The oldest track & field blog on the internet

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year-End Summary

It seems obligatory...First, some links.

Track & Field News' men's and women's Athletes of the Year, men's and women's Performances of the Year, and #1-ranked men and women

The IAAF's end-of-the-year reviews for sprints, middle distance, long distance, road running, hurdles, jumps, throws, and combined events

Race Results Weekly's Marathoners of the Year; Runner's Web's Ten Best Moments of 2006 for US Distance Running

Now, the year in review for the Superfan.

The blog was launched on June 11 with a review of the NCAA Championships TV coverage. Since then, I've also begun blogging for Trackshark and Garry Hill gave me a positive review. As of right now, the blog has had 4,337 hits.

As a fan, I got a few nice opportunities. Early in the year I was given a chance to announce at our local high school conference championships. It is hands-down the best job to have a t a track meet. Then the USATF championships came to Indianapolis, the NCAA XC regionals came to my little town, and finally I saw two NCAA XC Championships in one weekend (part 1 - part 2).

I was asked to take the boys' cross-country coaching job at my school. While our season wasn't the most successful, we had fun and a lot of improvement.

As an athlete, this year was a disaster. I bombed a marathon in April, then developed achilles tendonitis which I wasn't able to get under control for six months. I don't keep track of miles anymore, only training time; my annual total was 252 hours, or just under 5 hours per week. Short of injury, I prefer to keep it in the 8 to 10 hours per week range.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Olympic Distance Event Medal Count

Which nations have won the most Olympic medals in the distance events? Would you guess Kenya, or Finland? Either way you'd be wrong. I counted 'em up; to see who it is, follow the link.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Anti-Doping Tirade

Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman punches around Mark McGwire in an online column which details his Hall of Fame vote.
Some will claim steroids were not disallowed at the time, and that, of course, is 100 percent false. There was no testing for them during McGwire's career, and no spelled-out punishment. But they were neither permitted in baseball nor legal in our society.

Some will say that everyone did them, and I'll agree that many did do them. But I will say first that not everyone did do them, and most who did got away with it. While McGwire has never failed a test or confessed, in my mind he is caught.
Heyman does not specifically address it, but baseball and track have very similar doping problems. The common issue is a reverence for each sports' stats, numbers and records, which doping has totally and completely fouled up.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Other Shulman: Book Review

This isn't the first time I've pimped this novel, as I noted its winning the Thurber Award for comedy writing. I got it yesterday morning, and read the whole thing before midnight.

I won't bother with much of a synopsis; Amazon has plenty. "Middle-aged schlimazel waddles through NYC marathon and self-discovery" does fine. If you're looking for the exploits of superstars, skip it. This is a great story of an ordinary person's struggles. My only complaint is the ending, which feels like it was thrown together in the final hour before a publishing deadline.

What I should add is that while this is billed as comedy, funniness is not the point of the book. It's much like Little Miss Sunshine or Dry: A Memoir in that the comedy complements the storyline, which otherwise would be too horribly, suicidally depressing to get through. Like these other stories, the suffering is both necessary and passing. Plus, it's the New York City marathon...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Anti-Doping News

Old News: Grandma's Marathon female champ Halina Karnatsevich DQ'd for stanozolol.

New Twist (via Associated Press):
Scott Keenan, executive director of Grandma's Marathon, said it was the fourth time USA Track and Field had selected the race for drug testing. It was the first time an athlete tested positive.
...
Keenan said race organizers will continue to encourage USA Track and Field to include Grandma's Marathon on its schedule for drug testing in the future.
Do directors of "mid-major" races see it as prestigious to get selected for dope tests? And if so, does it actually improve the profile of a race to have a positive test? Seems that way. So an event promotor would actually relish a doping DQ. I guess in the world of second- or third-tier marathons, there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Won!

I'm Time Magazine's Person of the Year!

Oh...and you are too. That kind of ruins the exclusivity I was expecting.

I suppose it's a decent choice in a year without an obvious one, although a bit of a cop-out. That doesn't keep some people from bitching about it -- George F. Will says bloggers reek of narcissism (which he says on national TV without a note of irony), but others might argue we pose a threat to his kind of entrenched media power. Whatever. Google says the average blogger has one reader. I know who mine is, and he looks at me in the mirror every morning.

While Time tries to call the internets a revolutionary medium, the web as a democratic tool is merely a technological re-hash of the 19th-century penny press. Funny that Time makes this choice in the very same year that Net Neutrality became a big issue.

