Games, the third stop in USA Track & Field's Visa Championship Series, is set for Friday night, Feb. 1, at Madison Square Garden. Tickets are now available at Ticketmaster (call 212-307-7171, visit www.Ticketmaster.com or at Ticketmaster outlets); or at the Madison Square Garden box office. USATF welcomes you to pay with your Visa. Watch soon for the launch of the event website, www.Millrose-Games.com.

NOTE: USA Track & Field's Tom Surber contributed to this report.



Sunday, December 16, 2007

Why?

Here's an article on people and their continuous running streaks:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=streakrun


As 1992 US Olympian PattiSue Plumer said at the USATF National Podium Project seminar in Las Vegas, the miles you run must have a purpose.

Please let me know what the purpose of running every day for 30+ years is...

Eugene nabs 2012 US Olympic Team Trials-Track & Field, along with two USA championships...


EUGENE, Ore. - USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee on December 12th announced their intent to host the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field in Eugene, Oregon, USATF CEO Craig Masback announced. The announcement was made at an afternoon press conference on the University of Oregon campus.

Eugene, which next year will host the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field, also will host the 2009 and 2011 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Masback announced.

For the full story, see it here...

The Portland Oregonian's take on the news can be read here, and the Eugene Register-Guard's front-page story can be read here.

For track and field fans, especially from the Pacific Northwest, this is nothing but great news!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Off to the Podium Project seminar...

paulmerca.blogspot.com will attend the USA Track & Field Podium Project Seminar in Las Vegas.

The Podium Project gathers the coaches of many of America's elite athletes in an effort to provide specific scientific information and analysis of our best athletes to ensure that the United States dominates the podium at the Olympics and World Championships.

I hope to gather some interviews with some of the top coaches this week.

Hey there, Delilah...


Over the weekend, I attended the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in West Chester, Ohio.

The national club cross country championships is perhaps the largest event for developing post collegiate or second-tier runners; i.e., those who are not quite national caliber runners, but are generally on the verge of reaching that level.

At the national club championships are also a masters' mens 10 km and a womens' 6 km races.

The winner of the women's open 6 km race was Delilah DiCrecenzo (center, competing in the 2006 USA nationals /photo by Paul Merca), the former Columbia University steeplechaser and current assistant coach at Byrn Mawr University outside Philadelphia.

Racing on a flat-but- slow/slushy/muddy course at Voice of America Park, the 2004 Columbia grad pulled away from Julie Culley in the last 200 meters to cross the line in 20:31 for the biggest victory in her career.

She told me afterwards, "It's a great feeling. The conditions were tough, but I felt like I was suited for the course with the way I run. I didn't slide as much in the mud. I was surprised at how well I felt, given the course conditions. I just tried to stay patient until the last quarter."

"Nobody really wanted to push the pace, and I was pretty confident with my speed, so I was just biding my time until the end."

"I'm good friends with the guys from Plain White T's. They called me a few days ago to let me know they've been nominated for two Grammys, so I'm really excited for them. It's a very unique opportunity, and a funny set of circumstances, but I'm glad to be associated with the song."

To read my story on Delilah's victory, go here.

If you're a music fan, you'll recognize her as the inspiration for the Plain White T's Grammy nominated hit, "Hey There, Delilah". Here's the video:



Amby Burfoot of Runner's World, who competed in the masters' race, has a nice interview with DiCrescenzo, which you can read here.

By the way, props go to Seattle's Club Northwest for winning its second straight national cross country title in the men's 50+ age category.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Adam Goucher needs his phone!


Adam Goucher lost his Nike jacket along with his cell phone sometime before the Nike Team Nationals cross country race on Saturday December 1st in Portland, Oregon.

Kara Goucher appears quite upset at the loss of his phone.

Here's the link to the video...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Off to Hawaii!


paulmerca.blogspot.com is off to Honolulu for the USA Track & Field Annual Meeting!

The USA Track & Field Annual Meeting is the forum for athletes, officials, race directors, agents, and others involved in the sport to gather ideas, hear progress reports, vote on legislation, etc.

I hope to post some reports and hopefully post interviews with athletes while I'm over there. I am also doing some work on Saturday night for ESPN at the Washington/Hawaii football game.

In the meantime, aloha!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Huskies Anita Campbell, Katie Follett, and Mel Lawrence named to all Pac-10 cross country team...


WALNUT CREEK, Calif. - The Washington women's cross country team placed three runners on the All-Pac-10 team, Commissioner Tom Hansen announced today. Junior Anita Campbell (right) made the seven-member first team while sophomore Katie Follett (center) and freshman Marie Lawrence (left) earned second team honors.

The three honorees in one year is the most in the program's history, fitting for the team which just last week finished an all-time best 8th at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Campbell and Follett both earned All-American honors for their top-20 finishes at NCAA's.

For Campbell, it is her second conference award, as she was named to the second team in 2006. She led the Huskies with a sixth-place finish at last month's Pac-10 Championships in Corvallis, Ore. Follett placed ninth and Lawrence was 13th, earning placement on the seven-member second team. It is the first career honor for both Follett and Lawrence.

"The Pac-10 on the women's side this year was as strong as I've ever seen it," said UW head coach Greg Metcalf. "For us to place three women on the team with that level of competition is terrific. Each of the three women ran great at Pac-10's and then went on to lead us to a top-10 national finish."

Oregon junior Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott and Stanford senior Arianna Lambie were named the men's and women's Pac-10 Athletes of the Year after winning the conference meet. Oregon took both Newcomer of the Year awards, with freshmen A.J. Acosta and Alexandra Kosinski capturing the hardware.

Oregon's Vin Lananna was named Pac-10 Men's Coach of the Year and Stanford's Peter Tegen picked up his second-straight Pac-10 Women's Coach of the Year award. The Duck men and Cardinal women both won NCAA titles on November 19th in Terre Haute, Indiana.

2006 Pac-10 Cross Country Honors
Women's First Team: Arianna Lambie, Sr., Stanford; Teresa McWalters, Sr., Stanford; Alexandra Kosinski, Fr., Oregon; Nicole Blood, So., Oregon; Jenna Kingma, Jr., Arizona State; Anita Campbell, Jr., Washington; Ali Kielty, So., Arizona State

Women's Second Team: Isley Gonzalez, Sr., Washington State; Katie Follett, So., Washington; Lauren Centrowitz, Sr., Stanford; Sarah Cocco, Fr., USC; Kari Hardt, So., Arizona State; Marie Lawrence, Fr., Washington; Kate Niehaus, So., Stanford

Athlete of the Year: Arianna Lambie, Sr., Stanford
Newcomer of the Year: Alexandra Kosinski, Fr., Oregon
Coach of the Year: Peter Tegen, Stanford

Men's First Team: Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott, Jr., Oregon; Galen Rupp, Jr., Oregon; Russell Brown, Sr., Stanford; Austin Ramos, Sr., UCLA; Hari Mix, Jr., Stanford; Neftalem Araia, Sr., Stanford; Yosef Ghebray, Jr., California

Men's Second Team: Mark Matusak, Jr., California; David Torrence, Sr., California; Kyle Alcorn, Sr., Arizona State; Scott Wall, Jr., Oregon; Andrew Acosta, Fr., Oregon; Kenny Klotz, So., Oregon; Andrew Wheating, Fr., Oregon

Men's Athlete of the Year: Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott, Jr., Oregon
Men's Newcomer of the Year: A.J. Acosta, Fr., Oregon
Men's Coach of the Year: Vin Lananna, Oregon

NOTE: The Pac-10 media relations staff and the University of Washington sports information office contributed to this report.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tyson Gay & Meseret Defar World Athletes of the Year for 2007

Tyson Gay (above, /photo by Paul Merca) was selected as the World Athlete of the Year for 2007, bolstered by his two individual victories in the 100 and 200 at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Osaka in August.

