Saturday, June 30, 2012

Anderson Reinstated in Trials 1500m Final

According to media reports, Gabriele Anderson has been reinstated in the women's 1500-meter final.

Read David Monti's story HERE.

The StarTribune advanced their story HERE.

Say What? Anderson DQ'ed from 1500m Final

Team USA Minnesota's Gabriele Anderson was disqualified from the semi-finals of the Olympic Trails women's 1500-meters after another athlete protested.

Read a story by David Monti on the matter HERE, and one in the Star-Tribune HERE.

Anderson originally believed she had advanced to Sunday's 1500-meter final after finishing second in her semi-final on Friday night.  Alice Schmidt replaced Anderson on the finals startlist after the DQ.

Anderson has petitioned to be reinstated in the final.

Yes/No: Olympic Trials Question #4

The Olympic Track and Field Trials will conclude tomorrow with a handful of finals on the track including the 1500 meters for men and women.

The fourth -- and final -- Yes/No question of the Olympic Trials is...

Yes/No: Will Gabriele Anderson or Will Leer finish in the top four in their respective races on Sunday?

Both Anderson and Leer qualified comfortably out of the semi-finals.  Leer won his heat while Anderson finished second.

Leer has run the seventh fastest time during the Olympic Trials qualifying period among the twelve runners in the final.  Among the twelve runners in the women's final, Anderson has the  fifth fastest time run during the same qualifying period.

The start list for the men's 1500-meters is HERE.  The results from the prelims are HERE and semis are HERE.

The Women's 1500 start list is HERE.  The prelims are HERE, the semi-final results are HERE.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 6:20 P.M. CDT, Sunday, July 1st.  Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail.

My answer: Yes

Our third Olympic Trials Yes/No question was: Will Elliot Heath or Hassan Mead finish in the top eight at the Olympic Trials 5000 Meter finals on Thursday? The answer was  yes - Heath was seventh and Mead eighth.  Twenty two players answered correctly this week.  Gloria Jansen is still in first place and has sixteen points, followed closely by Jim Glazer and Mike Mason with fifteen points.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner, HERE.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Anderson, Leer Advance to 1500-meter Finals

Will Leer leads his 1500m heat.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)
Team USA Minnesota's Gabriele Anderson and Minnetonka High School alumnus Will Leer advanced to Sunday's Olympic Trials 1500-meter finals on Friday night in Eugene, Oregon.

UPDATE: Anderson was disqualified, but a protest against that disqualification has been filed. More when decision is final.

Anderson, a Perham High School and University of Minnesota grad, was the runner-up in the second of two women's heats, clocking 4:10.08, behind Shannon Rowbury who ran 4:09.96.

Team USA Minnesota teammate Heather Kampf finished a non-advancing 10th in 4:14.03 in the same heat.

Leer, who represents Nike, won the first men's semifinal in 3:51.27.  He turned the final 400-meter of the race in a whopping 51.99.

In the second men's semi-final, Winona native Garrett Heath finished a non-advancing 9th in 3:42.95.

Find 1500-metrer semi-final results HERE (women) and HERE (men).

Gabriele Anderson in the 1500m mix.
(Photo by Becky Miller.) 
Women's Steeplechase ... In the womn's 3000-meter steeplechase, the only Friday night final with a Minnesota athlete competing, Jamie Cheever finished 12th in 9:56.51

Find those results HERE.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Heath 7th, Mead 8th in Olympic Trials 5000

Elliott Heath
(Photo by Becky Miller.)

Hassan Mead
(Photo by Becky Miller.)

They’ve raced one another across the fields of St. Olaf College, chasing State Meet cross country titles.  They’ve tangled on the red oval at Hamline at the State Track Meet.  As collegians, they've met indoors and out.

On Thursday night, in the biggest meet of either of their budding careers, Winona native Elliott Heath and Minneapolis South alumnus Hassan Mead faced one-another again, this time in the 5000-meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

In front of loud “Tracktown USA” crowd, in yet another close contest between two of the state's most decorated distance runners, Heath edged Mead, running 13:28.20 for seventh place in the race won by Galen Rupp in 13:22.67.   

Mead was one place and two seconds behind Heath in 13:30.21.

Heath, representing Stanford University, closed the race with a final 400m in 56.79; Mead, running his final race in the maroon and gold of the University of Minnesota, raced home with a 58.10.

The rivals were Minnesota’s only finalists on the night the Olympic Trials restarted after a two-day hiatus.  The meet concludes on Sunday.

Find results of the men’s 5,000-meters HERE.

1500m Qualifying … The milers – and Minnesota has a lot of them in Eugene – took the track for the first time in the meet on Thursday, in 1500-meter qualifying.

Gabriele Anderson.
(Photo by Becky Miller.) 

In women’s action, former Golden Gopher stars Gabriele Anderson and Heather Kampf advanced to the semi-final round of competition tomorrow with automatic qualifying performances.  Anderson was the runner-up in her heat in 4:14.23, while Kampf, come-backing from 800-meter competition which ended on Monday, finished 6th in hers in 4:17.29.

