Thursday, December 23, 2010

Barney Kleceker Inducted into Ultrarunning Hall of Fame

By Dan Brannen, AUA

Barney Klecker's ultra career spanned the decade of the 1980s. His greatest ultra performance was his first one. Never before or since has an American come out of the proverbial nowhere to rock the global ultra scene as Barney Klecker did in his inaugural ultra. It happened in the US National 50-Mile Championship at the Chicago Lakefront Ultra on October 5, 1980, where the Minnesotan took off at an unprecedented race pace right from the starting gun. Until that day, no man had ever broken 5 hours (6 minute per mile pace) for a road 50 miler, although American Allan Kirik (2009 AUA Hall of fame inductee) had come within half a minute of 5 hours the previous year. Only Brits Cavin Woodward and Don Ritchie had done it on the track, and Ritchie's track world record from 1978 stood at 4 hours, 53 minutes, 28 seconds.

In Chicago, Klecker, 29 at the time, averaged under 5:40 per mile for the first 30 miles (including a marathon split of 2:27:30), faded slightly approaching 40 miles (which he still reached in 3:46), then crashed and burned through his last agonizing 10 miles. But the early pace had given him enough of a cushion to bring him safely home in 4:51:25 and the new owner of the absolute 50 mile world record.

Klecker had twice broken 2:17 for the marathon, and for the next three years he focused his attention on breaking the US record for the shorter 50K distance. In 1981, he set the still-standing US track 50K record of 2:52:48 in Tucson, which he ran barely a month after defending his 50 mile title at Chicago in 5:05:04. The following year he moved up to try his first 100K, the longest distance he would ever attempt. In October, he won The Edmund Fitzgerald 100K in 6:50:43, putting himself in the #2 spot on the all-time US 100K list. Two months later, he bettered the U.S. 50K road record with a sterling 2:51:53 to win the Tallahassee Ultra 50K. In 1983, he returned to the Tallahassee race and won the 50K in 2:53:45, as his wife (and 1992 Olympic marathoner) Janis ran 3:13:51 to break the women's world record by almost 8 minutes in the same race.

In October 1984, South African Bruce Fordyce broke Klecker's 50 mile world record on the very same Chicago lakefront course on which Barney had set it. The American made a valiant attempt to regain the record in January 1986 in Dallas, but fell short, fading in the last half of the race to a 5:10:47.

In October 1988, Klecker tried something different: back-to-back 50K races on successive weekends. He won the Mid-America 50K in Muncie, IN, with a 3:01:48, then despite running 30 seconds faster the following weekend, he lost the Edmund Fitzgerald 50K by less than 2 minutes to Bruce Mortenson. It was the only time he ever lost an ultra that he finished.

Two years later, Klecker returned to the Mid-America 50K, which this time hosted the USA Championship. There he closed out his decade-long ultra career by winning his second national ultra title with 3:07:40.

During those 10 years, Barney Klecker had run almost a dozen 50K races with an average time under 3 hours, and three 50 mile races with an average time barely over 5 hours. From that perspective, Barney Klecker holds a place in American ultra history that no other man has ever come close to matching.

To visit the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, go to:

Note on AUA Hall of Fame policy: to be considered for the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame, candidates must be either retired from serious competition for 10 years, or have reached the age of 60.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy Holidays and Thanks from DtB

Happy Holidays everyone!

On behalf of our humble little operation, let me wish all of you a happy, healthy, and relaxing holiday season from Down the Backstretch. As much as we all love cross country, track & field, and road racing, it's now time to turn our focus to family and friends rather than results and performances.

In the past, we've pretty much shut down DtB over the holidays. This year, we'll take some down time to be sure, but we'll also use the season to post profiles of this year's Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame class. Likewise, if big news happens to break during our "vacation," you can bet we'll at least note it on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.

We'll be back in full force after the New Year, of course, getting you back on top of the sport and the budding indoor season.

Before we go, let me take a moment to thank some of the folks that made 2010 another fine year for DtB. First off, special, heart-felt thanks go to Adam Lindahl of TC Running Company and the Board of Directors at USA Track and Field - Minnesota for their support of DtB as its presenting sponsors. Without their generous investments in our site, DtB would likely not still exist. We'd also like to thank everyone who has advertised with us during the year -- your business is truly appreciated!

