Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Good read on Galen Rupp...


As a preview of Friday's Millrose Games in New York, Frank Litzky, the long-time track & field writer for the New York Times, has a short feature on the University of Oregon's Galen Rupp, (left, /photo by Paul Merca) who is taking this season off to prepare for an Olympic team berth.

You can read Frank's story here...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How not to finish a marathon...

As a follow up to the previous post on Mara Yamauchi's victory in the Osaka Ladies' Marathon is a YouTube clip of Kayoko Fukushi finishing.

Fukushi is the national record holder at 5000m and 3000m and six-time national 10,000m champion as well as five-time national 5000m champion, and is cited as one of the greatest women’s track runners in Japan.

Fukushi, who was running her debut marathon Sunday, essentially took off from the gun before being passed at the 34k mark.

Here's the finish:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mara Yamauchi wins Osaka Ladies Marathon


Great Britain's Mara Yamauchi won today's running of the Osaka Ladies' Marathon, cruising in a time of 2:25:10, and almost certainly punching her ticket to Beijing to join Paula Radcliffe.

She passed Kayoko Fukushi, the Asian record holder (1:07:26) at the half marathon, who was making her marathon debut in the 2008 Osaka Ladies Marathon, shortly after 34 kilometers to take the victory.

It was a personal best by three seconds and the first marathon victory for Yamauchi, who improved on her previous personal best of 2:25:13 from the 2006 London Marathon.

Yamauchi, who lives in Japan, had experience on the Osaka course, as she was ninth at the world championships (above, talking to reporters in the mixed zone /photo by Paul Merca) last year.

You can read the full details of the race here.

Complete results are posted here; to check out Mara Yamauchi's web site, and her thoughts on her victory, click here...


Just brutal...

Thanks to my friend Alison Wade of EliteRunning.com, I was steered to a new running web site called Runnerville.com, which has among others, Mary Wittenberg, Chris Lear, Toni Reavis, Matt Taylor, and Lauren Fleshman as contributors.

One item posted that piqued my interest was a video of Carl Lewis, the nine-time Olympic gold medalist, and perhaps the greatest track and field athlete of our generation.

It's a music video Lewis made in his heyday, where he's working out, with some track & field footage thrown in for good measure.

I'd forgotten about this video, until a few weeks ago, when I heard a discussion on celebrities that have butchered the national anthem, including Lewis (he killed the national anthem at the New Jersey Meadowlands before an NBA game, which is an ESPN Sportscenter classic; I'm guessing that Jimmy Hoffa was rolling around his alleged grave next door at Giants Stadium).

For your viewing pleasure, here it is, courtesy of YouTube, Carl Lewis' video, "Break it Up":

WSU's Trent Arrivey gets NCAA provisional mark...


Washington State sophomore Trent Arrivey (left, /courtesy WSU Sports Information) won the men's high jump, clearing an NCAA Provisional Qualifying height and personal-best of 7-feet, 1/4 inch (2.14m) Saturday at the Cougar Indoor Track & Field meet at the Washington State Indoor Facility.

This was the first collegiate seven-foot clearance for Arrivey who had cleared the height as a prep athlete in Woodinville, Wash. He led the Cougars to a one-two-three sweep in the event with freshman Ryan Deese the runner-up after clearing 6-9 3/4 (2.08m), and senior Kyle Eaton's height of 6-6 (1.98m) third.

WSU senior Rickey Moody won the men's heptathlon with a final score of 5,216 points, followed by Cougars Kyle Schauble (PR of 5,032 points) and Trevor Habberstad (4,611 points). In second-day events, Moody ran a 60m hurdles time of 8.31 seconds, pole vaulted 12-5 1/2 (3.80m), and ran the 1000m in a time of 3:06.02. Moody's score was a PR for him but just missed the NCAA provisional mark of 5,300 points.

Cougar women winners Saturday included Collier Lawrence in the 3000m (10:13.31), McKinnon Hanson in the high jump (5-6, 1.68m), and Sarah Burns in the triple jump (39-8, 12.09m). Princess Joy Griffey was the top collegian in the 60m dash (7.54) and Candace Missouri (freshman, Vancouver, Wash.) was the best collegian in the long jump with a leap of 18-10 (5.74m) in addition to her second-place finish in both the long jump (18-10, 5.74m) and the triple jump (38-9 3/4, 11.83m).

The full story and results are available here...

NOTE: WSU Sports Information contributed to this report.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Brad Walker injured in Glasgow...


Brad Walker's second meet of the young 2008 season ended with a thud, as the former Washington Husky landed awkwardly after attempting 18 feet, 4 inches, the winning height for Germany's Alexander Straub. Walker blamed the mishap on a new set of poles.

''I'm a bit frustrated because if I had a normal series of poles it would have been a different outcome,'' Walker told The Associated Press.

The 26-year-old world indoor and outdoor champion said no bones were broken but he could miss Friday's Millrose Games in New York.

Meanwhile, former Cougar Bernard Lagat, (above/photo courtesy USATF) the double world champion declared he is “absolutely where I am supposed to be right now” after a commanding win over Kenya’s Shadrack Korir in the 1500m.

Lagat bided his time in third place until 300m to go before unleashing his trademark finishing kick over the last lap to win in 3:45.89.

After the race, the 33-year-old Lagat ruled out competing in the World Indoors in Valencia, Spain in March, which was his mantra for the '08 indoor season.

Instead, Lagat has his sights on the Beijing Games, where he hopes to repeat his double triumph last year in the 1,500 and 5,000 at the World Championships in Japan.

“That was absolutely the kind of start I was looking for,” said the American, who then donned a tartan hat to the cheers of the small but noisy Scottish crowd.

The full story can be read here; full results of the meet can be obtained here...

NOTE: The IAAF contributed to this report.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spirit of the Marathon review...

Last night, I went to see the movie "Spirit of the Marathon" at the Commons Mall in Federal Way, as the showing in downtown Seattle was sold out.

