Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finnerty, Mellon, Carlson Named All-USA

The fastest high school miler in Minnesota history, Rob Finnerty, the fastest-ever prep half-miler in the state, Zach Mellon, and perhaps the greatest Minnesota high school runner to never win a state title, Jordan Carlson, were named to the USA Today All-USA track team.

Burnsville High School's Finnerty earned his accolades with a 4:01.09 mile victory at the Midwest Distance Gala in Lisle, Illinois that led the nation in the event and which is the #7 performance all-time for an American prep in the mile/1600 meters. Finnerty won the Nike Outdoor National title in the mile as well. He was also the season's 4th-fastest two miler at 8:50.96.

Finnerty broke Garry Bjorklund's 39-year-old state all-time record in the event as well.

(See a related story about Bjorklund and Finnerty on the USATF-Minnesota web-site HERE.)

Mellon, a junior at Buffalo High School, ended the 2008 season as the #2-ranked half-miler in country, by virtue of his 1:48.64 runner-up finish at the U.S. Junior Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Mellon bettered Jason Owen's all-time record in the 800m with the performance. He had already broken Owen's MSHSL State Meet record with a 1:49.69 clocking.

Rosemount High School's Carlson earned the USA Today honors by virtue of his 4:07.18 mile at he Midwest Distance Gala and his 3rd place finish at Nike Outdoor Nationals. Carlson's All-USA honor is welcome recognition for the #3 prep miler in Minnesota history who's exploits happened in the shadow of Finnerty's performances.

You can find the full listing of All-USA selections HERE.

Photos by Gene Niemi. Above: Finnerty leading Carlson, below: Mellon.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goucher Training in the Houston Heat

Kara Goucher's road to Beijing is passing through Houston, Texas.

The Duluth native who has qualified in both the 5000 and 10,000 meter events at the Olympic Games, is training in the Space City in an effort to replicate Beijing's hot, humid conditions. Alberto Salazar, her coach, has brought Goucher (pictured), her 10,000m teammate Amy Begley, and men's 10,000m qualifier Galen Rupp to Houston from their training base in Portland, Oregon.

Kevin Pates of the Duluth-News Tribune caught up with Goucher recently and filed THIS story about the temporary move to Houston.

“We want to do some of our harder workouts in the same uncomfortable conditions that we will face at the Olympics," Goucher told Pates. "Although I’d love to stay home for this week, I know that this will make us more prepared for Beijing."

The Portland Oregonian also published THIS story about the group's training in Houston.

Goucher's competition in Beijing begins on August 15 with the 10,000m final. The 5000m preliminaries are scheduled for August 19. The 5000m final is set for August 22.

Photo by Paul Merca.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Minnesotans Shine at Junior Olympics

The professional athletes we reported on yesterday weren't the only Minnesota tracksters in action last weekend. The future of the sport -- the state's top junior athletes -- were competing at the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships in Omaha, Nebraska.

USATF Minnesota secretary Chris Dallager sent Down the Backstretch the following report on the top performances by Minnesotans in Omaha:

Chelsea Pettit, 16, Young Women's 1500m, 4:49.45, 2nd place (Chelsea is a Holy Angels athlete, was 3rd in the 1600m at the MSHSL meet this year, and competed for the Startan Club this summer.)

Shane Streich, 11, Midget Boys' 1500m, 4:46.97, 2nd place (Shane competed for the Waseca Club.)

Christian Kolb, 15, Intermediate Boys' Pole Vault, 4.20m (13' 9.25"), 4th place (Christian is the son of Minnesota State University Mankato Pole Vault coach Matt Kolb. He was 6th at the MSHSL meet this year. He competed for the Southern Minnesota Vault Club this summer.)

Macauley Spandl, 16, Intermediate Boys' Pole Vault, 4.05m (13' 3.5"), 8th place (Macauley is from Moorhead and competed unattached.)

Tey Rione Harrell, 11, Midget Boys' High Jump, 1.45m (4' 9"), 6th place tie (Tey Rione competed for Hospitality House.)

Tamaria Verdell, 10, Bantam Girls' Shot Put, 7.51m (24' 7.75"), 7th place (Tamaria competed for Hospitality House.)

Matthew Rosen, 12, Midget Boys' 800m, 2:22.99 in prelims and 2:26.53 in finals, 8th place (Matthew competed unattached.)

Team Woodbury, Youth Girls' 4 x 800m relay, 10:24.37, 8th place (Kristen Bourne, 13, Jacleen Patterson, 13, Aislinn Pomfret, 14, and Ainslee Neu, 13.)

There were a number of other Minnesota athletes at the meet. A few other performances in the top 10:

Sean King, 18, Young Mens' 100m, 10.85, 10th place (Sean is a Cretin Derham Hall grad heading to the University of Minnesota. He was 2nd in the 100 and 200 at the MSHSL meet this year. He competed unattached this summer.)

Amy Kubat, 18, Young Women's Shot Put, 12.60m (41' 4.25"), 10th place (Amy was the state champion at the MSHSL meet in the shot put for Owatonna High School. She competed unattached this summer.)

Shane Streich, 11, Midget Boys' 800m, 2:25.28, 10th place.

Shane Streich, 11, Midget Boys' High Jump, 1.40m (4' 7") 10th place tie.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Busy Weekend: Vega 11th at NYC Half,
Leer Runs 3:56 Mile in Ireland, & More

Team USA Minnesota's Antonio Vega finished 11th in Sunday's NYC Half Marathon, clocking 1:04:26 amidst a world class field in a race that started in Central Park and finished in Lower Manhattan.

Vega's half marathon debut highlighted a busy weekend of action for Minnesota athletes.

Vega (pictured), who made his half marathon debut with the effort, was the second place American in the field behind Beijing Olympic Marathon qualifier Dathan Ritzenhein who finished 3rd in 1:01:38. Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia won a close race over Patrick Makau for the NYC Half title, running 1:00:58 to Makau's 1:00:59 on a muggy, overcast day in the Big Apple.