Christmas, TV, and track


I just watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on TV. It's really amazing; even though the show is 41 years old, the only out-of-date items in the whole thing are the jazz-trio soundtrack and the debate about whether or not Christmas is too commercialized (by now everyone has given up all hope--and it's really weird to see Charlie Brown's overtly religious message of austerity and humility sponsored by the ultimate soul-less entity, Wal-Mart).

The more I think about it, the more I believe the 1960s and 70s had to be the best time for children in this country, and Christmas-time is no exception, as the "golden age" of Christmas specials started with the Peanuts gang (1965) and extended just into my age bracket with Little House on the Prarie's "Christmas at Plum Creek" (1974). After that, things went decidedly downhill; the Dayton Daily News ranks the worst of all time, with nine of the ten released between 1978 and the present. (If "ALF's Special Christmas" doesn't make the cut, you know they're really bad!)

So you've got kids. And you've gone to see truly terrible Christmas movies with them, and if you see one more maudlin holiday show on TV you're going to lose it, go all Henry Rollins on the neighborhood and crucify your neighbor on his front door with nails from his well-stocked garage. And you're a track fan, too. What are you going to do?

A decent show produced within the last few years is Robbie the Reindeer in Hooves of Fire. It won't be on TV this year, but you can buy in on DVD or VHS. Created by Aardman Animations, the geniuses behind Wallace and Gromit, it stands up well to the repeated viewing you'll be forced into. Cut to the good parts: Robbie, son of Rudolph, competes in various running/jumping/throwing events at the "Reindeer Games". Christmas stuff? Who cares, this is track!

Gatlin article in WaPo

Yesterday the Washington Post ran an article on the Justin Gatlin affair. There's little new in it; they rehash the same wild and wierd conspiracy theory that massage therapist Chris Whetstine sabotaged Gatlin.

At the T&FN message board, EPelle once again gives us the best analysis, noting that the story "has gotten much more interesting and more detailed as time has gone along", lending credence to the idea that it's all made up. At Let's Run, Old Runner Guy astutely noted the following passage in the article:
The case has attracted the attention of federal investigators, according to several sources, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has allowed an unusual extension to give Gatlin's lawyers time to assemble their client's defense.
This IS new, and it leads us to wonder: what are the feds looking for? One possibility no one has mentioned is Trevor Graham. He's already under indictment for lying to federal agents in the BALCO investigation, and they may be looking for some more evidence against him.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

BALCO, perjury, and Marion Jones


There's been some recent news in the BALCO trials; Thursday, cyclist Tammy Thomas (right) was indicted on perjury charges. Yep, that's a woman. You think she might have used steroids?

Also, recently Marion Jones said she's undecided about her future (read: she's thinking about retiring). T&FN message board maven EPelle notes the timing, and wonders if anything is going on:
Her [EPO-positive] "A"-sample was released just after Gatlin's camp went public of his testosterone positive. ...The cyclist gets indicted during BALCO/Phase III (it is in this phase according to authorities) for lying to the Grand Jury in BALCO/Phase I in stating she had never used PED's and/or that she did not get illegal drugs from Patrick Arnold. Marion Jones nearly simultanously states she is unsure what direction she will head in 2007.
Another post by EPelle, quoting the San Jose Mercury-News:
Another possible target for perjury is Marion Jones, an Olympic gold-medal sprinter who also testified in 2003. If she denied using performance-enhancing drugs, Jones might have a problem because her ex-husband, C.J. Hunter, said under oath that he gave the sprinter banned drugs and saw Jones inject herself.

At least two other grand jury witnesses who worked with her former coach, Trevor Graham, have testified in the case. Also, Balco mastermind Victor Conte Jr. has said in interviews with the Mercury News and others that he supplied Jones with performance-enhancing drugs. Jones repeatedly has denied all allegations.

Bonds attorney made an interesting comment on Wednesday:
``If this is phase three, why not indict Barry?'' Bonds' attorney Michael Rains said Thursday. ``The simple answer -- they need the testimony of Greg Anderson.''

The same has seemingly applied to Marion Jones: No witness testimony from Victor Conte. His plea bargain allowed for silence on his part when it came to any help he could have provided the authorities in their fact-finding against athletes, distributors, coaches, officials, agents, etc.