“Spirit of the Marathon” is the first ever non-fiction feature film to capture the drama and essence of the famed 26.2 mile running event. Filmed on four continents, the production brings together a diverse cast of amateur athletes and marathon luminaries. As six unique stories unfold, each runner prepares for and ultimately faces the challenge of the Chicago Marathon. More than a sports program, “Spirit of the Marathon” is an inspirational journey of perseverance and personal triumph; a spectacle that will be embraced by runners and non-runners alike.

Four years in the making, “Spirit of the Marathon” is the collaborative effort of three-time Academy Award winner Mark Jonathon Harris, Telly Award winner and marathon runner Jon Dunham and producer/marathoner Gwendolen Twist.

The movie features six runners, including Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor, Kenya's Daniel Njenga, Ryan Bradley, Leah Calle, Gerald Myers, & Lori O'Connor in their preparation for the 2005 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.

It used archived footage and photos from several Olympic marathons, including Abebe Bikila's 1960 & '64 Olympic triumphs which fostered the beginning of the Africans as world forces in distance running, and the Los Angeles Olympics, where Joan Benoit Samuelson won the first women's marathon.

The documentary took the viewers behind the scenes as they trained and prepared for Chicago. Included were footage of Myers, O'Connor, Calle & Bradley participating in group marathon training sessions in the Chicago area, along with Kastor preparing in Mammoth Lakes, Califonia, and Njenga training in both Kenya and Japan, where he spends most of his time as a member of the Yakult corporate team.

In some of the shots of Njenga training, you can see the Japanese influence as he does some of his runs wearing a full warmup suit and lightweight road racing flats, typical of most elite Japanese marathoners. His running form and mechanics has a distinctively Japanese style.

In Kenya, Njenga talks about how his house was burned down by thugs who killed his brother and nephew because he didn't give them any money, which given the current situation in Kenya, is quite relevant.

The cinematography was awesome, particularly the fly-over shots of the start of the race and the city, and the post-race scene with the space blankets. The use of a full orchestra for the movie's score accentuated the visuals of the event, and added a dramatic flair.

A scene where Ryan Bradley, a 3:10 marathoner runs on a treadmill for a short time at 5-minute mile pace, gives the viewer a perspective of what it's like to run at world-class marathon pace, although there was a part of me that was waiting for him to get slammed against the wall like a cartoon character running on a treadmill that's set too fast!

The stories of the non-elite runners were very compelling for the most part, including the reasons why they want to take on the challenge of the marathon. In the movie, viewers visit the orphanage in Pittsburgh, where O'Connor, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Northwestern, was picked up by her parents, and where she reveals that she's running Chicago to help raise money for the orphanage. Viewers are also taken on a visit to Bradley's doctor, where he's told he can't run Chicago due to a knee problem.

If there's one part of the movie that could've been cut, it's the scene of the pre-race expo where John "The Penguin" Bingham shoots his mouth off about how the race course is open for seven hours, and "if you finish faster, you're not getting your money's worth". I nearly jumped out of my seat and wanted to run to the big screen and positively strangle him! I do admit to muttering a few choice expletives loud enough for a few people around me to hear!

After the movie, they showed a few clips of deleted scenes, and a question-and-answer session with both Kastor and Olympic Trials champ Ryan Hall. My favorite deleted scene was the one of Njenga showing the cameraman the river where the hippos were sleeping/hiding at nightfall by throwing rocks at the water. I was waiting for one of them to wake up and charge Njenga and the camera crew.

All in all, this was a very solid movie, and one that communicates the spirit of the marathon. It will be shown in theatres on February 21st, before being released on DVD sometime this summer. The musical score is available through iTunes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Cougar Indoor Team Scoring Meet this weekend...


Washington State University's indoor track and field teams will meet teams from Utah State, University of Idaho, Eastern Washington and the women's team from University of Southern California this Friday and Saturday at the Cougar Indoor Meet...competition starts Friday, Jan. 25 with the women's pentathlon (2:30 p.m.) and men's heptathlon (3:30 p.m.)...the women's long jump, men's and women's weight throws also take place Friday...combined events continue Saturday morning at 9 a.m. with the rest of the meet commencing at 10 a.m...the final event of the day, the 1600m relays, begin at 3:10 p.m...the meet program listing competitors for each event will be posted on the WSU Athletics website, www.wsucougars.com, by noon Thurs., Jan. 24...complete results will be posted on the following the meet's completion on the same site.

The Cougar Indoor Meet will be a team scoring meet with dual meet scoring of 5-3-1 points for first through third place and 5-0 points for first place in the relays...each team will compete against all others in the meet but will choose to count only three of the dual meet scores for NCAA competition requirements.

WSU COMPETITORS ENTERED AT WSU OPEN INDOOR MEET, JAN 25-26:

WSU Women
60m - Princess Joy Griffey, Candace Missouri, La Shawnda Porter-Red
200m - Princess Joy Griffey, La Shawnda Porter-Red
400m - Veronica Elseroad-Wall, Selena Galaviz, Caroline Hedel, Lorraine King
800m - Jessica Crannell, Karen DeMartini, Lisa Egami, Anna Layman, Rebecca Williams
Mile - Isley Gonzalez, Meghan Leonard, Haley Paul, Marisa Sandoval, Stephanie Sipes
3000m - Amanda Andrews, Collier Lawrence, Elizabeth Mathison, Chelsea VanDeBrake, Ashlee Wall
60m Hurdles - Angelica Flynn, Lorraine King
4x400m Relay - Elseroad-Wall, Galaviz, Hedel, King
High Jump - Maria Creech, McKinnon Hanson, Amanda Stewart
Pole Vault - Jessica Fuller, Alexa Huestis, Kendall Mays, Hilary Moore, Chelsea Nicholas
Long Jump - Sarah Burns, Candace Missouri, Catie Schuetzle
Triple Jump - Sarah Burns, Candace Missouri, Amy Quinones, Catie Schuetzle
Shot Put - McKenzie Garberg, Jessica Zita
Weight Throw - McKenzie Garberg
Pentathlon - Angela Jensen, Jalisa Williams

