Tuesday, July 30, 2013

AROUND THE TRACK: July 30, 2013...

Things will be a little bit slow as we approach the dead period before the start of the IAAF world track & field championships in Moscow starting on August 10th.

Team USA has started its pre-world championships training camp this week in Linz, Austria, as athletes are making their way over, either from their European training bases (for those who have been competing on the European summer circuit), or in the case of athletes like University of Washington graduate Jeremy Taiwo, who stayed in town after the USA championships, left Seattle on Sunday with UW multi-events coach Atanas Atanassov for camp.


paulmerca.blogspot.com will be on site at Luzhniki Stadium for daily coverage of the IAAF world track & field championships beginning August 9th.

JUNGMARK OUT OF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

According to the Swedish federation web site, high jumper Ebba Jungmark (left/photo courtesy www.friidrott.se) has withdrawn from the Swedish team for the world championships.

Jungmark, who won an NCAA indoor title for Washington State University in 2008, has struggled with a foot injury during the outdoor season.  Her best this season was 6-5 (1.96m) at the European Indoor championships in her hometown of Gothenburg, and 6-2 1/4 (1.89m) outdoors at the Herculis meeting in Monaco on July 19th, where she finished eighth.

Because of the injury, she, along with her coach Emil Predan made the decision to withdraw from the Swedish team, noting that she didn't want to risk any further damage that could jeopardize her participation in the 2016 Olympics.

FAN VOTING UNDERWAY FOR THE BOWERMAN

Fans of collegiate track & field will have their voices heard in the next two weeks as online voting for The Bowerman — the nation’s top award for collegiate track & field student-athletes — got underway as of noon ET on Monday, July 29.

Voting will take place at TheBowerman.org through Tuesday, August 13, to help narrow the three male and three female finalists down to a men’s and women’s winner who will take home the iconic The Bowerman trophy. The results of the online fan vote will account for one full vote in the overall balloting process.

Voters will choose between women’s finalists Arizona’s Brigetta Barrett, Stanford’s Kori Carter and Clemson’s Brianna Rollins; and men’s finalists Derek Drouin of Indiana, Lawi Lalang of Arizona and Julian Wruck of UCLA.

When placing votes, fans should only consider performances that occurred from the beginning of the indoor season through the end of the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Any performance that occurred during that timeframe — even if it wasn’t a purely collegiate competition — can be counted. Anything before that time (cross country) or after (USA Championships, select Diamond League meetings, etc.) should not factor into the decision.

The award, in its fifth year of existence, will be presented in a ceremony at the USTFCCCA Convention on December 18 at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes in Orlando, Fla.


paulmerca.blogspot.com once again is honored to hold a media vote for this prestigious national award.

NOTE: The USTFCCCA, USA Track & Field and the Swedish Athletics Federation contributed to this report.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jordan McNamara becomes fastest Washington bred miler in London...

LONDON, England--Capping off his most successful stretch of races, Auburn/Riverside HS alum Jordan McNamara (left/photo by Paul Merca) set yet another personal best in the mile as he finished seventh in the Emsley Carr mile at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games, the final stop on the IAAF Diamond League tour before the world championships break.

McNamara ran 3:52.42 to eclipse his previous personal best of 3:54.89 set in 2011.

In the process, McNamara, who attended the University of Washington for one season before transferring to Lane Community College and ultimately the University of Oregon, became the 23rd fastest miler in American history, and the fastest Washington-born miler in history, eclipsing the mark of 3:54.46 set by Chris Lukezic of Auburn HS in 2006.

McNamara was towards the back of the pack for most of the race, but made a huge move in the final lap, and picked off several runners in the final straightaway.

Courtesy of Universal Sports, here is video of the race:


On his Facebook page, McNamara said, "I capped my 2013 European season with a 2.4 second Lifetime best in the mile, running 3:52.42! Unforgettable- running in the Olympic Stadium, in front of 65,000 passionate spectators. I can't describe how it felt to walk onto the beautiful track and look up at the massive structure, floating helicopters, & countless faces. Thanks for all the supportive messages. At this point, I'm very content, & ready to get home to my wife. Mission accomplished from London."

Augustine Choge of Kenya won the race in a personal best of 3:50.01, with Galen Rupp of the Nike Oregon Project the top American in fifth in a PR 3:52.11.

In the men's pole vault, University of Washington alum Brad Walker cleared a best of 18-4 1/2 (5.60m) to finish sixth, as Renaud Lavillenie of France won with a Diamond League best jump of 19-9 (6.02m), as the top three finishers--Lavillenie, Bjorn Otto (18-11/5.77m), and Raphael Holzdeppe (18-8 1/4 /5.70m) replicated their placings from last year's Olympics held at this stadium.

The IAAF Diamond League series resumes after the world championships with meets in Stockholm on August 23rd, Zurich on August 29th, and Brussels on September 6th.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Joe Abbott and Brie Felnagle each score PRs at London Diamond League meet...

LONDON, England--Washington State alum Joe Abbott (left/photo by Paul Merca) and Tacoma's Brie Felnagle scored significant personal bests on the first night of the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games at the Olympic Stadium,  the final IAAF Diamond League meet before next month's world championships in Moscow.

Competing against a predominantly American field, Abbott, wearing his trademark black Air Jordan singlet, finished seventh in the 800 meter run, just missing the 1:44 mark, as he crossed the line in 1:45.04, eclipsing his previous best of 1:45.35 set a few weeks ago in winning the Harry Jerome meet in Burnaby.

Springfield's Nick Symmonds took the win in 1:43.67, with fellow USA world championships team members Duane Solomon (1:44.12) and Brandon Johnson (1:44.19) took second and third.

Matt Scherer of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts handled pace-setting chores for the first 500 meters of the race.

Courtesy of Universal Sports, here is video of the race.


In the women's 3000, Tacoma's Brie Felnagle, the Bellarmine Prep and University of North Carolina grad set a big personal best in the 3000, as she finished eighth in a time of 8:52.59, as she also ran against a predominantly American field.