The top six runners in each heat, plus the next six fastest times advanced for women and men.

Veteran racers Will Leer and Garrett Heath -- brother of Elliott -- both advanced to the men's semis running 3:40.79 and 3:41.02, respectively.  Both competed in the second heat, where Minnetonka native Leer was the winner and Heath finished 3rd.

“I felt good and relaxed running from the front," Leer told US Track and Field's media team afterward.  “Today I am feeling very good, tomorrow I am going to leave it all on the track.”

Garret Heath (c) and Will Leer (with mustache).
(Photo by Becky Miller.) 
Burnsville native Rob Finnerty, competing for the University of Wisconsin, did not advance from the third qualifying heat.  Minnesota’s fastest high school miler of all time ran 3:43.89.

Find complete Thursday results HERE.

Amanda Smock Goes to London as an Olympian in Search of a PR

Triple jumper Amanda Smock made her first Olympic team on Monday and she doesn't have to pinch herself to believe it. "I was actually feeling pretty confident I could put in a good jump(at the Trials)," said Smock. While she didn't get the PR she was hoping for in the rainy, cool temperatures in Eugene, she put one out there 45'9"(14.30m) on her first jump and never looked back, winning the Trials and booking her ticket to London.

Call it an early birthday present as Smock will turn 30 on July 27, the day of the Games opening ceremonies. The win was also something of a gift from her father and a thank you to him and the 25 friends and family that made the trip to Eugene to provide support in her quest. Her father, Glen Thieschafer, who died in June of 2009 of throat cancer, had urged the young gymnast to try the jumps and was with her at the 2008 Olympic Trials where she placed fifth.

When they returned home from those Trials Thieschafer took the credential from around his neck, scratched out the 2008 and wrote 2012. "I have very strong spiritual beliefs, so I think he was there with me(in Eugene)," said Smock. Smock's mother, brother, and husband were there to watch her compete. "Being able to share the experience with all of my family," said Smock, "made it really special"

The rain and cold weather was not new for Smock, but she did learn some valuable lessons that she might be able to use if the conditions in London are similar. She found that she was having trouble keeping warm. She was getting tight as well, so she discovered the best way to manage both issues was to do some sprints in between jumps to stay warm and loose.

Her training build up to the Trials had been good. She only had one physical problem of any significance with a hamstring issue in mid February that she was able to recover from quickly, hardly missing any training. Her approach to major championships/competitions, such as the Trials is a gradual taper leading into the meet.

She took a sabbatical from her job at Active8, a fitness training company in Minneapolis in February. "For the first time I was a full time triple jumper," said Smock. No dividing her attention between either work, the classroom or both and the sport. As she staring backing off in her training a couple weeks prior to the Trials, she felt the bounce return to her previously "heavy" legs. Her massage therapist told her legs felt looser.

Having been through high pressure situations, such as the Trials and having to get an A standard qualifier to make it to the World Championships last year, Smock is confident in her training strategy to peak for big events. She says she'll take a little time to recover from the Trials, then build back into a peak for London. She'll go back to the track at Macalester. "They really opened up their arms to me, letting me use the facilities, the track, the indoor track, and the weight room," said Smock.

She may try and get into one of the pre-Olympic meets in London, but mostly will be using the formula that has catapulted her to the Games. Checking the Olympic schedule she discovered that the triple jump finals come on the exact date that she set her PR of 46' 6.5"(14.18m) last year, which she interprets as a positive omen. "Jumping a personal best is something I can control," she said when asked about what she'll be focusing on in London. "PR on the day."

They had an orientation for athletes who made the team in Eugene. As part of the Olympic Ambassador Program, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Dan O'Brien spoke to them about their experiences, what the Olympic experience was like. "I want to take in the whole experience," says Smock of the Olympics. "Everybody talks about the opening ceremony. I'm looking forward to all of it. Checking into the Olympic Village, everything between now and then." Photo courtesy of USATF

Peterson Reflects on Western States 100

Organizers of the Western States Endurance Run (better known as the Western States 100) touted that 35 people ran the course in under 19 hours Saturday.

Brian Peterson, of Minneapolis, was the 35th. He covered the storied 100.2-mile course from Squaw Valley to Auburn, California, in 18 hours, 50 minutes, and 51 seconds, making him the fastest Minnesotan ever on the course after Proctor native Scott Jurek (who, according to his recently-published memoir, lived in Minnesota while training for his first WS100 in 1999).

“I hoped I could be capable of breaking 19 hours out there on a real steady day, and with the help of the cool weather and two great friends to crew and pace and keep me moving, I just made it,” Peterson said.

Saturday’s unusually cool weather – the on-course temperature typically breaches 100 degrees in the canyons – propelled many runners to fast times. Timothy Olson, of Ashland, Oregon, became the first runner ever to break 15 hours on the current course, clocking a 14:46:44, and runner-up Ryan Sandes, of South Africa, also went under Geoff Roes’ 2010 course record in 15:03:56. Ellie Greenwood, of Banff, Alberta, became the first woman to break 17 hours with a 16:47:19, and Dave Mackey, of Boulder, Colorado, broke the master’s record with a 15:53:36 (good for fourth). For context, Jurek only broke 16 hours once, clocking a then-course record of 15:36:27 in 2004; his first two victories were slower than Greenwood’s time this year.