I'd also like to thank anyone and everyone who has contributed to DtB. Special thanks go to co-founder Pete Miller, fantasy contest director Doug Cowles, photographer Gene Niemi, commentator and designated hitter Jim Ferstle, Kevin Holubar, Sean Hartnett, and Bill and Tim Miles. Without the generous contributions of those folks and others, DtB wouldn't have been all that it was this year.

Finally, allow me to thank you, our readers, for making DtB an important part of your enjoyment of the greatest sport on earth. Your continued loyalty to DtB makes the job of covering all the track, road, and cross country action fun and rewarding.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Minnesotans Shine at Club Cross Nationals

A handful of Minnesota teams and individuals ran with distinction at last Saturday's USA Track and Field Club Cross Country Championships in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Former University of Minnesota All-American Megan Duwell finished 15th in the 6K women's open race in 20:26 and was instrumental in leading the Flagstaff, Arizona-based McMillan Elite team to its first-ever women's title at the meet.

In the men's open race, also won by McMillan Elite, Run N Fun's team (pictured above) finished 16th in the team standings. Justin Grunewald led the effort with a 22nd-place, 30:11 clocking over the 10K course.

Run N Fun's 72-year-old masters star Thom Weddle finished 3rd in M70 division of the 10K masters race in 46:57.

TC Running Company's grand masters team (pictured below) finished 11th in 50+ team category. Doug Keller led the squad with an 11th-place finish in the age division in 35:27.

Results from all the Club Cross races can be found HERE.

Keller on Club Cross ... We chatted briefly with TCRC's Keller this week to get his take on the event.

DtB: When did you and the team decide to travel to Charlotte for the race?

Keller: Bill Langhout started talking it up in September and with Rob Class, Paul Giannobile and I all having a good fall, we decided it would be a good year to give it a try. To fill out the team, Bill convinced Chip Cheney and Pat Richards it would be fun to see how we stacked up against the rest of the country even before we knew it was a great excuse to shirk our snow removal duties for the weekend.

DtB: Did you have any sense of where you might fit into the mix at Club Cross?

Keller: We had hoped for a top 5 finish but our prospects were hurt with a hip injury limiting Rob's training and Paul pulling out because of a work commitment.

: How did you guys feel about the race afterward?

Keller: We were concerned going into the race because we only had 5 runners and we need all 5 to score a complete team. Post race, we were satisfied with our middle of the pack finish considering our conditioning but we walked away from the meet with the knowledge that Minnesota can compete on the national level. The guys are already talking about how to improve on that finish next year.

DtB: How did you feel about your own individual race, Doug?

Keller: With my normal racing season usually ending in October, it was hard to stay motivated for a December race so my conditioning and race readiness weren't at the level I would have liked. As a result, I went into the race without clear goals and was satisfied with my time and place. As you know, being satisfied doesn't lead to great race results but it was encouraging to see that the front runners weren't that far ahead and I want another shot at them next year.

Photos by Thom Weddle. Top, from left, Ben Kampf, Kelly Mortenson, Eric Hartmark, Jeremy Polson, Cory Hayden, Patrick Parish, Timothy Branigan, Phil Richert, and Justin Grunewald. Bottom, from left, Pat Richard, Doug Keller, Rob Class, Bill Langhout, and Chip Cheney.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Athletes of the Month: Sathre, Hauger

The Minnesota Association of USA Track & Field anounced today that Ben Sathre and Maria Hauger are its Athletes of the Month for December 2010.

Sathre, a junior at the University of St. Thomas, was recognized for his runner-up finish at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Waverly, Iowa last month. Sathre, a Chaska High School graduate, ran the 8-kilometer course in 24:24, finishing just one second behind winner Anders Hulleberg of Haverford College.

Hauger, a sophomore at Shakopee High School, was honored for defending her Minnesota State High School League Class AA cross country title last month in Northfield. Hauger ran 14:14 over the 4K St. Olaf College course to win the second large schools' harrier crown of her youthful career.

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.

Find details on all of USATF-Minnesota's 2010 Athletes of the Month HERE.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Goucher to Run 2011 Boston Marathon

Kara Goucher will race in April's Boston Marathon, event organizers announced this morning.

