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.