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LetsRun.com: The Week That Was In Running: December 7 - December 13, 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.

December 14, 2009 - This week we talk about Foot Locker, European XC, USATF club nationals, Nicole Teter, Dathan Ritzenhein's future retirement and more.

Last Week's Homepages
*Mon (Dec. 14)*Sun (Dec. 13) *Sat (Dec. 12) *Fri (Dec. 11) *Thu (Dec. 10) *Wed (Dec. 9) *Tue (Dec. 8)

Foot Locker CC - Verzbicas - A Studly Sophomore Winner For The Boys & A Girls Race For The Ages
The Big News last week on the US front was the biggest race of the high school year was held - the 2010 Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships. We are big fans of Foot Locker and in some ways think it's news that, despite Nike Cross's efforts, Foot Locker is still the daddy of them all.

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.

More: LRC: Sophomore Lukas Verzbicas Smashes FL Finals As Goethels Edges Sveinsson At Line In Girls Race *Boys Results *Girls Results *LRC Photos *Race Video *Verzbicas Quotes *LRC Mboard: Lukas Verzbicas is pure class says he's really a Junior age wise. *LRC Mboard: How old is Lukas Verzbicas? *Foot Locker CC Website

Quote Of The Week

"Ever since I was young, I always knew that I wanted to do something in the military. I just felt - growing up the way I did, I owed something to my country for giving me so many great opportunities. I come from a big family with a lot of little brothers and sisters, and just being able to go out and play ball in the street, live a carefree childhood, I feel itís my duty to preserve that, so that my little brothers can have that, and my children can have that, and their children can have that."

- 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.

A Darn Nice Quote But Not Quite Quote Of The Week (European XC)

"I can't believe it, I feel great. I'm in shock, but I said that after Liverpool as well.

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.

I 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."

- Britian's Hayley Yelling talking after winning the 2010 European cross-country championships in shock fashion. The 35-year-old Yelling, who also won the 2004 European title, retired after last year's European cross-country championships as she said didn't just want to be someone on a national team but wanted to be super-competitive.

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

Weekly Free Training Advice

Last week, Runnersworld.com had a brief chat with two-time US Olympian at 800 meters Nicole Teter. Her view on what led to her best year at the 800 is something we 100% agree with - overdistance training.

"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."

USATF Club Nats

USATF Club XC Nationals are always a fun affair and last week they were held in Lexington, Kentucky. In the woman's race, Serena Burla got the a 13-second individual win as the Boulder Running Compnay/adidas edged Zap Fitness for the team titles as 48 year old Linda Somers Smith was 6th. yes 48 years old and she was 6th.

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
More: *
LRC: Messageboard Thread on 2009 USATF Club XC Nationals *Women's Results *Men's Results *Race Recap From USATF *Masters Results

Celebrity Runners

We here at LRC are big fans of ESPN writer Bill Simmons because a) he can write and b) he is the guy who consistently won't get over the fact that the NBA refs stole an NBA title from our beloved Dallas Mavericks.

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 celebrities fast runners: Take the dorkiest people on the planet, make them famous fast, and within four or five years, they wouldn't be dorky anymore. Why? As soon as they became famous really fast, their entire lives revolve around awkward interactions with people who are either (A) terrified to meet them (because they are way slower), (B) kissing up to them, (C) interviewing them or (D) just as famous fast as they are. They become conditioned to it after a while. Eventually, their confidence swells and they morph into someone else -- in any situation, in any room, they're usually the alpha dog, and they know it.

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:

The perfect example is Clay Aiken, the dorky crooner from "American Idol" who slowly morphed into this generation's Barry Manilow. Ever see Aiken on a talk show now? He's as smooth as Merv Griffin in his prime. That's what fame brings, a distinctive poise from being in control all the time. Eventually, you can't help but become secure and self-assured. It's inevitable.