The Duluth native, who finished third in the 2009 edition of the race in 2:32:25, will be joined by fellow American Desiree Davila in the elite women's field.

Goucher (pictured) said in a recent blog post, HERE, that she plans to return to racing at January's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Half Marathon on January 18, 2011. The competition will be her first since she gave birth to her first child, Colton Mirko Goucher, in September.

The Boston Globe's story on the announcement is HERE.

The 115th Boston Marathon takes place on April 18, 2011.

Photo by Victor Sailer/Photo Run.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two Minnesotans Runners-Up at Junior Olympics

Jesse Delgado and Connor Olson came oh-so-close to winning USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic cross country titles on Saturday in Hoover, Alabama.

Delgado (pictured above, #1140) of Waseca led during much of the 3K Midget Boys (11 and 12-year-olds) race before being edged by Jacob Ogden of Oregon. Both Ogden and Delgado were timed at 10:17 for the distance.

Results of the Midget Boys race are HERE.

Olson (pictured below, #1144) of Maple Grove led late in the 4K Youth Boys (13 and 14-year-olds) race before Miguel Bautista pulled away for a seven-second win.

Olson was clocked in 13:02.

Fellow Minnesotan Shane Streich of Waseca, who, with Olson, was a member of the Real Track Field team which finished 5th in the race, placed 8th individually in 13:11. Streich led for much of the race.

Team and individual results of the Youth boys race are HERE.

Find complete results of all the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships HERE.

Photos courtesy of Chris Dallager.

Friday, December 10, 2010

USATF Club Cross Country Tomorrow

USA Track and Field's National Club Cross Country Championships take place tomorrow in Charlotte, North Carolina. The race pits an interesting mix of national class and regional elite athletes against one another.

A handful of runners with Minnesota ties will compete in the 12th-annual event. In the men's race, former University of Minnesota star Chad Johnson will represent the Hansons-Brooks Distance project, while former Team USA Minnesota miler Ryan Kleimenhagen will race for the Wisconsin Runner Race Team.

In women's competition, Megan Duwell, a cross country All-American for the University of Minnesota last fall, will compete for the Flagstaff, Arizona-based McMillan Elite team.

2010 USATF-Minnesota Team Circuit open men's champions Run N Fun will compete in the event. Two years ago, the RNF-ers placed 15th in the meet.

Find complete startlists and additional information on the event HERE.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Frey, Greeno Poised for Runner of Year Awards

With the Minnesota road racing season all but over, Team USA Minnesota's Michelle Frey and recent Bethel University graduate Dan Greeno are poised to win their first Minnesota Runner of the Year Awards.

The Minnesota Runner of the Year Award recognizes the exploits of Minnesota runners racing in Minnesota races over a variety of road distances ranging from the mile to the marathon. Athletes earn points based on their rank order in up to five separate race distances.

Frey (pictured, above) leads 2007 women's Runner of the Year (and 2009 ROY runner-up) Jenna Boren 89 points to 78 points. Kim Magee, who was the ROY runner-up in 2008, is third with 65 points.

Full open women's standings can be found HERE.

Greeno (pictured, right) leads University of Minnesota alum Justin Grunewald 91 to 89 in the open men's division. Eric Hartmark, who was fourth in the competition last year, stands third with 83 points.

Full open men's standings can be found HERE.

Minnesota Runner of the Year awards are conferred for age-group runners as well. Find all the Runner of the Year details, HERE, on the official web-site ably managed by Mike Setter.

Photos by Victor Sailer/Photo Run (Frey) and courtesy of Bethel University (Greeno).

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Design the Official TCM Poster, Win $750

It's time to dig out your paint set and remember just where it was you stored your easel ...

Twin Cities In Motion, the organizers of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, is again hosting a competition to create an original work of art to be featured as the official 2011 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Poster.

Artists 18-years-old or older who submit their work to Twin Cities In Motion by December 17, 2010 will be considered. The winning artist will receive $750.

Now in its 30th year, the marathon poster features new artwork every year to commemorate “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America®.” Posters are displayed throughout the year at TCM events and are sold at the Health & Fitness Expo on marathon weekend and at the TCM online merchandise store.

Rules and information about the contest can be found HERE.

The official entry form can be found HERE.

