Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ruben Dominguez, Austin Panther Double State Champion.

As I stated just prior to this entry I will spend some entries paying tribute to some of the greats of El Paso Track and Cross Country past. I covered one of the greatest ever in Bobby Aguirre (Riverside) in the entry here

http://alltracktalk.blogspot.com/2008/11/bobby-aguirre-tx-high-school-cross.html
 

The 1970's saw many incredibly talented long distance runners from El Paso. The runners of the 80's were all very aware of the accomplishments of El Paso's numerous long distance stars from the prior decade.  As far as performances go, keep in mind that they ran the full mile and 880 yards back then as compared to the 1600/800 meters when comparing times. The coaching was different and in some cases non-existent. Track surfaces were different. In some cases the El Paso athletes drove to the state meet in Austin. These things are unheard of now making the following interviewee all the more impressive. Get to know 1973/1974 Texas State Champion in Cross Country as well as the Mile, Ruben Dominguez of El Paso Austin.

1) Ruben, your senior year you were a double state champ in XC and the mile. Can you touch on your career leading up to that breakthrough year. 

(note: 4A was the large school division in that era, today's equivalent of 5A)
My father encouraged my younger brother and me to participate in various sports. After running in the sprints in grade school, I found a niche as an 880 yard runner in the 8th grade. I was going through growth spurts and my legs could no longer accelerate as fast needed for the sprints. In my freshman year in high school (1971), I struggled to qualify for 1 of the 3 spots on the 880 yard team on the freshman track team. My freshman track coach suggested the mile run. In the mile run, I had found my true niche and had success. I won the freshman District 1-4A mile run in 4:48.
In my sophomore (1972) and junior (1973) years in high school, I ran the mile run on the varsity track team. It was a difficult 2 years because I had to train with 2 outstanding mile runners who were 1 year ahead of me, Robert Murray and Carlos Gallardo. Robert Murray has finished in 3rd place in the mile run at the 1971 state track meet as a sophomore. Carlos Gallardo was an up and coming mile runner who could train and compete with Robert Murray. Robert was an organized individual who had developed a training regimen for the mile. So Carlos and I just followed the track workout he would complete that day. Since I was a year younger than both individuals, I struggled to keep up with them in my sophomore year. I still struggled but not as much in my junior year. I finished 3rd in the mile run at the 1973 District 1-4A track meet. In retrospect, I greatly benefited from training with Robert and Carlos. By the time, I was a senior (1974) in high school, I knew what track workouts to pattern my training regimen.
I had one accomplishment in my junior year. I ran the 880 portion of the distance medley relay (440, 880, 1320, 1 mile) and the team posted the 29th fastest time in the nation considering we were running at 4000 feet above sea level in El Paso. The team members were Victor Castillo-440, me-880, Robert Murray-1320 and Carlos Gallardo-1 mile. Thanks to you and your blog. I never would have known.
I tried out for cross country as a sophomore (1971) and promptly dropped out. I was not in physical condition to handle the long distances in practice. 
I joined the cross country team in my junior year (1972) and had success. The cross country team did not have a defined training regimen. We trained separately and rarely as a team. The concept of training as a team was not infused in us. There were times I would run with Carlos or Robert separately. I finished 3rd in the District 1-4A Cross Country Meet and 6th at the Regional Cross Country Meet. Since the top 10 finishers qualified for the cross country state meet, I had qualified to compete at the 1972 Cross Country State Meet in Austin. What I was not told by my coach was that I would have to incur the cost of traveling to the cross country state meet. The El Paso Independent School District would only finance the winner of the race, Tony Zuniga. Also, my coach informed Carlos Gallardo and I about the news one day before we were supposed to leave for Austin. I was devastated, heartbroken, disappointed and discouraged at hearing the news. I felt worse for Carlos as he was a senior. Carlos and I did not make the trip to compete at the cross country state meet in Austin. I vowed to myself that in my senior year such a circumstance would not happen to me again. I would win the Regional meet to assure myself to be financially sponsored for the State meet.
In addition to training and competing with Robert Murray and Carlos Gallardo, no doubt I benefited from competing with Tony Zuniga from El Paso High and Claude Barron from Irvin High from 1972 to 1973. Tony and Claude were among the best cross country and mile runners in the state. So every cross country and track meet for 2 years, I (along with the other younger cross country and mile runners) competed with 4 among the best runners in the state. We struggled competing with them but in the long run benefited greatly and raised our performance expectations after they graduated from school in 1973. Tony, Claude, Robert and Carlos set the precedence to be the best in the state and not solely be the best in the city or region. They set the bar of expectation very high and left it as a challenge for the next year’s class of runners to try to match it or exceed it.

2) Let's discuss your coaching,  or lack thereof.
I had 4 coaches in my 4 years in high school. The coaches assigned were not running coaches and were from a football background. Different mentality, no country cross experience, no long distance running experience, no long distance running background, no long distance running training program. In each successive year, the coaching got progressively worse. The best coach was in my freshman year. The coach did dedicate time to train me after I showed the potential to be among the best mile runners in the city. He seemed to know what he was doing.
I had to develop my cross country and mile training regimen reading books from the public library or books given to me and the workouts from Robert Murray. 
Just because I tried my best to generate a training regimen, it did not mean I had developed the correct training regimen. It was not. I over trained, over used my body and began to feel the effects of burn out in my sophomore year in college. I was just tired.
In addition, I trained alone even when doing my speed workouts on the track. No other miler on my team was willing to try to keep up with me like I did with Robert Murray and Carlos Gallardo.
Granted, it was unfair and undue pressure placed on a teenager faced with training without a qualified long distance running coach to fulfill my dream of competing at the state level. I did the best that I could without a coach to train me.
Imagine standing at the starting line of a state final and having to plan and implement your own race strategy without the input or advice from a coach; unheard of in this day and age



