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|Subject: ||Why aren’t we producing new distance stars?|
I was thinking about some of the great performances from ’07, ’08 & ’09, such as Lagat winning WC and Olympic medals wearing a USA vest; Halls setting the AR in the half marathon and subsequently running 2:06 for the full marathon; Webb having a dominating year in ’07 setting the AR in the mile; Sol, Teg and Ritz running incredible times in the 5K/10K, Ritz, Shalane and Kara medaling in international championships; Meb won the NYCM in 2009; we had close to half a dozen steeplers capable of running 8:20 or better; Manzano and Lomong went straight from the NCAA champs to world-class athletes; Ulrey, McDougal, Wheating and Rupp were running some fast times while still in college, German Fernandez winning the NCAA mile champ as a freshman, Mel Lawrence, Jordan Hasay, Christine Babcock, Laurynne Chetelat and Caitlin Chock were rewriting the H.S. record books. And, Denna won the London Marathon and set the AR in 2006. – Going into 2010, there was tremendous optimism…except for Lagat, Rupp and Shalane, it seems like the momentum has stalled.
I don’t ever recall a period where the top tier of American male MD and distance runners has remained practically the same for the last 5 years. The same cast of characters, Lagat, Sol, Teg, Ritz, Symmonds, KD, Meb, Hall, Abdi, Rupp, Manzano and Lamong for the most part have been the standard bearers and it does not appear to be changing very much. The athletes listed above have either qualified and/or will likely qualify for U.S. Olympic team in whatever event they choose. (Where are the new guys?) Quite a few athletes have dropped out of the top tier like Slattery, Fam, Webb, Jonathan Johnson, Torres, Christian Smith and Krum, etc., but very few have been added. Centro and perhaps Wheating & Jock have been added, but that’s about it. Granted, the faces in the steeple has completely changed in the last 5 years and there is a plethora of young 800 meter runners who will likely replace the current crop soon. The trend has been every Olympic cycle brings a couple of new faces, that does not appear to be the case this go around. There are a lot of athletes like Jager, Curtis, Torrence, Derrick, McNamara, Brown, Bumbalough, Heath, Batty and Lear, etc., who look really promising, but for now, they appear to be still on the outside looking in.
Contrast that with the women, Alice Schmidt, Fleshman and Sara Hall are still around, but Shalane and Kara are about the only 2 women who are still are still in the top tier internationally from 5 years ago. 5 years ago it was McGregor, Willard, Moser, Donohue, Tiffany McWilliams, Hazel Clark, Teter, Amy Begley, Rhines, Kate O’Neill, Mortimer, Russell, Lisa Galaviz, Amy Rudolph, Kastor and Sara Slattery. No disrespect to those athletes because I know some have gracefully retired, some are still competing well and/or have been MIA because of injuries, but the new stars like Alysia Johnson, Huddle, Vessey, Uceny, Erica Moore, Hastings, Simpson, Desi, CWT and Rowbury, etc., where either just coming on the scene or partially still in the womb 5 years ago.
I am still optimistic, last year Shalane, finished 3rd at the WXC and our women won a team; Meb, Hall and Shalane have finished in the top 3 in major marathons, Rupp set the AR in the 10K and the indoor 5K, Wheating ran 1:44/3:30 less than 2 years ago and Centro won a WC medal last year. And, I think we have the best crop of young 800 meter runners since the mid-80s. With that said and not discounting lot of other good performances I didn’t mention, I still have to ask…Why aren’t we producing new distance stars?
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