Friday, May 29, 2009

Short-Cut: Results' Links for May 29-31

Here's where to find it all ...

NCAA Midwest Regional: Live Results

NCAA Midwest Regional: Live Results
Reebok Grand Prix: Live Results

Minneapolis Marathon: Results

john cena

MSHSL Section Results: (As we get them ... )

Section 1AA
Section 2AA
Section 3AA -- Boys * Girls
Section 4AA
Section 5AA
Section 6AA
Section 7AA -- Boys * Girls
Section 8AA -- Boys * Girls

Section 1A
Section 2A
Section 4A
Section 5A

Section 7A (Partial)
New marathons are cropping up all over Minnesota these days. The inaugural Stillwater Marathon was held last weekend and this Sunday the spotlight is on the Minneapolis Marathon.

In the spirit of competition, we would like to find out which marathon you think will be faster with the question:

Yes/No: Will the combined times of the winning male and female runners at the Minneapolis Marathon be faster than those of the winning male and female at the Stillwater Marathon last weekend?

Note: The Stillwater Marathon was won by Pete Hoyem in 2:50:32 and Jessica Mike in 3:09:06 (combined total: 5:59:38). The Minneapolis Marathon will be held Sunday at 8:00 A.M. and the course will be a tour of the River Road in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

DtB's Chris Lundstrom wrote a profile of each marathon earlier this year: Stillwater and Minneapolis

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 7:00 a.m. CDT , Sunday, May 31st. Please put your answer in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. We will continue to offer a bonus for participants making their debut in Yes/No - a correct answer will be worth two points for any first-time players.

My Answer: Yes

Last week’s question was “Will Kristi Buerkle finish in the top 8 in the 400 meters at D2 Nationals?” Buerkle came through with a PR 54.83 in the prelims and finished 4th in the final to garner a "Yes" in the results. The sophomore at Bemidji State was an All-American Indoors and Outdoors in 2009. 8 contestants answered the question correctly.

You can find the Y/N leaderboard HERE.

Good luck and thanks for playing Yes/No on DtB!

It's Not Cheating if Nobody Finds Out

A swim coach sent me a clip today from Sports Illustrated of an interview with Indy Car driver, Danica Patrick. She is asked by reporter Dan Patrick(no relation): "If you could take a performance enhancing drug and not get caught, would you do it if it allowed you to win Indy?" Her reply was: "Well it's not cheating, is it, if nobody finds out?" He followed up with: "So, would you do it?" She answered: "Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motor sports we work in the gray areas a lot. You're trying to find where the holes are in the rule book."

The coach was appalled. Unfortunately, Patrick was merely giving an unguarded, honest answer to the question. She is hardly alone in believing the pervading ethos of modern sport: "Cheating isn't cheating if you don't get caught." It is the engine that drives athletes to dope, to "find where the holes are in the rule book."

Back when I was competing in the '60s and '70s there was a coach in Southern California, Chuck Debus, who was a leading proponent of this philosophy. Drug testing was in its infancy, testing for anabolic steriods was being developed, and drug use was talked about more openly than it is today.

Many coaches and athletes from that era have told their stories of Debus' practices. One of the more tame being when Debus was trying to convince an athlete to "get with the program." He threw a magazine with the picture of a top track athlete on the cover down on the table. "You think she is not using drugs?" he told the athlete he was attempting to convince. In the early 1990s, Alvin Chriss, who was then Ollan Cassell's right hand man within USATF(which was then called The Athletics Congress), asked around about what could be done to stem the growing problem of drugs in sports.

Debus would be a good place to start, he was told. So, Chriss interviewed athletes, coaches, administrators, and put together a case against Debus, who eventually was banned from the sport for life. Doping was not headline news back then. None of the prominent athletes Debus worked with was named. The story hardly received a mention in the news. The impact on the doping problem was minimal. Others, who had done things as bad if not worse than Debus, shrugged and went on about their business.

It's not cheating if you don't get caught.

History may well repeat itself with Patrick's remarks. She may have to apologize for her remarks. Her sponsors and the Indy Car people will try and "spin" the story, make it go away. They will probably succeed because this ethos, this philosophy is not limited to sport. The leadership of Enron was infused with this sort of win at all costs mentality. One of the alluring values of sport is supposed to be an ethos of "fair play." The Olympics are supposed to embody this concept, to lift sport to a higher plane.

Sadly, doping is merely the most visible example of the erosion of these values in sport and society in general. Protests will be lodged with Patrick's sponsors. Like Michael Phelps, she may be deemed no longer marketable enough to appear on a cereal box. Her image may be "tainted," but there will be little discussion of what to do about the underlying problem, the real issue. Patrick is merely a symptom.

John Dean made the famous statement that the Watergate affair and subsequent cover up was a "cancer" on the presidency. This ethos of cheating, "getting an edge" is a "cancer" on society, on sport. If we don't address it. Don't deal with it, it will continue to grow. Eventually sport will not be known for fair play, but for who is the most clever at exploiting the gray areas of the rules.

Ironically, the rules of sport are what are supposed to define what is fair, what is allowed. Instead they are being perverted, bent to serve those who cannot exist within them. In the modern era of sport it is rules, not records, that appear made to be broken. Patrick is merely the latest in a long line of sportspeople alerting us to this danger. It is up to us not to ignore the problem, to spin it away, but to find a solution.

In the Circle Report: All Eyes on Section 1AA

It's no secret that Minnesota is one of the toughest state meets to get into across the US.

Thankfully there were no surprises out of Section 1AA. With four of the top five shot putters in the state coming out of Section 1AA, let's just be thankful that they all survived via standard and will compete next Friday at Hamline in what should be one of the meet's marquee events.

Owatonna's Casey Dehn won the meet with 62-6, Stanford-bound teammate Sean Wallace finished second at 58-1, Red Wing sophomore Luke Johnson was third at 54-7 and Farmington junior Logan Hussung came in fourth at 54-6 -- all surpassing the state standard of 54-4. The next in what is becoming a emerging tradition of Owatonna throwers, sophomore Jake Fensky finished 5th at 53-1.

The 1AA discus will be held Saturday at Lakeville South. Five 1AA throwers have thrown over the state standard of 153-9 this season: Dehn (187-6), Johnson (173-2), Hussung (161-3), Wallace (159-9) and Owatonna junior Brian Vargason (159-11.) All should all be in good position to advance to State.

The super-sophomore out of Red Wing, Johnson, will have his chance for revenge against Dehn and Wallace in the discus on Saturday at Lakeville South. Johnson's marks rank him as the second best sophomore in Minnesota prep history in both of shot put and discus, behind only current record holder Nate Englin (61-8 1/2, 2002) and former state record holder Mike Yonkey (174-4, 1985).

You can read about Dehn and Section 1AA in the Star Tribune HERE.

Read more about the throws at this weekend's NCAA Regionals and in high school section competition, HERE, at Kevin's blog Throwing Farther.

Goucher Runs Quick 800, Mile Double

Kara Goucher set a PR at 800m and then, 15 minutes later, ran the mile at the Nike Mile last night at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

The event, which featured elite 800m and mile fields, was primarily a competition for Nike employees.

Goucher clocked 2:06.79 to finish 4th in in the 800m. She was runner-up in the mile just .04 behind training partner Amy Begley in 4:37.58.

The races came just five-and-a-half weeks after Goucher's third place finish at the Boston Marathon. Goucher plans to race 2000m at next weekend's Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon.

Former Minnetonka High School alum Will Leer ran 1:49.42 to finish 5th in the men's 800m at the event.

Videos of the Nike Mile races can be found HERE, on

There's a post-race interview with Goucher HERE.

Results from the meet can be found HERE.

Gopher Stars Dorniden, Studt Featured

University of Minnesota stars Heather Dorniden and Aaron Studt were featured, in separate stories, this week.

The Dorniden story, by the U of M media department, is HERE.

The Aaron Studt story, in yesterday's Star-Tribune, is HERE.

The Gophers compete today and tomorrow at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Norman, Oklahoma.

Find live results from the meet HERE.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Minnesota Trio to Race at NYC Grand Prix

Three Team USA Minnesota women will travel to New York City for Saturday's Reebok Grand Prix meet.

Katie McGregor, Emily Brown, and Meghan Armstrong will compete in the "NYRR Women's 5000 Meters" at the 5th annual event, held at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island. McGregor, who sports a 15:22.60 PR for this distance, was 7th in the Reebok 5000m last year.