Monte-Carlo – During the celebrations of the World Athletics Gala on November 25th hosted by International Athletic Foundation (IAF) Honorary President HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco and IAF & IAAF President Lamine Diack in the Salle des Etoiles of the Sporting Club d’Eté Monte Carlo, 25-year-old American Tyson Gay and Ethiopia’s 24-year-old Meseret Defar were crowned as the male and female World Athletes of the Year.

A three-time World champion Tyson Gay, the 2007 Male World Athlete of the Year commented:

“To follow in Carl Lewis's footsteps (the first winner of the IAF Athlete of the Year) is just a great honour.

"I think for this year (winning the World Championships) makes me the fastest man in the world, but I honestly think that I need to have the World record like some of the other great sprinters like Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene. I think that sets you apart, having medals and having the world record."

Winner of all her races this season, including two World records and a World best, Meseret Defar (#410, /photo by Paul Merca), the 2007 Female World Athlete of the Year commented: “I don’t have words to describe how happy I am.

"This is very special for me. This is very special for Ethiopian women. Those who struggle very hard and who don't have very many opportunities to achieve the highest levels of athletics. So I dedicate this award to them."

The 2007 Performances of the Year award was presented to Asafa Powell for his World record breaking performance in Rieti and Blanka Vlasic for her 2.07m (6-9 1/2) third all-time best clearance in Stockholm.

NOTE:
The IAAF media relations staff contributed to this report.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Almost a year later, and no check in the mail?!?


My good friend David Monti, the publisher of Race Results Weekly, has an article posted on the winners of last year's Las Vegas Marathon, Kenyans Joseph Kahugu and Jemima Jelagat, who have not been paid their prize money, according to their agents.

The full story can be read here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Washington finishes eighth at NCAA cross country championships, while David Kinsella earns eighth place...



Katie Follett was the Huskies' top finisher at the NCAA cross country championships in Terre Haute, crossing the line 19th in 20:43. /photo by Paul Merca

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana
—The University of Washington women’s cross county team earned its highest team finish in school history, as the Huskies finished eighth at the NCAA cross country championships in Terre Haute, Indiana on Monday, scoring 358 points, and one point behind seventh-place Northern Arizona.

The Huskies were led by sophomore Katie Follett, who continued her meteoric improvement this season, with her 19th place finish (15th team), finishing the 6000-meter course in 20:43, and catching her teammate Anita Campbell (20th, 16th team), who was also credited with the same time.

Following Campbell was junior Amanda Miller in 108th (79th team), finishing in 21:36, followed by freshman Mel Lawrence in 117th (85th team) with a time of 21:42.

There was a 44-second gap between Lawrence, and the Huskies’ final scorer, senior Trish Rasmussen, who crossed the line 201st (163rd team) in 22:26, which was a significant difference in the Huskies’ eighth place finish and a higher placing on the podium.

Rounding out the Huskies were junior Dani Schuster in 236th (198, team) running 23:07, and freshman Lauren Saylor in 253rd (215 team) with a time of 24:25.

Among significant runners with Washington ties in the women’s race, North Carolina’s Brie Felnagle, the 2007 NCAA 1500m champ from Tacoma, finished 11th in 20:29, and junior Mattie Bridgmon from Eastern Washington placed 64th in 21:17.

Texas Tech junior Sally Kipyego took command of the race early, and cruised to victory, winning in a time of 19:31, winning by 17 seconds over Colorado junior Jenny Barringer, with sophomore Susan Kuijken third in 19:58.

Stanford successfully defended its team title, led by senior Arianna Lambie’s ninth place finish in 20:19. The Cardinal scored 145 points to beat second place Oregon’s 177 points. Florida State was third with 236.

Rounding out the top eight were Arizona State (251) in fourth; Michigan State (321) fifth; Illinois (331) sixth; Northern Arizona (357) seventh; and the Huskies in eighth at 358.

In the men’s race, Liberty’s Josh McDougal used a strong final mile to defeat Oregon’s Galen Rupp and win the mens individual title, in a time of 29:23, holding off Rupp by one second, with Northern Arizona’s Lopez Lomong a distant third in 29:46 over the ten-kilometer course.

Rupp’s second place finish (1st team) propelled the Ducks to its first NCAA cross country team championship since 1977 as the Ducks scored 85 points to outlast Iona (113) and surprising Oklahoma State (180), coached by former Olympia high school standout Dave Smith.

Rupp was UO's highest finisher since his personal coach, Alberto Salazar, placed second in 1979. UO's other four scorers also earned All-America honors, and included junior Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott (ninth), sophomores Diego Mercado (30th) and Kenny Klotz (37th), and redshirt freshman Daniel Mercado (41st).

The University of Portland, ranked number 8 in the final pre-championship polls, and bolstered by three Washington prep standouts among their top three, David Kinsella, Michael Kilburg, and John Moore, finished a disappointing 14th with 424 points.


Kinsella (Inglemoor HS) finished eighth in 29:53, while Kilburg (O’Dea HS) finished 66th in 30:51. John Moore from Olympia HS finished 169th in 31:41, running most of the way with a side stitch which hampered his performance.

Kinsella (left, /photo by Paul Merca) was in the lead at the halfway point of the 10K LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course and stayed in the lead pack from start-to-finish.

“I was thrilled with my performance,” Kinsella said. “I didn’t want to downplay my potential coming in, and it’s not like I lacked confidence, but I did better than what I had initially anticipated. On any given day a lot of people can be in top 10, and fortunately things went my way. The pace was a little slower out of the gates than I expected, which benefited the way I run. Everyone knew as the race went on that it was going at the kickers’ pace; I’m not a kicker, so to just hang around and create some separation from the rest of the pack really was beneficial. Hopefully next year I can be up there at the end as well.”

The Pilots had three other Washington prep standouts running Monday, including Justin Houck (Ferris/Spokane), who was 130th in 31:33; Woodinville’s Colin Longmuir, who finished 158th in 31:36; and Gig Harbor’s Tommy Betterbed who was 194th in 31:59.

Other significant finishers with Washington ties included Jeff Helmer (Everett HS), who finished 91st in 31:05 for Arizona State.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jessica Pixler wins NCAA D-II harrier championship...