Shannon Rowbury, who will run the 5000 for Team USA took the win in a personal best and world leading time of 8:41.46, followed by Gabrielle Anderson (8:42.64) and Molly Huddle (8:42.99), also personal bests for the two Americans.

In the women's 1500, University of Washington alum Katie Mackey of the Brooks Beasts finished third in a time of 4:09.02, as Kenya's Mary Kuria took the win in 4:08.77.

The meet continues Saturday with UW grad and reigning US champ Brad Walker in  the pole vault, and Auburn-Riverside HS grad Jordan McNamara in the men's mile.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Six athletes with Washington ties set to participate in London Diamond League meet...

LONDON, England--The two-day Sainsbury's Anniversary Games at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London that begins Friday marks the first major track meet held at the Olympic Stadium since last year's Olympics.

The meet is the final IAAF Diamond League meet before next month's IAAF world track & field championships in Moscow.

With several countries either holding selection meets or making athletes attend mandatory pre-world championship training camps, one gets the sense that the quality of the London meet may be watered down.

However, it's also given athletes who normally wouldn't receive an invitation to a meet of this caliber the opportunity to showcase their talents in a Diamond League meet.

There will be a significant Washington presence in the meet, as six athletes with ties to this state will participate in the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games.

On Friday, Tacoma's Brie Felnagle (#1, far right/photo by Paul Merca), who trains with Danny Mackey's Brooks Beasts group, but competes for adidas, goes in the 3000 against a field of seven Americans, including world championship team members Shannon Rowbury, Kim Conley, Jordan Hasay, Treniere Moser, and Molly Huddle.

In the men's 800, Washington State alum Joe Abbott is in a field that includes seven Americans, including all three world championship team members--Duane Solomon, Nick Symmonds, and Brandon Johnson.  Matt Scherer of the Brooks Beasts will handle pacemaking chores in the race. 

Brooks Beasts' Katie Mackey is entered in the 1500 against three Americans, led by the high school phenom and world championships team member Mary Cain.

Saturday, University of Washington alum Brad Walker goes in the pole vault against all three Olympic medalists--Renaud Lavillenie of France, along with Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany.

Auburn-Riverside alum Jordan McNamara will run in the Emsley Carr Mile against five Americans, including former Oregon and current world championship team members Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp.


QUICK TAKES:  Rainier Beach HS alum Ginnie Crawford announced on her Twitter and Instagram accounts that her season is over, after having surgery on her knee to repair cartilage damaged in training.

One name you have not seen this season is that of former University of Washington standout Ingvill Måkestad Bovin, who injured her Achilles before the London Olympics.

At the end of April, Måkestad Bovin gave birth to a boy, which has kept her busy, as she is slowly working her way back into competitive shape for the 2014 season.

She also published a sports nutrition book, called "Winning Food", which features recipes contributed by a number of world class athletes, including Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Jesse Williams, and Andreas Thorkildsen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

'Wizzo' wins 800 & leads 1-3 finish by Brooks Beasts in Karlstad...

KARLSTAD, Sweden--Coach Danny Mackey's Brooks Beasts had a strong showing at Tuesday's Folksam Grand Prix, led by Tacoma's Mark Wieczorek (left/photo by Paul Merca), who led a 1-3 finish by the Beasts in the men's 800.

Wieczorek won the 800 in a time of 1:46.16, with new teammate Cas Loxsom 3/10th of a second behind in 1:46.46.

Another new member of the Brooks Beasts squad, Riley Masters, finished seventh in the men's 3000, running 8:00.16, an outdoor personal best for the former All-American at the University of Maine, and the University of Oklahoma.

In the women's 1500, Tacoma's Brie Felnagle of adidas, who trains with the Beasts, was second in 4:12.66, just 3/100ths of a second behind Meraf Bahta of Sweden.

University of California alum Deborah Maier of the Beasts was ninth in 4:18.25.

The women's high jump saw former Washington State standout Ebba Jungmark finish third with a best of 5-10 1/2 (1.79m) as Isobel Pooley of Great Britain won with a jump of 6-2 1/4 (1.89m).

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kara Patterson wins javelin competition, but falls short of world championship standard...

LISLE, Illinois--Vancouver native Kara Patterson's (left/photo by Paul Merca) attempt at making a third world championship team came up a little short, as the three-time national champion threw a season best of 187-5 (57.12m) to win the javelin competition at the Chicagoland Throwers Series meet on the campus of Benedictine University outside of Chicago.

After opening with a toss of 185-10 (56.64m),  the Purdue University graduate got her best mark in round two.

Patterson, who finished third in the national championships last month in Des Moines, Iowa, needed to throw the IAAF 'A' standard of 203-5 (62.00m) by this weekend for her to join national champ Brittany Borman on the plane to Moscow.

On her Facebook page after the meet, she said, "I didn't get the job done today, but had a season's best, was aggressive from the first round of competition on, and had a blast throwing in my second meet of the season!"

Patterson, who now resides at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, has spent almost nine months rehabbing her left knee, after tearing the ACL at last year's US Olympic Trials in Eugene.

Glacier Peak HS grad Amy-Eloise Neale earns fifth place finish at European junior champs...

RIETI, Italy--On a hot day in the Italian city, incoming University of Washington freshman Amy-Eloise Neale (left/photo by Paul Merca), representing Great Britain, finished fifth in the finals of the junior women's 3000 meter steeplechase at the European Athletics Junior Championships.

Neale, the recent graduate of Glacier Peak HS in Snohomish, stayed off the early pace set by Sweden's Maria Larsson and finished in a time of 10:19.32, just off her personal best time of 10:13.74 set in the semifinals on Thursday.

Oona Kettunen from Finland took the victory in a time of 9:45.51, a new national junior record, as all three medalists--Marusa Mismas of Slovenia, and Maya Rehberg of Germany either set national records or personal bests.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Brad Walker takes second at Herculis meeting in Monaco...

