Kenny B Commits To Dubai, Foot Locker, USATF And European XC Mania, Meb “Dusts” Ryan Hall, And No Love For Stephanie Hightower?
December 16, 2014
Last week was quite a week. The 2014 Foot Locker and European cross-country champs were held, little LetsRun.com appeared on the BBC World Service, and a whole lot more.
Previous versions of the Week That Was can be found here.
Questions? Comments? Email us.
Kenenisa Bekele Commits To Dubai And Gets A New Coach – 3 Thoughts
In a Dubai Marathon press release, it came out at the end of the week that 5,000 and 10,000 world record holder Kenenisa Bekele will run his third marathon in Dubai in January. Perhaps more importantly, it was revealed that Bekele is now working with famed marathon coach and LetsRun.com poster Renato Canova, who is with him in Ethiopia.
We’ve got three thoughts about the development.
1) The fact that Bekele has a new coach is a huge positive – irrespective of who the coach actually is.
Canova certainly is a good coach, but to us the fact that Bekele sought a new coach is probably more important than who he actually is working with. Why? Because it shows that Bekele truly still wants to be the best.
Bekele has made a lot of money in his career. One Ethiopian journalist we talked to in 2012 thought Bekele had become a little soft and had lost the fire that once raged in his belly as he’d started to spend more time on his business ventures. This move shows that being the world’s best marathoner is something he truly desires.
Also, there can be no excuses now – Bekele has a proven coach guiding him; one that has coached a slew of Kenyans to great success at 26.2.
2) This is a good move for Bekele from a training standpoint as it keeps him racing and forces him to stay on top of things in the winter.
Before he became the world’s fastest man on the track, Bekele was regarded as totally untouchable in cross country where he won 11 world titles (5 short course).
Bekele’s agent Jos Hermens summed things up perfectly by saying: “In the past Kenenisa was always especially strong when he ran cross-country in the winter. He had to prepare for that, i.e., he had to train with intensity during the winter. That’s also the case for the Dubai Marathon. He recovered fast and the training for Chicago will also help in his build-up for Dubai.”
World XC is on March 28 and Dubai is January 23rd. Bekele only has a little over a month to be ready.
3) Can someone please tell us why Dubai isn’t a
World Marathon Major Abbott World Marathon Major?
With $800,000 in elite prize money alone, Dubai certainly has a lot going for it.
Stat of the Week
19.4% – percentage of Foot Locker boys’ champions that have gone on to the Olympics.
3.2% – percentage of Foot Locker girls’ champions that have gone on to the Olympics.
The boys’ Foot Locker champ Olympians are as follows: 1983 champ Matt Giusto (1996 5000), 1986 champ Marc Davis (1996 steeple), 1987 champ Bob Kennedy (1992 and 1996 5000), 1993 champ Adam Goucher (2000 5000), 1998 champ Jorge Torres (2008 10,000), 1999 and 2000 champ Dathan Ritzenhein (2004 and 2012 10,000, 2008 marathon),
The girls’ Foot Locker champ Olympian list is as follows: 1984 champ Cathy Schiro O’Brien (1988 and 1992 Olympic marathon).
That being said, as we explained in our post-race anlaysis of the 2014 Foot Locker champs, we are very bullish on this year’s champs, Anna Rohrer and Grant Fisher, both of whom won title #2 on Saturday in San Diego.
We don’t want to guarantee it, but expect to see one of them in the Olympics by 2028.
Two Thoughts On 2014 European Cross Country Championships
1) Kate Avery is clearly ready for some big PRs in 2015. Can she get the collegiate 10,000 record?
Avery, who set pbs of 15:27 and 32:33 this year, was second at Euros – losing out in a sprint finish to Gemma Steel. Steel has some nice pbs as she ran road pbs of 31:27 (10k) and 68:13 (13.1) this year. The week before, the woman Avery beat at NCAAs – second-placer Sarah Disanza of Wisconsin – ran 15:20 for 5000. The third-placer at Euros – whom Avery beat by 25 seconds – Meraf Bahta has pbs of 4:01 and 14:59.
Avery clearly is very fit and that should result in some big PBs on the track. A sub-32 10,000 seems a mere formality for Avery. Could Lisa Uhl‘s 10,000 collegiate mark of 31:18.07 be threatened? NCAA XC third-placer Emma Bates of Boise State told us at NCAAs that one of her goals is to break that record, so perhaps Bates and Avery can coordinate and set up a record attempt.
