Where Your Dreams Become Reality
The Week That Was September 29 - October 4, 2009
Last week was an eventful one in the world of running as Abdi & Meb made statements that they shouldn't be forgotten in New York, Paula said she'd be in New York, and the NCAA XC action heated up in a big way. We recap it all and along the way give you our 7 biggest winners and 4 biggest losers from the collegiate ranks.
NCAA XC Action
Welcome To The Big Time, Jordan Hasay
We've said for a long time that Jordan Hasay is a very talented runner, but expectations for her to be a female Steve Prefontaine and the savior of women's running were completely off base. Well, it only took one college race for that sentiment to be proven true.
Hasay had a fine college debut on Saturday - placing 6th in the Dellinger Invite. She's going to be a very good collegian, but right now she'd only be the #4 on the Villanova team.
The Oregon Men & Puskedra Struggle
Speaking of a top Duck runner only being the #4 for another team, we must admit it was shocking to see Oregon sophomore Luke Puskedra - who was 5th at NCAAs as a freshman - only finish 11th at Dellinger Invite - behind 3 Alabama runners. The Oregon Daily Emerald had a great profile of Puskedra prior to Dellinger and in it summed up Puskedra's sensational frosh campaign perfectly with the opening line of "Luke Puskedra’s 2008 cross-country season could not have been any better for a highly-touted freshman."
The article also noted that last year in XC, Puskedra never finished lower than 6th in any race and at Dellinger in 2008 he was 3rd.
As a team, the #1 ranked Ducks only finished 3rd in their own home meet. Just as we nailed it on the head about Hasay, we here at LRC must admit that we were right on the money about the Ducks once again as we said in our pre-season NCAA talk that there is no reason why the Ducks should be ranked #1 this year.
We loved coach Vin Lananna's quote in the pre-race article on Puskedra. His sentiments on the challenge the 2009 season will be for the Ducks proved to be 100% true: "Hey, this is life without Galen Rupp."
Once the NCAA meet is all over in seven weeks, we can look back to this weekend when Alabama beat the Ducks at home without the services of star runner Emmanuel Bor. With Bor - whom a former Alabama Grad Assistant called their #2 runner - in the lineup, Alabama would have scored less than 30 points. Oregon scored 70. Oregon is clearly not as good as last year, but we might be willing to bet on the Ducks surpassing the Tide by the end of the season.
Portland star and 2008 Foot Locker runner-up Trevor Dunbar had a very good debut, finishing right ahead of Puskedra in tenth place. Despite the loss of NCAA 4th-placer David Kinsella, the Pilots look good again this season with Alfred Kipchumba, Dunbar and Joash Osoro. The Pilots scored 73 to Oregon's 71 to almost upend their in-state rivals.
More: *Dellinger Invite Results
Unranked Indiana & Syracuse Men Impress
LetsRun.com was on hand in Wisconsin to see the unveiling of the Badgers' beautiful new course. The course more than lived up to advance billing so a big Thumbs Up to Wisco for putting up the resources to develop a course that certainly is worthy of hosting an NCAA championship. We've been lazy (Madison is too distracting) about getting videos online but you can see some videos of the course we took with our "Flip" camera. Basically the Thomas Zimmer course in Madison is like Terre Haute with some more sharp hills and a little more compact loops. It's easy to see the runners seven or eight times during an 8k or 10k. And Madison is a way, way, way more happening place than Terre Haute so please get some big meets here and have some good parties afterwards. The only problem we had was with parking as we ended up leaving the car in a random lot and walking through a busy, formal golf club for 20 minutes just to get to the meet on time. We apologize to the golfers for looking like bums walking around the fairways.
In terms of the race, Thumbs Up to the Syracuse men as the unranked Orange upset 5 ranked teams to take home the team title. This race and many races proved what we've thought all along - the pre-season NCAA rankings are basically worthless, as everyone just votes on last year's results. Syracuse performed so well that they had the meet locked up 2/3 of the way through. In the pack you see to the right were five of the Orange, led by Brad Miller, and no more than two of any other team.