Patrick Arnold received the same condition in his plea agreement, which allowed him to not have to name names. However, he had the following to say:
"Track and field, especially the sprinters, they were more sophisticated in whom to seek out," he offers as a hint.
This is nothing but speculation, but quite interesting to be sure. But why on earth were Conte and Arnold, the masterminds behind BALCO, given this kind of free ride? Strange indeed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Clarion University Drops Track

...and, of course, blames Title IX. (Clarion is a D-II school in the Penn State system.)

The issue is usually complex when teams are cut, but in general it comes down to the fact that football gobbles up gobs of money and other sports die to feed it. Title IX is only involved in that women's sports, already generally ignored and underfunded, don't get the axe.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette sports columnist Sherry Anderson muddies the issues when she takes the AD's word at face value. At the very least, she reveals her near ignorance of both small-college sports and Title IX.

She lists the recent expansion of women's sports at Clarion, yet parrot's the AD's talking point that the school could fail to show "a history and continuing practice of expanding women's opportunities". Obviously, it can, and so any proportionality issues are a moot point. (Clarion's new release incorrectly states proportionality is a requirement; the law is well enough known that this can only be a deliberately false statement.)

Anderson also suggests that football be taken out of the Title IX equation. First of all, four separate attempts to do just that have been rejected by Congress. Secondly, she states that "Clarion operates below [the] NCAA [limit] of 90 players", but doesn't give us any perspective on the issue. Some digging shows that Clarion's football team actually did have 90 players last year, while the other five men's sports now remaining had 62 athletes between them.

But the icing on the cake is this: "Add a caveat, such as requiring that a school show that its football program is in the black and some of that revenue is used for women's programs." There are somewhere in the range of 60 or so schools in all of college football that actually make money, and none of them are cutting any sports. (Hint: if a profitable team isn't in the Pac-10, Big XII, Big Ten, ACC or SEC, it better be named Notre Dame.) If Clarion's football team were able to make a profit, they wouldn't have cut a thing.

Here's the point to Title IX, which people don't understand. Agencies which recieve federal monies are required to treat men and women equally for the simple reason that they are taxed at the same rate.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Carl Lewis sighting

He, along with sister Carol, was in the audience last night on the live season finale of NBC's reality weight-loss game show The Biggest Loser. Both were wearing "I Wylie" t-shirts in support of finalist Mark Wylie.

After a bit of digging online, I found out why he was there. Wylie is the Vice President of Best Buddies International, a charitable organization that provides "opportunities for one-on-one friendships and integrated employment" for people with intellectual disabilities; Carl Lewis is a member of its board of directors and a big supporter (a recent fund-raising auction item was a day with Lewis at the 2008 Summer Olympics).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

TV Listings Update

Monday, December 11
ESPN Classic, 4:30 PM
Jim Thorpe All American

Thursday, December 21
ESPN Classic, 2:30 AM
1977 Superstars

ESPN Classic, 8:00 AM
Who's #1?: Best Female Athletes

Saturday, December 30
CBS, 1 PM
NCAA Fall Championships

Friday, January 5
ESPN Classic, 2:30 AM
1973 Superstars

Golden League

A few days back, the IAAF announced the setup for this year's Golden League jackpot. It's back to splitting the $1 million only between athletes who go undefeated, with a new safety net--if no one is undefeated, it's split between those who win at 5 out of 6 meets.

Over at the T&FN boards, the topic of discussion turned towards the slate of GL jackpot events, and how they seem to be the same events year after year (100m, 1500/mile, etc.). Garry Hill explains the reasoning, mainly marketability and meet promotion. Another points out that an event with two good athletes virtually guarantees that neither will win the jackpot. My reply:
I think we've highlighted one of the problems with the whole Golden League setup in the first place. A back & forth season-long battle between two great athletes is probably the best thing that a sports tour could hope for (classic example: Arnold Palmer and Jack Niklaus). But the Golden League doesn't reward such a thing. In fact, the GP circuit's season-long standings haven't rewarded that since its inception, since the cash always goes to the athletes with more or less unopposed dominance.

Do any of our creative minds have alternative ideas?
Got any? Post 'em in the comments.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anti-Doping News

Two stories in the news today...

First, the testers have apparently beaten the cheaters out of the gate on gene doping (which is nothing but gene therapy used for a nefarious end). Gene doping was seen as the next step beyond drug use, and far more powerful. According to this article, it's more or less been stuffed as a cheating option before anyone seriously tried it (so far as we know).