2) African-born runners took the top three spots and five of the top seven in the senior men’s race.
Also in the junior boys’ race, Italy’s Yemaneberhan Crippa, the 18-year-old who was born in Ethiopia and ran 3:43 this summer at World Juniors, dominated and won by 15 seconds.
The “African” success is kind of ironic considering that Europeans were started in 1994 in large part because they were tired of getting destroyed by the African nations at World Cross Country. We wonder if they’ll start holding a ‘European-born only’ cross country championships. That’s a joke. All of the teams that are top 10 at Euro XC should be forced to run the World XC Champs. We’re tired of many of them a) ducking the African competition and b) blowing off one of the greatest events in athletics (World XC).
USATF Club Nats – Third Place Never Felt So Good
A record number of runners competed at the 2014 USATF Club National Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Lehigh. The winners were Laura Thweatt and the Boston Athletic Association on the women’s side and Ryan Hill and Zap Fitness Reebok on the men’s.
But it was great to see two former collegiate stars who haven’t been great of late in third place in both races.
The third-place woman was Angela Bizzarri , the 2009 NCAA 5000 and xc champ as well as 2010 NCAA indoor 3000 champ, who has really struggled as a pro. During her first year as a full-time pro in 2011, Bizzarri ran a 15:16.04 pb but hasn’t come within 20 seconds of that since. Without a team for a while after she left the Mammoth Track Club and Terrence Mahon when he went to the UK, Bizzarri seems to have found her footing with the Brooks Beasts, which she joined at the end of last year. Bizzarri however appeared in the results as “unattached” instead of for the Brooks Beasts.
When we saw Bizzarri as unattached in the results, we reached out to Brooks to make sure she was still with the club. They said yes and responded, “The Beasts are an official group and she was registered accordingly for the meet. Amanda Mergaert was also at the event running for the Beasts and was listed unattached as well.”
An innocent mistake? Or something more petty considering the longterm Nike-USATF relationship and Brooks tension? Who knows. Although the Beasts say this isn’t the first time it has happened. (We’re attempting to contact the people associated with entries at club nats for an explanation).
12/17 Update: We emailed Terry Delph, the entry contact for the meet about Bizarri and Mergaert and he wrote back, “I’m not sure how this happened either, but here’s a guess. There’s a drop-down menu on the USATF race registration page that, unfortunately, is easy to overlook and that allows the registrant to select her club affiliation. If she didn’t notice this and didn’t select a club affiliation, then she automatically goes into the data base as unattached. Ditto for Amanda Mergaert. The software should recognize her club affiliation automatically, since it’s registered in the USATF database, but apparently it doesn’t, which I think is a defect. We had a fair number of similar problems prior to the race for runners who were running on scoring teams, and we had to go back and manually insert the club affiliations.”
The third-placer on the men’s side was German Fernandez, who has also struggled of late to regain his old form. The HS prodigy who was sensational his freshman year at Oklahoma State in 2009 (3:55.02 world junior record in the mile indoors, NCAA 1500 title outdoors plus an American junior record of 13:25.46 for 5000), likewise hasn’t come within 20 seconds of his 5000 pb.
To see both of them healthy and running relatively well in December hopefully means they can get things back on track in 2015. Youth is still on their side. Bizzarri is 26 and Fernandez just turned 24 in November.
Below you will see a photo showing Alisha Williams (left, ended up fourth), Angela Bizzarri (middle, ended up third), and Brianne Nelson (right, ended up fifth) battling it out near the finish at Club XCs.
— Angela Bizzarri (@AngelaBizzarri) December 13, 2014
This was the second straight club XC Win for Laura Thweatt. And Angela Bizarri still has a lot of work to do as although she was did improve to 3rd at club XC nats this year, she was a very respectable 4th last year (but 7 seconds further behind Thweatt).
USATF Board Head Stephanie Hightower Gets Crucified In The Press
Speaking of USATF.
We’ve never met USATF Board head Stephanie Hightower. We’ll also admit it’s easy to pile on bureaucrats. But man oh man, she suffered a tough PR week last week.
