June 21, 2007-An Early Summers' Night of Track!

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I had an amazing day. First, a good friend and his son flew in from Portland, Oregon and stayed at the house. I gave them the tour of our new home and new home town, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. David Frank and his son, Jackson have a dream--actually is it nine year Jack's dream, shared by Frankie-to visit as many college basketball arenas as he can, and to spend a few minutes playing hoops on their hallowed floors. Today we visited the home of the Badgers, Kohl Arena. Without much fanfare, we got on the floor, Jack played some b-ball, and we left.

Jackson's enthusiasm in getting Badger shirt and shorts, and then dribbling and making a couple of shots on the Kohl Arena floor got me thinking. This kid was in sports heaven! That three minutes of dribbling and making baskets kept him excited for an entire six hour trip in the car with his father and friend!

After our ten minutes in the arena, we made the six hour drive to Indianapolis, for his dad's and my sports heaven-the US outdoor championships, namely, Thursday night at the distance races. Dave wanted to make it there to see one of his former athletes in the Junior 5k.

Our constant speeding got us there ( I want to personally thank a rural duo of sherriffs who smiled as they passed us about a half hour from the Indiana border) with about fifteen minutes to spare.

We walked to the 1,500 meter start at IUPUI Stadium and the group was there. This is the place where the distance geeks sit. Asics Aggies, coaches, athletes, are there for one reason, to watch the 10,000 meters and the junior 5,000 meters.

We missed the 100 meter heats, but I can tell you that Tyson Gay continues his dominance of the sprints ran a fine 9.98 and Me'Lisa Barber ran 10.95 to make a statement to women sprinters. As we were watching the junior 5,000 meters, Breaux Greer showed his global status in the javelin, upping the American record to 299-6, just over 91 meters and just six inches from the 300 foot barrier! Breaux is healthy and this single throw sent a message worldwide. Breaux had this to say after his record:

"I didn't hit it hard but I hit it clean. I think the biggest thing is staying healthy. If you are healthy it's going to be fun and it's going to be easy. If you're healthy everything is fun. And I know there is still more there. I don't think I'll ever be satisified. I don't know if an Olympic gold or world record would satisfy me, but I want to find out."

The javelin had even the distance geeks excited. But the junior 5k, or as our photographer, Victah Sailer called it, the Oregon 5k, due to the number of 5k runners in it from the state of Oregon, was a stunner.

The pace was strong, and tough, in this hot and humid weather ( about 85 degrees at the start, with just a bit of wind. Kenny Klotz, a freshman at Oregon, and former Central Cathlolic ( Portland, Oregon) athlete, looked poise for the win. He stayed out of trouble for the first 3k, moved up a bit in the 4th kilometer and began to check out the field over the last 800 meters. By 600 to go, Kenny was making a hard move and had broken most of his followers. Well, with one exception.

As Kenny came down the final stretch, maybe it was the humidity, maybe it was the hard last 400 meters, but he had no energy left. Elliot Heath, from Winona, Minnesota, who had run a fine 8:46.12 for two miles the weekend before, where he took third in the Nike Outdoor, ran a perfectly timed last 200 meters. Elliot caught Kenny Klotz with 60 to go and the race was over. Elliot Heath took the lead with 40 to go and he went on to win in 14:36!

The next race was the men's 10,000 meters. And what a field! Abdi Abdirahman, Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, Jorge and Eduardo Torres, Alan Culpepper, Dan Browne, Ryan Shay, Fernando Cabada, Ryan Shay, Josh Rohatinsky--who was missing?

The pace was calculated, the first 400 meters hit in 71.4, two miles in 9:16, so it was interesting to see a long line of distance runners showing much more strain than the pace should have suggested. The humidity, the heat, all were there.

This was a challenging field. Good long kickers, great marathoners, good short kickers, how to win it?

Abdi Abdirahman, Dathan Ritzenhein, Ryan Hall and Galen Rupp were in the first group, with Jorge Torres, Jason Hartman and Dan Browne, with Alan Culpepper in attendance. The leaders hit the 5k in 14;17. And then Abdi started to pick it up. From 5k to 7k, Abdi and Dathan would run 400 to 800 meters and then switch. By 7k, the race was Abdi, Galen and Dathan, with Galen looking the roughest. Rupp dropped back about 7,600 meters and began looking behind him, as the field was all toughening out the hardest part of this race. Abdi, who had run 27:31 in Hengelo at the end of last month, and Dathan Ritzenhein, who had run a tough 28:08 road 10k in NYC about the same time, were really upping the ante.

Abdi had alot to prove. He had looked great last year, in a similar race, only to cramp up and drop out at 8k. This year, he looked ready and methodical. A good, consistent pace, and it was taking its toll. Matt Downin dropped out, someone who just does not drop out of races.

Jorge Torres, Alan Culpepper, who both had fallen back, had gathered themselves and were moving back up. Galen Rupp seemed to wake up and about 9k was moving up again, as Dathan looked to be struggling.

With 400 to go, Abdi Abdirahman was in the lead and he was running hard. Dathan was nearly wincing with the effort and began to falter with 300 meters to go. Galen Rupp caught Ritzenhein just after the last curve and went on to take second. Dathan held on, just barely, too third, as Alan Culpper and Jorge Torres ran the fastest 200 meters of the race, with Culpepper taking a close fourth and defending champ, Jorge Torres taking fifth. Winning time was 28;23. Abdi Abdirahman, who has run a 2:08:57, made it quite clear where his focus is, after this race:

"I'm not ready to hand it over yet. I was ready for this race. I will talk to my coach about Osaka (World Championships) but the Olympic trials are my main focus. It never gets old winning national championships."

The women's 10,000 meters was a time trial for Deena Kastor. Deena, the American record holder at the marathon, and the 10,000 meters, showed why she is the best the US has to offer. After three slow laps, Deena was on her own. Molly Huddle, surprisingly, went with her and after a few laps dropped back to the chasing pack of Kellie Goucher, Alicia Craig, Katie McGregor for the rest of the race.

Deena was on. Running sub five minute miles to catch up on her goal of a sub 32 minute pace, Kastor was on tonight. The announcer, Scott Davis, told the crowd that Deena was chasing an old Indiana record, 31:57, by Lynn Nelson, from 1988! The crowd of 5,000 cheered Kastor, lap after lap.

Deena just made it. Running a superb last lap, Deena ran 31:56.69, to barely break the record of Lynn Nelson. But she did it, in warm and humid conditions and with a lethargic early pace.

The second pack race came down to the last lap. Kellie Goucher, who had run a fine 9:41 for two miles on May 20 and a 4:12 1,500 meters at the Prefontaine two weeks ago, took off with 600 to go and had second place in control and finished the best race of her career with her second place in the 10,000 meters. Katie McGregor ran a furious last 200 meters to distance herself from Alicia Craig, who was running her best race in a few years!

It took us a few minutes to soak in the great races as Deena took her victory after the race. The AT&F official meeting center, the Rock Bottom Brewery was the site of a nice, long and relaxing discussion of the night's events, the upcoming races and loud applause as Abdi Abdirahman came into the restaurant, and Terrance Trammell walked by the restaurant with a film crew filming his every move!

A surreal ending to a surreal evening of distance running!

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