Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lukas going for the double

This weekend is Part 1 of what Lukas Verzbicas hopes to be a legendary double. Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland will probably be his toughest race, ever.
The path started at State, which was covered in my last blog. He then went to NXN MidWest in Terre Haute, IN and came away with both a convincing win and a course record. His time of 14:53.1 beat Chris Derrick's old mark that was set before the addition of the hay bales. Jack Driggs closed strong to beat Zach Wills of Ohio for second. More importantly, Driggs led York to the team title over Columbus North (IN). York is now 7 for 7 in qualifying for NXN, the only team to go each and every year. Quite the legacy.
The next step for Lukas was FootLocker Midwest in Kenosha WI. I made the trip to watch this race as I wanted to be there for this stacked field. Also on the starting line were Driggs and Wills, along with IN star Futsum Zeinasellassie, OH star Michael Brajdic and Tony Smorgiewicz of South Dakota, the NXN Heartland winner.
Lukas went for it from the gun. I was at the start then made my way to the mile marker area. (Start below, Lukas at the mile after that, he was all alone)

Lukas had gapped the field by the mile mark. Close to the 2 mile mark they announced his split at 9:20. The announcer noted at 2.5 that Futsum had closed some ground. Coming in to the homestretch Lukas looked back, saw Futsum and came in strong. It is worth noting that he certainly didn't appear to be straining to much at the end. It may have been the closest that ANYONE has ever been to him in XC.
What has he done so far in his journey to the double to indicate he can pull it off? Plenty. Let's start with Sectionals. At Lockport he set a course record taking down Chris Derrick's old mark. State, he recorded the #3 time in IL history, only the legendary Craig Virgin and Derrick have run faster. NXN MW in Terre Haute? Course Record, taking down Derrick's once more. FLMW? The # 2 time in meet history. Only Dathan Ritzenhein has run faster. Lukas's 14:44 on that freezing day was quicker than Chris Solinsky, Matt Tegenkamp, Jorge Torres, Todd Williams, Bob Kennedy and a host of other future stars and Olympians. His performances so far indicate he can do it. He seems to have not gone all out in any race other than IL State. He will be challenged for sure, no one will win NXN in easy fashion. Not with this cast. Let's start with defending champ Craig Lutz of Texas who I am sure has no intention of surrendering his title. The CA duo of Ammar Moussa and Elias Gedyon are improved over last year. Zach Wills has a history of performing well in Portland. Lastly, the NJ stars. Jim Rosa, Jeremy Elkaim and Edward Cheserak all will be gunning for the title. Now, I know that Rosa is 2 and 0 against Cheserak, but this runner scares me the most of any of the challengers. I think over time he will become an incredible runner and Futsum will still have much to deal with in him next year. If Lukas gets by this crew his only challenge in San Diego will be to not let down against a fresh Futsum who is only running Footlocker. The best doubles so far have been by Chris Derrick (1st NXN, 2nd FL), Craig Lutz (1st NXN, 4th FL) and Colby Lowe (2nd NXN, 4th FL). It is a tough run. It is a lot of hard racing. I'm going to go out saying I think he can do it. We'll see. He stated here in the interview below that he wouldn't be doing it if  he didn't have the highest of expectations. Good luck to him.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Close calls in Peoria

This past weekend brought us one of the most anticipated XC meets in quite some time. The Illinois State Meet. The 3a Boys race did not disappoint. On the individual side, all eyes were on the match up of Lukas Verzbicas and Jack Driggs. The team race figured to come down to York, Neuqua Valley and New Trier. The main question of the day was, would Lukas get Craig Virgin's long storied course record of 13:50? With Virgin on hand riding in the pace truck, all eyes were on Lukas from the gun. Driggs was the only runner game enough to go with him through the 1/2 mile mark before a 4:28ish mile split started putting a little distance between the two. After crossing 2 miles in roughly 9:10 Lukas had built close to a 100 meter lead. The race was his however he fell just short at 1354. That time will go down as the #3 time ever at Detweiller behind only Virgin and Chris Derrick (13:52).
(below, Verzbicas, Virgin and Derrick, photo credit unknown)