We know tens of thousands of our loyal LRC visitors saw our QOD (quote of the day) on Monday which featured the Orange County Register‘s Scott Reid calling for Hightower to step down as USATF President. Reid compared Hightower to the cronies that operate FIFA with this classic line, “Yet even in this age of the Blatter-fication of sports governing bodies, Hightower might be without equal in terms of the disparity between her massive ego and her actual achievements.”
We know less of you clicked on the article and actually read it, and we know even a smaller fraction made it to page 2 of Reid’s article. Some of us even missed page 2 and its worth a read because on page 2, Reid made the claim Hightower had long been acting in her own interests in her old jobs in Ohio. Here are some details from page 2 of Reid’s article:
Hightower’s lack of professionalism and questionable ethics have long been evident.
A 1992 report by Ohio inspector general David D. Sturtz found that Hightower spent 160 hours on the Ohio taxpayers’ dime making 2,695 local and long distance calls while working in the communications office of the Department of Mental Health. Hightower initially contested some of the calls but agreed to drop the matter in a deal in which the state agreed not to seek repayment of the $3,291 that the calls cost in wages and benefits.
On Hightower’s watch, Columbus’ Urban League lost a $7.5 million federal Head Start grant, which accounted for 72 percent of the organization’s budget. During Hightower’s six scandal-ridden years on the Columbus Board of Education, she successfully maneuvered to limit public comments at board meetings, and the district lost 6,000 students to private or charter schools.
The district also enrolled Hightower’s child at a highly sought-after school even though she had not filed the proper paperwork and bypassed the normal lottery system that allocated students into the school, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
According to Reid, Hightower’s recent moves at USATF seem to be very much in line with how she always acts – in her own self-interest first, with little to no regard to public sentiment.
Reid’s utterly devastating critique of Hightower wasn’t the only damning piece written about her in light of USATF’s decision to ignore the 392 to 70 athlete vote to nominate Bob Hersh to the IAAF Council. You can read some of the other below:
More: Reid: Track’s Hightower should step up and step aside
*Lauren Fleshman on USATF Annual Meeting
*Lawyer David Greifinger: A Call To Rescind The Anaheim Vote – Overturn USATF’s IAAF Council Decision
*“Times that try men’s and women’s souls”: some thoughts on the Hightower-Hersh decision, by Elliott Denman,
Messagboard discussion of Hightower: Damning indictment of Stephanie Hightower
*USATF Board of Directors – A Call to Rescind the Vote
Fast Collegiate 5000s Continue
Every December, a few collegians who decide not to take a break immediately after the NCAA Cross Country Championships put up some fast times on the track as they try to grab NCAA qualifiers and relax over the holidays. Last week, we talked about Sarah Disanza and Emily Sisson running 15:20 and 15:21. This week it was the men’s turn.
At Indiana University’s Hoosier Open, Northern Arizona’s Brian Shrader, who didn’t have xc eligibility this fall but won the U.S. 12k Championships instead, lowered his PB from 13:44.55 to 13:40.94 and got the win as four guys broke 14:00.
Athlete/School/Time/2014 NCAA XC Place
1. Brian Shrader Northern Arizona 13:40.94 (N/A)
2. Craig Lutz University of Texas 13:47.09 PB (51st)
3. Edwin Kibichiy Louisville (KEN) 13:53.18 PB (23rd)
4. Caleb Hoover Northern Arizona 13:58.03 (36th)
Of the four times above, only Shrader’s time would have been strong enough to get him into NCAAs based on last year’s results (16 guys ran 13:44 or better).
A couple of ladies also ran fast last week. In the women’s 5000 at Indiana, NCAA 12th-placer Courtney Frerichs of the University of Missouri-Kansas City got a huge pb as she improved by more than 30 seconds, from 16:19.67 to 15:48.12. At Texas A&M’s Reveille Invitational, NCAA fifth-placer Rachel Johnson ran 15:40.45 (pb is 15:39.42 outdoors).
Meb Keflezighi ‘Dusts’ Ryan Hall
The 2014 MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, formerly known as the White Rock Marathon, was held last week. The race was significant for four reasons.
1) The finish in the women’s marathon was certainly entertaining.
