Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lauren Saylor finishes 38th at World Cross; incoming UW recruit Kendra Schaff 20th


EDINBURGH, Great Britain--Running against some of the world’s best 19-and under runners, University of Washington freshman Lauren Saylor (left/photo by Paul Merca) finished 38th in the junior women’s six-kilometer race at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships at Holyrood Park Sunday afternoon.

Saylor clocked 21:37 over the six-kilometer course, which included an ascent of the famous Haggis Knowe hill, a steep climb and descent for the athletes that offers a superb spectating position with views of the entire course.

The Clovis, California native was the USA’s fifth runner in, helping Team USA finish sixth in the team competition.

Afterwards, Saylor said “It was a great experience. I didn't have any serious goals in mind, as I didn't know what to expect. I just went out there, tried to have fun, and use this as a learning experience for the future. I was a bit back there, but I wanted to make sure that on the last lap, that I was going to crank it all the way.”

Kendra Schaff, who signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Washington this fall, finished 20th to lead Canada’s squad to a fifth place finish.

University of Washington track and cross country coach Greg Metcalf, who attended the world championships, said, “It’s really cool to see a current Husky and a Husky-to-be get an opportunity to run against the best runners in the world. It’s awesome for them, and it’s great for our program.”

“Before we came over here, I talked to Lauren about what the experience of the world cross country championships are all about. It was all about mixing it up with the best in the world and walking away and becoming a better distance runner from the experience.”

Quick thoughts before we get started in Edinburgh...

It's going to be nice and rainy here in Edinburgh for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which get under way in less than an hour.

As we walked into Holyrood Park, there was a nice little downpour. Could make things interesting this afternoon.

The University of Washington's Lauren Saylor is in the junior womens' race at 1 pm local time, along with UW recruit Kendra Schaff, who will run for Canada.

Look for updates throughout the day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Off to Edinburgh!

After spending a few days here in Athens, the world tour resumes with a stop in Edinburgh for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships!

As always, the speculation runs rampant on whether Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele can retain his crown as world cross country champ after his showing in Mombasa last year, or whether or not Zersanay Tadese from Eritrea is the real deal in cross country.

Holyrood Park will not be the usual manicured horse racing track/golf course venue used as in the last few editions of the meet...it will be a true European style cross country course, with a sharp and allegedly muddy hill at the end of each loop.

The weather report projects temperatures in the mid-40s, or very Seattle-like weather.Looking forward to sending reports from Scotland!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today's run in Athens...


Today's run took me from my friend Maya's home in the Pagrati district of Athens, down the hill to the Panathinaiko Stadium, then a right down the main drag, where I turned around in front of the US Embassy on Vasilissis Sophias Avenue.

As I doubled back from the US Embassy towards Panathinaiko Stadium, I retraced the last portion of the classic Marathon course, and thought about what Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor were thinking in the final miles of the marathon at the 2004 Olympics here.

I've said this before, and I will say this again: despite Athens' reputation as a runner-unfriendly city, it is still one of my favorite places to run in just for the sheer history of our sport.

Nice article on Bernard Lagat...

There's a great article on Bernard Lagat in the Tuesday edition of the New York Times, written by long time NYT track & Olympics writer Jere Longman.

You can access it here...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Finally here in Athens...


I finally made it here to Athens, after sitting at Heathrow Airport in London for eight-plus hours and enduring a 90-minute flight delay on the part of British Airways!

Got in at about 3 am...thought about making the trip to Olympia to witness the lighting of the Olympic flame as it makes the worldwide journey to Beijing. It would've been a stretch to try it, as the ceremony began at 11 am, and that Olympia is about 3-plus hours away from Athens by car.

Here's what I missed--the story on today's lighting of the Olympic flame is here...

After waking up at 11:30 am (that's how dead I was), I walked down to Syntagma square just to get some circulation in the legs, before walking to the Hard Rock Cafe for a late lunch.

Went running by Panathinaiko Stadium with my camera and Nike+ ready iPod. Had to get this photo of one of my favorite places in the world.

Tuesday's Greek Independence Day, a national holiday. It will be interesting to compare and contrast Greek Independence Day to the Fourth of July (or even Cinco de Mayo, or Canada Day!).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sitting here at Heathrow...


What a lovely way to spend Easter Sunday...sitting at London Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1!

Anyway, I am here for six hours, as I am assuming that most of the shops in downtown London are closed for Easter, and I took a shot at trying to catch the 12:30 pm flight to Athens (we landed at 11:50 at Terminal 4), but was about 10 minutes short..oh, well!

