The Tracktown USA Grand Finale


Vin Lananna and Mike Reilly have put on a three meet series in the U.S., with sponsor support, some media support and the enthusiasm of the athletes. It was a good start. RunBlogRun covered each meet (Steve Ritchie for Palo Alto, Lori Shotz on Portland/Gresham, and Jeff Benjamin on New York).

IMG_9262.JPGRobbie Andrews, after his A standard of 3:35.25, photo by Jeff Benjamin

There will have to be an increased presense, media buildup and terrestrial TV support to make the series work in 2018. That will mean increased support for athletics media in the U.S. Great to see Beynon Surfaces (buy their tracks, finely made and good company) support the TrackTown Summer Series. Beynon is an example of a company that puts back into the culture of athletics. Beynon has been like that for many years.

The apparent belief, on all things track and field in the US is that the athletics media has nothing better to do but cover domestic meets. The absolute lack of support for media priot to Sacramento affected the crowds terribly, and truth is, athletics media can do much to support events, from email blasts to banner ads, to several month build up, but most domestic meets have little or no involvement or appreciation that media, either print or digital, cost money.

At RunBlogRun, we have been fortunate to find support through key advertisers. They realize that the running culture that they benefit from was created by many media groups around the country. For photographers, writers and technical people to provide the content you love on RunBlogRun, we seek advertisers. Funny thing is, road racing, for the most part, supports track & field content more than the members of track & field advertisers. A strange situation, but, it has been that way for a decade.

Here is Jeff Benjamin's coverage of the running events at TrackTown Grand Finale. We will provide coverage of the field events in another article.

The Tracktown USA Grand Finale

By Jeff Benjamin

They came, they saw and boy did they conquer!

That seemed to be the recurring vibe felt throughout Randall Island's Icahn Stadium in New York City last night as the Championship Tracktown USA Gran Finale meet was replete with symphonies from great events and accomplishments, all packed into a 2-hour program. As the meet opened up an hour and a half earlier with a field of over 300 in the open 5K (which was won by Tommy Curtis (14:11.50) & Kim Conley (16:07.80)) the vibe could be felt at all levels, from the enthusiastic fans, meet officials, organizer Vin Lanana and most of all the athletes themselves. With slam-bang competition along with the concept of a 4-team competition brewing right from the start, the meet, just like a orchestra playing along, no doubt built up to the grand climactic part of the night towards the end.

Earlier on however, Hurdler Devon Allen (13.36) edged out his Philadelphia Force teammate Jarret Eaton (13.37) to win the 110 Hurdles and score double 1-2 points for the Force in the All-important team scoring, with the team champions being decided on this night. Queen Harrison (12.75) followed suit in the women's hurdles.

Michael Rodgers (10.15) and Jeff Demps (10.25) led a 1-2 punch for their New York Empire squad, while Tawanna Meadows (11.16) scored big for her Philadelphia Force team. In the women's 800 Sanne Verstegen, who led through the 409 in 58, never relinquished her lead, holding off Chrishunna Williams (2:00.34) and winning in 2:00.22. In the men's 800 Drew Windle (1:44.63) came in on the outside and won over Erik Sowinski (1:44.66) and Edward Kemboi (1:44.77).

In a unique idea, the men's and women's 3000 started nearly simultaneously on the track, with a happy Stephanie Garcia (8:52.74) and Nicole Tully (8:54.28) leading the way for their New York Empire team. Paul Chelimo (7:47.96) and Lopez Lomong (7:48.77) emulated the same for their Portland Pulse team. In The women's 1500 Amanda Eccleston (4:05.51) held off a dramatically improving Hannah Fields (4:05.76) to cop the win.

But it was the men's 1500 which would be the crescendo. All week the local track fans wondered if the dramatic Robby Andrews, who won the USATF 1500 2 weeks ago in Sacramento, could get the qualifying standard time of 3:36 to punch his ticket to the London World Championships in August.

So did Andrews, who like all great athletes had to wrestle not only with the physical but the mental component as well. "I was keeping my energy even-keeled going in," said Andrews.

Before the boisterous hometown fans who were now encouraged to come Down out of the stands and stand along the outside lane (a really cool idea by the way!) and the dropping temperatures as the meet moved into the twilight, all Andrews had to do was to "turn my brain into just running.

And that he did. At the gun, Andrews stayed even keeled around 5th place, then moving to 4th after passing the 800 mark on pace (1:55). "In the early part of the race I dialed it in and hung onto the train," said Andrews. At the bell (2:40) , Andrews made a move and almost tripped up, but recovered quick. "I just told myself to stick with it," said Andrews, knowing that he had until July 21st to crack the 3:36 standard.

As the runners approached 200 to go, "The fans were screaming in my face and I just gunned it."

Launching like a cannonball, The crowd could see Andrews racing not only his competitors but the all-important clock.

About 15 meters from the finish, Johnny Gregorek passed Andrews ("I couldn't feel anything," said Andrews) to clock 3:35.0, with Andrews holding off a charging Ben Blankenship (3:35.29).

BUT Andrews' time said it all, as the stadium erupted upon seeing the time of 3:35.25 posted on the Icahn scoreboard, punching his ticket to his 2nd World Championships.

"Boy, this was great!", said an exhausted and exalted Andrews, who, led by Gregorek and ESPN'S Lewis Johnson, was subsequently mobbed by the crowd of fans. "It's really special running against these guys in the field. The fans here were really special and to have them scream in your face was great....I was happy with everything!"

"The sky's the limit now."

On to London!

Bell Lap- General Manager Allyson Felix's New York Empire was the team winner with 200.5 points, followed by Bernard Lagat's Portland Pulse with 196.5. Sonya Richards-Ross's Philadelphia Force was 3rd with 189 points followed by Nick Symmonds' San Francisco Surge with 180.....All the GM's were really into the meet, but it was Bernard Lagat who seemed the most animated, rooting on his team and literally bouncing all around the track, interacting with athletes and fans alike. Lagat' wife and kids also led the Portland Pukse cheering section...Robby Andrews plans to stay in his home base area of New Jersey in preparation for worlds. "Coach Vig (Jason Vigilante) will come up with a plan over the next few days," said Andrews....The ideals of Sportsmanship are not dead as fellow world-class milers Kyle Merber and Ben Blankenship, who with others stood to benefit by getting on the London team if Andrews had not gotten the standard, were one of the first athletes to congratulate and hug the emotional qualifier right after the race, along with Paul Chelimo and others as well....

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