See for yourself what we are talking about. Go to the 1:04 mark:
In case you want to know what happened, a relay runner passed the elite women’s winner right before the finish line and stole the glory. The elite women’s winner, Shitaye Gemechu of Ethiopia (2:46:46), was stunned and momentarily thought she’d lost the race. To add insult to injury, race officials tried to initially hand her a Kenyan, not Ethiopian flag.
Of course, we don’t feel bad for Gemechu at all. Why? The former 2:26 Olympian from Ethiopia was banned from 2009 to 2011 for EPO cheating. Imagine the glory and money she denied others. Speaking of EPO cheats, the third-placer in Dallas was EPO cheat and two-time Olympian Liza Hunter-Galvan of New Zealand (2:53:20).
Without EPO, the two former Olympians are relegated to running over 2:45 in races with just $5,000 first prizes.
2) Sara Hall got the win lowered her half-marathon from 72:52 to 72:26.
3) Meb Keflezighi “dusted” Ryan Hall on the opening leg of the marathon relay.
Keflezighi was running for a Dallas Mavericks team and Hall for a Texas Rangers team (the teams don’t seem to have any players on them, just execs). The “dusted” comment comes from an article the Dallas Morning News Debbie Fetterman. What does that mean?
Not much as we think, or at least we hope, they weren’t running very hard (Hall would pace his wife shortly thereafter). The opening leg was 4.25 miles. The race results don’t provide leg-by-leg splits, just an opening 5k split for both teams. Hall hit 5k in 16:37, Meb hit 5k in 16:16, so they both were out for training runs. We’re surprised they just didn’t run together looking at the splits. Hall had the last laugh as in the end the Rangers crushed the Mavericks, 3:01 to 3:10.
4) The race had a male pacer yet only went out in 68:50.
Ridiculous to have a pacer for such a slow race. Let them race, particularly when it’s a 2:17 race. Or tell them there is no prize money if they don’t run under 2:20. They’ll find a way to get there.
Putting Paula Radcliffe’s Marathon World Record in Perspective
The 34th National Women’s Corporate Ekiden Championships were held on Sunday in Japan. Japan’s top pro women’s teams battled it out over the 42.195km marathon distance with six runners running the marathon distance.
Team Denso repeated as champions in a new course record time.
2:16:12 – or 27 seconds slower than Radcliffe’s marathon world record.
BBC World Discusses Doping Scandal and LetsRun.com
News continued to come out last week from the multi-part German TV Documentary alleging a huge doping conspiracy in Russia and allegations the IAAF did not follow up for retargeted testing 150+ suspicious blood values from 2006-2008. More surely is to come from this story.
The story is big news in the track and field world and we were pleasantly surprised to hear BBC world radio discussing it last Friday while we were listening to XM Radio. We were even more surprised when the BBC started pondering why IAAF General Secretary Nick Davies wrote a passionate letter to LetsRun.com, a “niche website”- where he strongly denied allegations of an IAAF cover-up and called the former IAAF official who showed the names to the press “disgraceful” and “cowardly.” – instead of releasing a more traditional press release. You can read Nick’s letter to LetsRun.com here and listen to the 2 minutes of BBC commentary here.
As to why Nick wrote us, we think it’s a testament to you, the most educated and passionate track and field fans in the world. As LRC’s Wejo said, “(LetsRun.com is) the largest journalistic voice in the world that covers the sport daily and… If anyone is going to get beyond headlines of a ‘cover-up’ it is educated fans of the sport and that is what you’ll find on LetsRun.com.”
Also, part 1 of the German TV Documentary (on Russia) is now broken up itself into 4 parts on youtube with English subtitles. If you’d like to watch click here.
Quotes of the Week (that weren’t quote of the day)
#1 – Meet The Edward Snowden of Doping
“[Vitaly Stepanov] is an absolutely wonderful person. He is like Edward Snowden in the world of sport. He wants to fight against doping. Vitaly was very convincing. He worked at Rusada to try to clean up the sport from illegal drugs. However, they covered up everything he was trying to do. Yulia Rusanova, who would become his wife, was also forced to take these tablets. He had no financial gain to make. He just wanted to tell the truth and be honest.”
– German journalist Hajo Seppelt talking about Vitaly Stepanov, the man who helped him uncover systematic doping in Russia. Since his three documentaries have aired on German television, Seppelt says he’s been inundated with more proof or Russian doping.