WSU Men
60m - Sadiki James, Marlon Murray, Justin Woods
200m - Sadiki James, Marlon Murray
400m - Reny Follett, Devin Timpson
800m - Chris Concha, Luke Lemenager
Mile - Sam Ahlbeck, Evan Blanshan, Chris Concha, Alex Grant, David Hickerson, Dominic Smargiassi
3000m - Sean Coyle, Dan Geib, Drew Polley, Jeremy Swenson, Chris Williams
60m Hurdles - Jeshua Anderson, Robert Williams
4x400m Relay - Follett, Lemenager, Timpson, Woods
High Jump - Trent Arrivey, Ryan Deese, Kyle Eaton
Pole Vault - DJ Brown, Trevor Sodorff
Long Jump - Moreno Zapata
Triple Jump - Moreno Zapata
Shot Put - Matt Lamb
Weight Throw - Phil MacArthur, Chase Mancuso
Heptathlon - Trevor Habberstad, Rickey Moody, Kyle Schauble

NOTE: Special thanks to the Washington State University sports information staff for the release.

Glasgow International preview...


Here's a link to the IAAF's preview of Saturday's Norwich Union International Indoor meet in Glasgow, Scotland, featuring our own Bernard Lagat (left, /photo by Paul Merca) and Brad Walker.

For Lagat, the Glasgow meet is his season opener, while Walker is coming off a tie with Derek Miles in last weekend's Derek Miles and Friends pole vault competition in South Dakota.

You can read about the Norwich Union International Indoor here...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Weekend recap links...


Here are some links to the various meets that happened over the weekend:

University of Washington Indoor Preview:


WSU Indoor Open:

Derek Miles & Friends pole vault competition (Brad Walker's 2008 season opener):

Run for the Dream (USA vs. the World indoor)

Will Leer (in Pomona/Pitzer jersey) broke four minutes in the mile for the first time indoors at the UW Indoor Preview meet on January 19th /photo by Paul Merca

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dempsey Indoor Sub-4 club...


Here’s the list of runners who have broken 4 minutes in the mile at the University of Washington’s Dempsey Indoor facility (/photo courtesy University of Washington)

“The Demp” has gained a reputation as one of the country’s fastest indoor track facilities, with its 307-meter oval.

Here’s the list:

3:56.00 Steve Sherer 2/2/2008

3:56.72 Nick Symmonds 1/13/2007

3:58.54 Chris Estwanik 1/14/2006

3:58.93 Eric Garner 3/2/2002

3:58.95 Grant Robison 3/8/2003

3:59.05 Sean O’Brien 1/14/2006

3:59.08 Jonah Maiyo 2/26/2005

3:59.16 Kyle Perry 2/2/2008

3:59.23 Robert Cheseret 2/26/2005

3:59.25 Mike McGrath 3/4/2006

3:59.29 Russell Brown 2/10/2007

3:59.47 Austin Abbott 2/11/2006

3:59.49 Donald Sage 3/2/2002

3:59.55 Stephen Pifer 2/11/2006

3:59.59 Brandon Strong 3/2/2002

3:59.60 Garrett Heath 2/10/2007

3:59.61 Elliott Blount 1/14/2006

3:59.74 Bernard Kiptum 2/11/2006

3:59.78 Ray Hughes 3/2/2002

3:59.82 Kyle Alcorn 2/2/2008

3:59.83 Will Leer 1/19/2008

3:59.99 Nathan Robison 2/14/2004

SOURCE: University of Washington sports information, and Track & Field Writers of America All-Time World Indoor List, edited by Ed Gordon

Note: Some may have broken four minutes at the Dempsey more than once. This is the fastest time credited to that runner. List updated 2/12/2008.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Listen to my call of Will Leer's sub-4 minute mile today...

The Oregon Track Club's Will Leer ran 3:59.83 to become the 19th different runner to break 4 minutes in the mile at the University of Washington's Dempsey Indoor.

Courtesy of runnerspace.com, here is the video--you'll hear my call of the race!

Paul's notes on today's UW Indoor Preview...

For any of you planning to attend the UW Indoor Preview, I've compiled a series of notes on the meet, mainly to help myself while I'm announcing the meet.

In the TV business, they're called "one-line heroes"; in academia, they're called "bullet points". However you decide to use them, I hope you find this useful as you follow the track meet!

They are .pdf files, so you'll have to print these, unless you have a laptop or mobile device to read it at the meet.

You can download my field event notes here, and the running event notes here!

Doug Binder writes about Galen Rupp's sub-4 attempt today...

Doug Binder, the track & field writer for the Portland Oregonian, has a short piece about Galen Rupp's attempt to break four minutes in the mile at today's UW Indoor Preview.

Rupp, a member of Team USA in the 10000 at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka last year, has driven up to Seattle to train at the Dempsey Indoor, and gone over to Boise to run on their banked track, in order to prepare for the 3000 at next week's Reebok Boston Indoor Games, and the Millrose Games in two weeks, where he'll run the mile.

You can read it here...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Geb's marathon WR attempt falls short...

Ethiopia's Haile Gebreselassie took a shot at breaking his own world record time of 2:04:26 in the marathon in today's running of the Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon.

Led by a small group of pacemakers, the Ethiopian went through the half-marathon mark in 61:27, a pace that would equal 2:02:54.

After the last pacemaker dropped out at 30k, Geb found himself alone for the last 12.19 kilometers. He was still 25 seconds under WR pace through 35 kilos.

The suicidal early pace caught up to him, as he finished in a time of 2:04:53, just 27 seconds shy of the time he ran in the Berlin Marathon in October, winning $250,000, but falling short of a $1 million WR bonus.