FONTVIEILLE, Monaco--University of Washington alum and former world champion Brad Walker (left/photo by Mike Scott) finished second in the pole vault at the Herculis Meeting International d'Athletisme, the tenth stop on the IAAF Diamond League tour on Friday night.

Walker cleared a best of 18-11 1/2 (5.78m), to finish behind Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France, who cleared a 2013 world leading mark of 19-6 1/2 (5.96m).

Walker opened with first attempt makes at 18-4 1/2 (5.60m), and 18-8 1/4 (5.70m), before clearing his best mark of the day on his third attempt.

After Lavillenie cleared 19-2 3/4 (5.86m) to take the lead, Walker missed all three attempts at 19-4 3/4 (5.91m), which would have been a season best.

In the men's 5000, Washington State University alum Bernard Lagat was forced to drop out of the race, as Kenya's Edwin Soi won in a world leading time and meet record of 12:51.34.

On his Twitter feed after the race, he wrote, "Sorry to disappoint tonight. Thank you @DrJoshGlass & Dustin Williams @trainer911 for taking care of my hip. I'll be back strong for Moscow"

Tacoma's Matt Scherer of the Brooks Beasts set the table in the 800 for Duane Solomon to take the win in 1:43.72.

There were seven world leading marks set at the Herculis meet, as many of the world's best track and field athletes begin sharpening for the IAAF world track & field championships in Moscow that begins on August 10th.

Complete results of the Herculis meeting are available here.

KARA PATTERSON GOES FOR A STANDARD IN CHICAGO...

With this weekend the deadline for American athletes to attain a A or B mark in order to go to next month's world championships, Vancouver native and two-time Olympian Kara Patterson takes aim at the IAAF A standard of 203-5 (62.00m) at the Chicagoland Throws Series meet at Benedictine University in Chicago.

With national champion Brittany Borman already holding a B standard of 196-10 (60.00m) or better this season, the only way for Patterson to go to Moscow is to throw 203-5 or better Saturday.

On her Facebook page, Patterson said, "Feeling excited and ready, with my main goal being to retain my health. This season has been so fun so far though, and I'd love to keep that going."

At the USA championships last month, Patterson, who underwent knee surgery after the Olympics to repair the ACL damaged at the Olympic Trials, threw for the first time in 2013, finishing third with a best of 183-4 (55.88m).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Incoming UW freshman Amy-Eloise Neale advances to steeple finals at European Junior champs...

RIETI, Italy-Incoming University of Washington freshman Amy-Eloise Neale (left/photo by Paul Merca), competing for her native Great Britain, finished third in the semifinal of the 3000 steeplechase at the European Junior Championships Thursday night.

Neale started out in about third or fourth place, and stayed there for most of the race, coasting into the finish with a new personal best time of 10:13.74.

The mark stood up as the fourth fastest time of the two semifinal races

For Neale, who graduated from Glacier Peak HS, her time eclipsed her previous PR of 10:14.07 set in June at the Portland Track Classic.

Finland's Oona Kettunen won the semifinal in a time of 10:05.83, followed by Marusa Mismas of Slovakia in 10:05.84.

Neale will run in the finals Saturday at 7:30 pm local time (10:30 am in Seattle)

Day 1 results from the European Junior Championships are available here.

LAGAT AND WALKER SET FOR HERCULIS DIAMOND LEAGUE STOP IN MONACO

After nearly a two week break, the IAAF Diamond League series resumes Friday with the Herculis Meeting in Monaco, the tenth stop of the 14-city world tour.

Washington State alum Bernard Lagat is entered in the 5000 meters, where he will face a field that includes Kenya's Isiah Koech (12:58.85), and Albert Rop (12:59.43), the only men entered who have broken 13 minutes this season; and fellow Americans Galen Rupp and Ben True.

In the men's pole vault, University of Washington alum Brad Walker, who has established his summer training base in Monaco, goes up against all three Olympic medalists--Renaud Lavillenie of France, Bjorn Otto and Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany; training partner Steve Lewis of Great Britain; rising star Lazaro Borges of Cuba; and Konstantinos Filippidis of Greece.

The start list for the Herculis Meeting is available here.

THE OREGONIAN'S KEN GOE WRITES ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF THE HAVES AND HAVE-NOTS IN US PRO TRACK & FIELD

Friend of the blog Ken Goe of the Oregonian has a very compelling piece on the current state of professional track & field in the United States.

Echoing a sentiment widely known to those who follow the post collegiate side of the sport, he writes, "For every Allyson Felix or Galen Rupp, who make a comfortable living from track and field, there are dozens of athletes living on the margins, near poverty or in debt, or bankrolled by relatives."

He talks with 2004 Olympic shot put champion Adam Nelson, the president of the Track & Field Athletes Association, the fledging union that is trying to make constructive changes on the professional side of the sport; distance runner Amy Yoder Begley, who has seen all sides of financial support in her career running professionally; and Oiselle CEO Sally Bergesen, whose Seattle based company is behind the Project Little Wings training group that recently graduated University of Washington runners Christine Babcock and Mel Lawrence have joined.

Goe also cites what throwers like Spokane prep standout Britney Henry and Vancouver's Kara Patterson have had to do to increase their visibility, namely using social media to connect with fans, and create their own brands.

You can read Goe's in depth piece here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Seattle-based runners Katie Mackey and Brie Felnagle go beast mode in Dublin...

DUBLIN, Ireland--To most Seattle sports fans, any time the term 'beast mode' is used, it usually means that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has busted out a long run past the opposition.

Beast mode took a new meaning, as the Seattle based Brooks Beasts middle distance group were impressive at Wednesday night's Morton Games at Dublin's Morton Stadium Santry, taking home victories in two events, and nearly snagging a third win.

