Friday, April 25, 2008

WSU hosts Cougar Outdoor Invitational; Washington travels to Oregon Relays

The Washington State University track and field teams will be home for the next two weekends, hosting a pair of meets.

The Ninth Annual Cougar Outdoor Invitational is set for April 26, featuring teams and individuals from the Inland Northwest. Action at Mooberry Track gets underway with field events beginning at 10 a.m. and running events beginning at 1:15 p.m.

Marissa Tschida (freshman, Missoula, Mont.) was named the Pac-10 Women's Field Athlete of the Week for April 14-20...she threw the javelin an NCAA Regional Qualifying, freshman school record and lifetime-best of 161-8 (49.28m) to win her section at the Mt. SAC Relays, Friday, April 18.

Tschida (pronounced chee-dah), the 2007 prep girls' national leader in the javelin, has PRd in three meets this season and broken the WSU freshman school record twice.

Senior Meghan Leonard (Newberg, Ore.) claimed the WSU steeplechase school record at the Mt. SAC Relays (4/18) with an improved NCAA RQ time of 10:16.36.

Leonard replaced 2007 record-holder Sara Trané (junior, Sweden). Trané, defending Pac-10 champion who is coming off several months of limited competition because of injury, ran an NCAA RQ and PR time of 10:16.75.

Meanwhile, the University of Washington track and field team will send a full squad to the Oregon Relays this weekend in Eugene. Upwards of 60 Huskies will make the trip, easily the largest band of athletes the UW has trotted out so far in the outdoor season.

The meet runs Friday and Saturday at Oregon's Hayward Field, with distance runs highlighting Friday's competition and the sprints, mid-distances, and field events primarily taking place Saturday.

For more information on the Washington State and Washington track teams, please visit www.wsucougars.com, and www.gohuskies.com.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Great story on Joan Benoit Samuelson...


In the week leading up to Sunday's US Olympic Team Trials-Women's Marathon, John Powers of the Boston Globe wrote a very good article on the great Joan Benoit Samuelson (left/photo by Mike Scott).
Samuelson finished 90th, running an American 50-54 age group record of 2:49:08.

The full article, titled "Distant Memories Won't Fade" can be accessed here...

Something to ponder in the wake of Deena's Olympic Trials win...

While writing yesterday's post on the women's marathon trials in Boston, I was steered towards an article by Liz Robbins of the New York Times previewing the Trials race.

Deena Kastor is quoted in this article extensively; however, one quote jumps out at me:

“For me, it’s not about just being happy to be here, but for a lot of people it is,” Kastor said.

Unknowingly or not, Deena's statement essentially called out the women's long distance running community for what I said in a 2000 op-ed piece in Northwest Runner.

In that article, I said, "the mentality in the USATF women’s long distance community is like AYSO youth soccer where everyone plays, and is more concerned with generating feel-good stories (i.e. number of working moms competing, high participation numbers, ad nauseum), instead of focusing on making the top female runners more competitive against world-class competition."

The NY Times article further quotes Kastor as saying that a soft qualifying standard did not encourage the competition, “but I’m not really sure what will.” She added that great performances could inspire people.

For now, she said, “the ‘happy to be here’ mentality has also hurt us in the Olympic Games.”

“People strive to be as fit as possible just for the Olympic trials,” she said, “and when the Olympics come along, they’re just happy to be a part of it. I wanted to break that cycle when I went to the Olympics the last time.”

Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune, perhaps one of this country's most respected writers on the Olympics, summed up Kastor's thoughts in an article he wrote eight years ago as the phenomenon known as "'Olympic tourism'--sending athletes who have no chance to make the top-8, a distinction that earns a certificate, let alone no chance at a medal.”

To read the NY Times article, please go here...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Kastor, Lewy Boulet & Russell comprise US Olympic women's marathon team...



BOSTON--“Speed kills”—one of the oldest track & field coaches’ sayings.

When it was all said and done, Deena Kastor (above/photo by Mike Scott) of Mammoth Lakes, California used the strength gained from years of altitude training, along with the foot speed honed from years of track racing to win the US Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon today in Boston, reeling former University of California standout Magdalena Lewy Boulet from Oakland at the 2:15 mark of the race.

Lewy Boulet, who became a naturalized American citizen on September 11, 2001, took the lead almost from the get-go, building up a lead of nearly two minutes over the chase pack of about eight athletes at the 14-mile mark, when Kastor, the American record holder in this event, decided she’d had enough, and began pursuing the former Polish national.