3) What were some notable difference between then and now. I know you guys drove to the state XC meet, I know the 3200 wasn't introduced until 1980 in TX. How do you think you would have fared in the 3200? Would you have doubled up at State Track Meet? What were your PR's?
I’ve had 40 years to ponder about whether or not I would double in the 1600 and 3200 meter runs during the track season.
Thinking as an adult and observing the El Paso runners compete in both events at the regional and state track meets in past years, I would have run in both events during the track season until the District meet. From the District meet to the State meet, I would have chosen to compete in just one event. I suspect I would not have had the strength to compete well at both the Regional and State meets based on watching El Paso runners each year. “Well” for me is defined as running fast and winning the race. I would be able compete well in solely one event. When I competed in the mile run in my senior year, it was to run at top speed and win first place, nothing less.
Now, thinking as a teenager, with no sense of mortality, free-spirited and willing to take chances, I would have competed in both events to show my versatility and strength to the field and college coaches throughout the track season including the District meet to the State meet. However, I would have paid a price in the effort to train and compete for both events throughout the season and progressively not compete well from the District meet to the State meet. I see it watching the El Paso runners each year running at the regional and state meets.
PRs
2-mile high school cross country: 9:18 (in El Paso)
3-mile high school cross country: 15:08 (in Las Cruces)
Mile run high school: 4:17.4 (in El Paso)
Mile run: 4:15 (freshman year in college in El Paso)
2-mile on the track: 9:11 (freshman year in college in El Paso)
6-mile on the track was 30:30 (freshman year in college in El Paso)
15K: 50:00 (1982 in Boulder, Colorado)
½ Marathon: 72:27 (1980 in Boulder, Colorado)
Marathon (completed): 2:34 (1981 in Phoenix, Arizona). The next year, I was on 2:22 pace for 20-miles until a blister eliminated me from the race.


4) Talk about your peers a bit. Who pushed you, who was your fiercest rival? How did everyone get along back then? Did you all strive to represent El Paso as a city in out of town competition?
When I was a senior in high school in the 1973 cross country season, my fiercest rival was an outstanding runner from Las Cruces High by the name of Sal Briones. Sal was also a senior in high school and had won the New Mexico 3-Mile Cross Country State Meet as a junior.
Sal and I competed 3 times during the 1973 cross country season, twice in Texas 2-mile cross country meets and once in a New Mexico 3-mile cross country meet. I outran Sal in one of the 2-mile and the 3-mile cross country meets. Sal beat me in one of the 2-mile cross country races. I can never say I beat Sal Briones because I finished in front of him by mere yards (2 to 3 yards). I can say Sal beat me because he finished in front of me by more than 20 yards. Sal always made me run my very best and would push me to brink of exhaustion. I ran 15:08 in a 3-mile cross country race competing with Sal Briones.
I never competed with Sal Briones after the 1973 cross country season. I continue to have the greatest admiration for him as he brought out the best in me. He made me run at a higher competitive level. He made me realize the level of competition I would encounter at the Texas 2-Mile Cross Country State Meet.
In addition and in retrospect, the El Paso cross country runners from the 1973 season were an outstanding and extremely competitive group. After competing at the 1973 2-Mile Cross Country State Meet did I realize that every weekend during the cross country season, I had been competing at the state level all along. The result at the Texas 2-Mile Cross Country State Meet is evidence as 6 of the top 10 finishers were from El Paso. The first place team (Bel Air) and the third place team (Andress) were from El Paso.
As a senior in high school competing in the mile run during the 1974 track season, I did not have the competition to take me to the next level. The reason was the competition that I had in cross country were the runners from District 2-4A. I ran in District 1-4A. The one District 2-4A mile runner who could have taken me to the next level was competing with Joe Lopez from Bowie HS. Joe Lopez finished in 3rd place at the 1973 Cross Country State Meet and in 5th place in the mile run at the 1974 State Track Meet. Joe and I competed in the mile run only once during the 1974 track season. It was the first track meet of the season. The athletic administration of the 2 school districts in El Paso (El Paso Independent School District and Ysleta Independent School District) decided to have separate meets for their districts.
Joe and I did not compete again until the 1974 Regional Track Meet in Lubbock. It was frustrating not being able to run the mile with a competitor like Joe as we both could have benefitted from the competition.
After running at the West Texas Relays in Odessa and posting a 4:22 also early in the track season, I was ranked with the 2nd fastest time in the state. However, I got complacent due to the lack of competition as the season progressed until the 1974 District 1-4A track meet. At the district meet, I decided to push myself to the limit and was on 4:00 minute pace for 3 laps (60 seconds, 60 seconds, 65 seconds) and had a disastrous 4th lap. My 200 yard lead was cut down to 0 yards by Ray Camacho of Burges HS. I won the race by 0.1 seconds. I was disappointed in my time (4:27) and that I could not maintain the 4 minute or so pace. In retrospect and reflecting on the race as an adult, I should have realized that I had proven to myself I had the speed and strength to maintain a fast pace but not a 4 minute pace but perhaps at 4:10 to 4:19 at the approximate 4000 feet above sea level of El Paso. I just needed a coach to train me, to advise me and to encourage me. I needed competition in the mile to prove it. 
In the meantime as the track season progressed towards state finals, I had dropped from the 2nd best time in the state to the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th best time by the state meet. I did not worry too much about being ranked with the 9th best time in the state. The other 8 runners were running at an altitude much much lower than El Paso. In addition, the other 8 ranked runners did not have to deal with the wind and the dust storms so prevalent in El Paso in the March to April timeframe. The one time that I did drop in altitude at the West Texas Relays in Odessa (elevation approximately 3000 feet) was enough to show I was able to drop my mile run time.
Getting along
El Paso runners tended to get along back in the 1970s especially after a race. The New Mexico runners were just as friendly. The Bel Air cross country team tended to be the most festive as their high school band would show up to play music at the meets. In addition, the Bel Air cheerleaders would bring snacks for their runners. Then again, the Bel Air cross country team was the rowdiest of the El Paso cross country teams.
During the 1973 cross country I enjoyed my conversations with Sal Briones. Sal was a friendly person with a knack of calling me “Primo” (= cousin). I kept reminding him that he was a darn good runner and appreciated the competition.
The El Paso runners would bond once we got into Regional and especially State competitions.
At the 1974 state track meet, I bonded with Vaughn Courtney from Coronado HS and future UTEP track teammate. He competed in the 880 and finished in 3rd place. I also bonded with Joe Lopez from Bowie HS who competed in the mile run and finished in 5th place. I had great company at the state track meet. The 3 of us plus high jumper Joe De La Cerda from Irvin HS (who finished 3rd in the high jump) convinced the coaches to roam around the UT-Austin campus on our own. It was a great way to relax and explore the campus without getting into trouble of course. We had too much at stake anyways.
At the 1973 cross country state meet, I bonded with the El Paso High and the Coronado HS runners. To this day, George Herrera from Coronado HS remains a good and dear friend. We also graduated as engineers from UTEP. We talk every few weeks and get together whenever I visit El Paso. I contacted Vaughn Courtney a few years back and was doing great. I wish I knew the whereabouts of Joe Lopez. We lost contact after high school.
One of the best memories I have of the 1973 cross country state meet is the 6 runners from El Paso who had finished in the top 10 forming a circle to congratulate each other and to show the unity among the El Paso schools.
One of the best memories I have of training for the mile run at the state track meet was how 2 runners from my track team stepped up to train with me for portions of my workouts. There was a 440 yard runner by name of Tony Gutierrez and a miler by the name of Perry Pi~non. I had asked Tony to assist me when running my 440s and 880s intervals on the track. He would run with me in the last 220 yards of each run. Perry asked to run with me and would either stay with me until he got tired or join me in the latter part of the workout. It really helped having company and presence to simulate race conditions.