It was a run for the ages but the fun didn't stop there. With York trying to win a 27th team title, #2 runner Ron Hedman was disqualified for physical contact with another runner. It has been speculated that it was everything from shoving to a punch in the face. I don't know for certain. Fortunately York's #6 stepped up and the team narrowly beat surprise team Lake Zurich by a 2 point margin to get a record 27th title for Coach Joe Newton.
The 2a race had some great races as well. Woodstock senior Kayla Beattie set a course record of 16:22 in a 49 second win. The boys from Belvidere North set a 2a record low of 28 points. In fact, if you plug BN's times into the 3a race, BN would have beaten York. Can they beat York head to head? We will find out this weekend.
This Sunday in Terre Haute, IN is the Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) Midwest Regional. Lukas is apparently going for the FootLocker, NXN double and will be there with the rest of his Sandburg team. Jack Driggs will bring his York team looking to continue the streak of being the only team to qualify for every NXN National meet since the inception. York will be tested not only by Lake Zurich and Belvidere North, but also the top ranked team this year in the Midwest, Columbus North of Indiana. Don't forget New Trier, Naperville Neuqua Valley and early season favorite Oak Park-River Forest.
The team race should be amazing. Lukas will be favored to win the boys race and his expected competion will come from Driggs and the Ohio stars Zach Wills and Michael Brajdic. Wills was 5th at the NXN National Meet last year and Brajdic just broke Bob Kennedy's Ohio State Meet record. The only name absent appears to be Futsum Zeinasellassie who looks to be going only to FootLocker.
The same weekend the Texas State Meet will get underway with defending NXN Champion Craig Lutz of Marcus the overwhelming favorite. It would take an upset in the magnitude of Don Knott's knocking out Mike Tyson for anyone to beat Lutz in Texas this year. This was solidified by a 55 second victory on a slightly revamped Mae Simmons course. Who did he beat by 55 seconds? Only last years 5th place finisher at the State Meet and The Harrier pre-season All American, Donovan Torres of Lubbock Coronado. Lutz's Marcus team soundly beat favorite Southlake Carroll 33-68 for good measure.
Plano's Rachel Johnson should run away with the girls title as well. In 4a both El Paso Austin and Jefferson should contend for the title. Austin has one of, if not the, best 1-2 combo in the state with Isaac Spencer and Ramon Garcia, while Jefferson brings a little more depth. Both have the potential to medal.
A quiet little blurb recently came out of Texas in the news that Chelsey Sveinsson had returned to racing. She appears to still be a ways off form as she placed 6th in the SPC (private school) Meet. She finished in 19:53, about 3 minutes slower than one would expect from her in a 5k. At that rate, I wouldn't look for her until Track season. Hope she returns stronger than ever.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

York rolls at Sectionals

I got a chance to take in the Skokie (Niles West) Sectional this past Saturday. It was the first meet of the year that I had been able to make it out to, but it was a great one. I expected a great battle between York and Oak Park-River Forest as York's only defeat this season had been at the hands of OPRF. Instead, it was New Trier (Winnetka, IL) who gave York all they could handle. York prevailed 57-62 with OPRF a little ways back in 3rd with 96. It may have been even closer but as it had been all year, Jack Driggs led York with an individual title. Driggs (pictured below at the sectional meet) won in 14:53.

