Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wide Awake -- Confident Eden Prairie Teams Ready for State

DtB tracked down Eden Prairie coach Jeff Lindlief to ask him about his #1-ranked girls squad. The Eagles have looked powerful from the early-season on in what appears to be an especially competitive girls Class AA year. Lindlief's inexperienced boys squad, not to be out-done, scratched its way back into the State Meet with an impressive late-season push that saw them finishing second in the wicked 6AA Section.

DtB: You've looked like a favorite for the Class AA title since the Faribault Invitational. At what point this season did you know you had really good team?

Lindlief: After last spring's track season, we knew we had a strong batch of returning runners, but weren't sure what type of CC team we'd be. We never felt we really put together a solid race until Lake Conference, as we were battling some illnesses, injuries, etc. That seemed to be the first time when each girl ran relaxed and with confidence.

DtB: It looks like there's a really deep field in girls Class AA. Are there certain teams that keep you awake a night?

Lindlief: Yes, many of them! Bob Ertl has his Lakeville North team looking unbeatable (as always!). White Bear Lake, Prior Lake, and Burnsville also have very good teams. Even though we got past Minnetonka in the Section, they always run very well at the State Meet. It should be a very exciting and close race on Saturday>

DtB: What are the sorts of things that have to go right for your team in order or State to work out like you hope?

I think it really comes down to two things: First, keeping everybody healthy and injury-free. Secondly, we talk a lot about being confident in our training and racing strategy. If those two things are in place and the training has been solid during the year, all you can do is race your best.

DtB: And a question about your surprising boys team ... What's the secret to making six-straight State Meets out of the toughest Section in the state, especially with this years unheralded squad?

Lindlief: This year's boys team has been so much fun to work with. With only one of our top-7 being a varsity runner from last year, they've learned many lessons as the year has progressed. They're a prime example of why cross-country is such a great sport -- kids who might not be superstars at first can work hard and dedicate themselves to improvement and it does pay off in the end!

Look for our interview with Bill Miles, coach of the #1-ranked Wayzata boys team, on DtB tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Center of the XC Universe: St. Olaf College

Over the next three weekends, St. Olaf College's cross country course will provide the stage for three of the biggest events on the season's cross country calendar. This weekend, St. Olaf will host the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships. Next weekend, it will serve as the site for the NCAA Division III Central Regional. One weekend after that, it will host the NCAA Division III National Championships.

A lot of athletes' seasons will be made or lost on the IM fields and woods and prairie trails of the Northfield campus.

We spend a lot of time talking about athletes on Down the Backstretch, but today let's talk about a course. As a Northfield-area resident myself -- I can see St. Olaf's campus from our farmhouse north of town -- I've taken the opportunity to run over the St. Olaf course quite a few times this fall. While I haven't raced over its terrain since my college days in the 1980s when the course was less developed, I feel like I've gotten a good sense the venue which has hosted the State Meet since the mid-1990s. This year will mark the second time the D3 Championship has come to what is now my hometown.

After running the course on roughly a weekly basis this fall, I think it's a great venue for a challenging late season meet. It's a tougher-than-it-looks course that, I think, rewards smart running and alert racing. It's fair but it's not anything like a push-over.

The start is as you'd wish for a big-meet venue: wide open with turns that sweep rather than angle. Although the opening 600 meters runs across dull stretch of soccer and intramural fields, small berm-sized hills punctuate the open field providing some tough little physical tests amidst the early position-finding.

When the course leaves the open fields and enters the narrowed trails, runners meet the course's unique challenge for the first time -- balancing the desire for shortest distance between two points with the need efficient footing. The trail sections of the course often feature side-hills where you least want them. Running the tangents through the loop before the 1 mile mark means running up onto some frustrating slopes. Running in the worn paths, though, makes the course longer.

Do you run exactly 5000 meters and fight the side-hills? Or, do you run 5015 more efficient meters? Questions runners must face, and answer, turn-by turn.

In the rush-hour traffic of the first mile, the track chosen may be decided as much by the elbows and shoulders of competitors as anything else. But as the race moves forward, more and more racers will face the elemental question of where best to place their next steps.

Beyond the awkward side-hilling, there's lots of other micro-topography to the course. It's a course that's also hilly on an inches scale. Especially on the short "half-moon" loop after the mile split -- which the high school boys and girls don't run -- there's worn path, smooth grass, clumped grass, and otherwise uneven ground. Not exactly a rhythm runner's dream.

All the racers trace back across the IM fields, dropping down the berm-hills that they hustled up on the way out. Prevailing winds suggest a head-wind here -- consult the nearest wind turbine, rising monstrously in the near-distance, for race-day conditions. As often as not the leader across the windswept tundra is not the leader at the finish line.

When the racers leave the open fields -- collegians busting up a sharp hill to the pond loop, preps climbing gradually for the back loop -- the tangents-and-surfaces challenge resumes. The college runners seeking the shortest, most efficient route to the far end of the pond, before they make their own long climb to the back woods.

If you're old enough, you'll remember the two-minute stretch on space missions when the astronauts in the capsule were out of contact with the earth upon re-entry. To State Meet spectators, there's a similar feeling about the back loop. The racers -- tiring step-by-step but gaining the finish stride-by-stride -- lose themselves to observers deep in the woods. How they'll return is uncertain.

What they face back there is known: the steepest, longest climb of the course. For the high schoolers, with but a half-mile to run, the hill will separate contenders from pretenders. For the collegians, with further to race and more in the tank, it's a rough test just as matters are getting serious. They'll still race on -- the women for more than a mile, the men for two-and-a-half -- but the stronger they ran up that hill, the more likely they are to finish well in the stretch.

Even if the runners didn't notice it on their pre-race run or in the early miles, there's not a lot that's flat about the St. Olaf course. And what may have felt flat in one physiologic state might not feel so 12 hard-run minutes later. The collegians, especially, will feel the undulations as they rise and fall on their return trip through the pond loop. They'll pound down the sharp hill leading back the fields. The men will feel -- in their ankles and hips -- the berms, the side-hills, the wobbly footing as they rewind their opening miles.

And then it all culminates up that steep, IM field climb to the finish stretch. One last challenging, separating, frustrating, excruciating hill.

So close: just top it and sprint for home.

So far: Stublaski led Mead at the bottom of that climb last year; Mead led at the finish line.

Just what Minnesota's top high schoolers will paint with their efforts on Saturday on the St. Olaf canvas is yet to be seen. So too, what the best small college athletes in the region and nation can accomplish after that.

But, under clear skis or rain, wet footing or dry, the St. Olaf course itself will surely be a challenger no athlete can afford to take lightly.

Monday, October 29, 2007

"This was the best team effort that I've ever had in my 40-plus years of coaching ... "

"... we executed our game plan perfectly. We finished with our top eight runners in front of everyone else's fifth finisher, which is quite an accomplishment."

So says Gopher women's coach Gary Wilson in THIS Big Ten Network recap of Minnesota's one-point Big Tens victory over Michigan State on Sunday in Columbus.

The story-lines that emerge from that piece and THIS ONE, in the Minnesota Daily, are of team depth, the leadership of Ladia Albertson-Junkans, and Heather Dorniden's kick.