Asked afterward how he thought the half marathon distance differed from the shorter races he's more familiar with, Vega said:

"It's probably how long you hurt!"

"At five miles, I thought 'I'm not even half-way and I'm feeling it a bit,'" the former Golden Gopher said. "I think it's one of those things that's more mental than anything else. You've just got to focus and just recover. I was looking at my splits and I was clicking off 4:50, 4;50, so I felt good when I saw that."

Vega expects to compete next at the USA 20K Championships in New Haven, Connecticut on September 1. His ultimate goal for the fall is the USA Men's Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on October 5.

Results from the NYC Half Marathon are HERE.

In Other Action ... Minnetonka High School grad Will Leer, who trains with the Oregon Track Club, ran a 3:56.75 mile at the Morton Memorial Meeting in Ireland on Friday. Leer finished runner-up to fellow American Rob Myers who won in 3:56.23.

Results from the meet are HERE.

Kenyan Michael Chesang and Ethiopian Teyba Naser won the Boston Scientific Heart of the Summer 10K held Saturday at Lake Nokomis. Chesang ran 30:23 to defeat Matt Downin of Minneapolis who clocked 30:41.

Naser ran 32:49 to edge Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor and former Chaska high school star Stephanie Herbst-Lucke who ran 32:54 and 32:55, respectively for 2nd and 3rd. Herbst-Lucke, a former collegiate record holder in the 10,000 meters while attending the University of Wisconsin, is now a 42-year-old Atlanta, Georgia resident.

Results from the race are HERE.

Also ... You can read Mackenzie Lobby's Running USA Wire race recap HERE. She notes that Herbst-Lucke missed the U.S. masters 10K record, held by four-time Olympian Colleen DeReuck, by a scant five seconds.

Olympian Graces Summer League Meet ... You don't expect to bump into a Beijing-bound athlete when you lace up your spikes at an all-comers meet, but last Thursday, there one was.

Shani Marks, who will represent the USA in the triple jump in Beijing, jumped in the season's first USATF Minnesota Summer League meet at Eagan High School, jumping 45-2 1/4 for the win over training partner Amanda Thieschafer who jumped 43-10 3/4 for 2nd.

Results of the meet can be found HERE.

Photo by Victor Sailer

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vega to Make Half Marathon Debut Sunday

Team USA Minnesota’s Antonio Vega will make his half marathon debut Sunday in the talent-packed NYC Half Marathon. The race includes top international stars like sub-1:00:00 Africans Patrick Makau of Kenya and Hendrick Ramaala of South Africa as well as American stand-outs like 2008 Olympic Marathon team member Dathan Ritzenhein and 2000 Olympian Adam Goucher.

Vega, who is coming off a solid 11th place, 29:41 performance at the Peachtree 10K earlier this month, is looking to the NYC Half Marathon for experience and confidence as he prepares for his marathon debut this fall.

DtB caught up with the former Golden Gopher before he left for the Big Apple.

DtB: It looked like you had a nice run at the Peachtree 10k, where you were the top American. How did you feel about the race?

Vega: Going into the Peachtree I really did not have any real expectation. I knew it was going to be a fast race with a lot of talented runners, and my main goal was to go out hard and give myself a shot at being in the top 20 of the race. Looking back on the race I felt I ran a pretty smart race. I did not go out to hard in the first couple of miles, but yet it was hard enough to keep the lead pack within sight.

DtB: What is the focus of your training right now?

Vega: Right now my focus for training is towards the Twin Cities Marathon. This will be my debut in the marathon so a lot of my workouts are going to begin to focus on longer aerobic type training.

DtB: You’ve been with Team USA Minnesota for nearly a year now, how do you feel your transition to professional running is going?

Vega: The transition to professional running has gone pretty smooth. The first three months of training with Team USA Minnesota were a little on the challenging side. It always takes a little time to get used to a new coach and a new type of training philosophy. So far things have been going well workouts have been going a lot better than I could have anticipated. It is great to have teammates that have a lot of experience and knowledge, which has been a lot of help in workouts and getting ready for competitions.

DtB: What are you hoping for at the NYC Half Marathon?

Vega: I am not exactly sure what I am expecting, the main reason I chose to run this race was to gain some experience racing something over a 10k. I am hoping to just gain some confidence before I start my training for the Twin Cities Marathon. I am more or less looking for an indicator as to what I think my marathon pace will be.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Minnesotans Strong in Brasschaat, Belgium

A quartet of Minnesotans ran well at yesterday's Atletiek Vlaanderen meet in Brasschaat, Belgium.

Jenelle Deatherage finished 3rd in the 3000 meter event in 9:02.61.

Will Leer dropped down to 800m meters after his PR 1500m race on Sunday in Huesden-Zolder, Belgium to finish 3rd in the B section of that event in 1:48.06.

Team USA Minnesota's Matt Gabrielson moved down to the 1500m after his 13:30 5000m in Huesden-Zolder to nab a PR 3:41.80 for 6th place.

Mitch Potter finished 2nd in the 400m with 46.59.

Full results of the meet can be found HERE.

Radocaj 2nd at NACAC Under-23 Meet ... In an event we failed to note previously, former Golden Gopher star Ruby Radocaj's claimed the silver medal in the javelin throw at the North American, Central American and Carribean Athletic Association Under-23 meet in Toluca, Mexico last weekend.

Radocaj threw 166-5 to place second to Canada's Elizabeth Gleadle who threw 169-10.

Full results of the meet can be found HERE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McGregor, Kandie Win St. Paul Minnesota Mile

Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor and Coon Rapids-based Kenyan Richard Kandie won last night Grandma's Minnesota Mile St. Paul.