“A lot of people complained about the cold early on, but the weather couldn't have been much more perfect for me,” said Peterson, who ran over 100 miles per week in preparation for the race. “Maybe it was the Minnesotan in me and the fact that I have been paranoid about the usual Western States heat for over 6 months. Yeah, it was windy and sleeting on top of the first climb, and it was cold and raining for most of the first 35 miles, but I was just so thankful to be kept cool that I was loving every minute of it.”

Peterson’s training also included a double crossing of the Grand Canyon, running Wisconsin’s Ice Age 50 Mile in May, and doing hill repeats up the ski slopes at Hyland Hills in Bloomington. This was his third 100-mile race; Peterson won the Sawtooth 100 on the Superior Hiking Trail in 2010 and was fourth at the Cascade Crest 100 in Washington last August.

“Most of the race I really did enjoy, and tried to even out the highs and lows,” he said. “I really liked the first half with the cool weather early and especially coming down out of the high country into the base of Devil's Thumb. The steep downhills started taking a toll by then, but the climbs out of the canyons were actually welcome breaks and a chance to hike a little without feeling too guilty.  

“I loved the section coming through Foresthill at mile 62,” he continued. “I had just picked up my first pacer, Brian Soller, which I was looking forward to all day.  There were so many people cheering at Foresthill, and I felt really strong going into the nice gradual downhill once we hit the trail.” Peterson was also paced by fellow Minnesotan and Western States veteran Tony Kocanda in the final 20 miles.

Still, Peterson says, low points are all but unavoidable in a race that long.

“My lowest point was probably between about mile 70 and 80 or so, when I got a little pessimistic about how I was doing and the rest of the race,” he said. “I just got caught up in trying to think about the finish, when in reality there were just too many miles to go, and I forgot the important rule of just taking it one section at a time. I knew there were a lot of other people out there suffering way more than I was, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard.”

In the end, Peterson said, he was thrilled to take part in the storied event, which was the first ever 100-mile ultramarathon.

“Western States is the Big Show,” he said. “It's a great event with so much history, the volunteers take care of you like you wouldn't believe, and the course is a great combination of challenging and runnable…I feel like Western States is one of those events that if you enjoy the 100 mile distance and are lucky enough to get in, it's a great life experience.”

“There's something about running in the same race in the footsteps of some of the best ultrarunners in the world that makes for a really cool experience,” he said.

Other Minnesotans in the race included Ely’s Dale Humphrey, who finished under the vaunted 24-hour mark in 23:50:57, and Ethan Richards, of St. Paul, who finished in 27:27:51.

Complete results of the 2012 Western States 100 can be found HERE.

Photo of Brian Peterson(right)and pacer courtesy of Ultra Runner Podcast

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jamie Cheever Talks About Steeple Semis

Team USA Minnesota runner and former Gopher Jamie Cheever qualified for the final of the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase at the US Olympic Trials on Monday. Below she talks about the semi-finals.

Down the Backstretch: You set a PR to qualify. Did you expect to run that fast?

Jamie Cheever: I knew I would have to run around my PR to qualify for finals. Everyone is ready to go at the Trials, so I knew I'd have to be ready to push hard in prelims. Going into the race, I wasn't too worried about time, but I was hoping to be in the top five in my heat, in order to automatically advance. I was in fifth place with two laps to go, but got passed the last 200m. Thankfully, I got in on time, but I was hoping I'd be ready to be in the top five.

DtB: How did the race unfold for you?

JC: I tried to stay relaxed during the first three and a half laps of the race. I knew everyone would be in the mix for the first half of the race, so I hung out in about seventh or eighth position. As soon as the pack started to string out, I did my best to follow the lead pack. I was able to stay pretty close, but lost contact the last couple laps. When I got passed by the fifth place finisher with 200m to go, I knew I needed to stay on my feet over the last two barriers, and really push myself so I'd be able to get in on time.

DtB: Did you know what time you had to hit to qualify for the final or did you just race it and hope for the best?

JC: I did take a quick look at the results of he first heat to see where I'd have to be, if I wasn't in the top five. I had also taken a look to see where the pack was with two laps to go in the first heat. In my heat, I was at about the same time, so I knew I was running about the same pace as the front pack in the first heat. I tried not be too worried, but it was good to know I had to run fast or I'd be out! Photo by Becky Miller

After The Flood

"Timing is everything," said Scott Keenan, Grandma's Marathon race director, and he wasn't referring to the recent controversy surrounding the women's 100 dead heat for third place at the Olympic Trials.

A week ago yesterday "the Flood of 2012" hit Duluth and the surrounding area. Keenan noted that 10 inches of rain fell within 24 hours near his house, a mile uphill from London Road. While his house was spared, many other areas in the city were not as fortunate, and that's where the "what ifs" begin. What impact would such a natural disaster have on the events of Grandma's Marathon weekend?

