Friday, November 28, 2008

Welcome to Terre Haute!

I decided this year to make the drive down to Terre Haute, IN to see the NCAA D1 Championships in Cross Country. I must say it was worth the long drive. I encountered a variety of weather conditions (snow, rain,sun) on the way down but things were as good as could be hoped for in Terre Haute.It was cold but precipitation free.

The women's race started about 15 minutes after I got set and in place. Seeing the wave take off towards me sent shivers down my spine. I have not been so excited to be a spectator at ANY type of event in recent memory. The course is laid out very well for fans. The course loops for both the men and women and if you feel like doing some running yourself you can catch several good vantage points.
Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech won her 3rd consecutive title running away from Susan Kuijken of Florida State. Tasmin Fanning (VaTech) and Brie Felnagle (UNC)were the top 2 American finishers in 3rd and 4th. Freshman Christine Babcock of Washington (also the team Champs) ran very well as the 1st frosh across the line. Washington won, followed by Oregon and Florida State. El Paso XC followers should note the 46th place finish by former Montwood High star Christina Munoz. Here is a photo (poor at that, I know) of the top 25 women.

The womens race was over before you knew it. 6k goes by real quick at that pace! As soon as I saw the majority of the women cross the line, the men were getting ready to roll.
As a huge fan of HS Track and XC I was very eager to see the greats of the class of 08 (Fernandez, Derrick, Puskedra, Lowe, Mesecho, etc) run for the first time. I thought they would do well but not as well as they did! First, as far as German goes, he was not even close to the lead pack at the first viewpoint. The lead pack being the pack chasing Galen Rupp and Sam Chelanga. About 3k I noticed he was gaining on the pack, but more importantly, he looked very smooth and under control. Rupp was starting to pull even with Chelanga, who took off like a bat out of hell to start the race. See Video.

Puskedra and Derrick were sitting comfortably in the lead chase pack as well. I saw the same positioning for a while and went to about the 8k mark. German had moved into about 3rd-4th place and still looked very smooth and controlled. I ran back towards the finish area to get a space. The crowd was going nuts as Galen and Chelanga came into the homestretch. Galen started pulling away and looked very strong. He took the win with a course record. Sr's Andrew Ledwith (Iona) and David Kinsella (Portland) took the 3 and 4 spots. Puskedra was tearing in right with them with Chris Derrick right behind him. I was so happy to see the Chicago Area star do so well at his 1st NCAA meet that I failed to notice that German did not come in. I spent the next couple minutes watching many XC/Track stars come across the finish line. I then moved towards a group of OSU people and heard them saying German was on the bus and feeling very down and upset. As the day rolled on we found out he had been injured (soon after I saw him last) with an apparent Achilles injury. Here's hoping he makes a full recovery as nobody has energized the young distance running scene like he has. 

As far as winner Galen Rupp goes, I was more than impressed. Galen gets a lot of flack for such things as his training with Alberto Salazar, rather than Vin Lananna, amongst other reasons. What I saw was a true XC Champion. He stayed cool when Chelanga tried to run away with the race early. He stayed poised throughout and then pulled even. He saved his energy and brought home his 1st NCAA XC Championship. He seemed happier actually with Oregon's team win. He was having a blast with his teammates down towards the awards area and they all seemed very happy to be with each other. Watching the Oregon team celebrate was like watching a former HS All-American parade (Galen Rupp, Luke Puskedra, Shadrac Kiptoo-Biwott, Matt Centrowitz JR, Diego Mercado, Kenny Klotz) and Galen's fellow 2008 Olympian Andrew Wheating.Pretty fast bunch of kids. Oregon defeated Iona and Stanford for the team title.
I look forward to making the trek down again next year and I'll try to not forget my camera! I do apologize for the cellphone pics and videos.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bobby Aguirre-TX High School Cross Country Great