Brown and Armstrong will be making their first appearance at the meet. Brown has run 15:19.57 for 5000m; Armstrong has run 15:41.09.

Results of last year's meet are HERE.

At the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships to be held in Eugene, Oregon in late June, McGregor plans run the 10,000m, Brown will compete in the 5000m, and Armstrong will run either the 5000m or 10,000m, according to Team USA Minnesota president Pat Goodwin.

The Reebok Grand Prix will be televised on NBC on Saturday from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. (CDT). The women's 5000m is set for 4:13 p.m.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gopher Squads Heading to Regionals

The University of Minnesota track and field teams will travel to Norman, Oklahoma this weekend for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, the qualifying meet for the NCAA Championships to be held June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Big Ten Champion Gopher men will send 19 athletes to the meet. Decathlete R.J. McGinnis is already automatically qualified for nationals; fellow multi-eventer Joey Schwecke owns a provisional mark for NCAAs.

The Big Ten 3rd-place Gopher women will send 20 individuals, plus a 4 x 100m relay team to Regionals.

Matt Fisher and Hassan Mead are the #1 seeds in the high jump and 5000m, respectively. Fisher still has the top collegiate high jump mark in the nation this year.

Heather Dorniden and Alicia Rue are the top seeded Gopher women. Both are #2 seeds -- Dorniden at 800m, Rue in the pole vault.

Burnsville alum Laura Hermanson of North Dakota State is the #1 seed at 800 meters.
at 2:03.21.

An in-depth Regional preview for the Gopher men's team can be found HERE. Complete men's startlists are HERE.

A Gopher women's preview should ultimately appear HERE. Complete women's startlists are HERE.

Gopher Honors ... The Gopher programs earned individual accolades from the Big Ten Championships last week. Gopher men's coach Steve Plasencia was named the Big Ten Outdoor Track Coach of the Year for leading his team to the conference title.

Aaron Studt, who matched his conference indoor shot put title with one outdoors, was named the Big Ten Field Event Athlete of the Year. Hassan Mead, who won the 5000/10,000m double at Big Tens was named the Track Athlete of the Year.

Gopher women's pole vaulter Alicia Rue was named the Big Ten's Co-Field Event Athlete of the Championship for her record-setting 14-3 1/4 victory at the meet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Duluthians Sweep Brian Kraft Memorial

Duluth residents Jeremy Polson and Jen Houck swept the individual titles at yesterday's Brian Kraft Memorial 5K at Lake Nokomis.

Polson (pictured) established a state single-age record for 31-year-olds with his 14:43 victory. He edged Team USA Minnesota's Chris Lundstrom by one second.

Lundstrom's 14:44 set a single-age mark for 33-year-olds.

Full men's results are HERE.

Houck clocked 17:09 to out-distance Amy Lyons who ran 17:20. Erin Ward was 3rd in 17:39.

Full women's results are HERE.

In USATF - Minnesota Team Circuit competition, preliminary scores had Run N Fun winning both the open men's and open women's divisions of the race.

RNF's men edged TC Running Company 1:16:26 to 1:18:25; RNF's women topped Foley & Mansfield 1:30:23 to 1:35:53.

Full preliminary team scores are HERE.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tommie Men 3rd at D3 Championships

The University of St. Thomas men's team finished 3rd at this weekend's NCAA Division III Championships in Marietta, Ohio.

The Tommies were powered by relay titles in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m. The Tommie 4 x 100 clocked 40.76 for the win; the 4 x 400 won in 3:10.60.

The Tommies had eight all-Americans n the meet.

UW-Oshkosh won the meet with 46 points, McMurray University scored 40 for second, and the Tommies tallied 39 for third.

Read a recap of the Tommie's meet HERE.

Full results are available HERE.

Pates Reports on UMD at NCAAs

Kevin Pates follows the progress of the UMD athletes at the Division II NCAA's in his Rink and Run bloghere .

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rains Wins Pole Vault at Div II NCAAs

The Mankato Free Press continues it's coverage of the NCAA Division II nationals here.


The word Whereabouts has become the common descriptive term covering the current debate raging within the sports community over drug testing. The topic came up again during the recent Twin Cities Mile press conference.

TC Mile women's race winner, Shannon Rowbury, detailed the requirements for track athletes to keep their country or region's testing agency aware of their Whereabouts, where they can be found in case the agency wants to test them. The WADA code, which sets the standards for sport drug testing for Olympic sports, requires that athletes provide this information so that no notice, out-of-competition(OOC) testing can be done. The code is updated periodically.

The latest update took effect on January 1 of this year and, for the first time, covered every Olympic sport and the countries that are signatories to the UNESCO treaty on anti-doping. The requirements for Whereabouts resulted in a lawsuit by a group of athletes in Belgium, a report on whether or not the code was deemed to be in violation of European Union(EU) laws, a FIFA(the governing body for soccer) declaration that they could not adhere to the code as written, and howls of protest from some athletes. The unstated fact that was not mentioned in this discussion is that the new WADA code is actually less stringent than rules and regulations in place in many sports and by many testing agencies prior to this year.

Olympic athletes in the US, for example, have always had to adhere to the 24/7, 365 days a year Whereabouts notification. At one time, they could be tested at any time. That was relaxed so that testers would not show up at an athletes door in the middle of the night, as neither the athletes nor the testers particularly wanted to be doing bodily fluid collections at three o'clock in the morning. The rationale behind this seemingly onerous obligation for athletes is that many drugs that enhance performance are "training" drugs. They assist an athlete in recovering from workouts and allow them to do more heavy training.

Since the 1970s, Olympic drug testers have insisted that no notice, OOC testing is a key to deterring drug use among athletes. One of the pioneers in Olympic drug testing, the late Manfred Donike, who ran the Cologne laboratory in Germany that helped develop testing for substances, such as anabolic steroids, campaigned back then for testing out of competition. It was nearly 20 years before any groups implemented any out of competition testing, and the disparity between how much such testing is done the various countries is often cited as a rationale many athletes used to justify doping.

The "Everybody is doing it" mantra is reinforced when athletes from the US, Canada, Australia, and other countries with full-functioning testing agencies observe that athletes from other nations are seldom tested. One of the missions of WADA is to close these "loopholes" in the system, to create a uniform standard that strives to expose all athletes to equal scrutiny from sports drug testers. In most sports many athletes suspect that their opponents are trying to get "an edge" any way they can.

One of the reason's WADA was formed nearly ten years ago was to attempt to change the perception that sports federations and some country's sports governing bodies were actively aiding athletes wanting to get that edge. The revelations of how things operated in the GDR reinforced this mistrust between countries when it was shown that there existed a state run doping program in what was "East Germany." As many former GDR athletes have admitted, they did what they did because they believed the US and other countries were doing it too.

A story that illustrates this happened at an Olympics in the 1970s. An athlete from the US and an athlete from an Eastern Bloc nation were talking before the competition. They openly compared the drug regimen each was taking. They concluded that each was using pretty much the same stuff, and they had no qualms that the other had any unfair advantage. One won the gold, the other the silver medal. A prominent exercise physiologist told of tests done in his lab on Olympic team strength athletes in the 1980s. They all were using steroids, he said.

The athletics company Nike started an track team, Athletics West, in the 1980s with the express purpose of being the US version of the GDR system, which was then touting it's ability to use science to identify and train genetically gifted individuals for sport. One of the coaches for AW openly admits that information on steroids was given to the athletes because they knew the athletes were at least considering taking them and that they wanted the athletes to be able to make an informed decision about the risks and benefits of performance enhancing drug use.

It wasn't until after the Pan American Games of 1983 drug scandal and revelations about how the USOC had done "informational" pre testing of athletes prior to the 1984 Games that anything apart from testing at competitions began to be considered. A smattering of out of competition testing began prior to the Seoul Olympics in 1988, and after Ben Johnson was caught there, the movement toward a more comprehensive, year-round testing process began to gain momentum.

In fear of further doping scandals, many of the international sporting federations resisted such programs or, if they allowed them, tightly controlled them arousing much suspicion that potentially embarrassing positive test results were manipulated and/or "covered up." Positive tests were not punished because the use of a banned substance was deemed to be "inadvertent" or accidental by the governing organization. Appeals panels exonerated athletes on arguments that would defy explanation in hearings held behind closed doors.