University of Washington alum Katie Mackey (left/photo by Paul Merca) dropped down in distance to win the 800 meters in 2:02.21 over Ireland's Laura Crowe, who ran 2:02.63, and the ageless Canadian veteran Diane Cummins, who stopped the watch at 2:02.80.

Mackey's training partner, Brie Felnagle of Tacoma, won the mile in a time of 4:30.44, as the adidas-sponsored runner held off Canadian Olympian Hillary Stellingwerff, who ran 4:30.95.

New Brooks Beast member Deborah Maier, the University of California alum, finished sixth in 4:35.87.

In the men's 800, another new Brooks Beast, Penn State alum Cas Loxsom, finished second in a time of 1:45.75 to Ireland's Mark English, who ran 1:45.32.

Tacoma's Mark Wieczorek was third in 1:45.86.

In the men's 3000, Bellingham native Jake Riley finished seventh in 8:01.23, as Juan Luis Barrios of Mexico won in 7:45.12.


In Lucerne, Switzerland, two-time Estonian Olympian and former Husky Märt Israel finished tenth in the discus, with a best of 184-7 (56.26m).

Brooks Beast member Matt Scherer was the pacemaker in the men's 800, won by Charles Jock in 1:46.18.

Results from the Spitzen Leichathletik Luzern are available here.

In Rieti, Italy, incoming University of Washington freshman Amy-Eloise Neale will represent Great Britain in the European Junior Championships that begin on Thursday at Raul Guidobaldi Stadium.

Neale will run the 3000 steeplechase in Rieti, where she is entered with a personal best of 10:14.07, set in June at the Portland Track Classic.

At the England Athletics Under-20 championships on June 16th, she finished second in the steeple in 10:37.30, the week after her impressive run in Portland.



The day 1 start list is available here.  Streaming video of the European Junior Championships is available via the european-athletics.org web site.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

McNamara gets second in 1500, while Abbott takes third in 800 in Lignano...

LIGNANO, Italy--Auburn-Riverside alum Jordan McNamara (left/photo by Paul Merca) finished second in the 1500 meter run Tuesday night at the Meeting Internazionale di Atletica Leggera.

McNamara, who set a personal best at this distance of 3:34.00 on July 6th in Oordegem, Belgium, ran 3:37.24, as he finished behind University of Minnesota alum Ben Blankenship, who ran 3:37.03 for the win.

Washington State alum Joe Abbott had his modest two-meet winning streak broken in the 800, as he finished third in 1:46.94 in his European circuit debut.

Recent University of Oregon grad Elijah Greer won in a time of 1:46.38, followed by Michael Rutt's 1:46.77.

Monday, July 15, 2013

McNamara and Abbott set to race in Lignano Tuesday...

LIGNANO, Italy--Several athletes with ties to the state of Washington will run in Tuesday's Meeting Internazionale di Atletica Leggera, led by Auburn-Riverside alum Jordan McNamara (left/photo by Paul Merca), who is riding a bit of a hot streak over the last two weeks.

McNamara, who will contest the 1500 in Lignano, won the 1500 at Saturday's KBC Nacht meeting in Heusden, Belgium, running 3:35.39 to beat among others, Olympic bronze medalist and world indoor champ Abdelaati Iguider.

McNamara will have five Americans in the field , including Will Leer, Matt Elliott, Mac Fleet, Ben Blankenship, and De'Sean Turner.

In the men's 800 meters, Washington State alum Joe Abbott makes his 2013 season debut on the European continent, as he is entered in the men's 800 and faces a field with four other Americans including Oregon's NCAA champ Elijah Greer.

Abbott is riding a wave in which he won his last two races--the Harry Jerome in Burnaby, and the Victoria International, earlier this month.

Tacoma's Matt Scherer is the designated pacer for this race as well as the 1500.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Hannah Cunliffe takes fourth in 200m at IAAF World Youth Champs...



DONETSK, Ukraine--In the final day of competition at the IAAF World Youth Championships for athletes 16 and 17 years of age, Federal Way's Hannah Cunliffe (left/photo by Kirby Lee/Image of Sport) finished fourth, just missing a podium place.

Running on the outside in lane 8, Cunliffe crossed the line in a personal best of 23.44, eclipsing her previous PR, set last month at the World Youth Trials in Edwardsville, Illinois.

In remarks gathered after the race by USA Track & Field, Cunliffe, who runs for the Seattle Speed TC said, “It means a lot just to be here and represent Team USA. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and I did the best I could.”

This spring, Cunliffe, who is home-schooled, did not have the benefit of competing for a high school, as documented by Art Thiel of sportspressnw.com in this piece.

Irene Ekelund of Sweden won in a time of 22.92, a new meet record, with Angela Tenorio of Ecuador second in 23.13, and the USA's Ariana Washington third in 23.20.


JAX THOIRS FINISHES EIGHTH AT EURO U23s IN FINLAND

At the European Under 23 Championships in Tampere, Finland, University of Washington rising sophomore Jax Thoirs finished eighth with a best of 17-4 1/2 (5.30m).

After a first attempt clearance at 16-8 3/4 (5.10m), he cleared 17-4 1/2 on his second attempt, before missing all three tries at 17-10 1/2 (5.45m).

Russia's Anton Ivakin won the competition with a best of 18-4 1/2 (5.60m).


ALAKA SIXTH IN UK CHAMPS AT 200

In Birmingham, England, University of Washington senior James Alaka finished sixth in the finals of the 200 meter dash at the Sainsbury's British Championships.

After finishing third in the semi-final round in a time of 21.02, Alaka, a two time Pac-10/12 champion in this event for the Huskies, finished in a time of 21.01, as James Ellington won the UK title in 20.45.


TRACK & FIELD TAKES A HIT AS TYSON GAY TESTS POSITIVE

According to a report by Associated Press reporter Pat Graham, US national champion Tyson Gay has tested positive for a banned substance, and will withdraw from next month's world championships in Moscow.

Gay, who declined to reveal the substance, was told by the US Anti-Doping Agency that his sample from an out-of-competition test on May 16th came back positive.