The 35-year-old Kastor began running mile splits of 5:30 to 5:34, quickly eating up Lewy Boulet's lead. When the Olympic bronze medalist strode past Lewy Boulet 2:14:50 into the race, she increased her pace even further, to 5:29 per mile, as she added an Olympic Trials marathon title to her storied resume by crossing the finish line in 2:29:35.

Lewy Boulet, 34, made her first Olympic Team, finishing second in a personal-best time of 2:30:19. The native of Poland and mother to a nearly 3-year-old boy, Lewy Boulet's time improved on her personal best of 2:30:50, which she ran in placing fifth at the 2004 Olympic Trials in St. Louis.

Blake Russell
(Pacific Grove, Calif.), who was the fourth place finisher in this race four years ago in St. Louis, nabbed the final Olympic team spot, running 2:32:40, despite a stretch in the 20th mile where she appeared to be faltering, as a surprising Desiree Davila (Rochester Hills, Mich.) of the Hanson’s/Brooks Distance Project made a charge to get within seven seconds of Russell, but could not close.

Russell, who passed on an opportunity to compete for Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland a few weeks ago, was never seriously threatened for the third spot, as Zoila Gomez (Alamosa, Colorado) garnered the alternate’s position, running 2:33:53, outkicking Tera Moody of Boulder on the final straightaway.

Afterwards, Kastor, the Olympic bronze medalist in this event from Athens, told reporters, “I accomplished my two major goals coming in to this race. First, to make the team, that was the most important thing, and secondly to win. Blake and Magdalena both gave me a run for my money today. They both looked so great. I thought for many miles I may have misjudged (Lewy Boulet). I wanted to feel as comfortable as possible the first half of the race. In the middle miles I thought I might have misjudged Magdalena's strength. I tried to pick up the pace and I kept hearing a minute forty (that she was 1:40 behind Lewy Boulet).”

Lewy Boulet, who was determined to make the Trials race an honest one, said afterwards, “Just going into the race I knew that I had to stick to about 5:40s (mile pace), coming through 1:15 through the half and trying to duplicate the second half about the same. I had no idea that I was going to be by myself, but it worked this time. I was definitely a little bit uncomfortable, especially the first and second mile, a bit surprised that I was out there by myself. But the crowd just kind of took me through it. Right before the race, my husband and my coach said the race is not going to come to me, I would have to go get it. And that's what I did. ... the gap was between 1:40 and 2:00, and for a moment I thought I was going to win the race. In the back of my mind, I knew Deena was coming. That's the beauty of a criterium course is you can see where everyone is.”

Russell, who had to have thoughts of the 2004 race in the back of her mind, when she was caught in the final mile by Jen Rhines (who is opting for the track), said “Right now I don't think it's really sunk in. It's something that after the disaster in 2004 (placing fourth at the Olympic Trials), my coach and I said we've got to set up a plan to get me to this spot right here. I think later on tonight it's going to hit me but right now it seems surreal. I just couldn't be happier. It's funny, this is the team I picked going into it. ... (at 20 miles) I was hoping I wasn't in trouble. I knew she (Desiree Davila) was gaining a little bit and I thought she was really strong. I learned from 2004 that a lot can happen those last couple of miles, so I was telling myself to stay relaxed and not to panic.”

Among runners with ties to the state of Washington, Gwen Greiner of the Seattle Running Company was the top finisher in 51st place (2:44:25). Caryn Heffernan of Bothell finished 71st in 2:46:25, and Marlene Farrell of Leavenworth was 105th in 2:52:58.

Former University of Washington runner Deeja Youngquist, who finished eighth in the 2004 Trials, then was disqualified for failing a drug test, failed to finish. Other Washingtonians who DNF’d included Vanessa Hunter, Lauren Matthews & Alysun Deckert of Seattle, and Susan Empey of Mercer Island.

1984 Olympic marathon gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson of Freeport, Maine, one of the pioneers in women’s marathoning, finished 90th in a time of 2:49:08, an American record in the 50-54 age group, in what she stated was her final competitive marathon. Benoit Samuelson, who won the first US Olympic Team Trials-Women’s Marathon in 1984 in Olympia, Washington, finished the race wearing a Boston Red Sox cap, as she did in 1979 when she won the Boston Marathon for the first time.

Friday, April 18, 2008

U-Dub, the Cougs & the Falcons head to Mt. SAC; women's marathon trials weekend, etc.

The University of Washington, Washington State University & Seattle Pacific track teams head to Walnut, California this weekend for the annual Mt. SAC Relays.

Meanwhile, several women with ties to the state of Washington are in Boston for the US Olympic Team Trials--Women's Marathon on Sunday April 20th, with none having a realistic shot at making the IAAF standard of 2:37:00, other than former University of Washington standout Deeja Youngquist, who has a seed mark of 2:36.06, set at last fall's St. George (UT) marathon, which is notable for its primarily downhill course.

