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The Week That Was October 13 - October 19, 2008
October 22, 2008

By LetsRun.com

Our weekly recap known as "The Week That Was" is back. To read last week's weekly recap, please click here.

This week's action was dominated domestically by the NCAA cross-country collegiate action heating up. But we save that until near the end and start with a few more interesting but less publicized things from last week.

The Nike Women's Marathon: Bill Bowerman Rolls Over In His Grave
We don't usually cover 2:55 marathons on LetsRun.com, but the debacle at the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco hit a nerve with our viewers. Unsolicited emails have been pouring in all day with people pointing out this story, so we think it is worth mentioning.

At the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, Arien O'Connell had the fastest time of any of the female competitors (she had the second fastest marathon overall; the "Women's" Marathon for some reason allows men to run as well) by 11 minutes. She clocked a twelve-minute PR, running 2:55:11. The problem is she did not start with the "elite" women (who started 20 minutes ahead of the regular women) and thus in the race's eyes the winner of the race was Nora Colligan of Austin, Texas who ran 3:06:30, 11 minutes slower than O'Connell.

O'Connell went to the awards ceremony and she was not recognized, whereupon she contacted the race organizers. They said they had already announced their winner. CW Nevius of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a nice article on the winner not really being the winner and Nike spokeswoman Tanya Lopez told him, "At this point, we've declared our winner."

Nike has clearly regressed a long way from the days of Bill Bowerman if that is their attitude. O'Connell smoked the field in San Franscisco and she had the fastest time by nearly 30 seconds a mile. A little common sense here shows that she deserves to be called the winner.

But perhaps more than anything, this shows the dumbing down of our sport. Nike had an "elite women's" start, yet not a single woman in that field could break 3 hours and only three broke three hours and ten minutes. We can't speak for O'Connell, but likely her and many of the other women who ran the regular race never thought of registering for the "elite" race because they do not consider themselves elite. Only seven women broke 3:20 from the "elite" start. Eleven broke it from the regular start. Has Nike not realized that many of these women who are hoping to run just within 1 hour of the women's world record do not consider themselves elite? If there is prize money and a professional field, then consider having a separate women's start. Otherwise, how about rewarding the woman with the fastest time by 11 minutes as the winner?
*
Article by VW Nevius in San Francisco Chronicle on the Nike Women's Marathon
*
Results


USATF Committee Studying Olympic Performances
Dick Patrick of USAToday, perhaps the best track writer in the business, had an interesting article in USAToday last week that we did not highlight too muchon the website. The article talks about new USATF head Doug Logan appointing a seven-member USATF High Performance Audit Panel "to examine our practices, methods and procedures for selection, coaching and preparing our national teams for international competition." The panel consists of Carl Lewis, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (gold medalist in the hurdles), 1992 men's Olympic coach Mel Rosen, Ralph Mann (a physiologist/biomechanist and silver medal winner in the 400 hurdles), and three U.S. Olympic Committee members: Doug Ingram, Steve Roush and Jay Warwick.

Apparently, nothing is sacred with the panel, including the top-3 selection process for the Olympic Trials (if Mr. Logan wants to lose his job, see him try to scrap that system).  Interestingly enough, the panel does not contain any current athletes, current coaches, or any recently-retired athletes or coaches. We've been pretty hands-off so far on Mr. Logan and haven't made any attempts to contact him (we used to occasionally share ideas with Craig Masback) as we like an outsider bringing new ideas to the sport. But one thing Mr. Logan had better be careful he does not do is alienate the current athletes he is supposed to represent. Britain just fired its high-performance director, Dave Collins, whose background was in rugby. Collins was supposed to bring a non-track background and revolutionary ideas to the sport. The problem is he had some disdain for those currently in the sport and never seemed to solicit their input. No doubt things may need to be shook up a bit, but to ignore those currently in the sport is a recipe for disaster. Britain's Olympics were judged a fiasco and Mr. Collins lost his job.