Rules for doping were filled with loopholes and ways for athletes to avoid punishment. Dorian Lambelet Coleman, who helped draft a new set of doping regulations for the US track governing body in 1993, commented at the time that the existing rules appeared to be written either by people who were not very smart or who didn't want to catch anybody. Athletes were also very enterprising in attempting to avoid sanctions.

One, at a time when it was possible for athletes to handle their B samples during the confirmation process for a doping violation, pretended to drop the B sample bottle containing his urine. It bounced on the floor, but didn't break. He picked it up and threw it against the wall. It shattered. There was no rule that applied to intentional destruction of a B sample, but there was a rule that a test result could only be declared positive if the A and B sample were positive for drugs.

This athlete did not go free, said Ollan Cassell, the head of the US federation at the time. He was sanctioned under another section of the organization's rules governing conduct, a lesser charge than a doping offense. Drug testing has had to evolve to meet many legal and scientific hurdles. Kathy Presnal, who ran the drug testing program back then, noted that she never saw a clear cut doping case that went to appeal. There was always some "technicality" or issue that could leave room for doubt in obtaining a conviction.

This same issue remains with Whereabouts. The EU and WADA are looking at the code to determine if it is in compliance with EU privacy laws, among other things. Dick Pound, the former president of WADA, defended the stringent out of competition testing requirements by declaring that it wasn't a "right" to participate in sport, that athletes had obligations, requirements they must fulfill to be able to compete. Chuck Yesalis, an epidemiologist who has followed sports drug testing issues nearly since their inception, cringes at the code requirements.

He agrees with the EU judgment that they are in violation of privacy rights and others. If a system has to trample basic constitutional rights to be effective, how is that a valid system? he asks. Aren't we giving up more than we are getting? The question not being asked or answered is why can't the science meet the demands of effective OOC testing in a manner that doesn't appear to infringe on individual rights?

Part of the answer to that might be in the way the sports doping lab system has evolved. There was never a plan or a blueprint for how to develop an effective system. Drug testing labs grew out of the need for a testing lab near the site of each Olympics. They weren't selected for their scientific expertise, their research capability, or their role in creating a unified system to meet the various obligations and functions of a global sports drug testing system.

What has grown out of this randomly blossoming network of sports testing labs has been a collection of dedicated scientists attempting to stem the growth of a burgeoning industry that aids in the production and distribution of performance enhancing substances. The BALCO lab was one example of the "industry" the testing labs are fighting, but a bad one. They got caught.

Thee 30+ WADA-certified labs compete for the limited research funds, attempt to grapple with the myriad of challenges of detecting an ever widening array of products, and meet the legal obligations of defending their results before appeals panels.

As has been the case all through the process of the evolving drug testing system in sports, the science, economics, and logistics of a hopefully effective program have held a backseat to the politics surrounding the issue. Control is more important to the various "stakeholders" than the results. The discussions about this topic do not focus so much on solutions as to the vested interests of the combatants.

FIFA complains because it wants control over drug testing of its athletes. Yesalis has an illustration of how far this control goes as he tells the story of another sports body that was faced with news of a drug bust on one of its athletes. The sports body sent a "Swat" team to investigate the issue, not to discover how the athlete cheated or where the drugs came from, but rather to put a "lid" on the publicity surrounding the publicity over the drug bust. There interest was not to investigate the problem, but rather to limit its potential damage to their product.

Rowbury made another familiar plea at the TC press conference. Why, she asked, doesn't USADA or USATF help the athletes with the issue of supplements? While the testing labs have shown in studies that contamination of supplements is not uncommon, there has been little effort to protect the athletes from the threat of consuming a banned substance in a supplement deemed to be "safe." Yes, it's unrealistic for a sports organization to attempt to regulate the supplement industry, but there should be a way for athletes to avoid the fear of being banned for ingesting a seemingly "safe" substance.

Athletes are "stakeholders" too. Much lip service is given to the belief that most athletes want to compete "clean," play fair. Yet, the history of sport is littered with tales of the marginalization of athlete input. Is Rowbury being a bit paranoid in thinking that nothing has been done on the issue of supplements? Yes, but when an athlete is told that they are responsible for whatever they put in their body and that "strict liability" provides the system no ability to differentiate between an athlete attempting to "game" the system and one who simply has made an innocent or tragic mistake on something they ate, then there are trust and communication issues.

The pro sport model of unionization creates the battle of labor(athletes) against management(owners) and certainly doesn't work in the drug testing area. Olympic sport has chosen the representational model where former and/or current athletes are granted a seat at the table, but little influence in decision making.

To be fair, most athletes aren't well equipped for the politics that are the lifeblood of sports governance. Compromise is not the forte of a competitive athlete. Most athletes don't have the time or skills to work with sports administrators on sports governance while they are competing. And, until recently, there have been few really good advocates for athletes' issues in positions to lobby effectively within the sports organizations.

The result is a system that adopts rules that make good talking points in debates about drug use in sports, but that ultimately do more to foster athletes attempting to beat the system, rather than play within it. WADA has done more than the organizations that preceded it in attempting to listen to all the stakeholders in the process, but it can do more. Whereabouts seems like a simple problem to fix, but it's not.

It's trying to mesh the law, politics, science, and human behavior into a workable process that protects clean athletes and punishes those who dope. Just like climbing out the current economic situation, the issues being argued over won't have easy solutions that are quickly adopted. It's going to be a gradual process, and not one that is furthered much by various interest groups trashing each other in the media. Dr. Don Catlin, who ran the drug testing lab at UCLA and now runs the only full-time independent research organization into sports doping issues, characterized it back in the late 1980s, it's like cold war politics.

Both sides distrust one another. Neither sees an advantage in working with one another. Those barriers need to be broken down. Common threads need to be woven, the barriers to trust chipped away. Then, at least, there will be a chance for success in the battle to contain sports doping.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Short-Cut: Results' Links for May 21-25

Follow Minnesotans in action here:

Division II National Meet: Live Results
Division III National Meet: Live Results - * Men *Women

Division II National Meet: Live Results
Division III National Meet: Live Results - * Men *Women

Division II National Meet: Live Results
Division III National Meet: Live Results - * Men *Women

Anytime Fitness Stillwater Marathon: Results

Brian Kraft 5k: Results

Mankato Free Press Track Coverage

Mankato Free Press article on NCAA Division III Championships here. Coverage of high school sub section pole vault competition here.

Big Tens on the Big Ten Network

The Big Ten Championships are scheduled to be broadcast on the Big Ten Network from 5 to 8 PM on Sunday and midnight to 3 AM Monday. Set your VCRs if you get the service.

Take a Ride to the Start at Grandma's

Kevin Pates reports on a new way to get to the starting line at Grandma's this year here.

DNT Prep Track Honor Roll

The Duluth News Tribune's Prep Track Honor Roll is here.

UMD Runners At DII Nationals

A summary of results from UMD runners competing at the NCAA Division II meet is here.

Heart Study Seeks Female Marathoners

Three metro area doctors are undertaking a cardiac evaluation of repetitive marathon runners. They are planning to study the heart muscle and blood vessels in female marathon runners who have completed at least one marathon per year for ten years or more. They hope to study up to 100 marathoners.

According to a press release, the study aims to determine the value or potential health risk of training for and running numerous marathons. While many physicians and physiologists believe that persistent long distance running is cardio protective and life enhancing, a minority of cardiologists have suggested that chronic marathoning may accelerate the development of coronary disease.

The three doctors who are conducting the study each have a unique interest in cardiovascular research and distance running. William Roberts, MD, has been the Medical Director of Twin Cities Marathon since 1985. Robert Schwartz, MD, is Medical Director of the Minnesota Cardiovascular Research Institute at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. Stephen Oesterle, MD, is a senior vice president at Medtronic, the title sponsor of Twin Cities Marathon, and is a veteran marathoner.

The details of the study will be fully disclosed to participants. There is no cost to take part in the study, which will help determine the health risks and benefits of distance running and assess the personal cardiovascular health of participants.

Athletes who fit the criteria and would like more information should contact:
Denise Windenburg at (612-863-3816) or William Roberts at (651-793-5603).

Coach Steve Plasencia Interviewed by Flotrack

University of Minnesota men's track coach, Steve Plasencia, is interviewed by Flotrack here.

