Friday, August 29, 2008

#1-Ranked Lakeville North Wins on Tie-Breaker

The Lakeville North girls' cross country team, ranked #1 in the Class AA pre-season poll, eked out a tie-breaker victory over #6 Minnetonka after the two squads finished in a 74-74 deadlock at the season-opening Irish Invitational this morning in Rosemount.

The Panthers won the meet because their #6 runner, senior Marie Ferguson who finished 28th, edged Minnetonka's #6, sophomore Colette Celichowski who was 31st. #7-ranked Chaska finished 3rd in the meet with 118 points, unranked Wayzata was 4th at 167, unranked Eastview was 5th with 180.

In boys varsity competition, unranked White Bear Lake upset #11 Minnetonka 50-91. Chaska was third with 90.

Stillwater sophomore Caitlin Hewes won the girls individual title running 12:04 over the two mile course. Chris Massey of host Rosemount was the boys medalist running 10:06 for the same distance.

Full results of the meet are HERE, thanks to RaceberryJam.

Archived video coverage of the meet -- the first Minnesota high school cross country meet to be broadcast live on the web -- is HERE, thanks to the Rosemount Town Pages.

Did you watch the live coverage? Tell us what you thought ...

Photo of Irish Invite start by Charlie Mahler.

Watch Today's Irish Invite Live ...

Down the Backstretch is on assignment this morning at Rosemount High School’s Irish Invitational. We’re helping out with the Rosemount Town Pages’ live web-cast of the event.

Town Pages’ coverage is slated to begin at 9:00 a.m. The varsity races begin at 10:40 (girls) and 11:05 (boys.) You can find the Rosemount Town Pages HERE. Irish Invite video will be archived for future viewing there as well.

Look for a wrap-up of the meet later in the day on DtB. Five of the top seven ranked Class AA girls' team will be competing in Rosemount -- #1 Lakeville North, #3 White Bear Lake, #4 Prior Lake, #6 Minnetonka, and #7 Chaska. Minnetonka appears to be the class of the boys' field as the only ranked team at #11.

Not Enough? … If you need even more high school cross country this morning than the Town Pages can provide, we recommend THIS thread on Dyestat’s Minnesota forum. Collected there are lots of results and links to results from the high school season’s opening week.

We also recommend THIS recent high school cross country preview from the Star-Tribune.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Minnesota State - Mankato Ranked #6 in D2

Minnesota State - Mankato, the 5th place finishers at last year's NCAA Division II men's cross country championships, opens the 2008 season ranked #6 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association pre-season poll released yesterday.

Defending champions Abilene Christian of Texas lead the poll, which can be found HERE. The University of Minnesota - Duluth, the only other Minnesota men's squad in the rankings, opens the season at #24.

UMD's women harriers are the only ranked Minnesota women's squad in D2 at #23. Full women's rankings are HERE.

Division III ... The St. Olaf College men top the local schools in the D3 rankings, HERE, at #23. Bethel University is ranked #34.

The St. Thomas women are the lone Minnesota school in the D3 women's poll, HERE, at #23.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Team USA Minn: Enter Moen and Yuot;
Exit Andrew Carlson and Brad Lowery

After receiving numerous reports from DtB readers to the same effect, Team USA Minnesota has now made it official: Josh Moen and Macharia Yuot are the newest members of the Twin Cities-based training group.

The pair joins original Team USA Minnesota members Matt Gabrielson, Jason Lehmkuhle, and Chris Lundstrom and 2007 signee Antonio Vega on the men's side of the eight-year-old elite distance running development program.

Former University of Minnesota star Andrew Carlson and Brad Lowery have left the squad in recent weeks. Carlson will train with an Adidas-supported group in Flagstaff, Arizona, while Lowery has returned to his native South Dakota to attend graduate school.

Moen, 26, who grew up in Readlyn, Iowa, and graduated from Wartburg College in 2005, was a five time NCAA Division III champion in cross country and track at the Waverly, Iowa school. Previously affiliated with the Michigan-based Hanson's-Brooks training group, Moen has been a three-time member of the USA's Chiba Ekiden team.

Moen has a personal best of 28:31.08 for 10,000 meters on the track and a 28:58 road 10K PR. He has twice finished 4th in the USA 10K Championships. Sporting a 1:04:37 half marathon best, Moen will make his marathon debut at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on October 5. Moen has been training with Team USA Minnesota since August 1.

Yuot, 26, is a Widener University graduate originally from Sudan. Like 2008 U.S. Olympic flag-bearer Lopez Lomong, Yuot was one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who arrived in the United States in 2000 after fleeing political and religious persecution in their home country. Yuot was a six-time NCAA Division III champion at Widener. He became a U.S. citizen in 2007.

Since completing his collegiate eligibility in the fall of 2006, Yuot has run three marathons including the U.S. Men's Olympic Marathon Trials. His PR in the event is 2:18:58. This year, he placed seventh in the USA 10K Championships, 10th at the USA 8K Championships, and 13th at the USA 15K Championships. Yuot joined Team USA Minnesota in mid-August.

Photos of Yuot (left) and Moen (right) by Victor Sailer, courtesy of Team USA Minnesota.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Up North: Goucher, Grandma's, and the Bear

In our continuing effort this week to clear accumulating items off of the DtB news-desk, here are some notes grouped in a neat little northern Minnesota package ...

Kara Goucher ... Tying a bow on Duluth native Kara Goucher's Olympic experience, HERE's a recent Flotrack interview where Goucher talks about the Beijing 10,000 and 5,000 meter races and her impending move -- sometime in the next year, she says -- to the marathon.

There's also THIS Eugene Register-Guard story which covers similar ground and THIS earlier Duluth News-Tribune story by Kevin Pates about the friendship between Minnesota Olympians Goucher and Carrie Tollefson.

Minnesota Mile-Duluth ... Grandma's Marathon's Minnesota Mile series moves to Duluth on Sunday, September 7. Registration opened earlier this month, and race organizers have added a tempting little twist: 250 randomly selected Minnesota Mile-Duluth finishers will receive guaranteed entry into next year's Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.

Entry forms are available HERE.

It's Alive! ... Half the stories from northern Minnesota have a bear in them, right?

Well, this one does, at least. DtB's own Chris Marshall, a junior-to-be at Carleton College, hit a 250-pound black bear in July which totalled his car. Authorities assumed the bear suffered equally terminal damage. But, as the News-Tribune reports today, HERE, the bear is still alive!

Marshall's Toyota Camry remains totalled, however.

2008 Runner of the Year Standings:
Kim Magee, Jeremy Polson Sport Leads

As the Minnesota road racing season prepares for its autumn schedule of events, Kim Magee of Mounds View and Jeremy Polson of Duluth lead the 2008 USATF-Minnesota Runner of the Year standings compiled by the Minnesota Running Date Center.

Magee leads the women's standings with 50 points, ahead of Lithuanian Olympian Rasa Troup who has 40 and Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier Melissa Gacek who has 31. Magee has the fastest times for a Minnesotan at the 10K and 10 mile distances. She ran 36:50 for 10K at Get in Gear in April and 59:37 at the Lumderjack Days 10 Mile in July.

