The Week That Was April 27 - May 3, 2009 May 4, 2009
By LetsRun.com To read last week's LRC Week That Was, click Here.
To read any 2009 LRC Week That Was, click Here.
In between being disappointed with the likes of Rashid Ramzi and the Big East conference and ADs in general that don't give a crap about track, we survey the week that was in running and give praise for a guy that was third of a B heat of a 5k and even more praise to a guy that no one seems to be talking about. We also pause to remember a departed legend, wonder if Usain Bolt's partying is finally catching up to him, look back at Ritz and Meb at London and wonder if marathoning in the US this decade truly is better than last decade.
Rashid Ramzi - The Olympic Champ - The Drug Cheat (guess we should say suspected drug cheat)
I'm not smiling that much as I know I'm dirty.
Let's start with the biggest news of the week. Olympic 1,500 gold medallist Rashid Ramzi'sA sample from Beijing tested positive for the blood booster CERA. Aassuming his B comes back positive, he'll be stripped of us his gold medal and banned for two years. Why you wouldn't be banned for life for injecting yourself with a blood booster at the Olympic Games is beyond us. There clearly is no way one can innocently ingest CERA and there is no bigger crime in track and field than making a mockery of one of the premier events - the men's 1,500.
Can't say that the positive test surprised us or the LetsRun.com community (including Nick Willis' father) in the least, as over 60% of you voted in our poll that you thought Ramzi was the cheat. Our suspicions have now been confirmed.
We've thought for a long, long time that Ramzi was a cheat. The double 800/1,500 win at the 2005 world champs just didn't seem right to us. Too easy for a guy who was a complete unknown a year before. No one really does that in this day and age of competitive balance - unless they are a some unreal prodigy. When we looked at his history and saw that he'd gone from being a 3:39 guy to a 3:30 guy in 2004 and that he was originally from Morocco, we knew right then and there he almost certainly had to be dirty. Call us racists, xenophobic or whatever, but we knew. Watching the 2008 Games on TV was painful as we so desperately wanted someone besides the obvious cheat Ramzi to win.
The guy hadn't raced an 800 or 1,500 all summer and then he shows up at the Olympics. Are you serious? That's more obvious the sign of a doper than Regina Jacobs doing the opposite in 2004 - racing a lot and then pulling out of the Games when the EPO test was announced.
So it's great that it looks like he'll very shortly be gone for at least two years. But that will never make up for us not being able to have the thrill of seeing the 19-year-old sensation Asbel Kiprop cross the line finish first. Past Olympic champs like Coe and El Guerrouj were 5'9. The 6'2" Kiprop, like Usain Bolt, just looks (and runs) different. The first time we ever saw the guy run, we were like, "Wow. He's a prodigy." Beijing will forever be remembered as the unveiling of the sprint prodigy - Usain Bolt. Too bad a drug cheat prevented the public at large from seeing the unveiling of Asbel Kiprop. Ramzi also prevented Kiprop from getting on the medal stand in 2007 as an 18-year-old.
Ramzi's bust means that Kiwi Nick Willis will be moving up to silver. That's great news for Nick, who hasn't really had any other positive news of late. After a very good indoor campaign, he came down with a hip problem and it was revealed last week in a nice Runnersworld interview that he had surgery on April 10th. He won't start running at all until late May and will try to run the World Championships in the 800 on very little training.
And To Think Americans Thought Men's Distance Running Was Bad In The 1990s - At Least We Aren't As Bad As Germany Is Currently Did anyone else see the note in the IAAF recap of the Dusseldorf marathon where it said that André Pollmächer's 3rd-place 2:13:09 was the fastest clocking by a German in the new millennium? Yes, that's right - no German had run faster since the year 2000, when Michael Fietz ran 2:11:25 in 28 at Rotterdam.
That type of ineptitude reminded us of the 1990s, in which Americans really struggled in the marathon. We decided take a trip back down memory lane to see just how bad American marathoning was in the 1990s. It also is a good excuse for us to introduce to you our Website Of The Week - The Association of Road Race Statisticians Annual Marathon Rankings page. The association's entire web page is really quite fascinating, but their marathon work is spectacular. The
Annual Marathon Rankings Project, led and co-ordinated by
Andy Milroy, has now documented the last 70 years of marathoning and has produced the top performances for each year for the years 1940 to 2009 and the lists are normally 200 deep. Thanks to their list and Track & Field News US rankings, we were able to see if our memory of a sub-par 1990s really was accurate. How did the last decade in marathoning compare to this decade in the US?
The chart below speaks for itself.