Youngquist, as many of you recalled, was suspended from competition for two years and her eighth place finish from the 2004 Trials (2:34:31) voided for failing a drug test. She has a marathon PR of 2:29:01, set in Chicago in 2003.

The Trials will be webcast starting at 5 am Sunday at nbcsports.com.

In a post unrelated to track and field/running, I'm disappointed that the National Basketball Association's Board of Governors voted 28-2 (Mark Cuban of Dallas & Paul Allen of Portland) to allow the Seattle Supersonics to move to Oklahoma City.

Is this over? We'll see when the city of Seattle goes to court in June.

As the late John Belushi says, "Nothing's over until we decide it is!"

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More on Jordan Boase...

Tom Borish of trackshark.com, which does an excellent job covering the college track & field scene, now has up an interview with Jordan Boase from the University of Washington, who broke Ja'Warren Hooker's 400m school record by running 44.82 at the Sun Angel Classic in Tempe on April 12th.

You can check out the interview here...

Finally, the video of his race from the Sun Angel is posted here...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jordan Boase named Pac-10 athlete of the week...

Washington junior sprinter Jordan Boase was named Pac-10 Men's Track Athlete of the Week for Apr. 7-13, Commissioner Tom Hansen announced Monday.

Boase, a native of Bothell and graduate of Bothell High School, ran a lifetime-best 44.82 to win the 400-meter Invitational at last Saturday's Sun Angel Classic in Tempe, Ariz. The time was a meet record, and tied 2004 Olympic 400-meter gold medalist Jeremy Wariner for the second-fastest time in the world this year.

See the complete release here...

Nike Beijing Summit (part three)...

BEAVERTON, Oregon--Day 2 of the Nike Beijing Summit started out with a tour of the Nike Sports Research Lab, a place that I had visited several times back in my Nike wear testing days (before I got old and injured). The NSRL has sure changed a lot since then, as there are much, much more sophisticated pieces of machinery in the lab, including the state of the art Alter-G treadmill that Dathan Ritzenhein talked about at last year’s Nike summit in New York.

While touring the lab, we saw two runners running side by side, one wearing the Ice Vest (left) that I talked about in part one, and the other running in a standard Nike Dri-Fit shirt, which would be fine, except that the temperature inside the climate-controlled room was close to the conditions expected in Beijing. The two guys in the room were hooked up electronically with sensors that detected body temperatures in key parts of the body.

As they ran on the treadmill, we were shown a computer image of both runners in the next room that showed each runner’s core temperature. Obviously, the guy with the ice vest looked to be more comfortable. I guess the question is whether he’s paying a price for comfort with the extra weight he’s carrying (almost 4 kilos) with the vest, keeping in mind that they’re only doing what is theoretically a warmup run.

After seeing an array of other displays, including a female running repeatedly over a force plate, and a guy wearing a full black body suit lined with sensor dots (so they can do a stick figure rendering of him on the computer) shooting baskets, it was time to head to the Lance Armstrong Building to see a demonstration of Nike’s Swift technology and the swimsuit that will go against the highly touted Speedo LZR suit, which has taken the swimming world by storm with the numerous world records set in the last few months.

One minor problem…on the grass field in front of the Lance, Oregon Project runners Adam & Kara Goucher, Galen Rupp, Amy Yoder Begley and Caitlin Chock were getting ready to do a 5-mile tempo run under the watchful eye of Alberto Salazar, with former George Mason standout Julius Achon jumping back and forth between the two groups acting as a pacer.



After getting a big hug from Kara (“Don’t mind me being all sweaty”), she said that she wasn’t exactly looking forward to this workout, which started at 5:40 and progressively got faster, especially since they were running entirely on grass. Husband Adam told a group of us that he was getting over the injuries that bothered him towards the end of last season, and Alberto put a positive spin on the workout (“These guys are complaining that we’re running them on the grass, but they’re not getting injured,” Salazar said).

As the runners went through their paces while we were inside the pool at the Lance listening to the Swift presentation, I could not help but notice that they were running their laps around the grass field clockwise. My guess is that it’s probably another way to lessen the stress on the body, since you run track races counterclockwise.

Yet another unexpected surprise of the summit was running into and chatting with former USA Track & Field CEO Craig Masback during lunch. Masback was escorting a reporter back to the Tiger Woods Center when Brian Metzler of Runner’s World, Bob Babbitt of Competitor magazine, and I saw him.

