Friday, June 22, 2007

Marks and Heath Win USA Titles; Goucher and McGregor Make World Champs Team

It was a good day for Minnesota track and field stars yesterday!

Triple jumper Shani Marks and junior distance running star Elliott Heath won titles at the USA Outdoor meet last night. Additionally, Kara Goucher and Katie McGregor earned spots on the USA team for the World Track and Field Championships in Osaka, Japan in August.

The top three finishers in each senior event earned the right to compete at Worlds. Heath earned the right to represent his country in the junior competition at the Pam American Games in Brazil next month.

Marks, the former Apple Valley and Gopher star (pictured, above) defended her outdoor triple jump title with a PR leap of 46-2 1/2 on her third jump of the competition. Five of Marks' six jumps out-distanced runner-up Yvette Lewis' 44-7.

"This is the meet you want to be prepared for, if you want to be prepared for anything," Marks explained. "I don't come into it thinking, 'Oh, I won last time.' I just come into thinking, 'You've got to go for it every time.' And it just happens to work out that way, but winning is never really the ultimate goal."

Marks was also this year's indoor USA champ.

"It's hard to get a meet with this sort of enthusiasm throughout the year, so this one is your best chance to do well in that aspect," Marks offered on her ability to succeed in championships. "But as far as peaking, that's all my coach's doing, I don't have anything to do with that. He does well."

Marks' coaching situation is unique. The Minnesota-based jumper is led by Boston-based Mike Eskind.

"He e-mails workouts and I send videos," Marks explained, "and it works, somehow."

Winona High School's Heath out-kicked Oregon's Kenny Klotz to win the junior men's 5000 meters in 14:36.32. Heath was also the USA junior champ in cross country this year.

Heath (pictured, below) was content to ride along in the lead pack through the early miles, led through a mile and a half by Edina's T.C. Lumbar. In the latter laps, when Illinois' Jacob Nachel worked the pace, the two-time Class AA 3200 meter champ was still happy to occupy a backseat. Heath marked Klotz's move in the last 400 and kicked furiously up the homestretch for the win.

Klotz was runner-up to Heath in the junior cross country race as well.

"I didn't have too much of a plan going in," Heath admitted. "I wanted to be sure to stay with the front pack as long as I could. This one was a little bit slower from the get go. I guess I like the slower paces, but you have to be prepared for whatever pace comes. If it's slower you have to be sure you are up in the group."

In the women's 10,000 meters, Duluth native Kara Goucher and Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, to earn spots on the USA team for Osaka. McGregor found herself leading the chase pack for the bulk of the race -- Deena Kastor was long-gone after taking the lead after the 1200 meter mark.

When Goucher made her move in the final 1200 meters, McGregor couldn't follow and had her hands full battling Alicia Craig for the remaining Osaka spot. The two switched positions in the run home, but McGregor caught and passed Craig in the final lap for a seat on the plane to Japan.

Goucher ran 32:33.80; McGregor ran 32:44.69.

"This was one of those races where you are running for place," McGregor said in a Team USA Minnesota press release. "Deena got after it and then the rest of us all waited for someone to go."

"It played out the way I thought," she added. "You can't worry about the time here, you just go with the flow. It's not always the greatest to get third place but I am really looking forward to being on the World outdoor team. It will be a better place at World's to run a faster time."

In preliminary competition, Trent Riter qualified to the second round of the 800 meters by winning his heat in 1:48.48. Team USA Minnesota's Jenelle Deatherage qualified 9th in the 1500m with 4:15.26. Former Gopher Mitch Potter ran 46.05 in his 400 meter prelim but missed advancing by one place and .03.

Photos courtesy of Sean Hartnett.

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