Where Your Dreams Become Reality
LetsRun.com: The Week That Was In Running: December 7 - December 13, 2009
December 14, 2009 - This week we talk about Foot Locker, European XC, USATF club nationals, Nicole Teter, Dathan Ritzenhein's future retirement and more.
Foot Locker CC - Verzbicas - A Studly
As for the actual races, the big news is that on the men's side there is a very special runner in Lukas Verzbicas. Verzbicas made waves last year as he set a national record in the indoor 5k before winning the Nike outdoor 2 mile title as a freshman. Well, on Saturday in San Diego, he became the first sophomore boy to win Foot Locker and he did so in totally dominating fashion, as he crushed the field by 14.8 seconds.
In reality, we shouldn't call Verzbicas a sophomore for - as he himself pointed out - he is the age of your normal high school junior (Verzbicas is 16, as he was born on January 6th of 1993). And we give Verzbicas major props and a big Thumbs Up for not hiding from the mini age controversy surrounding him, as was the case last year with Solomon Haile.
Regardless, Verzbicas is a special talent. Prior to Saturday, only two other underclassmen had won Foot Locker on the boys side - Abdirizak Mohamud (1996), and Dathan Ritzenhein (1999). It's worth noting that both of them went on to defend their titles the following year.
Although we guess to be fair, we should note that Verzbicas' winning time of 15:07 is tied for the 9th-slowest in the 31 editions of Foot Locker.
As a result, we feel confident in saying that, barring injury or a focus on the triathlon (where Verzbicas is also a national champ), Verzbicas almost certainly in our minds is a lock to win three straight Foot Locker crowns. Unbelievable. It's good to see America with another "Ritz-like" talent. In 7 years, after the 2016 Olympics, when Ritz's best days may behind him, as he'll be 33, Verzbicas will be coming into his prime, as he'll be 23.
A pre-race profile of Verzbicas was written on southtownstar.com. Check out the praise Verzbicas gets from his coach John O'Malley, who goes at great length to praise Verzbicas for his qualities, not just his amazing talent level.
"Lukas does all of the things others are unwilling to do. Therefore, when it comes time for the starting line he has a powerful understanding of his ability. While most at a starting line are questioning whether they are ready or have done all that they can do to be ready, Lukas has answers. He eats flawlessly, he sleeps right, he trains right, and he prepares mentally right. So on race day, he is right."
That is good praise, but it gets even better:
"Talent is not enough as a runner, and talent is not enough to get satisfaction from as a coach either. Lukas is going to rewrite all of the records in American distance running, but what makes it enjoyable is that he is a hard worker, a good teammate, and most of all a good person. Lukas might be the best distance runner in American high school history. Trophies gather dust, but decency and caring for others grows richer with time."
Being a special talent is required if you are going to be a sub-13:00/sub-27:00 type, but talent only gets you so far. Intangibles make all the difference in the world and Verzbicas seems to have them as well. He was relaxed at the race, humble aftewards but very appreciative and understanding of how big of an honor it is to be a Foot Locker champ (he said, "Winning Foot Locker is like winning the biggest thing ever."). Qualities like that will go a long, long way.
We just hope that next year the Rosa twins skip Nike so we can get a Rosa/Verzbicas showdown.
One other thing worth pointing out was that the Northeast men were awful in 2010 at Foot Locker - their highest finisher was only 15th. Admittedly, if Rosa hs been there it would have been slightly better, but college coaches all fall have been saying it's a down year in general in terms of talent, but particularly in the NE.
Girls Race - A Real Thriller
In the girls race, the video on the right tells the whole story.
The boys race may have been a blowout, but the girls race was a real barn-burner. Junior Chelsey Sveinsson of Dallas, Texas built a decent lead by the 3 mile mark, but Foot Locker is 5k and Megan Goethals' furious sprint over the final 150 meters got her the victory at the tape as she won by 0.2.
We're sure Sveinsson, who won the Nike cross race last year before finishing fourth at Foot Locker, is upset by the loss, but in our minds, it might actually be good for her. As a junior, she'll now have something to fuel her training whereas Goethals is a senior.
