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The Week That Was April 21- Apri 27, 2008
April 29, 2008
*Last week's week in review (Boston) can be found here
By LetsRun.com

Lots of stuff to recap, including two of the better events in US track and field - the Penn Relays and Drake Relays. Large crowds and (given the fact so many of the races are relays) people are actually competing to win instead of chasing a time.

Penn Relays: Texas, the Mystic of Leo, Alicia Follmar, Centro, Gags and More
At Penn, there was lots of great relay action as usual. On the men's side, a major thumbs up to the University of Texas Longhorns who swept all three distance relays. In relays, it normally comes down to who has the best anchor and there isn't a better guy in college than Texas' Leonel Manzano.  The NCAA 1,500 champ as a freshman, Manzano certainly looks to be well on his way to bookending his career this year much like Bob Kennedy did with cross country titles during his collegiate career (winning as a frosh and as a senior).  We gotta give Stanford's Russsell Brown credit as he made Manzano really work for the DMR title.  Brown is a very, very good miler but just not at quite the same level of Manzano.

The Longhorns won the 4 x 800 without the help of Manzano to get a sort of program-defining win, making the statement that says, "we're a whole program, not just three good college guys and one world class miler." Coach Vig has done a great job at Texas, but Leo staying in school has done so much for the program, and the 4*800 win shows it. 

Repeat x2

On the women's side, Michigan, which swept all three distance relays last year, won the only two they contested this year - the DMR and the 4 x 1,500.  The DMR ended up being a reversal of indoor nationals as Nicole Edwards outkicked Sarah Bowman for the win.  Our hearts go out to the Tennessee women, who put forth a strong showing all weekend but left with no titles as they finished 2nd in all three distance relays.

In terms of giving out thumbs up, let's start with Stanford's Alicia Follmar. In the opening leg of the DMR, she fell down, got spiked in the head and got up and kept running. And when we say she got spiked in the head, we mean she got spiked in the head big time. Please look at this photo to see the blood gushing out of her as she ran.  And when she say she kept running, we don't mean she got up and jogged in last and handed off to hear teammate. She somehow handed of in 3rd with a 3:26.0 split. Remarkable.

Other remarkable splits - How about the 2:01.7 800 split from Tennessee's Phoebe Wright on the DMR as well as the 2:02.1 from Michigan's Geena Gall. Villanova's Francis Koons' 4:34 anchor on the DMR wasn't the fastest of the day but it was very impressive, coming just 10 months after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Kenyan Runners After the Green

The USA vs. The World Mens' DMR was interesting to watch for a number of reasons. One, the race was entertaining. The USA's Blue team pressed the pace from the gun and got a big lead of nearly 3.5 seconds after the first two legs, only to see it whittled down and then completely discarded after a disastrous 4:06 anchor from Christian Smith. The team that won was actually Kenya, which entered the anchor leg next to last. They won thanks to the 3:58.95 split from Josephat Kithii.

But what we really enjoyed about the DMR was that just based on the way a few guys run, it was easy to know who their coaches were.  Those guys that ran with major ... uhhh ... cajones clearly had the Frank Gagliano/Matt Centrowitz imprint on them.

Let us explain. Saturday was a bit cool and it was very windy. Thus one wouldn't expect someone to try to lead  the 1,200 from the gun. Well, that's exactly what Nick Symmonds did. He pushed the pace from the get-go, went through 800 in 1:52-flat and handed off with a huge lead after a really well-run 2:51.19 split. Clearly, he didn't fly half-way across the country to dilly-dally around and try to hand off with a small lead. He wanted to test his limits and get a great workout in.

On the anchor leg, things bunched up and it was any of four teams' race. Two Kenyans, Christian Smith and then former American University runner Sean O'Brien. The pace was fairly slow and it was going to come down to the last 300. Based on prs, we were thinking "O'Brien is outclassed here". But deep down we knew what would happen next. Yep, O'Brien is the one that went to the lead and threw it down and nearly got the victory.

Sort of what you'd expect as O'Brien was coached by Centrowitz in college and now Gags post-collegiately.

So a major thumbs up to them for going for it. Also we think hardly anyone noticed the really fine relay leg run by Ismael Kombich (1:44.66) for the world All-Stars.

Don't Pass Leo
(Although Russell Was In Front Once)

In contrast to O'Brien and Symmonds who weren't afraid to go for it, we'd like to give out a thumbs down to all of the anchor legs in the men's DMR and 4 x mile who refused to pass Texas Leonel Manzano. Yes, we know he's better than you. Yes, he's got a better kick than you. So why not pass him when he's running slow the first 1,300, or at least try to? The only way you have any chance of beating him if you are ahead of him when the kick starts - well really the only way to beat him would be to get ahead of him and hope he gets tripped up trying to come around you. But regardless, it's shameful that it looked like there was an imaginary line extended outside of Manzano's shoulder which prevented anyone from even trying to pass him.

