Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Day 4 at USATFs: Lagat Outlasts The Return of Jennings and Manzano's Magic, Khadevis Robinson Puts on an Exhibition, Hazel Clark Dives For the Finish, and Lincoln ThreePeats
The 2006 AT&T USATF Nationals came to a close after a thunderstorm delay with some lightening fast action including a $100,000 and a world leading run by Lashinda Demus in the 400m hurdles, world leaders by Tora Harris in the high jump, Walter Davis in the triple jump, Khadevis Robinson in the 800, Dominque Arnold in the 110 hurdles, and Wallace Spearmon in the 200.
But in addition to the world leader by Khadevis Robinson in the 800, some of the best story lines on Saturday were in the distance races. There was unheralded division III athlete, Nick Symmonds who was undefeated for the last 7 years at 800m, breaking through with a huge pr to place second in the 800, showing he can run with anyone in the country.
The most surprising race might have been saved for last, after the national tv audience on ESPN2 went away (thanks to the rain delay) the men's 1500m. Bernard Lagat, the world's second fastest ever at the 1500, found himself in a stretch duel with the enigmatic Gabe Jennings, once considered the future of this event in the United States, and the precocious Lionel Manzano.
Lagat would get the win to become the first man to pull off the 1500, 5k double. We do a much better job of recapping all theaction and taking you behind the scenes below. Read about Gabe Jennings talking about Steve Prefontaine, and starving pro athletes.
Distance action recaps first in order of the events.
Men's Steeple: Three in a Row for Lincoln
2001 US Champ Tom Chorney took the early lead and was followed by Lincoln and Slattery. Things continued that way until on the fourth lap when unheralded 31 year old (according to www.tilastopaja.net), Jacques Sallberg, went to the front (more on Sallberg below).
On the fifth lap, Dan Lincoln made his move. Slattery and Sallberg responded to Lincoln the best . Slattery was able to stay about 5 meters behind Lincoln and Sallberg was 5 meters behind Slattery.
But there was no coming back for Lincoln. He was able to lengthen his lead during the final 2 laps (the race was about 50 meters more than 7 laps with an outside water jump). Lincoln got his third straight US title in a US leading 8:22.78. Slattery took second in 8:25.54, Daniel Huling, formerly of Miami Ohio (cross country All-American and track All-American (6th in the 5k this year at NCAAs) came up to place third in a huge pr of 8:27.41 (8:41 was his best before the champs, he ran 8:35 in the prelims) while Sallberg got 4th in 8:28:18 (a six second pr over the pr he set in the prelims).
For Lincoln the third straight US title was rewarding, but he clearly has his sites set on bigger things in Europe, breaking Henry Marsh's 21 year old American record (8:09:17). This was his first steeple of the year, but he leaves tomorrow for Europe. Lincoln talked of the American record after the race, "I don't know if I'm jinxing myself by keep talking about it (the American record) or what, but I'm definitely chasing it... It will come if I get in fast races where the pace is there and I get an opportunity. Like I got an opportunity in Rome last year and petered out a little the last lap. If I keep giving myself chances, I'm confident I'll come through."
Slattery could only tip his cap to Lincoln afterwards for executing the race plan Slattery thought Lincoln would use to try and beat him. "I knew he was going to go with three laps. I was trying to stay close, but he gapped me so fast, I could never make it up. With a lap to go, I think I gave up a little bit. I knew I wasn't going to catch him. It was a little disappointing. I figured it would be a better duel between us until the last lap, but he blew it open pretty good. ... I know I'm ready to run fast, but Lincoln knows my hardest part is mid race surges. It's always been a weakness of mine. I knew that coming in, I've been trying to minimize that, but he's the best at midrace surges... so he got away from me, so what are you going to do?"
When asked if not having front runner Anthony Famiglietti changed things, Slattery said it did, "Fam changes it a bit. He has the balls to go from the gun."