Down in Lockport, Lukas Verzbicas went about his business as well winning that Sectional in 15:09. The time doesn't seem that impressive on paper until you realize that the course record there was previously 15:15 set in the 2007 season by one Chris Derrick. Enough said. Many people are looking to the battle brewing next week downstate in Peoria between Driggs and Verzbicas. Lukas has never lost a cross country race in his high school career and in fact, doesn't appear to have had a strong challenge in a high school race. Even at FL Nationals last year he made it look easy. Go to the FL website and watch the replay sometime. I think that Driggs is going to be up for the task of challenging him. The question of  will Lukas beat Craig Virgin's course record has to be asked along with, will Driggs go with him? It's going to be a great meet on Saturday both individually and with the teams. Look for Neuqua Valley to challenge York and New Trier.
Down in Texas the post season has just started. We saw the Humble Kingwood boys dominate The Woodlands at the district level and the El Paso Eastwood girls team win a 5th consecutive district title. Region 1 should be loaded with some great races. The top individual boy and girl (Craig Lutz and Rachel Johnson) in Texas will both run Saturday at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock. It is very possible that we will see the same school, Southlake Carroll, win both the boys and girls titles. Look for the SLC boys to be challenged by Marcus and Amarillo Tascosa, and the SLC girls to be challenged by Coppell and EP Eastwood. The 4a races should be a great time for El Paso with Isaac Spencer (EP Austin) and Joel Flores (El Paso Jefferson) contending for the individual title with Chuy Alegria of Ft. Worth Boswell. El Paso Jefferson will be a strong favorite for the team title.
On the University level the conference meets have seen some great performances in the way of tempo runs. Stanford won the Pac-10 the same way it has run all year with Chris Derrick, Elliot Heath and Jake Riley coming across the line in a dead heat. Oklahoma State did the same with Girma Mesecho, German Fernandez and Colby Lowe doing the same. Both teams have run like this all year and seem to be on a collision course to meet in Terre Haute, IN in a few weeks. Look for the team spreads to be a little higher as Derrick and Fernandez will undoubtedly be going after Sam Chelanga at the front. Question is for Stanford, will the team follow. To me if both teams run to their full capabilities it is still a toss up.
Jordan Hasay (Oregon) defeated Kathy Kroeger (Stanford) for the girls Pac-10 title. How many times did we see these two go back and forth at past FL Nationals?! Stanford was able to take the team title on both sides.
Speaking of Stanford, the Rosa brothers out of New Jersey have committed to the Cardinals and rumor is that Chelsey Sveinsson (Texas) has as well. It doesn't appear as if we will see Chelsey this cross season unless she runs USATF Juniors. Hope she is healthy soon.
Last but not least, the 2010 edition of the Chicago Marathon was one for the ages. Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya defeated Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia (2:06.24-2:06.42) in a great battle. Truly an amazing race, watch the finish of the race on Flotrack or find it on youtube. There is no doubt that Sammy Wanjiru is a true champion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Late September update