Sub-2:13:08 US Performances In Marathons (1991-2000)
Sub-2:13:08 US Performances In Marathons (2001-present)
Total 2001 - May 1, 2009 (36) (4.32 per year so far, as it's been 8.33 years basically).
So clearly the years 2001 to 2009 have been better than the dismal 1990s, which also reflects similar improvement that one sees in the 5k and 10k. Of course, a pessimist might point out that America might not be a whole lot better at producing marathon talent than we were in the 1990s.
We've just gotten better by virtue of naturalizing African-born runners, as 14 of the performances in this decade were done by people born outside of the US (we don't think any of those in the 1990s were done by non-American-born athletes).
If one knocked out the 14 performances, America would have 22 sub-2:13:08s in the first 8.33 years of the decade, which comes out to 2.68 per year - nearly identical to the 2.7 per year produced in the 1990s.
We prefer to be optimists!!!
The Road Race Statisticians have also produced another cool list which they are rightfully proud of. It's called the Yearly Marathons Project. Led and co-ordinated by Ken Young, it has now produced well-developed draft lists for EVERY known
marathon held during the years 1940-2009.
One Last Look At Ritz And Meb At London - Were They Really On Track To Run Sub-2:08 at 30km? (Short Answer: No) Speaking of American marathoners, we figured we'd take a look back at London and analyze Dathan Ritzenhein's and Meb'sperformances at London a bit more. There was a nice follow-up article in theEugene Register Guardon Ritz, which we just realized was written by David Monti. Anyway, the article stated that Ritz & Meb were running in the 2nd group, which was shooting for a target time at 2:07:30. The group
reached halfway ahead of schedule in 1:03:33. The article then states that "Ritzenhein was
able to hold that pace through 20 miles, and was still on target to
come in well under 2:08."
Ritz: "If only xc were more popular than the marathon."
We decided to check if this statement was totally accurate, as we didn't think that anyone from the 2nd group had run under 2:08 as we'd read a nice article on Japanese runner Atsushi Sato which said that Eritrea's Yonas Kifle"took off in the hunt for stragglers" from the 2nd pack and Kifle finished in 2:08:28. Indeed, a little research revealed that Kifle was the top finisher from the 2nd pack and we found it odd that everyone supposedly died so much if he only ran 2:08.
The facts back up our suspicion. Dathan Ritzenhein and Meb and the 2nd pack hit the 30km split in 1:30:51, which is indeed sub-2:08 pace as it is 2:07:46 pace. However, that doesn't mean they wee on track to run sub-2:08:00 at that point. Those guys had run their first 10k in a blistering 29:39 (2:05:06 pace) before settling down and running the 2nd and 3rd 10ks very evenly in 30:34 and 30:37 for each 10km. 30:37 pace for 10k is 2:09:11 pace for the marathon.
One has to assume that if they did amazingly well and didn't fade at all that they'd AT BEST maintain the pace they had slowed down to FOR THE LAST 20KM. You certainly wouldn't expect them to run at a faster pace for the last 12.2 km than they had the previous 20km.
Assuming they don't fade AT ALL and maintain 30:37 per 10km pace to the finish, the 2nd group would have run the final 12.2 km in 37:20, giving them a finishing time of 2:08:11. Kifle, who supposedly "took off," came close to that as he finished in 2:08:28 to Sato's 2:09:16, Meb's 2:09:21, Limo's 2:09:47 and Ritz's 2:10:00. In reality, Kifle just faded the least.
Ritz did die at the end as he lost 1:49 over the final 12.2 km - or 14.38 seconds per mile. But by no means was it a truly horrific blowup and by no means was he on track to run 2:07 at 30km.
On pace, yes. On track, no chance. Can he do it down the road? It's certainly possible.
Payton Jordan - The Man There was a lot of interesting US action last week, led by the Payton Jordan Invite at Stanford. Before we talk about the great meet, let us pause for a moment to reflect on a great man - Payton Jordan.
We never met Mr. Jordan, but it's clear to us that he was a special person who possessed a special moral fiber. To him, winning isn't the only goal. An accomplishment was worthless if one had to sacrifice their integrity to achieve it. That simple lesson seems to have been forgotten by so many today in all sorts of professions, whether they be finance, mortgages or coaching (not just track, but all sports - look at the graduation rates of NCAA basketball and football teams).
The Mercury News extensively writes about what Jim Ward, a 440-yards runner for Jordan in the 1960s had to say about him:
"Coach was the first person in my life I had met that had a moral and ethical balance. He taught me to focus and be confident."