Brian Olinger stunned the steeple world by running an 8:19 last year in Europe. Olinger was a senior at Ohio State this year and is under the tutelage of two time Olympian Robert Gary. He had a great XC season (11th), ran 13:45 indoors, and opened up with a 28:45 10k. However, things have not gone as expected in the steeple this year. He ran 8:37.43 for 9th on Sunday (2 seconds off the seasonal best he did in the prelims, and he was 5th at NCAAs).
When Olinger was asked what he thought of his performance after showing so much promise with his 8:19 last year he was clearly frustrated: "If I had a dollar for everytime someone said I've run 8:19 (I'd be rich). I guess when you hear my name now what's the first thing someone says, "well he ran 8:19 in the steeple last year" and all a sudden I guess there is a lot of pressure on me. There's pressure everywhere in the sport. I'm not going to duck and hide or run from it."
Despite having a long season, having raced late into Europe last summer and then doing well in XC this year, Olinger said the plan was to run well in the steeple late in the season, "I have a lot of confidence in my training. I thought we had pushed things later in the spring so I'd be ready for NC(AA)s, (and) this type of race, but I felt really flat, so I don't know (about today). I've still got plans for the summer to go race in Europe, but you know I've run 8:19 and you're not going to pr everytime out... Do I think I can run a lot faster than that? Yea, but if I prd every time I came out, I would be doing some great things in the sport and so would everyone else (who prd every time out). Coach Gary ran 8:19 in the '96 Olympics and didn't run it again until 2004. It's a tough time and every second (faster) from then is precious.=, but I don't have an explanation for why I suck so bad right now."
While Olinger is having a down year in 2005, Huling and Sallberg had breakthrough races on Sunday. Sallberg has been scraping by in the sport for years, and although his jersey on Saturday was Run with Us (a running store in Pasadena), he has been working out with Meb Keflezighi. Keflezighi's coach Bob Larsen was full of praise for Sallberg and his desire to stay in the sport when many would have quit years ago. They originally needed some workout partners for Meb and Sallberg was willing to help out, but his goal has been to catch on with the Team USA California group. However until Sunday, Sallberg was not good enough to be accepted into the group. Larsen said Sallberg and himself both thought that would change after Sunday's breakthrough race.
Splits of Steeple: 70.8, 72.2, 73.4, 72.8, 67.4 (Lincoln broke open the race on the fifth lap), 69.9, 70.3
Men 3000 Meter Steeplechase ================================================================ World: W 7:53.63 9/3/2004 Saif Saaeed Shaheen, QAT American: A 8:09.17 8/28/1985 Henry Marsh, Athletics West Meet: M 8:15.02 7/15/2004 Daniel Lincoln, Nike Name Year Team Finals ================================================================ Finals 1 Daniel Lincoln Nike 8:22.78 2 Steve Slattery Nike 8:25.54 3 Daniel Huling unattached 8:27.41 4 Jacques Sallberg Run With Us 8:28.18 5 Thomas Brooks unattached 8:28.24 6 Michael Nicks Boulder Rc/Adi 8:35.46 7 Michael Spence New Balance 8:35.99 8 Luke Watson T U S A Mn./adi 8:36.12 9 Brian Olinger Reebok 8:37.43 10 Joshua McAdams New Balance 8:37.91 11 Max King Team XO 8:37.92 12 Benjamin Bruce Asics 8:42.84 -- Tom Chorny unattached DNF -- Jordan Desilets Reebok DNS
Women's 800: Hazel Clark Dives for the Win
Schmidt came up on Clark's shoulder as they entered the back stretch but the front running Clark maintained her lead as many expected.
Heading into the homestretch, Clark began to open up a lead on Schmidt and appeared to be on the way to her third US title. Even with 20 meters to go things still appeared that way. Suddenly Schmidt began closing fast and cut the gap. It was nearly neck and neck at the line and Clark dove for the tape and to the ground edging (1:59.94 to 2:00.00) Schmidt for the win. Frances Santin held on for third in 2:01.15.
Clark's dive at the line might have been what she needed to get the win, but it shook her up a bit. She credited the PA announcer for helping her out as she knew Schmidt was coming fast. She told USATF, "I had a clean race. I'm just happy to have another national championship under my belt. I was definitely hurt when I hit the ground. You can sense something happening by the loudspeaker. It was really exciting. It took a lot of hard work to get here. It's exciting for us and our coach."