Runner of the Year standings are based on an athlete's annual rank against fellow Minnesotan in up to five standard road racing distances.

Polson, who tied with Team USA Minnesota's Chris Lundstrom for Runner of the Year honors in 2007, has 66 points to his credit. He leads Richard Kandie who has 51 and fellow Duluth native Eric Hartmark who has 50. Polson sports Minnesota's fastest road 5K and 8K of 2008, running 14:47 at the Brian Kraft Memorial 5K in May and 24:06 at the Human Race 8K in March.

Complete Runner of the Year standings -- including those in eleven separate age-groups for men and women -- can be found, HERE, on the new Runner of the Year web-site maintained by Mike Setter.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Class A Pre-Season Rankings Announced

With the Milaca Early Bird Invitational opening the high school cross country season today -- expect results courtesy of RaceBerrryJam HERE -- we thought it was high time to post the recently released Cross Country Coaches' Association pre-season rankings for Class A.

Pequot Lakes, the 3rd place finishers at State in 2007, top the boys' polls ahead of last season's runners-up Adrian. Two-time defending champion Perham is ranked #8. Pequot Lakes' Clayton Foster, the 5th place finisher at the State Meet last year, leads the individual rankings over 2007 4th placer Ryan Tholen of Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.

Adrian, winner of three straight Class A State titles, reigns over the girls' rankings. Holy Family and Perham, 2nd and 3rd at State last year, are #2 and #3 in the rankings as well. Defending individual champ Linda Keller of Paynesville is ranked #1; 2007 Class A runner-up Naomi Landecker of Staples-Motley is ranked #2.

Full Class A pre-Season rankings are below.

Class AA rankings, published previously, can be found HERE.

1. Pequot Lakes
2. Adrian
3. Mora
4. Minnehaha Academy
5. Plainview-Elgin-Millville
6. Esko
7. Albany
8. Perham
9. Blake
10. St. Cloud Cathedral
11. St. Anthony Village
12. Eveleth-Gilbert

1. Clayton Foster, Pequot Lakes
2. Ryan Tholen, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton
3. Moses Heppner, Warroad
4. Ryan Swenson, LacQuiParle Valley
5. Connor Gjerve, Annandale
6. Chris Reisdorfer, Adrian
7. Jordan Bendson, Staples-Motley
8. Patrick Byrant, DeLaSalle
9. Grant Timm, Plainview-E-M
10. Landon Bauer, Albany
11. Tanner Wendroth, Paynesville
12. Jordan Harldson, United South Central

1. Adrian
2. Holy Family
3. Perham
4. Mora
5. St. Cloud Cathedral
6. Farimont
7. Rochester Lourdes
8. Staples-Motley
9. Luverne Area
10. Blue Earth Area
11. Esko
12. LaCrescent

1. Linda Keller, Paynesville Area
2. Naomi Landecker, Staples-Motley
3. Marissa Janning, Watertown-Mayer
4. Maddie McClellan, Perham
5. Lauren Rice, Holy Family
6. Abby Anderson, Perham
7. Anne Hart, St. Paul Academy
8. Adrianne Flores Medford
9. Gabi Swoboda, Redwood Valley Area
10. Jordan Kopplow, Adrian
11. Margaret Chute, Blake
12. Greta Danielson, St. Cloud Cathedral

Catching Up ... with Keller, Koski, & Conway

Okay, we'll admit it.

That little meet they held over in China -- the Olym-somethings -- well, it got us behind on some of the news of the sport right here at home in good, old Minnesota. In what will, I'm sure, be a week-long effort to get all caught up, here's the first of what got relegated to the back burner when our focus was on Kara, Shani, Barbora, Rasa, Tahesia, and Philip ...

DtB contributor Chad Austin recently posted a new interview on his fine Running Minnesota web-site, HERE. In it, he interview's masters road racing star Doug Keller. We also noticed recent interviews with Katie Koski and Dan Conway -- two running buddies of mine from my Duluth days, I'm proud to say -- that we hadn't yet called attention to.

Enjoy Chad's fine interviews ... and stay tuned!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Goucher Might Marathon at NYC This Fall,
Prepare for Her New Event at TC-10 Mile

On the day after she finished 9th in the Olympic 5000 meter final, the recurring theme of today's Kara Goucher coverage is the marathon.

Her coach, marathon great Alberto Salazar, told the Eugene Register-Guard, HERE:

"I think she can be a real force there. She could be the class of the marathon that way (Meseret) Defar and Dibaba are in the 5 and the 10."

The Portland Oregonian gets to the topic too, HERE, and has more to say about Goucher's pre-race sinus infection.

""Tuesday I felt awful. Wednesday, I was in bed all day but my body never ached, it was all in my head," she told the paper.

The Duluth News-Tribune's Kevin Pates has the juiciest marathon nuggets, however, HERE.

He reports that it is "likely she’ll make her debut November 2 in the New York City Marathon..." He also says Goucher's tune-up for NYC will be either the Great North Run in Great Britain -- where she beat Paula Radcliffe last year -- or the Medtronic TC 10 Mile, this year's USA Championship for women for the distance.

Pates quotes Goucher (pictured) from earlier in the summer saying:

“I would love to run a marathon this year, but in order to do that, I would have to be satisfied with the end of my track season at the Olympics. To do a fall marathon, I would have to come home and train, no more racing. I’ve had my eyes set on New York for a long time and would love to run there this year or next.”

Photo by Paul Merca.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Goucher 9th in Olympic 5000m Final

Kara Goucher finished 9th in today's 5000 meter final at the Beijing Olympic Games.

The Duluth native ran 15:49.39.

Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia, who won gold in a blazing 10,000 meters earlier in the Games, won the 5000m in a slow 15:41.40.

"I have a lot of work to do," Goucher told USA Track and Field afterward. "The pace was slow, but they're amazing athletes. I maintained my composure. I know this sounds crazy, but I think I could have won that on the right night. I still have so much improvement left."

Goucher's American rival Shalane Flanagan finished one place behind the Duluth East and Colorado University alum in 15:50.80.

The Duluth News-Tribune's "live-blog" coverage of the event is HERE.

The Star-Tribune has THIS Rachel Blount story (and Carlos Gonzalez photo) in which Goucher is already talking about 2012.

The Portland Oregonian reports, HERE, that Goucher was bothered by a sinus infection this week, but felt fine in competition today.

Complete 5000m results can be found HERE.

Dunn 39th in Olympic 50K Walk

Carleton College graduate Philip Dunn finished 39th in today's Olympic 50K racewalk final. Dunn, who was competing in his third Olympics, clocked 4:08:32.

"The conditions were pretty good, actually,"Dunn told USA Track and Field after the event. "I think we had a good time, and the times at the front show that. It wasn't as humid as it has been."

"I'm elated," he continued. "one, because it's over. Coming in, I knew it had been a long year. This is my third 50K this year. I think it was as good an effort as when I got the "A" qualifier at the World Cup this year. 50K racing is always a challenge. It's brutal. World champions were dropping left and right. I had a strong and steady race."

Dunn finished 28th in the Sydney Olympics 50K in 2000 and 35th in the event at the Athens Games in 2004. His 50K PR is 3:56:13.