JOPLIN, MO – Victorious by 13.6 seconds over her next closest competitor, Jessica Pixler won her first ever NCAA DII Cross Country national title in a blistering time of 20:29.1 over a 6,000 meter course, helping lead her team to a 2nd Place finish overall.

Pixler, who ran a faster 19:53 at the West Regional race, averaged a 5:30 mile pace on the National stage, and was joined in the top 10 overall in the women’s race by fellow sophomore teammate Jane Larson, who finished eighth in 20:55.5. Pixler’s time was a course record, in conditions both her and Head Coach Doris Heritage described as, “Perfect.”

“It was the nicest running weather ever,” Pixler said. “Perfect warmth” she added.

Pixler’s time was 10.9 seconds faster than last year’s nationals in Pensacola, Fl, where she finished 10th overall in 20:40. The 2nd place team finish marks the Falcons' highest ever, having finished sixth in last year's NCAA D-II, and besting their previous record of 3rd in the 1986 season, which was also under Heritage's lead.

The victory did not come without drama, as Pixler and another lead runner stumbled and fell midway through the race, due to both runners clipping heels with each other and losing their balance. Heritage claims Pixler’s soccer history to have aided her in recuperating from the fall, which is customary in soccer matches.

Suzie Strickler, who was fighting off a cold and was not even cleared by her doctor to race until five minutes before the meet deadline, finished in third for the Falcons, 47th overall, in 22:04.7. Senior Karin Rohde was fourth for the women and 53rd overall in 22:15.0, with Kate Harline rounding out the top five for SPU in 69th place at 22:39.7.

“They were the heroes of the race because they were all facing adversity and they made the difference in the end,” Pixler said of her teammates who finished fairly bunched together. Pixler added that her teammates passed other runners at the right time towards the end and surged towards the finish, which made all the difference.

SPU was without two members of the 2006 Nationals team, Mary Moriarty and Megan Wrightman, but added sophomore Lisa Anderberg and Senior twin Kaitlin Rohde to their team this season. Anderberg finished sixth for the Falcons, 83rd overall in 23:03.2, while Rohde rounded out the seven women team in 92nd place overall, at a time of 23:08.9.

The top 30 finishers receive All-American status, which Pixler and Larson will be credited with, and this second place finish has only spurred the Falcons’ confidence, desire, and determination for the number one spot next season.

“Everyone had faith and everyone gave it their all,” Pixler said. “Everyone had the confidence to come out and fight, and God was behind it.”

Adams State ran away with the team title, finishing with 63 total points, while the difference between SPU’s second place finish (178 points) and Western State’s sixth place finish (191 points) speaks loudly of the immense competition the Falcon women faced. Fellow West Region teams Chico State University and Cal State Los Angeles finished fourth (183) and fifth (185) respectively. UC San Diego, the fourth and last team to make it to Nationals from the West Region, finished 11th overall with 293 points.

Each team in the top eight overall at the National meet provides the Region with another bid for the meet in the coming year, which means there may possibly be five slots for West Region teams next season.

NOTE: The sports information office of Seattle Pacific University contributed to this report.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Jessica Pixler leads SPU Falcons into NCAA D-II harrier championships...


Seattle Pacific University, led by NCAA West Regional harrier Jessica Pixler (left, /file photo by Paul Merca), travels to Joplin, Missouri for Saturday’s NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships.

Pixler, who successfully defended her Great Northwest Athletic Conference title at the end of October, cruised to a 33-second victory at the West Regionals in Boise on November 3rd over teammate Jane Larson.

At the West Regionals, Seattle Pacific placed three runners in the top six to claim its first regional title since 1996. Coach Doris Heritage's Falcons scored 45 points to defeat pre-meet favorite Cal State L.A. for the title.

For their accomplishments, Pixler, a sophomore from Sammamish, Washington, was named the West Region’s athlete of the year, and Heritage was named coach of the year.

In last year’s NCAA title meet, Pixler, who is among the favorites to win the NCAA championship, finished tenth.

The Falcons are currently ranked #4 in the USTFCCCA coaches’ poll entering Saturday’s national championships.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Indoor Visa Championship Series to head west with USA vs. The World at Run for the Dream...


FRESNO, Calif. - The Visa Championship Series, USA Track & Field's signature series of domestic track meets, will include an indoor stop in California for the first time next Martin Luther King Day (Monday, January 21) when USA vs. the World at Run for The Dream kicks off the 2008 Indoor Visa Championship Series.

The USA vs. The World event will feature top U.S. and international athletes competing in seven individual events each for men and women, plus the 4x400m relay, in a scored, team competition. Team USA athletes will take on a squad of International All-Stars in the first team-scored meet in Visa Championship Series history.

First held in 2006, Run for the Dream will take place at the Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State University. A new, 160-yard track is being built specifically for the facility and will make its international debut at Run for the Dream, a meet organized and directed by USATF's 2003 Nike Coach of the Year and Fresno State head coach Bob Fraley.

"Since the Visa Championship Series began in 1999, we have been looking for our best strategic opportunity to have a leg of the indoor series in California," said USATF CEO Craig Masback. "When Coach Fraley started Run for the Dream, we immediately recognized it as the chance we had been searching for. His history of staging successful events and drawing top talent makes this a great opportunity to join forces."

In addition to his long history of success at Fresno State, Fraley has served as chair of men's pole vault development for USATF. In 1989 he created the Pole Vault Summit, now held in Reno, Nevada. Featuring competitions and an exchange of knowledge about pole vaulting, the event each year attracts more than 2,000 male and female athletes, from teen-agers to Olympic gold medalists.

Run for the Dream this year will feature three meets on MLK Day, from high school through professional. The morning session will stage a four-way meet between Fresno State, Hawaii, Cal Poly, and Cal State-Stanislaus. In the afternoon, a high school "dream team" showdown will be followed by USA vs. The World. In addition to the relays, events to be contested at USA vs. The World include men's and women's 55m, 55m hurdles, 600 yards, pole vault and long jump; men also will contest the mile and shot put while the women have the 800m and high jump.

"We are excited to team up with USA Track & Field to make Run for the Dream a world-class event," said Fraley. "For years people have seen these Visa Championship Series meets on television, but you had to travel east to see this kind of event in person. To have a meet like those here in our community is just awesome."

For more information on Run for the Dream, Coach Fraley and Fresno State track and field, visit gobulldogs.com.

About the Visa Championship Series

Now in its 10th year, The Visa Championship Series is a prestigious series of USA Track & Field competitions featuring top track & field athletes from Team USA, the World's #1 Track Team, as they prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games. It brings the speed, strength, excitement and fun of track & field directly to fans around the country, allowing them to experience it all first-hand.

In addition to providing more than $1 million in prize money and athlete-support dollars, the Visa Championship Series crowns the male and female athlete with the top overall performance in the Visa Championship Series as Visa Champions. The men's and women's Visa Champion each receive bonus money.The full schedule for the 2008 Visa Championship Series will be announced soon. For more information, visit http://www.visachampionshipseries.com .
NOTE: USA Track & Field's Jill Geer contributed to this report.

Agents won't represent banned athletes...