Second, Ben Johnson told Australia's Herald Sun newspaper that Carl Lewis was involved in a conspiracy to sabotage him and cause his positive test at the 1988 Olympics. This is on its face a laughable claim, as Johnson testified under oath that his drug use began in 1981 and so no conspiracy was necessary. Besides, this story was first told at least 15 years ago, and so far the search for this "mystery man" who spiked Johnson's drink has been as serious as OJ's search for Nicole Simpson's "real" killer. But at least this story taught us that Tony Kornheiser and Charles Wilbon (ESPN's Pardon The Interruption) have absolutely no knowledge about elite track & field.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Wish List

This afternoon my mother-in-law asked me to write up a Christmas wish list. In that spirit, I'm posting a list of things the track fan in your family might want.

Books

1. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon
The best track book in quite a while

2. The Other Shulman: A Novel
Winner of the Thurber Award for comedy writing

3. The Last Protest: Lee Evans in Mexico City
Amazon.com's average review: 5 stars




Videos

1. Fire on the Track: The Steve Prefontaine Story
Newly released on DVD, this was just voted the #1 running movie of all time.

2. The Olympiad's Greatest Moments
8-volume history of the Summer Olympics

3. On The Edge
Also newly released on DVD, it's probably the best fictional track movie out there

Apparel

1. Onitsuka Tiger Ultimate 81s
The old-school shoes.

2. Track Jacket
In style once again, you can get one with any college or national team colors/logo.

3. Dave Wottle's ITA jersey
There's only one, and it is currently owned by a coin and sports collectibles dealer named Tom Noe. It'll be up for auction soon, as Noe owes Ohio about $17 million.

Games
1. Konami Track & Field arcade game
Awesome!

2. Track & Field Math Board Game
A lot of fans are coaches (like me), and a lot of coaches are teachers (like me). This is an instructional track & field math game!

3. Bruce Jenner Decathlon Game
As far as the board game itself goes, it's completely lame, but this is a great collectible for a Baby Boomer or Gen-Xer.

Terry Fox

I just got my new Runner’s World yesterday, and didn’t have time to sit down and look through it until today. Generally, it’s 100 or so pages of glossy fluff; I only subscribe because it’s cheap and usually gives my running a pick-me-up. But sometimes they have a really good article, the kind that could get into one of the annual Best Sports Writing anthologies.

This issue has one of them, and I urge you to get the magazine and read it. It’s a look back at Terry Fox and his Marathon of Hope. Unlike most Americans I know who he was (or is, as many refer to him), but I had no idea he was such a hero in Canada. I must say, I’m a bit embarrassed at my ignorance since I have many Canadian ancestors, live close to the border, and watch a decent amount of CBC. I'm disturbed to realize Rick Mercer would have as easy a time with me as any other American.

The story of Fox is a great one, but what struck me as amazing is the very same thing I was ashamed of not knowing: he is among Canada's greatest heroes, more revered than Alexander Graham Bell, Pierre Trudeau or even Wayne Gretzky. This was an everyman who, at first glance, struggled against tremendous difficulty and ultimately failed. Yet his struggle gave the entire nation the gift of health and life. When CBC ranked The Greatest Canadians two years ago, the only one ahead of Fox was a Socialist (Tommy Douglas).

I'd like to organize a Terry Fox Run in the Toledo area, but we've got a Race for the Cure on the same exact day. I think I'll go up to Windsor next fall and run in respect for the man, and more importantly the whole of Canada.

Anti-Doping News

Developing story: the IAAF gives the Mexican federation a warning.
Despite a considerable requests and subsequent reminders, the Mexican Athletic Federation had repeatedly failed to provide the IAAF with the name and doping control form for an adverse analytical finding related to a doping control test on one of its athletes.
This is strike one. Strike two is a fine, strike three is suspension of the federation (and therefore all its athletes).

I have no details on this story yet; your guess is as good as mine. Somebody flunked a dope test and there's a tug of war going on. The T&FN message board may eventually give us more info.

Anti-Doping News

Developing story: the IAAF gives the Mexican federation a warning.
Despite a considerable requests and subsequent reminders, the Mexican Athletic Federation had repeatedly failed to provide the IAAF with the name and doping control form for an adverse analytical finding related to a doping control test on one of its athletes.
This is strike one. Strike two is a fine, strike three is suspension of the federation (and therefore all its athletes).

I have no details on this story yet; your guess is as good as mine. Somebody flunked a dope test and there's a tug of war going on. The T&FN message board may eventually give us more info.