Ward ran in an era when it was not illegal to use steroids. Jordan, though, would have none of it.
"I finished seventh at the NCAA meet and everyone ahead of me was using steroids," Ward said. "I had friends at USC and UCLA. Their coach would give steroids out by the handful. But, Jordan was afraid of all the long-term health aspects of steroids. I know three or four runners from UCLA who are dead now because they used steroids. Coach Jordan helped me stay drug-free."
Jordan ran a tight ship at Stanford but wasn't demonstrative in the way he instilled discipline.
"Payton was very calm and gentile in enforcing rules," Ward said. "He didn't allow us to lie or fudge. And he didn't have a racial bone in his body."
A few days before he knew he was going to die, Jordan penned a letter, which will be read by one of his daughters tonight at the Faculty Club. We offer it to you as our Thought Of The Week.The world would be a way better place if everyone lived according to the following mantra:
"Listen to your heart and express your love. Share life fully with those you hold close to your heart. Be content with what God has in store."
Payton Jordan - The Meet The meet was full of a lot of noteworthy performances which had the LRC community very excited. However, the meet made us think that track will probably never be a truly really popular sport in this country (at least distance running) any time soon. Why do we say that? Well first of all, track is full of meets. There is too much track as there is never any break.
From a fan's perspective, it makes little sense that there was a humongous meet just a few miles away last week at Cal that the NYRR put on (in our minds, the NYRR should be in charge but they should just rent the Stanford stadium) or that some teams had their conference meet last week, some this week and some in two weeks.
Also how do you explain to the casual sports fan that the story of the meet for us was some guy getting third in the B heat of the 5k? The answer ... You don't.
For some reason, the meet was broadcast live on Stanford's site thanks to cbssports.com (bizarrely enough, the meet was also on flotrack and now we're linking to post-race video on runnerspace). We watched it on CBS as the video was insanely clear and we found it fascinating to listen to the announcer, who clearly knew next to nothing about track and field. It gave us a great insight into what the average person thinks of track.
When Chris Derrick got the American junior record, the flotrack guys were going crazy and acting as though Derrick had won the Olympic Games (as any true Ameican distance fan was bound to be doing). Meanwhile, the cbssports.com announcer was totally calm. If anything, he seemed surprised that there was hoopla over a guy getting third in the B heat. Pretty odd. We wish we could find an archive of that production as it was really fascinating to listen to.
But Derrick's run was great. The guy was overshadowed in XC by Oregon's Luke Puskedra, who got the best of Derrick at PAC 10s and NCAAs and in indoors, and at World XC by German Fernandez. But if you want to know who the Freshman of the Year is distance-wise so far overall - one need to look no farther than Chris Derrick. What a year! And it's amazing how consistently good he's been for all 3 seasons.
7th at NCAAs in XC, 4th in the 5k indoors, 5th in the 3k, before getting 15th at World Cross and now running 13:29. OUR NCAA PERFORMER OF THE WEEK NO DOUBT. A HUGE, HUGE THUMBS UP.
Other things of note from Stanford:
Not too often that you set a collegiate record but leave dissatisfied, but that certainly was the case for Jenny Barringer, who ran 15:07.64. Considering she ran a 15:01.70 on an oversized indoor track, we guess it's not surprising that she's upset she didn't break 15:00.
Props to Arkansas Shawn Forrest for breaking Josphat Boit's school record of 28:07.27 in the 10k. Any time you break a school record at Arkansas, you have to be doing something special, but Forrest absolutely obliterated the record as he ran 27:52.10 - just missing the WChamp "A" standard.
Props to the Centrowitz family. First, big sis Lauren Centrowitz ties the Stanford school record by running 4:10.42 for 6th in the top heat of the 1,500. Then she was totally overshadowed by her younger brother Matthew Centrowitz, who became the 6th-fastest collegian ever at 1,500 by running 3:36.92. Two weeks ago, Centrowitz was 2nd to his teammate the Shadrack Kiptoo Biwott by .01 at a dual meet with UCLA (maybe they weren't competing against each other?) and now he runs 3:36.92 and beats the indoor NCAA champ Lee Emmanuel in the process? Unreal. Admittedly, the redshirt freshman did run 3:57.92 indoors and admittedly his dad, Matt Sr., whom LRC has learned will be coaching Lauren next year, was a total badass back in the day.
Saving the best for last, we think it's a shame that Tim Nelson isn't getting more fanfare. As a result, we're naming him our PERFORMER OF THE WEEK. Tim was the only guy all night who won his race and got the WChamp "A" mark, as he convincingly won the Kim McDonald 10,000 meters with a 27:36.99. 2nd place was 27:50.