As we head to the Texas State Cross Country Championships this weekend, I find myself wanting to give due to one of the all-time greats in TX Cross Country history, Bobby Aguirre of El Paso Riverside. Bobby had the misfortune of having a tremendous 4 year career in an era that doesn't have a lot of info online. If you visit the UIL website the archives start in 1984. Bobby's last championship was 1983. I'd like to add a little online history for this great runner. People often look back at Reuben Reina, Alan Culpepper, Brad Hauser and Colby Lowe as they should, but few accomplished in a 4 year span what Aguirre did.
Aguirre won the Dist 2-5a Title 4 years in a row. He won the Region 1 title 3 years in a row, after a 2nd place finish his Freshman year. His Region 1 Record at Mae Simmons Park stood for 24 years until Colby Lowe broke it last year. He was a 2 time State Champion (1981,1983) a 2nd place finisher in 1982 and finished 4th as a Freshman in 1980. The most impressive race to me was winning his Sophomore year over the great Carlos Quinones (Killeen). Quinones was a tremendous talent who finished his career with Track Pr's of 1:50, 4:08 and 9:10. Carlos was the 1981 State Champ in the 800 and the 1982 State Champ in the 3200. He had range. Bobby was coming off a 4th place finish as a Freshman (to Quinones' 3rd) . There is a story (reliable sources tell me it is true) that Bobby had a shirt made that said State Champ on it. Quinones approached him and asked him, "When were you State Champ?" Bobby replied, "I will be today" Quinones asked him, "What race are you in?" Bobby replied, "The one you're in!" Arrogant? A little, but he backed it up as he won the meet in 15:10. Quinones was 3rd.
His Junior year he finished 2nd to the great Jon Warren of Houston Cypress Creek. Bobby said he played the race wrong tactically , but losing to Warren was nothing to be ashamed of. Jon Warren later ran a sub-4 mile and was an Olympic Trials qualifier in the Marathon.
His senior year, 1983, Aguirre absolutely dominated the race. At the top of the first hill, he was dead last. He told us (my team at the meet) he was going to do this. He wanted to pass each and every runner. I was shocked when he went by me. He wasn't last long and took the lead at the 1st mile, he then backed off to save for the end. At the 2 mile mark he raced by Tony Martinez (SA Churchill) and Augie Flores (SA Burbank) and ran that last mile 25 seconds faster than anyone else as he defeated Martinez by that margin!! Tony (who later ran for Rice) was no jogger, he had a 9:02 3200 to his name.
Bobby never went to any of the post-season meets but I think he could have really made a name for himself at Kinney (now known as Footlocker). After losing to Aguirre at State, Martinez went to the Kinney Nationals finishing just a little outside 30 seconds of winner Matt Guisto. Bobby had so much left after winning that last State Title I think he could have beaten Martinez by the same margin at least.
His Track credentials were not on the same level as XC. He did finish 2nd in the 1983 State Meet in the 3200 (9:13) and he did not run Track in 1984 (Senior year). Real life responsibilities came way to young for Aguirre and he was never really heard from again after winning the 83 XC crown. Reuben Reina started his 3200/1600 meter title streak that Spring, but I think he would have had a real fight on his hands with Bobby. For the record,Tony Martinez took 2nd in that years 3200.
The runners who , over the years, had the same type of career as Aguirre usually went on to successful college careers and some even beyond college. It is worth noting that future Olympians Reuben Reina and Alan Culpepper (who both won USATF XC Championships) never ran as fast on the old Georgetown course as Aguirre. Reina's senior year he set a Footlocker (then known as Kinney) course record that stands to this day.
Bobby never had the opportunity to run in college. Some real heavy life changes at a very young age prevented that. I know of these, but certainly feel it is not my place to discuss them on a public forum. A lot of this information came firsthand as I was lucky enough to room with him at the 1983 Regional and State meets. I personally think he would have been great at the NCAA level, possibly moving up to the longer races in Track and running the 8 and 10K's in Cross Country. I hope at least 1 Texas Cross Country fan read's this and comes away knowing of a great runner they didn't know of before.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More XC Action- Close Races in IL