#2 – Six Years Off Isn’t Too Much
“I took a complete break, got some partying in, had two children, got a mortgage and opened a boutique locally with a friend, I had a lot on my plate.”
– Ann Marie McGlynn, the Irish captain at the European xc champs last weekend, talking to Ireland’s the Independent about the six-year break from the sport that she took. McGlynn got back into running to relieve stress when her child Alfie had a ‘touch and go’ medical problem.
McGlynn, who ran 16:07 at age 34 this summer, placed 46th at Euros.
#3 – Haile G Wants To Take One Last Crack At The Marathon But Admits It’s Hard To Meet The Fans’ Expectations
“I’m thinking to run another marathon, just to check myself. For the time being, I’m fine. I’ve been enjoying a rest, doing some business. I’m not training so much, not so hard. Of course, I train every day, mostly twice, unless I’m really busy, and I skip the second one. I don’t know where [I will run my marathon] at the moment, but something at the end of May, or Berlin (late September), just for myself. The problem is everybody expects me to be in front, so it’s not easy. They know Haile Gebrselassie is a front runner, and if they don’t see you at the front…..?”
– Haile Gebrselassie talking to Pat Butcher about how he wants to up his training and go for one last fast marathon in 2015. After that, Haile, who in the past had said he was unsure about a career in politics as “the moment you go into politics, immediately 50% of people hate you,” said he will indeed go into politics.
#4 – Some People Are Just Too Moral To Dope – We Hope
“Twenty years ago, Sebastian Coe was sitting at Victoria’s Centennial Stadium, the track-and-field venue for the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, when news came through that Diane Modahl, a British athlete who seemed to epitomize all that was good in the sport, had failed a drugs test and was being sent home.
“Visibly shocked, Coe sighed: ‘If Diane Modahl is on drugs then there is no hope for athletics.’ As it happened, Modahl, then the 28-year-old reigning Commonwealth Games 800m champion, was exonerated after a lengthy appeal process. It transpired there had been serious flaws in the testing procedure.”
– excerpt from a piece by Alan Hubbard in the UK’s The Independent on Seb Coe. There certainly are runners that everyone just believes can’t be on drugs.
#5 – European Distance Runners Have Just Given Up
“The Europeans, to a large degree, have given up. If you look at the Americans, they’re getting back up there, and they’re training hard. I think athletes have to go back and look at what training was done in the 70s and 80s, increase the volume, increase the intensity; we were knocking out 110, 120 miles a week, and doing quality as part of that.
“We were obviously training very hard, but we also believed we could beat them. Sometimes we were successful, sometimes we weren’t. I think the real issue now is the number of East Africans that Europeans are up against. We raced five Kenyans and five Ethiopians, but they’re coming in waves now.”
– John Treacy, 1984 Olympic marathon silver medalist (and brother of Providence coach Ray Treacy), talking to Cathal Dennehy last week before the European cross country championships. In some ways, the fact that the European xc champs exist shows you the lowered expectations of the Europeans. Many countries don’t even send teams to World XC but are happy to compete against anyone not born in Africa.
Kevin Sullivan Is Now 40 and Officially a Runner
Canadian 1500m, mile and 3k record holder Kevin Sullivan ran the Honolulu Marathon on a whim this past weekend and ran 2:40:22 in wind with strong winds. Athletics Illustrated reports about Sullivan’s run. Sullivan and Nick Willis and Will Leer were in town as guests of the marathon and Willis and Leer asked Sullivan, now the Michigan XC coach, if he wanted to run long with them. Sullivan decided if he was going to run 16-18 miles, he might as well do the whole marathon, so that’s what he did running a 2:40:22 negative split. What Athletics Illustrated does not mention but astute LRC visitor David Graham notes, is that Sullivan, now 40, also won the master’s division with his 2:40:22.
Kevin Sullivan is now officially a “real” runner in the eyes of most people since he has finally completed a marathon (We’ve always said when a pro tells someone they are a runner the two questions they get asked are “Have you been to the Olympics?” and “Have you run a marathon?”). Asked whether he will take the marathon seriously, Sullivan told Chris Kelsall of Athletics Illustrated, “There is a zero chance of taking the marathon seriously. I only decided on Friday that I was going to run the full distance.”