October is a few days away and things are starting to get exciting on all levels. The big city fall marathons are just around the corner and Chicago looks to be quite the race. Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot , Tsegaye Kebede , Vincent Kipruto , plus top American Ryan Hall all are looking to defeat defending champion (and Olympic Chamion) Sammy Wanjiru. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sub 2:05 if the weather cooperates. A great story is on the women's side where the legendary Joan Benoit Samuelson (1984 Olympic Gold medalist) returns and hopes to run under 2:50 for the 3rd time as a 50plus year old. I really hope she does, Joan is such an important figure in US Marathon history. Amazing woman. Someday I will actually not run this race and join the spectators along the course to see some of the true greats battle it out in what is always an amazing race.
College XC is starting to get going and the top runners are slowly making their debuts. The much anticipated debut of German Fernandez led to a 6th place finish at the Cowboy Jamboree. It seems as he and teammate Colby Lowe ran it as a controlled tempo run as they finished together. OSU's Girma Mesecho won the race. It is a promising start for OSU who brought in a tremendous recruiting class. I did notice that Kirubel Erassa was held out. Stanford ran as a controlled pack as well at the Stanford Invite. Chris Derrick, Elliot Heath and Jacob Riley all came across the line together about 4 seconds behind winner David McNeill (NAU). Stanford looked very, very good as they did last year up until NCAA's. An interesting development is Jakub Zivec coming on at Florida State University. Refer to my blogs from the 2008 XC season if you need any info on this tremendous talent from Czech Republic.
On the womens side I haven't seen to much top level action. Lavinia Jurkiewicz , the IL 3a state champ last year, ran strong in her debut for Wisconsin. Top WI recruit Emily Sisson is yet to race. Megan Goethals (University of Washington) opened with a 4th place finish at the Sundodger Invitational. She ran as UW's number 2 behind former IL high school star Lindsay Flanagan.
On the High School side many of the nation's elite have yet to run. We are still waiting to see debut's from Lukas Verzbicas and Jim Rosa. It is very likely Joe Rosa is out for the entire season and we are still a bit in the dark on the status of Chelsey Sveinsson. We have seen strong starts from Craig Lutz(TX), Jack Driggs (IL), Ammar Moussa (CA), Elias Gedyon (CA) and Futsum Zeinasellassie (IN). I have been a bit surprised as I thought Zach Wills (OH) would be right there with them but he has faced 2 defeats against top level competition. As of right now, if most rankings were based on races already run (and not waiting for Verzbicas or Rosa) Futsum should be a strong US#1 right now. He has been extremely impressive and narrowly missed Chris Derrick's course record at the Culver Invitational.
With Joe Rosa probably out, one wonders if Lukas will now just run FootLocker again. It is known that due to schedules the Rosa's can only do NXN and many people anticipated them meeting in Portland. Lukas, as well as Lutz, had been expected to do both series. With the expectation that Joe is done until track, Lukas may only be in San Diego. The match up of Lukas and Fustum, one that failed to happen last year when Futsum didn't show in Kenosha, would still be epic. I  can only speculate right now as I anxiously await to see these guys race.
Down in West Texas the Eastwood  girls have silenced all doubters as they are the undeniable #1 team in the El Paso area. The Eastwood boys have been THE biggest and nicest surprise this season as they have finished no worse than 3rd (at the big Lubbock Invite) and have won twice. Right now they, along with Montwood, are the co-leaders as the top team in the city. Top runner Juan Blanco, who ran a great 15:52 in Lubbock, has had the luxury of having his teammates step up and run close to him.
It is my understanding that the course at Mae Simmons Park in Lubbock has been changed up a bit and is now a slightly faster course. Still, the performance of Isaac Spencer of El Paso Austin was tremendous. He ran the fastest time of all 5 classes with a blistering 15:01. Very, very impressive run.
That's about it for now. Things will really pick up over the next few weeks as high schools start heading to the state series. College meets will pick up with the much anticipated pre-Nat's being the highlight. Here's to hoping the Chicago Marathon is another one for the ages. EDIT: Between the time I started this and the end it has been announced that Ryan Hall has withdrawn from the Chicago Marathon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Class of 2011 is ready to roll!

Well, Track and Summer have come and gone. We saw great performances from the likes of Lukas Verzbicas (IL-4:04.38-Jim Ryun Dream Mile), Joe Rosa (NJ-8:44.06-NBN 2 Mile-Jr class record) and Parker Stinson (TX-29:32-10,000 World Jr. Champs) on the boys side. The best girls performances hands down came from Emily Sisson (MO) who skipped her HS season and recorded a 9:51 3200 in a paced time trial and then a HS Record of 15:48.91 in the 5000 at the World Junior Champs. Sisson's times would be great for most HS Boys!
Andrew Wheating and Leonel Manzano impressed with some great miles in a year with no World Championships or Olympics. If Alan Webb is to come back, he will face a very formidable task in beating them for mile supremacy.
Today is Labor Day, marking the unofficial end of summer. This means Cross Country is upon us. Here in Illinois all eyes will once again be on Lukas Verzbicas and his quest to break Craig Virgin's record at Detweiller Park. He will not go unchallenged as York's Jack Driggs recorded one of the nations fastest miles (4:08.24) at the Midwest Distance Gala in June. The Chicago area had two of the top 10 HS milers in the nation and both return.