McGregor earned the women’s title by covering the two-loop State Fairgrounds course in 4:49, four seconds faster than Kenya’s Caroline Rotich. McGregor placed second in the same event last year with the identical finishing time. Casey Owens of Des Moines finished 3rd among women in 4:53, former Gopher star Rasa Troup was 4th at 4:56, Kenya's Frashiah Waithaka was 5th at 5:04.

TC 1 Mile champion Rose Kosgei was unable to compete due to visa issues.

Kandie, who finished 3rd at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May, outdistanced Californian Christian Hesch 4:09 to 4:15. Dane Moreland of Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin was 3rd at 4:17 Kenyan David Tuwei was 4th in the same time, countryman Zablon Mandere was 5th in 4:20.

Full results can be found HERE.

The Minnesota Mile St. Paul is the first of two races in the Grandma’s Minnesota Mile series. The second event in the series, Minnesota Mile Duluth, will be run in downtown Duluth on Sunday, September 7.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kosgei, McGregor Headline Minnesota Mile

Kenya's Rose Kosgei and Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor headline tonight's Grandma's Minnesota Mile at the State Fairgounds in St. Paul.

This road mile is the first of two events composing the Grandma’s Minnesota Mile series. A $5,700 prize purse is being offered to the top finishers in the race with the male and female champions each receiving $1,250 for their efforts.

Kosgei has had a knack for winning races in Minnesota. The 26-year-old Kenyan was the runaway winner of the TC 1 Mile in May and won the Boston Scientific Heart of the Summer 10K last year by out-kicking countrywoman Angela Mutuku.

McGregor, who finished 4th in the 10,000 meters at last month's U.S. Olympic Trials, finished second in the St. Paul edition of the Minnesota Mile last year and holds the course record for the Heart of the Summer event at 32:17, the Minnesota state record for the distance.

Kosgei and McGregor lead solid women's and men's fields for the event, composed largely of long distance runners coming down in distance to race the mile. Also likely contenders in the women's field are American Colleen Newhart and Minnesota-based Lithuanian star Rasa Troup.

Kenya ’s David Tuwei, runner-up in last month’s Grandma’s Marathon, is racing in the men's mile against former University of Wisconsin star Matt Downin, who has spent the summer in Minneapolis. Ethiopian Abiyot Abebe, Kenyan Benson Chesang, and American Roger Cahill are also expected to contend.

Full elite startlists can be found HERE.

Action commences at 6:30 p.m. tonight with the kids mile. The elite race goes off at 7:50 p.m.

The second event, Grandma’s Minnesota Mile Duluth, will be run in downtown Duluth on Sunday, September 7.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Saturday was Roy Griak Day in Minneapolis

If Saturday seemed like a good day for track and field, that might have been because Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak had declared it "Roy Griak Day."

As part of the the 40th anniversary reunion and celebration of the University of Minnesota's 1968 Big Ten outdoor track and field championship, former Golden Gopher coach Roy Griak was honored by his former athletes with an official proclamation from the Minneapolis mayor naming July 19, 2008 as “Roy Griak Day in the city of Minneapolis."

Thirty-five members of the 1968 squad returned to the University of Minnesota for the reunion, which proved to be as much an appreciation of Griak (pictured front row, center) as a celebration of the team's surprise one-point victory in the meet, held at Memorial Stadium.

Photo of the 1968 team in 2008 by Charlie Mahler -- click to enlarge.

Marks Jumps 44-2 in Olympic Tune-Up;
Leer Runs PR 3:37, Gabrielson Clocks 13:30

Beijing Olympian Shani Marks finished 5th in the triple jump at the KBC-Nacht Van De Atletiek meet in Huesden-Zolder, Belgium yesterday.

The Apple Valley High School and University of Minnesota alum jumped 44-2 to finish behind winner Dana Veldakova of Slovakia who jumped 46-3 1/4 and fellow U.S. Olympic team member Erica McLain who bounced 45-1 3/4 for third place.

Marks fouled three of her six attempts in the competition, which she told DtB beforehand would be her only competition prior to the Olympic Games.

Triple jump results can be found HERE.

In other competition at the meet ... Minnetonka High School grad Will Leer notched a 1500m PR with his 3:37.63 win in the "B" section of the event. Results of the race are HERE; you can watch the race HERE. You can also watch a post-race interview with Leer HERE.

In the 5000m, Team USA Minnesota's Matt Gabrielson narrowly missed setting a new PR for himself with his 13:30.95, 14th place finish in the "B" section of the event. You can watch that race HERE.

Former Gopher Big 10 and Pan American Games champion Mitch Potter clocked 46.70 to finish 5th in the 400m. You can watch his race HERE; results are HERE. Earlier last week, Potter had run 46.25 at a meet in Lucerne, Switzerland.

Friday, July 18, 2008

1968 Big Ten Champions to Reunite Saturday

The 1968 University of Minnesota Men's track and field team, which squeaked out a one-point, upset victory at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships they hosted at Memorial Stadium that season, will reunite tomorrow to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the feat.

More than 35 members of the team, including coaches and student managers, are expected to take part in the celebration, planned by former Golden Gopher head coach Roy Griak.

Despite cold, damp weather, the 1968 Gophers (pictured) earned points in 13 of the meet's 18 events. The Gophers tallied 50 points to Michigan’s 49 and Wisconsin’s 48 in one of the most memorable team battles in Big Ten history.

The Gopher media release about the reunion, HERE, tells the details behind the Gophers surprise win, which included gaining unexpected points in meet's final field events and weathering a post-meet results protest.

Photo courtesy of the University of Minnesota.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Marks, Mellon Named Athletes of the Month

Shani Marks and Zach Mellon earned USATF-Minnesota Athlete of the Month honors for July, the organization announced today.

Marks was recognized for winning the women’s triple jump at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon last month. The Apple Valley High School and University of Minnesota alum jumped 47 feet, 2 and ¼ inch to earn a place on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.