USTFCCA Announces 2009 Awards

Defending NCAA champion Lisa Brown of Gustavus Adolphus, Katie Theisen and James Ewer of St. Thomas, Gustavus Adolphus head coach Tom Thorkelson, and St. Thomas head men's coach Steve Mathre and assistant coach Tim Springfield are among the 64 men’s and women’s regional athletes and coaches of the year for the 2009 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track & Field season, the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced on Monday. Minnesota State University's Matt Kolb was one of 64 recipients of the NCAA Division II Regional Athlete and Coach of the Year honors for the 2009.

Theisen, a senior from Elko, was selected as the Central Region female track athlete of the year. She scored 22 points at the MIAC outdoor track & field championships to lead St. Thomas to the team title. Theisen is ranked third in the steeplechase with a time of 10:36.39 heading into the national championships, and she will also compete as a member of St. Thomas’s fifth-ranked 4x400 meter relay. Theisen also recorded provisional marks in the 800 meters and 1500 meters during the outdoor season.

Ewer, a senior from Lakeville was named the Central Region male track athlete of the year. He helped in scoring 36 points at the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) outdoor track & field championships to lead the Tommies to victory. Headed into nationals, Ewer is ranked in the top 20 in the 100 meter dash and runs on St. Thomas’s top ranked 4x100 meter and 4x400 meter relays.

Lisa Brown is the Central Region female field athlete of the year. Brown heads into the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships with the Division’s second-best mark in the javelin, an automatic qualifying mark of 161’ (49.08m) achieved in a third-place finish at the Drake Relays. Brown won the IIAC championship in the javelin by nearly 30 feet and finished third in the shot put and fourth in the discus. She will compete in both the shot put and the javelin at this weekend’s NCAA Championships. Brown is a senior from Lake Crystal.

Tom Thorkelson is the Central Region women's head coach of the year. In his 24th year at Gustavus Adolphus and tenth as head coach, Thorkelson led the Gusties to a second-place showing at the 2009 MIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships with the highest point total in school history. The Gusties also achieved nine NCAA provisional or automatic qualifying marks this season under Thorkelson’s guidance.

Steve Mathre was selected as the Central Region men's head coach of the year.
Mathre, the 2009 MIAC Outdoor Track & Field Coach of the Year, recently led St. Thomas to its 23rd MIAC title in 27 seasons. The Tommies also achieved 17 NCAA provisional or automatic marks in 10 different events during the 2009 outdoor track & field season. Mathre is in his 14th season as St. Thomas’s head coach, and his 19th overall at the university.

Tim Springfield is the Central Region men's assistant coach of the year. In his twelfth year at St. Thomas, assistant coach Springfield led the Tommies’ middle distance crew to new heights in 2009. Springfield-coached student-athletes broke four school records, earned three indoor track & field All-American honors, achieved seven NCAA provisional or automatic qualifying marks, and scored 93 points at the MIAC championships during the indoor and outdoor track & field seasons.

Matt Kolb was awarded the Central Region men's assistant coach of the year title. His vaulters took second, third, and seventh at the NSIC Indoor Conference Championships and first at the NSIC Outdoor Championships. Freshman Dan Novak finished second at the indoor national meet in the pole vault, and senior Ben Mauch will represent the men’s vault crew at the Division II Outdoor Championships.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Neither Wind, Nor Rain, Nor Trains...

Kevin Pates recounts an oddly familiar tale of a road race, a train, and...Well, you can read the rest here.

Strib Chronicles A Runner's Passage

The Strib's Rachel Blount writes a nice feature on the U's Ladia Albertson-Junkans' mission to Ethiopia here.

Pates Reveals Palkie is a Chocoholic

The Duluth News Tribune's Kevin Pates profiles UMD star Liz Palkie here.

Duluth Duo Run 50K

Also in the Duluth News Tribune, a story on Duluth's Andy Holak and Steve Schuder, who ran the Spring Superior Trail 50-kilometer racehere.Race results story is here.

Anatomy of a Team Title: Penn State's Coach Beth Alford-Sullivan Tells What It Took To Win

While the Gopher women were third in the team competition last weekend, it turns out that the team title is still at least a little bit "in the family." Penn State Nittany Lions head men's and women's coach is Beth Alford-Sullivan. As Rosemount High's Chris Harder pointed out, Alford-Sullivan has Minnesota roots. As her Penn State coaching bio notes: "In 2007, Sullivan was inducted into the Classic Lake Conference and the Hopkins High School Hall of Fame." And that's only one of many honors she has received in her athletic career. You can read the full bio here. To that she can now add another Big Ten team title. Below she talks about how the "race" was won.
DtB: For the spectators the Big Ten Championships had to be a treat to watch. Plenty of drama and excitement. Nothing decided until the final event. What was it like for the coaches and the Penn State team being involved in a competition that was that close, that tense?

Beth Alford-Sullivan: Well, the meet was very close on Sunday. We were very excited to be a team in the hunt and worked hard to stay relaxed and have fun. Our athletes were hungry to try to repeat, as we came close to winning indoors, only losing to Minnesota by four points. So, the entire weekend was charged with an attitude of anything can happen. The final hour of the meet was an absolute adrenaline rush for me. Each event mattered so much, and I was doing my best to keep the score after every final. It was so much fun to see it unfold and our Lions just closing the gap with each event.

DtB: Even though you were the defending champions, the team went into the meet as underdogs. Was that an advantage for you? Were you able to use last year's experience to buoy the team's confidence or didn't they need any special motivation?

BAS: I found it to be a great advantage. At our team meeting on Monday before the meet, I explained to the team that, on paper, Michigan and Minnesota were the favorites, and we were indeed the underdogs. I think this was the best approach to take with this team. They did not expect me to paint that picture, and I believe they were a little upset that, on paper, we looked to be third. I set the 'Underdog' theme into motion and it paid off; as at our team meeting Saturday, the night before the final day of competition, I explained that Michigan had overachieved their predicted point tally by twelve points, Minnesota by seven points, and we were down by six points. We were clearly the underdogs and that, on Saturday night, we believed it was Michigan's meet to loose. I told them however that the team that scored 140 points would be the winning team. I told them it will be us or Minnesota that is the spoiler, and the team that wins will be the team that goes out there and steals it. As it turns out I was right; we won with 139 points and we stole a lot of points on our last day!

DtB: The team's scoring strength came primarily from the field events and the sprints, but all three of the top teams had pretty balanced scoring.

Were there key events or particular areas where you know the athletes had to come through for you to win?

BAS: I agree. We are very strong in the sprints and field events. I believe those areas are the core to a successful track and field team. Sprinters, jumpers, and throwers can compete in multiple events at the conference levels, and we have always put a lot of emphasis in these areas. AND it pays off.

The Big Ten is stacked with high level and deep quality in the distance events and the distance runners can't do too many events, so this makes the most sense to build a program strong in the other areas. But as the meet unfolded on Sunday, I knew what we needed to do in each event to be in the hunt to win. I will never forget the 200 where Shavon Greaves put the hammer down to win, but Gayle Hunter came through on the final 75 meters to earn second. They knew we needed to go one/two. Then I pulled Bridget Franek aside just before the gun of the 5k and told her she 'must' finish in the top three, and she 'cannot' let a Minnesota gal beat her! We need at least six points to be within .75 of Michigan at this stage--so the top three was critical. When she finished third, I knew we were only .75 behind Michigan. So it was so exciting!!

DtB: When you knew that the team title depended on finishing in the four by 400 result did you or any of the coaches say anything, provide any advice To the team before they ran?

BAS: Yes, we knew the relay was our final chance. What better drama can there be?! Coach Chris Johnson is my sprint coach and he always has the troops ready for a great conference meet. The four by 400 is our signature event as we were National champions last year, and our athletes have a huge amount of pride in this event. I knew well before the gun went off that we would hold off Michigan and win the meet. Mostly we reminded the ladies this is why we coach, and this is why they run---for moments like this. Where it comes down to the final event for the win, and that they should embrace this opportunity and go represent the Blue and White! All four of our relay members were exhausted from the demands of the weekend, but there really wasn't a moment that I doubted the Lions....I knew what they could do!!

DtB: Are there any memories or things that will stick in your mind that Happened during the past weekend?

BAS: Mostly, I will remember the preparation of the championships. I was proud of the way our team meetings went and the attitude of our athletes. I was proud of my coaching staff, and I was so happy to celebrate a win with all of them, plus Coach Fritz Spence, our jumps coach that missed last year's win due to his fight with leukemia. (One that he won and is doing great)! It meant so much to him and to me to have him win with us!!