4:04.38 **Lukas Verzbicas (Sandburg, Orland Park, Il’)
4:05.50i Alex Hatz (Fayetteville-Manlius, Manlius, NY)
4:05.86+ *Elias Gedyon (Loyola, Los Angeles, Ca)
4:06.18 Jake Hurysz (Eastern Alamance, Mebane, NC)
4:07.28i Kirubel Erassa (Grayson, Loganville, Ga)
4:07.70 *James Rosa (West Windsor-Plainsboro North, Plainsboro, NJ)
4:07.98+ Ben Johnston (North Central, Spokane, Wa)
4:08.07 Pat Schellberg (Delbarton School, Morristown, NJ)
4:08.24 *Jack Driggs (York, Elmhurst, Il)
4:08.46 Isaac Presson (Asheville, NC)

York is looking like a heavy team favorite this year despite losing Andrew Smith, the State Champ in the 3200, but that is what York does every year under legendary Coach Joe Newton. Yorks recent time trial indicate Driggs is fit and the front runner with a solid 2-5 backing him up. They have a nice spread from 2-5 (6 seconds).

Driggs 8:47 Hedman 9:13 Hedman 9:15 Mimlitz 9:16 Gornick 9:19

We won't see Lukas (pictured below at FLMW, a meet that left me muddy as can be, as a spectator!) until end of month at earliest, at least on an XC course as he preps for the World Jr. Triathlon Champs later this month in Hungary. I'm sure he won't miss a beat as his running splits in these races are usually nothing short of spectacular.

Will he repeat as National XC runner of the year? This will be his last season as he took summer school courses to graduate early in 2011. He will be hard pressed by many in the class of 2011 including the Rosa twins, Craig Lutz (TX), Ammar Moussa (CA) and Elias Gedyon (CA). Others that can't be discounted are Zach Wills (OH- remember he edged Lukas at NON in 2009), Jeremy Elkaim (NJ- 8:46 3200 in a win over the Roas's), Futsum Zeinasellassie (IN-7th at FL Nationals in 08) as well as Driggs.

To me the overwhelming girls favorite has to be Chelsey Sveinsson of Texas. The "experts" disagree as most have picked her second behind Aisling Cuffe of NY based mostly off of her 10:02 for the full 2 mile at NBN, That would be a sub 10 in the 3200 which Chelsey has yet to run. I, however, think Chelsey would have had she not had an injury shortened track season. If she comes back fully healthy this year, she will be THE one to beat. It is worth noting that Freshman Natalie Rathjen (Highland Park, TX) just won the opener at Marcus 1 in 10:45, the same time Chelsey ran last year. Girls races are never as clear cut as the boys it seems.

Texas is already rolling. Craig Lutz dominated the Marcus 1 meet as expected. Southlake Carroll served notive that they may be the team to beat in Region 1 as they dominated the field winning with an impressive 39 points. Amarillo Tascosa showed they may be the sleeper team in Region 1 (5a) with an impressive 3rd.
In El Paso, Issac Spencer (Austin) ran away with the season opener in what should be a banner year for him. The surprise of the meet was the Eastwood Troopers (yes, I'm biased!) who were edged by a single point by Austin. The Troopers who had and have had a strong JV every year regrouped and served notice they are a team to be dealt with. The rapid off-season improvement by runners such as Luis Salazar will be key as team leader Juan Blanco can't do it alone. The Trooper Girls, who were expected to be solid, ran away with the girls title over very good Clint and Horizon teams. If Melanie Stires has the type of season she is capable of the Trooper Girls will look to improve on last years 5th place finish at the Region 1 meet. Coach Mike McLain has done a great job in developing the JV squads to step right up when the time has come. I look forward to seeing my Alma Mater proving the naysayers wrong.
For those who ran XC in El Paso, you should check out Coronado ex's Vince Bejarano's alumni website. It is open to all and can be a great place for some people to reconnect after many years. Look for it in the links section on your left.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Texas distance heating up.