Dorniden used her 2:01 800 meter speed to pass three runners in the final 300 meters on Sunday, including Michigan State's Sarah Price, a Mankato Loyola alum.

The Monday Round-Up

The last time I posted a news round-up I dedicated it to someone who'd said something nice to me about DtB in the days before. In keeping with that tradition, today's news is dedicated to the Schoen brothers who shared some kind words about this web-site when I met them at the MIAC meet this weekend.

Minnesotans Afar ... More than a few Minnesota "expatriots" made contributions to their out-of-state college teams over the weekend. Bria Wetsch helped the Oregon women to a runner-up finish at the Pac-10 meet with a 16th place finish. Garrett and Elliott Heath were 29th and 35th, respectively, in men's competition there, where Stanford was 2nd in the men's field. Tom Burke was 10th in the Colonial Athletic Association for William and Mary. Jake Watson finished 12th for Notre Dame at the Big East meet.

Sectional Wrap-Up ... Since it appears our readers are as concerned as we are about having more top teams advance to the high school State Meet in Minnesota -- with four hours left to vote, more than 70% of DtB voters prefer a different qualifying system than the one we have now -- here's the final break-down who's in and out of State.

In Class AA, seven top-12-ranked boys and girls squads (before Sections) were left on the outside looking at State. The (currently) #7-ranked Edina Hornets and #8 Armstrong boys and the #9-ranked Woodbury girls are the outsiders with the best credentials.

In Class A, five ranked teams are done for the season. Most notably, the #2-ranked Plainview Elgin-Millville boys who finished a close third in Section 1A, but, like then-#2 -ranked Wayzata last year, must be content with spectating on November 3.

Six un-ranked Class AA boys teams will toe the line at State; five un-ranked Class AA girls squads will do the same. In Class A, four un-ranked boys and girls teams will compete in each race.

The 2008 MIAC Meet ... Call it a habit left over form my coaching days in the conference -- I coached at Gustavus Adolphus in the late-80s and early 90s -- but I couldn't keep myself from scoring Saturday's MIAC meet without this year's seniors. There's lots of cross country left to be run this season, but it is fun to peek ahead, too.

It looks like there could be some changes afoot. If the senior-less numbers hold, Bethel University could win its first-ever MIAC cross country crown. Their men lead the 2008 prognostications with 53 points returning, followed by St. Olaf with 85, Hamline 102, St.Thomas 108, Carleton 124, 2007 champs St. John's 134, Gustavus 152, Macalester 213.

On the women's side the order looks a bit more familiar ... St. Olaf 65, Carleton 73, 2007 champs St. Thomas 101, St. Ben's 135, Bethel 138, Gustavus 143, Macalester 147, and Hamline 153.

An MIAC Championships Photo Gallery ...

DtB contributor Gene Niemi shares these MIAC Championship photos ...

Women's individual champ Marie Borner.

Chris Erichsen powering to his victory.

From left: David Swanson (obscured), Kelly Fermoyle, Dan Greeno, & Chris deLaubenfels.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Golden Gopher Women Win Big Ten Title;
Minnesota Men, Hassan Mead Runners-Up

The University of Minnesota women's cross country team (pictured) won the program's first-ever Big Ten title with a 72-73 victory over Michigan State in Columbus on Sunday.

Full women's team scores can be found HERE.

Individual women's results are HERE.

The Golden Gopher men finished runner-up to the University of Wisconsin 33-65. True-freshman Hassan Mead was the individual runner-up as well. Defending Big Ten individual champion Chris Rombough of Minnesota finished 4th.

Full men's team scores can be found HERE.

Individual men's results are HERE.

Photo by Eric Paulson.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Short-Cut: Results for October 27 - 28

Here are the links to results and info from the two big-for-Minnesota contests this weekend:

Minnesota Intercollegiate Conference Championships:
Men's Preview Women's Preview
Meet Program Results

Update: Men .... St. John's defends with 49 points, Carleton second with 63, Hamline, 109, St. Olaf 119. The Johnnies' Chris Erichsen runs fasterst-ever MIAC time at Como Golf Course with 24:45 victory.

Update: Women ... Tommies defend in close battle -- St. Thomas 74, Carleton 76, St. Olaf 80. Bethel's Marie Borner takes the individual crown in 21:56

Big Ten Conference Championships
Men's Preview Women's Preview
Official Site Results

Also ... You can link quickly to other NCAA Division I conference results via THIS PAGE

(They've got colorful logos there too!)

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Targeted Rombough: " ... I generally handle that type of pressure pretty well."

When the #22 Golden Gopher men compete at Sunday's Big Ten Cross Country Championships in Columbus, Ohio with hopes of upsetting #6 Wisconsin -- the winners of the last eight Big Ten crowns -- and #10 Michigan, they'll be armed with the meet's defending champion, Chris Rombough. Last year, the then-sophomore (pictured) surprised the favorites to earn his first conference title. The Fremont, Wisconsin native went on to finish 2nd at the NCAA Regional meet two weeks later and was and all-American in 14th place at the NCAA Championships.

DtB caught up with the Gopher star to get his sense of things heading to Columbus and the Big Tens.

DtB: Is it different for you going into the Big Tens this year as the defending champ as opposed to the contending sophomore you were last year? Do you like the new role?

Rombough: I think it is a little different going in this year because last year was a surprise win, not only to everybody running, but also to myself. This year I have a target on my back, but at the same time I may be seen as an underdog to guys like Stuart Eagon, Matt Withrow [both of Wisconsin] , and Mike Woods [Michigan]. I do enjoy having a target though, because not only does it mean that I have done something meaningful with my racing, but it also puts some pressure on me to repeat, but I generally handle that type of pressure pretty well.

DtB: What do you need to be mindful of going into Big Tens and the rest of the late-season meets in order to be successful? Is there a different feel to these meets than those early in the season?

Rombough: It is a bit different going in. Last year through 4k I was in about seventh place and the race was pretty strung out. I just made a strong move and got myself into third, right behind Eagon, at the 5k mark. I just need to get out a little faster because, with it being such a flat and fast course [in Columbus], it will be harder to make up ground, if I get behind.

The same goes for Regionals and Nationals, because those courses are also fast and flat. I don't believe that these late season races have a different feel to them. The early season meets I use to show that I can continue what I did the year before and the later races I use to show that I keep continuing to improve.

DtB: I know you're very confident about the success this year's team can have. What is it about the group this year makes you so bullish on the team's chances?

Rombough: This team is made up of a lot of blue-collar runners. We work very hard and we all have a common goal, which is to upset the Badgers at the Big Ten Championship and to get into the top-10 at NCAAs. We have a lot of talented guys, all of which are from either Minnesota or Wisconsin, so I think there is a very tight camaraderie between each guy, and ultimately, I think that helps with being successful.

Additional information ... The Gopher sports information staff has put together THIS preview for Big Tens, which includes a video interview with Rombough and teammate Hassan Mead. There's also a women's preview HERE that includes interviews with coach Gary Wilson, two-time all-American Ladia Albertson-Junkans, and this season's lead-Gopher Jamie Cheever.

Photo courtesy of the U of M.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Complete Class AA Section Results

While most of the section results can be found at Raceberry JaM and Online Race Results, I had to wade into the murky waters of this thread on DyeStat to find the Section 7 results. Class A scores are even harder to come by. While some are mentioned on the DyeStat thread, very few of those posts include links to complete results. Here are the numbers for the big schools. We will try to compile a Class A list as results become available.