One of the most anticipated XC State meets for XC fans each year is the Illinois State Meet. IL has a very deep and talented history in the sport. This years Meet was no different.4 (!) teams (#3 Naperville North, #5 Elmhurst York, #11 Geneva and #14 Neuqua Valley, the defending State and National Champs) ranked in the top 20 Nationally went head to head ,yes, 4 teams ranked in the top 20 Nation-wide. After 3 miles the Kyle Gibson led Naperville North team edged the Steve Sulkin led York team by the slimmest of margins 84-85. Geneva and Neuqua Valley followed in 3rd and 4th. It must be something to be ranked # 14 in the nation (and defending Nike Team Nationals Champ)and not crack the top 3 in your State Final, but that is the price you pay for competing in a state that has a very stong distance history. I actually feel that even though York lost the meet they can still take the National title. In a race diluted with more elite front-runners the duo of Steve Sulkin and Jordan Hebert both have top 10 potential. We'll see.
The individual race was just as close with Jeff Thode surprising all the pre-meet favorites. Here is the top 10.
1-Jeff Thode-Hoffman Estates (Conant)-14:18
2-Steve Sulkin-Elmhurst (York)-14:19
3-Jordan Hebert-Elmhurst (York)-14:21
4-Kyle Gibson-Naperville (North)-14:23
5-Danny Pawola-Naperville (Neuqua Valley)-14:32
6-Nico Composto-Wilmette (Loyola Acad.)-14:32
7-Zach Dahleen-Orland Park (Sandburg)-14:33
8-Andrew Larsen-Aurora (Marmion Acad.)-14:34
9-David McWilliams-Naperville (North)-14:35
10-Gerardo Perez-Lake Zurich-14:38

Very impressive races in Peoria IL as usual.

A little further down the way, Regional action was getting underway in another perennial XC hotbed, Texas. Region II saw The Woodlands (US # 8, South #1) win yet another team and individual crown. Reed Connor won the race in 14:30 to lead his team to yet another Regional title. You can refer to the entry below for more info on them.The Woodlands Girls team also pulled the same feat off with individual winner Sarah Andrews leading The Woodlands to the Team Title. My eyes were focused on Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock for the Region 1 meet. Super Soph. Craig Lutz (Lewisville Marcus) beat veteran CJ Brown (Southlake Carroll) 14:59-15:13. Lutz joins Colby Lowe (Southlake Carroll) and Bobby Aguirre (El Paso Riverside) as Region 1 Champs as sophomores. Will he win State as a Soph as they did? I'm sure Reed Connor will try to keep him from that.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Talking a little Cross Country...........

