Stillwater High School graduate Sean Graham was pleased with the opening race of his indoor season last Friday. The 3rd place finisher in the 3000 meters at last year's USA Indoor Championship finished a close second to Oregon Track Club teammate Bolota Asmerom in 13:46.70 in Seattle.
"The pace felt controlled and it turned out well," Graham (pictured) told DtB, "13:46 in flats indoors in the first week of February is a good starting point."
Graham's "starting point," at least as far as indoor track goes, is also his finale. Although the William and Mary alum has always gravitated to indoor racing in the winter, this year his focus is on cross country. Graham hopes to make the USA squad for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland and reunite with high school coach Scott Christensen who will coach the USA senior men's team.
"Once I heard that Scott was selected to be the mens' coach for the US World Cross Country team, I had to forgo indoor and take a shot at cross," Graham explained. "The opportunity to be coached by Scott again, this time at the highest level, is something I couldn't pass up."
Graham thinks the training he's doing now under OTC mentor Frank Gagliano will put him in good stead for overland racing at the USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego on February 16.
"With such a large emphasis on strength thus far, this change is working well for training too," he said. "Although 12k isn't exactly my ideal distance, I truly think I have a good shot at making the team."
Graham didn't come by his current fitness without some trials and tribulations, however.
"Unfortunately I did quite a number on my Achilles last spring and summer and have had a bit of a time figuring out how to take care of it and train with what has been determined to be "chronic tendonitis," Graham said. "But through a bit of trial and error, a lot of time in the pool, and a lot of babying of the Achilles we have come to a general solution of how to take care of it to the point where it doesn't inhibit training."
"Because of this I got a bit of a late start on my feet this fall but did have a decent base of cardiovascular training in the pool," he continued. "Things have been coming a long quite well over the last 2-3 months though and I'm starting to feel like I’m getting towards the shape I need to be in. I have been able to put a lot of miles in (both weekly totals and more consistent weeks at higher totals) than ever before and am really looking to get this season started.
Graham is one of four Minnesota-bred athletes training with the OTC in Eugene, Oregon, the site of this summer's Olympic Track and Field Trials. Also outposted there are St. Paul Academy and Summit School grad Cack Ferrell, who won the 3000m race in Seattle, Minnetonka High School alum Will Leer, who recently cracked the 4:00 standard in the mile, and former Gopher Adam Steele, a quartermiler-turned-800 meter runner.
Graham admits the Olympic year has sneaked up on him a bit, despite residing in "Tracktown, USA."
"I remember very specifically thinking after the 2004 Trials, "Wow, four years is a long time to continue training, I'm not sure if I can make it that long," he admitted, "and now all of a sudden it is 5 months away. Very exciting times."
"But, like I said earlier, preparations and training are going very well. I think that I am a lot stronger now and will be even more than ever come this spring. And like everyone else that has made the Trials, I'm going to be running like hell to get a spot on that team this summer."
Photo by Sean Hartnett.