Considering LRC co-founder Robert Johnson coaches in the Northeast, it was no surprise to us that SU is for real in 2009. The Orangemen's success points to a stellar Big East meet again this year. Providence, Syracuse and Georgetown are all very good and that meet looks too close to call.
Some ranked teams really struggled in Madison. Arkansas' Lane Boyer and Solomon Haile led much of the race before fading badly in the second half. While the solid ranked teams were scoring under 90 points, the Razorbacks scored 170+. Someone on the course was talking about how injury-plagued Arkansas is, but there is no getting around the fact that the boys from Fayetteville are not as fearsome as they used to be. The talent is not there.
Compared to some other ranked teams, Arkansas looked great in fourth place. Auburn had no depth and finished in 12th behind teams like UW-Lacrosse. Speaking of UW-Lacrosse, they also almost upended Michigan 237 to 234. The Wolverines finished way back in 9th.
The best head-to-head matchups were in the final straightaway. Georgetown's Andrew Bumbalough had pulled away in the 7th kilometer before his coach told him to take it easy. Well, he did and Iowa's Jeff Thode caught him and started kicking side-by-side. Bumbalough was not letting the win slip away and re-gapped Thode (who ran admirably) in the final quarter.
The other side show was the first ever cross-country meeting between The Woodlands' 2008 Gatorade XC National Runner Of The Year and Nike Cross Nationals champion Reed Connor of Wisconsin and Foot Locker champion Solomon Haile of Arkansas. Haile was right on the front from the get-go, taking the field through the first mile under 4:30 on the grass course. But his time at the front was limited, as was Connor's, as both were dropped by the lead pack in the 7th kilometer. Connor told us after the race he woke up in the final kilometer when Haile pulled up on him. Connor put the hammer down and finished right ahead of Haile. The only missing element from the 2008 HS class was Alaskan Trevor Dunbar.
Insane Alumni Race
Another unranked team that deserves a Thumbs Up for turning some heads was Indiana, which upset NC State and Iona to take home the Paul Short title in Bethlehem, PA.
Last year, the excitement was palpable in Bethlehem because Sam Chelanga made his seasonal debut and absolutely smashed Josh McDougal's course record. This year, Liberty ran a local meet and Chelanga ran a nice tempo to open his season with a win. He only ran 24:46, but he was beating some of his top 5 teammates by almost 2 minutes on the tough course.
This year, the big individual winner had to be Shippensburg's Neely Spence. Spence is coached by her father Steve Spence, former US road running star and world marathon championship medalist. Last year , Neely Spence toured around the country and visited some big D1 schools thinking about going to a bigger name and bigger program. (Clarification: this is Neely's sophomore year at Shipensburg. The wording of the previous sentence is a bit unclear. In the spring of 2008 she was still a high school senior) Ultimately, she chose to stay with the coach who knows her best and in her hometown. A big Thumbs Up to her, as she is one of the country's best cross-country runners. She listened to the bells and whistles of the big money programs and probably made the smart choice to ignore them continue her development in central Pennsylvania.
More: *Paul Short Women: Shippensburg's Soph. Neely Spence Takes Individual Crown *Paul Short Men: Indiana U, Firing On All Cylinders, Takes Down Nationally-Ranked Iona And NC
So far, we haven't said much about the women's NCAA action other than leading off with Hasay and Spence. But why should we? The story in 2009 is the same in 2009. The Washington Husky Women are simply AMAZING. They went 1-4 at Notre Dame to win easily.
More: *Notre Dame Results
So to recap the week, we'll give you our 7 Biggest Winners & 4 Biggest Losers from college XC last week.
7 Biggest Winners:
4 Biggest Losers:
Radcliffe Commits To New York
British Star Hopes To Run Close To 2:20
Last week, the big news was out of New York was that Paula Radcliffe would be seeking her 4th title on the first Sunday in November. The NYRR hosted a teleconference with Radcliffe and it was apparent that Paula is very fit and very motivated.