1AA Girls
1AA Boys
Going to State: Lakeville North and Winona girls, Owatonna and Lakeville North boys.

2AA Girls
2AA Boys
Going to State: Chaska and Mound Westonka girls, Willmar and Chaska boys.

3AA Girls
3AA Boys
Going to State: Prior Lake and Burnsville girls, Rosemount and Eastview boys.

4AA Girls & Boys
Going to State: White Bear and Roseville girls, Stillwater and White Bear boys

5AA Girls & Boys
Going to State: Coon Rapids and Centennial girls, Mounds View and Andover boys.

6AA Girls
6AA Boys
Going to State: Eden Prairie & Minnetonka girls, Wayzata & Eden Prairie boys.

7AA Girls (PDF)
7AA Boys (PDF)
Going to State: Grand Rapids and Elk River girls, Forest Lake and Duluth East boys.

8AA Girls & Boys
Going to State: Brainerd and Moorhead girls, Brainerd and Moorhead boys.

#8 Gopher Women Face Strong Big Ten Field

When I wrote Gopher women's coach Gary Wilson this week and suggested that a very good team would finish 4th at the Big Ten Women's Cross Country Championships in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday he was quick to correct me.

"A very good team is going to end up 7th in the Big Ten," the Minnesota Track and Field inductee-elect emphasized. "Right now Penn State is ranked 26th [in the nation] but is much, much better than that. It is one tough conference this year. It might be more balanced than last year. As you might remember, Illinois finished 5th in the Big Ten and then placed 8th at the NCAA meet in 2006."

The conference not only features seven top-30 teams according to the NCAA rankings, but four squads that are in the NCAA top-10. The Big Ten squads stack up like this in the latest NCAA poll: #6 Michigan, #7 Michigan State, #8 Minnesota, #10 Illinois, #18 Iowa, #21 Wisconsin, and #26 Penn State.

A team will need to do things right to succeed.

"If any team is going to win, they have to have a very small spread between their first and fifth," Wilson surmised, "and I sincerely believe that a team's 6th and 7th runner will tip the scale this year."

Could it be the Gophers?

"The good thing for us is that, after our top four, we have about five runners who could be our fifth on any given day. We have the most depth and talented depth that we have ever had," Wilson said.

Wilson told DtB that his group is healthy going into the meet.

"Everyone is in tip-top shape both mentally and physically," he said. "I think that freshman Nikki Swenson is really starting to get her collegiate running legs under her. Ladia [Albertson-Junkans] is also getting better and better every week.

Swenson finished 4th overall in the Open race at the Pre-National mee in Terre Haute, Indiana two weeks ago with a time that would have placed her 5th on the Gopher varsity. Albertson-Junkans, a two-time all-American harrier for the Gophers, has battled injury this season and has, so far, run further back in the maroon pack than has been typical.

To hear Wilson tell it, being a strong team in the middle of a strong conference is exactly where the Gopher women would prefer to be.

"We do not try to downplay the pressure," he said. "We embrace it and have everyone understand that they are ready for the fight and they must establish themselves in the first three minutes of the race."

The gun fires for the Big Ten Championships at 9:45 on Sunday.

#1's Wayzata and Eden Prairie Advance;
6AA, System Eliminates 4 Top-10s From State

The state's top-ranked Class AA boys and girls cross country teams survived the abattoir that is Section 6AA to advance to the MSHSL State Cross Country Championships in Northfield on November 3.

Only the top two teams in each Section advance to State, and a fistful of ranked teams in 6AA weren't so fortunate.

The #1-ranked Wayzata boys team beat fellow-qualifier #10 Eden Prairie 45-79.

The #1-ranked Eden Prairie girls beat #3 Minnetonka 25-55.

Out of luck in the "Section of Death" were #7 Edina, 3rd with 87 points, #5 Armstrong, 4th with 90, and #9 Minneapolis South, 5th with 124, in boys competition. Wayzata's #8-ranked girls will also watch State rather than race it after finishing 3rd with 85 points.

Full results can be found on RaceberryJam HERE. Jack Moran's fine site should be the place to go for full results of all 16 Class AA and Class A Sections.

Section 4AA results ... can be found HERE -- #5 Stillwater and the un-ranked White Bear Lake boys advanced; #5 White Bear Lake and un-ranked Roseville Area girls moved on. The #8 Roseville Area boys finished a non-qualifying 3rd as did the #7 Woodbury girls.

Most of the rest of the Class AA and Class A Sections will be contested today.

Opinion ... DtB and this writer have previously noted the short-comings of the MSHSL's State-qualifying system in cross country. I wrote THIS "editor's comment" in Minnesota Running & Track magazine last fall after six of the top-13 teams in boys Class AA were left out of the State Meet

DtB reported on the MSHSL's Section re-alignment HERE last March and anticipated that it alone would not ensure a more just qualifying system.

Sadly, 6AA results suggest that we were right.

Let us know what you think, on our DtB poll or with a comment ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Minnesota Double: Ferstle Covers Goucher

I guess there was a reason we loaded the Kara Goucher DtB banner today ...

The dean of Minnesota distance running writers, Jim Ferstle, just wrote a fine profile of Minnesota's most decorated distance runner, Kara Goucher, for the IAAF's web-site.

You can find the story HERE.

Ferstle focused his piece on the disappointments and challenges Goucher has faced in her life -- from the death of her father due to a drunk driver when Goucher was a little girl to the athletic vicissitudes of running injuries and competitive self-doubt.

There are also some nice stories about her grandfather's role in Goucher's life after the death of her father.

We should probably design a Jim Ferstle DtB banner next ...

My Olympic Marathon Trials Dream ...

I dreamed about the Olympic Men's Marathon Trails last night.

Not running in them or winning them -- I think I'm too old for those sorts of dreams. It was one of those real/surreal scenarios where I watched the start go off from what sure looked like the starting area of the St. Patrick's Day 8K in St. Paul.

Next, I was in a pizza restaurant arguing with some other race fans about how the race would play out. (I thought some guys would go off the front early but that the favorites -- Culpepper, Meb, Abdi, etc. -- would prevail in the end.)

Finally, the buddy I was with -- can't remember who that was now, wide-awake at 7:30 a.m. -- and I decided we needed to get back to the course to see the runners when they came by. But, I had all these boxed slices of pizza that were really cumbersome to carry ... but that we needed to bring with us to feed the marathoners!?!

Then I woke up.

If there are any Freudians reading DtB, please feel free to comment on my dream below.

I interpret the dream as telling me to not forget to post about the Trials despite it being Big Tens week, MIAC week, Sectionals week, etc.

So here's that post ...

USA Track & Field announced that the largest Olympic Trails field since 1984 will line up in Central Park for this year's event on November 3. A total of 134 athletes, of the 179 qualified, have entered the race. The USATF media release has a wealth of informational tidbits about the race.

The official entry list is HERE.

The New York Road Runner's Club has put together a fine spectators' guide for the race HERE.