Since resigning from USATF to take a sports marketing position with Nike, Masback’s taken a lot of heat from folks in the running community, namely for the perception that his Nike job was a payoff for delivering the 2012 Olympic Trials to Eugene, despite Eugene not having completed the 2008 Trials, a fact that’s made people in Sacramento very upset.

After catching up with Craig, it was time for the final big presentation of shoes for each of the 32 Olympic sports, and a showing of the track and field spikes.

For those who follow high school cross country in the states of Oregon and Washington, the name John Truax is significant, as he’s the guy, who along with Josh Rowe, created the annual Nike Border Clash cross country race in November.



Truax talked me through the entire line of specialty track & field shoes available for the Olympics. For the most part, there are no significant design changes in the specialty field event shoes other than cosmetics and upper materials. Their sprint shoes retain some of the same plates that sprinters have grown accustomed to, but you will see some of the Flywire technology on the uppers of the shoes, especially on the middle distance Zoom Victory (above) and the 5/10k Zoom Matumbo spike.

Finally, we got a sneak peek at the uniforms the Nike sponsored athletes will wear this spring and summer, along with the newly designed uniforms for the Kenyan and Ukraine federations (left). Alas, the USA Track & Field uniform won’t be rolled out until the Olympic Trials in Eugene, but there was a conceptual drawing of it snuck into a PowerPoint slide presentation.

For athletes looking for the best and most innovative gear to help them perform at their best in Beijing, the Nike Summit was certainly the place to be.

NOTE: Special thanks to Nike PR gurus Jacie Prieto and Jill Zanger for their help in gaining access to the summit.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Nike Beijing Summit (part two)...


EUGENE, Ore.--After the introductory remarks on the Flywire and Lunar foam technology, a group of specialty running/track & field writers were herded onto a waiting VIP bus from Nike’s Tiger Woods Conference Center to take a 90 minute ride to the company’s roots in Eugene for a presentation in a conference room at the Bowerman Building overlooking the University of Oregon’s historic Hayward Field.

While eating our lunch on the bus, I couldn’t help but stare at the wrists of several Nike folks on the bus with us, as they were wearing the new Nike+ Sport Band, to complement the wildly successful Nike+ iPod running system.

Using a laptop computer hooked up to the television screen, Nike+ guru Matt Capozzi went into a detailed presentation on the Nike+ Sport Band, explaining that the sport band is designed primarily for the runner who wants to take advantage of the Nike+ system, but prefers not to run with an iPod nano hooked up.

Nike+ SportBand allows runners to see their distance, pace, time and calories burned when they run, in addition to gaining access to all of the features and tools on nikeplus.com. Designed for runners who choose not to run with music and for those times when you can’t use music, the Nike+ SportBand provides all the benefits of Nike+ technology to a broader audience of runners.

In the same manner that the Nike + iPod Sport Kit allows shoes to send information to a nano, the Nike+ SportBand is a wristwatch that also monitors a runner’s steps. A runner can check time, pace, distance and calories burned at a glance of the wrist. The Nike+ SportBand watch face is a detachable LINK that captures all the run data from a sensor located in the runner’s Nike+ ready footwear. Once a run is completed, the LINK conveniently plugs into a computer like a USB drive, so data can then be sent to nikeplus.com where a runner’s progress is tracked.

On April 10th, all Nike+ runners can get access to their own personal online trainer with Nike+ Coach. Nike+ Coach takes online coaching to the next level by empowering runners of all levels with the information and motivation needed to build their own training programs.

The only problem with the Sport Band, which I believe will be addressed in future generations of it, is that it lacks a stopwatch/split timing feature. Future versions of the Sport Band may also include a heart rate monitor function.

Perhaps the coolest part of the Sport Band is that it can link with up to eight Nike+ sensors, instead of having to dig out your shoe and replacing the sensor with the one that comes with the band. I tried it out for the first time on Friday with a short run from Ballard High School to NW 32nd, one of my most familiar runs. After some initial problems uploading the data, along with a software update that I needed to download, the information finally showed up on my nikeplus.com account.

Once we got to Eugene, we were treated to a more detailed presentation of the shoes and apparel by Nike running summit veterans Kevin Paulk and Debra Talbert. In a presentation on Nike’s promotional activities in the sport for 2008, we were informed of perhaps one of the worst kept secrets—Nike will be one of the major sponsors of this fall’s Chicago Marathon, finally giving the company an avenue in one of the five races that comprises the World Marathon Majors (London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York), although we were asked not to release the information until April 10th, in deference to the marathon’s title sponsor, Bank of America.