And of course I will always remember the 1/4 point that separated a win and a runner-up status. That is a great story for the rest of my career!!

DtB: While winning was inspiring, I'm sure the event was both physically and emotionally draining for the athletes and the coaches. What do you do to "get back to normal" and go on with the rest of the season after this Sort of contest?

BAS: I am still beat!! We have 39 men and women qualified for the NCAA East Regional meet, and so we mostly got right back to practice as usual on Monday. My husband (also our vault coach) told me to take it easy on Monday, so I slept in, but I was still in the office by noon.

Photo Courtesy of Penn State University

What's in A Name?

When the University of Minnesota's Hassan Mead was interviewed by Flotrack a few weeks ago, he was sitting on the university track. The interviewer asked him what the name of the facility was. Mead hesitated, thinking. Finally he said it was the Bierman track.

Last weekend the Big Ten Outdoor Track Championships were held on the campus of Ohio State University in that school's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

Today it was announced that another $6 million had been given to the U of M to support the new TCF Stadium being built on the campus to replace the old Memorial Stadium that had been torn down when the Gopher football team moved off campus to play in the HHH Metrodome. Both Ohio Stadium, where the Buckeyes play football before 100,000 plus fans, and Memorial Stadium had tracks.

So what do these bits of information mean? For one they reflect the changing nature of sports, of paying for sports, and perceptions of the marketplace. Jesse Owens, a track legend, was a major public figure, a national hero. Years ago track and field was a sport that promoters believed could fill stadiums with spectators. It was the key sport in the summer Olympics.

The USA/Russia dual meets filled football stadiums in the 60s with track fans. Sports stadiums didn't sell naming rights or have luxury boxes catering to corporate clientele. The Penn Relays wasn't the only meet that could fill a 50,000 seat stadium. Today, track or soccer, and any other "minor" sport are not deemed able to consistently draw large, paying crowds. If they are built at all, track facilities only have room for a modest numbers of fans.

The only track athlete who is generally recognized by the public as well as sports aficionados is another sprinter, Jamaica's Usain Bolt. My friend and colleague, Peter Gambaccini, who writes and edits the Racing News section on Runner's World's website, suggested, somewhat tongue in cheek, recently that Bolt has been designated the "Messiah" of track and field. While one might pause at the thought that the last Messiah ended up getting crucified, there is no doubt that both Bolt's business representatives and the IAAF leadership want to generate wealth, brand awareness, and growth from Bolt's current popularity.

Last weekend he was in Manchester running a street race that all involved admitted was little more than a lucrative PR event for Bolt, the sport, and the country that will be hosting the 2012 Games. As media celebrities often do these days, Bolt also created more publicity leading up to the event by rolling his BMW and injuring his foot on thorns, which leads one to believe that Messiahs should not drive fast cars recklessly, an admonishment that the IAAF leader Lamine Diack made not so subtly the other day.

Hidden behind all the headlines over Bolt was the fact that on the same weekend in a portion of the same event in Manchester another running legend, Haile Gebreselassie, headlined the 10K road race. Geb has accomplished more in his storied career than Bolt, but he comes from a different culture. While he is rich beyond belief by African standards, he doesn't spend his money on fast cars or bling, he reinvests much of it back into his home country, Ethiopia. And his events take nearly a half hour to just over two hours to complete, not less than 10 seconds. Not exactly a good fit for television where the viewer's attention span is deemed to be limited.

Geb also has not developed a "signature" gesture, such as Bolt's unique pointing to the sky celebratory bow shot that has begun to be copied even by owners of thoroughbred horses. Thus, he is not as easily embraced by the mainstream media that does much to make stars out of athletes and develop "brands." Hopping around the globe to run in lots of races, get "face time" before the cameras, and the other obligations of brand name properties are also not as conducive to training and performing at a high level for a distance runner. So, we read and hear more about "Lightening Bolt" than "The Emperor." More about how Bolt wants to become the $10 million dollar man in earnings, than how Haile is working to help his countrymen and women rise out of poverty.

There's a track stadium named after Kip Keino in Eldoret. Probably there is or will be one in Addis Ababa for Haile. In Africa the purpose of a brand, if such a thing exists, is to inspire the young people to know that there is opportunity, that life does not have to be simply worrying about where the next meal is coming from. In these African nations, one doesn't need to promote track and field, it is the major sport. In the so called developed world, however, the rules are different. The "lesser" sports are becoming marginalized because they don't generate huge revenue.

While participant sports, such as road racing, have captured the interest of causes, marketers, and fund raisers because they do generate awareness and dollars, track meets no longer fill 50,000 seat stadiums. At the adidas track classic in California last weekend, much of the talk on the blogs was how sparse the crowd was in the stands. Toronto is taking a gamble in June by promoting a meet that will feature Bolt where some of the tickets are on sale for $250. That's rock star concert money.

Will those running/promoting the sport be able to create a package that those who pay to watch sports will buy? Is that really the goal of competitive sports or merely a lucrative element of the endeavor? What Minnesota track athlete would be best to name a facility after? Few probably know that Bernie Bierman was a track athlete and started out as a track coach(You can read a bit about it here, but does his name do anything for the promotion of track and field?

I don't have the answers, but they are certainly some questions that are worth asking. What is in a name? For the citizens of Ohio, where I grew up, a name that got mentioned was Jesse Owens. The sport, the legend, that's associated with Owens is track and field. Bob Kennedy, Edwin Moses, Dave Wottle, and many others grew up in that tradition. There's as rich a history here in Minnesota. Where would many of the top Minnesota track athletes be, for example, if it wasn't for the work of Coach Roy Griak. The Griak track? The Fortune Gordien discus throwing circle?

The tradition is there. We should all recognize it.

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hermanson, Gophers 4x1600 Named Athletes of the Month

USA Track & Field - Minnesota named Laura Hermanson and the University of Minnesota's 4x1600 relay team its Athletes of the Month for May 2009.

Hermanson, a North Dakota State University senior, was honored for winning the 800 meter run at last month’s Drake Relays. The Burnsville High School graduate set a meet record with her 2:07.12 clocking.

The Gophers 4x1600 relay team (Hassan Mead, Andy Richardson, Chris Rombough and Ben Blankenship) also won a Drake Relays title, beating powerhouse Stanford by a fraction of a second, 16:29.74 to 16:29.85.

USA Track & Field Minnesota selects Athletes of the Month to honor excellence in track and field and its related sports in Minnesota.

Strib Follows Up On Duluth News Tribune Piece on Crowded Spring Marathon Calendar

The Sunday Strib article on spring marathons is here.

Kara Goucher on Marathoning

Kara Goucher chats with the New York Times on marathoning here.

Matt Bingle Looks Back on the Big Ten Meet

Down the Backstretch: It all came down to the last day, last event. Is this sort of cliffhanger more difficult to deal with than other scenarios, a less tense finish?

Matt Bingle: You would always like to have a large lead and not have to worry about anything. But I would rather it be close and have a chance than be out of it on the final day.

DtB: What did you tell the team afterwards? How do you approach the recovery from this sort of finish?

MB: I just said how proud of them I was for fighting the whole weekend, and that we have a lot to be thankful for. I also told them that we win together and we lose together.

DtB: If you look at the point totals from the various specialties, it shows that Penn State and Michigan were both strong in the field events, as well as the sprints, while Minnesota dominated in the distances. Was that sort of how you expected it to work out? Any surprises?

MB: We did do well in the distances and did dominate the 10k and 800m. But we also scored ten points or more in the discus, 100, pole vault, and multi. There are always some surprises. I enjoyed the 800 going 2-3-4-5 and the 400 with Rikita Butler breaking the school record and placing third.

DtB: What were the highlights of the weekend for the team?

MB: One of the highlights was going to Gameworks on Thursday and playing video games for two hours as a team.

DtB: What are the memories you’ll take away from this meet?

MB: I would say there was a lot of drama during the meet, so many ups and downs. It was just crazy. Through it all we kept fighting. It was also the last time that this group will be together. So I think we all tried to enjoy all of our seniors.

DtB: You’ve got the NCAA meets next, what are the goals there?

MB: I would just like to see the women that qualified go out and take on the challenge of competing against the best athletes there are.