Also, as part of their Trials build-up, Runner's World briefly chatted with former Minneapolis resident Mike Reneau. Reneau is currently training in Michigan with the Hansons-Brooks program. He tells Peter Gambaccini that he's shooting for a 2:15 at the Trials.

" ... my strategy relies on other people going out too fast. There’s not doubt about it. Realistically, I’m not a 2:11 marathoner at this stage, so I’m not going to pretend to be come Race Day. And ultimately, when you train for specific pacing and you have specific goals, it’s foolish to completely change those based on what other people are doing in a race. For me to run the best race possible, I’ll have to run the race that I trained to run, and that’s right around that 5:10 (per mile) pace range."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marathon Scheduling: The Grandma's Position

Prior to and after the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Down the Backstretch ran two editorials (HERE and HERE) about hot weather, the changing climate, and the dates of Minnesota's premier marathons. We suggested that an earlier-in-the-year Grandma's Marathon and a two-weeks-later Twin Cities Marathon would make better sense for serious runners than the current dates. We also ran two polls -- the results of which are displayed on the DtB sidebar -- to gauge reader's opinions on the matter.

We thought it was only fair to offer the DtB "microphone" to the directors of the events in question -- to get their take on the matter. The folks at Twin Cities respectifully declined the offer. Scott Keenan, the executive director of Grandma's Marathon, replied to a list of questions we asked with the letter below:


I believe it is very important for road race directors not to react hastily to one or two years of abnormally unseasonable temperatures.

In the weeks leading up to this year’s Grandma’s Marathon , our June weather had been nearly perfect. Then as race weekend approached the prevailing winds shifted, bringing us a south wind and warmer than expected temperatures for our Friday and Saturday events. But as quickly as the warm, humid weather arrived, it departed in a similar manner as Sunday produced an east wind and below average temperatures.

Organizing outdoor events is inherently a precarious business complete with many weather-related risks. In my mind, on any given day weather conditions are simply the luck of the draw and there is no way to guarantee ideal weather during any time of the year. In Grandma’s Marathon’s 31 years, we have had many great days, many good days and a few adverse days, such as the past two years. Who knows…we could move our event ahead in the calendar and have it land on a weekend filled with deadly thunderstorms — weather is unfortunately entirely unpredictable.

For numerous reasons, mid-June is an ideal timeframe for us to entertain a major running event in Duluth .

Hosting the nation’s 12th largest marathon — along with our other races and festivities — in a relatively small market creates obvious lodging obstacles. We are extremely fortunate to have area universities and colleges willing to provide dormitory accommodations for thousands of runners during race weekend. Moving our event to early-June or late-May would eliminate this option and further complicate lodging arrangements for a large number of our participants and their families.

As you know, Duluth is a tourist and convention destination and we work closely with the tourism and hospitality industries. In order for our city to attract and accommodate future events, it is imperative for the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau and others to have our event dates booked on their calendars well in advance. For the benefit of all parties involved, the dates for Grandma’s Marathon weekend are secured through 2020.

Also, volunteers play an instrumental role in the success of our races and we require assistance from nearly 5,000 of them each year. An earlier Grandma’s race date would interfere with high school and college graduation ceremonies and parties making it problematic for us to secure the experienced volunteers necessary to ensure a safe and enjoyable event.

Of course, tradition and timing are factors as well. Midwesterners are no strangers to having their outdoor training efforts delayed by long, harsh winters. A June race appeals to thousands of regional runners as it allows for an adequate amount of road training once the snow and ice concede. Also, a mid-June marathon ideally fits the schedule for many runners since early spring and fall marathons tend to clutter the race calendar.

Don’t forget — we have a built-in ‘air conditioner’ called Lake Superior lining our racecourse. I have seen many times when the temperature is 20-25 degrees warmer just a few miles west of the downtown Duluth waterfront. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky enough to have an east wind and ‘normal’ Duluth weather for Grandma’s Marathon in 2008 and beyond.


Scott Keenan
Executive Director
Grandma’s Marathon

Monday, October 22, 2007

Heartland Nike Team Nationals Rankings: Wayzata Boys #2, Eden Prairie Girls #6

It's Sectionals week for Minnesota high schoolers, but before our attention gets completely consumed by who's in and who's out of the State Meet, let's check in on the latest Nike Team Nationals polls for the Heartland Region ...

The Wayzata boys maintain the #2 ranking in the heartland that they earned after their victorious run at the Roy Griak Invitational in late September. University High School of St. Louis leads the region. Rosemount, the top-ranked team in the Heartland until Griak, remains #6.

For girls, Eden Prairie's strong squad is #6 in the region after their big Lake Conference win over Burnsville and Lakeville North. Yankton High School from South Dakota leads the region as it has all season. Burnville is ranked #10, falling from #7 last week.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Short-Cut: Results for October 19-20

Use DtB to click to the weekend's important results ...

North Central Conference Championships (in Duluth): Results
Update: Men ... Mankato 24, Augustana 62, UMD 67 ... Mokaya wins.
Update: Women ... Augie 36, UND 61, USD 62, UMD 114, Mankato 115 ... Stangler wins.

Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (in Winona): Preview Results
Update: A Moorhead State sweep ... Vanwechel wins.

Jack's Run (at the U of M): Results
Update: UW-Superior's Kramer and former Gopher Brown win.

Nerstrand Big Woods Races: Results

Friday Round-Up: Finnerty, Robertz, Polls

Happy Friday!

We've collected the week's miscellaneous and sundry items in a "round-up" posting today:

Finnerty on ... Rob Finnerty, who's been the #1-ranked Class AA boy harrier all season in Minnesota, was interviewed this week by In the wide-ranging Q/A, Finnerty seems determined to quell a persistent rumor about former Golden Gopher star Antonia Vega being his personal assistant coach:

"I know some people out there, in Minnesota, think that Antonio was hired just to be my training partner and personal coach," Finnerty says. "In reality, this isn't true because he helps the rest of the team equally. They can believe what they want though. I, along with anybody that matter to me, know what the truth of the situation really is. Anybody who thinks differently is irrelevant"

The Star-Tribune story that put the idea out there is HERE.

Catching Up with Janet Robertz ... DtB contributor Chad Austin has posted a comprehensive interview with masters distance running phenomenon Janet Robertz, HERE, on his Running Minnesota blog. Robertz, who moved to Boca Raton, Florida earlier this year has had her running slowed by hypothyroidism.

"It really affected my metabolism and energy level," the 2004 USA Masters Marathon champion told Austin. "I was exhausted all the time even though I got 9+ hours sleep. It took over a year for the doctor to get my meds adjusted and even now I just don’t have the energy level that I once had. It has been really depressing. I keep hoping that I can run another marathon but realistically, it just may not be in the cards. I can run for an hour without too much trouble but anything beyond that has become a struggle. So, a few years back a 70-80 mile week was average. Today, 45-55 is average. My high mileage week is 55 miles. The longest I have run recently is 9.5 miles."

The Latest in College Cross Country Polling ... The small college cross country rankings have undergone some additional tweaks this week -- prior to, we'll predict, the wilder swings that will likely come after the conference championships this weekend and next.