Doug Logan said he did not want anyone associated with the performance in Beijing on the Committee so that is perhaps why there are no current athletes on the team (yet he still has Steve Roush on the panel who is the USOC Director of Sport Performance, who no doubt had something to do with Beijing). But it wouldn't be hard to find a recently-retired athlete or a coach from a more current generation for the panel. Mr. Logan has said the report will be released to the public and we appreciate the desire for transparency that he has shown.
*Click to read Dick Patrick's USA Today article

More from the Logan Article. John Cook: "These may be strong words, but the Olympic coaches get in the way. They simply take up space. It's a ceremonial title."
Logan notes in Dick Patrick's article that only 10.6% of the men and 16.9% of the women set PRs in Bejing. That didn't seem that low to us. From what we can tell, there were 47 events in Beijing counting relays. In the distance track events, because of the rounds, it is virtually impossible to set a PR. Same thing with the marathon and walks because of the heat. Those events account for 15 of the 47 events. We're not sure if they count the relays or not but if you are counting them, then basically you are saying a WR is expected at the Olympics. Our main point is that in more than a third of the events it seems nearly impossible for a PR to be set, so there needs to be some comparison baseline statistic. Sure, we'd like every athlete to set a PR at the Games, but to expect it to happen with all the rounds is unreasonable. If on the women's side only 65% of the women had the possibility to set a PR and if 16.9% (1/4 of this number) set a PR, that does not seem too bad to us.

Dick Patrick's article went on to talk about some specifics of the USA performance in Beijing, with some pointed criticisms from Shalane Flanagan and Shannon Rowbury's coach, John Cook. Cook had this to say about the current system of US coaches: "These may be strong words, but the Olympic coaches get in the way. They simply take up space. It's a ceremonial title. We will not succeed against a motivated track and field world unless we have the courage to retool." We've always said the Olympic coach is largely a ceremonial position. Outside of overseeing logistics, giving a few pep talks, and selecting the relay teams, the Olympic coach does zero coaching at the Olympics. The athletes are all coached by their individual coaches.

John Cook goes on to talk about how horrible the food was at the US Training Center in China and how the private coaches did not have access to their athletes. He then added this comment about Shannon Rowbury, "I'm convinced we left a bronze medal there."

Pretty harsh words. We support the idea that individual coaches should be given more access. But we don't think it is the reason the US "bombed" in Beijing. We personally think the US performance wasn't that bad. It just seemed worse than usual because the four brand-name sprint stars of USA Track and Field, Allyson Felix, Sanya Richards, Tyson Gay and Jeremy Wariner, all left with no individual golds. How much access did the coaches have in Athens? Is that why we did so well?

While head coaching at the Olympics is largely ceremonial, so are the duties of the personal coaches who basically end up watching their athletes warm up. In our minds, a coach does very little on race day other than get nervous. Mainly the coaches just want to make themselves feel better and pretend they can affect their athletes' performance in the next hour. By then the hay is way in the barn.


Trust us, we know. LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon "Wejo" Johnson competed at a very elite level for a number of years and LetsRun.com coaching guru John Kellogg only watched a handful of his races and practices combined. Rojo's guys at Cornell like to have Rojo at the meets because they see how nervous he gets standing there trying to say something inspirational and it calms them down as they realize, "Hey at least we aren't as nervous as coach."

*Click to read Dick Patrick's USA Today article
*Doug Logan's Blog on USATF Panel

Team XO Goes Under

Team XO, the successful West Coast development club, announced it was closing down. One of the founders of the club, Runnerspace.com founder Ross Krempley, announced the shutdown of the club on his blog and in a Eugene Register Guard article.

Team XO had 10 athletes at the Olympic Trials, and was most known in our book for steeplechaser and Cornell alum Max King, who made the US World Cross-Country team as a member of Team XO. Krempley said he was shutting down the club because they couldn't even raise $15,000 a year. Hard to believe a club with that much success couldn't get that little money. Ross had this to say in the Eugene Register Guard, "The longer I'm in this business, the more I realize it's all about who you know. Teams are created by people who already have the connections. They get the money first and then the athletes. We did the opposite. ... It's discouraging when you can't even get $15,000. That's not an extraordinary amount of money. ... At our peak, we had over 10 people at the Trials. We put on the coolest high school meet in the Northwest, our cross-country teams always finished in the top five at nationals, we had people going to the World Championships, running indoors and competing in road races. How does that not add up to $15,000?"