Isaac Macharia of Kenya came through to take second place in a personal best 2.07.16, and Sammy Korir, still the third fastest man in history (2.04.56 in Berlin 2003) was third in 2.08.01.

Berhane Adere ran away in the last few kilometres, to win in 2.22.40, less than two minutes outside her Ethiopian women’s record of 2.20.42, set in Chicago 2006. She too won $250,000.

Her colleague, Bezunesh Bekele made one of the fastest marathon debuts in history, finishing second in 2.23.09, and defending champion and countrywoman, Askale Magarska was third, in 2.23.23, also a personal best.

Full details of the Dubai Standard Chartered Marathon can be read here...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Q & A with Norris Frederick

Here's a great Q & A with University of Washington senior long/high jumper Norris Frederick at gohuskies.com.

USA vs the World to be webcast...

Posted on the usatf.org site is a note stating that Monday's USA vs. the World at Run for the Dream meet in Fresno will be webcast, starting at 10 pm, eastern time.

Check the usatf.org website for further details.

Bryan Clay among the headliners at UW Indoor Preview


Late last night, paulmerca.blogspot.com received confirmation that 2004 Athens Olympic decathlon silver medalist and 2005 world champion Bryan Clay (left, /photo courtesy USA Track & Field) will compete in several events at Saturday's UW Indoor Preview at the Dempsey Indoor facility.

The events Clay will enter is expected to be announced sometime later today, according to the University of Washington sports information department. Clay is preparing for the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, where he's won the silver medal in the heptathlon twice.

In the UW release, among the other headliners include a trio of athletes training under coach Alberto Salazar in Beaverton, Oregon with the Nike Oregon Project--Osaka bronze medalist in the 10000 Kara Goucher, who was training in Seattle last weekend; Amy Yoder Begley, the former University of Arkansas All-American and two-time Olympic Trials competitor; and, Galen Rupp, who will attempt to break 4:00 in the mile.

The Oregon Track Club will also enter a group of athletes, including former Princeton standout Cack Ferrell, who competed for Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya last year, where she placed 30th.

Mickey Grimes
, a gold medalist on Team USA's 4 x 100m relay squad at the 2001 IAAF World Championships, is also entered, according to the UW release.

The Washington Huskies will be led in their 2008 opener by senior Norris Frederick, one of the most decorated athletes in UW history with five All-American honors - four in the long jump and one in the high jump, along with sprinters Jordan Boase, James Fredrickson and Alex Harcourt.

Boase and Fredrickson are each two-time All-Americans and could run together in Washington's 4x400m relay entry. Harcourt, the indoor school record-holder in the 400m and a two-time NCAA participant, is also signed on for the 4x400m, as is sophomore Jeff Gudaitis who led off UW's NCAA qualifying 4x400m relay at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last year.

On the women's side, several of Washington's event leaders from 2007 will be in action. Juniors Falesha Ankton and Syreeta Martin will both toe the line in the 60m hurdles, 4x400m relay and the 300m dash. They were both among UW's top sprinters and hurdlers last season. Also, juniors Daria Amiad-Pavlov and Liz Fuller, two of the top Husky jumpers, are scheduled for a number of events. In the pole vault, Kelley DiVesta, an NCAA Regional qualifier last year, will lead the Dawgs.

The first field event gets underway at 8:30 am, and the first running event is scheduled for 9:30 am. Admission is free.

The full release, along with the time schedule, can be read here...

NOTE: Special thanks to the University of Washington sports information department for the information on the meet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Interesting blog from Kara Goucher...


Here's a quick read from Kara Goucher (in middle of pack, /photo by Paul Merca), as posted on the Nike Running web site.

http://insidenikerunning.nike.com/2008/01/15/the-new-year-for-the-gouchers/


Turns out that she was in Seattle over the weekend working out at the Dempsey Indoor facility, after having minor surgery over the Christmas holidays, where she had a chip of cartilage flushed from the back of her knee, and the torn section shaved down. In fact, several letsrun.com readers from Seattle posted on the site that there was a girl who looked like Kara at a restaurant in the area on Saturday night (1/12).

She writes, "I had an indoor season planned and it looked like it might not happen due to the surgery, but now I am thinking its back on again. I went to Seattle this weekend to run on the indoor track at the University of Washington and test it out. The workout went great and although I’m not as ready as if I hadn’t had this interruption, I still think I can get out there and run some good races. I love racing, I love pushing myself. Even though the preparation hasn’t been perfect, it doesn’t change the fact that I want to get out there and test myself! Racing is the fun part; it’s the reward of all the hard work. It’s the perfect time of year to do something enjoyable and different before the long buildup that will come in a couple of months. I am willing to go in less than 100% ready because it’s going to be so much fun."

So, will we see either Adam or Kara at the UW indoor meets? Stay tuned!

Some quick notes...


The Eugene Register-Guard reports that Galen Rupp (left, /photo by Paul Merca) will take a shot at breaking 4:00 in the mile at Saturday's UW Indoor Preview at the Dempsey Indoor facility.

“This has been a long-term project for me,” said Rupp, who turns 22 in May. “My goal is to run under four minutes. I’m more than capable of doing that right now. My training has been going well, with a lot more speed work than ever before.”

Rupp, who has fully recovered from routine plica band surgery on his right knee, will use the indoor mile as a prelude to competing in the 3,000 meters at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on Jan. 26.

Dustin Emrani, a newcomer to Oregon Track Club Elite, will be the pacesetter in both the 800 and mile on Saturday, while OTC Elite teammates Cack Ferrell (mile, 3000), Will Leer (mile) and Sean O’Brien (mile) are also scheduled to compete.

Curtis Anderson's article from the Register-Guard can be accessed here...

According to their school's web sites, the University of Oregon and Stanford University will enter athletes in Saturday's meet, which will include many area colleges, universities, and club teams.