The University of Oregon’s Vin Lananna and Mike Reilly then gave a presentation on what to expect in June when Hayward Field hosts the US Olympic Track & Field Trials. The infield was completely redone, removing a 3-foot crown in the middle to meet international standards. New runways were laid out for the high jump, long/triple jumps, pole vault, and javelin; the track was resurfaced, and a new state-of-the-art video scoreboard (photo above) was installed at the south end, replacing the iconic board.

Olympic marathon team member Dathan Ritzenhein for the second consecutive year addressed the gathering of reporters, giving everyone an update on how his training was progressing, after suffering a minor injury that forced his withdrawal from the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh. He stated that the move from Boulder to Eugene has been beneficial.

(NOTE: For those of you who read about the Nike Beijing Summit in the business section of the major publications, Nike rolled out the Hyperdunk basketball shoe, complete with a Q and A session with Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, who was in town, as the Lakers were playing Portland the next night. The running scribes were the only ones who missed the presentation, which was held while we were in Eugene).

Our day in Eugene ended with dinner at a local restaurant, in which we were graced by the presence of one Andrew Acosta from the University of Oregon, who was a guest of fellow San Diegan Bob Babbitt of Competitor magazine. A few weeks earlier, he broke four minutes in the mile at the UW Last Chance meet in Seattle. AJ used this opportunity at dinner to bust my chops about not giving him the “BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA” call after breaking four. I shot back by stating that only the field event guys got that call, but since we’re in Eugene, I would give him that.

In my best Mr. Announcer voice, I belted out to my fellow running reporters and Nike running PR folks, “And AJ Acosta has broken four minutes in the mile for the first time—BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA!!!”

In part three—Spikes, spikes, baby; uniforms for Beijing, and the Gouchers

Frosh Jeshua Anderson hot at Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner Kersee Invite in LA...


LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Washington State University freshman Jeshua Anderson (left/photo courtesy Washington State University) dropped his collegiate national-leading 400m hurdles time to 49.66 seconds in the 95-degree heat Saturday, the final day of the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invite at UCLA's Drake Stadium.

Anderson, from Woodland Hills, Calif., ran his improved NCAA Regional Qualifying and freshman school record time for second place in the invitational race Saturday. Cougar Head Coach Rick Sloan reported that Anderson had hit the final hurdle which cost him the win in the race. Professional Kyle Erickson won the race in a time of 49.64.

Complete results of the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invitational can be accessed here...


NOTE: Washington State University's sports information office contributed to this report.

Jordan Boase breaks UW 400m school record held by Ja'Warren Hooker


TEMPE, Arizona--Junior Jordan Boase (left/photo courtesy University of Washington) won the 400-meter invitational race, setting a new meet record with a time of 44.82 at the Sun Angel Classic on the campus of Arizona State University Saturday.

Boase, a product of Bothell High School, who took third in the 400-meter dash at NCAA Indoors, made his outdoor debut Saturday after being held out last week due to a sore back.

His time eclipsed the previous Washington school record of 44.91 set in the Olympic year of 2000 by Ja'Warren Hooker, who went on to earn a spot on the US Olympic 4 x 400m relay pool that season.

Complete results of the Sun Angel Classic can be accessed here...

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

Friday, April 11, 2008

One for the girls...

Everything I've ever accomplished as a writer, photographer, and journalist of this sport would not have been possible if I didn't take on a low-paying position as the assistant director of communications for the local organizing committee of the 1984 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials in Olympia, Washington.

Michael Musca of Running Times magazine wrote an excellent piece in its April issue about that historic race, of which I was quoted in.

The story can be accessed here...

Greg Crowther to defend USA 100k title...

Greg Crowther of Seattle, who runs for the Seattle Running Company team, and actually wrote a blog piece about me way back in 1999 at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Seville, travels to Madison, Wisconsin this Saturday to defend his title at the 2008 USA 100 km Championships. The championships will be hosted for the second time by the Mad City 100K.

The distance, 100 kilometers, is just over 62 miles, where 37 competitors will run a scenic 10-kilometer course around Lake Wingra ten times, providing support crews and spectators many opportunities to see the athletes during the event.

Crowther will have his work cut out for him as Michael Wardian (Arlington, Va.), makes his first appearance at the 100 km championships. Wardian won the USA 50 km championships last month, setting a championship record of 2:55:05.

The full release can be read here at usatf.org

Nike Beijing Summit (part one)...


Earlier this week, I was one of over 300 journalists from all over the world that converged on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon for the Beijing Summit, where the company rolled out many of the products that you'll see the world's best athletes compete in at the Olympics this August.

To kick off the summit, Nike Beijing Olympic project manager Kris Aman spoke about the innovations that the company will feature in China, including shoes for ALL sports offered in the Olympics, including equestrian, taekwondo, archery, wushu, and BMX cycling, shoes that quite honestly are loss leaders for the company.