Hey Ross, if we come up with $15,000, can we call it Team LetsRun.com?
*Eugene Register Guard article
*Announcement/Blog on Runnerspace.com

2008 ING NYC Is Fast Approaching
The 2008 ING New York City marathon is next Sunday, November 2nd. Next week, we'll be counting down our top 5 contenders on the men's and women's side and doing extensive race previews as well as on-site coverage. But we thought you might want to start getting ready for one of best weekends of the year in NYC by reading a few race pre-race interviews of the top American contenders Abdi Abdirahman and Josh Rohatinsky.
*Abdi Abdirahman Talks About Leading the Charge at the ING NYC Marathon He says more of his focus here on out will be on the marathon.
 *Josh Rohatinsky Thinks He's Ready To Run 2:11 A 2:11 in NYC isn't something to sneeze about, but Rohatinsky recently completed a 20-miler at 4:59 pace, so he has reason to believe he can run 26.2 at 5 minute pace. He also thinks he can run in the 27:30s this spring
Oh yeah, speaking of NYC, there was a ridiculous article that came out this week saying 312 million people watch the marathon every year. Don't believe the hype unless you think it's  three times bigger than the Super Bowl (95 million) was in 2004.

Last Week's Corrections/Update:

News We Didn't Mention In Last Week's Week That Was:
19-Year-Old Julius Keter Runs 2:11:56 Maryland Record At Under Armour Baltimore Marathon

It may not be a NY or a Chicago, but Julius Keter, only 19, ran 2:11:56 to win the Baltimore Marathon last weekend. We forgot to mention it, and a viewer emailed us, pointing out our oversight, and we decided to save it for this week to give it the praise it deserves. 2:11:56 is just a tad over 5 minute pace and Keter's run was largely a solo effort. Pretty impressive for a 19-year-old, and a well-deserved $20,500 payday.
*Baltimore Sun Article on Keter's Run

Update from Last Week: Wesley Korir
Last week, we talked about Wesley Korir running 2:13:53 from the second starting group to have the fourth-fastest time of the day at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon (but he finished out of the top 5 because he did not start in the professional start). We reported that it appeared race director Carey Pinkowski was going to pay Korir the $15,000 he would have earned for fourth place. Race Results Weekly editor and ING NYC Marathon professional field coordinator David Monti has an update in this week's Race Results Weekly. He wrote, "Also, internet postings have said that the race paid Wesley Korir, the man who had the 4th best time on the day despite starting in the 8h00 open start, the fourth place prize money instead of Martin Lauret, who finished fourth off of the 7h55 start. That's not true, according to race spokesperson, Marianne Caponi. 'Carey (Pinkowski, the race director) has been in touch with Korir and has offered him a bonus for his performance in the Top 100,' Caponi wrote in an e-mail message.  'It is an undisclosed amount and has no bearing on the elite prize money. He is also working with the athlete on returning to Chicago to compete in our elite field in 2009.'"

It seems like the information being reported by Monti is not inconsistent with what we reported last week. It was our assumption that Korir would get his money as a bonus and the athletes in the official top 5 would get their money as well.

Big Weekend In XC - Pre-Nats, Chile Pepper and Penn State

Chelanga At The 5k Mark

The biggest news of the week in the US came on the collegiate front as the NCAA collegiate cross-country scene got into full swing with the Pre-Nationals at Indiana State University. Considering that one of the biggest draws to track and field and cross-country is the simplicity, you'd think there would be a logical and straightforward qualifying system for Nationals (i.e., Super Regionals) but there is not, so the Pre-Nats ends up being a ridiculously big meet.

We won't reinvent the wheel and redo our Pre-Nats coverage here, but the story of the day on the men's side was Sam Chelanga of Liberty via Kenya. On a day when the course was running close to 20 seconds slower per spot than the year before, he went out in 4:18 at the mile and destroyed the field and got the course record in the process. The picture to the right says it all.