Anti-Doping News

Developing story: the IAAF gives the Mexican federation a warning.
Despite a considerable requests and subsequent reminders, the Mexican Athletic Federation had repeatedly failed to provide the IAAF with the name and doping control form for an adverse analytical finding related to a doping control test on one of its athletes.
This is strike one. Strike two is a fine, strike three is suspension of the federation (and therefore all its athletes).

I have no details on this story yet; your guess is as good as mine. Somebody flunked a dope test and there's a tug of war going on. The T&FN message board may eventually give us more info.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

News Roundup

There's precious little of it this time of year...

USATF's national convention kicked off. Conventions are generally boring affairs where nothing happens but self-congratulation and schmoozing, and USATF is no exception. They did, however, unveil their new logo:
Blech. I'm still going to wear the old stuff. Their website has also had a makeover, but still no search function. Couldn't they just go down to the local junior high and have some 13-year-old install it for them?

Said Aouita, now a sports analyst for Al Jazeera, comments that Said Saif Shaheen could be a champion at many different distances. I agree--but I was totally unaware that Al Jazeera has sports coverage. Maybe the English-language version will get me live Golden League coverage.

The big European meetings are considering banning Marion Jones. Didn't they talk this way once before and then chicken out?

And finally, and most importantly to me, the IOC called Chicago's bid "more intriguing" than LA's. They cautioned that America's current status as a rogue state harms either bid, however. I don't buy it--it all comes down to cash, and US television puts more in the pot than anyone. Come 2016, it will have been 20 years since the Summer games were in the same general time zone as the USA, and by the time the votes come down W and co. will be out of power. Only Mexico or South America could beat Chicago.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Wariner, Richards win Owens Awards

Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards were named Jesse Owens Awards winners (outstanding male & female athletes) by USA Track & Field this morning. They are both coached by Clyde Hart, who was yesterday named coach of the year.

These were both no-brainers, as each was undefeated in the 400 and ran some impressive times; you can read the lengthy details in the USATF press release. What you won't get is a realistic understanding of just how fast Richards was this year.

Her American Record of 48.70 puts her 7th on the all-time list with the 16th-best mark of all time. On its face, that doesn't sound like a hugely impressive. But let's be realistic about why almost all the top marks are more than 20 years old--anti-doping rules were barely enforced prior to the 1990s, and today's athletes are essentially competing under a completely different set of rules. If we eliminate pre-1991 marks, as well as those of athletes who have taken a "doping vacation", then the all-time list looks much different:

48.25 Marie-José Pérec FRA Atlanta 29.07.1996
48.63 Cathy Freeman AUS Atlanta 29.07.1996
48.70 Sanya Richards USA Athínai 16.09.2006
48.83 Marie-José Pérec FRA Barcelona 05.08.1992
48.89 Ana Guevara MEX Saint-Denis 27.08.2003
48.92 Sanya Richards USA Zürich 19.08.2005
49.05 Olga Bryzgina UKR Barcelona 05.08.1992
49.05 Sanya Richards USA London 28.07.2006
49.07 Tonique Williams-Darling BAH Berlin 12.09.2004
49.10 Falilat Ogunkoya NGR Atlanta 29.07.1996
49.11 Ana Guevara MEX Zürich 15.08.2003
49.11 Cathy Freeman AUS Sydney 25.09.2000
49.13 Marie-José Pérec FRA Tokyo 27.08.1991
49.15 Tonique Williams-Darling BAH Saint-Denis 23.07.2004
49.16 Ana Guevara MEX Zürich 16.08.2002
49.18 Marie-José Pérec FRA Monaco 10.08.1996
49.19 Marie-José Pérec FRA Atlanta 28.07.1996
49.25 Ana Guevara MEX Monaco 19.07.2002
49.25 Sanya Richards USA Stuttgart 10.09.2006
49.25 Tonique Williams-Darling BAH Roma 02.07.2004
49.27 Sanya Richards USA Indianapolis 24.06.2006
49.28 Marie-José Pérec FRA Göteborg 08.08.1995
49.28 Pauline Davis-Thompson BAH Atlanta 29.07.1996
49.28 Sanya Richards USA Carson 25.06.2005
49.29 Charity Opara NGR Roma 14.07.1998
49.30 Lorraine Fenton JAM Monaco 19.07.2002
49.30 Tonique Williams-Darling BAH Zürich 19.08.2005
49.31 Sanya Richards USA Roma 14.07.2006
49.32 Marie-José Pérec FRA Frankfurt 29.06.1991
49.34 Ana Guevara MEX Eugene 24.05.2003
49.34 Ana Guevara MEX Monaco 14.09.2003
49.35 Falilat Ogunkoya NGR Monaco 10.08.1996
49.39 Cathy Freeman AUS Oslo 04.07.1997
49.40 Jearl Miles-Clark USA Indianapolis 14.06.1997
49.41 Tonique Williams-Darling BAH Athínai 24.08.2004
49.43 Lorraine Fenton JAM Saint-Denis 27.08.2003
49.45 Marie-José Pérec FRA Lausanne 03.07.1996
49.47 Marie-José Pérec FRA Paris 28.06.1996
49.48 Cathy Freeman AUS Bruxelles 23.08.1996
49.48 Cathy Freeman AUS Monaco 18.08.2000
49.48 Falilat Ogunkoya NGR Monaco 16.08.1997
49.48 Marie-José Pérec FRA Barcelona 03.08.1992
49.49 Olga Zaytseva RUS Tula 16.07.2006
49.50 Marie-José Pérec FRA Nice 15.07.1992