Mellon, a Buffalo High School junior, was honored for breaking the all-time Minnesota high school record in the 800 meter run with his 1:48.64 runner-up finish at the USA Junior Track and Field Championships in Columbus, Ohio last month. Earlier in the season, Mellon defended his Minnesota State High School League Class AA title in the event.

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.

Goucher Profiled in the Washington Post

Kara Goucher, the 2008 Olympic Trials champion at 5000 meters and the runner-up at 10,000, is profiled today, HERE, by the Washington Post as part of their "Athlete in the Spotlight" series.

The piece focuses on Goucher's decision to move to Portland, Oregon to join Alberto Salazar's Nike Oregon Project after finishing last in her 5000m heat at the 2004 Olympic Trials.

Goucher plans to race both the 5000 and 10,0000 meter races in Beijing next month.

Photo by Sean Hartnett.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ben Blankenship Transfers to Minnesota

Quoting from the University of Minnesota media release on the subject:

Ben Blankenship, a Stillwater, Minn., native and a two-time Minnesota Class AA champion in the 1,600 meters, has transferred to Minnesota after one year at Mississippi State. Blankenship will be eligible to compete for the Golden Gophers in cross country and track in 2008-09.

“We are extremely excited that Ben has decided to return to his home state and run for the Gophers,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “Ben had an extremely successful high school running career working with Scott Christensen at Stillwater and ran solidly for Mississippi State as a freshman. He has the potential to run with the best in the Big Ten."

Blankenship earned All-NCAA South Region honors in cross country last fall, placing 25th in the NCAA South Region Championships with a time of 31 minutes, 42.83 seconds over the 10-kilometer course. He place 23rd at the 2007 Southeastern Conference Championships and was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team. Blankenship competed in seven meets for the Bulldogs last season, finishing among Mississippi State’s top two finishers six times.

On the track, Blankenship clocked season-best times in two events at the 2008 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Blankenship ran a time of 3:51.45 in the prelims of the 1,500-meter run and a time of 14:25.94 in the 5,000 meters.

Blankenship earned several all-state accolades as an athlete at Stillwater High School. He won the state crowns in the 1,600 meters as a junior and senior and added a third-place finish in the 3,200-meter run in 2006. Blankenship finished sixth as a junior in the 2005 Minnesota Class AA Cross Country Championships, leading Stillwater to a second-place finish.

Mankato Men Named Scholar Team of 2008

The Minnesota State University - Mankato men's indoor track and field team was named the 2008 U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division II "Scholar Team of the Year" yesterday.

A part of the USTFCCCA's comprehensive recognition of academic achievement by teams and individuals, the "Scholar Team of the Year" award recognizes a single team for its combination of academic and athletic achievements. Mankato won the top honor by having the best overall finish at the Division II Indoor Championships and cumulative GPA. To be nominated, a team must carry a minimum 3.000 cumulative grade-point average.

The Mavericks accumulated a 3.020 team grade point average during the track season and finished 7th at the NCAA Division II Indoor Championships.

"We are very honored to receive this award, and it's a great reflection on our program and Minnesota State," Mankato head coach Mark Schuck said. "We feel that our academics still come first. That is the priority that we have as a program and everything falls into place."

Mavericks James Krajsa, Jeffrey Lombardo, and Nathan Pieper were named to the USTFCCCA's All-Academic Track and Field Team.

Full details about the USTFCCCA team and individual awards, which were conferred upon lots of Minnesota teams and individuals, can be found below ...


NCAA Division II Women's Awards TEAM, INDIVIDUALS


NCAA Division III Women's Awards TEAM, INDIVIDUALS

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

USATF-Minn. Summer League Returns

You don't have to go all the way to Europe like Mitch Potter and Matt Gabrielson just to run in a summer track meet.

USA Track and Field -- Minnesota announced it will host three summer track meets at Eagan High School starting July 24. Meets will also be held on July 31 and August 7. Pre-registration is $5 per event. Registration the day of the meet is $10 for the first event and $5 for each additional event.

Complete details and registration information are available HERE.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Potter Wins, Gabrielson 3rd in Belgium

Former Golden Gopher star Mitch Potter won the 400 meters at Sunday's Gent Feesten Meeting in Belgium in 46.66. Potter edged Irish quarter-miler Gordon Kennedy and Jamaica's DeWayne Barrett who were both clocked in 46.76.

Results of the meet can be found HERE.

The welcome win follows Potter's disappointment of not qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials by one place. Twenty-eight athletes were accepted into the Trials 400m field; Potter was athlete #29.

Kicking off a three-meet European tour, Team USA Minnesota's Matt Gabrielson finished 3rd in the Gent 3000m in 7:55.34. Fellow-Americans Stephen Pifer (7:53.21) and Ryan Bak (7:54.48) finished ahead of Gabrielson.

Gabrielson's Gent mark is just shy of his 7:54.22 PR for 3000m. Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker was pleased with Gabrielson's run.

"It was a good tune up for the KBC-Nacht 5000 next Sunday in Heusden, [Belgium] which is usually a fast race," he said. "He's in PR shape so hopefully the weather is okay and the race sets up for him to do it."

Gabrielson also plans to compete in the ACBR Internationale Meeting in Brasschaat, Belgium on July 23, before returning to Minnesota to focus on training for October's Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, the 2008 USA Marathon Championships for men.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Look Back at the Olympic Trials in Photos

DtB contributor Gene Niemi was at Hayward Field for every day of the 2008 Olympic Trials. Two dozen of his best photos are available in a gallery on the USATF Minnesota site. The vibrant images document the performances of many Minnesotans who competed in the Trials, including soon-to-be Olympians Shani Marks and Kara Goucher.