Pictured: The 2010 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon poster created by Tom Foty.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

USATF Awards Abound for Minnesotans

Minnesota athletes and sport officials earned their fair share of awards at last week's USA Track and Field Annual Meeting held in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Antonio Vega earned the Robert E. DeCelle Jr. Award as USATF's male long distance runner of the year. The Tartan High School and University of Minnesota alum who trains in the Team USA Minnesota program won the men's USA Running Circuit title this year.

"This truly is a great honor to be recognized as the long distance runner of the year," Vega said in a Team USA Minnesota media release. "Starting off the year winning the USA Half Marathon Championship is always a good way to start the year. To be as consistent as I was throughout the entire year was really a big surprise. Without the support of Team USA Minnesota, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish any of the results that I had this year."

Last year, Meb Keflezighi won the award for the fourth time in his career. Previous Minnesota recipients of the award include Dick Beardsley (1982), Mark Nenow (1986), and Bob Kempainen (1994 & 1996).

Not to be outdone by a teammate, Katie McGregor won the women's Runner of the Year Award. She, too, earned the USA Running Circuit title and won three USA titles during the course of the 2010 season.

"I am so proud of this award," McGregor said. "The depth of talented American female distance runners just keeps growing and to be recognized out of this group is amazing. It turned out to be a great year overall. I gave my best efforts just like I do every year."

McGregor became the first Minnesota recipient of the award in its 30-year history.

Former Team USA Minnesota athlete Patrick Smyth earned the male Cross Country Athlete of the Year Award. Smyth was the runner-up at the 2010 USA Cross Country Championships and led the USA squad at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, finishing 36th overall.

Masters athlete Ralph Maxwell, a part-time resident of Richville, Minnesota, shared the male Masters Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award for his exploits in the M90 division.

Volunteers Also Shine ... Minnesota's star athletes weren't the only North Star Staters bringing hardware through airport baggage screening.

Twin Cities In Motion executive director Virginia Brophy Achman won the H. Browning Ross Merit Award from USATF's Men's Long Distance Running Committee. LeeAnn Meyer earned the Otto Essig Contributor Award from the Masters Long Distance Running Committee.

won one of the Mike Riban Contributor Awards from USATF's Racewalking Committee. Bruce Leasure chairs Minnesota's racewalking committee.

Monday, December 06, 2010

NXN: Wayzata Boys 9th, Eden Prairie Girls 12th

Minnesota teams exceeded expectations at Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.

MSHSL Class AA boys' champions Wayzata, ranked #15 going into high school cross country's unofficial national championship, placed 9th in the 22-team meet. Edina, runners-up to the Trojans at the NXN Heartland Regional, finished 18th.

Eden Prairie, the Class AA and Heartland Region girls' champions, placed 12th in the competition, after being ranked #19 before the meet.

Individually, Adam Zutz of St. Francis, the Class AA individual champ, led Minnesota runners with a 23rd-place finish in the boys' race.

Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria, the Class AA girls' runner-up, led Minnesotans with a 36th-place finish. Class AA girls' champ Maria Hauger finished 64th.

Find complete results HERE (boys) and HERE (girls).

A video web-cast replay of the event is HERE.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

UMD's Morgan Place 5th at NCAA D2

University of Minnesota - Duluth junior Morgan Place finished 5th in the women's race of the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championships held in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday.

Running in Duluth-like conditions -- sleet, snow, and temperatures in the low 30s -- the Ellsworth, Wisconsin native ran 21:14 over the 6K course. The finish now means Place has three top-10 D2 finishes to her credit -- she was 7th in the meet as freshman and 6th last year.

Place told the Duluth News-Tribune, HERE, that when she saw the race's wintry conditions, she knew it would be to her advantage.

Full results of the NCAA D2 Championships can be found HERE (women) and HERE (men).

Friday, December 03, 2010

Your Favorite Races? MDRA Wants to Know

The Minnesota Distance Running Association wants to know your favorite races of 2010.

In an on-line survey, HERE, the state's largest runner's organization is asking race participants to name their favorite events by distance and type -- from 5K's to ultra-marathons.

The results will be put to use in a feature story in the January issue of MDRA's RunMinnesota magazine.

Subscriptions to the magazine come as a perk of membership in MDRA. You can join MDRA HERE.