As we head towards the State Meets in XC we see some more of the norm. York (IL) and The Woodlands (TX) are both aiming for yet another State Title.
The Woodlands (once known as Conroe McCullough) has been crushing teams dreams in TX for 28 years or so. They have quite a large enrollment (3800+) and a great Jr. High Program but the coaching of Dan Green speaks volumes. People enter the program there (as well as York with Joe Newton) expecting to contend for the State Title.
Since 1980 The Woodlands/McCullough has won 14 State Titles, 6 2nd place finishes and 2 3rd place finishes. That is 22 trips to the podium in 27 years. In 1984 they scored a record low 28 points in a race that my team (El Paso Eastwood) actually thought we had a chance at winning. We wound up 3rd but hey, there is no doubt we lost (badly!) to the best XC team in the country that year. The list of stars from the school over the years is endless. Kyle Wright, Jeff Moss, Stacy Sutter, Eric Henry, Shaun Barnes, Scott Cramer, Danny Green, Chris Emme, Brian Sullivan, Alex Neff and this year Reed Connor and Drew Butler should challenge Craig Lutz for the Texas Title.
Each year the week prior to the XC District meet,The Woodlands has it Red and Green Time Trial, under the lights at night. They run the 3200. If this years results are accurate then look out. Connor ran 8:54 and Butler 9:01. Wow! This school, by the way, has more sub 9:20 3200 runners than any other school in State History by a long shot. Henry and Sullivan both went 8:52.
I mentioned Craig Lutz earlier as the Lewisville Marcus Sophomore has established himself as the favorite for the TX 5-A Title. After a very impressive Frosh season, he has gone undefeated turning back many of the state's best in the process. Don't count out CJ Brown (Southlake Carroll) quite yet but he has not had the season many expected.
In IL, York is looking tough as usual, as well as Naperville North, Geneva and defending National Champs, Neuqua Valley. Look for Kyle Gibson (NN), Danny Pawola (NV) and the York Duo of Steve Sulkin and Jordan Herbert to contend in Peoria for the State Title. Another early season fave, Freshman Record Setter Lukas Verzbicas (yes Freshman!) is out for the season with a pinched sciatic nerve.
The future is looking bright right now on the National level with Lutz (Soph) and Verzbicas (Frosh) and Futsum Zeinasellassie (Frosh, In) all with potential to finish high at the National Level this year. Another challenger may be Jakub Zivec. Jakub has been running amazing times in the JV races in MN. In these cases he is running faster than the varsity times and coming close to course records. He has track PRs of 3:57.07 for the 1500 meters and an 8:19.35 for 3000m so he is for real. Jakub is a Czech exchange student who attends his MN high school without being part of a recognized international exchange program. Because of this he is not allowed to compete at the varsity level.
The future is also looking bright on the NCAA level with the prized Frosh Chris Derrick (Stanford), German Fernandez and Colby Lowe (Oklahoma State), Luke Puskedra (Oregon) all looking like potential All-Americans this year. We shall see. Terre Haute, IN is the place to be Nov 24Th.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Nationally Ranked El Pasoan's (50's-80's)

My roots in Track and XC lie in El Paso,TX. The most notable Track athlete to come out of the city would be Alan Culpepper ,however, there have been many others over the years that put up some great performances. El Paso was not unlike any other city in the sense that High School Track and XC got very little media coverage. I have kept a list that goes back to 1956 for performances by El Paso Track athletes who cracked the National Lists. Some years the lists were 10 deep, some 25 and some years 50 deep. Some great times/marks may have been left out because of this. I only have the mens lists as well. I have been searching for the women's rankings as I would love to put those up as well.
There were some great ones to remember. Sergio Oaxaca being ranked in the top 20 Nationally in 4 events in 1980! There were 2 top 10 ranked 300 Meter Hurdlers in the same District (1-5a) in 1983. Eastwood High had 2 Athletes ranked top 10 in 1981. Dennis Deloach of Irvin ranked top 10 3 consecutive years.
I hope to put up 1990 through 2008 soon but the age of the internet makes those years a bit easier to find. I hope some young Track Athletes in El Paso can look back at these marks and find inspiration to top them.

National Rank Year Name School Event Performance

#8 1956 Charley Rosemond EP Ysleta 880 Yards 1:55.5

#25 1958 Sal Rocha EP Austin Discus 164'2"

#36 1961 Dick Vogin (sp?) EP Burges 100 Yard dash 9.6

#12 1961 Eric Salmanca EP Jefferson 440 Yards 47.6

#18 1967 Bob Foelpoe (sp?) EP Austin 440 Yards 47.8

#25 1968 Herb Miller EP Jefferson 100 Yard Dash 9.4

#12 1968 Pryor Nunn (sp?) EP Coronado Discus 180'8"

#4 1970 Dennis Deloach EP Irvin High Jump 6'10"

#4 1971 Dennis Deloach EP Irvin High Jump 6'10"

#3 1971 Relay Team EP Andress Sprint Medley 3:30.4

#32 1972 Troy Squires EP Coronado 100 Yard Dash 9.6

#31 1972 Danny Ayub EP Coronado 120 Yard Hurdles 14.0

#8 1972 Dennis Deloach EP Irvin High Jump 6'10"

#40 1973 Joe DeLaCerda EP Irvin High Jump 6'8.5"