Women 800 Meter Run ================================================================ THE 800 HAS BEEN SCRATCHED TO TWO ROUNDS THE FIRST ROUND WILL BE RUN FRIDAY AT 7:15 PM World: W 1:53.28 7/26/1983 Jarmila Kratochvilova, CZE American: A 1:56.40 8/11/1999 Jearl Miles-Clark, Reebok Meet: M 1:57.04 6/17/1996 Meredith Rainey, Foot Locke Name Year Team Finals ================================================================ Finals 1 Hazel Clark Nike 1:59.94 2 Alice Schmidt adidas 2:00.00 3 Frances Santin S M T C 2:01.15 4 Alysia Johnson California 2:01.80 5 Krista Ferrara The Farm Team, Inc. 2:02.49 6 Erin Donohue Nike 2:02.87 7 Nikeya Green Reebok 2:03.24 8 Leslie Treherne Tennessee 2:03.38
Men's 800: Robinson Puts on a Show, Nick Symmonds Shines
Since last year, Khadevis Robinson has talked about taking risks and taking his running to a new level under the tutelage of his new coach, American record holder Johnny Gray. However, he has left races feeling he was not yet able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
Sunday at the USATF Nationals, Robinson added one more piece to the puzzle, as he put on a dominant display of front running to run a world leading and personal best of 1:44.13. Robinson indicated afterwards that the puzzle is far from complete. Almost as impressive as Robinson was the continued emergence of Division III star, Nicholas Symmonds, who set a 1.5 second pr to run 1:45.8 and finish 2nd.
Robinson took the lead as he did last year at nationals, and hit the 400 in 51.11 followed by Jebreh Harris and 2003 World Indoor Champ David Krummenacker. Robinson did not let the pedal off the pace as he opened up a 5 meter lead over the field hitting 600 in 1:17.6.
The question was how much would he have left for the final 200? Robinson showed he is at a new level in 2006 (he hit the same split in 2005 but finished above 1:45), as he powered home before the appreciate crowd, basically maintaining his pace for the 3rd 200, the final 200, hitting the finish in the world leading 1:41.13 (his old pr of 1:43.41 was in 2002).
While Robinson was putting on a dominant show upfront, Nick Symmonds was turning heads coming from the rear. Entering the final stretch he was in 6th and even late in the homestretch he was 4th. But he never stopped running and passed Jebreh Harris to finish second in 1:45.83, a second and a half faster than his 1:47.34 pr at the Tennessee Distance Running Solution meet (a letsrun.com advertiser) which was a second and half faster than his previous 1:48.8 pr from 2005.
An overlooked Division III athlete from Willamette University, where he had gone 7 for 7 at the DIII National Champs in the 800 and 1500, Symmonds was unbelievably undefeated at 800 meters since his sophomore year in high school. Few however expected him to hold is own against the nation's best.
Symmonds was just ahead of Jebreh Harris ,who was third in 1:45.91, and former NCAA champ Sam Burley ,who was 4th, also under the 1:46 barrier in 1:45.93. Krummenacker was 6th in 1:46.50.
Afterwards, Robinson was happy to set a personal best and world leader, but he said he did not execute his race as planned. His coach wanted him to go out in 50 flat and break the 1:44 barrier.
Robinson said, ""I was so upset with myself (for being slow at 400), but I have so much confidence in strength now, I knew I could push it and make the pace strong and that's what I did. I came through slower than I wanted too. I didn't panic. I kept pushing. But you know what, it's a missed opportunity for me because if I had came through the time my coach wanted me to, 50 flat, I would have a run 1:43.5. I would have for a fact."
He gave credit to the crowd for pushing him on to his fast time, "I can't complain, I still prd, the fastest time in the world, I'm happy with that. The fans the crowd, all the people, your guys support really helps a lot. We're not just saying that to sound good. I could hear you coming down the end, I was fatigued and I didn't have anyone pushing me, but hearing the fans, hearing the crowd, knowing it's on tv, knowing you guys are here it really gives us a little burst of energy."