Up front the times were slow in Honolulu because the winds and rain but Wilson Chebet and Joyce Chepkirui picked up the $40,000 first place prizes which is the fourth most in America, after the Majors: Boston, Chicago and New York.
Quotes Of The Day & Last Week’s Homepages:
Note: To see a particular day’s homepage, click on the hyperlink of the date. The hyperlink below the date on the quotes will take you to that particular article – not that day’s homepage.
“[Stephanie] Hightower is the poster child both for why U.S. track, despite its competitive success, has continued to fade from the radar of mainstream America, and an increasingly all-too-common class of Olympic and international sports officials who have betrayed what’s best for their sport to chase their own self-serving agendas. Yet even in this age of the Blatter-fication of sports governing bodies, Hightower might be without equal in terms of the disparity between her massive ego and her actual achievements.”
– Editorial in the Orange County Register by Scott Reid criticizing USATF President Stephanie Hightower for taking the place of Bob Hersh in nomination for IAAF Council, despite 85% of voting USATF members choosing Hersch for the job. *MB: Damning indictment of Stephanie Hightower
“Last year was a really fun race and a great battle with John (Dressel). I didn’t want to leave it that late this time. We’ve been working on hill training and really preparing for this course. We’ve been preparing for this and I want to thank my coach for what he’s done.”
– Grant Fisher, after becoming a legend and winning Foot Locker title #2. This year Fisher pushed before the top of the hill and made a mockery of the field on the way home.
BBC Reporter: “It is slightly unusual. He feels very strongly about this clearly. The usual protocol is to issue an official statement and not such a passionate defense of IAAF policy particular to a niche website mainly known to people who follow the sport or those within the industry … It is a surprise.”
– BBC World Radio discussing why IAAF General Secretary Nick Davies wrote his letter Thursday to LetsRun.comwhere he strongly denied allegations of an IAAF cover-up of 150 suspicious blood tests and called the former IAAF official who showed the names to the press “disgraceful” and “cowardly.” Audio and text.
“You do get a lot of offers (from women) for sure, it’s one of the perks. You try to stay quiet, but I love women, and you try not to take advantage, but it’s hard. I am trying to find a girlfriend now, I think I am getting to that age right now, 28, where I need to find somebody and I want to have a child. It’s that time, I am trying to focus on having a family. I’d like three or four kids maybe, it’s always good to have brothers and sisters to look out for you.”
– Usain Bolt talking about being ready to settle down and have a wife and kids.
“I compare it to a fog lifting. I realized I probably wasn’t going to be too excited to look back in 10 years and see I dedicated my entire young adult life to a sport. … The only reason I kept my grades up was to continue to run. … It’s really difficult for a lot of guys just because of the culture we live in, the sports culture of when you walk away from a sport it’s kind of like you’re failing. There’s a lot more to life than just running. Some guys are going to have a professional career, but walking away from a sport isn’t admitting failure. It’s not. It’s enjoying it for a period of your life and moving on from there.”
– Kenny Cormier, who 10 years ago today won the Foot Locker National Championship. Arkansas coach John McDonnell said, “He had it all – the head, the body” yet three years later he was out of the sport completely and soon in the Marines as a sniper. Where is he today? This is his story.
“I like how the first person over the line is the winner. I like how the fastest person is the winner. It’s cut and dry. … I just love it. Yeah, I just love it. You go out not too happy and come back really happy and calmed down and much better. Once I get down to a pace that’s good and I’m running along, I forget how hard it is and all that. It’s a lot of fun.”
– Joshua Manning, a teenager with autism, explaining how much enjoyment can be found in the simplicity of running. Manning is running his first marathon this Sunday at the Honolulu Marathon and is shooting for under 3 hours.
“I looked at those little guys, and thought, I can beat them. But they were really tough, so I couldn’t at first. I couldn’t even train with them. I trained by myself, and after a while I went to a half marathon, but I had to drop out. But I saw my mistakes, and I learned.”
– 41-year-old Kenyan marathoner Kenneth Mungara. Mungara was a barber to many famous marathoners until his early 30s when he decided to start running as he figured he could beat them. He ran his first marathon at 33, ran 2:07 at age 37, and this weekend won $50,000 by winning the Singapore marathon as a master.
Questions? Comments? Email us.