In terms of motivation, Radcliffe seems motivated to get the course record in New York and push it closer to 2:20.
"I think the New York course is a bit of a challenge for me. I don't think I've gotten the better of it yet time-wise, and I'd love to do that," said Paula. When asked how fast can she run in New York, Paula said the following: "Well, I just think that really on a good day with good conditions that I should be capable of pushing the course record down around 2:20. I think it's a tough course, but I don't think it's that much slower than London. So I think between London, Chicago, and New York could be closer. I'd like the chance to be able to go out there and do that."
The fact that Radcliffe is the #1 star in women's running by a long shot was apparent while sitting in on the teleconference with Paula, as the response from all over the globe was huge. A Thumbs Up to New York for getting Paula and a Thumbs Up to the NYRR for providing a transcript of the entire Radcliffe interview as there certainly are nuggets of wisdom in the interview that average recap of the teleconference didn't mention. But most importantly a Thumbs Up to Paula for wanting to go for it as she's saving the entire women's field in New York.
At times, we get emails complaining that LetsRun.com doesn't cover women's running on the same level as men's. Our response is simple and always the same. We cover the compelling stories equally. The reason why more ink goes to men's running on our site than women's running has nothing to do with sexism. Hell, the two co-founders of LetsRun.com, Weldon Johnson and Robert Johnson, are probably best known for pacing women to world records in the marathon. The depth in women's running just isn't nearly as strong as men's and thus there are fewer compelling matchups.
Don't believe us?
Below are the 15 elites for the NYC men's field:
Abdi Abdirahman (USA), Martin Lel (KEN), Bolota Asmerom (USA), Patrick Makau (KEN), Jaouad Gharib (MOR), Hendrick Ramaala (RSA), Peter Gilmore (USA), Marilson Gomes Dos Santos (BRZ), Ryan Hall (USA), Brian Sell (USA), Meb Keflezighi (USA), Paul Tergat (KEN), James Kwambai (KEN), Jorge Torres (USA), Jason Lehmkuhle (USA)
Now compare that to the 6 in the women's field:
Paula Radcliffe (GBR), Magdalena Lewy Boulet (USA), Christelle Daunay (FRA), Yuri Kano (JPN), Ludmila Petrova (RUS), Tatyana Petrova (RUS).
US Road Action - Meb & Abdi Impress In Their Last New York Tuneupssparked internet speculation of who will be the first American across the line next month at the ING New York City Marathon- Meb or Hall.
But the beauty of it all is that in reality, a third person can't be ignored when it comes to who will the US title in New York. Last week, Abdi Abdirahman won the US 10 mile title in Minneapolis by running 46:35 to capture the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Miler. Well, guess what 46:35 for 10 miles equates to in the half marathon according to the McMillan conversion - 61:52.
With Meb, Abdi and Hall all in great form, the 2009 ING New York City Marathon certainly is going to be fun to watch.
We want to give major props to the man who was 2nd to Abdi in Minnesota as he ran the performance of his life. The 2nd placer was Team Minnesota member Josh Moen, who ran 46:38. Well done, Josh. The 27-year-old Moen, a former two-time D3 national champ in XC, went into Minnesota with the relatively modest PRs of 13:53 and 28:26, but his 46:38 equates to a sub-28 10k.
The Medtronic Twin Cities race has both a 10 miler and a marathon and the marathon served as the US women's marathon championships, which was captured by Ilsa Paulson in 2:31:49, as she overtook master Colleen De Reuck (2:32:37) in the latter stages of the race.One last thing, it should be noted that Meb actually set the US 20k record in his half marathon win, as his 57:52 split was 2 seconds better than Hall's 57:54 record (although in reality, Hall had to have run much faster for 20k when he set his US half marathon record).
More: Continue Story On Page 2: On page two, we give you our weekly free training trip, celebrate the fact that the Olympics are going to Rio, give out some recommended reads, and get excited about Dathan Ritzenhein and Sammy Wanjiru.