Wednesday, July 15, 2009

5000 Meter young guns

Like many people I was extremely impressed by the performances of youngsters Evan Jager and German Fernandez at the USATF Outdoor Nationals in the 5000. 20 year old Evan, in his second serious attempt at the distance, ran 13:22.18 for 3rd. 18 year old German (also his second serious 5000) ran 13:25.46 for fifth. German's mark took down the 2 month old National Junior mark of 13.29.98 (Chris Derrick, Stanford).
I had been following Jager closely as he (and Derrick) came up through the years here in IL. He, no doubt, had and has tremendous potential. I was surprised, as were many, at his decision to go pro after 1 year at Wisconsin. I was doubtful it would work out that early on. I was very, very wrong. I still think his best event may be the mile as his 3:54 at Pre this year indicates. I can say the same about German as well after his wire to wire victory in the NCAA 1500.
I was blown away by how two very young US runners, not running in their specialties ran such fast times. I wondered how they stacked up against some of my old heroes. Growing up in El Paso, TX I was in awe of the old UTEP distance corps. I could go watch them run local meets and they also graced the local road races on occasion. It was not unusual to see Mike Musyoki, James Rotich or Mathews Motshwarateu (RIP) show up to dominate the local 5 or 10k. It was good stuff growing up. The old UTEP teams were undoubtably the most dominant distance runners in NCAA history (sorry Arkansas and Oregon). The 1981 squad set the existing all time low of 17 points. Good luck to any team that thinks they can break that. The Olympic silver medalist at 5000 meters (Suleiman Nyambui) wasn't even the first man on the squad that year. Many people believe these teams had a very unfair advantage over the others as they consistently fielded 7 highly talented Africans (and Rodolfo Gomez) against home grown talent. So I was curious to see how the two American youngsters times fared against the UTEP greats. Surely they had potential to eventually run comparable times but at this early age? Wow. I was wrong and surprised and also very, very excited about the future of US Distance running. Here is the All-Time 5000 meter list from UTEP. Wow.

5000-Meter Run
13:12.2 Suleiman Nyambui 1979
13:24.9 Michael Musyoki 1978
13.34.2 Gidamis Shahanga 1983
13.35.3 Rodolfo Gomez 1978
13:36.4 James Munyala 1976
13:37.1 Kerry Pearce 1968
13:39.03 Zak Barie 1982
13:40.2 Mathews Motshwarateu 1981
13:42.2 James Rotich 1979
13:44.5 Gabriel Kamau 1980

1 comment:

Pete Trujillo said...

The UTEP teams of the 70's and early 80's were indeed incredible. I wish I could have appreciated what was going on back then. T&FN has a page on Galen Rupp's senior season and his 5000/10000 double at nationals. They mention that Nyambui did the double 3 times 80, 81 and 82, dominance.
The only reason I ever got a chance to put on a college uniform was that UTEP got the death penalty a couple of years before I got there and everybody left. I remember when I was a freshman in cross country Coach Jones would have a look of severe disappointment, he hated us.