El Paso domination at the 1973 State XC Meet. Notice in 7th place was sub 9 minute 2 miler and future 2:10 marathoner, Marty Froelick.

(News clippings, Julio Lujan was the best reporter on Track/XC for many years)


5)Can you touch on your college experience. What would you have done different?
My college experience competing in cross country and in track was a disappointing experience.
The disappointment was committing to run for UTEP. I also bear the responsibility for not running well at UTEP by deciding to study electrical engineering as my major.
Allow me to clarify that academically UTEP was a good experience. I do not want to give the impression that my time at UTEP was disappointing overall.
When I choose to attend UTEP on an athletic scholarship, I had the high expectation that by attending the No. 1/No.2 program in the nation that I would benefit from the best coaching in the nation and would take me to the next competitive level. I was aware of the foreign runners especially Kenyans on the cross country and track teams. However, I was not expecting the foreigners on the teams to be the majority. I was not aware that the Kenyans were much older and more experienced than the average U.S. collegiate runner especially an incoming U.S. freshman. 
In addition, I had the expectation that a young U.S. runner would be allowed to develop and mature to be able to compete with the UTEP foreign runners by the 3rd year. I expected a nutritional program. I expected a weight training program. I expected tailored individual training programs where an initial assessment of our strengths and weakness were identified and addressed to correct and enhance performance to compete at the collegiate level and with the UTEP foreign runners. I thought that the No. 1/No. 2 cross country and track program in the nation had such programs and the facilities to accommodate for the tailored diet, weight training and individual training. It was not so.
I felt like I ( along with the other U.S. runners especially those in their sophomore and freshmen year) was thrown into a den of lions when told to basically keep up with the foreigners runners especially the Kenyans in practice and in races in order to compete at the collegiate level. I was overwhelmed not because of their talent but because I was a boy of 18 years old age and a freshman competing with men between 20 to 27 years of age with national and international experience and also freshmen.
As a runner, I did improve but not enough for the vast talent at UTEP. For example, I qualified to compete at the WAC track championships in the 6-mile run as a freshman. But the coach decided not to take me because he thought I would not be able to perform well. It was frustrating because I just wanted to gain exposure and experience to set myself up for the following year. At least, I would know what to expect. Still, I fault myself as well for not having the success as a collegiate runner. 
On the other hand, I choose to study electrical engineering as my major. I found course study to be demanding on time and energy, detrimental to improving as a runner. As a good solid B student in high school and college, I had to spend more time studying to understand a topic. In addition, there was course work that required the afternoons for assignments. So even though course work was quite demanding, I found it extremely satisfying, rewarding and having academic success. 
In the 1970s, there was no financial future for a competitive long distance runner after college. I decided to take advantage of the athletic scholarship to invest in an education that would bring me personal fulfillment and earn a modest living.
My father would spend time to counsel me to make a choice between being a good competitive runner or being a good academic student. It was obvious to him I could not handle both simultaneously. He also point out the value in investing in an education for my future and while I had the scholarship. I chose the academic route for my future. I appreciate the love, concern and counsel of my father.
I do admire Tony Zuniga from El Paso HS and Vaughn Courtney from Coronado HS for thriving in the UTEP cross country and track programs. They were able to balance their studies and training to have great success and be All-Americans. UTEP was just not a good fit for me. There were more U.S. runners and field athletes not having success than having success at UTEP. I experienced seeing my roommate from Wyoming, a 3 time cross country state champion, getting his athletic scholarship terminated after his freshman year despite a 3.7 GPA in business. Another example was a field athlete from California who was the No. 1 high school pole vaulter in the nation. He had limited success at UTEP. I experienced the constant pressure from my coach trying to convince me to change my major from electrical engineering to physical education so I could dedicate more time for training.
What would I do different?
In hindsight, I would not have chosen to attend UTEP. I should have chosen a university where I would have been allowed to mature and develop. Also, I should have chosen a university where I could shine to allow me to stand out and give me the confidence that I was progressing in the correct direction each year.
I should have been open to attending a Division 2 or Division 3 school with a great running program (for example, Adams State College in Alamosa, CO) and with a reputable engineering program.
I wished that I would have known that I could write to coaches of my choice to consider me to run for their team like UT-Austin, Texas A&M, Oregon (long shot) and other universities.
I did have offers and feelers from other universities and should have considered them more seriously. I sure wish the Internet was available back then to facilitate contacting and communicating with universities. It would also have provided me the opportunity to have an initial view into their academic and athletic programs, campus setting and their locale.




6) The present .Let's discuss your bid to get inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame as well as your current running.
I have been nominated a total of 4 times and for the last 3 consecutive years for induction into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame (ELPAHOF). My sponsor thinks I have the credentials to be considered for induction into the ELPAHOF. It would be such an honor to be inducted and serve as an example that a competitive long distance runner, born and raised in El Paso, from the 1970s and with athletic accomplishment can get inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame.
I have learned lessons each year I have been nominated. In my case, I have learned that being selected for induction is not solely based on athletic accomplishments. It can also be based on how a person contributes to the El Paso community and to one’s community. I have had to develop a presentation to highlight my athletic achievements, my academic and professional accomplishments and my community contributions in El Paso and residing in the DFW area. In addition, I have had to learn to choose the right individuals to speak on my behalf at a nomination meeting. An individual has 1 minute to speak on the behalf of a nominee.
I have come to realize that the odds are against me to get inducted into the ELPAHOF. I am, after all, a long distance runner, from the 1970s and do not reside in El Paso among other factors. 
If I get inducted, great! If not, that’s OK. Life goes on with its share of successes and disappointments.
There are other long distance runners from the 1970s and 1980s that deserve induction into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame: Tony Zuniga, Patsy Norman, Sergio Oaxaca and Gilbert Contreras. 
I run 3 times a week and do anaerobic exercises 2 times a week. Currently, I am training to compete in the 5K at the Texas Senior Games in April. I have been running on the track for interval work. In 2012, I finished 1st in my age category (55-59) and 8th overall. I ran a 22:08. But don’t be too impressed, I got beat by 3 runners in their 60s with great times. One of them finished 2nd place with a 19:30. Yikes!!!
For the past 3 years, I have been mentoring a male high school runner competing in Class 3A. He is among the best in the state in cross country and in the 1600 meter run. We meet to establish athletic goals, academic goals and professional goals. It has been a rewarding experience providing advice on race strategies and race tactics; assess and provide feedback when he races; ensure he maintains his grades in school; to discuss matters affecting his life. I also have shown him to consider carefully the college of his choice and the expectations as an athlete in college. I do not want him to go through the experience I went through as a collegiate runner. 
A smart man learns from his mistakes. A wise man learns from the mistakes of others.