Saw this release from the web site of the Association of Athletics Managers, a group of agents that represent a great number of world class track and field athletes, stating that they won't represent banned athletes:

MIAMI BEACH (Nov. 9, 2007) –An agreement has been reached by the Association of Athletics Managers (AAM) that its members will not represent any athlete who tests positive and is convicted of a doping violation for which he or she serves a two-year ban or longer. It is believed to be one of the first such agreements in any sport.

The association, whose 29 members represent virtually all of the top track-and-field athletes in the world, reached the decision at its annual meeting in Miami Beach, which ended Thursday.

Also attending the AAM-hosted industry summit were seven members of the Euromeetings group, the members of which conduct track-and-field meets on the European circuit; the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF); and representatives of the major shoe companies.

Among other issues discussed were ways to streamline meet payments to athletes and to improve conditions for athletes on both the World Athletics Tour and at major championships.

The full text can be read here...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Great blog entry on Brian Sell from Larry Eder...

Brian Sell finished third in the US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon in New York on November 3rd. /photo by Paul Merca

Here's a link to a blog entry by Larry Eder on 2008 Olympic marathon team member Brian Sell.

To access it, go here...

NCAA Cross Country Championships to be shown live on CSTV...


The 2007 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be shown live on Monday, November 19th on CSTV, starting at 9 am pacific time (noon, eastern time).

This marks the first time that the NCAA harrier title race will be shown live.

"The 2007 Division I championships will be historic because of the live coverage," said Mark Bockelman, NCAA assistant director of championships. "The NCAA is committed to creating ways to make our championships exceptional for our student-athletes and fans. Adding live television coverage is an exciting step in reaching that goal and in promoting collegiate cross country."

The championships will be held at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center and be hosted by Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana on Monday, November 19. The men's race will start at 12:00 eastern time, with the women's race to follow. The 2007 championship will be the fourth straight held by Indiana State.

The link to the air dates and times of the NCAA Cross Country Championships can be accessed here...the link to the USTFCCCA release is here...



Sunday, November 11, 2007

Husky women earn NCAA at-large bid to nationals...


As expected, the University of Washington women's cross country team earned an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA cross country championships on Monday November 19th in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The Huskies, who were fourth in the NCAA west regionals on Saturday, are joined out of the west region by third place finisher Arizona State, along with fifth place finisher UC Santa Barbara.

Washington State's squad, which finished sixth, was not selected by the NCAA for an at-large berth.

Advancing to the NCAA championships as an automatic individual qualifier was Eastern Washington's Mattie Bridgemon (left, /photo by Paul Merca), a junior from Laramie, Wyoming, who finished 20th at the regional championships in 21:02.

The complete list of teams and individuals competing in the NCAA championships are posted at ncaasports.com/crosscountry, or you may go here.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Quick stuff from the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships...

The University of Washington's Anita Campbell approaches the finish line at the NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships Saturday in Springfield, Oregon. /photo by Paul Merca

Springfield, Oregon--Stanford's Teresa McWalters was the individual winner of the NCAA West Regional women's cross country race today, while hometown favorite Galen Rupp of the University of Oregon took top honors in the men's race.

The women's team race went to form, as Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and Washington earned the top four spots.

The top two teams automatically earn berths to the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana on November 19th. However, it's expected that Arizona State and the Huskies will earn at-large berths to the nationals, as both teams have been in the top-10 in the USTFCCCA coaches' poll for most of the season.

The Huskies were led by Canadian junior Anita Campbell, who finished fourth.

In the men's race, Portland's David Kinsella, a Washington state high school product took the early lead, but was overtaken by Rupp, and Pac-10 harrier champ Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott. Kinsella fought back late in the race to overtake Kiptoo-Biwott for second.

Oregon, and the University of Portland, bolstered by Kinsella, and two other Washington state high school products who placed in the top ten, John Mooore, and Michael Kilgore, earned the two automatic berths to the NCAA championships.

More details later, when I return to Seattle.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

NCAA West Regional cross country championships are Saturday in Springfield, Oregon...

Galen Rupp (l) and reigning Pac-10 harrier champ Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott lead #1 ranked Oregon into Saturday's NCAA West Regional Cross Country Championships in Springfield, Oregon. /photo by Paul Merca

The cross country season reaches a head for the Washington, Washington State, Eastern Washington & Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams this weekend as they compete at NCAA West Regionals in Springfield, Ore. Regional finishes will determine which teams advance to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19 in Terre Haute, Ind.

Eugene-Springfield is one of nine host sites across the nation that automatically advance the top two team finishers and top four individuals from non-qualifying teams to the NCAA Championships, scheduled for Monday, November 19 at Indiana State University’s LaVern Gibson Championship Course in Terre Haute, Ind.

Another 13 at-large teams and two at-large individuals will be added from across the nation to the 31-team, 255-runner M&W NCAA fields on the evening of Sun., Nov. 11. At-large team selection criteria is based on teams’ head-to-head records against other actual and potential NCAA qualifiers.

The Husky women’s team will be looking to secure its first NCAA bid since 2004, and will be among the top contenders in the loaded regional field. The men will be aiming for their fourth appearance in the past five years. Oregon, which boasts the No. 1-ranked men and No. 2 women, hosts the event at the Springfield Country Club.

Stanford’s Nef Araia is the returning men’s regional champion and the top NCAA returnee from last year after he took second in the collegiate finale. Oregon’s Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwoot is the reigning Pac-10 champion and teammate Galen Rupp is the American collegiate record-holder at 10,000-meters on the track, the same distance as the regionals.

Seniors Andrew Jones and Alex Grant lead the WSU men. Junior Drew Polley, sophomore Daniel Geib and redshirt sophomore Sam Ahlbeck are projected scorers for WSU, and rounding out the squad are redshirt sophomore Dominic Smargiassi and redshirt freshman Luke Lemenager

For the Huskies, coach Greg Metcalf projects running redshirt freshman Riley Booker, juniors Jon Harding and Caleb Knox; freshman Max O’Donoghue-McDonald; seniors Carl Moe & Adam Shimer; and sophomores Kelly Spady & Colton Tully-Doyle (one from this group is traveling as an alternate).

There is little room to argue at the moment that the women’s West Region is anything but the best in the country. One need look no further than the current rankings, which show four West teams in the top-seven while no other region has more than one. Top-ranked Stanford is followed by No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State, and No. 7 Washington. Also competing are No. 22 Northern Arizona, No. 27 UC Santa Barbara, the Big West champions, and West Coast Conference champions Portland.

The Husky women set a record by placing three runners on the All-Pac-10 team, led by first teamer Anita Campbell, who placed sixth in 20:10. Katie Follett earned second team honors with her ninth place finish, and Mel Lawrence joined Follett on the second team by virtue of her 13th-place run in her first Pac-10’s. Follett made the biggest leap from the previous year, going 79th to 9th. Amanda Miller also had a big day, finishing 15th, just one spot out of the conference honors.