In NCAA Division II, Minnesota State - Mankato holds the #12 spot in the ratings, down from #11 last week. NCC rivals -- and conference meet hosts -- Minnesota-Duluth is ranked #15, up a slot from last week. The NCC's Augustana is #25. In women's rankings, the NSIC's Moorhead State holds the #25 position in the polls heading into their conference championship in Winona tomorrow. The University of North Dakota women, ranked #16, are the favorites in the NCC for women.

In Division III, St. John's dropped a few more places -- to #9-- from their high-water mark of #5 earlier in the season. Carleton is ranked #24, up two spots from a week ago. The MIAC holds its championship next weekend. The St. Olaf woman are ranked #15 -- up from #17 last week, followed by MIAC rivals St. Thomas and Gustavus Adolphus at #22 and #35, respectively.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mankato Men Eye Final NCC Championship

The North Central Conference will contest its final cross country championship this Saturday in Duluth. The league which boasts a long history of top-notch NCAA Division II athletics has seen many of its long-time members jump to Division I in recent years. South Dakota State and North Dakota State made the move a few years back; the University of South Dakota and the University of North Dakota will do so next year.

In light of the defections, the conference will cease to exist after this school year. Minnesota State - Mankato, the University of Minnesota - Duluth, St. Cloud State, and Augustana will move to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference beginning next year.

DtB caught up with long-time Mankato coach Mark Schuck to have him share a few memories of NCC meets past and to tell us about his current team, the favorites to win their 10th NCC title at the meet.

DtB: How odd is it for you, Mark, knowing that this is the last year for the conference that you've competed in for so long?

Schuck: I don’t see it so much as odd as I see it a sign of the times. The trend of so many NCC schools deciding to go DI to the point of disbanding the conference is unfortunate. However the four remaining schools all going to the Northern Sun gives hope that many of the good things that the NCC had will also be there with the Northern Sun. Hopefully better. The Northern Sun was our roots. It has always been a strong conference in track and cross country.

DtB: What do you think is the biggest Mankato highlight from all the NCC cross country championships?

When you word it that way, it brings to mind the great tradition of distance running at MSU. We have had many great athletes and many great teams but winning the NCC, the Regional and The National Championship in 1988 stands alone as the greatest accomplishment.

DtB: Do you have an intereting story about the blizzard meet?

Schuck: The night before the meet, at the coaches meeting, we talked about the incoming storm. We agreed that if NDSU was going to make any changes, that they give us fair warning. I like the athletes to eat three to four hours prior to competing. While at breakfast with the team, the people from NDSU came to our table and informed us that the storm was so bad that the meet is going to start in one hour and not only that but they also informed us that the race will not be a 10K but a 5K.

The meet management was concerned that athletes might get lost in the storm so instead of two loops they only went one loop. I thought that if they were concerned of athletes getting lost on the second loop that we should not run the first loop. On the second loop they will at least have a trail. The night before, I went to a store and bought ski goggles for each of my athletes.

The meet was also the qualifying meet for the National Meet. To make a long story short, we did qualify for Nationals. The goggles worked great. One of my better athletes, Tulu an African was last on my team. Two weeks later at the National Meet in California he was an All-American. I have never seen a race held in that bad of weather since.

I was also involved in a “blizzard meet” when Nationals were held at St. Cloud. We had a foot of snow the night before. We ran the meet. That was hard on the southern schools. That was in the early 80’s and Minnesota has not had the National meet since.

DtB: How is this year's team looking going into the meet? Is the squad healthy?

Schuck: I have a very deep team with four guys healthy and looking strong. They are James Krajsa from Moorhead, Denise Mokaya from Kenya, Dan Ristau from Blue Earth, and Jon Stoltman from Little Falls. Then there are the guys that are good, but somewhat hurt. Ben Klungvedt from Moorhead has a calf pull, Jesse Merkel, Menomonie, Wisconsin, has back problems, Chad Janizeski from Minneota was in a car accident, Erik Teig, from Amery, Wisconsin has leg problems and Jeff Stuckenbroker from Windom has a hip problem, Doug Galbavy from South Dakota has a hamstring problem, Jeff Lumbardo and Dan Kromer are healthy.

That’s our twelve guys that we have entered in this years conference meet. I feel good about our chances to win. It’s a good hard-working team.

DtB: UMD gave you a run at Griak ... are they the top challenger?

Schuck: Don’t count Augustana out. They have a strong team also, but UMD will be on there home course so it won’t be easy.

Related Content:

The NCC Cross Country History and Record Page

A Blogger's Archived Stories About the NCC's Demise

The NCC's Wikipedia Page

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Minnesota Track Hall of Fame to Add Six

The Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame will add six new members to its honored circle later this year, officials announced today.

Members of the Class of 2007 are elite athletes Sarah Renk Thorsett, Carson Hoeft, and Donovan Bergstrom, veteran athlete Jerry McNeal, and coach/administrators Gary Wilson and Dick Mulkern.

Renk Thorsett, a Winona High School and Wisconsin Badger star, was a two-time World Championships participant at 1500 meters (1995 & 1997) with a 4:05.87 lifetime best in the event. Hoeft, a Robbinsdale Armstrong and Minnesota Golden Gopher standout, was an NCAA all-American at 1500 meters in 1990 in 3:42.35. Bergstrom, who raced for Elgin-Millville and Wisconsin, was a three-time Big Ten champion (cross country 1991, 3000m steeplechase 1992, 1993) and the 1993 NCAA steeplechase champion with a lifetime best of 8:29.08.

Wilson, the longtime University of Minnesota women's track and cross country coach, won the Big Ten outdoor track and field championships with the 2006 Golden Gophers, the program's first-ever Big Ten title. Mulkern coached football at Hamline University and guided the school's strong throwing squads in track and field. Mulkern coached Mike Manders, among others, to his Hall of Fame career.

DtB assumes that Jerry McNeal is the University of Kansas track and cross country all-American from the 1950s ... something we are in the process of verifying.

The induction ceremony will take place Saturday, December 1, in Coffman Union at the University of Minnesota.

Related content:

DtB's suggestions for the Class of 2007

Bruce Brothers' suggestions for the Hall

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gopher Women Fall to #8; Men Rise to #22

The University of Minnesota women's cross country team fell to #8 in the latest NCAA Division I rankings released today.

The squad had been ranked a program-best #4 prior to the Pre-National Meet last weekend. There, the Gopher finished 4th in their section of the loaded event.

Two-time defending NCAA champ Stanford retains its #1 ranking after winning the Gophers' section at Pre-Nats. Michigan and Michigan State of the Big Ten are ranked #6 and #7, while Illinois is ranked #10 going into the conference championships in Columbus, Ohio on October 29.

The Golden Gopher men rose to #22 in the latest NCAA men's poll. The Minnesota men finished 7th in their section at Pre-Nats. Heading into the Big Ten Championships next weekend, Minnesota finds itself looking up at #6 Wisconsin and #10 Michigan in the national ratings.

Oregon is ranked #1 in the NCAA for men.

MEADP Cuts Checks for Trials Marathoners; Accepts Applications for 2008 Grants

Six of Minnesota's top marathoners got a nice surprise in the mail recently.

The Minnesota Elite Athlete Development Program wrote $300 checks to the six men who have qualified for next month's Olympic Marathon Trails in New York City: Donovan Fellows, Matt Gabrielson, Pete Gilman, Jason Lehmkuhle, Chris Lundstrom, and Zachary Schendel.