He praised the up and coming talent in the US and Symmonds for also being willing to go for it and set a huge pr. Robinson thinks the future is bright in the US. He said, "The times and the talent are here in the US. It just takes more quality races, more races for us to make a money and make a living."
Despite being a world leader and 2005 US Champ, and a true student of the 800, Robinson unbelievable still has to work (shoe reps love to give their money to college guys with "potential"). He works part time as a substitute teacher and personal trainer. As he said, "Here I am I still work. I have the fastest time in the world, but I still work. I'm not complaining I'm happy to have my sponsors and my support. I'm just saying, if there are more races here, more support, more hoopla with the 800, we'll have some of the fastest and better guys in the world."
And while working part time, may not be Robinson's favorite thing to do, another outside activity of his is a labor of love, the youth running track club he started. He said, "I love it so much. The kids get so much out of it, you see it in their faces, you can hear it in their voices, it's really a reward for me." So hopefully KD will get a raise and his sponsor can kick in some gear for the track club (we know you guys at Nike and Adidas and Reebok are reading this. KD is currently with Nike)
While Robinson is still working part time, Symmonds (until probably the time you are reading this) is a guy without a shoe contract, running in his high school jersey because his high school coach Tom Shanahan has been giving him workouts. Overlooked out of high school because he was from Idaho and a guy who played multiple sports (his uncle talked of taking him to an indoor soccer game in the morning, an ice hockey game at night, then driving across the state the next morning as he ate a 12 inch sub before arriving at the state XC meet minutes before it started, then running on to win the state title) and would quadruple in a lot of meets, he found a nice match at Willamette University, where he was recruited by current Oregon State coach Kelly Sullivan.
Symmonds was surprised to run as fast as he did on Sunday, but very modest at the same time (his entourage of supporters had to tell the media this was his first 800 loss in 7 years). Symmonds said, "I knew I deserved to be in the final, but 1:45.8 that surprised me. I didn't know I had a 1:45 in me right now."
But Symmonds also has that competitive fire you can not coach, as you don't go undefeated for 7 years no matter who you are racing. And his uncle told us that Symmonds believed before the race he could get second, but that KD would be tough to beat.
Men 800 Meter Run ================================================================ World: W 1:41.11 8/24/1997 Wilson Kipketer, KEN American: A 1:42.60 8/28/1985 Johnny Gray, Santa Monica T Meet: M 1:42.80 6/24/1992 Johnny Gray, SMTC Name Year Team Finals ================================================================ Finals 1 Khadevis Robinson Nike 1:44.13 2 Nicholas Symmonds unattached 1:45.83 3 Jebreh Harris Reebok 1:45.91 4 Samuel Burley Asics 1:45.93 5 Kevin Elliott The Farm Team, Inc. 1:46.42 6 David Krummenacker adidas 1:46.50 7 Duane Solomon unattached 1:47.54 8 Jacob Koczman Indiana Invaders 1:48.09
Men's 1500: Lagat Survives, Gabe Jennings Returns, and Manzano Just Misses
The men's 1500m was expected to be a runaway by Bernard Lagat, the 2nd fastest 1500m runner ever in the world. Instead if featured an exciting three way battle between Lagat, Gabe Jennings, who in 2000 was the Golden Boy of American miling, and Leonel Manzano, who one day may become the next Golden Boy himself.
Lagat took the lead from the beginning and opened things up in a modest 45.70 (60.6 at 400). He was followed by Adam Perkins and Jason Lunn.
Lagat still led at 800 (1:59.4 (50.8,) 1:44.3 at 700 (59.7)) where he now shadowed by the man many expected to be the closest challenger, Chris Lukezic (who raced Alan Webb to the line last year at nationals only losing by .09), and a pack of runners led by Perkins, Lunn, and Manzano.
At the bell, Lagat was still in the lead (2:43.6 (59.7)) followed by Lukezic, Perkins and Manzano. Then the ever eccentric 2000 US Trials Champ Gabe Jennings, moved up on the turn. He challenged Lagat on the backstretch, but stayed on his shoulder as the entered the homestretch.