Things are heating up now as Texas moves towards it's championship stretch. The Texas Relays this past weekend are the big story of the season so far. Chelsey Sveinsson is done with her swim season and back and looking very strong. After a US#1 1600 (4:45.24) at the Jesuit-Sheaner Relays on March 27th she only ran more impressive. She pulled off the distance double (10:07/4:51) once again. Some sites, posts, etc. have called her 10:07 a Texas State Record in the 3200, and technically it is. It is the fastest girls 3200 ever run in the state of Texas, but remember Chelsey split 10:01 at NON this past summer. It may all be a moot point anyways as she has stated she is training to peak in July. Look for some more pro races and hopefully a matchup with Goethals and Sisson (both just split 10:07 en route to 10:10's for the full deuce at NIN). Afterwards, she comes back for another year! On the boys side, Craig Lutz won over Ryan Dohner (8:58.7-8:59.1!) in a very deep boys 3200 which saw 16 runners at 9:26 or better. Great stuff. Boerne Champion's Ethan Doherty defeated Cedar Park's Parker Stinson in the 1600 (both at 4:14). We must mention the great sprint performance by El Paso El Dorado's Shaun Powell, second place in the boys 100 meter dash in 10.70. Great to see some of the talent from El Paso going and competing at this top level meet. In the history of this great meet the only El Paso winner I know of, boys or girls, is Bel Air's Sergio Oaxaca who ran a great 8:23 in the 3000 in what was a banner season for him (1:51, 3:51, 4:08, 8:23, 8:58) in 1980.
Shifting speeds from High School, I am going to skip a couple of years (give or take) to the USATF Indoor Masters Championships and the great double performance by a man I have the utmost respect for, Paul Pearson. The 58 year old Pearson recorded times of 10:30 and 5:21 for the 3000 and mile for 2 top 10 finishes. While the man never actually was my coach he was a large part of my early development as a runner. In my pre-High School days I used to frequent his Athletic Attic store in Cielo Vista Mall. We would talk running and shoes constantly. I used to make frequent trips to the store. He also took myself and some future teammates under his wings at the local road races. It was always great to hear his stories of his time running at UTEP. I caught up with him when this picture was taken this past fall.( Coaches Mike McLain and Paul Pearson). Way to go Coach!, you continue to inspire me.

As a big fan of running books I wanted to make mention of a couple of great books I have just finished reading. The first is " What I talk about when I talk about running" by acclaimed fiction writer Haruki Murakami. Known as a fiction writer this book chronicles the looming of the 2005 New York City Marathon as well as different important landmark races in his life. I really enjoyed this book by a writer who is otherwise one of my wife's favorite authors. The other book is Christopher Mcdougall's "Born to Run" which is an incredible read on the Tarahumara Indians (the running people) of Mexico. This book is widely credited with the current interest in the barefoot/minimalist running movement. To me it is a great story about people who run for the sheer love of the act of running. Prize Money, records, championships, none of these things matter to a people who are amongst the most gifted and talented runners in the world. Very, very good book.
If you get a chance, go through some of the links I have just added to the left side of the blog. Some good information and I plan to add more. Dr. Billy Wilbanks site is a great resource for Texas Track history. Please visit these links.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Outdoors is here! Finally.