Dunn is unsure if today's race will be his last, however.

"Four years ago I was pretty sure I was done," he allowed, "but I love it so much. The other athletes, the travel, the camaraderie, I don't know how you replace that. Maybe I'll find something else. So we'll see."

50K results can be found HERE.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gold Medal Performance for Špotáková

Spectators at the Bird's Nest in Beijing were treated to a dramatic conclusion to the women's javelin competition on Thursday. In the end, Barbora Špotáková snared the gold from the teeth of the competition. The athlete, who competes for the Czech Republic, formerly wore the maroon and gold of the University of Minnesota.

In the fourth of six rounds, Maria Abakumova sent the javelin 70.78 meters, establishing a European record and increasing her lead over Špotáková, whose best stood at 69.22. Not to be outdone, Špotáková launched her final throw 71.42 meters. Abakumova had one more chance to reclaim the lead, but could not surpass her previous mark.

"It's like a miracle for me," said Špotáková, "a fulfilled dream."

The dramatic win recalled the 1988 men's javelin competition, in which Jan Zelezny, Špotáková's coach, was defeated in the final throw of the competition by Tapio Korjus of Finland.

Life in Minnesota was difficult for Špotáková, according to Sean Jenson of the Pioneer Press. She dealt with injury, struggled with classes, clashed with her coach, and missed her family. The good news? She gave up the heptathlon and focused on the javelin when she returned to the Czech Republic.

With her final throw, she took that silver lining and turned it into gold.

The IAAF story can be found HERE.

The Pioneer Press story on the competition is HERE.

The Star Tribune sums things up HERE.

Complete results are HERE.

USATF Minnesota Annual Meeting to Feature Elections, Free Pizza

The USATF Minnesota Board of Directors has decided on a change of venue for the upcoming association Annual Meeting on Sunday, September 14th. In an effort to attract as many members as possible, the event will be held at Broadway Pizza in Minneapolis.

The meeting will feature election of officers (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer) for the upcoming year. Nominations for those positions will be accepted from the floor. Members will also be asked to vote on proposed changes to the association's bylaws.

All USATF Minnesota members are encouraged to attend and participate. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and includes a free pizza buffet for all members.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Špotáková in Women's Javelin Finals Tomorrow

Ex-Gopher Barbora Špotáková competes in tomorrow's finals in the javelin. Read the IAAF preview of Day 7 in the Bird's Nest HERE.

Sean Jenson of the Pioneer Press wrote THIS story on Špotáková. On her chances in the finals, Špotáková says, "I feel that I'm holding the longest throw, so I'm the favorite this year."

Jenson also quotes a Czech journalist on the thrower's status in her home country: "She is one of the biggest athletes from the Czech Republic. She is the sportswoman of the year in the Czech Republic, so she is very popular among the Czech people."

The heat sheet for her event is HERE.

McGregor Featured in ESPN: The Magazine

The current issue of ESPN: The Magazine includes a well-written feature on Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor of St. Louis Park. The article, by Luke Cyphers, focuses on the pain of dealing with nearly, but not quite making the Olympic team. McGregor finished fourth in the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters in both 2004 and this year.

File photo by Gene Niemi.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Goucher Qualifies for 5000 Meter Finals

All three Team USA athletes, including Duluth's own Kara Goucher, advanced from the heats of the women's 5000 meters at the Beijing Games.

Jen Rhines and Shalane Flanagan of the US both finished 6th -- the final automatic qualifying slot -- in their respective heats. Goucher trailed Flanagan, the Beijing 10,000 meter bronze medalist, by just over a second, capturing the first of three time qualifying positions with a 15:00.98.

In a USATF press release, Goucher said, "It's going to make the final a little bit less nerve-wracking to see friends everywhere on the track. I'm just so proud of us. I think we are making a statement, and I'm so happy to be a part of it."

Complete results are HERE.

The heat sheet for Friday's final is HERE.

The USATF press release is HERE.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Stroupe and Casey Win USA 15km Race Walking Championships

Patrick Stroupe of Armstrong, Missouri, and Stephanie Casey of Des Moines, Iowa, walked away with national titles at the USA 15km Race Walking Championships, hosted by Twin Cities Race Walkers (TCRW) on Sunday. The event attracted race walkers from around the country to Minneapolis' Greenway Trail.

Stroupe led the field in covering the 15km course in 1:10:26, including an impressive 5km split of 21:56. Casey (pictured) was the women's champion, clocking 1:17:52.

The TCRW Results Page features highlights of the races, as well as complete results and a link to an extensive photo gallery by Gary Westlund.

Photo by Gary Westlund

Špotáková Easily Advances

Barbora Špotáková, a University of Minnesota all-American in 2002, qualified for the finals of the women's javelin representing her home country of the Czech Republic.

The former Gopher took just one throw, sending the javelin 67.69 meters, easily beyond the 61.50 meters required to automatically move on to Thursday's finals. The throw topped all competitors in the qualifying rounds. Her closest competitor and chief rival Christina Obergfoll of Germany threw 67.52 meters.

In the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Špotáková failed to qualify for the finals. Four years later, she appears poised to medal. The reigning world champion in the event, she enters the final round as a medal favorite. Her personal best of 69.15 meters ranks fourth in the world all-time.

The IAAF report on the women's javelin can be found HERE.

Complete results are HERE.

Pettit, Kolb Named Athletes of the Month

Chelsea Pettit and Christian Kolb were named USATF Minnesota's Athletes of the Month for August 2008.

Pettit, who will be a junior at the Academy of the Holy Angels this fall, was recognized for her runner-up finish in the young women’s 1500 meters at the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Omaha , Nebraska last month. She clocked 4:49.45 in the effort. Pettit finished 3rd in the 1600 meters at the Minnesota State High School League State Meet in June.

Kolb, who is a Mankato West sophomore-to-be, was honored for his 4th place finish in the intermediate boys pole vault at the USATF Junior Olympics.. Kolb cleared 13 feet, 9 and ¼ inches in the effort. Kolb finished 6th in the pole vault at the MSHSL State Meet in June and is Minnesota’s best ninth-grade pole vaulter ever with a 14-3 mark last spring.

USA Track & Field Minnesota selects Athletes of the Month to honor excellence in track and field and its related sports in Minnesota. USA Track & Field is the governing body of the sport in the United States and the Minnesota Association of USATF sanctions and sponsors track and field, cross country, road racing, and racewalking events for athletes of all ages in the state.

A compete listing of 2008 Athletes of the Month is available HERE.

Also, at the Olympic Games ... Minnesota athletes resume competition tomorrow in Beijing. Former University of Minnesota all-American Barbora Špotáková, who represents the Czech Republic, competes in the women's javelin prelims. Duluth native Kara Goucher competes in the 5000 meter prelims

The startlist for the events are here ... JAVELIN * 5000M

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Marks, Goucher Reflect on Disappointments

Minnesotans Shani Marks and Kara Goucher both took time recently to reflect upon their disappointing Friday performances at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Marks, who failed to advance to today's final of the triple jump, wrote briefly on her Olympic blog, HERE, about her sub-par result.