"I haven't inspected the course North of the 11 mile mark(of the marathon course)," said Keenan, but from what he's seen of the last 16.2 miles it is conceivable that the race could have been run if the damage wasn't worse in the first 11 miles. The race organizers have contingency plans for a wide variety of issues, weather being one of them, Keenan said. Temperature, wind, rain are all factored into these contingencies, but the most threatening element of Mother Nature that Keenan fears is lightening.

Outdoor sporting events, from kids'sports to professional sports events that are held in outdoor arenas, all have guidelines of how to deal with lightening. If Grandma's events were ever to be cancelled due to nature's interference, says Keenan, the likely culprit would be a thunderstorm, which was a possibility prior to this year's race. Forecasts included the possibility of a lightening storm on race morning.

Thus, race officials were carefully monitoring the weather conditions and holds were put on transporting the runners out to the starting line until the all clear was given regarding the weather, said Keenan. The thunderstorm in the forecast missed Duluth and Two Harbors and the day turned near perfect for the participants. The damage inflicted on the area in the flood that hit the week after the race will take some time to repair, but Keenan says that he expects the course to be ready in the Fall in time for the NorthShore Inline Marathon roller blade event in September.

There are no options or contingency plans for rerouting Grandma's Marathon, said Keenan, because the only alternate route from Two Harbors is the freeway. Keenan takes pride in the fact that there have only been two relatively minor course alterations in the nearly four decades the race has been run. He doesn't forsee any course changes for the 37th running scheduled for June 22, 2013. Registration for the marathon begin this Sunday, July 1. For more information click HERE.

Olympian Interviews Olympic Hopeful

We recommend Carrie Tollefson's interview, below, of Olympic 1500m hopeful Gabriele Anderson.  Tollefson, who made the U.S. Olympic Team in 2004 at 1500m, talks to Anderson at one of her final workouts before heading to Eugene, Oregon for the Olympic Trials.

Among other things, Anderson talks about the challenge of needing not only to place in the top three in Eugene, but also notch the Olympic A standard of 4:06.00.  Anderson races in the qualifying round of the 1500m tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yes/No: Olympic Trials Question #3

The Olympic Track and Field Trials have a break in the action after an exciting first five days.  The races will resume on June 28th with a full evening of racing.  

See our third question of the trials below and stay tuned for more as you follow along with all the coverage on Down the Backstretch.

Some non-DtB sites to bookmark for the Trials:
Olympic Trials Home
Event entries/declared athletes

On to the contest. The third question of the Olympic Trials is...

Yes/No: Will Elliott Heath or Hassan Mead finish in the top eight at Olympic Trials 5000 Meter finals on Thursday?

Elliott Heath and Hassan Mead both automatically qualified out of their preliminary heats in the 5000 meters.  Mead was fifth in heat two and Heath was sixth in the first heat.  The finals will include sixteen runners.

The race should be tight.  The favorites are Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp and Lopez Lomong.  After those three, Andrew Bumbalough has run 13:16 in the Olympic Trials qualifying period.  The remaining twelve runners in the field all have qualifying times between 13:25 and 13:36.   Heath qualified with a 13:26 mark and Mead has run 13:33.

The start list for the 5000 Meters is HERE.  The results from the prelims are HERE.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 9:30 P.M. CDT, Thursday, June 28th. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail.

My answer: No

Our second Olympic Trials Yes/No question was: Will Amanda Smock finish in the top three in the Triple Jump at the Olympic Trials on Monday? The answer was  yes - Smock won the Triple Jump competition.  Thirty one players answered correctly this week.  Gloria Jansen is still in first place and the lead pack stayed the same.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner, HERE.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Day Five of The Trials, Smock wins Triple Jump

Amanda Smock, Olympian.
(Photo by Victor Sailer/PhotoRun.)

Amanda Smock won the women's triple jump with a leap of 45'9"(14.30m) on her first jump. She held her lead throughout the competition to book her place on the Olympic team.

“I started off with a pretty good jump," said Smock. "I was hoping to build off it, but I wasn’t able to. It was close and I was hoping to increase the distance as I went on, but it worked out.

“I was definitely mentally prepared for things to get shaken up at the finals, A standards being achieved and such. I was expecting to jump further, but I’m happy with the performance.

“There’s more to come, and I’m looking forward to the Olympics.” You can read more about Amanda's journey HERE and HERE.

Heather Kampf finished seventh in the women's 800-meter final in 2:02.86.

In the men's high jump, Jim Dilling missed all three attempts at his opening height of 7'.5"(2.15m).

Former Gopher Jamie Cheever qualified for the finals of the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase with a PR of 9:51.42 in the second semi-final heat. Top five in each heat automatically qualified and Cheever was the fastest of those qualifying on time as she was sixth in her heat.

For more on Jamie, check out a pre-race interview on the University of Minnesota site with her HERE.