ATT: I would just like to thank Ruben for making such a great profile and providing the great photos.. He's still a champion. My goal here is to pay homage to an era that is not that easy to find info on anymore. I hope to have some more profiles coming soon.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Coming soon

Looking back here a bit, I would have to say that my absolute favorite entry is the one on Bobby Aguirre. He will always be one of the greatest ever to run prep XC in El Paso history, without argument. I also enjoy popping in with entries on my alma mater Eastwood as they returned to a distance program to be reckoned with. I have decided for a bit to focus on these type of entries. I want to bring some more EP Track/XC history to light and explore some more of the past greats.
I will still continue to go to big meets out here and chime in on them. I've been very fortunate to see so many top runners compete in person. Many, like Lukas Verzbicas, Mary Cain and Alexa Efraimson I've been able to see on their way up. But, the reality is there is no shortage of coverage on their accomplishments.
Coming soon, I will have an entry/interview with one of El Paso's best. 2 time State Champion in 1973/74 in both XC and the Mile, Ruben Dominguez of El Paso Austin. I will expand out from there.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Washington dominates NXN

The finish chute at Nike Cross Nationals (NXN)
Once again the perks of living here in Oregon were evident. Woke up, had my morning coffee and then a quick 15 ride to Portland Meadows (PM's main function is a horse racing track). My body forgot we left Chicago as the temps were very Midwest like.
I thought the conditions would favor East Coast/MW teams in the circumstances but it turned out the State of WA put on a clinic. Girls up first and I was way more excited to watch this race over the Boys. In October I went down to the Dellinger Invite in Eugene (see entry below) and watched Alexa Efraimson (JR, Camas WA) get gapped by, then kick down and outkick Emma Bates of Boise St. for the win. I knew then and there that Alexa would beat NXN queen Sarah Baxter (Simi Valley,Ca). Emma Bates recently followed up that performance with a runner up performance at the NCAA XC Champs last month. The race followed true to form with Baxter, Efraimson and mile star Elise Cranny (CO) breaking away early.
Girls lead pack early on
The lead changed hands between Baxter and Efraimson several times with Cranny content to tuck in. Heading towards 2.5 miles it looked like Efraimson had been dropped. The announcers, a great crew of Toni Reavis, Rich Gonzalez and Chris Derrick, noted that she may be falling out of contention. Nope. Just as she put the hammer down with a furious kick at Dellinger she once again put the hammer down and powered past Cranny and Baxter as if they were practically standing still. She put a few seconds on them in no time and powered home in a course record 16:50.1.
Alexa Efraimson powers in for a course record. Kara Goucher holds the tape.

Cranny gapped Baxter 16:53-16:57 for second. Baxters last race ended with her first loss ever as a high schooler in XC. First loss ever! Still a mighty impressive career. Efraimson returns next year in what may truly be an exciting SR season. She closes with a national championship and a victory over an elite NCAA field. Imagine the amount of excitement she'd generate already if not for a certain newly minted 17 year pro named Mary Cain.
Huge surprises in the team battle as Wayzata, MN defeated 7 time defending champ Fayetville-Manlius for the win. Back runners were the key as FM was ahead after the first 3. Never underestimate the importance of the back scorers.
The boys were up next. I figured (as did most) it would be a battle between Gig Harbor (WA), CBA (NJ) and Arcadia (Ca). CBA was the winner in 2011 with Arcadia winning in 2010 and 2012. Gig Harbor however, already a national power, added the much needed final piece to the puzzle when Mahmoud Moussa (younger brother of former Arcadia/current CU star Ammar Moussa) transferred from Arcadia to Gig Harbor after a family move.

The boys individual race was a lot more wide open with no big name stars of past NXN's such as Lukas Verzbicas, Edward Cheserek, Chris Derrick or Futsum Zeinasellaisse. A lot of the pre-meet was attention going to CO state champ Cerake Geberkidane. I was standing where Cerake was doing a lot of pre-meet stride outs and if you asked me then I would have picked him as well just due to how fluid he looked as he warmed up in the cold.
Boy's start
The Boys went out and no one seemed to really take the race by the throat for the first half. Lot's of the faves just tucked together feeling each other out.
Boy's lead pack
In the last third of the race, Kai Wilmot (North Central, WA) broke away and started putting some distance on the chase pack. It was obvious he was making his decisive move and not just an attempt to string out the pack. Surprisingly, it worked. He hammered away and put the field away coming in home for a course record 15:00. Kai was definitely not on most peoples radar as a potential winner, however an 8:57 in the 2 mile as a Soph gave the indications the potential was there. He was also a 4 time NXN qualifier! The woman right next to me at the finish was Kai's mother. It was fun to watch her excitement as she watched her son cross the line with a national championship.
Kai Wilmot powers in to a course record. German Fernandez and Centro JR hold the tape.


Boy's team gave another victory to WA as Gig Harbor edged out CBA for the win. In an odd twist Moussa became the first runner to win 2 national team champs, for different schools! I think the win really took CBA by surprise as they were the most somber looking national runner up squad I have ever seen.
The trophies
Gig Harbor (WA) celebrates a team victory
Pretty impressive running the State of WA yesterday I must say. The Girls was one of the most exciting championship races I have ever seen in person. One must keep in mind though for the Boy's especially, despite the cold, the ground was in the best conditions it ever has been for this race. Lukas over Cheserek in 2010 and Derrick over Colby Lowe were still the shining performances.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to jump in to some USATF XC Champ races. Got my butt kicked as I transition to Masters racing but look forward to a full XC season next year and running some Indoor Race this February. It's why I moved here. Jumping in races with the like of Alan Webb, German Fernandez, and watching Kara Goucher work her way back to fitness was a LOT of fun.
Kara Goucher en route to winning the USATF NW XC Champs last month.
Hats off to the Eastwood Boys for another great season, even if it didn't end as hoped. The Eastwood Girls, fantastic showing at NXN South with a top 10 finish. One thing you notice at the big dance (NXN) there a a LOT of schools that qualify both the Boy's and Girl's squads. Keep on moving on!
Gerry Escapita closed a great XC career with a 3rd place at State in class 4A. Brian Casillas has one of the best seasons an individual EW runner has had with a lot of early season victories. The same goes for Anna Mora of EW.
On to Indoors!







Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Eastwood starts 2013 strong/Dellinger Invitational

There were lots of good things going on this past weekend in the middle of the XC season for 2013. For starters, Eastwood has picked off where they did last year and are undefeated midway through the season. They have run the table on the local competition and have just returned from repeating their winning performance of last year at the prestigious McNeil Invitational in Round Rock, TX. Brian Casillas (below) has been the leader that he was expected to be. Jose Silva (the other returner from last years South #4 squad) has shined as well. Last year I mentioned the culture change at Eastwood that spread down to their JV. The JV last year was the best team in El Paso other than Eastwood's varsity and those kids have stepped up to the plate. At mid-season they have ranked as high as TX#4. The rest of the state may have seen this as a rebuilding year but people close to the program could have sensed this. The usual challengers await at Region 1 but this year has a lot more uncertainty that keeps this year up for grabs. Defending state champion Southlake Carroll is vulnerable. They ran without Connor Hendrickson  (a 9:10 3200 runner) at Nike South and were well beaten. Lewisville Marcus who many may have pegged the favorite if SLC faltered has yet to run JR Logan Hendrix (5th at Region 1 last year) and without him, same story. So Eastwood is in the same position as the last couple, just need to get to Lubbock first and then pack them in within 40-45 seconds from 1-5. Large gaps between scoring runners will be a killer.
Eastwood's Brian Casillas 
As I am nowhere near El Paso (or Texas) I did the next best thing and went out to the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Eugene, just a bit south of me to see the Oregon men and women run on their home turf. The men's race had UW's Aaron Nelson break the field and put a good distance on the field. Close to 4 miles in, the chase pack which included Oregon ex Trevor Dunbar and current Ducks Parker Stinson and Edward Cheserek, looked out of it. Cheserek the decided he had enough left and dropped the others and went after Nelson before just falling short 23:54 to 23:59. I had to do a double take at the mid pack early in the race when I thought I spotted Alan Webb running comfortably and talking to runners. It turns out Webb is an Assistant Coach at Portland State and was pacing his group through. He picked it up around 5K and ran a hard last 2 miles to finish a very respectable 24:45
The Chase Pack

Alan Webb mid race

The women's race was the highlight however. It was announced at the start that WA high school star Alexa Efraimson was in the race. She went right with the leaders and never strayed from there. Boise State all-american Emma Bates was the only one to keep pace at the end and then even tried to pull away to no avail. Efraimson used her 1500 meter closing speed to lose the gap and win an exciting finish, both ran 16:35. An additional highlight for me was meeting the one and only Bill Dellinger himself. Great way to spend 2 hours on a beautiful Saturday.

High Schooler Alexa Efraimson (WA) kicks down Emma bates

With the one and only Bill Dellinger  (R) and Vin Lanana (L)

I hope to blog more frequently here and look forward to getting out to NXN here. Can't close without mentioning the great starts to the XC college season by A&M's Isaac Spencer (EP Austin) and Houston's super frosh Brian Barazza (EP Franklin).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Eastwood XC- the tradition grows

It's been a bit since I last really wrote here (other than the little Dyestat blurb). Since then I made it out to watch the NCAA Midwest Regional in XC as well as the Pre Classic at Hayward Field, but I will pick back up where I left off. El Paso Eastwood Cross Country. Last season was a huge breakthrough as they returned to the State Meet for the first time since the 1986 season. 2011 was a season that resulted in a Region 1 2nd place, TX State 6th and NXN South 8th. Pretty impressive, coupling that with the bulk of the team coming back has raised expectations.
These young men have not disappointed. Ryan Saenz has stepped up to really take the reigns of this team. So far he is undefeated to any El Paso runner. Brian Casillas (the top El Pasoan at State last year) has been right there with him every step of the way giving Eastwood that potent 1-2 punch up front that any championship caliber team needs. Richard Mora and Steven Rios back them right up at a level that would put these two as the top two on most any other quality team. Returning State qualifier Caleb Buntyn, super soph Jose Silva and newcomer Steven Wallace round out what may be El Paso's best overall squad in many years. The team is currently undefeated with a big win over Del Rio in the Gold Seeded Race at the McNeil Invitational on the state course in Round Rock.
There are a couple factors that make this version of Eastwood Cross Country different than our State Bronze medalists squad of 1984. First and foremost, there is an overall culture change that extends to all levels of runners now. In the State ranked years of 1983-1987, we were always one injury or two from being in big trouble. Fortunately this never happened but outside of the top 7 each of those years there wasn't much depth. This year, Eastwoods JV is, in all reality, the 2nd best Varsity in the city! After winning the prestigious McNeil Invite in Round Rock, Coach McLain rested his top 7 for the El Paso City-Wide meet at the Chamizal. His JV, running as the varsity, defeated every El Paso team that day. The same JV also finished 3rd as a Varsity squad in the unseeded Varsity race at McNeil. Only a complete culture change could yield those type of results. In most other cities in Texas, they would compete week in and week out as Eastwood "B" in the varsity division as you see from perennial state powers like Southlake Carroll or The Woodlands. SLC's "B" or "Varsity 2" squad has run alongside the top 7 in such big meets as the Chile Pepper Invitational (Arkansas) and Marcus 1 (Lewisville,TX). The Athletic Director's office in the YISD (Ysleta Independent School District) will not allow this. Also, the top squads in the state travel more to compete. SLC has taken squads to Chile Pepper (AR), Nike South in Houston as well as meets in Kingsville, TX. All significant distances to travel to face competition. The YISD will only allow the programs in the district one out of town (requiring a stay) meet per year. Makes it quite a bit harder for the squad to face the level of competition they must to continue to grow. Ideally, Eastwood could use this to their advantage. Run McNeil or Nike South and then take advantage of El Paso's proximity to New Mexico and run one of the big Invites in Albuquerque against such national powerhouses like Rio Rancho Cleveland (NM) and Los Alamos (NM).Why this is, I don't know. Even if it comes down to dollars and cents I have been informed this even applies if the team funds their own way. Not the best decision by YISD and certainly not one that is good for the athletes. As I said last year, to be the best, you have to run and compete with the best.
Looking ahead to the Region 1 Meet in Lubbock the task will still not be easy. Southlake Carroll is fielding another "A" squad that will challenge CBA (NJ) and North Central (WA) for the National title.  Lewisville Hebron is relatively the same as last year, very potent at the very top but then a drop in their mid pack. Lewisville Flower Mound and Marcus are both much improved. Marcus is running with similar 1-5 splits as Eastwood. Flower Mound and Marcus both have top runners in Wesley Ward and Logan Hendrix but neither school matches the 1-2 of Saenz and Casillas. They key will be for EW to pack their top 2 close to each of these schools top guy. If that happens Eastwoods depth and a tight 1-5 split should get the Troopers a return trip to Round Rock. It is now time to ignore "Polls" and rankings. Respect must be earned over 3.1 miles starting in El Paso, Lubbock, Round Rock and NXN South. To the Varsity "B" ( a squad this good can't be referred to as JV) a good year awaits as you guys join Casillas and Silva to keep the dynasty growing and developing. Regardless of what happens here on out, you guys are worthy of being considered the best overall program the East side of El Paso has seen in some time. Go get em Troop!