If you're not a visual guy, then the following quote from Indiana St. coach College XC John McNichols about Chelanga sums up his domination perfectly: "To see somebody go out in a field like this and make it look like a high school senior running against a junior high team, that's just unbelievable."

Teams that were the biggest surprises on the men's side were Stanford (won the Blue race and vaulted from #10 to #2 in the rankings), NAU (2nd in the Blue race, moved from #16 to #8), BYU (3rd Blue, #18 to #11 ) and UCLA (5th White, #23 to #13) whereas the big disappointments were Colorado (9th in White, #3 to #17), Iowa St. (10th White, #11 to #22) and  and NC State (#10 Blue, #15 to #29).

Chad Hall

One individual story that was missed by many was the re-emergence of 2007 Footlocker national champion Chad Hall (who also happens to be Ryan Hall's brother). Hall struggled for the most part as a freshman at Oregon last year and transferred to UC Riverside. Apparently happy in California closer to home, Hall is running pretty well again as he was 20th in the Blue race. It's good to see him out there competing.


On the women's side, the big story was the #1-ranked Washington women. They were incredible as they scored 36 points and completely dominated the Blue race. Their team average of 20:21 was 19 seconds better than that of Florida St., which tied Princeton for the win in the women's White race. If the Washington women run like that at NCAAs, trust us they will win. We know Oregon wasn't there but that doesn't matter. And the Washington women have little to worry about. They even have room for injury as their 6th runner, Lauren Saylor, ran 20:56, which is better than FSU's #4 and Princeton's #3.


Kuijken Crushed Everyone Over The Last 2k

FSU's Susan Kuijken had a great day as she ran 19:49 to get the course record. Could she possibly challenge Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego at NCAAs? We doubt it.


Kipyego herself was in action last weekend at the Chile Pepper meet in Arkansas where she won by 16 seconds to lead her 29th-ranked team to an upset win of #10 Arkansas for the team title. As a result, the Red Raiders made the largest jump in the women's poll this week as they vaulted to #12.

In the men's race, the first home meet of the post- John McDonnell era wasn't a good one for Arkansas as they lost to Texas A&M. Arkansas is probably only the third-best team in the SEC, as #5 Alabama and #11 Auburn are way better than the #26 Hogs. #28 Florida might also be better. So after 34 straight conference titles, it looks like they surely will lose. The question is will they even be top 3?

Just as Arkansas has never lost an SEC's men's race, Colorado likewise has never lost a Big 12 men's race. That streak also is in serious jeopardy as the #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys look like they will trounce the Buffs in two weeks. We guess it just proves that all streaks are meant to come to an end.

Penn St. hosted a meet this weekend, which was won by then #8 Georgetown on the men's side (the Hoyas are now ranked #10) and then #7 WVU (now ranked #5) on the women's side. We only mentioned this meet because it gives us a chance to give our only thumbs up of the week to the Cortland State men. The #1-ranked team in Division 3, they ran fantastically well at PSU and nearly upended #28 Villanova, losing to the Wildcats by a single point.

LetsRun.com co-founder Robert Johnson's Cornell team is only located 15 miles from Cortland. All he can say is thank god they didn't race as the Big Red might not have even been the best team in a 15-mile radius (although we should point out they did beat Cortland two weeks ago).
NCAA XC Heats Up With Pre-Nats Leading The Way: *MeetRecap/Results from Indiana State site.
LRC Coverage: Chelanga Puts On A Show For The Ages As FSU's Kuijken Also Breaks Course Record; Washington Women Impress LRC breaks down all four races. Photos and more.
Terre Haute Newspaper: Chelanga Emerges As NCAA Favorite
*Message Board Info On Pre-NCAAs
*Washington [email protected] Prenats *CHELANGA DOES IT AGAIN!!! *Pre-Nats Combined Results - Men *German Fernandez is a Serious Threat to Win NCAA Cross Country Nationals *Pre-Nats Predictions
Not Everyone Goes to Pre-Nats
*How The Mighty Have Fallen: Arkansas Loses To Texas A&M At Chile Pepper Meet In Front Of Home Crowd
Sally Kipyego Leads Texas Tech To Chile Pepper Title Kipyego must have been going easy as she only won by 16 seconds.
*GTown Men Roll at Penn State National as D3 #1 Cortland State Comes 1 Point Shy of #28 Villanova West Virginia put 4 in the top 9 to dominate the women's race.*LRC: Message Board Thread on 2008 PSU National
*#1 Oregon (#2 on Women's Side) Racing Mike Hodges Invitational
*Latest Men's National Poll *Latest Women's National Poll
*
Chad Hall has transferred to UC Riverside