"I gave everything I had, but I just wasn't feeling great," she said. The Olympic Trials champion did describe the Olympic experience as one of the most "rewarding and exciting" experiences of her life.

Goucher, who finished 10th in the 10,000 meter final, sent another of her regular dispatches to the Duluth News Tribune, HERE. She offers a well-told description of her Olympic race-day. Her bottom-line on the day: " ... I had just gotten 10th in the world on an off-day. This shows that I am now on a whole new level."

Goucher competes again on Tuesday in the prelims of the 5,000 meters.

Also ... Former Twin Cities Marathon champion Blake Russell was the lone USA finisher in the Olympic women's marathon yesterday. She finished 27th in 2:33:13.

This year's Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon champ Liza Hunter-Galvan of New Zealand finished 35th in 2:34:51. Australian Kate Smyth, who did some of her pre-Olympic training in Minnesota, finished 44th in 2:36:10.

Full results are HERE.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Harrigan Eliminated in 100m Quarterfinals

Tahesia Harrigan, the University of Minnesota school record holder at 100 and 200 meters, failed to advance to the semifinals in the women's 100 meter dash at the Beijing Olympics after finishing 5th in a season-best 11.36 in her quarterfinal heat today.

Harrigan represents the British Virgin Islands.

The top three sprinters in each of five heats qualified for tomorrow's semis, plus the fastest remaining time. Kerron Stewart of Jamaica won Harrigan's heat -- the fastest of the round -- in 10.98. The lone time-qualifier of the round came from Harrigan's heat -- Yulia Nestsiarenka of Belarus in 11.14.

Full quarterfinal results are HERE.

Earlier in the day, Harrigan finished 3rd in the 100m prelims in 11.46, which automatically qualified her to the quarterfinals.

Full results of the prelims are HERE.

There's a photo of Harrigan in action in the preliminary round HERE.

Also ... The Duluth News-Tribune ran THIS story on Kara Goucher today, while Jim Souhan of the Star-Tribune wrote THIS column on her. The Boulder Daily Camera also had THIS story.

The News-Tribune also has a Goucher photo gallery HERE.

The Star-Trib's Rachel Blount expanded her initial Shani Marks story HERE.

There's a photo of Rasa Troup from yesterday's competition HERE.

There's a story about Roman Cress and other Pacific Islands sprinters HERE.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gophers Add Thornton, Reder to Men's Staff

Quoting the U of M media release in its entirety:

University of Minnesota head men’s track & field coach Steve Plasencia announced the hiring of Paul Thornton and Lynden Reder as assistant coaches for the Golden Gopher program. Thornton will serve as the Gophers’ sprints, hurdles and jumps coach, while Reder, a former Minnesota All-American, will oversee the throwing events.

“I’m excited to have Paul and Lynden join our Gopher coaching staff,” said Plasencia, who was named the new Minnesota head coach in July. “This is a great step in Paul’s career and in his progression as a collegiate coach. In Lynden, we welcome one of our own, one of the best throwers in Gopher history, home. I’m looking forward to getting down to business and working with these talented coaches toward the common goal of continuing the tradition of excellence that is Gopher men’s track & field."

Thornton (pictured, left), a Northfield, Minn., native, comes to Minnesota after five years as the head men’s and women’s head track coach at Washington University in St. Louis, a powerful NCAA Division III program. The Bears’ women’s team placed third at the 2008 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships and Thornton was recognized as the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Midwest Region Coach of the Year.

During Thornton’s tenure, Washington won 14 University Athletic Association (UAA) team titles. The women’s team captured UAA titles in nine of the 10 championships (indoor and outdoor) contested during his reign with the Bears. The Bears swept the men’s and women’s UAA team titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Thornton spent three seasons as the head men’s and women’s track & field coach at St. Mary’s (Minn.) before moving to Washington. He started his coaching career at Illinois State, first as a graduate assistant, then as an assistant coach and finally with four seasons as ISU’s associate head coach (1996-2000).

Thornton was a three-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC) honoree during his collegiate track career at St. Olaf. He helped the Oles’ 4x400-meter relay to an NCAA Championships appearance in 1993 and was voted the team’s most valuable runner. Thornton earned four varsity letters in both cross country and track at St. Olaf, while being coached by his father Bill. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sports science in 1993.

Thornton, who earned a master’s degree in exercise physiology and biomechanics from Illinois State in 1995, and his wife Julie have two children, Marisa and Zach.

Reder (pictured, right) was a four-time letterwinner for the Golden Gophers from 2001-04, earning All-America honors in the weight throw and provisionally qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the hammer during his senior season. He was a three-time NCAA Championships competitor (once in weight, twice in hammer) and completed his Minnesota career as the school record holder in the weight (67-2 1/4, 20.48m) and the hammer (215-9, 65.76m). Reder’s mark in the hammer still stands, as do his nine of the top 10 marks in school history in the event.

Reder, a Luverne, Minn., native, has spent the last two seasons as the head men’s track & field coach at Hamline University in St. Paul. During his tenure, the Pipers recorded a trio of third-place finishes in the MIAC Championships.

Overall, Reder was a member of the Hamline coaching staff for six years, including serving as an assistant throws coach during his senior season with the Gophers.

Reder earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 2004. He and wife, Britta, reside in Woodbury.

Photos courtesy of the University of Minnesota (Thornton) and Hamline University (Reder.)

Goucher 10th in Olympic 10,000m Final;
Shani Marks Misses Triple Jump Finals

Track and field competition at the Games of the XXIX Olympiad began today. Here are the up-to-the-minute Minnesota headlines and links:

Kara Goucher, the Duluth East alum who won a bronze medal at last year's World Championships, finished 10th in the 10,000 meter final in a PR 30:55.16. Goucher fell off the lead pace near the 6 kilometer mark of the race.

"My pace was quick and I started to get hot and I made a major mistake," Goucher told USA Track & Field. "I let that be my excuse."

Shalane Flanagan, who defeated Goucher at the Olympic Trials in the event, took the bronze medal in the race in an American Record 30:22.22.

Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibaba won the race in an Olympic Record 29:54.66.

Full results of the event are HERE.

Stats: Goucher is now the #3 American female 10,000m performer ever ... behind only Flanagan's 30:22.22 and Deena Kastor's 30:50.32.

The Pioneer Press has a story and photos HERE.

The Star-Trib has a photo HERE.

The Duluth News-Tribune's live-blog of the event is HERE.

There's a good photo of Goucher from early in the race HERE.

Earlier, NBC posted a feature on Goucher HERE.

Goucher is slated to compete in next Tuesday's prelims of the the 5,000 meter run.

Shani Marks, the Olympic Trials champion, did not advance to finals in the triple jump. The Apple Valley and University of Minnesota alum finished 13th in her flight with a mark of 44-1 1/4.

Marks, whose PR is 47-2 1/4, needed a jump of 46-6 1/4 or better to advance. She opened her first Olympics with a 43-3 3/4 mark, followed by the 44-1 1/4. Marks fouled her third and final jump of the prelims.

"It just wasn't my day," Marks told USA Track & Field. "The experience has been wonderful, today wasn't."

Full results of triple jump prelims are HERE.