The big question asked frequently was why would a multi-billion dollar company invest money, and brain power on shoes that will never see the light of day at Foot Locker, Champs, Finish Line, JC Penney, or Nordstrom?

The answer, and a theme repeated by numerous Nike managers, is that the technology used to design shoes for the world's best athletes does trickle down to the average Joe/Jane Consumer!

A presentation by footwear designer Sean McDowell illustrates two of the biggest technologies that they learned from designing shoes for this summer's Olympians.

McDowell discussed Flywire technology, which is based on the principle of using high-strength threads to support the foot only in the areas necessary like cables on a suspension bridge. Flywire allowed Nike to make its lightest and strongest footwear ever, transforming how footwear is engineered by reducing the amount of material required for the upper of a shoe to the bare minimum. Thanks to this innovation, track spikes with Flywire are now under 100g – a weight never before achieved – without compromising on durability or integrity and support.

Using materials developed by NASA to make balloons for the Lunar Rover, Nike will roll out a racing shoe at the US Olympic Team Trials-Women's Marathon in Boston on April 20th called the LunaRacer (left). It essentially is a lighter weight foam midsole material that is a next generation version of the ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA) foam that is the industry standard in athletic footwear. The LunaRacer and LunaRTrainer, which also incorporates Flywire technology (note the fine lines in the heel and arch areas near the swoosh), will debut in July, in time for the Olympic Trials in Eugene.


Nike also rolled out in the opening session a next-generation version of the cooling vest (I'm hanging out with one of the models wearing the vest--note the spout next to my shoulder where you can refill the vest--I'm thinking forget the water--how about beer!) that was a key factor in the medals earned by Meb Keflezighi (silver) and Deena Kastor (bronze) in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. This next generation vest is significantly lighter (3.6 kilos vs. 4.6 kilos or almost 8 pounds vs almost 10 pounds), more flexible, better fitting and refillable—a tall order for a piece of equipment athletes like Meb and Deena (who is NOT a Nike athlete) have praised.

In part two (the tease)--Checking out Eugene's resurfaced track, and the Nike+ Sport Band...

Dawgs, Wazzu on the road this weekend; Lukezic to make outdoor 1500m debut in Knoxville...

Only one destination awaits the Washington track and field team this week, as UW sends a full squad to Tempe, Ariz. for the Sun Angel Classic hosted by Arizona State. All the events with the exception of the hammer throws take place Saturday, April 12, with the hammer competition taking place one day prior.

The Huskies will be looking to add to their current list of eight regional qualifiers, all set at last weekend's Pepsi Team Invitational in Eugene, Ore. Washington has only competed twice outside, and adverse weather conditions have hampered times and marks across the board, so the typical Arizona sun could be a boon to the Husky athletes.

A very strong field will be on hand to give the Huskies a run, including both Sun Devil squads that swept the NCAA Indoor Championships a month ago in Fayetteville, Ark. In addition, full teams from Air Force, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Boise State, DePaul, Duke, Florida,Iowa, Iowa State, New Mexico, Northern Arizona, Penn State and Penn State will be in attendance, as well as men's teams from Alabama, Arkansas, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and women's teams from Illinois, Michigan, and Villanova.

Meanwhile, the Washington State University track and field teams will compete at two different meets this weekend--the Rafer Johnson/Jackie Joyner-Kersee Invite at UCLA's Drake Stadium will be held April 10-12, and the 37th Annual Pelluer Invitational at Woodward Field on the campus of Eastern Washington University will take place April 11.

Washington's three women's mile All-Americans, Amanda Miller, Michelle Turner, and Katie Follett are all entered in the 1500-meters, and freshman Lauren Saylor will make her first outdoor run after competing in the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Scotland just two weeks ago. Saylor will run in the 5K along with three other Huskies.

On the pro ranks, former Auburn HS standout Chris Lukezic makes his 2008 outdoor season debut in the 1500 meters Friday at the Sea Ray Relays meet in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lukezic, a member of Team USA in 2005 at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Helsinki, competes in a field which includes Canadian internationalist Kevin Sullivan.

Results from that meet will be posted at tenntrack.com.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Register-Guard begins its big push towards the Olympic Trials...


I received an e-mail from Ron Bellamy, the sports editor of the Eugene Register-Guard, and president of the Track & Field Writers of America, an organization which I am a member of, in which he touts his paper's coverage of the 2008 Olympic Track & Field Team Trials.