In other news, it appears that pole vaulter Brad Walker will open the season Saturday in South Dakota at the Derek Miles & Friends pole vault competition in Vermillion on the campus of the University of South Dakota, eschewing his traditional opener in Seattle. The release touting the competition can be accessed here...

Walker is scheduled to compete at the Millrose Games in New York on February 1st, according to the release from Millrose organizers. You can read it here...



Sunday, January 13, 2008

Washington State University womens track & field preview (part 2)


This is part 2 of a two-part series previewing the 2008 Washington State University women's track & field team, which opens their season January 18-19 with the WSU Indoor meet in Pullman. Special thanks to the Washington State University sports information staff for this preview.

HURDLES/STEEPLECHASE
The high hurdles will relay on heptathletes Angela Jensen and Jalisa Williams who have run 14.09 and 14.10, respectively. Angelica Flynn will contribute in the 100m hurdles as well with a 14.33 PR time.

Junior Lorraine King returns to lead the intermediate hurdlers after dropping her time to just over a minute last year. Her objective this year is make the big jump and drop down to well under a minute in the 400m hurdles which should contribute strongly to the team success in the open 400m and the relay as well. Multi-events newcomer Jalisa Williams ran a high school intermediate hurdles time of 42.90 but will concentrate on the heptathlon events this year. Freshmen Caroline Hedel and Veronica Elseroad-Wall come in with good times from high school and solid fall training. Sloan looks for them to make the adjustment out to 400m hurdles and hopefully make a contribution to WSU immediately.

The steeplechase is the strongest and deepest running event for the Cougars. Pac-10 champion Sara Trané (above, /photo by Paul Merca) leads the trio of returnees with the school-record time of 10:19.89, and is coming off a very good cross country season. Meghan Leonard also had a good harrier season and because of her tough, competitive nature, look for her to drop her time down significantly. Sloan expects senior Collier Lawrence to have a sense of urgency that will propel this very talented athlete to realize her full potential in this event and significantly improve her time.

"Up front, three very strong steeplechasers for the Cougs and we expect all three of them to score at the 2008 Pac-10 Conference championships," Sloan said.

JUMPS
The high jump corps will be led by freshman Ebba Jungmark, a 6-3 1/2 world championship competitor last August at Osaka. Backing her up will be senior McKinnon Hanson and freshmen jumpers Maria Creech and Amanda Stewart. Hanson had a strong sophomore season with a 5-8 3/4 jump and made it to the NCAA Championships but dropped back just a little bit as a junior. Sloan said Hanson has already exhibited signs she is back on track this year and he expects a PR height from her this year. The freshmen will add good depth to the event with continued development will become contributors at the championship level.

"Ebba is an athlete who is going to make a huge impact at all levels right from the start. She is already a very accomplished high jumper," Sloan said.

The Cougar women have good depth in the pole vault but so far no one really stands out as the needed 13-foot ace in the event. Freshman Alexa Huestis and sophomore Kendall Mays both have the top clearances at 12-0 with Jessica Fuller, Hilary Moore and Chelsea Nicholas in the 11-foot plus range. Sloan said the plan is to keep training them and working with them in hopes that more than one makes the technical adjustments and moves up to that height this season.

Catie Schuetzle is the top long jumper after leaping 19-6 1/4 last spring but Sloan thinks she is capable of jumping over 20-feet this year. Freshman Candace Missouri has jumped 18-8 1/2 and gives the Cougs depth in the event.

The triple jump will have a strong one-two punch for WSU with Sarah Burns and Schuetzle both reaching PRs over 41-feet last year. Missouri is a very talented athlete who can learn the techniques and can be a very good triple jumper for the WSU women. Her competition emphasis will be to long jump, be on the 400m relay, and then to triple jump.

THROWS
The Cougar women's throws are quite good but not very deep, consisting of basically the same people over and over again. Within the shot put, discus and hammer, seniors McKenzie Garberg and Jessica Zita are the top two performers and only two performers. Garberg, an All-American in the discus last spring, is very strong in all three events and will be a contributor at all levels in all events. Zita will be expected to provide depth in the discus and hammer on a dual meet basis but will primarily be a shot puter.

"We have good strength and if the two athletes are good, that is all you need in an event," Sloan said. "I'm looking for both of them to have great final seasons. Last year McKenzie became competitive at a higher level and now we're looking for her to make another big jump. Jessica was a little inconsistent but had the big throws from time to time and knows she is capable of doing that. It is not out of the question that we have a couple of 50-foot shot puters on the team which is very good."

The addition of javelin thrower Marissa Tschida, last year's national junior champion, is a big bonus for the women's team. Tschida threw 158-7 last spring and again threw over 158 to win the US National Junior Championship. Junior Jasmine McCormack threw over 141-feet last year and, with Tschida, will give the Cougars a one-two punch as a good, solid javelin corps.

"Marissa is a tough Montana girl who gets out there and competes very, very well," Sloan said. "She will be learning new techniques and may have to take a small step backward before she can start moving forward. How quickly she adjusts will determine how successful she is at the end of the year."

HEPTATHLON
After a combined nine All-America certificates in the past three years, Washington State will not have a Pickler in uniform for the multi-events competitions. Freshmen Angela Jensen from Tacoma, Wash., and Jalisa Williams from Pasadena, Calif., have joined the program and are working with Sloan to learn the techniques and nuances of competing in the indoor pentathlon and the outdoor heptathlon.

"We're starting all over again and we have two good athletes in Angela and Jalisa," Sloan said. "They have been working hard all fall on developing their skills. I think they are going to be good, it is just going to take us a little while to get everything developed and to that championship level."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Washington State University womens track & field preview (part 1)


This is part 1 of a two-part series previewing the 2008 Washington State University women's track & field team, which opens their season January 18-19 with the WSU Indoor meet in Pullman. Special thanks to the Washington State University sports information staff for this preview.

The graduation of four-time All-American Diana Pickler (left, shown competing at the IAAF World Championships in Osaka /photo by Paul Merca) and five-time All-American Julie Pickler has left a void not only in the Cougars' heptathlon corps but also in the seven individual events and both relays they competed in.