I'm scheduled to land at around 1:30 am local time in Athens...this could be an interesting trip to Maya & Dimitris' place...I'm not assuming anything.

Before I leave Heathrow, I will buy a SIM card for the Edinburgh portion of the trip...I've got an unlocked cell phone that will come in handy. I will try and get some work done before the flight to Athens.

Friday, March 21, 2008

On the road again...


"On the road again - Just can't wait to get on the road again. The life I love is making music with my friends And I can't wait to get on the road again"--Willie Nelson

I'm not a big fan of country music, but that pretty much describes what I'm doing the next ten days, as I make my annual trip to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships which will be held on March 30th in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This marks the eighth consecutive year that I've taken this trip as part of Team USA, helping with media relations.

I'm guessing that things won't be as constrictive for us as it was last year in Mombasa, Kenya. If I can swing it somehow, I am hoping to make a pilgrimage to St. Andrew's Golf Course, but we'll see.

The trip starts Saturday with a flight from Seattle to London, then on to Athens, Greece for a visit with my good friends Maya Barlos & Dimitris Stagakis, along with their two kids. I'm also hoping to meet up with some of my Greek friends in the sports media business that I got to know through my dealings with the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Monday is the lighting of the Olympic flame in Olympia, about a 4-hour drive from Athens. I'm thinking that would be a once-in-a-lifetime event to attend, but it's on such short notice. Maybe I can get motivated and take a car from Athens and make that trek...or maybe not--we'll see.

Tuesday is Greek Independence Day, so this could be interesting. I have absolutely no clue what to expect.

Thursday, I leave Athens to go to Edinburgh, via Frankfurt and meet up with the folks on Team USA, including University of Washington freshman Lauren Saylor, who is part of the junior team, along with UW recruit Kendra Schaff of Canada.

Sunday the 30th, we race, and Monday morning, I'm off to Athens, as I'm using a frequent flyer ticket, so I have to go home to the USA via Athens...oh, well.

I'll blog my thoughts over the next few days here...as always, stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tadese vs. Bekele at World Cross...


As part of the lead in to paulmerca.blogspot.com's coverage of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland, here's a link to the IAAF article on 2007 world cross country champion Zersenay Tadese from Eritrea and Ethiopia's Kenenisa Bekele (above at 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombasa, Kenya/photo by Paul Merca).

Go here to read more...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My call of AJ Acosta's first sub-4 mile

I have to admit that I am one of the biggest fans of University of Oregon soph AJ Acosta, who brings a rather unique perspective to the sport.

Last week at the UW Last Chance meet, Acosta broke 4 minutes in the mile for the first time, running 3:58.52 after oh-coming-so-close in the same meet last year.

Here's how I called it:

Brie Felnagle named Southeast Region Track Athlete of the Year...


Junior Brie Felnagle (left/photo courtesy UNC Sports Information) was named the Southeast Region Women's Track Athlete of the Year on Monday as announced by the USTFCCCA. Felnagle qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in both the mile (4:37.07) and the 3,000 meters (9:09.57).

The reigning NCAA outdoor champion in the 1,500 meters stayed on the same fast track this winter. Felnagle clocked 4:37.07 in the mile for a third-place finish at the Atlantic Coast Conference Championships and doubled back the same day to place second in the 800 meters. Felnagle qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in both the mile and the 3,000 meters (9:09.57). She is a junior from Tacoma, Wash.

Felnagle will look to win her fourth national championship as a Tar Heel when she races in the 3000 at the NCAA Indoor Championships this weekend.

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

WSU's Ebba Jungmark wins NCAA high jump title...

Washington State freshman Ebba Jungmark (pronounced eh-bah yoon-mark) won the women's high jump Friday at the NCAA Div. I Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville.

Jungmark (left/photo courtesy WSU Sports Information) from Onsala, Sweden, cleared the bar at 6-feet, 2 1/4 inches (1.89m), which improved her NCAA qualifying and personal-best mark of 6-2 (1.88m), set last month in Pullman. This is the second-best women's high jump in WSU history.

"My jumping felt so good and I felt so light," Jungmark said. "I felt like this was my competition. I wanted to jump so much. I had fun. It felt good today."

Cougar head coach Rick Sloan added, "Ebba did a terrific job of competing. She was less nervous in this national championship than she was at our home meet. She was calm and relaxed and had fun. She did a marvelous job."

In the women's high jump series, Jungmark cleared the first three bar heights on the first attempt and faced the bar set at 6-2 1/4 (1.89m) tied with two other jumpers. All three missed on their first attempt at this height but Jungmark cleared on the second attempt. She went on to attempt to high jump with the bar set at 6-3 1/2 (1.92m) and was very close to clearing on her first attempt, but did not clear at this height.