In his opening column in the paper, Bellamy writes:

"The ’72 Trials were, in Eugene, a big-time event, and the coverage dominated The Register-Guard’s sports section under the leadership of sports editor Blaine Newnham, who attended the 1960 Trials at Stanford, and covered the 1968 Trials at Echo Summit near Lake Tahoe, and who had been inspired by coverage of the sport in Track & Field News.

In what was a unique approach in that era, the newspaper provided stories on every event, and devoted the sports front page entirely to the Trials. Such coverage embraced the importance of the Trials, nationally and in the track-sophisticated Eugene community, and became part of the newspaper’s enduring identity and philosophy; you can see vestiges of it today in our coverage of, for example, an Oregon football game.

It’s with a deep respect for that legacy that today we formally launch our advance coverage of the 2008 Trials."

Bellamy continues, "Beginning today, on Page D10, and for the next 10 Thursdays, we will present the Road to Eugene ’08, a color page devoted to covering the athletes who will compete in the Olympic Trials, and reflecting on special moments from past Trials in Eugene. That coverage will be accompanied by a Trials-related cover story on news, personalities and issues."

The Road to Eugene '08 can be read at registerguard.com/trials, along with archived articles from the Register-Guard pertaining to the event.



IOC strips relay medals from Marion Jones' Sydney teammates...

Here's a link to an AP report on the International Olympic Committee's decision to strip the teammates of Marion Jones' relay medals from the Sydney Games of 2000.

"The decision was based on the fact that they were part of a team, that Marion Jones was disqualified from the Sydney Games due to her own admission that she was doping during those games," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies, who announced the decision. "She was part of a team and she competed with them in the finals."

Jones' teammates on the 1,600 squad were Jearl-Miles Clark, Monique Hennagan, LaTasha Colander-Richardson and Andrea Anderson. The 400-relay squad also had Chryste Gaines, Torri Edwards, Nanceen Perry and Passion Richardson.

The runners have previously refused to give up their medals, saying it would be wrong to punish them for Jones' violations. They have hired a U.S. lawyer to defend their case, which could wind up in the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The full story can be read here...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Prep flashback--Jarred Rome

Here's an article from today's Seattle Times on former Marysville-Pilchuck discus thrower Jarred Rome, who was always overshadowed by Ben Lindsay.

The link is here...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Where (or who) is the future of track in the US? GUEST COLUMNIST: Chris Lukezic


I'm turning over the reigns of paulmerca.blogspot.com to 1500 meter runner Chris Lukezic (left/ file photo by Paul Merca) for perhaps one of the more thoughtful pieces on the sport of track and field that I've seen from a current athlete. Chris is a product of this state, having graduated from Auburn HS in 2002. He's no slouch on the track, owning a resume that reads like this:

2006 USA Indoor champion; Two-time U.S. Junior 1,500m champ; 2005 USA Outdoor 1,500m runner-up; 2005 Big East Conference champ; 5-time NCAA All-American.

I happened to read excerpts of this from the web site runnerville.com. Right then and there, I knew that this was a piece that had to be on this site, as many of the points Chris brings across are points that I've thought about for a long, long time.


While running is one of this country's leading participatory sports, I honestly don't think that beyond the Olympics, the majority of the general running public knows who the top runners are in the world, much less this country.



I feel, as does Chris, that there is a serious lack of connection between the elite runners and the masses, and that in order for this sport to be relevant, something has to happen to make track and field--and running--more than a once-every-four-year proposition.



Here's Chris' piece, courtesy of
fifteenhundred.com:


This post stems from long running discussions I have had with a number of people regarding the marketing and brand positioning of the sport. It is easy to sit back and criticize the IAAF and the USATF for failing to make the moves necessary to address the evolving face of sports, media, and fans.

Track needs to continually evolve, like any efficient business does, to the demands of the marketplace. This is something the IAAF and the USATF have been very slow to do. The USATF needs to refocus the professional side of the sport towards a revenue generating operation. The limitation of the current non-profit structure has only limited USATFs ability to commit itself to a proper brand image and marketing strategy that can contribute to increased interest in the sport and the further “professionalization” of the sport in the United States. The search for a new CEO at the USATF has brought the organization to a monumental crossroad. One road leads towards more of the same and a glacial attempt to catch up and emulate what other sports knew 5 years ago. The other road, which can only be traversed by bringing in someone from outside the established organization, leads to a restructuring and probably a few years of growing pains to implement a corporate style structure into the financial, branding, and marketing functions of the USATF.