Wahman, Sons win MDRA Grand Prix ... Longtime fixtures on the Minnesota road racing scene, Duluth's Jarrow Wahman and Shorewood's Bonnie Sons, won the open division titles in the recently completed 2010 MDRA Grand Prix Series.

Wahman, 48, topped 49-year-old Kirt Goetzke for the title in the year-long, 14-race circuit. Wahman tallied 9653 points to Goetzke's 9456. Eric Porte finished third in the competition.

The 44-year-old Sons won the women's open title with 5295 points, topping Andriette Wickstrom, 55, who tallied 4816. Willie Tibbetts was third.

Complete Grand Prix standings, including those in age-group competition can be found HERE.

Registration for the 2011 MDRA Grand Prix is underway, HERE. The series kicks off with the Meet of Miles on January 10 at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Gregg Robertson Wins 2010 Yes/No Title

After 40 weeks of Yes/No questions in 2010, DtB's weekly prediction contest has reached its conclusion for the year. Our final weekend featured a triple-header of questions as well as the final lead change of the year.

Gregg Robertson and Lori Anne Peterson have been among the front-runners all year long and Robertson leap-frogged Peterson on the last weekend by answering two of the three questions correctly.

Bill Miles won the "Mr. November" award by answering five of the month's six questions correctly. He was also the only one to answer all three questions correctly in the final weekend, in fact. November was a good month for Miles all around, as he led his Wayzata Trojans to the state cross country title early in the month before receiving the equally prestigious Yes/No "Mr. November" award.

The top ten
(actually eleven) 2010 Yes/No finishers were as follows:

Gregg Robertson - 29
Lori Anne Peterson - 28
Rachel Karel - 26
Gloria Jansen - 26
Toby Hatelvig - 25
Chris Marshall - 24
Benjamin Melby - 24
Mike Henderson - 23
Bill Miles - 23
Jesse Schoen - 22
Dylan Dragswiek - 22

At some point during the Yes/No off-season, I hope to post the "percentage" leaders showing which competitors answered correctly at the highest rate. As always, this information as well as the final Yes/No standings are posted at DtB Fantasy Corner.

Thanks for playing Yes/No on DtB!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Team USA Minn. Returns to Reindeer Run

In one of the Minnesota running scene's Christmas traditions, a large group of Team USA Minnesota athletes will once again celebrate the holiday season by participating in the 23rd annual Life Time Fitness Reindeer Run 5K this Saturday.

The fun run starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Lake Harriet bandshell in southwest Minneapolis. Team USA Minnesota athletes have appeared at the Reindeer Run in each of the last nine years.

Joining in the festivities along with more than 3,000 people of all ages will be:

Emily Brown - 2009 USA Cross Country Champion and three-time qualifier for World Cross Country Championships;

Michelle Frey - winner of the 2010 City of Lakes 25K and a U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier;

Meghan Armstrong - fourth place finisher at both the 2010 USA Women's 10 Mile and 5K Championships;

Kristen Nicolini - third place finisher at the 2009 USA Women's Marathon Championships with a debut time of 2:35;

Josh Moen - winner of the 2010 City of Lakes 25K; runner-up at the 2009 USA Men's 10 Mile Championship with the fifth fastest time ever in the U.S.;

Chris Rombough - a six-time All-American in cross country and track at the University of Minnesota;

Gabriele Anderson - new member of Team USA Minnesota, second place finisher at the 2010 NCAA 1500-meter championship and ran personal best of 4:31.05 at the 2010 Fifth Avenue Mile.

The Reindeer Run supports the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves "Toys for Tots" program with participants asked to bring a contribution of an unwrapped toy. In addition to the 5K at 9:30 a.m., a Kids 1K Run will be held at 9:10 a.m. Official results are not kept for the Reindeer Run as the event is a fun run.

Armstrong's Ekiden Squad Fifth ... The Team USA squad racing at the Chiba International Ekiden in Japan last week finished fifth in the twelve team, six leg, co-ed, marathon distance relay.

Team USA Minnesota's Meghan Armstrong anchored the squad running the 7.195K final leg in 24:46, which brought the team home in 2:10:54.

The Japan Collegiate team won the event in 2:07:52 in an upset over Kenya (2:08:06) and the Japanese national team (2:08:12).

Find in-depth coverage of the event HERE.