Also projected to run for the Dawgs in Springfield are senior Trisha Rasmussen, freshman Lauren Saylor , and junior Dani Schuster

The Cougars are led by senior Isley Gonzalez, sophomore Sara Trané, and junior Meghan Leonard, who all placed in the top-25 at the 2007 Pacific-10 Championships. Senior Collier Lawrence looks to improve on recent performances, while freshman Ashlee Wall and sophomores Lisa Egami and Chelsea VanDeBrake complete the women's line-up.

Stanford claimed its eighth-straight regional title last year then followed up with an NCAA Championship victory. Also advancing out of the region was UCSB (9th at NCAA’s) and Arizona State (13th at NCAA’s). Stanford boasts the two prohibitive individual favorites in two-time defending Pac-10 and Regional Champion Arianna Lambie, and Teresa McWalters, runner-up at Pac-10’s.

Eastern has three athletes with a chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Paul Limpf, Mattie Bridgmon and Samantha Modderman all earned All-Big Sky Conference honors by finishing in the top 10 at the BSC Championships on Oct. 27.

Limpf is a junior from Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Wash. and graduated in 2005. Bridgmon is a junior from Laramie, Wyo., who graduated from Laramie HS in 2005, while Modderman is a senior from Walker, Minn., who graduated from Kenowa Hills HS '04 and transferred from Cedarville Univ.

"Paul Limpf, Mattie Bridgmon, and Samantha Modderman hope to be one of the top four individuals and qualify for the National Championships," said EWU cross country coach Chris Zeller. "More teams will qualify in the men's race, which will help Paul's chances a bit. All three are incredibly fit and feeling good right now."

The Bulldogs of Gonzaga will be led by Colby Litzenberger (20th), and Molly Funk(30th), who were the top finishers in the West Coast Conference meet two weeks ago.

For the first posting of results, please visit www.ncaasports.com.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State University, Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University, the University of Oregon & the NCAA all contributed to this report.

Mike Scott's analysis of the NCAA D-I coaches' poll...

Here's a link to Mike Scott's analysis of the NCAA Division I women's cross country poll, as voted on by selected members of the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

http://miscott.home.att.net/wxcanal/xc2007/wxc1105.htm


This weekend is NCAA regionals weekend, with nine regional meets around the country, including the West regionals in Springfield, Oregon, hosted by the University of Oregon.

The top two teams, plus the top four individuals, automatically advance to the NCAA Championships on November 19th in Terre Haute, Indiana.

A preview of the NCAA West Regionals, featuring the University of Washington, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, and Gonzaga will be up later today.

Funeral arrangements for Ryan Shay, courtesy Walt Murphy...


Ryan Shay (l) finishing at the 2005 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. /photo by Paul Merca


For those of you interested, here's a link to some information on Ryan Shay's funeral on Sunday, November 11th in Michigan, courtesy of Walt Murphy, posted on Larry Eder's blog, RunBlogRun.com.

Larry is the publisher of American Track & Field, and runs the Running Network, which is a group of several regional & national running publications, including Northwest Runner.

Click here for more information on Ryan Shay's funeral...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Ryan Shay--May 4, 1979 - Nov. 3, 2007

Ryan Shay in action at the 2005 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. /photo by Paul Merca

Like many people in the running community who were in attendance on Saturday, or who followed the progress of the runners at the US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon in New York, I was positively stunned at the passing of Ryan Shay at the 5.5 mile mark of the race.

My race day in New York started off well. I opted not to shoot the start at Rockefeller Center, but instead walked from the Sheraton Manhattan to Tavern on the Green to get myself set up.

Once the race got started, I ran with my camera and saw some familiar faces from Osaka! It was cool hanging out during the early part of the race with Adam & Kara Goucher, who were getting hassled by the overzealous NYC cops for not having credentials...great shooting the breeze.

I had to leave them as the runners entered the west side of Central Park to run to the east side and shoot them. After I left Adam & Kara, ran into Bernard Lagat & his coach James Li, and Sean Hartnett of Track & Field News (one of my cohorts in Osaka at the Hotel Chuo). We all found out at the same time what happened to Ryan...it was spooky when we saw the ambulance leading the pace truck around the 10k mark.

As the race progressed it was more running from one side of the park to the other to catch the progress of the race. The race between spectators from one side of the park to the other was just as fun to watch as the race on the pavement of Central Park! I should've turned on my iPod Nano and counted my mileage running with my camera.

About 1 1/2 hours into the race, I ran into Dena Evans, who went to Mercer Island HS, then ran & coached at Stanford, and was running the NYCM the next day. She helped coach Alicia (Craig) Shay, Ryan's wife at Stanford. I felt bad that I had to break the news to Dena about Ryan.

After the field finished the race, and did the post race interviews with Mike Sayenko and Sean Sundwall for Northwest Runner, I went inside Tavern on the Greem for the post-race press conference, which was quite awkward.

Apparently the top 3 guys were told about what happened to Ryan (turned out only Ryan Hall & Dathan Ritzenhein knew, but not Brian Sell), but were asked not to say anything until Mary Wittenberg, the CEO of the NYRR made the announcement; however, Ryan Hall started to say in his opening statement words to the effect of his sorrow over what happened when his mike conveniently went out.

The press conference went on for close to 30 minutes, until someone asked the runners to comment on Shay...Richard Finn, the NYRR pr guy tried to deflect the question away, but Ryan Hall answered it anyway...and that's when Mary Wittenberg made the announcement.

The video of the press conference is here...


While the team members were talking, I was going thru my photos to see if perchance I had any shots of Shay (I didn't think I did).

Although I'd known about his death for at least 90 min., I didn't want to call back to Seattle until there was official confirmation. After Mary announced it, I was on the phone to Martin Rudow, as we had some decisions to make on how we were going to do the story...

Here's part of what I wrote:

I worked with Ryan as a member of two United States national teams, as Team USA’s media liaison at the IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Edmonton in 2005, and at this year’s World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya.

Ryan missed his flight from Arizona to Edmonton, so he was routed through Seattle. On the Horizon Air plane for the short flight to the Canadian city, we spent the time talking about his passion for Notre Dame, where he graduated in 2001 with two degrees in economics and computer applications, and its football team, which had beaten the University of Washington in Seattle the week before 36-17 in coach Tyrone Willingham’s first game against the Irish since he was fired at the end of the 2004 season.

Here's a photo of Team USA after our sightseeing tour of Mombasa, Kenya. Ryan is standing, sixth from the left. /photo by Paul Merca

After picking up our luggage and walking to the IAAF family holding area at the airport, one of the volunteers escorted us to a courtesy car for a ride to our hotel, explaining that we would have to wait for two more passengers. The two passengers turned out to be 2004 Olympic 1500 and 5000 meter winner Hicham El Guerrouj and his agent. Shay was genuinely thrilled to sit and talk to the greatest middle distance runner of the current generation.

In Edmonton, Shay finished fifteenth in 1:03:13, the highest placing by an American in that event.
This past spring, Shay was one of the leaders of an admittedly depleted Team USA cross country squad that traveled to Mombasa, Kenya for the world championships, where he finished 99th over the 12k distance, running 41:12 over extremely hot and humid conditions.

In Mombasa, I was extremely impressed not only with the way he helped counsel and interacted with members of the junior men’s team, but also with the rest of the Team USA squad, which had may new faces competing for the first time on the international stage.