The only other athlete who ran sub-49.50 five times in one season was Marie-José Pérec in1996; Pérec's average was 49.11 to Richards' 49.12. Statistically, Richards had the best season in a decade.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

How Insulting

A self-described fantasy sports addict said he got started with track:
It's the only track-and-field fantasy league that I've ever heard about, and there's probably a reason for that.
That hurts twice. My fantasy league will get an upgrade next year, in order to make it a bit more like an NFL fantasy league (those in the league will have to make a personnel decision every week).

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Upcoming TV Listings

This is what I've got at the moment.

Sunday, December 3
CSTV, 5 PM
NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships

Thursday, December 7
Fox Sports Net, 3 PM
NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships

Sunday, December 10
ESPN Classic, 7 AM
Who's #1? Best Female Athletes

CBS, 9 AM
Las Vegas Marathon

Monday, December 11
ESPN Classic, 4:30 PM
Jim Thorpe All American

Thursday, December 21
ESPN Classic, 2:30 AM
1977 Superstars

Saturday, December 30
CBS, 1 PM
NCAA Fall Championships

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

National Track & Field Hall of Fame

New inductees were announced today. Dan O'Brien, Kevin Young, Lynn Jennings, Rex Cawley, Ben Eastman, Matt McGrath, Bill Neider, and Ollan Cassell.

Lynn Jennings is a bit of a stretch for selection, but all of the other athletes are definitely deserving. I'm actually rather shocked that it took McGrath so long to get in, as he's one of the greatest hammer-throwers of all time (the linked Wikipedia article was written by yours truly).

Cassell...well, the voters are a political body. His athletic career was good but not Hall-of-Fame worthy. He was the man in charge of track in the USA from 1970 to 1997; when he came in, track was one of the nation's most popular sports and when he left it was all but dead. Everything that David Stern has been, Cassell was not. You don't belong in a Hall of Fame when you've been compared to J. Edgar Hoover. Looks like it's a George Tenet-style honor: "Hey, you royally screwed up! Here's your Presidential Medal of Freedom!"

I've Made It!

You used to be "big time" when you made it in the page of Track & Field News. In the age of the internet, this is just as good. E. Garry Hill, editor-in-chief at the mag, posted this humble blog at the T&FN message boards and said that I know my stuff. He could easily have trashed me, especially considering that I'm often less than complimentary to him and T&FN (and also that I'm really just one of millions of bigmouths on the internet).

I fear that any movement towards mainstream status might compromise my willingness to say exactly what's on my mind. (You tend not to have any shame when you think no one is reading.) Bill Hayward had a sign up in his office that said something to the effect of "Live every day so that you can look a man in the eye and tell him to go to hell!" and I intend to live by that creed.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Weekend Report, Part 2

On Sunday, a college teammate and I drove out to Terre Haute for the NCAA Division I Championships. I’ve been to this meet three times now, and it’s still a little weird to see a city where a cross-country meet is the center of attention. The facility is great—a permanent XC course in the middle of a huge field. Various extra loops make it possible to create virtually any distance you want. The opening straightaway is 1000 meters long, reducing the need to sprint from the start for strategic purposes (more on that later).

The women were up first. Kipyego of Texas Tech was favored; she took it out hard and never came back to the pack. Team favorites Stanford won. Not a particularly interesting race.