She is the second NCAA women's track indoor champion for Washington State, following in fellow high jumper Mary Moore's footsteps. Moore, who owns the school high jump record of 6-3, won NCAA titles in 1984 and 1985.

Jungmark arrived in Pullman and began classes at WSU in January of this year. She was a member of the Swedish national team and competed at the 2007 World Championships at Osaka, Japan, finished 11th in high jump after clearing 6-2. Her lifetime-best outdoor mark is 6-3 1/2 (1.93m) achieved June 10, 2007, at Kil, Sweden.

University of Washington senior Norris Frederick earned his sixth-career All-American award with a career-best second-place finish in the men's long jump.

Frederick jumped 26'-2 ¾" on his second attempt, taking command of the lead and holding it through the end of flight one. The jump was the second-best of Frederick's career and his best-ever long jump in six NCAA appearances.

It would not prove to be enough, however, as Cal State Northridge's Reindell Cole turned in a 26'-7 ¾" jump on his first attempt in flight two. None of Cole's next five jumps would again surpass Frederick, but Frederick was unable to retake the lead on his final three attempts.

"Norris had the best NCAA jump and finish of his career," said Husky head coach Greg Metcalf.


Frederick's six All-American honors tie him for third-most in Washington history along with another UW jumper for the ages--Rick Noji (1986-90).

All four Huskies competing on the track qualified for their even finals tomorrow, including UW's trio of women's milers, highlighting a memorable day for Washington running.

First on the track was junior men's sprinter Jordan Boase, competing in the 400-meters. Boase won his four-man heat with a last kick over the final 20-meters to edge Florida's Calvin Smith. Boase's time of 46.51 wound up being the second-fastest out of the 16 competitors, and he will go for the title on Saturday at 3:55 p.m. PT.

Washington State freshman Jeshua Anderson, ran a time of 47.69 seconds in the men's 400m dash preliminary heats which was 14th overall and did not qualify for the Saturday final. Anderson, from Woodland Hills, Calif., had run a WSU freshman school record time in the 400m of 46.67 earlier this season and had also set the school frosh record for the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.01 seconds. Anderson owns the national boys prep 300m hurdles record with a time of 35.28 seconds set in 2007. He was a wide receiver on the Cougars football team last fall playing in 12 games with 12 receptions and two touchdowns.


"Jeshua said his left foot was bothering him today," Sloan said.

WSU sophomore Trent Arrivey (Woodinville, Wash.) will compete in the men's high jump Saturday afternoon.

Next it was time for the Husky milers to shine. Senior Michelle Turner was off and running in the first heat, sticking to the inside in second-place for much of the race. She began to get passed early in the last lap and dropped to seventh, but dug down and sprinted to the line to finish fourth in a time of 4:42.77.

In the second and final heat, sophomore Katie Follett led for the majority of the race, with senior Amanda Miller in the middle of the pack. With two laps to go, Miller went wide and joined Follett in the lead, the Husky pair running side by side out front. Michigan's Nicole Edwards, the top seed coming in, pushed past Follett and Miller on the last lap and wound up winning, with Follett coming in second in 4:42.43 and Miller third in 4:42.98.

Turner, Follett, and Miller all advanced to the finals, giving the Huskies an amazing three out of the final 10 entrants. All three are assured of earning All-American honors.

"These three milers are going to go down as legends in Husky history. Now they just have to rest up for tomorrow's final and see what damage they can do," Metcalf said. "Each of them went out aggressive and was confident they could sustain it to the finish and they did."

Barely two hours after their mile run, Miller and Turner were back on the track for the distance medley relay. Follett, the usual anchor leg of the relay, gave way to junior Andrea Brown in order to rest for the mile final.

The Huskies finished 11th in the DMR in 11:29.02, well off their school-record 11:12.77 set earlier this season.

"The plan was to rest Katie if she qualified for the mile final," said Metcalf. "Andrea went out faster than she ever has in her leg but ran out of steam with around 400 meters left. Getting the NCAA experience for Andrea and Falesha will help them a great deal in the future."

Sophomore Scott Roth made his second-consecutive NCAA Indoor appearance, but settled for a tie for 10th-place. Roth cleared the bar at 17'-0 ¾" on his first attempt, but missed his three attempts at 17'-4 ½".

"Scott was never entirely healthy this whole season, and missed a lot of training because of it. But he's just a sophomore and still has many great meets ahead of him," said Metcalf.

By virtue of Frederick's eight points in the long jump, the Husky men are tied for 12th in the team standings.