- 2004 Foot Locker cross-country champion Ken Cormier talking about why he forsake collegiate running to join the Marines in a fantastic piece on him by ESPN Rise's Dave Devine. Just 5 years ago, Ken was on top of the HS running world, now he is a sniper in the Marines who is enjoying some much deserved rest and relaxation with his family in Arizona after a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The piece is a must-read in our book.
It should be noted, given the talk about Verzbicas' age, that Comier had just turned 19 when he won Foot Locker in 2004.
I just wanted to go out hard, because I know that's how I race better, to just go out and hang on for as long as possible.
expected them to all come, but luckily they didn't. I was running
scared. I didn't know where they were or how far behind. I thought they
might have a quick last lap."
Yelling's win certainly was inspiring and we enjoyed reading the BBC recap of Euros. That being said, we found it odd that the BBC Recap mentioned the fact that men's winner, Spain's Alemayehu Bezabeh, was born in Ethiopia. Only odd in the sense that they didn't then mention that the runner-up, Mo Farah, was born in Somalia. Can you say double standard?
In the men's race, Bezabeh, didn't pull clear of Farah until the final 600, but he ended up 17 seconds ahead, as Farah was totally spent at the end and collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital after making it to the finish line. 8-time European champion Sergey Lebid was 3rd.
More: *Under Pressure, Steph Twell Fades To 11th In Under-23 Women's Race *Mo Farah Duels With Bezabeh But Collapses Just Across The Finish Line In 2nd *35-Year-Old Hayley Yelling's Year Off Pays Off With Shock Senior Victory
"I know when I had my best season when I changed coaches to Gags (Frank Gagliano), he had me doing 3,000/5,000-meter strength work and from that, put in a little bit of speed. That's when not only my 800-meter time came down, but my 1,500 and then I did a really good two-mile as well."
In the men's race, the team standing were reversed as Zap Fitness got the win over BRC/adidas. Zap had a great day as they went 1-2 in the team standings to earn a comfortable win thanks to an individual win by David Jankowski and a third place showing by David Nightingale (NYAC's Josh Simpson was 2nd overall). A great way for Jankowski to end a great fall as back on Halloween he ran a 28:27 pb on the track
Anyway, last week, he had a great column on the Tiger Woods situation. We won't get into the whole article here, but he included a paragraph where he gave his theory on celebrities. Many of them are dorks just like you and me but because they are famous, they learn to shed their dorky image.
His theory is really quite insightful and entertaining. We were wondering if it applied to runners. So below, please find Simmons writing about celebrities. We've changed a few words to make it be about fast runners.
This seems like a good time to mention my theory about
Seems pretty accurate to us. He then went on to provide the perfect example of an a actual person to support this theory. Now this is where we are asking for your help. We want you to email us your suggestions of a runner who really is a dork but since he's now fast, we all think he or she is relatively cool.
Maybe we'll get the guts to share your suggestions next week. If we get scared of alienating the top pros in the sport, well then at least we'll get to share a great chuckle with you.
Here is Simmons' example:
I am writing to let you know about a promotion Washington State University is putting on in order to help one of their sick student athletes. Sophomore Shawn Swartz, a Canadian Junior Champion is undergoing treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Washington State University is selling wristbands for five dollars. All the information is found on the Cougar website http://wsucougars.cstv.com/sports/c-track/spec-rel/092409aaa.html. I guess I was merely hoping you could post a little blurb on your website in order to help a young man in need.
Washington State University class of 2008
Recommended Reads/Listens From Last Week
Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes Of The Day - Day-By-Day:
just want to say that I'm the first sophomore, but my age is a junior,
so I just don't want to disrespect the other athletes."
"Lukas does all of the things others are unwilling to do. Therefore, when it comes time for the starting line he has a
powerful understanding of his ability. While most at a starting line
are questioning whether they are ready or have done all that they can
do to be ready, Lukas has answers."