Photo by Gene Niemi

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shani Marks: An Olympian's Video Interview

A video interview with Olympic Trials triple jump champion Shani Marks was recently posted, HERE, on the University of Minnesota women's track and field page. Marks, an Apple Valley and U of M alum, talks about the Trials and her preparations for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Marks (pictured) was recently awarded bonus by the USA Track and Field foundation for her performance at the Trials. You can read more about that HERE.

The U of M site also collected all the blog posts by Gopher coaches and athletes from the Olympic Trials, HERE.

Photo by Victor Sailer

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

TC 10 Mile Entry Lottery Underway;
Local Elites Offered Comped Entries

The entry lottery for the October 5 Medtronic TC 10 Mile is now underway.

Citizen runners interested in racing in the Twin Cities Marathon companion event need to register on-line before July 16 for the lottery draw which will take place on July 17. Organizers will select the bulk of the race's 6000 participants at random. Details can be found HERE.

The race will serve as the 2008 USA Women's 10 Mile Championship championship.

Elite Athletes ... TC 10 Mile elite athlete recruiter Michael Nawrocki told DtB that he is eager to hear from elite athletes who wish to compete in the 10th annual event. He urged front-of-the-pack athletes to review the event's elite time standards HERE.

Women interested in racing in the USA 10 Mile Championship wave should contact Gene Niemi (coach26gene [AT] gmail [DOT] com) if they have achieved one of the qualifying times or have realistic hopes to achieve a qualifying time over the next few months.

All other local elite men and women should review the elite qualifying times. Local elites will receive a guaranteed complimentary entry. Consideration is given for age. Interested local elite runners should contact Nawrocki (michael_nawrocki [AT] yahoo [DOT] com) before they register via the traditional lottery.

Runners that qualify for a comped entry, should not sign up for a lottery entry

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Salazar Didn't Offer Money, Barker Confirms

Alberto Salazar and Dennis Barker are telling the same story:

Salazar did not offer money to Team USA Minnesota runner Matt Gabrielson through Barker, the Team USA Minnesota coach, for a fast pace in the 5000 meter final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Following up on a rumor that circulated on the Let's Run message boards, Runner's World, HERE, quoted Salazar, the coach of Kara and Adam Goucher, saying he didn't offer money to Team USA Minnesota's Matt Gabrielson to help set a fast pace in the men's 5000 meter final of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials to aid Adam Goucher's chances of reaching the Olympic A Standard in the event.

"The money stuff is false, absolutely not true," Salazar told RW's Amby Burfoot in a wide-ranging interview. "I think I made one call to a coach, Dennis Barker, who also had an athlete without an A time. I thought it would be good if some of the B runners worked together to get the standard."

Barker confirmed to DtB that money was not offered in the call Salazar made.

"Alberto did call to ask if Matt was interested in helping with the pace," Barker told DtB via e-mail. "He said he was talking to other coaches as well. Given how the race went, it obviously didn't pan out. But, as I said there was no offer of money."

Brent Vaughn led at a fast pace in the race's early-going, but no other runners followed him closely.

"I wasn't offended by the call and Alberto wasn't pushy about it," Barker added. "It was along the lines of, Hey would Matt, along with some other guys, take a couple of laps each to keep the pace quick enough to give people (in particular Adam, since that's who he coaches) a chance to run the A standard. That's not a direct quote (it was noisy in Track Town Pizza [where Barker took the call]) but it was something like that."

Down the Backstretch had reported, HERE, that Barker took a call from Salazar the night before the final. We published a photo of Barker on the phone with Salazar (re-printed above), although we were unaware of the nature of the call at the time. When message board rumors swirled recently that the call might have been a proposition offering money for pace, we contacted Barker.

In the race in question, Gabrielson was content to follow the pace at the rear of the lead pack and ultimately finished 8th in 13:38.06. Adam Goucher dropped out of the race in the final laps when he and Salazar saw that he could not run fast enough to qualify for the Olympics.

Gabrielson was queried by DtB about the matter as well, but did not respond to our e-mail.

Photo by Pete Miller: Barker talking to Salazar before the Trials 5000m final.

Plasencia Named New Gopher Track Coach

Steve Plasencia will replace Phil Lundin as the University of Minnesota's Head Men's Track and Field Coach, the school announced late yesterday. Plasencia, an all-American for the Gophers in the 1970s and the school's men's cross country coach for the last 12 years, becomes only the fourth person to lead the program since 1937 and the ninth overall.

“I’m excited we have one of our own in Steve Plasencia to continue the success of our men’s track and field program,” Gopher Athletic Director Joel Maturi said in a media release. “Our history is rich with great coaches in this sport with names like Jim Kelly, Roy Griak and Phil Lundin. Coach Plasencia is a great addition to this list. Steve is a Golden Gopher through and through. He was successful as a student-athlete and as the head coach of our men’s cross country program. This is a great step forward in his coaching career. We look forward to the Minnesota men’s track program continuing its fine tradition of success.

Jim Kelly’s coached the Gophers from 1937-63, Roy Griak coached from 1964-95 and Phil Lundin, who resigned in May to coach at St. Olaf , coached from 1995-2008.

"I feel tremendously honored to be given the opportunity to be the next head men’s track and field coach at the University of Minnesota,” Plasencia said in of Gopher meida release. “I am anxious to carry on the great tradition the program has had at Minnesota. Our focus will be to help student-athletes achieve excellence in both their academic and athletic aspirations.”

The full media release for the hiring is HERE.

Photo courtesy of the U of M.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Will Leer 4th in Trials Men's 1500 meters
Deatherage 11th in Women's 1500 meters

Minnetonka High School graduate Will Leer used a wicked homestretch kick to take 4th place in the U.S. Olympic Trails 1500 meter final yesterday. Leer clocked 3:41.54 to finish behind Olympic Games qualifiers Bernard Lagat, the winner with 3:40.37, Leonel Manzano, 2nd in 3:40.90, and Lopez Lomong, third in 3:41.00.