In the coming weeks, IL XC awaits. I hope to get out to the Niles West Sectional (IL equivalent of Tx's Regional) to watch National Power Elmhurst York run as well as getting out to see the one and only Lukas Verzbicas speak on his recent life changing accident.
Lukas Verzbicas speaks

It is worth noting after my last entry that Dyestat has returned. They are now Dyetrack.com and have been re-added to my links bar.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Farewell Dyestat.

It was initially announced a couple months back that ESPN would be shutting it's HS operations this year. Unfortunately for all Prep HS Track and XC followers, that meant DyeStat would go with it. This is a HUGE loss to all fans of Track and XC at this level, and while it was speculated that DyeStat would return to a self run website as before, it appears that as of now DyeStat is gone.
DyeStat's meet central and TFX listings were by far the most comprehensive and thorough databases out  there. There was and will be no peer.
The timing could not be worse for XC fans as we head into another exciting season. I am going to give a few listings of other resources for info as DyeStat hopefully gathers up for a return .

Watchout who contributed National rankings to Dyestat has started his own blog. His list's are often very thorough and at season's end, he is usually right on the money.

http://watchoutxcrankings.blogspot.com/

Dyestat Cal (one of the 2 individual State's that had it's own DyeStat) has moved to a new site. Hopefully all content will be moved over shortly. In the past DyeStat Cal had quite the extensive archives that housed National rankings in Track dating all the way to the 1950's. Here is it's new home for now.

http://prepcaltrack.com/

The other state to have it's own was Illinois. The land of many of the greatest prep XC runners in history. Mike Newman who did Illinois Prep Top Times and Illinois Dyestat has moved here for now.

http://ilprepharrier.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/welcome-to-illinois-prep-harrier/

Mention must also be made of a new site here, Illinois High School Runner which looks very promising.

http://illinoishsrunner.com/

For Texas, it gets a bit more muddied. The TX affiliate  of MileSplit, TxRunning.com, is often historically inaccurate and for some reason relies on times when trying to rank XC teams, individuals, etc. This works great on the oval, but I don't even feel the need to explain why this doesn't work in XC.
For Texas fans, I suggest you find all the major city newspapers online and hope to get good info and results  from there. Don't forget many of the results that did make their way of TxRunning and it's message board were from DyeStat's meet central.
The Milesplit/FloTrack merger may be interesting but FloTrack is usually only great for up to the minute content before it fades away to obscurity.

I have links to Tracktalk.net on my page and there is talk of new forums sprouting here at National Scholastic Sports Foundation (they out on New Balance Indoor/Outdoor Nat's)

http://www.nationalscholastic.org/forums

I hope first and foremost that DyeStat makes a return, but if not, it is up to all of us to contribute to and make the most of what is available. As more becomes available I will try and update this specific entry. I will also have to force myself to keep up better here as my Eastwood Trooper's make a run for the National rankings!

Godspeed to Lukas Verzbicas as he continues his rehab from his potentially life changing injury.




Thursday, November 3, 2011

Eastwood Boys- State Contenders

I sit here with a lot of anticipation 2 days before the Region 1 Cross Country Championships at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock, Texas. For the first time since the 1986 season, my Eastwood Troopers have a very realistic shot at finishing in the top 3 and advancing to the State Meet the following weekend. Let me go back a bit in time here.

(the 84 EW squad with Coach Doug Littlejohn)

From 1983-1987 the Eastwood Boys Cross Country program was among the elite of Texas. The years I was a part of the team were 82-85. From 1983-85 we were ranked no worse than 7th in the State at any point. The highlight of this era was the 84 season which ended with a Regional Championship and the bronze medals at the State Championship. We had several younger runners (Henry Garcia and Tony Urrutia) on that squad who took that experience to keep that streak alive (after the graduation of Mike Montes and myself). Eastwood once again returned to the State meet and rankings for one last time in 86. That Garcia-led team surprised a bit, but I guess what surprised me the most was that is where it stopped. Eastwood had a handful of individuals (Eric Flores and Tony Simonnetti) who qualified to the State meet but the program fell into a period of mediocrity. It happens, success can be cyclical. That cycle started to end when my old friend and rival Mike McLain took over the Eastwood program in 2001. He took over a program that had fallen to only 2 girls and 5 boys on the entire roster. Mike built the program back into a power that is always going to be one to be reckoned with at the local level. Both boys and girls teams have had many Regional appearances since McLain took over. A lot of the attention locally has lately fallen on programs such as Austin and Jefferson. These schools have fielded some great programs, but we must remember Eastwood has had to contend with running in class 5-A.
The past couple years have been really building towards this season. There has been an influx of talent coming into the school, mix this with great coaching (lets not forget the great Coach Pearson) and the results are starting to show. I have been fortunate enough to get to know some of the kids who have been through the program in the past couple years. The most talented of all is recent graduate Juan Blanco (see my blog on Juan for more, Juan below at Region 1 last year in XC).



