Monday, January 30, 2012

Some thoughts and numbers on Katie Flood...

Having been around the sport since my days at Seattle's Sharples Junior High School in 1972 (holy crap, that's forty years!), I feel like I've seen it all from the way Henry Rono made the steeplechase look so effortless when he ran 8:05.4 on a rainy day in Seattle at Husky Stadium in 1978; Joan Benoit's historic marathon run in 1984 in Olympia; Rick Noji's first appearance at the world championships in Tokyo in 1991; the mano-a-mano duel at the Chicago Marathon in 2010 won by the late Sammy Wanjiru; all the way to Usain Bolt's powerful display in the 100 and 200 at the Berlin world championships.

Sometimes, you get inspired by efforts made in defeat.

Such was the case when Washington's Katie Flood (left/photo courtesy University of Washington) ran a scintillating 3000 meters Saturday at the Dempsey, finishing second in a time of 8:55.31 to Kenya's Sally Kipyego, who was the silver medalist in the 10000 at last year's IAAF world championships in Daegu, and was a nine-time NCAA national champion at Texas Tech.

Kipyego set a Dempsey Facility record with her winning time of 8:47.91, currently the third fastest time in the world this year.

Flood maintained her patience and composure through the first two kilometers as Kipyego broke away from the gun, running her own race.

In the race within the race, Canadian Olympian Malindi Elmore led the chase pack before yielding to North Carolina State alum Julia Lucas, Kipyego's teammate at the Oregon TC Elite/Eugene.

With 1000 meters to go, the Husky sophomore made a break from the pack of Elmore, Husky alum Katie Mackey, world championship steeplechaser Bridget Franek, and former NCAA cross country champ Angela Bizzarri, and gave chase to Lucas, who was running an inspired race after a series of injuries suffered over the past several years that threatened her professional running career.

At the 500 meter mark, the Des Moines, Iowa native passed Lucas, and began pursuing Kipyego, running an unofficial time of around 66 seconds for the last 400 meters to come up 7.4 seconds short, but consoled by the fact that she had run the fourth fastest time in the world this season (Hellen Obiri of Kenya and Great Britain's Helen Clitheroe ran 8:42.59 and 8:45.59 earlier in the day in Glasgow at the Five Nations Challenge Match).

You can watch the replay here, courtesy of media partner

Here are the superlatives (or stat geek stuff) on Flood's performance, courtesy of Sieg Lindstrom of Track & Field News:

--In collegiate history, she's the number six performer, with the eighth fastest performance ever under any conditions indoors, including on oversized tracks (the Dempsey is 307 meters);

--She's run the eighth fastest time ever by a collegian, and the fifth by an American collegian indoors or outdoors;

--Among Americans that Flood passed on the all time list: Margaret Groos of Virginia, who ran 8:55.6 in 1981; Lisa Koll, who ran 8:56.09 two years ago; and Stephanie Herbst of Wisconsin, who ran 8:57.12 in 1986.

The list of collegians ahead of Flood include: Jenny Barringer of Colorado (8:42.03 in 2009); Vicki Huber of Villanova (8:47.35 in 1988); Kipyego (8:48.77 in 2009); Kim Smith of Providence (8:49.18 in 2004); Stanford's PattiSue Plumer (8:53.54 in 1983); Kathy Butler of Wisconsin (8:54.07 in 1997); and Kara Grgas-Wheeler of Colorado (Kara Goucher), who ran 8:54.82 in 2000.

Of that list, everyone ahead of Flood has competed in an Olympics except for Kipyego, who medaled at last year's world championships.

While interviewing both Kipyego and Flood on the public address system at the Dempsey, I couldn't help but notice Flood's calm demeanor as I asked the questions that I'm sure the fans standing and watching the race wanted to ask her, even after running the race of her life.

The one thing that she was happy about when talking to me wasn't the fact that she gained status in a very elite sorority of fast women, or broke the Washington school record of 9:08.50 held by current teammate Mel Lawrence, but that she got her NCAA qualifier out of the way, and punched her ticket to Boise for what looks to be a potential showdown with Oregon's Jordan Hasay, and Villanova's Sheila Reid, among others.

Afterwards, Washington head coach Greg Metcalf said, ""Katie Flood was incredibly special tonight, that's just one of the most impressive showings I've ever seen from a track athlete in the purple and gold."

"Of course the most memorable performances come in NCAA Championships and that will be the focus for her moving ahead. Katie is phenomenally talented and can do big things, but this is just the start of her season and we just want to keep things in perspective and get better each day."

Courtesy of the University of Washington, here's the post-race interview with Flood.

A belated "BOOM-SHAKA-LAKA" to you, Katie, for a truly outstanding and inspiring effort!

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