Leer (pictured) nabbed 4th place by passing Alan Webb, the American Record-holder in the mile, on his closing strides.

Leer was content to run from behind in the race's early-going. On the backstretch of the final lap, he moved into striking distance of the leaders and, after rounding the turn, stormed home.

"The whole way, all three races, I stayed on the rail," the former NCAA Division III star for Pomona-Pitzer Colleges told USA Track and Field. "I made a hard move with 250m to go. I wanted to close that last 200. I was out in lane three coming down the backstretch for the final time. I moved out way far, outside in lane three and just lifted as I hard as I could, not letting up at all."

The men's 1500m culminated eight days of Trials racing in Eugene. Minnesotans Kara Goucher and Shani Marks earned Olympic team spots at the meet. Goucher finished second in the 10,000m on the meet's opening night and then won the 5000m on July 4. Marks won the triple jump on June 29.

Carleton College alum Philip Dunn won the right to compete in the Olympic 50K racewalk earlier.

Deatherage 11th ... Jenelle Deatherage finished 11th in the women's 1500 meters earlier in yesterday's competition. The former Team USA Minnesota runner clocked 4:22.45 in a no doubt disappointing end to what started out as a promising season for the University of Wisconsin graduate.

Complete results are available HERE.

Photo by Sean Hartnett.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Dunn 8th in Men’s 20k Walk;
Dilling 11th in Men’s High Jump

In another day of action at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, Carleton alum Philip Dunn, already Beijing-bound in the 50k Race Walk, took 8th in the 20k Race Walk. The competition was held on a 1k loop outside of the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Dunn, who currently resides in San Diego, specializes in the longer race. The 2008 Games will mark his third Olympics in the 50k. He placed 28th in Sydney in 2000 and 35th in Athens in 2004.

Jim Dilling, an alum of Minnesota State Mankato, fell short in a bid to defend his USA Outdoor championship in the high jump. His mark of 7-02.25 fell 4.25 inches shy of his best, and placed him 11th in the Olympic Trials.

After nailing opening height on his first attempt, Dilling took all three of his attempts to clear 7-02.25 and was unable to better that mark. The Fond du Lac, Wisconsin resident is just 23 years old.

Final day tomorrow...

The USA Olympic Track & Field Trials conclude tomorrow with a full day of action, including finals of the men's and women's 1500 meters, featuring Will Leer and Jenelle Deatherage.

Full results and start lists are available HERE.

Goucher Wins Trials 5000 Meters

Kara Goucher’s Olympic Trials just got even sweeter. Having already secured a slot on the U.S. Olympic team with her second place finish in the 10,000 meters, Goucher (pictured) took her Trials to the next level with a hard-fought victory in the 5000 meters.

Pre-race favorites Goucher, Shalane Flanagan, and Jen Rhines were all content to allow Arianna Lambie to set the early pace. They all had the Olympic ‘A’ standard, which Lambie lacked, so they bided their time while Lambie wore herself down out front. With three laps to go, Flanagan moved to the lead and began a prolonged kick, followed closely by Rhines and Goucher. The pace dropped from 75 seconds per lap down to 66, and the race was on.

With a lap to go, Goucher appeared in danger of being dropped. However, 300 meters out, she shifted gears and closed the gap on Flanagan and Rhines. She took the lead with authority coming off the final curve, and ran away with the race, clocking a 64 second final lap. Goucher’s time of 15:01.02 was off her best of 14:55.02, but her 4:36 final mile suggests that she is capable of much more.

Goucher heads to Beijing as a proven contender on the international scene after last summer’s bronze medal in the World Championships 10,000 meters.

In Addition ... Read Kevin Pates' Duluth News-Tribune story about the race HERE.

1500M Semifinal Action ... The first of two heats of the men’s 1500M semifinals saw two former Minnesota preps, Will Leer (Minnetonka) and Garrett Heath (Winona), going head-to-head with the likes of Alan Webb and Bernard Lagat.

With 200M left in the race, Leer and Heath both appeared to be in striking distance for the top 6 – and a spot in Sunday’s finals. Coming off the Bowerman curve and into the homestretch, Leer, who currently competes for the Oregon Track Club, accelerated into third place to secure a qualifying position with a 3:44.19. “It was pretty easy,” he said of the effort. Heath, coming off his junior year at Stanford, faded to 11th, finishing in 3:45.99.

In the women’s semifinals, Carrie Tollefson’s Olympic Trials came to a close. She held on to the pack through the first two laps, but as the pace accelerated over the final 600M, the effort proved to be too much. Tollefson, of St. Paul, came home 9th in her heat in 4:17.27. “I’m not a complainer. It was unfortunate today, but I’ll be back,” said the ever-positive Tollefson.

Jenelle Deatherage of St. Louis Park survived a scare in the second semifinal, moving up from the back of the pack and securing the final spot in Sunday’s finals with a 4:15.64. She moved into 5th place before being passed by California prep phenom Jordan Hasay, who set a national high school record of 4:14.50.

Complete results are available HERE.

Kara Goucher photo by Sean Hartnett. Jenelle Deatherage photo courtesy of

Friday, July 04, 2008

Barker Seeks to Clarify McGregor's Race Strategy

Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker recently emailed DtB regarding Katie McGregor’s strategy in the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters, which took place on Friday, June 27. According to Barker, there are some, “incorrect assumptions out there regarding Katie's race”, particularly among anonymous message board posters. Barker contacted DtB in an attempt to clarify what happened, “for the benefit of Katie's supporters who couldn't be at the race.”

According to Barker, “Katie did not just let the top three go and was not just racing Molly Huddle (the other A standard qualifier). Shalane (Flanagan) dropped the pace to 71 seconds at 2.75 miles into the race – not even halfway. Shalane, Kara (Goucher) and Amy (Begley) covered the next 1600 meters in 4:53. Katie dropped down to 5:01, still close but under control.” Barker noted that it was 78 degrees on the track that night. “It was a reasonable expectation that the top three would not keep up that pace, which they didn't, and that Katie would have a shot at them if she kept a more even pace.”