For every member of that team, the trip to Kenya was probably the most eye-opening experience of our lifetime, as we went through one of the poorest parts of Mombasa on the team bus on our visit to St Peter’s The Rock School for special needs students the day before the meet, where the team presented the students with shoes collected before the trip.


A few hours after competing, Ryan, Matt Gabrielson, and I sat in the hotel lobby talking about our week in Kenya, and how it had opened our eyes. We all agreed that we wished we had brought with us basic necessities like toothbrushes, personal hygiene and school supplies to give to the kids.

Summing up our trip, Shay said that every one of us should be grateful for the things we have in our lives.

I am grateful to have known Ryan Shay.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Here's how the guys from the state of Washington did at the US Olympic Marathon Trials...


NEW YORK--2007 University of Washington standout Mike Sayenko (above, /photo by Paul Merca) was the top finisher among runners with Washington state ties competing at the US Olympic Trials-Men's Marathon Saturday in New York's Central Park.

Sayenko crossed the finish in a personal best time of 2:18.35, good for 29th place.

Ten seconds and one place behind Sayenko was former Mercer Island High School standout Donnie Fellows, also in a personal best.

Sayenko & Fellows were two of 39 men under 2:20, the most sub-2:20 in the race since the 1980 marathon trials in Buffalo.

Sean Sundwall of Snoqualmie, who qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon four weeks earlier at the St George marathon in Utah, finished 90th in 2:30:41.

Mike Heidt from Shoreline did not finish, dropping out sometime after the 30-kilometer mark.

After the race, Sayenko said, “It was a great experience. It’s so loud out here on the west side. It really got the adrenalin going. I felt good. I loved Central Park—it's a good course”.

“I wanted to go out conservative and pick people off. I was running on pace—5:10 to 5:15 pace for the first half. I knew that people were going to come back.”



Sundwall (above, /photo by Paul Merca), who qualified for this race only four weeks earlier at the St. George Marathon in Utah with a personal best of 2:18:55, said, “Normally I would be disappointed with my time, but this is a chance of a lifetime for me. It was a thrill to be running with the nation’s best. I’m 34 years old, and this is probably it for me.”

“I really started to feel (the effects of the St George marathon) at about 17 miles. During the four-week recovery after the race (in which he qualified with a personal best of 2:18:55), I felt ok. On the last lap, I knew I was in trouble.”

When asked on preparing for the Trials with miniscule recovery time, he said that he ran about 75 miles in the first week, then dropped the mileage down to the mid-50s.

“I did a series of speed workouts, and I felt fine. I’m getting too old to do two marathons in four weeks.”

Sayenko and Sundwall each posted blogs describing the run to the Trials. You can read Mike's blog here, and Steve's here...

Paula Radcliffe wins the New York Marathon...


NEW YORK--Paula Radcliffe, the current world record holder in the marathon, proved that she is well on her way back to elite world class form, winning Sunday's ING New York City Marathon in 2:23:09.

Radcliffe repelled the challenge of Ethiopia's Gete Wami, who won the real-Berlin Marathon a few weeks ago, over the final two kilometers.

The Brit had a one-second lead over Wami at 40 kilometers (2:15:40), and extended it for a 23-second advantage.

Wami finished second in 2:23:32, while defending NYC marathon champ Jelena Prokopcuka of Latvia was third in 2:26:13.

Elva Dryer was the top American finisher, running 2:35:15 for sixth place.

In the men’s race, Kenya Martin Lel outkicked Abderrahim Goumri of Morocco, 2:09:04 to 2:09:16, surviving a war of attrition which cut the field from a group of 17 at the halfway point in 1:05:45.

The two had dueled similarly in April at London, when Lel sprinted past Goumri (in his first-ever marathon) to win by three seconds.

This time Lel didn’t wait for the last 50 metres. With 400m or so to go, he accelerated swiftly and opened an eight-meter lead which he held to the line. More than two minutes behind Lel’s 2:09:04 and Goumri’s 2:09:16, Ramaala straggled in 2:11:25, with Italy’s Olympic champion Stefano Baldini charging up from tenth at 30km to grab fourth in 2:11:58.

Chris Charles of Seattle was the top finisher from Washington state, running 2:34:53, for 48th place.

Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finished in 2:46:43.

The IAAF contibuted parts of this report.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

What should have been a celebration...

America's marathon team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (from left): Brian Sell (3rd), Ryan Hall (1st), and Dathan Ritzenhein (2nd). /photo by Paul Merca

...turned to tragedy as Ryan Shay passed away during Saturday's running of the US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon in New York.

Most of the major media and sports outlets online have full details on Shay's death, so I won't repeat what is known.

I just arrived in Seattle a short while ago from the Trials in New York, and am under a tight deadline for Northwest Runner magazine. Therefore, I will hold my thoughts and observations until Sunday.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Poll results--US Olympic marathon trials...

Abdi Abdirahman is your favorite to make the US Olympic team in the marathon. /photo by Paul Merca

NEW YORK--The votes are in...Abdi Abdirahman, aka "Black Cactus" is your overwhelming favorite to earn one of the three spots on the Olympic marathon team when they run Saturday morning.

Brian Sell & Ryan Hall received the next highest votes, followed by 2004 Olympic marathon silver medalist Meb Keflezighi and Ryan Shay.

We race Saturday morning...thanks for voting!

Notes from New York City the day before the US Olympic Marathon Trials...

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong smiles as he hands out Live Strong shirts to customers at the NikeTown in New York /photo by Paul Merca

NEW YORK--Today was the last real media day in the buildup to Saturday’s US Olympic Marathon Trials and ING New York City Marathon on Sunday.

As blogged earlier, Paula Radcliffe spoke to the press this afternoon at Tavern on the Green, next to the finish line at Central Park.

Seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong made an appearance at the NikeTown near Central Park, where he handed out Live Strong shirts to NYC Marathon entrants. Armstrong is one of the 38000 that are entered in the race.

I had an opportunity to check out and run over part of the Central Park criterium course that will be used to select the US Olympic team. The rolling terrain through the park may make things interesting.

Just heard the weather forecast for Saturday, and looks like a chance of showers with temperatures in the low 50s. The part that may concern the runners, as noted in a brief conversation I had with Keith and Kevin Hanson, the coaches of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, is the wind. The wind may affect the race strategy, depending on the individuals.


Dinner tonight was in the Times Square area. It's changed considerably since I was last in the area in 1991.

We start things up at 7:30 am eastern time, with live coverage on NBCSports.com. A highlight show will be aired on NBC Sports.

Paula Radcliffe press conference highlights...


Paula Radcliffe talks about her preparations for Sunday's ING New York City Marathon Friday at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. /photo by Paul Merca


Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain, the current world record holder in the marathon, spoke to members of the media today at Tavern on the Green in advance of Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon.

Here are some of the highlights:

On whether or not she will run another marathon before Beijing: I don’t know. I will have to play it by ear.