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Camas' Alexa Efraimson finishes third in girls' 1500 at IAAF World Youth Champs; Cunliffe in finals of 200...



DONETSK, Ukraine--Camas High School's Alexa Efraimson (left/photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport) scored a bronze medal in the finals of the girls' 1500 meter run at the IAAF World Youth Championships for athletes 16 and 17 years of age Saturday evening.

Efraimson, the WIAA 4A champ this season at 800 and 1600 meters, positioned herself in the lead pack of the women’s 1500m and never quit charging. Efraimson came through the bell lap in fourth place and motored over the final 400m to move into third place. Efraimson held off a late charge by Bobby Clay of Great Britain to win the bronze medal by less than four-tenths of a second in 4:16.07.

Ethiopia's Tigist Gashaw took the victory in 4:14.25, with teammate Dawit Seyaum second in 4:15.51.

Afterwards, Efraimson said in quotes gathered by USA Track & Field, “It feels amazing to be on the podium. Even being here is humbling, so to get on the podium is even better. I could feel the other girl behind me on the straight and I was thinking I can’t let her beat me in the last 50 meters. Everything made this such an amazing experience, and I’ll never forget it. Hopefully I’ll be able to do things like this in the future for the professional team.”

Earlier Saturday, Federal Way's Hannah Cunliffe advanced to the finals in the girls' 200, finishing in second in 23.63, the fourth fastest time of the day, as Sweden's Irene Ekelund won in 23.56.

“It feels good. I’m really excited. I just kind of ran my race and did what I had to do. I am relieved. It is nice to get past the rounds and know where I stand. It was a good race, and I'm excited for the finals tomorrow,” said Cunliffe, who runs for the Seattle Speed TC.

Cunliffe races Sunday afternoon at 3:05 pm, local time (5:05 am in Seattle).  You can watch her race Sunday by clicking this link.


In Heusden, Belgium, Auburn-Riverside HS alum Jordan McNamara emerged victorious in the men's 1500 at the KBC Nacht meeting, running 3:35.39, slightly off of his personal best of 3:34.00 set last week.

McNamara held off Spain's David Bustos (3:35.69) and Morocco's Abdelaati Iguider (3:35.74) to take the win.

In the men's 800, Tacoma's Mark Wieczorek finished sixth in 1:46.53, as Abdulaziz Mohammed of Saudi Arabia won in 1:44.36, as Matt Scherer of Tacoma served as the pace setter before dropping out.

Wieczorek's Brooks Beasts teammate Cas Loxsom, the Penn State grad who recently moved to Seattle, won the B section of the 800 in a season best 1:45.98.

University of Washington alum Katie Mackey finished fourth in the women's 1500, running 4:05.35, her second fastest time ever, as Eritrea's Merak Bahta won in 4:05.11.

Tacoma's Brie Felnagle was sixth in the race, running a personal best of 4:05.64.


In a short note to paulmerca.blogspot.com, Washington State University alum Joe Abbott, who won the 800 meters at the final two meets of the Canadian National Track League series--the Harry Jerome in Burnaby, and the Victoria International--confirmed that he will be racing in Europe, beginning on the 16th at the Meeting Internazionale di Atletica Leggera meet in Lignano, Italy.

NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Huskies' Alaka fourth in 100m semis at British national championships...

A quick note as Saturday begins with a very busy schedule of meets in Heusden, Belgium and the world youth championships in Donetsk, Ukraine.

At the Sainsbury's British Championships in Birmingham, University of Washington senior James Alaka (left/photo by Randy Miyazaki, trackandfieldphoto.com) finished fourth in his semifinal in the men's 100 meters, running 10.55, as Harry Aikines Aryeetey won in 10.23.

On his Twitter feed, Alaka said, "was chasing today, chasing instead of racing. That's not how it is done, but still; too blessed to be stressed. #godbless & i'll get it back"

The revelation of the British championships came in the next heat, as James Dasaolu ran the second fastest time in British history, running 9.91, behind only Linford Christie's 9.87.  Dasaolu's run is the third fastest time in European history.


We will have a recap of both the Heusden meet and the world youth champs later on today.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Husky pole vaulter Jax Thoirs advances to finals of European U23 championships...

TAMPARE, Finland--University of Washington rising sophomore Jax Thoirs (left/photo by Paul Merca) was one of twelve athletes to advance to Sunday's finals in the men's pole vault at the European Under-23 championships Friday.

Thoirs cleared 17-6 1/2 (5.35m) on his second attempt to ensure his spot in the finals, after opening with a first attempt make at 16-8 3/4 (5.10m), and a second attempt make at 17-2 3/4 (5.25m).

Sunday's pole vault finals will be contested at 4:35 pm local time on Sunday (6:35 am in Seattle).



Meanwhile in Birmingham, England, University of Washington senior James Alaka finished second in his qualifying round of the men's 100 meters at the Sainsbury British national championships and world championships selection meet.

Alaka ran 10.57 behind Harry Aikines Aryeetey (10.31) to get an automatic qualifying mark into Saturday's semis, with the finals run later on the same day.

Saturday's semis will be run at 2:22 pm, local time, with the finals less than 90 minutes later at 3:48 pm.


A contingent of athletes from the Seattle based Brooks Beasts group will run at the KBC Night of Athletics meeting in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium Saturday.

Washington alum Katie Mackey is entered in the women's 1500, along with training partner and Tacoma resident Brie Felnagle, who competes for adidas.

In the men's 800, new member Cas Loxsom will run in the B section of the men's 800, while Mark Wieczorek and Matt Scherer are entered in the A section to round out the Brooks contingent.

Fresh off a personal best last week in Oordegem, Auburn-Riverside HS alum Jordan McNamara of the Oregon TC Elite looks to lower his PR of 3:34.00.


Live streaming video of the meet will be avaialble via Flotrack Pro (subscription required).