A short Star-Tribune story is HERE.

A slightly longer Pioneer Press story is HERE.

Two great Star-Trib photos are HERE and HERE.

Rasa Troup, the University of Minnesota alum who represents her native Lithuania, finished a non-qualifying 8th in her steeplechase prelim. Her time of 9:30.21 established a new national record for the Baltic nation.

Troup missed advancing by less than two seconds.

Full results of the event are HERE.

The Pioneer Press has a short story and a photo of Troup HERE.

Stats: Troup has now broken the Lithuanian record in the steeplechase 8 times. See a record chronology HERE.

Roman Cress, the St. Thomas alum who represented the Marshall Islands at the Games, finished 8th in his 100 meter prelim in 11.18. Former world record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica won the heat in 10.16.

Full results of the event are HERE.

A nice Pioneer Press story on Cress's race is HERE.

Jay Weiner of MinnPost has one HERE.

Stay with us ... DtB will add content -- photos, quotes, links, details, etc. -- to this post as the day advances. Join us through the weekend for further coverage of the Olympic Games.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Goucher to DNT: "I am ready to go."

Kara Goucher is ready to race in tomorrow's Olympic 10,000 meter final.

The Duluth native said as much in her recent dispatch from Beijing, HERE, published in today's Duluth News-Tribune.

"I am ready to go," she wrote the paper 48 hours before the competition. "From now on it’s only rest and relaxation. Friday will be great. I cannot guarantee anything, only that I will do my best and put it out there."

Goucher will compete tomorrow morning, Minnesota time. Her race may be shown live on NBC's web-stream, HERE, at 9:45 a.m., according to the News-Tribune.

Along with Goucher's update from the Games, the News-Tribune also has a nice pre-race feature, HERE, by Kevin Pates. Pates interviewed Garry Bjorklund -- a northeastern Minnesota 10,000 meter Olympian himself -- about what Goucher can expect in Beijing.

The IAAF's preview for the event is HERE.

The IAAF's biographical entry list is HERE.

15K Walk Championships on Tap Sunday

Although Minnesota’s greatest claim to race walking fame – Carleton College graduate Philip Dunn – is in Beijing preparing for next week’s Olympic 50K race, a field of strong walkers will nonetheless gather Sunday in Minneapolis for the USA 15K Race Walking Championships.

The event, hosted by Twin Cities Race Walkers, will serve as a national championship for the 15K distance for senior men and women as well as for junior boys and girls. The race will also serve as a regional masters championships and the USATF-Minnesota championship. The race also serves as a leg of the 2008 USA Race Walking Grand Prix.

The race begins at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 17 on the Greenway Trail. Full details for the event can be found HERE.

The Elite Field … 2004 Olympian Teresa Vail, the runaway leader in the 2008 Grand Prix, headlines the women's field. Vail, the 2008 Olympic Trials runner-up at 20K, is a three-time USA champion. Vail finished 43rd in the Athens games, walking 20K in 1:38:47. Susan Randall and Kristen Furseth-Mullaney, both of whom competed at the 2008 Trials, appear to be Vail’s most likely challengers.

Patrick Stroupe, a Missourian who finished 3rd in the Olympic Trials 20K race in Eugene, headlines the men’s field. He is currently tied for the lead in the men's Grand Prix.

Race director Bruce Leasure, the USATF-Minnesota Race Walking Chairman, also highlighted the following entrants: Canadian age-group racer Sherry Watts who will compete with hopes of setting a Canadian M55 record for the distance … Eden Prairie’s Anita Macias-Howard, currently the fastest female race walker in Minnesota … and Phil Rogosheske, a 1972 Olympian as a flatwater kayaker and still the Gustavus Adolphus College high jump school-record-holder at 6-8, who has lately joined the race walking ranks

The youngest walker registered is John Randall, 16, of Beavercreek, Ohio, the 8th place finisher at the Nike Indoor National 1 mile walk; the oldest is William Hosken, 71, from Zion, Illinois.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Maxwell, Langenfeld Top USA Masters

Ralph Maxwell and Tom Langenfeld headlined the Minnesota results from last weekend's USA Masters Track and Field Championships held in Spokane, Washington.

Maxwell, an 88-year-old retired judge who splits his time between Richville, Minnesota and Alamo, Texas, set a world age-group record in the 300 meter hurdles by more than five seconds with his 1:21.44 performance.

Maxwell also won the M85 high jump at 3-5 1/4 and finished second in the shot put, javelin, long jump and triple jump.

Langenfeld, an Edina resident, won his 29th career masters high jump title with a 4-5 clearance in the M70 division. The 73-year-old also won this year's masters indoor title in March, but was concerned that recent injuries would hurt his chances in Spokane.

"Competing is less fun when you’re limited by injury," Langenfeld said, "but still a lot more fun than not competing at all—especially at the national meet, which almost seems to have curative powers. I was disappointed that I didn’t make at least one more height in Spokane, yet happy to get in a couple of pretty good jumps before those curative powers ran out."

Full results from the championships can be found HERE.

Other Minnesota competitors included ...

Jim Schoffman, a 55-year-old sprinter from Fridley, won a bronze medal in the M55 400 meters in 58.21, just two one-hundredths of a second away from silver. He also picked up a fifth-place ribbon in the 100, moved up to the 800 and got a second bronze medal in 2:18.72. He also finished fourth in the 200 meters in 26.25.

Jim Sheehan, a 58-year-old miler from Ham Lake, finished fifth in an outstanding M55 1500 field Sunday, running 4:53.65 after warming up with a sixth place finish in the 400 and a fifth in the 800 earlier in the meet. He closed things out on Sunday by running strong legs on the So Cal Track Club’s gold-medal 4X800 and 4X400 teams in the club championship relay events.

Cynthia Overson, 48-year-old hurdler from Waconia, took a fourth-place ribbon in the W45 80-meter hurdles in 14.32 – a Minnesota age-group record. She also finished fourth in the long hurdles.

Rick Peterson, 50, Maple Grove, was eighth out of 12 American finalists in the M50 1500 in 4:47.50, and seventh in the 400 in 59.50 after finishing second in his qualifying heat.

Thanks to Tom Langenfeld for the details for this story.

Startlists Up for Olympic Track's Opening Day

After dreaming about the Olympics for much of their lives, Roman Cress, Kara Goucher, Shani Marks, and Rasa Troup can now see the very real competition they'll face when track and field competition opens at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Startlists have been posted on the IAAF web-site for Friday's opening day events. All three athletes will contest their events on Friday morning, Minnesota time.

Cress, a University of St. Thomas alum, will open competition for Minnesota-affiliated athletes when the gun fires for heat 3 (of 9) in the men's 100 meter prelims. Cress, who will represent the Marshall Islands, will enter the blocks for his prelim between 2003 100m World Champion Kim Collins of St. Kitts and Nevis and former World Record holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica. The slowest qualifier in his prelim, Cress needs to finish in the top-3 in his heat or run one of the 10-fastest non-automatic qualifying times to advance to the event's quarterfinal round.

Heat sheets for the event are HERE.