On combining motherhood and the demands of being a world class athlete:
So far, I am really enjoying combining the two. One important thing with me is that the happier I am, the better I run. I’ve been very lucky, as (husband) Gary Lough is really good with (Isla, born on January 17th). She’s definitely a daddy’s girl, and she’s used to traveling a lot. You have to be organized a lot with her, but the benefit is that you spend a lot less time worrying about the race.

On recovering after the pregnancy: It took me a little longer than I anticipated, because I had an injury afterwards. Having said that, I felt stronger coming back afterwards. Stamina wise, I feel a lot better, and feel like I can run longer than before.

On whether she will be cautious in the early part of Sunday’s race: I doubt it. I feel prepared to run well over the marathon distance, so I will go and run my race.

On the field for Sunday’s race: I would equate the field to that of a major championship race. With the exception of the Japanese and Deena (Kastor), this is a great stage to make a return.

On whether or not she feels recharged after the pregnancy break: Unfortunately, it’s been a longer break than I had planned because of the injury (a stress fracture of the sacrum), but at the same time, the break has refreshed my desire to come back to racing. It’s given my body a bit of down time, which isn’t a bad thing either. My core is stronger than it’s ever been.

On her pregnancy: I was really lucky. I had a great pregnancy. I ran through the first five months. Up until then, I was running twice a day. After that, the priority changed from getting the number one benefit of training to making sure the baby was fine. From seven months on, I ran about every other day based on how I felt.

On not having pacemakers in the women’s elite race: With the quality of the field, I don’t think it will make much difference. In men’s racing, the pacemakers go a long ways, but it’s very rare we have pacemakers unless it’s a mixed race. With the field as strong as it is, people are going to be listening to each other more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We interrupt the coverage of the marathon trials...

...to pass along a link from the IAAF on our own Brad Walker:

"For a man normally prepared to meet risk head-on – he has a passion for extreme sports, likes fast cars, and won a World Pole Vault title despite suffering concussion from a nasty fall in warm-up – Brad Walker is contrastingly cautious in one respect. Ask him if he is the athlete to extend the United States’ proud Olympic tradition in his event and he takes no chances with his answer".

The full article can be accessed here...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Marathon Trials Week!

Leading up to the coverage this Saturday of the US Olympic Team Trials-Men's Marathon (yes, that's the official name of the event, even though everyone out in cyberland calls it the US Olympic marathon trials) in New York, I've set up a poll to find out who you think will be the three runners that will make the team.

Please pick up to three runners, and don't forget to watch the race online Saturday beginning at 7:30 am eastern (4:30 am on the west coast) at NBCSports.com!

I'll have some previews up in the next few days, and I'll reveal my picks on Friday!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lambie & Stanford repeat as Pac-10 champs; Kiptoo-Biwott wins conference crown to lead Oregon...

Teresa McWalters & Arianna Lambie of Stanford pull away from the pack in Saturday's Pacific-10 Conference cross country championships in Corvallis, Oregon. Lambie won her third straight Pac-10 harrier crown. /photo by Paul Merca

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Top-ranked Stanford captured its 12th-consecutive Pac-10 women's title with 48 points at the Pacific-10 cross country championships at the Trysting Tree Golf Course Saturday.

Meanwhile, Cardinal senior Arianna Lambie made history by becoming just the second woman to win three-straight Pacific 10 individual cross country titles.

Under ideal conditions, Lambie's winning time of 19:40.7 over the 6,000-meter course was just four-hundredths of a second faster than runner-up teammate Teresa McWalters. Second-ranked Oregon finished second with 64 points, barely edging No. 5 Arizona State and Washington, which tied for third with 68 points.

Anita Campbell and Katie Follett both posted top-10 finishes, leading the No. 9 Husky women's cross country team to a tie for third at the Pac-10 Championships in a talented and tightly bunched women's field.

Campbell's sixth-place finish in 20:10 garners her first team All-Pac-10 acclaim for the first time, after earning second team honors a year ago. Follett came in ninth in a time of 20:26, nearly three full minutes faster than her time one year ago.

Freshman Marie Lawrence also earned All-Pac-10 second team honors with a 13th-place finish, adding to her outstanding rookie campaign. Lawrence was third among all frosh.

Barely missing out on making it four Huskies on the All-Conference team was junior Amanda Miller, who placed 15th in a new personal-best time of 20:38, her first time under 21-minutes. Senior Trisha Rasmussen also broke the 21-minute barrier, finishing 25th overall and fifth for UW in a time of 20:56. Rounding out the UW's top-seven was sophomore Brooke Anderson in 37th-place (21:19) and freshman Lauren Saylor in 41st-place (21:27).

Andrea Brown was 58th in 21:54; Dani Schuster 59th in 21:59, and Anna Imperati 62nd in 22:04 for Washington.

"This is as good as I've ever seen the Pac-10," said head coach Greg Metcalf in regards to the women's field. "We had raced Oregon and Arizona State earlier this year and they beat us pretty solid, so we are very pleased with what our women did today, that was a pretty monstrous step forward for our women's program.

The Washington State women's cross country team was led to a fifth-place team finish by Isley Gonzalez, who placed eighth.

Gonzalez clocked a 20-minute, 26.6 second time on the 6,000 meter course for the Cougars.

"Honestly, it was a little surprising and I am still in shock," said Gonzalez. "All of the training paid off."

Sophomore Sara Trané (20th, 20:47) and junior Meghan Leonard (23rd, 20:55) were followed across the finish line by senior Collier Lawrence (36th, 21:19) and sophomore Lisa Egami (51st, 21:44) to round out the top five scorers for the women. Sophomore Chelsea VanDeBrake (60th, 22:02) and freshman Ashlee Wall (65th, 22:06) also scored for the Cougars. The other WSU women competing were freshman Amanda Andrews (75th, 22:39) and sophomore Marisa Sandoval (83rd, 23:06).

"That is the best that Isley Gonzalez has run in a Cougar uniform," said WSU Head Coach Jason Drake. "Overall, this was the the best race the women have had since I have been here."

The No. 1-ranked Oregon men won their second-straight Pac-10 title with 39 points. Duck teammates Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott and Galen Rupp finished one and two overall, with Kiptoo-Biwott's winning time at 22:54 over the 8,000-meter course.

Number 15 Stanford placed second with 55 points as they placed three runners in the top-six. No. 8 Cal was third with 70 points, No. 19 UCLA was fourth with 97 points, and No. 25 Arizona State took fifth with 105 points. The Huskies finished with 162 points.

Harding, a junior, led the men for the third time in four meets this year, finishing 20th in 23:34. Running second for the Dawgs in a surprise performance was junior Caleb Knox, who had never before placed in UW's top-five, and had not competed at the Pac-10 Championships since his freshman year in 2004. Knox finished 31st in a personal-record time of 23:52.

"Caleb is making steady progress and you could tell he was calm, cool, and collected on the starting line, and he went out and ran a very solid second half of the race and did a very good job," Metcalf said."