Joe Sweeney Talks Track

St. Thomas women's track and XC coach Joe Sweeney has led the team to unprecedented success. He gives us his insights on the program and what makes it successful.

Down the Backstretch: You went from a successful running career of your own into coaching, why? Why St. Thomas?
Joe Sweeney: I did teach English and coach track at Hill Murray for two years right out of college from 1977-79. I felt a desire to spend more time coaching and less time teaching, so the college level was a natural draw. I returned to St. Thomas for grad school in 1979, volunteered with the men, then the women's job opened up the following year. I decided to give it a try, and I've been doing that ever since. St. Thomas went co-ed in 1977, the year I graduated, so it is a bit ironic that I returned to what I had only known as an all-male institution to coach the women, and have done it all these years.

DtB: Winning MIAC championships has become rather routine for your teams. The triple crown of XC, indoor, and out for the third straight year with the combined men's and women's teams on the verge of 100 team titles. That can be either a source of pressure or an inspiration to keep the tradition going. How do you deal with the pressure and inspire the athletes to produce year after year?

JS: Three titles for the year for three straight years, we call that a three-peat-repeat; we stole that from the Chicago Bulls. The athletes love to win and I enjoy inspiring them to achieve their dreams. There is a lot that goes into it, mainly strong support from my staff. I have six assistants who were all highly accomplished athletes and do an outstanding job preparing our athletes in every event area. It all comes down to a combined effort. We have a saying UST/TTE, Total Team Effort. That is our battle cry in every championship meet and is the driving force behind our success.

DtB: What is the most satisfying aspect of coaching for you? What keeps you motivated?

JS: I get satisfaction taking care of the people, making sure everyone--athletes and staff--are having an enjoyable experience. Our athletes would probably tell you that I inspire them and make them laugh. Practice should be the best part of their day, and that will keep them happy and excited about track. We work hard--that is accepted, a necessary part of being successful. But it is the people and positive environment that makes it all work.

DtB: Did you have any role models or people who inspired you to get into coaching?

JS: My coach at St. Thomas, Larry Russ, was a great role model, a first class gentleman who encouraged me in coaching and had a huge impact on me. We were all like sons to him, and that meant a lot to all who ran for him. I was also strongly influenced by my high school experience at St. Viator in Arlington Heights, IL. They instilled in us a great sense of school pride, to be men of Viator and give 100% for our school and team. It was a disciplined environment, one that shaped me as a leader. The public school coach in my home town of Palatine, IL. also ran a summer program so I got to know him well. His name was Joe Johnson, and is a legend. He taught me what it took to become a champion and to build a winning program. Though I attended a different high school he took a real interest in me, and I am always grateful for that.

One last influence, I was raised in a family with seven boys; talk about a competitive environment! My mother was a tough German farm girl who had six brothers herself and LOVED sports. Between playing against each other in backyard games and cheering for the Bears, Sox, Bulls and Blackhawks, we learned the difference between winning and losing. It was a great environment, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

DtB: You're from the Windy City, but have settled here in the Twin Cities. Any desire to move on to something bigger, other challenges?

DtB: I love St. Thomas and am a firm believer in a faith based/liberal arts education. Just like summer training builds a base for your season, a St. Thomas education builds a foundation for life. You will learn the specific skills for any particular job once you enter the work force. But to have a moral compass, to learn to work as a team, to be a strong role model, and to give back--those are the things you learn here and will influence you the rest of your life. It is the personal experience that makes St. Thomas special. It influenced me in a big way, and I enjoy providing the same life changing experience to our student athletes.

DtB: What do you get back from it?

JS: I have passion for St. Thomas and for seeing young people reach their full potential. I believe that we can make them as good in their events here as they could be at a D-I school, but we can provide so much more. Along with reaching their full potential on the track, they also have opportunities to study abroad, do internships, volunteer experiences,etc. I really enjoy giving student athletes the opportunity to "have it all." More than anything else, we provide many great leadership experiences for our students. I enjoy shaping them in this way and take my role in this process very seriously. We volunteer as a team at Feed My Starving Children, and also hosted a track meet for inner city youth two weeks ago. The athletes did all the work, I just provided support. It is very rewarding to see them take charge, develop as leaders, and be a high achieving team as well.

DtB: I don't mean to single out one individual, as the whole team contributes to winning a championships, but Katie Theisen has played a big role in the team's success over the past four years and seems to have a rather wide range. Running a leg on the four by 400 and winning the steeplechase is an unusual combination. Can you talk a bit about her and her contributions over the years? Any particularly memorable performances?

JS: Katie is a special person. She has achieved so much and squeezed everything out of her St. Thomas experience she possibly could. Above all she is driven--in a positive way--to be as good as she can be, and to take others with her to the top. She possesses a special brand of toughness that is refreshing, something you don't see everyday. Her versatility makes her a track coach's dream, because we can use her in so many ways. At the MIAC Meet she ran on the winning four by 400, four by 800, was first in the steeplechase and second in the 400 Hurdles. She just received the NCAA Central Region Outstanding Track Athlete Award, one of many honors. She has a 4.0 grade point average, was awarded an NCAA post-graduate scholarship, and will attend medical school at the U of M this fall.

DtB: Are there any memorable moments from the past season that stick out from the rest?

JS: We won the Distance Medley Relay at Drake this year. This was the first time a St. Thomas Relay team has ever won at Drake. The last MIAC school to win a relay there was Carleton back in 1932, so I guess it was a big deal. The athletes were a junior, Kelly Russ (1200), junior Nikki Arola (400), junior Erin Sprangers (800), and senior Katie Theisen (Mile). They got Drake Relays Champion watches, t-shirts, and got to do a victory lap waving these little flags and high-fiving the fans. They want to do it again, and I know the men want to achieve this too. That's the amazing thing about breaking down barriers. Once you do it, it inspires others to do the same and establishes a whole new level of expectations.

Also, we won the MIAC CC title by two points for the second year in a row. To win two close meets in consecutive years by such a slim margin was super exciting; it tested my heart, for sure.

DtB: What are the plans for the upcoming Division III NCAA meet?

JS: It is hard to predict. We have eleven athletes going, which is a nice group. Placing in the top ten as a team would be great; if we get a few top three finishes, we could go higher. They do a team power ranking for Division III (, which is equivalent to True Team in the high schools, where we score the top two people in each event. We are ranked third in the nation there. This shows the total strength of your program, so I am particularly proud of that. Our focus at Nationals will be for everyone to achieve a PR; we'll try to do that, and see where that takes us. If we get a UST/TTE, everything will work out just fine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Track and field athletes around the state are getting a burst of Minnesota heat this week with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. For Division II National Qualifiers, this heat wave will likely continue as they travel to San Angelo, Texas for the National Meet. The meet will begin Thursday morning at Angelo State and conclude on Saturday night.

Yes/No has already followed Heather Dorniden and Laura Hermanson and this week will center on their former MN high school rival in the 400 meters: Kristi Buerkle.

Yes/No: Will Kristi Buerkle finish in the top 8 in the 400 meters at D2 Nationals this week?

Note: Kristi Buerkle is an All-State 400 meter runner from Forest Lake now running at Bemidji State. The sophomore standout finished 7th at D2 indoor nationals in the 400 meters earning an All-American award. Buerkle is ranked 4th going into the meet with a seed time of 55.26

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 6:00 p.m. CDT , Thursday, May 21st. Please put your answer in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. We will continue to offer a bonus for participants making their debut in Yes/No - a correct answer will be worth two points for any first-time players.

Please note the early deadline this week: 6:00 P.M. on 5/21

My Answer: Yes

Last week’s question was “Will Heather Dorniden score 13 or more points in individual events (1500 and 800) at the Big Ten Championship this weekend?” The correct answer was “No” as Dorniden scored 12 points with a second in the 800 and a fifth in the 1500. Another difficult question for contestants – only 3 people got the question right.

You can find the Y/N leaderboard HERE.

Good luck and thanks for playing Yes/No on DtB!

The True Olympic Values

One of the stated values promoted by the Olympic movement is to bring together the world on the field of play to better promote social harmony and understanding. For me it has certainly been the alluring part of covering Olympic sports that one is able to interact with people from all parts of the globe, all "walks of life." It is truly a globalization of sorts.

When you travel to other countries, as Charlie Mahler is now on his journey to Kenya, you not only meet athletes in their home environment, you get to see the world close up, not merely through a picture travelogue or from others' stories. One of the most valuable assets the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. has is the fact that he has lived, visited, or has relatives in far reaching parts of the world.