The 5k victory on Friday after his 1500m heat clearly zapped something from Lagat's legs as he did not have his customary zip on the last lap. But he had just enough to make sure he held hold off Jennings and a fast closing Manzano. Manzano had stormed from way back to incredibly win the 2005 NCAA 1500m as a freshman, but this time he left his run a little too late. Lagat held on for the win in 3:39.29 to Jennings 3:39:42, to Manzano's 3:39.49. Lukezic and Christian Smith were farther back in 4th and 5th.
Lagat's camp (his agent and coach) were relieved he squeaked out the win that many expected to be a mere formality. What he did should not be underestimated as Lagat became the first athlete to pull off the 1500, 5k double at nationals.
Afterwards Lagat was glad to have the double. He told USATF "I wanted to run a clear race. I wanted to be in front. I was conserving a bit, I wanted to keep going at a steady pace because I knew I could kick it. It is my first nationals and I am honored to be here. I got a really warm reception here. I feel a connection with the people, like you are a part of us. I think by doubling and winning both (1500m and 5000m), it is my way of giving back to them."
Manzano continued to impress as he quietly goes about building a very impressive resume at a young age. This was his first US Nationals race and he handled himself very well, much like his first NCAA race last year where he picked up the title and ran 3:37 at a freshman. He is composed beyond his years. The humble Manzano said afterwards, "I just started going really good. This was my first USA national race. I just wanted to keep calm the whole way through. It turned out for the best. I'm hoping to see more of myself out here." He'll likely be a name atop the leader board for years to come.
When asked if he left his kick just a little too late, Manzano added, "I should have gone with the guys (when they went). This race is all abut being tough and being dedicated, with these guys you know (you can't make a mistake)."
The media however was salivating for the quotes of the always entertaining Gabe Jennings. In 2000, he went from 3:39 to 3:35 to win the Olympic Trials. He beat African drums, talked of sleeping naked on his roof, and even of beating the Kenyans. NBC profiled him during the Olympics and his future seemed bright. In 2001, he made the world team, but fizzled out, and in 2002 he didn't even make the finals at NCAAs or the National meet. Next up in 2003 was a bicycle journey to Brazil, where in addition to getting mugged multiple times, he nearly died from hepatitis. 2004 featured a trip to Kenya to regain the mojo, but the 2000 Olympic Trials champ did not even make the 2004 Olympic Trials, and he would run even slower in 2005 (3:43) than he did in 2004. A winter marathon this last December (2:19:32), had many wondering what was in store for Jennings in the future.
But he made nationals this year with a 3:41.35, his best time since 2001, but virtually the same time he ran in 2002 and 2004. However, he set a seasonal best in the prelim on Friday, 3:39.89. Then in the final, he showed that he still can run with the best in America, and still has the competitiveness you can't teach.
Afterwards, Jennings was excited and happy and so were some of his ex-Stanford teammates and current Team USA members. And the media loved listening to Gabe entertain once again.
He talked of regaining his racing instincts (he stayed back early in the race and moved up after the bell), "For 4 years, I was missing that essential ingredient called competitive instincts and this just feels good to have that back. No amount of training in the world can make up for that wanting it, that passion. And I just didn't want it. You saw a petered out, tuckered out, bland Gabe. This is just the beginning of a resurgence, the renaissance."
Later, Jennings said the race went how he imagined it the night before, with him sitting on Lagat's shoulder with 100 to go. But then he questioned if whether he should have departed from his imagination and gone with his gut and tried to blow by Lagat with 200m to go (he blew open the 2000 Olympic Trials mid race with a big move). He said "I knew he was beatable...I stuck to the fantasy but if I stuck to my instinct. (I could have won) I could have opened up 10 meters on him and with 100 to go he wouldn't have been near me."