Barker pointed out that almost no one could have foreseen how the race would unfold. “At 4 miles Katie was just 13 seconds back of the top three, well within striking distance should anyone falter. It was also a reasonable expectation that Amy would be the one to falter, given that there were still 2 miles left and she was running faster than her PR on a warm night and had run two previous 10,000s this season in cool conditions in 32:07 and 31:59. That is where Katie's focus was, not behind her to Molly. No one except possibly Amy's coach, Alberto Salazar, could have predicted that not only would Amy not falter, she would get a lot faster. She ran her second 5k in 15:32, a time she had only bettered once in her life in a 5k race three years before. Her best 5k of 2008 was 15:46.”

In closing, Barker noted that McGregor continued to chase hard throughout the race. “Katie made a strong final push and ran a 5:02 for her last 1600, including a 70 second last lap. But Amy, who has a mile PR of 4:40, ran a 4:47, including a 67 second last lap. Katie was totally focused on the top three the entire way but Amy ran an amazing race. Amy was the only one in the race to PR (except possibly Desiree Davila, who may have just snuck under hers). Most of the field were well off their PRs, which you would expect on a warm night. There was nothing Katie could have done to change the outcome of the race. Her strategy was good and she put everything into it. Her training had been good and she was confident coming into the race. Someone else just did something extraordinary.”

Photo of Katie McGregor and Blake Russell courtesy of

1500M Runners Advance to Semifinals

Will Leer, Garrett Heath, Carrie Tollefson and Jenelle Deatherage all passed the first test in the 1500, advancing from the quarterfinals to Friday’s semifinal round.

Deatherage, a St. Louis Park resident who works as a physical therapist, enters the Trials as a contender for an Olympic slot. The former Team USA Minnesota athlete started her year off in impressive fashion, capturing 2nd in the 1500 at the USA Indoor Championships. Her time of 4:18.35 placed her 6th in her heat – the final automatic qualifying spot in the heat.

After major surgery, a year lost to rehabilitation, and various other setbacks, Dawson native and Team USA Minnesota athlete Carrie Tollefson has begun to return to form. She qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 1500M, an event she won in the 2004 Olympic Trials. Questions remain about the Olympian’s ability to return to the top. Tonight’s quarterfinals did little to shed light upon Tollefson’s prospects for Beijing. This round eliminated just 4 of the 28 runners who completed their heat. Tollefson’s 4:17.68 was good enough for 4th place in her heat and a comfortable advancement to the next round.

In the men’s 1500 quarterfinals, Will Leer – a graduate of Minnetonka High School – cruised to a 4th place finish in his heat, advancing to the finals. Garrett Heath, a Winona High School alum who competes for Stanford University, set a quick early pace in the third and final heat. While Heath faded to last place in his heat, his early work assured him a spot in the semifinals based on his time of 3:43.90.

In other action…

--Men’s High Jump. Jim Dilling, a graduate of Minnesota State Mankato, cleared 7-02 ½ to move on to Saturday’s finals. The winner of last year’s USA Outdoor Championships in the event faces tough competition in his quest for a ticket to Beijing.

--Women’s Hammer. Liz Alabi, former Golden Gopher, threw 194-04, and did not advance to the finals.

--Women’s Pole Vault. Katelin Rains of Minnesota State Mankato was eliminated. She missed all three attempts at opening height in the preliminary round.

--Men’s Discus. Karl Erickson, a former Gopher who has been training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, threw the disc 189-10 – good enough for 9th in his flight, but not enough to carry him ahead to the finals in the event.

--Men’s 3000 Steeple. Stillwater native Luke Watson ran 8:56.56 for 11th place in his preliminary round, failing to advance to the finals.

Complete results are available HERE.

Photo of Will Leer courtesy of

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Olympic Trials Resume Tonight

After a two-day break in the action, the Olympic Track and Field Trials will resume tonight. Like the opening day of competition last Friday, lots of Minnesotans will be competing in what is the initial session of the final four days of the event.

Minnesotans in competition tonight are:

-- Former Golden Gopher star Liz Alabi in the hammer prelims.

-- NCAA Division II record-holder Katelin Rains of Minnesota State Mankato in the pole vault prelims.

-- Defending USA Outdoor champion Jim Dilling, a Minnesota State alum, in the high jump prelims.

-- Minnesota-based former Team USA Minnesota star Jenelle Deatherage in the 1500 meter prelims.

-- 2004 Olympian Carrie Tollefson of Team USA Minnesota in the 1500 meter prelims. (You can read today's West Central Tribune story about Tollefson HERE.)

-- Winona High School alum Garrett Heath in the 1500 meter prelims.

-- Minnetonka High Schol alum Will Leer in the 1500 meter prelims.

-- Former Golden Gopher Karl Erickson in the discus prelims.

-- Stillwater High School alum Luke Watson in the steeplechase prelims.

Tonight's action begins at 9:00 p.m. CDT.

Complete startlists are HERE.

You will be able to find results HERE.

Join DtB tomorrow morning -- and throughout the rest of the meet -- for a wrap-up of all the Minnesota action.

Catching Up with Someone We Missed ... DtB reader Jesse Schoen reminded us that former University of Florida discus star Rachel Longfors is a Minnesotan. Longfors competed for Pelican Rapids during her prep years and is a native or Erhard, Minnesota. At the Olympic Trials, Longfors threw 181-10 to advance as the #10 thrower to the discus finals. In the finals last Saturday, she threw 175-4 to place 11th.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Olympic Trials Links -- Wednesday

Yesterday and today are off-days at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials. Action will resume on Thursday and continue through Sunday.