Cougars Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) knows the end of the eligibility of Picklers impacts the program significantly but unlike how the end of Ellannee Richardson's eligibility impacted the program when the Picklers joined the program. At this point WSU doesn't have that level of athlete.

"When you have people who are able to score at a national meet year after year and also score Pac-10 points or in a Husky dual meet in a variety of different events, the loss of their athletic skills and talents and what they bring to the program, will certainly be missed," Sloan said. "But we gather and regroup and move forward and I think we have some new people in the program and some people returning who I think have turned a page in their career and are ready to move their level of performance up and be competitive at the Pac-10 and hopefully at the NCAA level."

Returning strength for the Cougar women includes All-Americans McKenzie Garberg (discus) and Haley Paul (cross country), Pac-10 steeplechase champion Sara Trané and previous conference scorers Sarah Burns (triple jump), McKinnon Hanson (high jump), Lorraine King (400m hurdles), Collier Lawrence and Meghan Leonard (steeplechase), and La Shawnda Porter-Red (200m). Sloan also looks for senior Jessica Zita (shot put) and sophomore Princess Joy Griffey (sprints) to have breakout seasons. Newcomers sure to garner attention are Ebba Jungmark, a freshman high jumper from Sweden who competed at the 2007 World Championships and has a personal-best clearance of 6-3 1/2, and last year's No. 1 junior javelin thrower, Marissa Tschida, who threw 158-7.

"We are excited about the rest our people because of the potential they have shown," Sloan said. "Hopefully they work hard, develop, and get to a point where they can compete at a Pac-10 level."

SPRINTS/RELAYS
The WSU women's sprint corps looks to be strong in 2008 and the short relay will reflect that strength with a prediction of fast times.

Princess Joy Griffey came on strong at the end of her freshman season which was a transitional one after coming off an injury-ridden final year of high school. Sloan said there was some hesitancy in her preparation and competition last year but that is completely gone through the fall and indoor training.

"Princess Joy has been absolutely phenomenal and very, very strong," Sloan said. "She has been doing things in training that would indicate she is going to have an outstanding year. Our goal is to continue training her, keeping her strong and try to maintain her health throughout the year, but right now that doesn't seem to be an issue. Getting through the season without an injury has increased her confidence and her effort from a training standpoint and from a competitive standpoint as well."

Griffey has the top returning 100m time followed by La Shawnda Porter-Red. Add in freshmen Candace Missouri and maybe Angela Jensen for the 400m relay. In the 200m, Porter-Red is the top runner but will be challenged by Griffey.

The fastest 400m runner is actually intermediate hurdler Lorraine King. Selena Galaviz is the sole primary open 400m runner with the depth runners either coming up from sprints (Porter-Red) or coming over from intermediate hurdles. The 4x400m relay will be comprised of people from different event areas with King the only returnee from last year's squad.

MIDDLE DISTANCE/DISTANCE
Sloan looks for improvement in the middle distances and distance areas for the Cougar women this year.

Sophomore Lisa Egami will see duty in the 800m and 1500m. After acclimating to collegiate training during her freshman year Sloan predicts Egami can move down well under the 2:10 range for the 800m and faster in the 1500m. Sara Trané has run well in the 800m but will be working more in the 1500m and steeplechase as the season progresses.

Anna Layman is training again after sitting out last year because of stress injuries which has plagued her nearly her whole track and field career. Now healthy and training more within the sprint group doing more interval, the talented Layman should remain fit and healthy which Sloan feels will provide dividends for the team.

Haley Paul is back off of an injury redshirt spring and part of the fall. With an effective range from 800m through 5000m, Paul began the new year training at full strength and should be in peak form for the end of the outdoor season. Her lifetime-best time of 16:20.86 came two years ago and she competed in the 5k at the 2006 NCAA Championships.

Marisa Sandoval dropped her 1500m time last year and with good health and consistent training is expected to drop below a time of 4:30 this year.

Senior Isley Gonzalez is coming off an outstanding cross country season and will be the go-to person for the 5000m with Meghan Leonard and Collier Lawrence concentrating on the steeplechase.

"I am hopeful the training and effort Isley made during the fall will carry through the winter months so we see her run the times that we've always expected from her as a 1500m, 3000m, and 5000m runner on the track," Sloan said. "Based off what her accomplishments were in cross country the 5000m might be where she can really make an impact in the championships."

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

USATF CEO Craig Masback resigns to join Nike...

UPDATE: The official USA Track & Field release is now available here...

Sources in the running community have told paulmerca.blogspot.com that USA Track & Field chief executive officer Craig Masback will announce his resignation to accept a position with Nike, Inc.

Masback is currently the organization's second chief executive officer, replacing Ollan Cassell in July 1997.

Before USATF, Masback was a track & field commentator for NBC at the Barcelona & Atlanta Olympics, and provided network television commentary for numerous other track and field events for NBC, CBS, ESPN, and ABC over a 15-year broadcast career.

From 1982 through 1984, he worked for the International Olympic Committee as an assistant to the director of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

He served on several USATF committees, while an athlete, marketing executive, and a lawyer.

In 1979, he was ranked as history’s sixth fastest miler with a time of 3:52.02.

In 1980, he was the U.S. indoor mile champion and former American record holder at 2,000 meters.

He co-founded Inclyne Sports, a sports marketing company that created a variety of sporting events, sold sponsorships and produced television programs that aired on CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN, including the Foot Locker Slam Dunk contest.

Masback graduated from Princeton University and Yale Law School, attended Trinity College/Oxford University from 1977-79 on a Keasbey Foundation Fellowship and was the recipient of an NCAA postgraduate scholarship.

Washington State University men's track & field preview (part 2)


This is part two of the preview of the 2008 Washington State University men's track & field team. Special thanks to the Washington State University sports information staff for writing this piece.