President Obama's relations in Kenya, his time in India, provide him with a more global perspective in a world where all things are becoming more and more homogenized and connected. So, when someone, like Charlie, goes on a trip to Kenya, he doesn't only meet with Olympic champions Pamela Jelimo and Wilfred Bungei, or Janeth Chepkoskei Alfred Yego, Asbel Kiprop, Nancy Langat, Paul Koech, and Sammy Koskei, he interacts with the citizens of the country, as the picture he posted from a Kenyan primary school shows.

When you're traveling, you read the local papers. Learn about gang/tribal warfare such as this link to a investigative series run this week in the East African Standard(you can follow the links to the related stories from the lead article)chronicles. Last year the violence that erupted after the disputed election gave those outside Kenya a view of the forces at work in Kenya and many other parts of Africa or so called Third World nations.

What sports reporters have learned through getting to know the Kenyans over the years is that the greatest threats to their success are political instability,corruption and disease. More Kenyan athletes have been sidelined by malaria than sports related injuries. More of them have been denied a chance to either race outside the country, go to school and pursue and education in a foreign land, or run in the world championships or Olympics by corruption in the alphabet groups who govern the sport in the country.

Patrick Sang, who came to the US to attend Iowa State University and ran in the Human Race 8K in St. Paul, told me when we visited him in Eldoret was that one key to Kenyan success was the relative political stability of the country. Unlike Ethiopia, Somalia, and other African nations, political turmoil, until last year, had been mild. There wasn't widespread violence or genocide to rob the country of its youth.

The success of the Kenyan runners in the Olympics and IAAF championships became a source of pride and inspiration. So, even while there was meddling and empire building among the country's sports officials, most athletes could find a way to compete and prosper in the sport. But as Charlie noted in his dispatch from Nairobi this morning: "It seem like a lot of lives here are very close to the edge. We saw Internal Displaced Persons camps here and there during our rounds. Kind of sobering to see 'UN High Commission for Refugees' on the side of a tent you're motoring past."

In depth reporting from foreign lands has never been a major element in US media coverage, and usually only surfaced at times of major disasters or events of political significance. With the current turmoil in the media business, foreign reporting is getting even less exposure. This is why Olympic reporters can and have provided an opening to the world for readers of the sports pages.

All one has to do is go back to the Beijing Olympic coverage and the "window" that opened to the rest of the world of China. The games we play offer us opportunities to meet people that have different values and perspective on the world. They can open our eyes to cultures we know so little about. It is a voyage of discovery.

With the internet, cell phones, and social networking, it has become easier to make and maintain contact with people in all parts of the globe. It's globalization in its purest sense, and one of the most noble of the Olympic values.

Steve Mathre Talks About the Tommie Program

Steve Mathre has been the head track coach at St. Thomas for nearly two decades. He has done his part to help the Tommie men's team contribute to a combined 99 MIAC championships. He talks to DtB about the latest title and the program at St. Thomas.

Down the Backstretch: The thing that sticks out about St. Thomas is the ability to win MIAC championships. How does one maintain that standard of excellence year after year?

Steve Mathre: A few things come to mind - tradition, TEAM and perspective. First, our tradition is our foundation. There is no question about it - tradition is a power thing. We have a slogan painted on my office wall that reads "Tradition Never Graduates." Our athletes take a lot of pride in our program and understand the history behind it and work to do their part to continue the legacy of the hundreds that have gone before them. At the same time our athletes don't feel pressure to maintain our tradition, but rather see it as an opportunity to be part of something larger then just their performances.

Secondly, we believe strongly that we can have a "team-centered" program while working towards individual goals. Our event groups are small teams within the larger team that work to develop the jumper, thrower, sprinter, vaulter, etc. to be the best athlete possible. These smaller event teams and their event coaches take pride in their impact on the overall TEAM.

Lastly, I think our program maintains a healthy perspective of both athletes and winning. In fact, winning MIAC championships is never a direct focus, it's just a bi-product. When I talk to recruits I talk about our past, but mostly I want them to understand that competing on the St. Thomas track and field team is an exciting opportunity to continue to do something they love -- that will hopefully be an important part of their college experience -- yet at the same time it won't dominate it. It's important to remember that track and field is an elective that should be both challenging and fun,with the ultimate objective of helping our graduates move on into the real world as successful young men who have tested themselves, experienced success, and are eager to take on new challenges.

DtB: What inspired you to become a coach and how did you end up coaching at St. Thomas?

SM: I came to St. Thomas as an assistant hurdle coach straight from college in 1991 and was an assistant coach for both the men's and women's team for five seasons. Although my college education was a great fit (majoring in biology and sports science) I hadn't intended to become a career coach at first. After I started it just became a passion I couldn't give up. I was promoted to an interim head coach when Joe Thompson left to become the AD at Luther College; after which the head coach.

My summer youth coach Dick Peterson made a tough sport enjoyable. Without him I wouldn't have continued. Northfield High School coaches Dick Scott and Darwin Diem taught me well and gave me the confidence I needed to excel. Bill Thornton at St. Olaf was equally influential and challenged me to be my best. Without a doubt I would not be doing what I love to do had I not had these four coaches have such a big impact on me.

DtB: Is there any temptation for you to "move up" to a Division I school or are the challenges and rewards you get now what keeps you going?

SM: I get asked this from time to time... And I really have no desire to change divisions or leave St. Thomas.

With regard to Divisions, Division III coaches do it all. Work with the largest recruiting pool, have the toughest academic standards, and wear every hat imaginable: coach, meet director, counselor, recruiter, teacher, administrator, web master, travel agent, and on and on. I really enjoy the diversity of the job. Regarding athletes - I believe student athletes are the same regardless of Division. Talent levels may change but the interaction, motivation, and training principles stay the same.

You ask about Division I - It's not the Division that creates a quality coaching or athletic experience, it's the overall commitment that the school, regardless of Division, that makes the difference. I know a lot of Division I track and field programs that place our sport off in a corner,forget about it and spend their energy and money on football, hockey, and basketball. Division III can actually, in many ways, do more for track and field athletes -- more coaches on staff, more actual teaching and "eyes-on." More travel early in a career, no red-shirting, and a four year education (not five to six years).

At St. Thomas I'm fortunate to have the best of both worlds. A Division III philosophy that puts the student first and athlete second,and a school and program that operates with a high level of commitment to the sport. St. Thomas track and field is not just a team, it's a program that offers a small school education with a big time track and field experience.

DtB: Have there been any "highlights" or moments that stick out from the rest during the current season?

SM: We've had a great season with a lot of great performances -- but it's the senior class that really sticks out to me. They are a tremendous group of guys that offer strong leadership and commitment to our program. They have had a huge impact on maintaining our tradition. The moments I will remember are watching this group compete as hard as they do each time they step on the track.

DtB: Often one athlete on a team will score a lot of points, as Jim Ewer did this year, but there are often "hidden" contributions that make a difference in winning and losing. One athlete who wasn't supposed to score or somebody who came through in the clutch to contribute vital team points. Any scenarios like that for this year's win?

SM: Andy Edmunds' story it typical of what's important to our athletes and program. Andy is a freshman vaulter and was the last one out of the conference meet--meaning he was the first one not to make the event. At the last minute he was added to the event because of a scratch from another team. Andy rose to the occasion and placed ninth with a personal best. He went from not making the meet to finishing just out of scoring position. Scoring points is never the most important thing -- it's how someone does relative to what they've done before that really matters. Andy showed he could perform at his best when it meant the most. When you have a lot of guys doing what Andy did, the points will be there.

DtB: Do you have a core philosophy behind your approach to coaching or particular values you try to impart to the team?

SM: Overall as a coach, my job is to help athletes help themselves in that I don't want them to graduate and look back and say: "Thanks coach, I couldn't have done it without you." But rather say to themselves: "Wow! Look what I accomplished." And take pride in what they've done so that they have the confidence in themselves to accomplish big things. To do this, it's important that our athletes are well coached, students of the sport, and that they hold themselves accountable to doing the things necessary to become the best student athlete they can be. The biggest role I have as a head coach is to provide an environment for success. The biggest reward I have is watching our athletes take advantage of it.