2008 Penn Relays Coverage
*Day 3 Results *Day 2 Results *Day 1 Results
*Penn Relays Blog.
*Video *Longhorns Sweep   *USATF Recap of Penn *Poked Eye Costs US in 4*100
AP Article On Friday at Penn: Texas Leonel Manzano Wins 3rd Straight Men's DMR (1st of 3?) as Michigan Women Add 4 x 1500 after Winning DMR Of Thursday  *Texassports.com Article On Horns Big Win in Men's DMR *Johnny Mac Gets His Due - NY Times Article On John McDonnell's Retirement  *More On The Thursday's Women's DMR: N. Edwards Turned Table On S. Bowman  *More on Frances Koons Battle Back From Cancer *Nicole Edwards leads Michigan to Penn Relays win in DMR - *10 Months After Being Diagnosed With Cancer Villanova's Francis Koons Splits 4:34 at Penn *Host Penn Sets Ivy League Record In Women's DMR With 11:08 - 6th Place Showing.  *Distance Carnival: Anthony Famiglietti Breaks Franklin Field Record By Running 8:22 For Win in Steeple It was his third win in the steeple in three weeks. (Message board thread here) *IAAF Preview of Penn: *AP Preview Of Penn Relays - *Penn Relays Preview - 6 Teams Might Win Men's 4 x 800. This article claims Texas/LSU are favorites. Sorry Columbia. *Walt Murphy's Penn Relays Amazing Event By Event Preview *As Penn Relays begin, track's magical allure returns *People To Watch At Penn Relays philly.com *Penn Relays Agenda philly.com
LRC: Friday DMR Photos, Saturday DMR 4* Mile Photos

2007 Drake Relays *Results/Quotes/Notes *Results Here *Meet Preview
With the last second withdrawal of Alan Webb this year, Drake gets less attention than Penn even though Drake had the better athletes in individual events. But next year's Drake is the 100th running so we may have to venture out to the cornfields of Iowa for a look (although this year's Boston Marathon was our first in person so don't count on it).

Drake stands out in that it packs the house every year. Sure Penn gets over 100,000 in total attendance (a question for us is whether Penn counts its athletes in these totals each day. It has over 20,000 athletes competing each year so half that 100,00 could be athletes), but there is something about performing before a crowd without an empty seat in the house that is appealing.

If you haven't been to Penn, you need to experience it. It really is almost as much about the crowd as the races with at least half the crowd being supporters of the Jamaican teams (or any non American team). It truly is more carnival than track meet. Hopefully we'll experience Drake next year.

But we're impressed that Drake, despite its packed house, every year still tries to expose itself in the community. This year they had a pole vault competition in the mall. Be sure to check out the photo here.
Drake Recap: Lolo Jones Wins Hurdles, Christian Cantwell Over Hoffa in Shot
*Drake Results (Allen Johnson Only 5th in Hurdles 13.40. Indoor sensation Steve Sherer only ran 4:09)

Friday Recap
Great Idea: Drake Relays Pole Vault Competition is Held In Middle of Mall and Thousands of Spectators Watch Derek Miles and Mark Hollis Go 18'8. *More on Fantastic Pole Vault Event
1 Recap: Chante Howard Wins Women's HJ With 6'4.75 - Lisa Koll Wins 5k 15:59 - Alan Webb Withdraws
*Allen Johnson Talks About Running Drake For 1st
*Top Results from Drake
Meet Preview

*Alan Webb Withdraws from Drake Relays

Remember This Name: Boaz Lalang
We only wish we had jumped on the bandwagon before it officially got rolling, but we swear we really meant to hype him up a few weeks ago in our weekly recap.  Who is Boaz Lalang? Well, he's a Kenyan middle distance runner who runs for Rend Lake College. This week, he ran a stellar 1,500 and handily dispatched Canadian Nathan Brannen with his 3:37.6 clocking to Brannen's 3:38.4 - both very good early season times.

Photo from Reng Lake College

But what caught our attention a few weeks ago but somehow failed to make it into our weekly recap (I guess we shouldn't type it up at the last minute) was Lalang's 1:46.87 clocking at the Sea Ray Relays a few weeks ago. A 1:46 800 is pretty fast but not remarkable. But Lalang's 1:46 was truly unbelievable.  People don't understand how windy it was that day at Sea Ray.