 There is no doubt that Juan's success at both the Regional and State level, and now in NCAA Division 1 at UTEP, has been a good influence on this years young team. Coming out of last years track season, I was expecting the front runners to be Elias Leija-Garza and Brian Casillas. They have been, but the big surprise has been Ryan Saenz who has developed into one of the cities best. These 3 have formed a power trio of sorts, running up front and pulling their teammates (Richard Mora, Steven Rios, Caleb Buntyn and Alex Blanco) closely behind them. While long distance running is largely an individual sport, that is not the case here. This is a team effort, to be successful you must pull your team with you. It looks like this trio has learned that lesson.
Eastwood is entering the week as the 7th ranked team in Texas according to the definitive source, Dyestat. They have the task of facing the States top ranked program, Southlake Carroll while in Lubbock. In Carroll, the Eastwood boys are having to face the same type of squad we did in 84 with the nations top team Conroe McCullough/The Woodlands. That team set a state meet record of 28 points that stands to this day. The Region 1 record of 29 points by the Mike McLain/David Medlin led Hanks squad in 86 is in serious jeopardy. Many experts have SL Carroll as the top ranked squad in the US. This is meant only to encourage the current EW boys. To be the best, you have to run with the best and this Saturday is your chance. There are 3 spots for the taking, I figure there are 5 squads (Carroll, Eastwood, Amarillo Tascosa, Lewisville Hebron and Marcus) in the hunt. Eastwood has already taken a great step confidence wise with wins over Tascosa and Hebron earlier this year. Hebron has perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the region in Kevin Hoyos and Robert Domanic, but falls off after the #3 runner. The EW top runners need to stay in contact, but most importantly, the 4-7 runners need to stay close to them. Believe you can do it Troopers, because you can. Run harder than you ever have before, run this race as if it's your last, so that it's not! If so, the picture below will not be the last one taken of this team getting some medals.


Best of luck to a deserving and talented team. Start a new Eastwood legacy.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Have we lost our sense of community?

Here we are at the start of another Fall XC season. One thing that I have wanted to touch on for some time is what I perceive as a loss of the sense of community that we all enjoyed growing up. I have heard stories of coaches, grown adults, actually talking "trash" and making derogatory remark towards other schools runners and coaches. Huh??!! How and when did this become acceptable?
Growing up, El Paso was an absolute hotbed for XC talent. The amount of team and individual state medals won is staggering. We ran hard with the aim to win, but we also wanted our neighbors to experience the same success. Teams who had been to the big show (State Meet) mentored younger teams, pulled them along. My team, Eastwood, got a lot of good advice from defending Regional and State champs El Paso High before we went on to win our own Regional title. I'd like to think we did the same thing for Hanks when they succeeded us as Regional Champs.
Everyone was friends, many still are 3 decades later. I had a respect for my coach that was only topped by the respect I had for my own father. He was that important a person in my life. We also had great respect for, and were shown the same respect by, other school coaches. Everyone looked out for everyone. We raced each other hard week after week on Saturday morning and then went to the same gatherings on a Saturday night. Our XC team was more likely to get together with other XC runners than non-runners from our own school. This group of YISD State qualifiers in 1984 were all very familiar with each other, on and off the course.

I think it was this sense of community that led to much of the success that was experienced. At the Region and State levels, prior to the meet, all of the runners came out for the "El Paso!" chant. It was loud and in way, a show of force. It meant something and it served notice to other cities teams that they had to deal with us as a whole. Many times they did not deal to well.
I guess all that I'm saying, is, respect each other as friends and rivals, but most importantly, representatives of your community. I hope that some of the current generation of El Paso XC runners reads this and tells me I am wrong, that it is the same. If not, band together and make me wrong.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Juan Blanco- El Paso's best miler in 31 years.

As the 2011 High School Track Season got underway in El Paso, TX this year, I thought many times that is was now or never for Eastwood SR Juan Blanco. I had paid very close attention to Juan's progress since Coach Mike McLain pointed him out to me in one of his classes during Juan's Freshman year. He ran a pretty good 800 that year but it was his 4:30.0 as a Sophomore that made people start to notice.
Juan pushed that down to 4:26.5 his Junior year to set a school record.  As he started his SR Track Season I felt he could really push the EW Record under 4:20, a mark that is not met often in El Paso. He did that early on running 4:19.6 in AZ right behind Austin's Isaac Spencer. He also started running some great marks in the 3200 and established himself as the favorite in District 1-5a for both events.
After capturing both events at the District meet, it was an epic battle with Austin's Spencer that really thrust him into the State's elite. Spencer and Blanco battled it out with Spencer edging him by the smallest of margins, 4:16.04 to 4:16.07. To have 2 runners go that fast in a local meet was almost unheard of. The time edged Juan up the State rankings and it made a dent in the early National Rankings. But, Region 1-5a is typically a very strong distance region and there was sure to be a lot of competition from the usual Dallas area schools. 
Juan started the Regional meet with a gutty performance in the 3200 finishing third in 9:29.65 behind Craig Lutz (Marcus) and Kevyn Hoyos (Hebron). His time was good for the second best performance ever by an EW runner and made people around the Region finally notice. It was dissapointing to finish one spot out of a State berth, but served notice he would be one to deal with the next day in the 1600.
The next day could not have been scripted any better as Juan led, fell back, battled back and then gutted it out to win the Region 1 Championship and earn his ticket to Austin. Juan became the first El Paso Regional Champ in 5-A in close to a decade. He turned back Trevor Gilley of Southlake Carroll, a school who is not used to losing 1600 titles in Lubbock. (pic of Juan below, winning Region 1, courtesy of Mike McLain and Maria Barros)

This alone could have been considered one of the most succesful 1600 careers in about a decade in El Paso. It was what came next that cemented Juan as one of El Paso's all-time greats. At the State Meet in Austin, lining up against the State's (and in many cases, the Nation's ) elite, Juan raced to a 5th place finish. While that alone may seem to be a bit dissapointing it is the time that needs to be noticed. Juan blasted the second fastest 1600 in El Paso history, 4:11.48. Only Bel Air's great Sergio Oaxaca had run faster at 4:08.9 in 1980. In the 31 years that followed the closest anyone came to Oaxaca's mark were Gilbert Contreras (EPHS) at 4:11.5 and Alan Culpepper (Coronado) at 4:12.3. There were others over the years such as:
Martin Saenz (EPHS)-4:13.1 in 1981
Frank Lozano (Austin)-4:13.3 in 2001
Javier Muniz (Bel Air)-4:14.9 in 1987
Prior to 1980 the full mile was run in Texas, El Paso had State Champs several times over. The best El Paso prep performances were from:
Tony Zuniga (EPHS)-4:15.2 (worth 4:13.9 for 1600)
Ruben Dominguez (Austin)-4:17.4 (converts to 4:16.0)
In the matter of a year Juan took himself from a level of a good local runner to one of the all time greats. Many people mentioned prior here were either Olympians (Culpepper) or in the very least, NCAA All-Americans (Zuniga, Contreras). One of the all-time greats, Bowie's Javier Montes never ran sub 4:20 before representing the United States in the 1952 Olympics. Yes, in his case we must consider the era. Alan Culpepper became a 2 time Olympian, NCAA Champion and many times over a National Champion. He is one of the very few runners ever to run both a sub 4 mile as well as a sub 2:10 marathon. Oaxaca and Contreras both ran sub 4 equivalents (converted from 1500 meters) while at Auburn and Arkansas. 
Why am I getting off on this slight history kick? To establish exactly what type of company Mr. Blanco has put himself in. As an EW alumni, I watched his race live online, and couldn't have been prouder of the effort he put forth. I immediately spoke to Coach McLain after the race, letting him know where Juan now stood. I knew that as a competitor he might be a bit down after finishing 5th but his time, his time!! Since the switch to 1600 in 1980, a 4:11 would have won 17 of the 31 years. Just saying. Best of luck to you in your career at UTEP Juan.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lukas "Superman" Verzbicas