Troup, the University of Minnesota graduate who will represent her native Lithuania at the Games, competes in Heat 3 of the 3000 meter steeplechase preliminaries. Troup is seeded #45 in the 51-runner field. To qualify for finals, she'll need to finish in the top-4 in her heat or run one of the three fastest non-top-4 times from the event's three heats.

The steeplechase heat sheets can be found HERE.

Marks, who hopes to be the first American woman to qualify for an Olympic final in the triple jump, is seeded #17 in the event. She jumps in the second of two flights. A mark of 47-5, which would match the American Record in the event, will automatically qualify the Olympic Trials champion to finals. Marks' PR is 47-2 1/4. At least twelve athletes will qualify for finals.

The triple jump flights can be found HERE.

Goucher, the bronze medalist in the event at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan last summer, returns to the 10,000 meters as the #19 seed in the 32-runner event. Osaka gold-medalist Tirunesh Dibaba of Ethiopia and runner-up Elvan Abeylegesse of Turkey return for the Olympics, as do Joanne Pavey of Great Britain and Kim Smith of New Zealand, the two runners Goucher out-raced for her medal.

The startlist for the event can be found HERE.

Down the Backstretch will publish results of Friday's events as soon as they are posted and will follow-up with details, quotes, and photos as they become available. Join us throughout Olympic track and field competition for the latest on Minnesota's Olympians.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympics: How Did We Miss Špotáková?

As the Olympic Games inch toward the start of track and field competition on Friday -- enough with the swimming already! -- we thought we should catch readers up on the latest news and features about Minnesota's tracksters ...

Barbora Špotáková ... If the name doesn't sound familiar to you, blame Down the Backstretch! Somehow, after 870 posts and a year-and-a-half of publication, we only recently figured out that Špotáková, the reigning World Champion in the women's javelin, was a Golden Gopher all-American in 2002. (D'oh!)

Špotáková, a Czech national, was ranked #1 in the world by Track & Field News in 2007 and is a favorite for javelin gold in Beijing. Her PR throw of 226-10 earlier this year ranks her #4 all-time in the event.

We brought ourselves up to speed on Špotáková with remedial reading HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Kara Goucher ... The Duluth News-Tribune re-connected with their local heroine over the weekend, HERE. Kevin Pates' feature on Goucher focuses on Goucher's family. Goucher's mother Patty Wheeler of Duluth will attend the Olympics, as will Goucher's husband Adam.

Goucher is sending updates to the News-Tribune from China, herself. Today's post is HERE; an earlier post is HERE.

Shani Marks ... Minnesota's Olympic Trails triple jump champion updated her Beijing blog yesterday, HERE.

The Sites We're Frequenting ... Despite the wait for competition on the track to begin, we've been enjoying other Olympics events as best we can. If you're interested, here's a list of web-sites we've found informative and interesting ...

Rings ... the New York Times Olympic blog.

Globetrotting ... the Chicago Tribune's Olympic blog.

MinnPost ... Jay Weiner's coverage of the Olympics.

Star-Trib ... the local paper's coverage.

IAAF ... the go-to site for news and results of track and field.

T&FN ... Track and Field News is collecting lots of great links on their site.

Let's Run ... even more track and distance running links.

RunBlogRun ... Larry Eder's personal take on the Games.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Let the Cross Country Season Begin:
Opening Practice at Lakeville North

Eager to share in the excitement of today's official start to the high school cross country season, Down the Backstretch spent "opening day" with the Panthers of Lakeville North.

Below, in pictures, is how the long journey that is the harrier season began for one Minnesota program.

Coach Bob Ertl organizes his team.

Getting ready to head out the door.

Stretching at Antler Park.


Onward and upward.

Today's workout ...

The #1-ranked girls team returning from the run.

Orienting the junior high team.

Post-run stretching.

Running toward the rest of the season.

Photos by Charlie Mahler.

Stangler is SI "Face in the Crowd"

Albany native Rachel Stangler, a recent Augustana College graduate, is a Sports Illustrated "Face in the Crowd" this week.

You can find her HERE.

The magazine recognized Stangler (pictured) for her busy racing at the weather-impacted North Central Conference Championships last May, where she won the steeplechase and placed 2nd in the 3000 and 5000 meter events in the span of 90 minutes. She led Augustana to a team victory with her efforts.

Stangler was also the runner-up in the NCAA Division II steeplechase in 10:28.64.

Photo courtesy of Augustana College.

Friday, August 08, 2008

On the Road with Chris Lundstrom:
Looking Back on the Olympic Trials

Down the Backstretch is pleased to report that Chris Lundstrom has joined our little organization.

Chris, as you likely know, is a member of Team USA Minnesota and a former Northfield High School and Stanford University standout. Chris (pictured) has already contributed to DtB by covering the second portion of the Olympic Track and Field Trials and getting the scoop behind the improbably fast Run for Oromia races.

Today, we introduce "On the Road," a column Chris will write regularly for DtB. We think Chris' background as an elite runner, high school coach, and long-time witness to the Minnesota running and track scene will make his observations an interesting and entertaining read.

Welcome aboard, Chris!

On the Road
By Chris Lundstrom

About a month has passed since the USA Olympic Track and Field Trials. I did not compete, but rather attended the meet as a spectator and journalist. Having spent the better part of my life deeply involved in running and track & field, I have rarely been a spectator. I have competed more times than I can count, and I have coached a lot of teams at a wide variety of meets.

But this was different. I wasn’t worried about warming up and checking in for my race, or concerned about whether I had given the team the instruction that they needed to perform their best. I had a rare opportunity to just sit back and watch the drama of the sport unfold.

I watched the Trials partially as an objective observer – someone who appreciates the sport for its innate beauty. And indeed the Trials featured an amazing gathering of talents and abilities, from the coordinated power of a perfectly executed triple jump to the sustained drive of the final laps of the 10,000 meters. Add to that the inherent drama built into the Trials. It’s all or nothing. Top 3 go to the Games. Everyone else goes home. Hundreds of athletes from around the country put their lives on hold to train and prepare for this opportunity that comes once every four years. A cold, an inflamed tendon, or an aching muscle can turn a favorite into an also-ran.

At the end of the day, most competitors are forced to accept that their best wasn’t quite good enough. Not this time. Yet they battle on, hurling themselves to the finish line for 8th place, knowing I suppose that the race against themselves must be fought as courageously as the race for the Olympic team. Maybe next time third place will be on the line, and they will need to know how to dig in with everything in their being. Or maybe the athletes simply need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they gave it everything they had on that day.

So yes, it was a beautiful thing to watch, as I’m sure the Olympic Games will be. But I have to admit that I also watched the meet as a partisan fan. I don’t normally get into sports in the sense that many people do – I haven’t entered an NCAA Final Four pool since I was a kid, and I couldn’t tell you who won the Superbowl since sometime in the late 1980’s.

But at the Olympic Trials, I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat, heart in my throat, pulling for my favorites in race after race. Much of that has to do with the personal ties I have to many of the athletes who were out there performing, I suppose. There were my current Team USA Minnesota teammates, a few former collegiate teammates from Stanford, and many other individuals who I have gotten to know over the years. There was even a young woman who I remember as a very talented high school kid that I worked with in my first coaching job at Sacred Heart Cathedral High School in San Francisco.