Washington State opens their season January 18th and 19th with the WSU Indoor Open meet in Pullman. For more information on the meet, please visit www.wsucougars.com.


HURDLES/STEEPLECHASE
Junior Robert Williams had a good season in 2007, especially at the end of the year when he ran the 110m hurdles under 14-seconds a couple of times, including a 13.94 PR. On the WSU preseason depth chart, decathlete Rickey Moody is the number two high hurdler after a significant move down from the high 15-second range to a mid-14-second time, and the promise of lower times this season.

Barry Leavitt was a wonderful surprise at the end of his freshman year, reaching PR times in both the high (14.67) and intermediate hurdles (51.48) and scoring in both events at the 2004 conference meet. He returned to the team in January 2007 after a two-year church mission and jumped into the season, scoring at the Pac-10 meet in the 400m hurdles. Sloan notes Leavitt has had a very good fall of training and expects the junior to get back to his 2004 times and below.

Jeshua Anderson has run 13.82 over prep 110m highs and has the height and strength to adjust easily to college highs. Decathletes Kyle Schauble and Trevor Habberstad (high school time of 13.92) are expected to contribute significantly in the highs in 2008.

The intermediate hurdles will be led by the national prep record-holder, Anderson. Sloan is impressed with his NCAA All-American type of talent and sees a legitimate chance for Anderson to win the Pac-10 title as a freshman. Leavitt and Williams are both 51-second runners who are expected to drop below that time this year, contribute at the Pac-10 level and then advance to the NCAA Regional and national levels.

"Jeshua is very skilled in the event and under the guidance of Mark Macdonald, look for him to be an outstanding performer for us at all levels," Sloan said.

In the steeplechase, Sloan is waiting for the big drop. That is the big improvement in times from Alex Grant, Sam Ahlbeck and Chris Concha who are all in the 9:03 to 9:06 times. Grant is coming off a great cross country while Ahlbeck was consistent throughout the fall and Concha suffered from injuries but has recovered. Cougar coach Jason Drake has done a great job of developing WSU into a steeplechase power.

"All these guys have the potential to drop down into the low 8:50s and even under 8:50 but only after they have confidence in the race," Sloan said. "It is a difficult race and they need to learn to race it and become a little bit more efficient. I think all of them have the skills to be at least 8:50 runners and that could have a significant impact on the conference championship with those guys running that fast."

JUMPS
Coach Matt McGee has an outstanding group of jumpers assembled on the 2008 team. The high jump will be a very exciting event for the Cougs this season. Trent Arrivey jumped just under 7-feet and placed third at Pac-10 meet, an outstanding fete by a freshman. Kyle Eaton has battled off-and-on injury problems but has been a conference scorer and the team needs him to have a great season. Freshman Ryan Deese is a tremendous jumper with the potential for development and is moving in that direction. Deese and Arrivey are pushing each other and if they pull Eaton along, Sloan feels the jumps corps will be solid.

The Cougs do not have a quick-fix replacement for graduated two-time All-American and 18-foot pole vaulter Tyson Byers. Senior D.J. Brown is joined by freshman Trevor Sodorff and both are working hard developing new skills and refining techniques. Improvement in their current marks will be a big bonus for the Cougs in competitions.

Senior Rickey Moody just missed going to the NCAA Championships as a decathlete last year but did compete in the long jump after a fourth place finish in the event at the Pac-10 meet and a PR leap of 24-8 1/4 at the NCAA West Regional meet. He and fellow multi-competitor Kyle Schauble will be the primary long jumpers for the Cougars.

Triple jumper Moreno Zapata had a great season last year, coming on strong and competing well at the Pac-10 Championship and at the NCAA West Regional where he leaped to a wind-aided PR mark of 51-9 1/4.

"I am really proud of the job Moreno did last year. He's basically our ace the triple jump and I really look for him to do great things this season," Sloan said.

THROWS
Junior Matt Lamb, a two-time All-American in the discus, should have a great year in the shot put in 2008, Sloan predicts. Of course, Lamb will also be the Cougars' ace in the discus after throwing 198-5 last season.

"Matt will be competing at a lighter weight this year and he is a very fast, explosive person and so we're going to take advantage of that. We'll rely on more speed and it should result in good throws all the way around," Sloan said.

Philip MacArthur, a two-time conference scorer, returns as the top hammer thrower after a solid performance last year and a PR distance of 197-1. He is continuing to develop in this event and Sloan and coach Debra Farwell foresee him throwing over 200-feet this year.

The Cougar men have a strong javelin corps led by senior and team captain, Jon Jeffreys. With a PR distance of 226-2, Jeffreys' three previous years of hard work should payoff for him and the team in 2008.

"Knowing this is Jon's last year, he seems more focused on getting everything down correctly. I think he is going to have an outstanding season," Sloan said.

Three additional Cougs are expected to throw over 200-feet this year. Nathan Bache came on strong at the end of his freshman season, tossing a PR of 198-6 and then scoring at the Pac-10 meet. Cameron Schwisow is recovering from elbow surgery and a back injury but with good health and consistent training has the ability to throw far. Mark Presby made adjustments and developed last year as a redshirt.

DECATHLON
WSU has a trio of decathletes this year with senior Rickey Moody leading the way. He took third-place at the conference meet and narrowly missed competing at the NCAA Championships in the decathlon with 7,109 points. "It's too bad Rickey didn't make it to the national championships because he was really finding his stride at that point in time and he would have done well at the nationals," Sloan said. "At least he got the experience at the NCAA in the long jump. The decathlon corps is good, but Rickey currently has more well-rounded technical development. I think he is going to have an outstanding season and do great things in the decathlon."

Sophomore Kyle Schauble brings a very athletic physique and good speed to the mix and after a year of development in new events and technique refinements, should show a stronger presence in the multis. Freshman Trevor Habberstad is also a very talented athlete with good speed. He will spend his initial collegiate season working to develop and gain experience in his other events.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Washington State University men's track & field preview (part 1)


This is the first of a two-part preview of the Washington State University men's track & field team. Thanks to the WSU sports information department for this preview.