More specifically, I'm a big believer in sticking to the basics necessary for success -- in anything you do. In that, our athletes need to focus on the process and not the product. In other words, focus on the process of improvement rather then on the product of success. It's so easy to put a goal our there (run fast or win the MIAC) without understanding how to make it happen. If you don't understand how to get there, it's easy to become a wondering generality rather than a meaningful specific -- and get lost in a wish for success.

The only proven way I know how to create success and to make a goal a reality is to break it down into daily tasks -- from executing a workout specifically as it's designed, to getting enough sleep to recover and setting aside enough study time. Not only does this create good life-long habits, it creates confidence, and most often success comes from believing in what you've done. Believing you've earned it, and believing it's rightfully yours. Setting a goal is not enough .. acting on it everyday is.

DtB: Often a team will have a certain character or distinctive quality to it that sets them apart from other teams. Anything stand out about this year's squad?

SM: This is a great team. Not just measured by talent but by who they are individually and collectively. It's fun to see them interact and get along so well and cross over among the different event groups. What will most likely stick with me about this team is the contrast between their calm demeanor and poise, and the way they tenaciously compete. It's a great combination.

DtB: What is the outlook for the Nationals this week?

SM: We have ten athletes in a total of ten events that will compete. It's the best group I've ever taken to an NCAA Championship with the highest seeds. They are experienced, battle tested, and focused. I'm very optimistic about our chances for a strong finish. Regardless of the outcome, I know that ten guys will leave everything they have in Marietta, Ohio this weekend.

Katie McGregor Talks About Bay to Breakers

Down the Backstretch: The Bay to Breakers race has quite a reputation, both as a competitive event and a happening. What memories will you take away from the event?

Katie McGregor: Wow, I had a great time in San Francisco. I didn't really get to see a lot of things the race is known for because the elite women start before everyone else. But, I did see some naked people and a lot of costumes. One memorable event for me was the ING Run For Something Better event on Thursday in Golden Gate Park. ING, Reebok and other sponsors teamed up with Bay to Breakers to put on a wonderful kids event. For more information, visit

DtB: How did it fit into the overall plan for the season? A tune up for track nationals? An opportunity too good to pass up?

KM: It was a fun way to get in a longer race without a lot of pressure. It may be known for the party that it is, but Bay to Breakers is a first class event and something that everyone should experience.

DtB: What are the plans for the USATF championships? Any more races prior to it?

KM: I will be racing the 5K at the Reebok Grand Prix meet May 30, and then the 10K at nationals.

DtB: Were you pleased with the result(eighth place) at Bay to Breakers? Learn anything from it?

KM: I felt like I should have placed a bit higher, but overall it was a good race. I got a bad side stitch around mile four that I couldn't shake. It was a little bit distracting, and I felt like I should have been up with the sixth-place runner. I did learn a lot about the course though and I would love to give it another shot. The Hayes Street hill was a killer, it took me about a mile after it to get my legs back.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Coach Plasencia Talks About the Gopher Victories

Down the Backstretch: It’s often tougher going into a meet as the favorite, but you were able to pull it off. What were your thoughts going into the meet? Was being the team everybody was shooting at a welcome challenge or a bit of a distraction?

Steve Plasencia: Going into the meet we knew that we were not going to sneak up on anybody after (winning) the indoor meet. Early in the outdoor season we began focusing on the fact that we could not be complacent, which is a natural tendency. The indoor meet at Penn State was an awesome weekend because of the success we had, and I think heading into the outdoor meet that we just wanted to go back and taste that success again.

DtB: You were able to win comfortably despite both the relay teams getting DQed. What happened with the relays?

SP: In the four by 100 we passed the baton beyond the exchange zone heading into the final leg. With the four by 400 we had a lane violation early in the race. The four by 400 DQ came after the meet was decided, so we really did not sweat it, but the four by 100, being the first day, caused some concern.

DtB: Hassan Mead had a long, but successful weekend. How do you balance the need for him to double up like this and still perform well at the upcoming NCAA championships?

SP: With Hassan he is always so willing and anxious to help the team. This Big Ten Championships means a lot to our guys. That said, we watched the score carefully throughout the day on Sunday, and if the situation presented itself that he or Chris Rombough, or Ben Blankenship were not needed I would have not run them. However, Michigan has a strong team on the track and they had closed the score on us heading into the 5,000 with Lex Williams leading their group in the 5,000, and also the chance for a strong four by 400 (relay), so we needed to run our guys. Hassan ran conservatively over a large portion of the race and came to the front only near the end, as opposed to the 10,000 where he led a lot. We will take the regional meet as a qualifying meet, and I am confident we can have him ready for the NCAA Championship.

DtB: As a first year head coach, you inherit much of the team, though you were responsible for the distance corps all the way through. Any conversations with Phil Lundin this season? Before or after the meet?

SP: Phil and I have talked on a number of occasions. Likewise, Phil is well acquainted with Lynden Reder and Paul Thornton, our assistant coaches, and I know he has spoken with them as well. Phil gave so much to this program when he was here, I greatly respect his knowledge and contribution to our program. He e-mailed me after the meet and I plan to give him a call.

DtB: What are the plans for the rest of the season? Goals

SP: We have seventeen athletes from the men’s team qualified for the Midwest Regional at the University of Oklahoma May 29 and 30. Obviously the goal of the regional is moving on to the national meet at Arkansas, June 10-13. After the regional we will be able to assess what our goals for the outdoor championship should be. We were fourteenth indoors.

DtB: At the beginning of the year, did you anticipate that you would be in a position to win both conference championships?

SP: At the beginning of the year I calculated, based on returning points from last year’s meet, where we stood. We were third. As the indoor season unfolded I watched the guys put up some good performances, and then when we arrived at the indoor meet a couple coaches commented to me that we were the favorites. Coming in I knew that last year we were very young and would be improving, but I did not anticipate that we would win both Big Ten Indoor and Outdoor Championships.

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota

In The Circle Report

Aaron Studt defended his Big Ten Indoor title with a throw of 61-6 3/4 Sunday at Ohio State. Studt's season best mark of 61-11 1/2 was landed at the Sun Angel Classic and currently ranks 1st in the Midwest Region and 6th in NCAA Division 1 . Studt has consistently been over 60' this season including a 61-5 to win the 100th running of the Drake Relays in April.

Studt and senior Andy Bastain (Winona, MN) went 3-4 in hammer at Big Ten's with throws of 196-11 and 192. Senior Jerry Netland (Bagley, MN) finished his career as Gopher with an 8th place finish in the discus (164-7). Studt (197-0, 7th) and Bastain (196-1, 9th) season best marks will carry them through to the Midwest Region Championships on May 29-30 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Freshmen Trey Davis (Farmington, MN) and Tyler Kleinhuizen (Forrest Lake, MN) have also qualified for the Region Championships. Davis' career best throw in discus at the Mesa Classic of 172-8 (14th in Midwest Region) and Kleinhuizen's 58-1 3/4 (8th in Midwest Region) at the Bolstorff Twilight will give them a chance to extend their successful freshmen campaigns.

Although the Gopher men lose Bastain and Netland to graduation the strong performances of Davis, Kleinhuizen, redshirting freshmen Micah Hegerle (166-discus and 181-hammer), and a senior season for Aaron Studt should provide some fireworks for coach Lynden Reder again next season.

The women's team came up just 7.5 points short of winning an outdoor title to match their indoor title back in March of this year.

For the throws, the the women had a 3rd, 5th, and 7th place finish out of Nicole Tzanakis(152-8), Amanda Solberg (148-03), and Hannah Studt (145-7) in the discus. DeAnne Hahn finished 3rd in the hammer (176-6) and 8th in the shot put (46-6).

The women's Regionl meet will also be held on May 29-30 in Norman, Oklahoma. Senior Kari Schmidt (Chisago Lakes, MN) is 24th in shot put. Nicole Tzankis (13th), Amanda Solberg (14th), and Hannah Studt (19th) are in contention for discus. Freshmen DeAnne Hahn is currently ranked 11th in the hammer (181-0) and 20th in the shot (48-2 1.2) going into the Regional Championships.

Coach Lynn Anderson and the women's squad also received great news with the signing of Jessica Cagle of Grand Rapids, MN. Cagle is the Minnesota's All-Time record holder in the women's discus (162-4).

In Carson, CA at the adidas Track Classic this past weekend former Gopher All-American Karl Erickson finished 4th in the discus with a throw of 194-8. Erickson currently ranks 5th in the US with a throw of 200-3.