Talk about a big PR. Nelson shaved 27.47 seconds of his 28:04.46 previous personal best. During the winter, it was kind of surprising to see this 28:04 guy finishing 2nd to Meb at the US XC by less than a second and then 2nd to Fam at the US 15km by 1 second. Two heartbreaking losses. Now we know how he was able to run such great races with the big boys - because he's a stud himself.
That being said, is it alright to say that we still wish he'd chosen to run World XC as well as get ready for Stanford?
If the IAAF wants to know why so many people don't show up at World XC, one reason is because their "A" standards are so stiff that a ton of Americans who don't have it (like Nelson) can't afford blowing their one good opportunity by going over there.
Conference Action/Traditional Rivlaries Lots of conference meets and a few traditional rivalries took place last week as well. We feel like conference meets and scored rivalries like USC-UCLA are the few meets college administrators ought to try to get fans to attend, as other meets are honestly no different than attending a practice.
But track is certainly going to struggle if the meets aren't presented in a spectator-friendly format. At the Big East meet, when we heard that the Notre Dame men beat Louisville by 1/2 point, we thought to ourselves, "Wow that sounds exciting. Let's read how it unfolded." Small problem. Neither the Notre Dame nor Louisville web sites had a blow-by-blow recap of the meet. Neither did the Big East site.
"I was there as a competitor
for a school that was not in the hunt. Unfortunately it was raining for
the entire day on Sunday. You didn't see teams sitting together and
watching the meet as you normally would. Most everyone was huddled in a
side building trying to stay dry or get dry. As someone said louisville
scored more than 100 points on Saturday so it was not a neck and neck
race. The triple jump was scored after the 4x400.... I think the exciting team race was tempered by the weather
and the fact that no one saw it coming. I overheard some UND guys say
that they thought the team was finishing 2nd just after the 5k, where
UL scored big points with the win. When I asked my coach who won the
meet afterwards he told me UL did so not a lot of people knew what was
happening with the team score at the end of the meet...I forgot to mention
that the awards and team trophies were announced indoors after the meet
ended. I don't know if they even announced the final team standings in
Coaches and administrators need to try to play up the team competition, at least at the conference meets. Is that too much to ask? No, it isn't. It's embarrassing that in order to find out what happened, we had to resort to posting on the message board: "How did the Big East meet play out?"
And we think it should be a rule that if the meet hasn't already been mathematically decided, the 4 x 400 is the last event contested, period.
Actually, when we came across the following email, we realized that maybe it is too much to ask. Apparently the GNAC Conference championship was cancelled due to the swine flu scare and the kicker is they aren't going to reschedule it. Clearly if the ADs don't care at all about track, why should the fans?
A big Thumbs Down to them not rescheduling it.Thanks to a site visitor for sending the following email. We love his last line, "THE ATHLETES DESERVE BETTER."
On Thursday, April 30, the directors of the Great Northwest Athletic
Conference (GNAC) cancelled this years Track and Field Championship
Meet due to a probable case of H1N1 (swineflu)
by an individual on campus of the host school, Western Oregon
University. That is understandable and probably wise, however the real
kicker is that they do not plan to reschedule the meet. I think that
this is the worst idea ever. I don't think its necessary to really
explain why as most of us could understand the appaling nature of it.
I have many good friends who instead of finishing their career with
possible conference titles or improving national marks are instead left
without that opportunity. And can you imagine this happening after the
disaster of D2 Western Regionals? I competed for three years before I
retired due to injuries, this would have been my senior year, I can't
imagine how I'd feel after the f*** up at regional then to have my
track championship cancelled. The athletes deserve better."
Pro News In Sprint News, Usain Bolt's partying ways may finally be catching up to him as he was lucky not to be killed or seriously injured in a horrific car accident that caused him to pull out of at least one meet. Meanwhile, the man who has run faster than anyone in history for 100 meters, Tyson Gay (everyone seems to forget he ran a wind-aided 9.68) is coming along nicely even if few are noticing, as he ran a big PR of 45.57 (previous PR was the only other time we've seen him run it, which was last week in 46.34).
In other sprint news, Olympic champ LaShawn Merritt opened his 400m season in fine form as he had the best outdoor opener of his career with a stellar 44.50. A 44.50 is very fast. It would have gotten the silver in the Olympics last year and would have been top 5 at the 2007 Worlds. Last year, we saw Michael Johnson lose his 200m world record. Could 2009 be the year he loses his 400m world record as well?