Cougars Track and Field Head Coach Rick Sloan (35th year at WSU, 14th year as head coach) is excited about the men's team because he can go through nearly every event and name frontline people who he expects to do well at the conference level and beyond.


"Some of the people on the team developed nicely and became big performers for us at the end of the year," Sloan said. "Some of the new people can come in and contribute right away this year. I'm excited to see how we develop and how we compete when we start putting the uniform on."

While depth varies from event to event, overall the WSU 2008 men's team has variety and does not have any areas where there isn't a stopper. The sprints and hurdles are deep and good. The throws have good top line competitors but need the other people behind them to fill in that depth.

"We have at least one person in every event that is pretty good," Sloan said. "From a championship level, our top people are all going to be in scoring positions and that bodes well for the Cougs."

Two-time all-American discus thrower Matt Lamb returns lighter and ready to three-peat. Senior captain Jon Jeffreys is anxious to return to the NCAA meet in the javelin. Also seeking a return to NCAA competition are Rickey Moody (long jump/decathlon), Robert Williams (110m hurdles), Justin Woods (100m/200m) and Moreno Zapata (triple jump). "Our schedule suits us very well," Sloan said. "We have the meets in place to bring our level of performance up. The whole idea is to get ready for the championships season at the end of April and the months of May and June. Not everybody will compete every weekend. We'll utilize the meets that we need to and train when we have to and expect to be ready and at our very best at the end of the year."

This season a new hammer throw area will debut at Mooberry Track Complex at the south end of the field. The hammer will now be in a location that is more visible and there will be spectator stands and indicator boards to accommodate viewers in the other grandstands.

SPRINTS/RELAYS
The WSU men's sprint team is recognized as a power in the Pac-10, and Sloan is quick to attribute this success to assistant coaches Ellannee Richardson and Mark Macdonald.

"We are getting people who aren't the national leaders in events but with the system they have put in place, people are coming in and showing tremendous improvement, like James McSwain and Jaycee Robertson, and becoming NCAA sprinters and Pac-10 scorers," Sloan said. "I look at this group and think that we're going to be good in that area again."

At the top of the list is junior Justin Woods who has done a tremendous job in the 100m and 200m. Woods has competed at the NCAA Championships both years of his collegiate career. In-coming freshman hurdler Jeshua Anderson, is big and strong and fits into the WSU sprint model.

"We think of Jeshua as an intermediate hurdler but he is an outstanding sprinter too, in the 100m, 200m and open 400m," Sloan said.

Two more freshmen adding to the Cougars sprints depth are André Jennings and Marlon Murray. Jennings had injury problems throughout his high school career but Sloan thinks if he maintains his health, he'll make a contribution. Murray has good credentials but had misfortune in high school, running out of his lane at the state meet. Decathletes Rickey Moody, Kyle Schauble and Trevor Habberstad, will add more depth to the sprints corps.

The 200m looks a lot like the 100m with everyone a solid performer with Woods and Anderson having run under 21 seconds.

"We have good depth and good quality in the 100m and 200m," Sloan said. "If we can pass the stick well, our relay should be very fast too."

Anderson's open 400m racing will be indoors but he will primarily run hurdles outdoors. Sophomore Reny Follett did a great job at the Pac-10 meet last year, running out of lane one and achieving a time under 48 seconds for the first time. Sloan is impressed with Follett's fall training and sees him as a very strong runner ready for this season. Devin Timpson has also had a great fall of training and should contribute in both the open 400m and on the 1600m relay. The longer relay will utilize some of the 800m runners coming down to fill out the squad.

MIDDLE DISTANCE/DISTANCE
The 800m is an area of excitement for the Cougar men with sophomores Luke Lemenager and Bob Hewitt-Gaffney ready to return to the track after spending their freshmen year adjusting to collegiate training. Both have trained a little bit differently but both have trained very well.

"My anticipation is that we will have a couple of guys under 1:50," Sloan said. "Bob will look at 800m and probably come down and run some 400m and relay work. Luke probably works more 800m up to the 1500m, and I expect Luke to be our top 1500m runner this year. On paper he is the top guy returning but o he is mentally committed to run 1500m he will be very successful there."

Dominic Smargiassi will primarily be a 1500m runner but may become more of a 3000m and 5000m racer as the season progresses. WSU's depth in the 1500m will come from athletes already in other events.

Freshmen Sean Coyle, David Hickerson and Peter Miller are outstanding high school runners from last year who are expected to do a great job up and down the ladder, from 800m all the way out to 5000m. Their versatility can help the team find success.

Drew Polley, Dan Geib, and Chris Williams are WSU's top 10k runners but can come down and run a good 5k for the Cougs. Alex Grant has the top time in the 5000m but will likely be counted on as a steeplechaser more than this distance.

NEXT: The WSU hurdles, and field events

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Brad Walker & Bernard Lagat lead Team USA into Glasgow...


Although USA Track & Field has not formally announced the members of the team, Doug Gillon of The Herald writes that "Bernard Lagat and Brad Walker (left, /photo by Paul Merca) are part of a small group upon whose shoulders the future of athletics in America rests."

Both are on the US squad to face Britain, Sweden, Germany, and a Commonwealth Select at the Kelvin Hall on January 26 in the Norwich Union International.

"Lagat captured 1500 and 5000 metres gold at the World Championships in Osaka, the first man to win both titles, but, Kenyan-born, he's hardly your all-American boy no matter how firmly he wraps himself in Old Glory. Walker is world pole vault champion indoors and out, 12th member of the elite 6.00-metre club. Yet, compared to the profile enjoyed by his Russian counterpart, the female indoor and outdoor champion Yelena Isinbayeva, Walker is almost anonymous."

The full article can be accessed here...

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