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials are scheduled for Saturday, November 3. The Minnesotans will be among the field of the nation's fastest male marathoners taking to the streets of New York City with the hopes of representing the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Games.

MEADP, a program funded through contributions from Austin-Jarrow Sports, Grandma’s Marathon-Duluth, Inc., Minnesota Distance Running Association (MDRA), and Twin Cities Marathon , Inc., gave away the money to "acknowledge their accomplishment and to help offset expenses," according to a media release.

MEADP will also make contributions to Minnesotans who qualify for other 2008 Olympic Trials long-distance events ranging from 5K to the marathon, including the 2008 U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon Trials which will be held next April in Boston.

MEADP was created in 1998 to provide financial assistance to elite Minnesota distance runners who have completed their college running careers. The program provides grants to assist qualified runners in reaching their full athletic potential.

In addition, MEADP is now accepting applications for 2008 grants. MEADP will provide grants in amounts up to $2,000 per recipient to promising male and female Minnesota elite distance runners. Applications and more information can be obtained at or by calling call Neil Franz at (320) 253-7130.

Last year, Kristen Nicolini, Erin Ward, Pete Gilman, and Ryan Kleimenhagen earned stipdends from the organization.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lehmkuhle, McGregor Named Athletes of the Month

The Minnesota Association of USA Track & Field announced that Jason Lehmkuhle and Katie McGregor are USATF Minnesota's Athletes of the Month for October.

Lehmkuhle, a member of Team USA Minnesota, is recognized for his runner-up finish at the USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship held in conjunction with the Medtronic Twin Cities 10 Mile on October 7. Lehmkuhle clocked 47:48 to finish second to two-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman who won in a course-record 47:34.

McGregor, also of Team USA Minnesota, is recognized for her own second place finish at the USA Women’s 10K Championships in Boston on October 8. McGregor ran 32:41 to finish second to Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor who won in 32:01.

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

(Disclosure: Pete Miller and I serve, along with Kevin Moorhead, on the USATF-Minnesota Athlete of the Month committee.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Short-Cut: Results for October 12-14

#1 versus #4 ... The race of the weekend pits the #4 Minnesota Golden Gopher women against #1 Stanford at the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Indiana.

In the event which splits the loaded Division I field into two sections, Minnesota faces #7 Rice, #9 Michigan State (with Minnesotan Sarah Price), #11 Florida State, #14 Colorado State, #16 Boston College, #22 Georgetown, and #25 Wisconsin (with Hanna Grinaker) along with two-time defending NCAA Champions Stanford ... and their Minnesotan's Alex Gits and Shannon Bergstedt.

The Big Ten web-site just printed THIS nice feature on the Gophers' Ladia Albertson-Junkans.

The #24 Gopher men run in a Pre-Nats section with defending NCAA Champs Colorado, currently ranked #3 in D1, as well as #5 Stanford (with the brothers Heath), #7 Notre Dame (with Jake Watson), #10 North Carolina State, #14 Providence, #16 William & Mary, #18 Michigan, and #20s Arizona State and UTEP.

And there's a bunch of other action this weekend as well ...

High School Conference Meets: Collected Results

DeSales University Invitational (St Thomas women compete): Results
Update: Tommie women romp; Theisen, Russ finish 1-2.

Jim Drews/Tori Neubauer Invitational (in La Crosse): Results
Update: Men ... St. John's 4th, UMD 6th, Hamline 10th ... Erichsen 2nd in 25:00.
Update: Women ... Gopher "JV" wins, St. Olaf 6th, Gustavus 11th.

UW-Oshkosh Invitational (Bethel, Macalester men compete): Results
Update: Bethel women 5th, Borner 3rd in 21:22, Umhoefer 5th.
Update: Macalester men 13th, Greeno 21st in 24:59.

NCAA Pre-Nationals (Terre Haute, Ind.): Results
Update: Gopher women 4th in "White Section," Stanford wins big -- Gits 31st in 20:58.
Update: Gopher men 7th in section w/o Torchia, Rombough runs best-ever U of M 8K XC -- 23:40

Lewis & Clark Pioneer Open (in Oregon, Carleton competes): Results
Update: Carleton men win big, Sepe, Kennedy finish 2-3; Carleton women 3rd.

Charities Challenge-Challenge Aging 5K: Results
IAAF World Road Running Championships: Results
Update: McGregor 27th in 1:12:01.

Meet Erin Ward ... Olympic Trials Qualifier

There was some good marathoning news last weekend amidst all the sweat and slow times at Twin Cities and Chicago -- Erin Ward got an Olympic Trials qualifier at the St. George Marathon in Utah running 2:45:58.

We tracked down the Run N Fun runner to get the whole story ...

DtB: It sounds like you were at one of the cool spots on the continent last weekend. What were the conditions like at St. George?

Ward: The conditions at St. George were close to perfect. It was probably just under 40 degrees at the start, which is at about 5500 feet of altitude. I tend to favor warmer conditions than most runners, so I was a little worried about the cold. I wore a hat and gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and those dorky long socks to keep me warm. (Sometimes performance just has to come before fashion.)

The sun doesn't come up for the first half-hour or so of the race, so you're running in the dark--it seems surreal. The temps warmed to about 55 by the finish, I think. I didn't notice any wind at all, which usually means that there is a slight tailwind. Can you imagine a better set of circumstances? I flew back to Minnesota the night of my race so that I could watch the TCM, and the conditions were brutal. I feel so fortunate to have chosen to run in the desert.

DtB: How did your race play out? Were you on pace the whole way? Were there any bad patches to work through?

Ward: The race was not easy for me. The first seven miles are at altitude, but they're also downhill. I went through the 10K already almost a minute under pace and feeling fantastic. I thought I might be headed for a 2:42-2:43 race (don't we all get a little excited in the first ten miles?)

The next 6 miles are also at nearly 5000 feet, but there is one long incline that lasts from mile seven to eight, and then the course levels out through the halfway point. I told myself to not worry about pace and to try to minimize my effort on that stretch (this was Kelly Mortenson's advice, and he has won the race in the past, so I believed him!), and then to concentrate on a big negative split. I needed to be at 1:23:30 at the half to be on pace for my qualifier, and I think I was about five or six seconds under. Then the race really starts to drop.

Miles 14-16 take a very steep drop, and those who have trained for downhill running start to reap the rewards. Unfortunately I was not one of those who had trained for downhill running. By the end of mile 16 my quads were crying, and I was not far from crying myself. This is when I started to let a little self-doubt creep into my head.

I have to thank Jenna Boren for getting me through miles 16-23. She sent me a text message the day before the race that said, "If you start to doubt yourself, remember that you're the only one. Everyone else believes that you can do it." I reminded myself of this every time I thought the race was slipping away. I also told myself that if there was ever a perfect day to do this, today was the day.

At mile 24 I calculated that I was under pace again, and this was the first time that I thought I might be able to do it. I spent the next two miles holding my breath (metaphorically, of course) and trying to stay calm. With a mile to go I had 7:30 minutes to finish, and I said to myself, "You train faster than that on your easy days." Still, a marathon is a marathon, and disaster can strike at any time. I didn't celebrate until I had about fifty meters to go.