Bob Larsen who works with the Team USA Runners seemed to think the latter scenario was Jenning's fantasy. Larsen said where Gabe is in his training, Larsen felt this was about the best Jennings could run today and to try and do anything more grand could have backfired. Jennings admitted that his training has not been his main focus this spring as his first priority was on finishing up his degree from Stanford. But after regaining his competitiveness in tonight's race and with his degree in hand, he feels the future his bright once again.
Jennings talked a little about his journeys to Brazil and Kenya.(For more on Jennings's lost years as we'll call them, see this San Francisco Chronicle profile on him from last year or this one from SI's Tim Layden from last year as well, or if you really want to be entertained read his parents' Track and Field News journals of his trip to Brazil where he got mugged, ran into a truck and seriously nearly died from hepatitis).
Jennings said, "Going to the line is the hardest part (of running)... I thought maybe a bike trip to Brazil might get me back those instincts and it did. It taught me survival. Out here in the American suburban wilderness we sometimes forget that survival. So going pedal for pedal, mile by mile, with just a definite goal - Brazil, helped keep me afoot, but I still wasn't ready to run, but I go to Kenya, same things. I'm looking for that competitiveness. Who has it? Who's beating us? the Africans, the Kenyans. I go there hoping it's going to rub off on me. I ended up getting sick on both journeys, so I spiraled into deeper depression, but you know 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' the proverb goes."
Gabe gave a lot of credit to Terrence Mahon his coach who compliments Jennings's grandiose ideas and passion. As Jennings said, "I have a renegade spirit. When I'm supposed to do 120 mile weeks, I want to do 200 mile weeks. When I'm should be running 10ks, I want to run the marathon. When he (Mahon) wants me to do hill training, I want to run to the top of the nearest mountain. He's very daunting, but he's very demanding as well. He's got a lot of scientific background. I get all excited about workouts (and) I plug them into him. He sifts through them, goes through his computer, looks at Jack Daniels, looks at all the tests. It's funny, it's like going through a machine and the workouts come out pristine, but I feel like I'm a part of the process. So I've got my mind on the strategic end of competing and working out."
And like a couple of other guys we heard from today, getting a shoe contract is an issue for Jennings. We were surprised to learn Gabe, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars Team USA is getting, actually paid for his way to the meet and paid for his hotel room. Jennings said, "It's a priority to get money. I don't need a lot but I need to live. I paid for my way to this meet, I paid for my hotel room. I've got $2000 in my checking account. That's got to be a priority right now."
He doesn't have plans to go to Europe (he clearly couldn't pay his own way), but hopes to race the best in the World in the United States. Vin Lananna is setting up a meet August 8th in Eugene where Gabe wants to take on the best and he also mentioned the Fifth Avenue Mile in September. Jennings said, "It's (the Eugene meet) just like the Prefontaine legacy of let's keep the meets in the States. Lets bring the foreigners here. I don't need to go to Europe... That will be the beginning of my kind of European circuit "
But Gabe saved some of his kindest words for all of his friends and fans who have stuck with him during the down times. He talked of the "many people (who) have cared" telling him "Hey Gabe you've still got it." And he gave them the ultimate compliment, "After three years of nothing, people still had faith. That is the sole reason I'm still here(back at the top)".
Men 1500 Meter Run =============================================================== World: W 3:26.00 7/7/1998 Hicham El Guerrouj, MAR American: A 3:29.30 8/28/2005 Bernard Lagat, Nike Meet: M 3:34.92 6/20/1982 Steve Scott, Sub 4 TC Name Year Team Finals =============================================================== Finals 1 Bernard Lagat Nike 3:39.29 2 Gabriel Jennings unattached 3:39.42 3 Leonel Manzano Texas 3:39.49 4 Christopher Lukezic Reebok 3:40.37 5 Christian Smith unattached 3:40.65 6 Rob Myers Reebok 3:40.90 7 Aucencio Martinez unattached 3:40.91 8 Jason Lunn Nike 3:41.27 9 Adam Perkins Arkansas 3:43.06 10 Blake Boldon unattached 3:44.83 11 Sean O'Brien The Farm Team, Inc. 3:46.24 -- Jon Rankin Nike DNS
Women's 400m Hurdles
Men's Triple Jump
Men's High Jump
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