University of Portland senior Michael Kilburg placed sixth in the 5,000-meter run. Kilburg, formerly from Seattle's O'Dea HS, earned All-America status with his time of 14:02.24.

Kilburg qualified for the national meet by posting a school record time of 13:49.88 at the UW Last Chance Indoor the previous Saturday.

"Michael ran a brilliant race holding back early and saving his energy for the second half of the race," Portland head coach Rob Conner said. "To earn All-America honors is a tremendous accomplishment. His effort is all the more amazing when you consider he qualified just last weekend. He has been a little tired the last couple of days, but after the race he felt great."

Frederick will go for a seventh All-American honor, this time in the high jump, and senior Kelley DiVesta goes into the women's pole vault as a top-eight seed.

Also, University of North Carolina junior Brie Felnagle from Tacoma competes in the finals of the women's 3000 meter run on Saturday.

NOTE--The sports information offices of the University of Washington, the University of North Carolina, the University of Portland, and Washington State University contributed to this report.

Live streaming video of the NCAA Championships is available at www.ladybacks.com.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Walker finishes second at World Indoors...


At last summer’s World Track & Field Championships in Osaka, pole vaulter Brad Walker from Mountlake Terrace remarked to members of the press after winning his first outdoor title, “First attempt clearances in a major championship are a huge thing, and it puts stress on the other competitors”.

Fast forward six months later to the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, where the 2004 University of Washington graduate and defending world indoor champion fell victim to his own statement, as he vaulted an indoor personal best of 19-2 1/4, but settled for a second place finish behind Russia’s Evgeniy Lukyanenko (above, /photo by Paul Merca), who won with a height of 19-4 1/4.

Walker began the competition with a first attempt miss at 18-8 1/4, a height successfully navigated by five other competitors. After clearing on the second attempt, he was in sixth place, and had to pass two heights and re-enter at 19-2 1/4 in order to have a realistic shot of defending his world title.

Walker cleared an indoor personal best of 19-2 1/4 on his first attempt to take the lead from Australia’s Steve Hooker and 23-year old Evgeniy Lukyanenko, who came on the world scene with a breakthrough sixth-place performance in Osaka last year in a personal best of 19-0 3/4.

The young Russian fired back with a successful clearance of 19-2 1/4 on his second attempt, forcing Hooker to pass his remaining two attempts at that height.

With the bar raised to 19-4 /4, Hooker, jumping first in the order, missed. Lukyanenko refused to fold to the high stakes pressure of the moment and made it on his first attempt. Walker, jumping third in the order, was forced to pass to the next height of 19-6 1/4.

Both Walker and Lukyanenko missed all three attempts at 19-6 1/4, giving the Russian the world title.

Afterwards, Walker said, "Lukyanenko deserved to win the gold, he jumped 19-4 1/4. I'm satisfied with how I did, it was fine but it was frustrating".

NOTE: Some publications have Lukyanenko's first name spelled Yevgeniy. We've elected to spell it the way the IAAF results for Valencia are posted.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brad Walker advances to finals of World Indoor Championships

Pole vaulter Brad Walker inched closer to a possible defense of his world title today, as he cleared a season best of 18-8 1/4 (5.70 m) to advance to Sunday's finals at the IAAF World Indoor Track & Field Championships in Valencia, Spain.

Walker, who won this meet two years ago in Moscow, Russia, cleared 18-8 1/4 on his second attempt, after opening the competition at 18-2 1/2.

The former University of Washington standout is one of seven men, including fellow American Derek Miles, to successfully navigate the automatic qualifying height of 18-8 1/4.

Speaking to usatf.org afterwards, Walker remarked, "It (qualifying competition) was long and drawn out but I made it through and that's all that matters."

Complete results from this morning's qualifying round are posted here.

The finals of the men's pole vault will be held Sunday at 8:00 am Seattle time (4:00 pm, Valencia time), and will be shown live on wcsn.com and on a delayed basis on the Versus network.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Last chance weekend for collegians; Walker in action at worlds...

This is the final weekend for athletes to qualify for next weekend's NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the University of Washington will host one of the eight NCAA-approved Last Chance meets throughout the country.

Among the possible highlight events of the UW Last Chance meet are the mens mile with Oregon's AJ Acosta and Matt Centrowitz, the top two finishers in last year's Finish Line USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships; the women's mile featuring Washington's Michelle Turner & Arizona State's Kari Hardt, with Columbia's Carmen Ballard thrown in; the men's 5000 with University of Portland All-Americans David Kinsella and Michael Kilburg, along with Colorado frosh Matt Tebo; the men's 400 with Arizona State's Jimmie Gordon, Joel Phillip, and Justin Kremer; and the women's 3000 with Hardt and Arizona's Irine Lagat.