#22 1973 Relay Team EP Coronado Sprint Medley 3:32.3

#26 1973 Relay Team EP Bel Air Sprint Medley 3:32.9

#29 1973 Relay Team EP Austin Distance Medley 10:27.8

#25 1974 Joe DeLaCerda EP Austin High Jump 6'10"

#15 1975 Curtis Collier EP Burges 330 Yard Hurd. 37.7

#28 1975 Relay Team EP Burges Mile Relay 3:18.4

#17 1976 Bruce Frazier Fabens 440 Yards 47.8

#14 1978 Kenny Schmidt EP Austin 880 Yards 1:52.0

#24 1980 Sergio Oaxaca EP Bel Air 800 Meters 1:51.55

#2 1980 Sergio Oaxaca EP Bel Air 1500 Meters 3:51.25

#19 1980 Sergio Oaxaca EP Bel Air Mile/1600 M 4:10.4/4:08.9

#7 1980 Sergio Oaxaca EP Bel Air 3000 Meters 8:23.34

#6 1980 Jerry Bullitt EP Andress Shot Put 64'1/4"

#4 1981 Tony Tolson EP Austin 400 Meter Dash 46.74

#9 1981 Toby Bell EP Eastwood Pole Vault 16'0

#8 1981 Jim Jordan EP Eastwood Shot Put 64'3"

#5 1981 Jim Jordan EP Eastwood Discus 195'8

#6 1983 Dale Laverty EP Andress 300 Met. Hurd. 36.84

#9 1983 Ernest Vigil EP Irvin 300 Met. Hurd. 37.09

#8 1983 Paul Benavides EP Burges Pole Vault 16'0

#7 1987 Dino Napier EP Irvin 200 Meters 20.90

#9 1987 David Medlin EP Hanks 3000 Meters 8:27.66

#5 1988 Dino Napier EP Irvin 200 Meters 20.83

#4 1988 Gilbert Contreras El Paso High 800 Meters 1:49.8

#6 1988 Gilbert Contreras El Paso High 1500 Meters 3:51.9

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reina Vs. Lowe.....

I remember going to the Texas State Meet in 1986 with my friend Frank Arriola (El Paso Bel Air) who was competing in the 1600. I went to support Frank and also as a Track fan to watch the great Reuben Reina (San Antonio Jay) go for his 3rd straight 3200/1600 Championship. I watched Reina run an 8:58 to beat Eric Henry (McCullough/The Woodlands) and a 4:09 to beat John Holmes (South Houston). I thought it was the most amazing double. I was in awe. So to see German Fernandez double a 4:00/8:34 1600/3200 a couple weeks back just leaves me at a loss for words. He beat an 8:58 by almost 200 meters!!!!! Think about it.
Speaking of Texas runners we need to give our due to Colby Lowe. He ran an 8:47 for the All-time Texas #1. Nobody has stood out from Texas to the extent of Lowe since Reina. Lowe has left his mark all over the state.
Let the debate begin. Reina or Lowe? This old-timer will go with Reuben. Colby ran slightly faster times but Reuben had a kick for the ages. He didn't always have to run from the front. Reina faced great competition in Texas from the likes of Tim Gargiulo, John Holmes, and Eric Henry. He also dominated on a National level against guys like John Trautmann (NY) and the Mastalir Twins (CA). Reuben also won the Footlocker XC Nationals (then known as Kinney) in a Course Record time that stands to this day. That's right. This years crop (Fout, Derrick, Fernandez, Lowe, Puskedra, Cabral, etc) fell short as have many great XC runners over the years at San Diego's Balboa Park.
What will the future bring for Lowe? A memorable career I'm sure. Will he attain the same success as Reuben Reina/Alan Culpepper (both NCAA Champions, USATF National XC Champs and both Olympians)? I'm not sure. I do know watching him and German at the same school as Freshman should provide much discussion. Just wait for the discussion of Lowe Vs. Reina Vs Bobby Aguirre (El Paso Riverside) in XC. Never heard of Aguirre? You will soon.
I dug up an old picture I took at the 1986 State Meet of Reina sitting comfortably behind Eric Henry with Augie Flores (San Antonio Burbank) before making his move.