Hannah Cunliffe advances to semis in 200m at world youth championships...



DONETSK, Ukraine--Seattle Speed Track Club's Hannah Cunliffe (left/photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport) easily won her heat of the girls' 200 meters at the IAAF World Youth Championships Friday morning.

The native of Federal Way, who ran against open competition this spring instead of competing for a high school team, looked very relaxed in her win, cruising through the line at 23.80, the seventh fastest time of the seven heats.

Afterwards, Cunliffe told USA Track & Field's Katie Branham, "I felt really great. I felt smooth. I felt like my mechanics were good. I didn’t push it too hard, and slowed up at the line. I’m really excited for the next round.”

Cunliffe advances to Saturday's semis, which will be contested at 7:10 am in Seattle (5:10 pm in Donetsk).  She'll run in the third semifinal.

Also competing Saturday is Camas' Alexa Efraimson in the finals of the girls' 1500 at 9:20 am, pacific time (7:20 pm in Donetsk).



NOTE:  USA Track & Field contributed to this report.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Seattle based Oiselle announces formation of elite training group, plus Friday's hot links...

Seattle based Oiselle announced Thursday the formation of a training group based in Bend, Oregon, called Project Little Wing.

The group, which is focused primarily on the 5000, will be spearheaded by Lauren Fleshman, who finished seventh at the 2011 IAAF world championships in the 5000, and is returning from maternity leave.

In a press release announcing the squad, the company, which markets running wear for women, looked for runners, "who we both knew really well personally, came from 'inside the family', had already displayed overwhelming talent in their running careers, but had pushed through a couple of hard years and were on a come back trail. They also needed to be in a position to chuck everything, take the plunge with us and move out to the middle of the Oregon desert."

Fleshman signed an endorsement deal with Oiselle at the beginning of this year.

She'll be joined by former University of Iowa standout Betsy Flood, and recently graduated Huskies Christine Babcock and Mel Lawrence.

All three runners come from 'inside the family', as Flood is the older sister of 2012 NCAA 1500m champ Katie Flood of the Huskies, and Babcock & Lawrence were coached at the UW by Greg Metcalf, the husband of Oiselle team manager Kristin Metcalf.


Meanwhile, Friday marks the start of a busy weekend of track & field on the European circuit, and it gets underway just after midnight in Donetsk, Ukraine.

The first of seven preliminary heats in the girls 200 meters at the IAAF World Youth Championships for athletes 17 & 18 years of age features Federal Way's Hannah Cunliffe, the home school sprint sensation who was not allowed to compete at this year's WIAA state track & field championships.

Cunliffe, who runs for the Seattle Speed TC, enters the world youth championships with a personal best of 23.54, set at the world youth trials in Edwardsville, Illinois in late June.

The top three finishers in each of the seven heats, plus the three fastest advance to Saturday's semis at 7:10 am, Seattle time (5:10 pm in Donetsk).



In Tampere, Finland, University of Washington rising sophomore Jax Thoirs competes in the qualifying round of the men's pole vault at the European Under-23 Championships.

The qualifying for the men's pole vault gets under way at 7:15 pm, local time (9:15 am in Seattle).

The start lists are available via the European Athletics site, as well as a link to live video of the event.

NOTE:  Photo collage of Fleshman, Flood, Babcock, and Lawrence designed by Paul Merca. All photos shot by Merca, except for Flood, which is courtesy nextleveliowa.com.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Busy Wednesday for Washington athletes across the European Continent...

Wednesday was indeed a busy day for track and field athletes with Washington ties on the European circuit, and here's a recap of how they did:

At the Istvan Gyulai Memorial Meeting in Budapest, Hungary, University Place resident Andrea Geubelle (left/photo by Paul Merca) finished ninth in the triple jump with a best of 44-2 3/4 (13.48m), as Russia's Irina Gumenyuk won with a best of 46-5 1/4 (14.15m).

Geubelle, the reigning USA outdoor champ in the event, traveled to Budapest in an attempt to get the IAAF 'A' or 'B' standard necessary to compete in next month's world track & field championships in Moscow.


At the Meeting International d'Athletisme de la Province de Liege in Liege, Belgium, Tacoma's Mark Wieczorek finished second in the 800m in a time of 1:48.07, finishing behind NCAA champ Elijah Greer from Oregon, who ran 1:47.96 for the win.  Wieczorek's Brooks Beasts teammate Matt Scherer handled pacing duties in that race.

In the B section of the 800, Penn State alum Cas Loxsom, who is now based in Seattle as part of the Brooks Beasts squad, finished second in a time of 1:49.27, behind Jose Alberto Veras of the Dominican Republic, who ran 1:48.49.


At the World University Games in Kazan, Russia, University of Washington alum Kyle Nielsen finished tenth in the finals of the javelin, where he threw a best of 244-9 (74.61m).

He commented on his Twitter page afterwards, "Frustrating meet. Popped my left rib on my first throw, 74.61. Not much I could do after that. No sense in mulling over what-ifs."

Dmitry Tarabin of Russia won the event with a best of 272-8 (83.11m).


NOTE:  Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto, through his Raising The Bar Entertainment production company, will post a video interview Thursday with Washington State University hall of famer Bernard Lagat as part of an ongoing series of interviews, titled "Holla Atcha Boy" with many of America's top track and field athletes.

You can access the interview with Lagat here, along with interviews with other prominent US track and field stars.

Camas' Alexa Efraimson advances to finals in 1500 at IAAF World Youth Championships...



DONETSK, Ukraine--Camas High School's Alexa Efraimson (left/photo by Kirby Lee, Image of Sport) finished third in her qualifying heat of the girls 1500 at the IAAF World Youth Championships Wednesday morning.