Sophomore Kelly Spady and freshman Max O'Donoghue-McDonald were 35th, and 36th, respectively, and senior Carl Moe was fifth for UW in 40th place. Sophomore Colton Tully-Doyle had one of his strongest Husky outings since transferring from UC Santa Barbara, as he placed 45th in a time of 24:25. Sophomore Riley Booker rounded out UW's top-seven in 49th-place with a time of 24:36. Brian Govier was 59th in 24:40, and Chris Ahl 65th in 24:54.

"Coming in we were probably supposed to be sixth," said Metcalf of the men. "Jon Harding came in and ran solid, but right now we're just not entirely healthy. We're battling through some nagging pains and we've got two weeks to get it straightened out. A year ago we walked into the Pac-10 Championships and finished sixth and wound up 12th in the nation. But we've just got to go build some more momentum and get fresh and emotionally ready to go at Regionals. For our men to get to the NCAA Championships we've got to run much better than we did today. It's kind of gut-check time."

For the Cougars, junior Andrew Jones was 23rd (23:43), senior Alex Grant finished 30th (23:49), and junior Drew Polley crossed the line just behind at 34th (23:54), to help the Cougars to a seventh place team finish. Other top finishers included sophomore Daniel Geib (48th, 24:15) and sophomore Dominic Smargiassi (57th, 24:34). Rounding out the scorers for the WSU were senior Chris Concha (64th, 24:50) and freshman David Hickerson (67th, 24:58). Senior Chris Williams (74th, 25:32) also competed for the Cougars.

"Andrew Jones, Alex Grant, and Drew Polley all had good days," Drake said. "It was nice to see Alex run a little better than the last race."

The next race for both the Huskies and Cougars is the NCAA West Regionals in Springfield, Oregon on Saturday November 10th, hosted by the University of Oregon. A top two finish will automatically earn a berth in the NCAA Championships on November 19th in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Please click here to see the photo gallery of the men's race, and here for the women's race from the Pacific-10 Conference cross country championships.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and the Pacific-10 Conference all contributed to this report.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Oregon State set to host Pac-10 cross country championships Saturday...


CORVALLIS, Oregon--Conference titles are up for grabs Saturday as the Washington & Washington State men’s and women’s cross country teams head for Corvallis to run in the 2007 Pac-10 Championships.

The ninth-ranked Husky women will look to go toe-to-toe with three other top-10 teams and stay the course for an NCAA berth, while the Husky men have a great opportunity this weekend to make a move on some of the nation’s top teams.

The meet will be contested at the Trysting Tree Golf Course, home of Oregon State. The men’s race begins at 9:30 a.m. and the women start at 10:30 a.m.

Pac-10 Championships Schedule (All Times Pacific)
Men’s 8K Race: 9:30 a.m.
Women’s 6K Race: 10:30 a.m.

Pac-10 Championships Preview: This year’s Pac-10 Championships are highlighted on both the men’s and women’s side by the current unanimous No. 1 team in the nation. Oregon on the men’s side and Stanford on the women’s side each received all 13 first place votes in the most recent coaches’ poll. Both are the defending Conference champions, and the Stanford women are the defending NCAA champions.

The women’s field can easily claim to be the toughest conference in the nation, as the ninth-ranked Huskies are only fourth in the rankings among Pac-10 teams heading into the meet. The women’s field boasts No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Arizona State, and the No. 9 Huskies. The Big Ten is the only other conference with four top-10 teams, but No. 6 Michigan is its highest-ranked member.

On the men’s side, the Huskies will face five ranked opponents, starting at the top with Oregon, and followed by No. 8 California, No. 15 Stanford, No. 19 UCLA and No. 25 Arizona State.

Top individuals on hand include Stanford senior Arianna Lambie, who will attempt to become the second woman ever to win three consecutive Pac-10 titles. Oregon junior Galen Rupp (pictured above, /photo by Paul Merca) is the defending men’s champion, however he has yet to compete this year, after an extended summer season, which included running at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Osaka, Japan.

"The top five teams are ranked in the top 30 in America, UW just fell out of the rankings, and I think us and UW are really close to each other," WSU Head Coach Jason Drake said. "If anyone messes up or has an off day we can sneak in and beat them. I think both teams are stronger than we've had in the past few years and we're excited to see what happens."

"The top four teams are all ranked in the top 10 in America," Drake said. "We want to try to close in on the gap a little bit but it will tough for us. There are the top four and then everyone else is racing for fifth, and I feel our women are better than the rest of the conference. We are hoping to be in that top five."

The following are the projected entries listed by Washington and Washington State for Saturday’s race in Corvallis:

WASHINGTON MEN

Name Yr. Hometown (High School)
Austin Abbott Jr. Chehalis, Wash. (W.F. West)
Chris Ahl So. Seattle, Wash. (Bishop Blanchet)
Riley Booker RFr. San Diego, Calif. (University City)
Brian Govier RFr. Mercer Island, Wash. (Mercer Island)
Jon Harding Jr. Issaquah, Wash. (Issaquah)
Caleb Knox Jr. Mill Creek, Wash. (Jackson)
Max O’Donoghue-McDonald Fr. Seattle, Wash. (Seattle Prep)
Carl Moe Sr. Auburn, Wash. (Auburn-Riverside)
Kelly Spady So. Mukilteo, Wash. (Kamiak)
Colton Tully-Doyle So. San Diego, Calif. (Rancho Bernardo)

WSU MEN: Cougars will have 10 competitors in Corvallis...senior Andrew Jones looks to improve on his team-leading performances...WSU will also look to seniors Alex Grant, Drew Polley, and Chris Williams, as well as sophomores Dominic Smargiassi and Dan Geib for strong performances at the championships...other competitors for the men include senior Chris Concha, sophomore Sam Ahlbeck, redshirt freshman Luke Lemenager, and freshman David Hickerson.

WASHINGTON WOMEN

Name Yr. Hometown (High School)
Brooke Anderson So. San Diego, Calif. (University City)
Andrea Brown Jr. Bellingham, Wash. (Mt. Baker)
Anita Campbell Jr. Vancouver, B.C. (Aldregrove)
Katie Follett So. Fort Collins, Colo. (Fort Collins)
Anna Imperati So. Portland, Ore. (Jesuit)
Marie Lawrence Fr. Reno, Nev. (Reno)
Amanda Miller Jr. Wenatchee, Wash. (Eastmont)
Trisha Rasmussen Sr. Phoenix, Ariz. (Mountain Ridge)
Lauren Saylor Fr. Clovis, Calif. (Buchanan)
Dani Schuster Jr. Kennewick, Wash. (Kamiakin)

WSU WOMEN: Nine women will compete for the Cougars Saturday...leading WSU is sophomore Sara Trané who hopes to improve on an already strong season...seniors Isley Gonzalez and Collier Lawrence, and junior Meghan Leonard should place well for the Cougars...sophomores Chelsea VanDeBrake and Lisa Egami, as well as freshman Ashlee Wall have a chance to score...also competing for WSU are redshirt sophomore Marisa Sandoval and freshman Amanda Andrews...six of the Cougar runners competed last year at the Pac-10 Championships.

Results will be posted at osubeavers.com, and at www.pac-10.org.

NOTE: The sports information offices of the University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and the Pacific-10 Conference all contributed to this report.

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