The U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon have had four amazing days of track & field. Every night, when I catch up with my friends, someone asks, " What was your favorite moment?"
So many moments each day to celebrate, remember, consider once again, so for the sake of my short term memory, and your satisfaction, here are a few of my favorite moments of the past twenty-four hours:
The Men's 800 meters
Khadevis Robinson is a class act. He runs fast, from the front, and dares his competition to catch him. Many times they do not catch Khadevis. This evening, however, Mr. Robinson's number was up. He did all that he could have, but Symmonds' brilliant move was a) perfectly timed and b) too much for anyone to hold onto. Andrew Wheating, all six foot five inches of running bravado, then came from lane four to take out everyone but Symmonds. Wheating had an O on his chest, but it could have been a superman symbol-this young runner is intense.
Christian Smith has been nicknamed John the Baptist by his admirers. Now, however, his new nickname is Lazurus-he rose from the dead. The move Smith made on the final stretch, and his fall on the track, where skin, blood and track surface fuzed, was something to behold.
The men's 800 meters was spectacular.
The men's 5,000 meters
Bernard Lagat is at the top of his game. He stayed out of trouble, and when he moved with 200 meters to go, that was it. Matt Tegankamp was having cramping issues most of the race and he stumbled at 200 meters, only to make the team down the stretch.
Ian Dobson, who has had three years of absolute misery, put it all together and dug deep for third place.
The story is out there that Tegenkamp and Solinsky had a plan. Solinsky would take it with three laps to go, which he did, and run a 58 second lap. Then, Tegenkamp was to run a lap, which he did not, citing side stitch and not holding on. So, Solinsky ran another 58 second lap. Then, in their plans, it would come down to the final kick, who could handle it.
Race plans and reality of racing came crashing down. Chris must be crushed that he did not make the team, and if that tactic had worked out, he would have had a much better chance. In the end, racing reality and racing plans did not mesh. I hope that two fine athletes find a way to deal with what must be a hard issue to grasp.
On the quality of coaching....
The fact is that Jerry Schumacher has developed a program that works for his athletes. His thoughtful concern, his ability to adapt, his ability to develop independence of thought and athletes who can train, race and excel on the world class level is unmistakable. It is why athletes like Tegenkamp, Solinsky, Riley and others have been part of the program for the past decade. Madison will be much different with Jerry's move to Portland, Oregon this fall to help develop a middle distance team for Nike. We wish him well, and look forward to seeing him on the roads, as well as seeing the athletes he develops at the various track meets around the world.
Several other coaches have had unqualified success in Eugene: Frank Gagliano, Gags, the man from Georgetown, with his 800 meter sweep, John Cook, with his dynamic duo of Shalane Flanagan and Shannon Rowbury, Alberto Salazar, with Kara Goucher and Amy Yoder Begley, Terrance Mahon, with Ian Dobson, Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor, Bob Sevene with Blake Russell.
What trait do all of these coaches have? What trait do all successful coaches have? They are committed to their athletes, love their sport, and have taken a long term plan to develop their athletes. Large or small group, big city or little city, the sport is celebrating the coach-athlete relationship everytime athletes line up for a race at Hayward Field. What is great is that athletes, if they believe, can develop an toe the line from a variety of programs.
What gives me hope are programs like Zap Fitness with Peter Rhea, Brooks Hanson's Distance Project, Skyjumpers, etc. groups that lay it on the line and find a way to provide great, consistent coaching to athletes who want to excel. That is the reason why athletes are developing and excelling in this country.
Many still have situations, where it is them and the coach. I met Mary Wineberg on a flight to Pre earlier this month and learnt that she trains with her husband, a former decathlete. Some athletes are inspired by that solitary training-it has done well for Mary, but others seem to need a different approach.
How do we give athletes the approach they need? That will be the main challenge, in the future for USA Track & Field. As the sport gets more global, and athletes in other countries get better, we must be on our game. In the distances, we are approaching a level where we will have competitive athletes in most of our events. That has not been so in decades. Let us hope that we do not take this for granted.