The wind was huge - like 20 to 30 mpw huge. Lalang didn't care. He took the race out hard and then when he got to the bell, he just opened up an even bigger gap from 400 to 500. One of Rojo's Cornell runners was in the paddock area waiting for another heat of the 800 and he said everyone there including the officials just stared at Lalang in awe before one of the officials said, "I've been doing this for 20 years and never seen anything like that."

Obliterating a very good 800 field by 2.50 seconds just doesn't happen. The 800 almost always ends up being close. But Lalang ran 1:46.87 and second was 1:49.37.  Lalang is the real deal.

Lalang's 1:46 had to be equivalent to a 1:45 at the worst. Maybe even 1:44.
Boaz Lalang Defeats Nate Brannen 3:37.6 to 3:38.4 at Hillsdale Meet
*Discussion of Hillsdale Meet
Lalang's Sea Ray 800 Results
Rend Lake Article On Lalang

Will Jeremy Wariner Ever be Caught?

Jeremy Wariner - Watch Out Here Comes LaShawn Merritt
This week we belatedly featured a profile that actually came out on Sunday, April 20th on LaShawn Merritt. We found the profile to be interesting because it pointed out that at the same ages, Merritt and Wariner's prs are nearly identical.  At age 20,:Wariner ran 44.00, Merritt ran 44.14. At age 21: Wariner ran 43.93, Merritt ran 43.96.

In the article, the 200/400 runner Merritt said the following about Jeremy Wariner, "I haven't beat him yet. But I will, and I feel I can." Typical spring bravado? We're not so sure. With the way Merritt is running now, he very well may beat Jeremy Wariner, which we're sure many would view as sweet poetic justice since Wariner dumped his long-time coach Clyde Hart earlier this year over a contract dispute.

Wariner is so good he can beat just about anyone on talent alone but if Merritt keeps up his early-season form, Wariner may wish he had that extra .20 that a coach may be worth on the day you need it most.

Last week, Merritt ran a stellar 19.80 with an illegal 3.2 tail wind behind him. Still, that is smoking fast. This week, he led off with the fastest first leg at Penn - a 44.9 leadoff. Pretty good. Of course, Wariner did run a 43.88 on the anchor.

It should be interesting to say the least.

It also should be interesting on the women's side if Allyson Felix decides to run the 400 as both Felix and Sanya Richards split 50.1 at Penn Relays. Track and field need rivalries so we sure hope Felix runs the 400. We don't think the double is doable but wish something could be done with the Beijing schedule.
 *LawShawn Merritt Profile Most people don't realize his stats at the same age are pretty comparable to Jeremy Wariner's .
LaShawn Merritt and Charles Clark Talk About Penn Lost in the mix of the Boston hoopla last weekend was the fact that LaShawn ran 19.80 for 200
*Penn Relays Women's USA vs. World 4 x 400 Results
 *Penn Relays Men's USA vs. World 4 x 400 Results

A Legend Announces His Retirement At Season's End: Please Take a Moment to Read
The greatest track coach in  NCAA history and one of the greatest coaches in history is finally calling it a career. Yes, that's right - the University of Arkansas' John McDonnell is retiring at season's end.  We're not sure if the college-aged visitors to this site properly appreciate how amazing John McDonnell's legacy is because his greatest success came in the 1990s.

Let us provide you with the numbers first  - 42 national titles and 83 conference titles including a ridiculous 34 straight in cross country.  But let us put those numbers in perspective. People are currently asking on the message board if any team has ever won the triple crown (xc, indoor and outdoor) in their conference four years in a row. McDonnell's teams at Arkansas almost regularly do that. Heck, McDonnell's teams in the mid-1990s came close to winning the triple crown for the national championships four years running.

McDonnell's team won the indoor NCAA crown 19 times, including 12 years in a row from 1984 to 1995 and 16 out of 17 up through 2000. Outdoors, they won 12 including eight in a row from 1992 to 1999. In cross country, his teams won 11 titles including 8 of 11 from 1990 through 2000. In conference, he nearly pulled off a triple crown every year. Look at the number of triple crowns he's had since joining the SEC.

Since joining the SEC in 1991, they've won the triple crown the following years.

91-92, 92-93, 93-94, 94-95, 96-97, 97-98, 98-99, 99-00, 00-01, 02-03, 04-05, 05-06, 06-07. They've only not won 3 SEC crowns from what we can tell. Tennessee won indoor in 96 and outdoor in 02, and Florida won indoor in 04. So in 17 years, he's won 47 of 50 conference crowns (94%) with the 2008 outdoor meet yet to come. As close to perfection as you can get.

And we forget to mention the fact that the SEC is arguably the best track conference in the nation.