Then there was the men's race. These guys were really charged up: and you would have been, too, if you knew what was coming.

To recap, Wisconsin was the prohibitive favorites, and individuals expected to compete for the win were Chris Solinsky, Martin Fagan and Josh McDougal, with yours truly calling Josh Rohatinsky "a real threat to win".

Nobody took it out hard, and there was a large lead group here approaching 2k:
At 5k they still haven't dropped anyone, with all the major players in the group:and the announcer said Wisconsin had a three-point lead over Stanford.

After this, the group started to break up a bit but my camera acted freaky and I'm not really sure what was when. Josh Rohatinsky led Indiana native Nef Araria in a late-race surge, then pulled away to win it.Told ya so.

Solinsky had been at the front up through 7k or so, but then he "cratered" and finished 75th. This led us to suspect Wisconsin might not have won. We couldn't wait for official word, though, as my friend had to cross two states to pick up his kids from the babysitter. Just as we got to his car we heard a roar and could only make out the words "Wisconsin second" over the PA. We thought maybe Arkansas or Iona might have pulled it off. At a gas station we were told Colorado pulled off the stunning upset.

By my calculations (which may not match those announced at the meet), at 5k Wisconsin led, followed by Stanford, Arkansas, Colorado, and Iona. At 8k, Wisconsin still led but Colorado was closing fast, then Arkansas, Iona and Stanford. While Solinsky’s implosion certainly hurt Wisconsin, the Badgers would only have won if he’d been first or second overall.

Colorado won with a very simple strategy: run the first part within your abilities, then go get everyone else who didn’t. Their women did this in an even more spectacular fashion, going from seventh at halfway to second at the finish. Peter Tegen is a very smart man, but his statement that the "men in the race need to start out pretty good to make an impact at the end of the race" is not only self-contradictory but exposed as poor strategy to boot. Wetmore's not a genius, he just learned from Arthur Lydiard to keep his head out of his ass.

Weekend Report, Part 1

The first meet of my weekend was the NCAA Division III Championships, hosted by Wilmington College and held in West Chester OH on Saturday. If you know anything about the area, it’s an appropriate place for a competition that's by and large for children of privilege (who apparently don’t mind looking silly).
While the day was clear and sunny, the course was tremendously muddy as it had taken in five inches of rain in the previous week. Early on, Heidelberg’s Scott Lash led just like he did at the OAC meet. Then he faded, just like at the OAC meet (down to 33rd).

Pre-race favorite Macharia Yuot moved into the lead pack by 3 miles (he's obscured but right behind the leaders.
Yuot pulled away for a relatively easy win, his first national XC championship (to go with his five track titles). The next day he took sixth in the Philadelphia Marathon in 2:25:39. Heavily favored Calvin easily won the team title.

The women’s race was next. The pre-race favorites, including defending champ Hailey Harren, were in position at the mile mark. But by halfway, Sarah Zerzan of Williamette took the lead and steadily pulled away for the victory, considered a slight upset. The centers of D-III XC are the northeast and upper midwest; as a westerner her undefeated season flew under the radar a bit. The team competition was tremendously close—Middlebury 144, Amherst 145, Calvin 149. The #1-ranked team going into the meet, SUNY Geneseo, tanked all the way to 9th.

Then I drove up to the Columbus area and watched this little football game. Darn, I wish I'd played the lottery.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Suspensions

Big news: an athlete failed a dope test at the World Athletics Final. That means it's at least a top-8-in-the-world athlete in his/her event. Exactly who it is "will be announced shortly".

Strange news: The IAAF suspended the entire nation of Algeria. Well, not exactly, but they suspended the nation's governing body, which has the same effect. Apparently, an Algerian government minister kicked out the federation's officers and replaced the whole lot. The IAAF found this unacceptable. I can't seem to find much in the way of detail on the story, but it smacks of the "Heckuva job, Brownie" type of politics. To put this in perspective, the only other times the IAAF has gone to this length was South Africa during the apartheid years and Afghanistan during the Taliban years.

Also, I have some NCAA XC previews up on my Trackshark blog.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

NCAA Division I qualifiers

They've just been announced. Eddie Kipchoge missed qualifying by one spot, which he lost in the last 50 yards.

You can argue about it here.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Great Lakes Regional Race Report

The women were up first.
The pre-race favorite would have to have been #3 Michigan (the Big Ten champs), followed closely by #5 Wisconsin (Big Ten runners-up) with #11 Michigan State (4th at Big Ten) in the mix as well. Also worth noting were #28 Butler (Horizon League champs) and Notre Dame (3rd at the Big East).

