Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Chalk one up for the little guys...

In an era where you generally have to have the resources to recruit high school All-Americans, the University of Portland has maintained its status as one of the country's top cross country and distance running programs by convincing good, but not great high school runners, particularly from the state of Washington, to attend the school.

David Kinsella (left, competing at 2008 NCAA West Regionals/photo by Paul Merca) was not a blue chip, high school All-American when he graduated out of Inglemoor High, just north of Seattle, yet the senior has developed into one of the country's top collegiate 10000 meter runners, and earned All-America status with his fourth place finish at last fall's NCAA cross country championships.

The method behind head coach Rob Conner is now revealed in an article in the March issue of Running Times magazine written by Chris Lear.

Lear writes, "What they are doing is producing top-shelf distance runners. Consider this: In 2007, three Pilots ran under 29 minutes for 10K, and two more ran under 29:20. Last year, the top two marks were under 28:30. None of the aforementioned athletes was a blue-chip Foot Locker finalist, and all accomplished their marks by employing a training methodology that sprang not from the stars but from the shadows. And last fall, led by Kinsella's fourth-place individual effort, the Pilots finished seventh in NCAA cross country championships, matching the 2001 team for the best in school history."

The revolution began three years ago with a book and a gaggle of fringe athletes. First, Conner spied a copy of Jack Daniels' book of training on Pilot women's coach Ian Solof's desk. He asked Solof what Daniels recommended for a 29-flat 10K guy. "And voila," says Conner, "my eyes were opened."

Conner explained his new approach to training to his guys in layman's terms. "How many of you guys played soccer?" he asked. Everyone's hand shot up. "How long is soccer practice?" he asked. "About two hours," they responded. "Exactly," he said. "An hour's worth of practice doesn't do anything for anybody."

To read the entire article, click here...

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