Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ferrell 6th and Graham 8th in USA 5000s; Heath, Leer, and Riter Advance to Finals

Former St. Paul Academy & Summit School star Cack Ferrell and former Stillwater High School standout Sean Graham placed in their respective 5000 meter finals at the AT&T USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Indianapolis last night.

Ferrell (pictured, left) finished sixth in 15:43.69; Graham placed 8th in 13:44.06. Both compete for the Eugene-based Oregon Track Club.

Ferrell found herself in no-woman's-land for much of the race after eventual winner Shalane Flanagan, the American record-holder in the event, broke up the field when she went to the lead. She won in 14:51.75.

"I'm thrilled," Ferrell said nonetheless afterward. "I kept saying beforehand, if I were 10th and ran 15:30 I'd be happy, if I were 3rd and ran 17 minutes I'd be happy. I don't care about that stuff, I just want to go out and compete."

Graham, on the other hand, found himself running in a packed men's race that only ran 4:32 for the first mile but which augured a fast finish.

"It was a lot more crowded than I thought it would be," Graham said. "I found myself in the back of the pack a couple times. I was able to take off and get back forward, but I think moving up took a little out of my legs for the last lap. I got passed by two people in the last 400, which you can never let happen."

"Been better," Graham concluded, "not great, not bad."

Bernard Lagat won the event with a 56.2 final 400 in his quest to duplicate his 5000/1500 double from a year ago. Lagat clocked 13:31.73.

Team USA Minnesota's Matt Gabrielson finished 13th in 13:53.17; teammate Andrew Carlson was 16th in 13:55.22.

In other late-Friday finals with a Minnesota motif ... Gopher javelin thrower Ruby Radocaj finished 9th with a mark of 153-9. The mark was well off her seed performance of 172-4. Former Gopher pole vaulter Tye Harvey finished 13th at 17-8 1/2. He entered the meet with 18-2 1/2 seed.

In preliminary competition ... Trent Riter qualified for the 800 meter final with a PR 1:46.62 which placed him third in his semi-final. Riter split 24.8, 52.5, and 1:18.6 en route. He moved into a top-4 qualifying position in his heat only in the final 50 meters.

His PR coming into the meet was 1:47.18; his PR before this season was 1:47.78.

"I was just trying to stay relaxed and hope things open up in the last 100 meters," Riter confided. "That's what usually happens in the 800: there are guys going forward and there's guys going backwards. I want to be a guy going forward."

Riter races in the 800 meter final on Sunday.

In the men's 1500 meters, California-based Minnesotans Will Leer of Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and Garrett Heath of Stanford raced shoulder-to-shoulder down the homestretch, fighting for spots in Sunday's final. (Photo below: Leer on left, Heath on right.)

Leer pipped Heath 3:40.06 to 3:40.12, but both advanced. Both marks were personal bests.

"I was just chasing, chasing, chasing down to the wire," Leer said. "I had Garrett Heath on my left and I really wanted to get up to him."

While the USA meet competition was a big step up for Leer, an NCAA Division III guy, even Heath noticed a change.

"It's pretty exciting to racing with a lot of these really good guys that you always just see about in the news," Heath said. "Once you get out there the field isn't that different, there's still some guy up there leading -- someday it may be you, some days it may be someone else."

Not as fortunate this meet as Riter, Leer, and Heath was former Stillwater star Luke Watson. The Notre Dame assistant coach finished 11th in his heat of the 3000 meter steeplechase in 8:55.89 and did not qualify for Sunday's final.

Photos courtesy of Sean Hartnett.

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