And since we've been talking about Penn, let's look at Arkansas' record at Penn. Penn titles: 4 x 100 (1 ), 4 x 200-meter relay (1 ), 4 x 400-meter relay (1 ), 4 x 800-meter relay (2 ), 4 xMile / 1, 500 (19 ), SMR (2 ), DMR (15 ) and shuttle hurdle relay (1 ). Pretty impressive.

John McDonnell To Retire At Season's End
*Coaches Remember McDonnell's Accomplishments *Former Athletes Remember McDonnell's Impact *McDonnell Hard To Replace: The coaching search likely won't be finished until the summer *JIM HARRIS: McDonnell Will Leave a Legacy Unparalleled * NY Times Profile of Johnny Mac *The Greatest Coach You've Never Heard Of (A tribute to Johnny Mac from the Illinois St. student newspaper) *McDonnell's Retirement: At Least Somebody Gets It *Daily Pennsylvania's Take On John McDonnell's Retirement: Some great anecdotes in here about McDonnell the man

Drug News - The First athlete Defeats USADA
Last week was significant on the drug front as the it marked the first time that a person who was accused by USADA of being on drugs ended up defeating USADA on appeal.  Sprinter LaTasha Jenkins tested positive for the steroid nandrolone in July 2006. However, proper WADA protocol wasn't followed with her samples and as a result she appealed and won.  So despite the fact that she was coached by Trevor Graham, the same coach who has been totally disgraced on the drug front, we think it's appropriate and a good thing that she had her ban overturned.

For proper anti-doping to work, everything has to be followed to protocol. Bans need to be very, very harsh but there can't be any doubt. Here there is doubt on this one particular test, so let her go. It doesn't mean she isn't a drug cheat. It just means she's free to compete.
WADA Drops Appeal - LaTasha Jenkins' Drug Ban Overturned
.*2nd Article On Jenkins

Japan: World Leaders In Men's and Women's 10k
The 5th place finisher at the 2007 Worlds Josphat Ndambiri ran a world leading 27:15, but don't think a 27:15 is anywhere near what a guy of his capability maxes out at.  In seeing the results, we even thought "I bet he can run a lot faster." Then Brett Larner of Japanese Running Blog alerted us to this highlight video. It's worth watching just to hear the Japanese announcers get excited even though we have no idea what they were saying,  because it shows the race was on TV in Japan, and because most importantly it shows how much Josphat had left as he blows away the field the last 100m (don't worry its a short clip).  On the women's side,  Philes Ongori and Yoko Shibui both ran 31:19.73 but we don't see how they can be given the same time if you watch the women's video.  

This all reminded us of a talk we had with someone at Penn.  We were talking of Darren Brown running 3:59.99 at Texas Relays to become the first father-son sub 4 combo. The guy we were talking with wanted to know if their been independent confirmation of the time? We laughed it off at the time, but now after seeing the women's finish in Japan were reminded of our conversation in Penn. Apparently we aren't the only ones just a little bit curious.

More News: Further proof, everyone reads LetsRun.com. LetsRun.com Message Boarders Quoted in the NY Times After the British journalists we met in the UK for the London Marathon, admitted that LetsRun.com was required daily reading, the mention in the Times is all we needed to think even more highly of ourselves. We also see why the NY Times is considered the paper of record in the US. They actually attributed the quotes on our message board to letsrun.com  instead of ripping them off like Sports Illustrated did for a Jeremy Wariner article a few years ago.

Oregon Relays:
Results  Kara Goucher ran 15:33, Gabe Jennings 3:41, but the big meet on the West Coast is Sunday's Stanford meet where Goucher may be going up against Shalane Flanagan.

*Kenyan Olympic Marathon Team Announced The men's team as expected is Cheruiyot, Lel and Wanjiru. That mean's a 2:05 guy and the current World Champ get left off.

*Gebrselassie Now Says He Won't Run Olympic Marathon in Beijing Because He Wants the World Record in Berlin Instead

Marathons Galore:
Weekend Road Action: Hamburg:
2 Sub 2:08s at Hamburg Marathon (David David Mandago Winner) and Irina Timofeyeva Runs 2:24

Vienna Marathon: Abel Kirui 2:07:38 Course Record, Luminita Talpos Defends Her Women's Crown IAAF This race is much bigger than we thought. 20,000 people and a beautiful setting as these photos and these show.

Madrid Marathon: Chema Martinez Wins Madrid Marathon in 2:12:42 IAAF

Padua Marathon: Francis Kirwa Wins Hot Padua Marathon in 2:11:00

Country Music Marathon Recap $17,500 for the winners.

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