That young woman, Shannon Rowbury, won the 1500 meters and is going to Beijing. As her high school assistant coach 8 years ago, I have had little to nothing to do with her success, yet I feel so proud of her and what she has done with her talent. Watching her run at the peak of fitness in perhaps the biggest race of her life was such a thrill. It was a reminder of just how great the highs can be in our sport.

But the lows can be pretty low too. And the one meet qualifying system does not forgive those who do not peak properly, or who simply face too much bad luck too close to the meet. I had aspirations to compete at the Track and Field Trials myself, but several illnesses, a shin injury, a foot injury, and various other life events all conspired to keep me out. So I return to my specialty, the marathon, humbled by the unforgiving oval. Having the experience of two Olympic Trials Marathons under my belt made it easier to stomach sitting in the bleachers.

But for others, track is everything, and the Olympics are what they dream about every day. My Team USA Minnesota teammate Carrie Tollefson became an Olympian in dramatic fashion in 2004. After massive surgeries and two years of struggle, she found that her Beijing dreams were not to be. Despite all of the work, the unerring positive attitude, and the support of her family and friends, it wasn’t meant to be. If the Trials could have been delayed a few weeks, would it have made the difference for her? I don’t know. If there were some other way to choose the team, maybe she would have had enough time.

Many countries have different selection methods. Kenya chooses its Olympic team by selectors – individuals who decide who should go – rather than through a Trials meet. Impress the right people, and a slot in the Olympics is yours. Get on someone’s wrong side, and forget it. Kenya dominates the world running scene, particularly among men. Yet in the biggest of the big meets – the Olympic Games – the podium hosts just a sprinkling of Kenyan runners.

I can’t say with any certainty that it’s because of their selection system, but I can say that the many of the Kenyan runners I know do not feel the same passion about the Olympics that most track & field athletes in the U.S feel. They do not tend to place representing their country at the Olympics at the top of their list of dreams and aspirations, the way most elite athletes do in the U.S.

I think part of the reason for that is that with our system, the athletes make the decision in the most pure manner conceivable. Head-to-head. One shot only. As many hearts as the system has broken, it has fed the dreams of thousands and thousands, the dream of having that perfect day when it counts, and making the trip to the Games ahead of the 21 guys who had faster times than you going into the meet.

Part of the goal of USATF is to send teams that will bring home the most medals. Some argue that exceptions should be made to include athletes who have a better shot at making it to the podium. Does Alan Webb have a better chance to medal than Leonel Manzano? Probably. But if Webb were to be placed on the team at the expense of an athlete who beat him fairly, we would not only be crushing the dreams of that athlete. We’d be crushing the dreams of all the long-shots and underdogs.

Those athletes need to have their dreams fed, because they are the fuel that keeps the competitive fire burning in our sport. These athletes rise to greatness or fail trying, but they do so because they can, not because someone calculates that they have the best odds. Head-to-head competition is what the sport is all about. Whether it’s a high school dual meet, an age-group duel in a road race, or the Olympic finals, it’s all about the testing our limits against others and ourselves.

It’s about seeing where we stack up, and doing the best we can on that particular day.

Photo courtesy of TCM and Competitive Image.

Minnesotans Shine at AAU Junior Olympics;
Calvin Clark wins Intermediate 400m in 48.71

Last week, we reported results from the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics in Omaha, HERE.

This week, again thanks to USATF-Minnesota Secretary and Youth Chair Chris Dallager, we've got the details about Minnesotans finishing in the top-10 at last week's Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics. Track and field events for the competition were held in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Here's Dallager's report which includes each athlete's date of birth in parenthesis:

Calvin Clark, (93), Mendota Heights, won the Intermediate Boys' (ages 15-16) 400m dash in a time of 48.71 seconds.

Elise Anderson, (96), Brooklyn Park, was 3rd in the Midget Girls' (age 12) 200m dash in a time of 25.74 seconds, 5th in the 100m dash in 12.67 seconds, and was joined by her Track Minnesota Elite teammates of Taloria Stiffin, Yamit Nachmias, and Imani Scott for a 6th place finish in the Midget Girls' 4 x 100m Relay with a time of 52.68 seconds.

Ellie Bedingham, (00), Woodbury, was 5th in the Primary Girls' (ages 8 and under) 100m dash in 15.02 seconds.

Rumeal Harris, (92), Eden Prairie, was 5th in the Intermediate Boys' Triple Jump with a distance of 13.84m (45' 5").

Natalie Zobel, (94), Eagan, finished 5th in the Youth Girls' (age 14) Javelin Throw with a mark of 25.29m (83' 0").

Will Burke, (95), Brooklyn Park, captured 6th place in the Sub-Youth Boys' (age 13) 3000m run with a time of 10:24.05.

Nailah Hill, (95), Brooklyn Park, earned 7th place in the Sub-Youth Girls' Discus Throw with a distance of 29.56m (97' 0").

Taylor Anderson, (94), Brooklyn Park, garnered an 8th place finish in the Youth Girls' High Jump by clearing 1.52m (5' 0").

Shaheed Hickman, (96), Brooklyn Park, narrowly missed the finals for the Midget Boys' 100m (12.39 seconds) and the 200m (25.56 seconds) and finished in 9th place overall.

Sierra Saulsberry, (95), Brooklyn Park, was the 10th fastest Sub-Youth Girl in the 100m Hurdles with a time of 16.27 seconds.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Olympic Games: A Minnesota Round-Up

With NBC having hyped it since, oh, 2004, you probably don't need DtB to remind you that the Olympic Games commence tomorrow. Track and field fans, though, will need to wait another week -- until Friday, August 15 -- for the starter's pistol to fire in their sport.

To keep you up-to-date on the Minnesotans competing in Beijing, here's a round-up of recent stories and other content:

Shani Marks was recently featured in THIS Star-Tribune story by Rachel Blount. The winner of the triple jump at the U.S. Olympic Trials, Marks hopes to be the first American female triple jumper to advance to the finals of an Olympic Games.

Marks is also creating her own web content with THIS blog of her Olympic adventure.

Duluth native Kara Goucher got feature treatment from Blount and the Star-Tribune as well in THIS story. The Portland Oregonian, HERE, reports that Goucher and her Alberto Salazar-coached training mates Amy Begley and Galen Rupp had a successful training stint in the heat and humidity of Houston, Texas.

Carleton College grad Philip Dunn, who makes his third straight Olympic appearance in the 50K walk, was recently interviewed by National Public Radio about the conditions he and other athletes will face at the Games. You can read or listen to the story HERE.

Former University of Minnesota star Tahesia Harrigan, who will represent the British Virgin Islands at the Games, is pictured on two Olympic postage stamps recently struck by her country. Harrigan won a bronze medal at this year's IAAF World Indoor Championships. You can see one of the stamps and read more information HERE.

Finally, in the disappointing Olympic stories department, MinnPost's Jay Wiener reported HERE that University of Minnesota sprint star Ibrahim Kabia will not be representing the country of his birth, Sierra Leone, at the Games. The Big Ten 100 meter champ was originally told he'd be a member of the African country's delegation, but then learned late he wouldn't be going to Beijing after the country's federation decided it would only take Sierra Leone-based athletes to the Games.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Run for Oromia: A Few Really Fast Runners

Last weekend’s Run for Oromia may have been the greatest Twin Cities road race that no one knew about.