On the field, both the men's and women's pole vault competitions will be fierce, with prep All Americans Tori Anthony of UCLA and Cal's Allison Stokke on the women's side, and NCAA scorer Scott Roth of the host Huskies in the men's competition.

The tentative start list for the UW Last Chance Meet is posted here...

In Valencia, Spain, pole vaulter Brad Walker, the reigning USA indoor champion, will attempt to defend the 2006 world indoor title that he won in Moscow. The qualifying round in the men's pole vault at the IAAF World Indoor Championships gets underway Saturday morning, Valencia time.

Incidentally, wcsn.com is offering the IAAF World Indoor Championships to internet viewers for free. See their site for details.

Finally, former Washington State standouts Diana & Julie Pickler will compete at the USA Indoor Combined Events Championships in Chapel Hill, North Carolina this weekend.

The women's pentathlon competition on Sunday will be headlined by reigning USA Outdoor heptathlon champion Hyleas Fountan, who will look to add another championship to her trophy case. Fountain won this event in 2005, totaling 4,417 points to finish in front of 2007 champion Fiona Asigbee, who was the runner-up with 4,347 points.

Look for the Pickler twins, Diana and Julie, to provide a strong challenge to Fountain on Sunday. Diana ended the 2007 campaign ranked #1 in the U.S. by Track & Field News in the women's heptathlon, while sister Julie was the 2007 NCAA Outdoor heptathlon runner-up and ended last year ranked #7 in the U.S.

The women's pentathlon competition will consist of the 60m hurdles, high jump, shot put, long jump and 800 meters.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!!!


On Friday night at the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation indoor championships, I was getting ready to call a heat of the men's 200 meters, when long jumper Norris Frederick of the University of Washington (left,/photo courtesy University of Washington Sports Information), a true fan favorite at the Dempsey Indoor, stepped onto the runway for his third attempt of the competition.

In the previous round, he had set a personal best by jumping 25-10, but I didn't pay much attention to it as I was trying to read the start lists for the races; I did acknowledge that it was a PR on the mic, then went about my job.

Entering round 3, Travis Boyd, who was added as the roaming field events announcer for the meet, said that Frederick was up, and as Travis said that, the folks watching the long jump began clapping in rhythm to help Norris get going.

As Frederick landed in the pit, I could tell that it was a good jump, but when you're watching a long jump 80+ yards away, it's not a certainty. Meanwhile, one of the heats of the men's 200 was just getting set into the blocks.

Just as the sprinters were getting set, I saw the fans by the pit start going nuts, and as the girl working the signboard indicator put up the 6 in 26 feet, I knew it was good, but waited until she put up the rest of the numbers.

I don't know where it came from, but when the girl put up the 7, I yelled into the microphone, "BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!!! Norris Frederick has just set a new personal best of 26-7 in the long jump...I'll wait for our field announcer Travis Boyd to get the official mark!" At the same time, I could see folks at the pit going even more nuts, and Norris along with several UW teammates high-fiving each other over what just happened...meantime, starter Bill Hickman had to ask the sprinters in the 200 to stand up because of all the commotion from the long jump.

Once Travis announced the official mark of 26-7 3/4 from the field , there was still a few moments of excitement from the long jump fans, until I began to reset the lineups from that heat of the men's 200.

Most of the comments I heard about my spontaneous remark were of the "he did not just say that!" variety. I was greeted after coming down from the announcer's booth by Oregon sprints/jumps coach Robert Johnson with a big smile and a "BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!" of his own.

I did get a slap of the wrist from several of the track officials from that remark, mainly because they had to ask the sprinters to stand up. My answer to that was that the folks at the long jump made enough noise that they would have had to ask them to step out of the blocks anyway.

"BOOM! SHAKA-LA
KA!" appeared twice more at the MPSF meet, once after Arizona State's Ryan Whiting's monster 70-5 1/4 toss in the shot put, and at the end of the pole vault, when Stanford's Graeme Hoste jumped 18-4 3/4 to win the event, and break the school record held by Toby Stevenson.

To Norris, Ryan, & Graeme, congratulations! You've just been awarded the first three "BOOM! SHAKA-LAKAS!!!" of my announcing career!

FOOTNOTE: I was just alerted to a thread on this on letsrun.com; also, this blog would not be complete without me acknowledging that "BOOM! SHAKA-LAKA!!!" is one of the catch phrases of long-time Seattle Supersonics play-by-play man Kevin Calabro, although I've been told that several play-by-play announcers have used it in their broadcasts...goes to show you that everybody rips everyone else off!

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