Here at the mile mark, no one has broken out yet. At about 2 1/4 miles, we're still looking at a tight group.I noticed a lot of red (Wisconsin) and green (Michigan State) but very little blue (Michigan).

At the finish, Nicole Edwards of Michigan takes first by a good ten seconds:But when the final scores were added up, it came out Michigan State 63, Wisconsin 66, Michigan 89. Next were Butler (111) and Notre Dame (116). Michigan will almost assuredly get an at-large bid to the NCAA meet; we'll have to wait and see about the next two.

The men came up next.
As far as teams go, #1 Wisconsin, the Big Ten champs, were an overwhelming favorite. They appear next to unbeatable at the NCAA championship, so they were clearly the class of the field. Other contenders included #11 Michigan (Big Ten runners-up), #18 Notre Dame (3rd at Big East), #27 Michigan State (4th at Big Ten), #29 Butler (Horizon champs), and unranked Eastern Michigan (MAC champs). On the individual front, there was a big question mark in host BGSU's Eddie Kipchoge; he won the All-Ohio championship but ran a terrible race at the MAC championship. I will admit that as a BGSU XC alumni I was not an impartial observer here.

As the runners head up The Hill for the first time (about 1 1/2 miles), we can see Kipchoge is going for it:with everyone else grouped up behind:At about 2 1/4 miles, Kipchoge still leads, but the gap has narrowed.
Coming back around to The Hill for the second time, Kip has met a man they call Riggy, and the race is on.At the finish, victory goes to EMU's Corey Nowitzke.Wisconsin's Chris Solinsky and teammate Stuart Eagin appear to jog in for 5th and 6th.Kipchoge holds on for 14th, which might get him to nationals (depending on the nuber of qualifying teams).
Speaking of teams, Wisconsin won easily with 52 points while not even taking the race seriously. Notre Dame ran a great race to get second (104 pts), followed by Butler (107), Michigan State (113) and Eastern Michigan (137). Michigan was all the way back in seventh.

Results

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Regional Course Preview

This Saturday the NCAA Great Lakes Regional will be held on the campus of The Bowling Green State University. The men's race (10k) begins at 11:00 AM, with the women (6k) at 12:15.


The course is named for Mel Brodt, the long-time track and cross country coach at BGSU. The course is not the same one I ran on some fifteen years ago, nor is it the one in use for the last few years (due to campus construction). All but the final 200 or so yards is on the campus golf course.

Men's 10k course map Women's 6k course map


The Factors
Bowling Green and the surrounding area is, without hyperbole, one of the flattest places in America. One might assume that the XC course here is easy. Well, you know what happens when you assume.This is The Hill, so called because it's the only one anywhere in or near BG. It's much bigger than most people think it is because they rarely see it up close. The women will run up this once, the men twice. But that's not what makes this course difficult.

These are Bowling Green's wind turbines. We have enough wind here to light up Las Vegas. It is a major factor in any race held in these parts in the fall, winter or spring.

The weather forecast calls for a good amount of rain, which will turn the course into mud. The golf course does not drain well because BG is smack-dab in the middle of what was once the Great Black Swamp. Under steady rain, the swamp tries to reclaim the land.

The Course
The start:

The course narrows after about 250 yards and crosses a bridge:

After the bottom part of the loop shown on the course map, the runners will cross another bridge, this time over a small bit of pavement:

Now the runners head around the pond (the weird shape on the map with the black box in it):
and up The Hill:
then descending the hill, going back around the pond, and going by the start line. The men do another whole loop. Both men and women conclude the course by going around the baseball field and back next to the roadway:
They make a sharp right-hand turn, likely to have a large mud-hole in the middle:
and then it's less than 200 yards to the finish:

Fan Info
A few days back I gave a rundown about the town.

Parking is $10. If you're an XC fan, you're probably a cheapskate and don't want to pay that much. Free options require hoofing it, though. Try BG's Carter Park or side streets off of Wooster Street (the main drag); to get to the course, walk towards and then past the football stadium.

For best viewing, the spry spectator will probably run from the start to the 1 mile mark, back to the start area (and repeat for the men's race), and then head to the finish.

The less active spectator should bring some binoculars and walk to the top of The Hill. You can see most of the course from there:
and it's right by the finish, too:

Hope to see you there!