Hassan Mead and Elliott Heath qualified for the men's 5,000 final. Mead had the fifth fastest time of the qualifiers, placing fifth in the second heat. Heath placed sixth in the first heat to get the last automatic qualifying spot in that heat.

In the men's steeple semis, Justin Tyner, Brainerd High and Air Force Academy grad, failed to qualify for the final. Justin ran 8:53.92 to finish 11th in the second semi heat.

Smock photo by PhotoRun; Cheever photo by Becky Miller

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Podomonick 5th in Olympic Trials Discus

Liz Podomonick in the circle.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)
Liz Podomonick’s quest for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team ended with a 5th-place finish in Sunday’s finals of the women’s discus throw at the Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

The Lakeville High School and University of Minnesota alumnus threw 194-11 in the competition.    Two-time Olympic bronze medalist Stephanie Brown Trafton won the competition with 213-10.  Aretha Thurmond finished second with 204-2 and Suzy Powell-Roos was third at 197-6.

To make the London Games, Podomonick faced the stern challenge of needing not only to finish in the top three in the country’s most competitive meet, but also throw an Olympic A qualifying mark of 203-5, a personal best. 

In the end, her best throw of the Olympic Trials turned out to be the 196-7 she marked in the rain during the qualifying round on Friday.  Podomonick took the disappointment in stride, however. 

“It is what it is,” she said. “I trained hard, and I'm okay with it.”

Podomonick opened Sunday’s throwing with a 193-7, which placed her third after the first round of throws.  As she did in qualifying, she fouled her second throw, again wide of the left sector line.  She marked a 182-6 on her third attempt.  After three rounds, Podomonick was in fourth place – a notch away from the podium but still in need of a big toss.

The former Golden Gopher basketballer intentionally fouled her fifth attempt after it landed short.  She marked her top throw of the day on her fifth attempt, though by the end of the round Podomonick had dropped to fifth-place.  She closed out her first Olympic Trials with a 188-7.

“I wasn't trying to think about a distance,” Minnesota’s top high school shot putter of all time said, “just a feeling and the rhythm of the throw. I knew if I could get it down things can happen. You can't control how far it goes after it releases your hand. You just hope for the best."

While Podomonick’s 2012 Olympic journey ends at Hayward Field, she said she plans continue competing beyond this season.

“I feel like I’m just starting to tap into what I think I can do,” she insisted.  “It’s really only been two years that I’ve been training seriously for the disc.  It’s so technical, there’s a lot I have to learn still.”

Podomonick, who lives in Colorado, is coached there by Air Force Academy throws coach Scott Irving.  She also travels to Portland, Oregon regularly to work with Mac Wilkins, a Olympic gold and silver medalist.

Listen to our compete conversation with Podomonick here …

Women's Pole Vault … After waiting two days to open competition, the women’s pole vault ended quickly for Minnesotans Katelin Rains and Samantha Sonnenberg.  Both vaulters failed to clear the event’s opening height of 13-11¼.

Rains, a Minnesota State, Mankato alumnus, and Sonnenberg, a University of Minnesota graduate, expected to compete in pole vault preliminaries on Friday, but competition was cancelled due to rain. 
Instead, competition was held as a 27-vaulter final on Sunday.

The Minnesotans were two of twelve vaulter unable to clear the opening height.

Olympic silver medalist Jennifer Suhr won the competition with 15-1.  Joining her the Olympic team are Becky Holliday, who cleared 14-11, and Lacy Janson, who cleared 14-9.

Find complete Day 3 Olympic Trials results HERE.

Monday is a Big Day

Monday will be an important day for Minnesotans at the Olympic Trials.  Three athlete will compete in finals for London bids.

USA triple jump champion Amanda Smock, a Melrose native and the top performer in Saturday’s prelims, will attempt to make her first USA Olympic team.  Minnesota State, Mankato alum Jim Dilling will try to jump onto the men’s high jump squad.  The 2007 USA champ was perfect in his prelim completion.

On the track, Team USA Minnesota’s Heather Kampf will race for the Olympics in the women’s 800-meter.  The 2006 NCAA Indoor champion for the University of Minnesota ran 2:02.59 in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Plus ... prelims will be contested in the men's and women's 3000-meter steeplechase and the men's and women's 5000-meters!

Commentary: Nobody Finished Fourth

In Olympic sports, fourth is considered the cruelest place to finish. In the womens' 100 meters on Saturday nobody finished fourth. There was a tie for third, and there's the rub.

If two runners had tied for first, no problem. If they'd tied for second, no problem, but third? That's a problem because only three athletes from each country can compete in an event at the Olympics, and USATF, the sport's US governing body, we find out, has no process in place to settle this conundrum.

Many solutions come to mind. The US could petition the IOC for an exception, but that's not likely to happen. One of the two athletes could be be selfless and give up her chance to run the 100 and let the other go. A cruel choice for any athlete to make. Instead USATF president Stephanie Hightower told Chicago Tribune reporter Phil Hersh that the organization has a plan to address the issue, but is awaiting USOC approval.