Well, I for one am real glad that outdoors is here. Indoors is a season that I am always really excited about, I never had the opportunity to run indoors as a youngster in Texas. I remember actually ordering a pair of Nike indoor distance spikes and being convinced they were the reason I had such a good senior year in outdoor track. Yep, they were my secret weapon. Uhhh, yeah. This year indoors seemed a bit lackluster to me. Chelsey Sveinsson skipped indoors, there was talk she was going to swim for her school team. The much anticipated NIN 2 mile match up between the Rosa twins and Lukas Verzbicas never transpired. Lukas skipped indoors as well as the Shamrock Shuffle 8k here in Chicago that he was entered in as an elite. Joe Rosa did not run indoors and Jim won NIN in a time of 9:00 meaning we are still waiting for the first sub 9 in the full deuce. Others, such as Craig Lutz, Zach Wills ran but were not at top strength. There were some great marks, Kirubel Erassa (GA) ran a 14:19.82 for #2 all time in the indoor 5000 and Alex Hatz (NY) crushed NIN with a 4:05.5 mile. Good enough to break Alan Webb's meet record. The girls 2 mile was thrilling with Megan Goethals (MI) edging Emily Sisson (MO) 10:10.14 to 10:10.21
At the NCAA's we saw some great marks from the freshman class. Jordan Hasay (Oregon) split a 4:32.55!!!! in the Distance medley in an effort that almost put Oregon past Tennessee in the race, as well as well as a 4:38.2 in the mile final for 4th (the first non-senior). Robby Andrews (Virginia) edge out Olympian Andrew Wheating (Sr, Oregon) by a mere 100th of a second for the 800 title. Oregon's other frosh mile star, Mac Fleet placed 2nd in the finals.
Of course, some upper classmen flexed some muscle. Angela Bizarri (Sr, Illinois) and Lisa Koll (Sr, Iowa State) took the 3 and 5 k's while Dorian Urley (Sr, Arkansas) and David McNeil (Jr, NAU) did the same on the men's side.
German Fernandez apparently sustained an injury in his conference mile finals and was absent from the NCAA's leaving teammate Colby Lowe as OSU's lone representative. Colby finished 8th in the 5k final as he is continuing to establish himself as a threat in any race he runs. Great to see him back up there. Interesting as German's NCAA meets have resulted in a DNF, DNR, Outdoor Mile Gold, 97th and a DNR. Good thing he has the stuff to be one of the all time greats and I hope to see him back and fully healthy for outdoors.
One last indoor mention, congrats to former Eastwood star Jessica Ubanyionwu on her 16th place finish in the triple jump. Only a sophomore, she will be back.
Outdoors is in full swing in Texas while Illinois is still winding down indoors, the Illinois Prep Top Times Classic still looms ahead. We have seen some great marks down south from Parker Stinson (Cedar Park) with a 9:06 3200 and Cedar Park clocked a 17:29 in the 4x1600.
While in high school, a meet we always looked forward to was the West Texas Relays in Odessa, TX. We all got to go as a team and stay in a nice hotel and run in a huge stadium (Ratliffe). It was quite exciting. I remember losing a close 3200 to Mike Garza in 86. Mike had run a 9:14 at the Texas Relays and I gave him all he could handle as he edged me at the line. Being there was really a great experience for us. These days, Eastwood takes it kids to the Willie Williams Classic in Tuscon, AZ. It is a great College/HS meet with top notch competition. Eastwood's Melanie Stires won the 800 with a 2:20.7 and EW's Aimee Apodaca took 2nd in the 3200 with a time of 11:44.4.
On the boys side, Juan Blanco set a new Eastwood school record in the 1600 with a 4:26.5 hanging close to Footlocker All-American Steve Magnuson. Clinton Blacksmith continued his season long improvement in the 3200 with a 10:08.1. Coronado's Zach Bassett turned in a nice 4:38/10:04 double. Nice job by all. Seems like a great time, even my good friend and Eastwood coach Mike McLain met Bernard Lagat.

I am really, really looking forward to the full outdoor season. The top prep marks are yet to come, I LOVE NCAA track and field and the pros may keep things interesting in a year with no Olympics or World Champs. This may let us see some athletes outside of the comfort zone. Here's hoping we see Allyson Felix in more open 400's. A lot of top distance guys will concentrate on the roads as the big marathon paydays await.
I'll be looking forward to the Midwest Distance Gala again this year. I'm sure this will be the earliest any of us see Lukas Verzbicas, locally or otherwise. He will surely be concentrating on his triathlon season in the spring. You know, it must work. The new harrier magazine has an article in which they talked to the vast majority of the FootLocker finalist. They asked each about one's favorite workouts as well as weekly mileage. Guess who ran fewer miles than anybody. Yep, the winner himself. Very low mileage, by the current standards, but mixed with swimming and cycling. I found this very interesting as I have been amazed at some of the weekly totals I see some of the young stars post. Just some food for thought for those who see running as the only way to get better at running, myself included. Be back soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Here goes 2010