Some of the top runners in the world sneaked in and out of town with few people even within the running community aware of their presence. Between the 5k and 10k, around 250 runners participated in the 2nd annual event, which took place at Lake Nokomis. While that is certainly a respectable turnout for a relatively new race, it is surprisingly low given the prize purse of well over $30,000.

Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia took the $5000 Run for Oromia 10K title in 28:21 -- the fastest road 10K ever run in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota's Road Running Information Center records. Tola has placed seventh in both the World Cross Country Championships (2007) and the World Road Running Championships (2006). He recently won the NYC Half Marathon in a blazing 1:00:58.

Likewise, Dennis Ndiso of Kenya's 13:57 5K winning time is the fastest 5K ever run in Minnesota. Teyba Naser of Ethiopia won the women's 10K in a strong 33:34, while two-time U.S. Olympian Elva Dryer won the 5K in 16:14.

Mary Anderson of Anderson Race Managment, which managed the event, said, “I think the turnout was low because of the number of events that were going on this past weekend."

The race was held in conjunction with the annual Oromo Festival. While the festival moves to Atlanta in 2009, the race will be back here in the Twin Cities.

Said Anderson, “We will be sitting down and looking at the calendar in the next few weeks and hope to get it on a weekend where there aren't so many competing races."

Unlike some of the larger races that rely on the entry fees of the masses to fund the prize purse, the Run for Oromia has a benefactor with what seem to be very deep pockets. Mike Abebe, an Oromo real estate developer who lives in Atlanta and is the founder of the Oliqaa Foundation, established the race in order to recognize the Oromo people and the great Oromo running tradition. Minneapolis is home to the largest Oromo population in the United States, many of whom fled persecution in Ethiopia, so it is a natural place to hold the race.

According to the Run for Oromia web site, “the Oromo people, estimated at 40 million, constitute 40-50 percent of the Ethiopian population, and are one of the largest ethno national groups in the whole of Africa.” So why have many of us never heard of Oromia? The Oromo people are governed by Ethiopia, “a nation where their basic human rights, as Oromos, are non-existent," according to the web-site.

Many Oromo running greats have achieved international acclaim under the flag of Ethiopia. Abebe Bikila, Kenenisa Bekele, Fatuma Roba, Tirunesh Dibaba, and Meseret Defar are just a few names in the long line of Oromo running greats. Given this great tradition, it should come as no surprise that the Run for Oromia featured the extraordinary runners it did.

Full results of the event can be found HERE.

Story by Chris Lundstrom

Class AA Cross Country Rankings:
Wayzata, Lakeville North Top the Charts

It's apparently not too soon to be thinking about the high school cross country season.

The Class AA preseason rankings for boys and girls were released recently. Defending Minnesota State High School League Class AA champs Wayzata lead the boys poll, while Lakeville North, 5th at State last year, tops the girls' rankings.

Willmar's Mahad Hassan, 4th at State last year, leads the boys' individual rankings. Defending Class AA champ Laura Hughes of Mankato West leads the girls.

The Rankings ...


1 Wayzata
2 Eden Prairie
3 Stillwater
4 Brainerd
5 Edina
6 Moorhead
7 Owatonna
8 Willmar
9 Alexandria
10 Lakeville South
11 Minnetonka
12 Buffalo

1 Mahad Hassan 12 Willmar
2 Robel Kebede 12 Mpls. South
3 Drew Paradis 12 Alexandria
4 John-Michael Brandt 11 Winona
5 Thomas Ruttger 12 Brainerd
6 Jeremy Drenckhahn 12 Wayzata
7 John Holt 12 Roseville
8 Eric Truedson 12 Bemidji
9 Danny Ducharme 12 Wayzata
10 Zach Mellon 12 Buffalo
11 Ryan Evans 12 Centennial
12 Kamal Jarso 11 St. Paul Central


1 Lakeville North
2 Eden Prairie
3 White Bear Lake
4 Prior Lake
5 Burnsville
6 Minnetonka
7 Chaska
8 Woodbury
9 Grand Rapids
10 Roseville
11 Waseca
12 Lakeville South

1 Laura Hughes, 11 Mankato West
2 Cassy Opitz, 12 Eden Prairie
3 Emma Bates, 11 Elk River
4 Katie Moraczewski, 12 WBL
5 Meghan Heuer, 11 Prior Lake
6 Kaylea Brase, 12 Centennial
7 Sarah Heuer, 12 Prior Lake
8 Emily Meese, 12 Minnetonka
9 Jamie Piepenburg, 9 Alexandria
10 Laura Docherty, 12 Cretin DH
11 Rachel Drake, 12 WBL
12 Becca Nichols, 12 Lakeville South

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

USATF-MN Cross Country Circuit Set

USATF Minnesota Long Distance Running Chair Ed Whetham recently announced the association's Cross Country Circuit for 2008. While the date and location of the Minnesota Championships (which counts for double points in the Circuit) are still being decided, the bulk of the series is set.

Cross Country Circuit races for 2008:

Sun., Sept. 21
Fort Snelling Relays
5 person x 5k relay
Fort Snelling State Park, St. Paul

Sun., Sept 28
St. Catherine’s XC Meet
6k (men) 4k (women)
College of St. Catherine, St. Paul

Sat., Oct. 11
Wildcat XC Classic
5k (men) 5k (women)
Eagan High School

Sun., Oct 19
Challenge at Gale Woods
5k (men) 5k (women)
Gale Woods Farms, Minnetrista

Sun., Nov. 2
Rocky’s Run

8k (men) 5k (women)
University of Minnesota Golf Course, Minneapolis

The USATF-MN Open and Masters CC Championships will likely be held in conjunction with the Junior Olympics Championships as in past years. However, details are still in flux. According to Whetham, the goal is to provide an opportunity for open men to run a 10k and open women a 6k at the championship event. More details will be provided as they become available.

Whetham noted that rules and scoring will remain the same as the 2007 Circuit. Contact Whetham at for more information.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Another Busy Weekend on the Track and the Roads

Pole Vault Duel at Summer League Meet... USA Track & Field hosted the second of three all-comers meets Thursday at Eagan High School. A highlight of the event was the women's pole vault where Minnesota State Mankato teammates Lauren Stelten and Katelin Rains went head-to-head. Stelten came out on top with a vault of 12 feet, 6 inches, with Rains clearing 12 feet even. Full results are available here.

The final Summer Track and Field League meet will take place this coming Thursday. Registration information can be found here.

Roehrig Eighth in Thorpe Cup... The University of Minnesota's Liz Roehrig represented the USA in the Thorpe Cup over the weekend. Germany won the team title. Results are available here.

Hennepin-Lake Classic Action... Some of Minnesota's best road racers took a few laps around Lake Calhoun on Sunday morning. The 31st edition of the Hennepin-Lake Classic drew strong fields in the 5K, 10K and Doubleheader. Complete results are available here.