German Fernandez 8:34.4!!!!!

The Nike Outdoor National 2 Mile more than lived up to the hype. Jeff Nelson's 29 year old record fell when German crossed the line in 8:34.4, easily pulling away from a superb field. En route he also topped the National Record for 3000 meters. (7:59.83). Quality runners like Luke Puskedra (UT), Colby Lowe (TX) and Rob Finnerty (MN) had no answer when he dropped them one by one after the 1st mile.
The question is, "Is Fernandez the best High School Track Distance Runner ever?" In my opinion, Yes. I still believe he has not been pushed to his limit. He simply leaves everyone behind as he hammers away at the most even pacing I have ever seen. He's a human metronome. I think under the right circumstances he can go Sub 4 and run an even faster 2 Mile.
It puts his mark into perspective when you see the names of some of the runners now behind him on the All-time HS 2 Mile list (Lindgren, Nelson, Virgin, Prefontaine, etc). His same day double (4:00/8:34 1600/3200) will set the standard for distance doubles for years to come. I look forward to watching him compete for years to come.
Tx fans take note. Today at Nike Outdoor Southlake Carroll won the Distance Medley (Lowe, 4:05 anchor) and The Woodlands won the 4 x Mile.
Also tonight at USATF Juniors Elijah Greer of Oregon (a HS Junior!) clocked a US #1 1:47.68. The stars keep shining.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Nike Outdoor 2 Mile!

So tonight is THE big night for HS Distance fans. The Nike Outdoor National's 2 Mile. It seems the only question is ,Will German Fernandez beat Jeff Nelson's longstanding 2 Mile Record (8:36)? His 8:34 3200 at the Ca. State Meet converts to 8:37 and he ran it solo after a 4:00 1600 effort. Here he'll have stiff competition from Rob Finnerty(MN, 4:01 last week) and Nike Indoor 2 Mile Champ Luke Puskedra (UT). Colby Lowe (TX) should factor in there as well. TX fans note that Southlake Carroll has entered a Distance Medley and The Woodlands have entered a 4 x Mile. 

I think German's main competition would have come from Chris Derrick (IL). Chris, it turns out, is quite a writer. Please read his attached preview of the race from

Monday, June 16, 2008

No 2008 Olympics for Alan Culpepper

So I planned on starting this Blog with plans of discussing the amazing High School performances we have seen in the past couple months. Last night Christine Babcock (CA) ran a 4:16.42 in the 1500 for #1 all-time. Saturday night at the Midwest Distance Gala ( just a few miles away from me) Rob Finnerty (MN) ran a 4:01.09 Mile for #7 all-time. 
We can't forget the CA State Meet with the greatest High School same day double ever by German Fernandez (4:00.29 1600/8:34.23 3200), the Girls 3200 with Jordan Hasay (9:52.13) edging out Laurynne Chetelat (9:52.51) for #'s 2 & 3 all-time. Christine Babcock destroyed the field that day in the Girls 1600 with the #2 all-time performance (4:33.82).
Earlier in the year our local star Chris Derrick ran the #6 all-time,(#1 HS only) 5000 in 13:55.96.

I will come back to all these amazing performances later as we get ready for Nike Outdoor Nationals. No doubt some more great times will be recorded.

What I want to discuss is the announcement that Alan Culpepper will not be competing in the upcoming Olympic Trials where he was slated to run the 10,000. Alan, if successful, would have made his 3rd Olympic Team. Culpepper was one of a very select few individuals to have run both a Sub 4 Mile and a Sub 2:10 Marathon. I grew up in the same city as Alan (El Paso, TX) and have long followed his career very closely, always rooting for the guy. The sport is losing a class act as it appears he is retiring. Please read the article from the Rocky Mountain News.