Meanwhile much media attention that could have been devoted to the sprint and hurdle races that were run, Olympic team members selected, and a World Record in the decathlon have had to share attention with the fact that it may take at least a day to come up with a plan on an issue that as yet has no solution because nobody within USATF anticipated that there would be a tie for third place in any event at the Olympic Trials.

On Friday night, two fourth place finishers in the men's and women's Olympic Marathon Trials ran past their disappointment to book a place on the US team. Amy Hastings won the women's 10K and Dathan Ritzenhein finished third in the men's 10K race. Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh are running the 200 in the Trials and both could follow their distance running counterparts onto the team in that event, but only one can run the 100. Where is Solomon when you need him, or the more appropriate question, why do we need a "Solomon" to settle this?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smock, Dilling Bound into Trials' Jump Finals
Kampf Advances in 800-meters, Pachuta Out

Amanda Smock in action.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)

A pair of Minnesota jumpers leaped into Olympic Trials’ finals as top qualifiers in their events at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Oregon on Saturday.

Defending USA champion Amanda Smock advanced to the women’s triple jump finals by landing a prelim-topping second jump of 45-3 ½.  About an hour later, Minnesota State, Mankato alumnus Jim Dilling advanced to the men’s high jump final after jumping cleanly to 7-1 ¾.

On the track, Team USA Minnesota’s Heather Kampf qualified for her first USA Championship final with a 4th-place, 2:02.59 performance in her heat of the 800-meters.  The University of Minnesota’s David Pachuta, however, finished a non-advancing 7th in his men's 800m semi in 1:46.83.

Women’s Triple Jump … Smock, a Melrose native and the only U.S. women’s triple jumper to own an Olympic Games qualifying mark, opened with 43-8 ½ and closed her prelims with 44-1 ¼. 

Sheena Gordon was the second-best qualifier at 44-10 ¼.  Erica McLain, a 2008 Olympian and the top U.S. jumper in 2012 at 45-9¾, qualified as the 6th-longest jumper on the day with 43-7 ¾.

Smock, who has jumped 45-7¼ this year, was largely pleased with her effort on a cool, rainy Oregon day.

“It was just a little on the chilly side,” Smock said, “and that’s good for me to feel that, because Monday I’m sure the temperature will be the same, we’ll probably be dealing with rain again.  So, I’ll just have to keep myself warm between jumps.”

Smock, who won last year’s USA meet with a jump of 46-2, anticipates needing a personal best to make the London team.

“Making the team would probably mean a PR for me,” the North Dakota State alumnus projected.  “Anytime you walk away from the track with a PR its a good day.  Making the team and PR-ing, rolled into one, it’ll be a good day.  I’ll be happy with that.”

Men’s High Jump … Dilling took only three jumps in his competition -- at 6-10 ¾, 7-0 ½, and 7-1 ¾ -- and cleared them all.

“It feels good,” Dilling said.  “Three jumps, two-eighteen clean.  It was a good competition.  It was good not to have to take a lot of jumps.”

Also perfect on the day were Dilling's main rivals:  2004 Olympic Trials champ Jamie Nieto, defending Trials champ Jesse Williams, and Erik Kynard Jr.  All three possess the Olympic A standard of 7-7.  

 A fourth jumper with the mark, Ricky Robertson, did not qualify for the final.

Dilling faces the tall order of needing a personal record of 7-7 and a top-three finish in Monday’s final to book a ticket to London.  Dilling, the upset 2007 USA high jump champion, has, of course, beaten the odds before on a USA Championship stage.

“I know it’s going to take a big day,” Dilling forecast.  “There were only four A standards in the U.S. coming in, and one didn’t make it through.  Those three guys are looking pretty good, but hopefully I just have a great day and get that A on them.”

Heather Kampf strides toward finals.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)
Women’s 800m … For the second straight day, Heather Kampf needed to wait out all the heats of the women’s 800m to learn whether she would advance.  Once again, she survived to race another day.

“It wasn’t quite as smooth as yesterday,” Kampf said of the racing.  “Obviously, when there are five people contending for three spots instead of three or four, it makes a difference having an extra body out there.” 

“It definitely was a little bit more contact,” the 2006 NCAA Indoor champion continued.  “A little over 150 to go, I had to push Brenda Martinez a little bit because we were both all over the place and tripping on each other.  So, I lost a little bit of momentum.”

Kampf waited on the track while the second semi ran, witnessing her fate.

“I had to be there to watch it,” she admitted.  “It worked out.  I really wanted to be in this final, so I’m glad to have the opportunity.”

Find complete Day 2 Olympic Trials results HERE.

In Action on Sunday ...

Two Minnesota athletes will be in action on Sunday at the Olympic Trials. 

Samanatha Sonnenberg and Kaitlyn Rains will compete in the women's pole vault which gets underway at 3:00 p.m. CDT.  The pair were to have competed in pole vault qualifying on Friday, but the event was washed out by rain.  Today's competition will be contested as a final.  Sonnenberg is the #13-ranked pole vault in the U.S. in 2012; Rains is ranked #24.