Efraimson, the Washington 4A champ at 800 & 1600 meters, ran in a small pack of three behind the leaders and was able to pull ahead of her competitors to finish third in 4:23.27 to qualify automatically, as Dawit Seyaum of Ethiopia won in 4:14.40

"It went really well. Honestly all I wanted to do was to be in the top-three. The top four make it to the final, but I really wanted to be in the top three to really secure my spot, so that’s what I did. When I put this jersey on this morning, it was so real. It is crazy to be running for the USA.”

The finals of the girls 1500m is Saturday at 7:20 pm, local time in Donetsk.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Nielsen advances to World University Games javelin final...

KAZAN, Russia--University of Washington alum Kyle Nielsen (left/image courtesy russiasport.ru) qualified for Wednesday's finals in the men's javelin Monday morning at the World University Games.

Nielsen, this year's Canadian national champion,  threw a best of 233-11 (71.31m) on his third attempt of the day, a mark that was fifth overall in his flight and tenth best overall.

Wednesday's finals will consist of 13 men, all of whom threw over the 70-meter (229-8) automatic qualifying mark.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Washington alum Kyle Nielsen set to throw at World University Games in Kazan, Russia...

KAZAN, Russia--University of Washington alum Kyle Nielsen (left/photo courtesy University of Washington) will compete in the qualifying round of the men's javelin at the World University Games Monday at the Central Stadium.

Nielsen, the reigning Canadian national champion, will vie for a spot in Wednesday's finals.

In order to advance to Wednesday's finals, he must finish among the top twelve throwers from the two flights.


Meanwhile, University Place resident and reigning USA triple jump champion Andrea Geubelle will compete in Wednesday night's Istvan Gyulai meeting in Budapest, Hungary, as she goes for the IAAF 'B' standard of 46-7 1/4 (14.20m) or the 'A' standard of 47-3 (14.40m).

To date, no American has either the A or B standards in the event.  On Thursday at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Amanda Smock, Toni Smith, and Washington State alum Blessing Ufodiama, who placed second through fourth at last month's USA championships in Des Moines, took a shot at the standard, with no one achieving it.

The situation for Geubelle is simple:  Get at least the B and she goes to Moscow.  For anyone else to go, it gets slightly convoluted, as each country can take a maximum of three, with two needing A standards, and one a B.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

McNamara scores huge personal best over 1500m at Memorial Leon Buyle meeting...

OORDEGEM, Belgium--In one of the most surprising finishes, Auburn-Riverside HS grad Jordan McNamara (left/photo by Paul Merca) came from way back in the last lap to score a personal best in finishing fourth in the 1500 meter run at the Memorial Leon Buyle meeting.

Entering the final lap of the race, McNamara appeared to be in tenth place, and as the field entered the backstretch, a gap opened up between the first four runners and the rest of the field.

McNamara made his charge with 250 to go, then on the final straightaway, swung wide and caught all but the top three finishers, crossing the line in 3:34.00, as Morocco's Zakaria Maazoozi took the victory in 3:32.89, followed by countryman  Fouad Elkaam in 3:33.71, then Ethiopia's Zebene Alemayehu in 3:33.73.

On his Facebook page, he wrote, "I just ran 3:34.00 for 1500m, a 5 second season's best and more importantly, a 1.5 second LIFETIME BEST. I was in tears. Standing on the starting line I held my wedding ring and thought of all that I sacrificed to get here. I wanted this so badly. This changes things. Pure emotion right now. Thanks to every single person who has supported me. This one was for me, my wife, and you."



At the Meeting Areva in St. Denis, France, on the outskirts of Paris, Washington alum Brad Walker replicated his fifth place finish two days ago in Lausanne with another fifth place finish, clearing 18-4 1/2 (5.60m), as Olympic champ Renaud Lavillenie of France gave the home fans something to cheer about, winning with a best of 19-5 (5.92m).

Former Washington State standout Ebba Jungmark of Sweden was eighth in the high jump with a best of 6-0 3/4 (1.85m), as Olympic champ Anna Chicherova won with a jump of 6-7 (2.01m).

In the men's 1500, Cougar hall of famer Bernard Lagat finished 13th in 3:36.36, as Ayanleh Souleiman of Djibouti took the win in 3:32.55.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Joe Abbott wins again in Canadian National Track League finale in Victoria...

VICTORIA, British Columbia--Former USA junior national champion and Washington State University alum Joe Abbott (left/photo by Paul Merca) won his second 800 meter race of the week Friday night at the Victoria International Track Classic at Centennial Stadium, the final stop of the five-meet Canadian National Track League circuit.

Abbott was an easy winner, clocking 1:45.63, just slightly off his personal best of 1:45.35 set in winning Monday's Harry Jerome Track Classic in Burnaby.

The ex-Coug was nearly a second clear of the University of Oregon's NCAA 1500 meter champ Mac Fleet, who clocked 1:46.32.

Spokane native Britney Henry earned her second straight runner-up finish in the hammer, throwing 217-11 (66.42m), finishing behind Canada's Sultana Frizell's 226-0 (68.89m).

Complete results from the Victoria International Track Classic are available here.

In Chula Vista, California, another Washington State alum, Blessing Ufodiama, finished fourth at the OTC 11 Pre-World track & field series triple jump competition at the Olympic Training Center.

Ufodiama jumped a best of 43-5 1/4 (13.24m) as former US national champion Amanda Smock took the win at 45-10 (13.97m).

Ufodiama, Smock, along with University Place resident Andrea Geubelle and Toni Smith are eligible to chase the world championships A & B standards, and have until July 20th to get the mark.  Despite Geubelle winning the national title, she is not guaranteed a spot on the team unless she gets the mark.

Results of the OTC 11 Pre-World meet is available here.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Huskies' Jax Thoirs added to British team for European Under 23 Championships in Finland...

University of Washington rising sophomore Jax Thoirs (left/photo courtesy University of Washington) was one of fifteen athletes added by British Athletics to its squad for the European Under-23 Championships in Tampere, Finland on July 11-14.