DtB: Describe how you felt when you knew you'd made the standard. It's been a long road for you, no?

Ward: This marathon was my sixth attempt at the qualifier. I think the first two attempts were probably a little optimistic (evidenced by 1:23 first halves and 1:30 second halves), but the other three were legitimate. I spent miles 15-26 at Chicago 2006 throwing up, was not quite fit enough due to a nagging injury at Houston 2007, and whined about the heat at Grandma's this June.

I trained harder than ever this past summer, running up to 120 miles per week and averaging over 90, so I thought my fitness was adequate. I am a rather inconsistent runner, though, and I tend to have either a great performance or to completely fall apart. As I mentioned, I didn't let myself believe that I had met my goal until I was very close to the finish line. The first person I saw after I finished was Kelly Mortenson, and he had waited in the cold at the finish line until I came across. I found out that he had missed his 2:22 standard by about a minute and a half, and I was disappointed for him. (Of course, he did qualify in 2000 and finished 12th at the Trials, so he's had his share of success.)

Then I saw my dad, who was pretty much sobbing. My mom was crying, too. They had flown out to Utah for the weekend to see me race, and they have been traveling around to support me in this quest to qualify for the Olympic Trials. I was thinking during the race when things got tough, "Erin, you are going to bankrupt your parents if you don't run a qualifier pretty soon--all of this flying is getting expensive."

Achieving the qualifying standard is a dream for me. So many people have helped me to reach this goal: all of my teammates at Run n Fun and Perry and Kari Bach for supporting the team, my family for both emotional and financial support, my co-workers and my boss for putting up with "compromised productivity" when training demands are high, Angie Voight for tolerating my one-stepping ways (I still don't believe that I do that), the Baba Yaga Hood-to-Coast team for the best weekend of the summer, and the Twin Cities running community for too many good times and laughs to count.

I was cheering for my friends during the TCM, and many of them shouted back, "Congratulations, Erin!" during their own races. I am one very lucky runner.

Addition: Ward noticed she made an omission and later added: "I owe a lot to my coach, Dennis Barker, who calls me Champ (because I asked him to!) and makes me believe it."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hot Marathons: What About Grandma's?

We apparently struck a nerve.

Our opinion post suggesting the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon move its event back two weeks to make marathoner-friendly weather a more likely occurrence prompted more comments than any other item we’ve posted. Our Down the Backstretch poll asking readers when in October they would schedule TCM gathered more votes than any other poll we’ve ever conducted. Weather and TCM seems to be on a lot of people’s minds these days, not surprisingly.

In our admittedly unscientific poll, a total of 107 people voted. A plurality of 45% of those voters thought the race should be held the third weekend of October. 81% of all voters preferred a date later than TCM’s traditional first-weekend-in-October spot on the calendar.

The comments on the editorial reflected the poll voting. They also brought Grandma’s Marathon into the discussion. Although we didn’t mention the mid-June race in the post about moving Twin Cities, readers made the connection immediately.

A reader named “dd,” who was typical of the sentiments, said: “I would be even more in favor of moving Grandma's to late May -- I think the chances of heat and humidity are getting far too good (that is, bad!) in mid-late June. People are going to start avoiding these, especially the sub-elite range that makes a race a good one for people looking for qualifiers, etc.”

Despite Grandma’s location on Lake Superior next to all that cold water, there is a disconcerting temperature trend there too. In the last five years (2003-2007), Grandma’s start-time temperatures have averaged 59.6 degrees, according to the event’s media guide. The average temperature for the event in the 20 years previous to that (1983-2002) was 51.9. It is true that some of the hottest Grandma’s were in the first years of the event – 1977 to 1982 -- but the event was also held later in the month in its earliest years of existence.

With many of the same caveats I noted in my TCM piece – that big events are scheduled well into the future, that many factors go into to choosing the best date for an event, that traditions do matter, that events must be mindful of other activities on the calendar (Memorial Day and graduations come to mind in this case), that despite what we know is a changing climate the recent warm race-days may be attributed more to blips in the weather rather than deeper factors – I’d prefer an earlier-in-the-year Grandma’s

My bottom line is to have marathoners race on what is likely to be the best weather-day of the season. Recent trends at Grandma’s -- and globally – suggest late May or early in June would put people in better weather when the gun fires.

If I was an athlete training for the race of my life next spring, I’d be worrying about the weather once the calendar flipped to June … and each and every day after that.

What do you think? Let us know on the DtB poll or with a comment below ...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Catch-Up, Round-Up of Recent News

With the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon occupying the bulk of our attention for the past week, it's time to catch up on recent happenings from across our sport. Below, in bite-sized form, is all of the sport's recent news ...

(This news round-up is dedicated to Bonnie in Shorewood ... who thanked us over the weekend for DtB's ability to let busy folks like her have careers, raise kids, and train for marathons and still keep up on the latest goings-on in the sport.)

Wayzata #2 in Heartland ... On the strength of their Griak Invitational win two weekends ago, the Wayzata boys cross country team earned the #2 ranking in Nike Team Nationals Heartland Region. University High School of St. Louis hold the #1 spot which Rosemount, now #6, had occupied since the start of the season. Stillwater is ranked #9 in the poll that was released on October 5.

In the Heartland girls' poll, Eden Prairie is ranked #7 and Burnsville is ranked #8. Yankton, South Dakota holds the #1 ranking as it has all season.

MSHSL Rankings ... Yet another Class AA girls team sits atop the state rankings. Let's see if we can recount the previous #1's in order ... Lakeville North, Prior Lake, Brainerd, Eden Prairie, and now the Blaze. Wayzata continues to lead Class AA boys, but the big story there is Roseville's leap from #12 to #5 after their upset of Stillwater in Alexandria last week. The Plainview-Elgin-Millville boys were the big movers in Class A, going from #8 to #2 in a week. Things were quiet on the Class A girls front with Adrian still holding #1.

Ward Qualifies for the Olympic Marathon Trials ... While lots of other marathoners were sweating it out at Twin Cities or in Chicago, Erin Ward of Run N Fun punched her ticket to the Women's Olympic Marathon Trials with a 2:45:58 at the St. George Marathon in Utah. Women need a 2:47:00 to qualify.

Teammate Kelly Mortenson, the 12th place finisher at the 2000 Trials, missed the men's standard of 2:22:00 with a 2:23:29 on the last day qualifying for men.

TCM, the Kenyan Perspective ... TCM Elite Recruiter Rick Trueman alerted DtB to THIS story about TCM written for the area's African community.

Marcelo Ordaz-Cruz's Racing Chair Fund ... Gary Westlund at Charities Challenge informs us that his organization has raised $828.72 to outfit Interstate 35W bridge collapse survivor Marcelo Ordaz-Cruz with a new racing wheelchair. Ordaz-Cruz finished 9th in the men's wheelchair division at TCM in 2:36:09 despite overturning his chair in a crash near the 19 miles mark.

Charities Challenge has secured a $2000 "matching donation" for the fund that will effective double the value of individual pledges up to that amount. Westlund would like to raise $5000-6000 for Ordaz-Cruz.

Gophers #4 and #24 ... The University of Minnesota women retained their #4 ranking in the NCAA Division I poll this week. They are the #1-ranked Big Ten women's team in the poll. The Gopher men moved up a spot to #24. Both Gopher squads are scheduled to compete at the NCAA Pre-National Meet in Terre Haute, Indiana on Saturday in a dry run on the national meet course.