At 5:05 p.m., Liz Podomonick will compete in the final of the women's discus.  Podomonick, who qualified for finals as the third-best thrower on Friday, has the #5 throw in the U.S. this year at 200-0.  If today's final is to culminate in an Olympic berth, the Lakeville native will need to finish in the top-three and throw the Olympic A standard of 203-5 or further.

Follow today's action live on our Twitter feed HERE ... then look for a full recap this evening.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mead Runs Sub-28 in Olympic Trials 10,000

Hassan Mead races to sub-28:00.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)

In what may have been his final race in a University of Minnesota uniform, Hassan Mead set a personal best and broke 28-minutes in the Olympic Trials 10,000-meter run in Eugene, Oregon on Friday night.

The Minneapolis South alum ran 27:59.04 to finish 11th.  American record holder Galen Rupp won the race in an Olympic Trials record 27:25.33.  Matt Tegenkamp was second; Dathan Rtizenhein was third.

Racing in steady rain that frustrated runners, if not exactly slowing them down, Mead rolled along in the main pack, only falling behind when Rupp and teammate Ritzenhein forced the pace in the late-going.  Ritzenhein needed to run the Olympic A standard in the race in order to qualify for the Games, which he did.

“It was a good race,” Mead said.  “I was hoping to shoot under 28, so I’d say it’s a success.  I was hoping to finish a little higher – I was hoping to finish in the top 10 – but I think I was just outside of that.”

Mead sealed his sub-28 run with 62.92 final 400m.  Earlier this season he broke Garry Bjorklund's 1974  of M 10,000m record, running 28:12.74 at the Payton Jordan Invitational.

The race was a fitting capstone to Mead’s collegiate career, during which he earned All-American honors seven times and fought back from injury and a collapsed lung.  Mead is entered in the 5000-meters at the Trials, so could don the maroon and gold again before the meet is over.

“It’s been exciting,” Mead said of his Gopher years.  “I have a great memory with this uniform, the gold and maroon.”

Here all of DtB's exclusive interview with Mead here ...

The women’s 10,000-meter, which followed on the heels of Mead’s race, won’t likely be one of the great memories in Katie McGregor’s storied career.  McGregor finished 18th in 33:11.92.

The Team USA Minnesota star, who had finished 4th in the last two Olympic Trials 10,000s, faced the tall challenge of needing to run the Olympic A standard of 31:45 and finish in the top-three on Friday to make her first Olympic team. 

McGregor was content to run in the pack early in the race, despite an early pace that projected a 32:20 finish time.  Shortly after the half-way mark, the University of Michigan alumnus lost contact with the main pack, slowing from 400s in the mid-70s to turning them in 81 to 83 seconds.

Find men’s 10,000 results HERE.  Women’s results are HERE.

Podomonick Advances with #3 Mark … Lakeville native and University of Minnesota alumnus Liz Podomonick qualified for Sunday's finals of the women’s discus throw with a mark of 196-7 in today’s prelims.  The toss, from a wet circle and through a steady drizzle, was the 3rd-longest throw of the competition, which two-time Olympic bronze medalist Stephanie Brown Trafton led with 206-1

 Erhard native Rachel Longfors finished a non-qualifying  16th overall with 172-7.

“I really can’t ask for more in the rainy weather,” Podomonick said afterward.  “I just kept approaching it that we were all throwing in the rain, we’re all dealing with it.  So I just kept focusing on what I’ve been working on in practice.”

Podomonick, who has the 5th-longest throw by an American in 2012 but who lacks an Olympic A qualifier, needs to throw 203-5 and finish in the top three in Sunday’s final make the Olympic team.

“My first throw, I was just trying to have a good rhythm,” she recounted.  “I kind of popped up a little bit, so the next throw I kind of worked on driving out a little more and it went out of bounds, clearly.  The last throw was to put it all together, and I was really happy with that.  I wish I had one more throw.  That was throw I wanted to build off of.”

Instead, Podomonick, who still holds Minnesota’s high school all-time in the shot put, will need to hold onto the memory of her final throw until Sunday.

“I’ll do some recovery stuff tonight, do a really light practice tomorrow, and mentally prepare,” she said of her next 48 hours.

Heather Kampf advancing to the semis.
(Photo by Becky Miller.)
Pachuta, Kampf Advance in 800-meter … The University of Minnesota’s David Pachuta and Team USA Minnesota’s Heather Kampf advanced in 800-meter competition.

Pachuta clocked 1:47.14 to finish second in his heat, behind Nick Symmonds.  Kampf clocked 2:0.54 for fourth in her heat.  She was the fastest non-automatic qualifier and the #4 advancer overall.

Pachuta’s Gopher teammate Harun Abda and Burnsville native Laura Januszewski were eliminated in their heats.  Abda, the second fastest non-advancer, ran 1:48.26.  Januszewski struggled to keep up with the pack from the outset and finished with 2:07.50.

“I was really happy with my time,” Kampf said.  “It's actually my best of the season, and I felt good about it -- relaxed, like a prelim should feel.  I feel like I’m in the right place.”