Thoirs, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, was added based on his clearance of 18-0 1/2 (5.50m) at last week's Somero Pole Vault Carnival in Somero, Finland, where he became the fifth vaulter in University of Washington history to clear 18 feet, joining the likes of Scott Roth, Brad Walker, Garth Willard, and Steve Oravetz on that elite list.

Thoirs is currently tied for eighth on the current European under-23 list in the pole vault.

Walker gets fifth in Lausanne as winds play havoc with field at Athletissima meeting...

LAUSANNE, Switzerland--University of Washington alum and reigning USA national champ Brad Walker (left/photo by Mike Scott) finished in a tie for fifth in the pole vault Thursday night at the Athletissima meeting, stop number eight of the IAAF Diamond League tour.

Walker cleared his opening height of 18-1 1/4 (5.52m) on his first attempt, then after passing at 18-5 1/4 (5.62m), missed all three attempts at 18-9 1/4 (5.72m), a bar only cleared by winner Konstantinos Filippidis of Greece.

The tricky winds during the competition contributed to the relatively ordinary marks by the field, and claimed as one of its victims reigning Olympic champ Renaud Lavillenie, who no heighted.

The vaulters move on to Saturday's Diamond League stop, the Meeting Areva in St. Denis, France, on the outskirts of Paris at the Stade de France.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Washingtonians in Lausanne & Paris Diamond League; NTL circuit ends in Victoria...

The IAAF Diamond League tour continues with two meets this week, with stops in Lausanne, Switzerland for the Athletissima meeting Thursday, and in St. Denis, France for the Meeting Areva at the Stade de France on the outskirts of Paris.

In Lausanne, University of Washington grad Brad Walker (left/photo by Paul Merca) will face a field that includes many of the competitors from his last Diamond League meet, the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene last month, where he finished fifth.

The field includes current Diamond co-leaders Raphael Holzdeppe of Germany, and Olympic champ Renaud Lavillenie of France; the German duo of Malte Mohr and Bjorn Otto; Greece's Konstantinos Filippidis; and Steve Lewis of Great Britain, who trained with Walker this spring in Phoenix.


Two days later, Walker, who has set up a training base for the summer in Monaco, faces hometown favorite Lavillenie, Lewis, Filippidis, and Holzdeppe, along with American Jeremy Scott.

Sweden's Ebba Jungmark, who won an NCAA indoor high jump title while at Washington State and earned a medal at last year's IAAF world indoor championships, goes against US national champ Brigetta Barrett, along with Russia's Olympic champ Anna Chicherova, former world champ Blanka Vlasic of Croatia, and fellow Swede Emma Green Tregaro.

USA national 5000 meter champ and Washington State alum Bernard Lagat drops down in distance to 1500 meters, and faces fellow Americans Matthew Centrowitz, Leo Manzano, and Lopez Lomong, along with training partner and Arizona grad Lawi Lalang.

The field also includes two dangerous competitors in Mekonnen Gebremedhin of Ethiopia, and Abdelaati Iguider of Morocco.


Closer to home, Victoria is the final stop of Canada's five-meet National Track League circuit, as the Victoria International closes out the tour on Friday at Centennial Stadium.

Washington State University grad Joe Abbott, who turned some heads with an impressive victory at Monday's Harry Jerome meet in Burnaby with a personal best 1:45.35, looks to make it two in a row.

Spokane native Britney Henry, who just landed a sponsorship deal with Seattle-based Oiselle, is the only foreigner in the hammer.

Jordan McNamara races to second place finish in Ireland...

CORK, Ireland--After a disappointing USA national championship meet, in which he failed to get out of the semifinals, Auburn/Riverside HS alum Jordan McNamara (left/photo by Paul Merca) got back on track with a second place finish in the mile Tuesday night at the Cork City Sports International Athletics Meet.

McNamara ran 3:55.76, less than one second off of his personal best, in finishing behind Australia's Cameron Page, who ran 3:54.77.

On his Facebook page, he said, "I committed to the front, running with confidence & self-belief. The pace was blistering (1:55 at 880yd). I kept my cool, stayed in contact, & unleashed hell up the finishing straight away, passing three for a thrilling 2nd place. Considering the recent travel and windy conditions, I'm elated."


Monday, July 1, 2013

WSU grad Joe Abbott gets biggest win of pro career at Harry Jerome...

BURNABY, British Columbia--Washington State University alum Joe Abbott (left/photo by Paul Merca) earned the biggest win of his professional career as he emerged victorious in the 800 meter run at the Harry Jerome Track Classic at Swangard Stadium on a sunny Canada Day.

Clad in an all black kit with the Air Jordan logo that's given him a bit of a cult following within the running community, Abbott tucked back in about third or fourth through the first lap, then made a decisive move with about 200 meters to go.

Entering the home straight, Abbott held the lead and held off a charge by fellow Americans Michael Rutt and Charles Jock, crossing the line in a personal best time of 1:45.35, with Rutt second at 1:45.90, and Jock third at 1:46.56.

Abbott, who did not get out of the semifinals at the USA championships in Des Moines, said, "I wanted to get back to what I was doing well earlier in the season, and that's to sit back in about second or third, and make a strong move at 600."

Abbott, who trained in Pullman during the school year, but returned to his hometown of Reno, Nevada, eclipsed his previous PR set at the Portland Track Classic last month.

The former USA junior champion, who is competing without the benefit of a shoe and apparel contract, will race next at the Victoria International meet.

Competing in her first meet after obtaining sponsorship from Seattle based women's apparel company Oiselle, Spokane native Britney Henry finished second in the hammer throw with a toss of 224-6 (68.44m).

In the rarely contested 600 meter run, Casmir Loxsom, the former Penn State standout who recently signed with Brooks, and is now part of the Seattle based Brooks Beasts training group led by Danny Mackey, finished second in a time of 1:14.84, behind national 800m champ Duane Solomon, who ran 1:13.28, the second fastest time ever run at this distance.

Washington State University's Holly Parent, finished second in the high jump with a best of 5-7 (1.70m).  

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