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Hyping Up Ritz's 10k Debut

It's 9:48 p.m. EST on Friday, May 30, 2004. The day of Ritzenhein's 10,000 meter debut. The thing Inormally hate the most about our sport is all the hype and what not on the future.  A veteran runs 13:05 in a 5k race but a 17-year old run 13:40 in the same race and all everyone wants to talk about is the future.  

I mean ever since Webb's 3:53, whatever he does is a failure.

That being said, I'm a hypocrite. I can't tell you how excited I am to hear that Ritz is running the 10,000 (although as a coach it freaks me out a small bit that he's skipping the conference meet as I certainly hope my guys don't get any crazy ideas).  So excited that I'm writing my first column in many, many months (8 actually).

So here come the hype.

I've never understood why so many young guys "waste" their time in events they seemingly have no future. I've always wondered why Jorge Torres hasn't at least tried the 10,000 as I think he's got little future at the world class level in the 5k. I guess by the standard of being competitive at the world level one could say no-one in America has a future in the 5,000 so they all should move up to the 10k and marathon but I honestly kind of feel that way.  I mean Culpepper maybe can do some damage in the marathon, but the 10k? No way.

So I've been waiting (and fearing at the same time out of love for my brother and hoping he'd make the Olympic team) for Torres for years to run a 10k, but the process is getting jump-started as the future in Ritzenhein is beating him to the punch.  Dathan is the real deal. John Kellogg was telling me a few years ago he thought Ritz had the potential to be the first non-African born under 27:00 and I couldn't agree more.  

So while in theory I think it's awful to hype young runners to much, I'm going to hype Ritz as much as I can right now.  Ritz can handle it. It's not like he's a high schooler any more - he's a junior in college and an NCAA champ.  I want to be on the record as having said, "Ritz will go under 27:00 before it's all said and done." I'm saying that now so in a few years I can gloat and say, "I told you so."

Now for predictions for tonight. I don't really know who's running and all but Bob Kennedy will get the Olympic "A" standard. Kennedy is the greatest American distance runner of all-time in terms of absolute accomplishments (i.e. "time") and Ritz is trying to become his heir apparent - the rare American who is respected on the European circuit. Kennedy may be "old" by some people's standards but it drives me nuts he doesnt' get more respect.

As for Ritz? Hmm. A lot of people don't know if he'll get the standard. But shit, I say he does. I mean I've been on the kids jock for years from afar and figure he's got to be way better than my brother - Weldon - and Weldon has run 28:07 so Ritz can do it. Will he?

Check out the results to see.
Comments? Send them to Robert at [email protected] or post them on our Message Board.

Click here to read Robert's other columns.
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Editor's Note: Robert Johnson, a.k.a. "Rojo", is best known for being the co-founder of LetsRrun.com as well as the men's distance coach at Cornell University.  Robert has been running all of his life, but only competing seriously since the Fall of 1997 as a series of injuries curtailed his high school career and prevented him from running in college.  Since returning to competitive running, Robert progressed quickly and just missed out on qualifying for the 2000 US Men's Olympic Marathon Trials by running a 2:23:11 marathon at the 2000 Las Vegas Marathon.  A former high school math teacher, Robert has covered track and field for The Washington Post.

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