The restructuring of the USATF has to begin with a full separation in operations of the professional and non-professional aspects of the sport. They could go as far as to completely eliminate USATF from any relation to professional track and field in the US and name it something else. This is not because the USATF has failed at what is has done. It just hasn’t progressed as fast as the market has. The separation would be needed to instill a unified identity for each aspect of the sport that all employees and athletes can stand behind. By separating and restructuring it eliminates any confusion or muddling of the core values/identity of the professional side of the sport. One side of the organization would remain a non-profit and focus on all youth and masters efforts. This side of the organization would also be the national governing body of track and field for all “non-professional” activities. This is similar to what already happens with the elite athlete department run by a separate group of people. However, I’m calling for something more marked. The reasoning behind creating a new group (maybe even a name change?) is to fully focus business efforts for each group. Youth and Masters runners who participate are one market that the USATF has to consider. However the elite side of the sport needs to focus itself towards fans. Participators are not necessarily fans. The disconnect between people who run and people who watch running is HUGE and fully demonstrates this point. There aren’t many sports that people participate in and still take no interest in outside of their own participation.

To focus on the fans, professional track and field in the United States needs its own organization and its own structure, distinct and separate from what we currently have. This is necessary for the elite side of the sport to find its voice. A comprehensive brand overhaul is needed first. Track is unidentifiable. Cycling has its romanticism, baseball its history, and basketball its urban swagger. What does track have? The Olympics are an obvious answer, but anyone who runs knows there is more to the sport than that. Track and running needs to find that voice and then market it to the point consumers (ie. fans) can identify with it. We can’t confuse consumers with mixed or inconsistent messages.

Consumers want images, they want ideas, and they want a culture that they can project themselves into. Often times this sport underestimates the power that good marketing and branding can have in drawing in interest in the sport. Track needs to reinvent itself in a more glamorous light. This means better branding of the USATF, better marketing of its core message/voice, and tweaking the way meets are run. Sponsors need to become more visible as well. The USATF needs to make their sponsors a part of their strategy. We can’t just paste a Toyota logo up around the track and call it a good sponsorship strategy. We need to draw those sponsors in with inclusive strategies that treat those sponsors like they are part of the organization (which they truly are). The athletes need to be utilized through more community interaction and local marketing of individual athletes. When I meet people (even briefly) in DC and I tell them I am going to be racing on ESPN at the New York Grand Prix they are far more likely to watch because I have given them a reason to watch. I’m a local and I’m someone they met that they can root for. I’ve given them a reason to tune in. For instance, I don’t necessarily love college basketball, but I love to watch Georgetown play and I won’t miss a game. That is because I have a reason to watch. Track needs to give fans the same reasoning. Finally the USATF needs to open up athlete sponsorship by changing logo size rules, race number configuration (make meet sponsor logo bigger and athlete name smaller). Fans on TV should be able to see that Reebok sponsors me. However under the current rules the size of the logo is limited and nearly impossible to see unless you are on the track.

Obviously a few pages of writing (although I would call this blogging more than writing due to its free form nature) only really scratch the surface of the possibilities for the sport. However, I felt it was important to add something to this discussion. With a lack of mainstream media coverage I am hoping that the voices of people intimately connected to the sport will be heard and considered. I believe the more the sport is discussed the more likely it is that really good ideas will be hatched.

As a post script to this post I am adding a few points that my father brought up in an email to me. He mentions the USGA and the PGA as a prime example of how separate organizations can operate independently yet use their synergies to promote both the amateur and the professional sides of the sport. The USGA governs the sport at all levels and promotes the game to scratch golfers and +20 handicappers alike. The PGA, as the professional arm of the sport, deals with its own marketing, branding, tournaments, and the biggest major championship of the year. On top of that they protect, utilize, and encourage all of the players within the association. The PGA has done a very good job of supporting the guys at the bottom of the leader board as much as they do the guys at the top. If anything the strength of the PGA is in its overwhelming depth of quality players. The USATF and the IAAF alike have very little if any system in place to give the guy fresh out of college the support necessary to spend 4 or 5 years training and racing before reaching their peak in their mid to late 20’s. This is where having a separate professional organization in the US can make a difference. The USATF puts a lot of time and energy into their grassroots youth programs but hasn’t developed a system that can do the same for elites. So far it has been private organizations that have taken the initiative to do this (Hansons, Zap, OTC etc.). So how does the USATF support those organizations? I really don’t know but I’m putting it out there. We need a CEO at the USATF who can think creatively about the whole system and develop comprehensive solutions. The USATF pays well enough that they can find the talent to do this. The question really is, will they look outside of the establishment to find a leader? The role of CEO of the USATF should not be viewed as a reward for minding ones p’s and q’s within the organization and showing “leadership” qualities. In my opinion, the first fault of the USATF is looking within the sport for a leader. We need a fresh perspective.




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