I didn't intend to go right back in to a blog about Lukas all over again, but what he has accomplished since I last blogged has been THE story of Prep distance running.
I covered his performances going in to the two national XC meets pretty thoroughly. Remember, I noted the runner who scared me most as a challenger was Edward Cheserek. The first of the two meets was the NXN in Portland. The course was extremely wet and muddy and about as sloppy of conditions one could expect going into race day. The main guys (Lukas, Cheserek, Lutz, Moussa, Rosa, Gedyon) went to the front early. Lukas made a decisive move about 3k or so in and that was the race. Simple enough. The chase pack was down to Cheserek and Lutz and honestly, there was no doubt. Cheserek did gain a bit of ground at the end, but to be fair Lukas was letting up as the win was in the bag and he had one more big one to go.
On to San Diego for the FootLocker Finals where he was the defending champion. Lukas and MW runner up Futsum Zeinasellassie broke away fairly early on. Lukas took the workload on and as the race wore on simply ran the race out of Futsum. He eased up once again at the end and practically walked across the finish line. It was a truly epic career for Lukas in XC. He did (as I predicted) win the never before done double of NXN and FootLocker. He was a 2 time (2009, 2010) FootLocker National Champ and he NEVER lost a race in his Prep XC career.
In the couple months that followed he announced his signing with the University of Oregon and stated he would run Indoor Track where he would debut against the pro's at the New Balance meet in the mile. Meet #1 wound up with Lukas running a 4:03.88 for the full mile (4:02.5 for 1600) and finished ahead of Olympian Leo Manzano. This mark was good for #3 all time. A couple weeks later he lined up against Bernard Lagat at the Armory in NY as both were chasing records for the 2 mile. Lagat was chasing the US record and Lukas was clear he was chasing Gerry Lindgren's storied 2 mile record of 8:40.0. Lagat crushed the record with an 8:10.07 and Lukas managed to come home in 8:43.24 splitting 3200 at just under 8:40.
Over the next couple weeks it was announced that he was registered in the mile, 2 mile and 5k at the NBIN at the Armory. Could he actually pull off the triple? Many speculated he would run the 5k on Thursday and then pick one on Saturday. Several days prior he announced he was indeed going for the triple. His good friend (and IL XC runner) Kevin McDowell had just been diagnosed with cancer. McDowell finished 3rd to Lukas's 4th at the World Jr. Triathlon Championships. Lukas ran with him in mind.
Thursday nights 5k was a given, the only question was by how much would he break his own national HS record by. His 14:18 from 2009 stood as the mark to beat. Lukas made it his race from early on and started lapping runners after about the 6th lap. He crossed in a new NR of 14:06.78 (2 mile split was sub 9) and may have challenged the 14 minute barrier if he didn't spend the bulk of his race running in lanes 2 and 3 passing lapped runners. Even 2nd place finisher Eddie Owens (who just posted a 1:07 1/2 marathon) was lapped.
On to Saturday. The first race of the day, the 2 mile and the rematch with Edward Cheserek. Once again, Lukas went to the front. He ran lap after lap at a steady clip with Cheserek glued to his heels. Lapped runnners once again became an issue about the 3/4 mark. With 2 laps to go, Lukas started to let his stride out, like Futsum at FL, Lukas had run Cheserek's legs dead. With  a lap to go the only question was would he break the record. Lukas broke the tape in 8:40.70 to Cheserek's 8:42.66, good for #2 and 3 all time. There is no doubt that Lukas would have broken the long standing Lindgren mark if he wasn't weaving around lapped runners.
After that race one would figure he was done. Nope, not this kid. In a race that featured 5 of the fastest 6 HS milers in the US, Lukas lined up a mere 70 minutes later. He tucked in the middle of the pack, and then about halfway in started to move up. With about a quarter or so to go he took control. I knew at that point, nobody would take this from him, Chad Noelle (the Millrose mile champ) tried to challenge and failed followed by Elias Gedyon with the same results. Lukas blasted the last 200 and came home with the win in what may have been the greatest all around prep distance running performance ever. He finished the weekend with a NR in the 5k, the #2 all time performance in the deuce and then outkicked the supposed kickers for the win in the mile. Absolutely an epic performance to cap an epic career. Before he goes off to UO he has said he will run the Dream Mile at the Adidas Grand Prix again as well as go one last time for the World Jr. Champs in the triathlon. Hopefully we can see him gun for German Fernandez's outdoor NR in the 2 mile. The same challengers will more than likely present themselves in the early summer, and I'm sure the results will be the same. In the immediate future he will be running the Shamrock Shuffle 8k here in Chicago. It will be interesting to see him against this field of elite runners.

What a tremendous pleasure it has been to watch this kid run here the past few years.

I got the chance to go back to the Eastwood Invitational after many, many years. 25 years ago I won this meet in the 3200 and the meet is still going strong and better than ever. I got a chance to see many of my old competitors and my old coach, Doug Littlejohn. It was great to see the EW runners in action for the first time.

(l-r, Dave Medlin, EP's all time HS record holder in the 3200 at 9:01, Coach Doug Littlejohn, the only coach ever in El Paso history to coach an El Paso school to the Regional Track Title, in 1981, and myself.)

It was a great pleasure to watch the EW distance runners in action. At the time of this blog, Coach McLain has churned out a 1600 meter factory. Senior Juan Blanco leads the way with a blazing 4:19.6 (breaking his own school record), Junior Elias Leija Garza is at 4:32 and super freshman Brian Casillas at 4:37. Throw in a slab of guys in the 4:50 area (Luis Salazar, Alex Blanco, Caleb Buntyn, Steven Rios and Steven Wallace) and the potential for a great 4 x 1600 squad in the post season exists. Getting one of the last group of guys down under 4:40 and the potential is there for a sub 18. Post season EW kids??   With EW's great ability in the sprint relays, the making is definitely there for a blazing distance medley. Would be interesting to see. The talent and coaching is definitely there.