Remembering Caty Delwiche ... We found two more stories from this weekend describing how Caty Delwiche's college and high school teams were remembering her death last week. Kevin Pates wrote about her Glencoe-Silver Lake team HERE as part of the Duluth News Tribune's Swain Invitational coverage. (There are some really cool photos from the event HERE.) The Mankato Free Press, HERE, was on hand at MSU - Mankato's home meet which served a racing memorial to the fallen runner.

MIAC Men: Johnnies Stalked by Knights, Pipers

Back in early September, DtB previewed the MIAC women’s cross country landscape ahead of a season-opening clash between 2004 and 2005 champs Carleton and 2006 victors St. Thomas -- teams we dubbed the 2007 favorites.

Of course, St. Olaf won the race that we spotlighted as a preview battle between the best two teams in the conference! And, they’ve looked like the MIAC favorites ever since.

It’s probably all the better, then, that’s we’re only getting to the men’s side of the MIAC ledger now, a month-plus into the harrier season. We'll probably have a better idea of what we're talking about this time.

The Favorites

2006 MIAC titlists St. John’s appear to be the team to beat at Como Golf Course on October 27 when the MIAC sorts things out officially. The 5th place team in NCAA Division III last year returns all its scorers from 2006. The Johnnies opened the 2007 season ranked #5.

St. John’s seemed to stumble slightly two weekends ago in Oregon, finishing 3rd at the Willamette Invitational. Their #11 ranked hosts handily beat the Johnnies. St. John’s Chris Erichsen and Kelly Fermoyle took the top two spots in the meet, but it was a long wait until the rest of the Johnnie scorers appeared on the homestretch.

“I’m not quite sure what to make of our greater gap,” St. John’s coach Tim Miles said. “Probably a combination of our top two running better and the others being a bit off their very good Saint John’s Invitational performances. Whatever the case, all eight had their race faces on and competed well.”

St. John’s, which tied D2-ranked MSUMankato at their home meet, has so far been without the services of their top finisher at the MIAC meet last year, Mitch VanBruggen, although Miles expects the senior to be racing again as soon as this weekend.

The Challengers

St. John’s lost two spots in the D3 poll after Willamette and the MIAC race seemed to tighten a bit after Carleton (#27) and Hamline (#35) ran well at the Roy Griak meet that same weekend. The Knights finished 4th there with 183 points. The “Ham-Dogs” were a place behind with 214.

“I was very pleased with the Griak meet,” Carleton’s first-year head coach Dave Ricks said. “This was our best showing in a number of years there. Quentin Kennedy, Joe Sepe, and Mark Felice all have huge upsides. These guys have no idea how good they can be. John Nowinski and Eamon Monaghan are "game-day" guys. They really compete well."

Carleton, third in the MIAC last fall and runner-up the three seasons prior to that under the now-retired Bill Terriquez, is blessed with a squad full of seniors who have all played scoring roles for the program. 2006 national meet qualifier Ryan Martinez, though on the roster this year, appears unlikely to compete this year due to injury.

“We have GREAT senior leadership,” Ricks wrote to DtB. “In fact, we are doing "meet" captains this year because every one of our seniors has leadership qualities."

At Griak, Hamline also appeared to put themselves back into the MIAC picture after an unexpectedly poor showing at the St. Olaf Invitational earlier in the season.

“We did get off the mat for the Griak,” Hamline coach Paul Schmaedeke said. “I have not started the season very well for a number of years. We stopped running a meet the first week of September a couple of years ago because our guys just didn't want to race that early. Hopefully they have a sense as to what is important and what they need to do to get ready to be their best in November."

Hamline is faced with different leadership situation than Carleton. The Knights graduated seniors Travis Bristow, Chris Yotter, and Tony Klappa and are without Brandon Gleason who is recovering from the injuries he suffered when struck by a truck while training last winter.

“A couple of guys looked around and realized that if we are going to be any good and go back to nationals [they] need to step up and make a difference,” Schmaedeke said. “Hopefully a combination of psychological maturation and training age."

The Pipers are powered by the pack-running of Jon Murphy, Ian Bauer, Kevin Groh, Dan
Steinbrecher, and Dan Peterson.

The Context

The form sheet going into the 2007 MIAC meet looks a bit like last year's, but with teams trading rolls. In 2006, Hamline was the defending champ and favorite, with St. John’s and Carleton looked strong but unlikely to have enough to pull an upset.

St. John’s, of course, left Como with the trophy.

This year, the Johnnies wear the favorites’ garb – including the top-10 NCAA rank the Pipers held in 2006 – and must contend, themselves, with two solid contenders … and expectations.

“I do believe it got to some of our guys last year,” Schmaedeke said of the favorites’ baggage.

“We tried too hard at times and had too many expectations and were too concerned about what other people thought."

“Being an underdog is more comfortable and more fun,” he admitted.

St. John’s and Hamline will race one-another for the first time this season at Saturday’s Jim Drews Invitational in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Carleton competes at the Lewis and Clark Pioneer Open in Oregon this weekend.

(Full disclosure: I’m a St. John’s graduate, I was recently an assistant coach at Carleton, and I roomed with Paul Schmaedeke at the 1992 Olympic Track and Field Trails!)

Monday, October 08, 2007

McGregor Second to Kastor at USA 10K

Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor finished second to Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor at the USA Women's 10K Championships held in conjunction with the Tufts 10K in Boston today.

Kastor won the race in 32:01; McGregor clocked 32:41.

"All things considered, it was a pretty good race because I have been putting in a lot of miles the last couple of weeks," McGregor said in a Team USA Minnesota news release. "I have been on that course before so I decided to go for it. Deena went out hard and I was just over five minutes for the first mile. I was in second place practically from the start and ran by myself the whole time, continually trying to dig in and keep going so the other girls didn't come up on me."

St. Paul Academy and Summit School alum Cack Ferrell was 12th in 33:57. Wadena native Johanna Olson was 25th in 34:55.

Full results can be found HERE.

McGregor will compete again on Sunday -- with Kastor as a teammate -- at the IAAF World Road Running Championships in Udine, Italy.

"As a team I think we can place pretty high because everyone is running really well right now and we have the talent," McGregor, who has previously been on medal-winning Ekiden and World Cross Country teams with Olympian Kastor, said.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon: Photos

There are plenty of Twin Cities Marathon and TC 10 Mile photos scattered around the Internet, but look no further than Down the Backstretch. We're collecting the links and putting them all in one place:

From Todd Sheldon, on assignment for Down the Backstretch: a few shots from the 10 Mile and a batch from the marathon.

From the pros at Competitive Image: Their 2007 MTCM page is displaying a great slideshow of photos from the 10 Mile and the Marathon. Their galleries should be up soon.

A nice flickr set from Mark Danielson.
Shot near the two mile mark, so everyone still looks good.

A huge flickr set (116 photos) from Randy Stern. Shot near mile 18, this set covers the whole field.

The good folks at offer a photoset from the TC 10 Mile and five different sets from the marathon.

Todd Sheldon photo (above): Jim Ramacier guts it out coming down Cathedral Hill.