The Down the Backstretch coverage team is back in Minnesota now, but we still plan to post daily updates of the action from here. We won't be able to offer the in-depth, eye-witness reports we did last weekend, but we'll keep you up-to-date on what's going on with the Minnesotans at the meet.

As we wait for action to resume, here are a couple links we thought you might want to know about ...

A Duluth News-Tribune Story on Garry Bjorklund's Lost Shoe Trials

The Latest Post on the Gopher Olympic Trials Blog

And, Startlists for Tomorrow's Events

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Gabrielson 8th in Trials 5000m Final;
Kara Goucher Qualifies to 5K Finals

Matt Gabrielson, running what may have been his final 5000 meter race on the track, finished 8th at the Olympic Track and Field Trails last night in 13:38.06.

Bernard Lagat won the race in 13:27.47, Matt Tegenkamp was second, Ian Dobson was third.

Gabrielson, happy to hug the rail in the rear of the field throughout, marked the increases in pace and kept contact with the winnowing lead pack until a Chris Solinsky surge with 1000m meters to go dropped the pace below 59 seconds.

“I feel good, because I stayed in there and competed, which I’ve kind of been slacking on the last year or so,” the original member of Team USA Minnesota said. “I really, really focused on competing when there was that crucial move made at the thousand, I tried my best to go with them, but it was too much for me."

The race may be the Drake University alum’s swan song for the event.

“I’m transitioning to the marathon for this fall now, with Twin Cities,” he said. “It’s a good way, now, to probably end my 5k career now on the track and move on to the 10, start focusing on that a little more now. I’m pleased about finishing eighth."

Full results for the race can be found HERE.

Goucher Qualifies for 5000m Final … Kara Goucher, already member of the U.S. Olympic 10,000 meter squad, qualified for the 4th of July final of the 5000 meters by winning her semi-final heat last night. Goucher clocked 15:32.22.

Goucher looked relaxed in a heat that featured Jen Rhines, Arianna Lambie, and Sara Slattery. Trials 10,000 meter champ Shalane Flanagan won the first heat of the event in 15:35.86. Team USA Minnesota’s Emily Brown and Cack Ferrell, a St. Paul Academy and Summit School alum, did not advance. Brown revealed after the race that she has had a stress fracture for the last three weeks and had not run during the final weeks prior to the Trials.

Brown finished 9th in 15:57.34 the first 5000m heat, just ahead of former Team USA Minnesota teammate Mandi Zemba. Ferrell finished 9th in the second heat in 16:23.04.

“I’m healing up a stress fracture right now,” Brown revealed. “I haven’t run since three weeks ago today. It’s in my sacrum, so it’s not dangerous to run on, it’s just difficult to get everything functioning in the time you need to."

Brown’s choice, last week, of the 5000 instead of the 3000 meter steeplechase had caused speculation that something was amiss.

“I figured the steeplechase wasn’t a good idea to do that on, considering things break,” Brown said. “I told myself, if I can run three miles, I’m going to come out her and run three miles. I was really excited that I was able to finish the race today, obviously disappointed that my fitness isn’t where it needed to be at right now."

Full results can be found HERE.

Hermanson 10th in 800m … Laura Hermanson, a surprise qualifier to the packed 800 meter final – packed with talent and packed with eleven other runners – finish 10th in 2:05.01.

Chasing after a runaway lead pack that passed 400 meters in 56 seconds, the Burnsville High School grad clocked an opening 200 meters in 28.0, and completed her first lap in 59.2.

“It was crazy,” she said. “I knew it was going to be fast. Fifty-nine is pretty fast for me to go out in."

The North Dakota State junior passed 600 meters in 1:30.7, but was closing on the back of the pack. She caught two runners coming home.

“It was really fun,” Hermanson said. “I’ve never run three races in four days, this will be great for me, if I want to do well at NCAAs or something."

Hermanson’s NDSU program will finally be eligible to send athletes to NCAA Championships next year, after a waiting period necessitated by its move from Division II to Division I.

“I think it’s a big mental and a big physical exercise for me,” she allowed. “There’s a lot of pressure out there going out and racing in front of all those people. I feel like I handled it really well mentally, I built a lot of confidence this week."

Full results are HERE.

Radocaj Embarassed with 9th Place Finish … Gopher javelin ace Ruby Radocaj had two fouls and a disappointing legal throw of 167-5 which kept her out of the final eight in javelin competition.

A PR throw would have placed her third.

“It was terrible,” the former Big Ten champ said, “it was embarrassing, to be honest. I should have represented the University better than that. I just didn’t show up today. I’m not sure what I should have done, I’m a little lost at this point."

Purdue’s Kara Patterson won the competition with 191-9.

Full results are HERE.

the track town diaries: june 30

Runner's World published an Olympic Trials special edition that is being distributed all over Eugene. It includes a great full-page photo of Garry Bjorklund after his third place finish in the 10,000 at the 1976 Trials at Hayward Field. Bjorklund had lost a shoe halfway through the race, but the Eugene crowd started chanting his name until he crossed the line in 28:03. He's quoted as saying, "Magic can happen when the crowd is on your side in Eugene."

That certainly was the case tonight in the men's 800 meter final. Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club won the event and was followed across the line by Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating and Christian Smith, who also runs for the OTC. The place went absolutely nuts. It was an incredible thing to see.

Kris and I are both big Matt Gabrielson fans, so we were thrilled to see him run so well in the 5,000 final. That was a tough field, and Gabe stuck his nose in there and hung on for a really solid performance.

Nike debuted the new Olympic Team uniforms just prior to the 5,000 final. Shani Marks was one of the athletes chosen to model the new gear. She got to take a lap in the colors she will be wearing in Beijing. Shani looked like she was having a ball.

This is the last diary entry for this trip. We're on a plane first thing in the morning. Eugene really knows how to put on a show. Hopefully the track town diaries will be back in 2012.