A lot has happened since I last wrote here. Lukas Verzbicas dominated Footlocker on his way to becoming the first ever sophomore champion. Megen Goethals edged Chelsey Sveinsson in a great race to the finish. The week before, at NXN, Craig Lutz out sprinted Joe Rosa and Elias Geydon for the boys title. Texas showed up big as Boerne and The Woodlands were 1st and 3rd on the boys side. Catherine Flood took the girls title while Fayetville Manlius ran away with the team title. The final honors of the season, Gatorade XC runner of the year, went to Verzbicas and Goethals. Nice start for Illinois as they have 2 of the first 3 boys winners in Chris Derrick and Lukas.
The college indoor season is in full speed with no lack of excitement here. German Fernandez has returned and appears to be getting healthier after a sub-par XC season. He finished 3rd (only with him would people be disappointed with that ) in the 3000 at the UW Husky invite with a 7:51.02. Earlier, his coach Dave Smith said German had been suffering from an iron deficiency.
The University of Oregon has retooled fast. Olympian Andrew Wheating has returned after a long layoff and teamed with prized frosh Elijah Greer to post marks of 1:46.36 and 1:47.33 in the 800. The other prized frosh in the U of O stable have made their mark quickly with Mac Fleet blazing a 3:57.70 mile and Jordan Hasay posting marks of 4:38.48 (mile) and 9:12.25 (3000).
It's worth noting that former Eastwood and current Baylor star Jessica Ubanyionwu is currently ranked 9th in the country with 43"1.75 triple jump at the Tyson Invite. That is good for a NCAA provisional standard, hopefully it will hold or she will add a couple more inches. Also with a NCAA provisional standard is former Montwood and current Texas A & M runner Christina Munoz. 16:37.37 is the provisional mark she posted for the 5000 meter run. If anyone knows of any other ex-El Pasoan's with NCAA qualifying marks, please let me know.
On the prep level, a current mark that is very worth noting is the early season state leading 800 time of 1:56.00 by Danny Tarango of El Paso Burges. A great time for mid-February from this young sophomore. Wow. I can't wait to see what he (along with El Paso Austin's Ramon Garcia) gets down to by May, much less by May 2012.
Now to some disappointing news. The IHSA (the Illinois equivalent of the UIL) will deny waivers to athletes wanting to compete at Nike Indoor Nationals. Apparently since the meet is not conducted by the USATF (the governing body of USA Track and Field) it does not meet the criteria for IHSA to grant waivers. Illinois athletes will still be able to compete in Nike Outdoor Nationals as it is conducted after the IHSA Track season is over. Still, this is a huge blow to the national caliber athletes here in Illinois. Remember, it was Nike Indoor last year that served as the coming out party for Lukas Verzbicas. Now, this may not affect Lukas , as he has stated he will bypass the regular track season to get back to his triathlon season, but others such as Manfrin, Farleigh, etc. will have to choose between running here or competing for a state title later. This is a very bad policy that will hopefully be reevaluated later. Fortunately Footlocker/NXN and Nike Outdoor/Midwest Distance Gala fall after the respective seasons.
Now, for more sad news out of Illinois. Budget cuts have made it so that all lower level (assistants, etc) Track coaches in the Chicago Public Schools will no longer be paid. This will leave one coach per gender. Chicago city schools were starting to make strides back as evidenced by Morgan Park and Whitney Young. Lavinia Jurkiewicz (Whitney Young) just became the first CPS student to win the state championship in cross country.
Much more on these issues can be found here.

One last remark about cross country. I have been trying to help my good friend Mike McLain compile a list of early results from District (El Paso related), Regional and State meets going back to the very early 1970's. It is still a work in progress but we are getting the blanks filled in. Hopefully this will be the place that people looking for old results from El Paso will go straight to.
Go to the site and look through the District, Regional or State results, and keep checking back.

I'll be back soon.