Thread Of The Week/Who Is Better At Hyping Their Teenage Phenoms - America or Australia?
While we are on the topic of NCAA cross country, we will point out that the much-hyped next great American distance star, German Fernandez of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, did run this weekend. He ran very fast, but he ran in the Open (think JV) race at Pre-Nationals, which he won in 23:34 - the 5th fastest time of the day overall. We didn't mention it above as the decision by OSU to run Fernandez and several of their top runners in the Open race wasn't a popular one in the fans or our minds.

From a coaching standpoint, it was a very smart move for Dave Smith, the OSU coach. No pressure; let Fernandez roll and also make sure that no one racing your team in the Varsity race gets any points for beating your less-than-full squad. But when are we ever going to worry about the presentation of the sport for the fans? Apparently never.

Aust Selection Trails For The 2008 World Cross Country Champs

Anyway, Fernandez has a big-time fan following as most people (including us) recognize him as a special, special runner. As a result, people have been pumping him up all over the place, including on our message board. Recently there has been a big thread predicting he will pull a Bob Kennedy (i.e., win NCAA XC as a frosh). But Australia apparently has a special teen of their own in Ryan Gregson. The 18-year-old Gregson has good PBs (1:51, 3:43, 14:01) and the Aussies are quite proud of him as someone is mouthing off on the message board about him: *Fernandez couldn't hold a torch to Ryan Gregson. It's a great thread and it garners praise as our Message Board Thread of The Week.

Our comments? Gregson is a good runner. He very well likely could take Fernandez in an 800 and maybe a 1,500. No way does he touch him in a longer race. Fernandez already has a better 3k PR (7:59 en route in his 2M). But really there is no reason to have this debate on the Internet as the two have raced and Fernandez beat him by 13 seconds at the World Junior XC earlier this year. Let the facts speak for themselves.

*German Fernandez is a serious threat to win NCAA Cross Country Nationals
*Fernandez couldn't hold a torch to Ryan Gregson


Update on HS (Teen?) Phenom Solomon Haile
Last week we briefly mentioned the fact that the new HS 2.5 mile Van Cortlandt Park record holder Solomon Haile might be 20 years old. A thread on our message board has garnered a ton of attention. Well, finally an article has been written about the controversy on dyestat.com. Apparently, Maryland is satisfied with the documentation Haile provided, as the birth certificate he produced matched school records he provided from Ethiopia. It doesn't sound like there will be any more investigating on that front.

The article in dyestat.com seems more concerned with whether Haile should have his amateur status as it's a fact that he received $350 from the Hartford Half Marathon last October. We sure hope that if they don't let him run, it's not because of this $350 check. Under NCAA rules, you can maintain your amateur status if you accept payments in road races prior to your freshman year as long as it's only covering expenses. The same should be true in HS. And considering that Hartford is 700 miles round trip from Haile's home and the going rate per mile for reimbursements is over 50 cents per mile, the $350 didn't even cover his legally-allowable expenses, as there would be also be food and hotel, etc.
*Dyestat Looks At Solomon Haile Controversy
MB Thread: *Is The New Van Cortlandt Park HS Record Holder Solomon Haile Really A 20-Year-Old Professional Runner?

And In Case You Aren't Tired Of Reading, We'll Leave You With An Article We Found Interesting:
*Toyo University's (Japan) Top 6 Runners Break 1:02 In Road 20k And they didn't even win the Izumo Ekiden last week.

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