More: *Bill Simmons Column On Tiger

Help A Sick Runner Out

Before we get to the Recommended Reads and Quotes Of The Day, we wanted to share an email we got from LetsRun.com visitor Chris Wiliams. It's pretty self-explanatory and we hope some of you are feeling charitable during the Christmas season.

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.

Chris Williams

Washington State University class of 2008

Recommended Reads/Listens From Last Week
LRC Training Talk - Is Your Training Repeatable? In 2010, we at LetsRun.com hope to make a huge push to talking more about training. To get things started, Cornell mid-distance and distance coach and LRC co-founder Robert Johnson wrote an article titled "Is Your Training Repeatable?"
*LetsRun.com Training Talk Webcast #1 1st Episode Featured Guest: Coach John Kellogg
LRC: Message Board Thread On Rojo's Training Talk Article
*Nobby Hashizume Writes About The History Of Fukuoka Marathon
*Feature On 2004 Foot Locker Champ Ken Cormier Arizona's Ken Cormier became the surprise 2004 FL finals champ before going to Arkansas and becoming a XC All-American. But somewhere, things didn't feel right and Cormier went home and decided to enlist in the Marines. After serving the US in Afghanistan, Cormier is back and talked to Dye Stat ESPN RISE writer Dave Devine, who wrote a great piece about the guy who went from 73rd in his FL region to the National Champion.
*Gavyn Nero Heads To Baylor From Trinidad And Tobago - As A Middle Distance Runner Nero ran 1:47 and 3:47 in HS and since Georgetown's spots were filled, he headed to Baylor.

Remembering The Last Week With The Quotes Of The Day - Day-By-Day:

Monday: "I 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."
- 16-year-old Lukas Verzbicas pointed this out after his 15-second crushing of the Foot Locker Championships. In 31 runnings of the Foot Locker Championships, only 2 juniors have won the boys championships. Watch the video interview below.

Sunday: "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."
- Lukas Verzbicas' coach John O'Malley before the race. Verzbicas won the Foot Locker Cross-Country Championships by 15 seconds, becoming the first sophomore boy to win the 31-year-old national championship race and first non-senior to win in 10 years.

"There is something about Wesley Korir that Fred Whitehouse and his University of Louisville properties maintenance crew noted almost immediately: 'The positive feeling that he gave us all.' "
- Selection from Katya Cengel's article from The Courier-Journal on Kenyan Wesley Korir.

"I've always been a big dreamer, and I'm a realistic dreamer. Even when I'm presented adverse situations, I'm a really positive thinker and I think just with positivity, a lot of things can happen. I visualize daily achieving certain goals that I have. Not once in a blue moon; daily, I think about what I want to do and how I want to love my life."
- Shalane Flanagan in a Brief Chat with Peter Gambaccini where she explains her plans to move up to the marathon and her approach to training.

"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. As far as talent, I think Lukas' event is the marathon and I think he could be an Olympic medalist in the marathon some day."
- Lukas Verzbicas' Sandburg HS coach John O'Malley. Verzbicas ran 8:57 indoor 2-mile and 14:18 indoor 5000m last year and still is short of his 17th birthday. He'll run the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships this weekend against, among others, Nike Cross National champion Craig Lutz.

"There are more than the 5 big marathons. Fukuoka is, for sure, one of them."
- Nobby Hashizume quoting Bill Rodgers in a piece about the history of the Fukuoka marathon. Hasizume tells stories about watching some of the Fukuoka Marathon battles on television and live from back in the '70s to Wanjiru's and Kebede's wins in the past few years

"I spoke earlier of being in the business of inspiration. It's inspiring to go on letsrun and see a number next to a name. I like the idea of running fast in this country."
- 15:33 5ker Julia Lucas in a funny chat with Runner's World's Peter Gambaccini. The context of this quote is she's saying she'd rather run fast in the spring/summer in America than spend her summer chasing times in insignificant European races. In a serious breach of journalistic integrity, Employee #1 developed a crush on Lucas during the chat ... too bad she's married

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