Without Coach or Sponsor Wieczorek Makes USA 800m Final

By David Monti
June 26 , 2011
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved


EUGENE, Oregon (26-Jun) -- Mark Wieczorek took to the track at Hayward Field on Friday for the second heat of the 800m semi-finals of the USA Outdoor Championships here wearing a tattered light blue singlet with the words "Playin' in Dirt" stenciled on the front.  Lacking a regular shoe-company sponsorship, Wieczorek and training partners Tim Ramirez and Matt Scherer invented the name for their ragtag group because they thought it best described their situation.

"We didn't have a coach and kind of me, Matt and Tim just bounced ideas off of each other, kind of built our workout regimen off of that," said the blue-eyed athlete with floppy light brown hair on Friday.  He continued: "The three of us were going to start a blog, and we didn't know what to call it.  And right across the street from us, it's all concrete there.  So, we found a dirt track, and dirt hills and were doing a lot of workouts there... So, we called it "Playin' in the Dirt."

Wieczorek, 26, was formerly attached to the Oregon Track Club Elite program here, but was let go.  He now lives in Canoga Park, Calif., just north of Los Angeles where he trains, coaches a high school team in Newbury Park part-time, works at a running store, and helps the website RunnerSpace.com when they need him (as does Scherer).

But this weekend, Wieczorek is a serious runner, and a good one.  In Thursday's preliminary round, he ran the fastest qualifying time of any of the 26 athletes who competed: 1:46.82.  In Friday's semi-finals, he ran more patiently and took second in heat 2 to Khadevis Robinson in 1:49.22.  Could an athlete outside of the mainstream coaching and sponsorship system with a 1:46.46 career best make the national team by finishing in the top-3 in today's final?

"I'm hoping," said Wieczorek, flashing a boyish grin.  "That was one of the big goals, to get a shoe contract going into the Trials here. (I've got) nothing to lose."

In college, Wieczorek ran for MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Ks., a school within the NAIA system, the much smaller of the two USA collegiate athletic systems.  As a senior in 2007, he finished third in the NAIA Indoor Championships, and fourth at the Outdoor Championships.  At the USA Outdoor Championships the same year, he finished last in his semi-final, and at the 2008 Olympic Trials, he finished seventh in his heat.  His personal best was a middling 1:47.14.

In 2009 he managed to get accepted to the Oregon Track Club, first under coach Frank Gagliano and then his successor, Mark Rowland (Scherer was also in the program).  Both athletes learned a lot about training in the Eugene group, and apply those principles now.  He ran his 1:46.46 personal best in May of this year, winning the Ponce Grand Prix in Puerto Rico in a meet record.

"A lot of the stuff we've been basing off of what we learned from Gags and coach Rowland the last year, especially," Wieczorek said.  "We really learned a lot."

A podium finish for Wieczorek here today is an admitted long shot.  The loaded field includes three-time defending champion Nick Symmonds, four-time national champion Khadevis Robinson, NCAA champion Robby Andrews, and NCAA runner-up Charles Jock.  But for Wieczorek, just being in the final is already a big reward.

"Today was my final; Sunday is just a bonus," he said on Friday, smile intact.  "I'm going to go out there, run with everything, and I hope it's enough."

Sunday:
Men's 800m:
LRC Men's 800m: Nick Symmonds Makes it Four in a Row
Women's 800m: LRC Women's 800m: Alysia Goes Wire to Wire
Women's Steeplechase: LRC Emma Coburn Wins, Stephanie Garcia Falls, and Hey Delilah Goes to Korea

Saturday USATF Coverage
Men's 1500m: LRC Matt Centrowitz Jr Pulls Away from Bernard Lagat
Women's 1500m: LRC The Thrill Victory (Morgan Uceny) and Agony of Defeat (Christin Wurth Thomas)
Men's Steeple: LRC Billy Nelson's Return to Oregon is Successful

Friday: USATF Coverage
Men' 5000m: LRC Men's 5,000m: Bernard Lagat's 3:57.80 Close Wins A Thriller Over Chris Solinsky And Galen Rupp
Women's 5000m: LRC Women's 5,000m: Molly Huddle Impresses, Hastings And Bizzarri Continue The Mammoth Mojo
800m Semis: LRC All the Favorites Advance And KD Asks For Some Energy From His Fans In The Final
*Ashton Eaton Sets PR With Decathlon Win, Olympic Gold Medallist Bryan Clay Falls In 110 Hurdles And Doesn't Finish The Meet
*Walter Dix Just Outleans Justin Gatlin To Win US Champs 100 
*SI's Tim Layden Takes a Look at Justin Gatlin's Situation
*Post Race Interviews

Complete Thursday USATF Coverage: *10k Photos
Men's 10k: LRC Men's 10,000m: Galen Rupp Closes Out Matt Tegenkamp With 1:52.5 Final 800m
Women's 10k: LRC Women's 10,000m: Shalane Flanagan Goes Wire to Wire Over Kara Goucher and Field
1500m Round 1 and Men's Steeple Round1: LRC Thursday's 1500m Heats: 2011 US Leader Russell Brown Bows Out
800M Round 1: LRC: 800m Round 1 Goes According to Form

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