Pachuta led his prelim coming into the homestretch.  “I knew Symmonds would be coming, but I managed to hold on,” he said.  “I was running scared the whole time.”

Kampf and Pachuta will race in the semi-finals tomorrow.

Find complete Day 1 results HERE.

David Pachuta "running scared.".
(Photo by Becky Miller.) 
Saturday's Olympic Trials Links

In anticipation of tomorrow’s triple jump prelims featuring Minnesota’s Amanda Smock, we recommend THIS feature story on 2008 Olympic triple jumper Erica McLain, who is recovering from a wicked 2011 ankle injury.  McLain has jumped 45-9 ¾ this year; Smock has jumped 45-7 ¼.

Also,  GopherSports has wrapped up its interview series with University of Minnesota women’s track and field alums.  Find Q/As with Gabriele Anderson, HERE, and Jamie Cheever, HERE.  Cheever  competes Monday; Anderson competes next Friday.

Yes/No: Olympic Trials Question #2

The Olympic Track and Field Trials continue in Eugene, Oregon after a wild first (full) day on Friday.  

See our second question of the trials below and stay tuned for more as you follow along with all the coverage on Down the Backstretch.

Some non-DtB sites to bookmark for the Trials:
Olympic Trials Home
Event entries/declared athletes

On to the contest. The second question of the Olympic Trials is...

Yes/No: Will Amanda Smock finish in the top three in the Triple Jump at the Olympic Trials on Monday?

Amanda Smock was the #1-ranked female triple jumper in the United States last year.  She dominated domestically in 2011 finishing with four of the top five American jumps and the USA title.  Due to her 46-6 1/4 jump last year, Smock has the "B" Olympic Standard and is the only athlete in the field with either the "A" or "B" standard.

In 2012, Amanda Smock has jumped 45-7 1/4 which places her second on the list of Americans for the year behind Erica McClain.

The start lists for the Women's Triple Jump are HERE and the "Triple Jump at a Glance" is HERE.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 7:45 P.M. CDT, Monday, June 25nd. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail.

My answer: Yes

Our first Olympic Trials Yes/No question was: Will Katie McGregor or Hassan Mead finish in the top eight in their respective races in the 10000 meters on Friday night? The answer was  no - Hassan Mead placed eleventh and Katie McGregor eighteenth.  Only eight players answered correctly this week.  Gloria Jansen takes over first place with a total of fourteen points.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner, HERE.

Hassan Mead Takes A Run At The 10K

Tonight at the US Olympic Track Trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, University of Minnesota men's 10K recordholder Hassan Mead hopes to improve the school record of 28:12.74 that he set earlier this year. "I'd like to get under 28 (minutes)," he says, knowing that the Trials are all about making the team, not a time.  But both Mead and one of the favorites in the event, Dathan Ritzenhein, however, have to run the Olympic qualifying time of 27:45 to book a ticket to London.

Eight of the entrants in the 10K have run under 27:45, so they have no incentive to take the pace out.  "It could easily be that way," Mead understands.  "Nobody wants to do the work for anybody else. But we're ready to go either way."  The aim is to finish "as high as possible," he says. "I hope it's a fast race...An honest pace." The season has been planned around the 10K at the trials, and Mead is confident that things are falling into place after a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, a couple of weeks ago.

As a freshman Mead qualified for his first Trials in 2008, and although he didn't make the 5K final, it was "a valuable experience," says Mead. Blessed with an elegant economy of movement, Mead seems to flow rather than run.  But his life and career have been anything but smooth.  His childhood move to the States from his native Somalia, bouncing around the West Coast and to Minnesota are all chronicled in Chris Lundstrom's 2009 article in Running Times HEREAn Achilles injury wiped out the 2010 indoor and  outdoor track seasons.  Then a collapsed lung in September of that year took out the cross country season.

Most people would have taken that as some kind of message that maybe running wasn't going to work out as a career choice, but Mead was floored by the support he got during the time he was in the hospital being treated for the collapsed lung. The nurses, he said, couldn't believe how many visitors he had.  And the doctor treating him was pretty matter of fact about what had happened.  "It was just a freak of nature," Mead said of the lung collapse. It would heal fine as long as he gradually allowed his body to recover, the doctor told him.

"I don't even think about it anymore unless somebody brings it up," he said.  Mead has always been able to adapt: "There has been quite a climate of change since my family and I moved to the states almost 12 years ago," Mead says. "But for me, adapting,  whether in sports, learning a new language or  a new  culture has been a meaningful and, for most of the part, enjoyable experience.

"I have great passion for sports.  It doesn’t matter what type of sports.  So when I have a setback,  whether it's the Achilles (injury) or more serious injuries, the passion and desire to compete and be out there with my friends is what I think drives me to endure these setbacks. I have a great family and friends that have been extremely positive during hard times, reminding me that this is nothing more than just a minor setback, and that I’ll be back to full recovery  in no time.I'm thankful for the support and encouragement to stay positive. The lung has been back to normal for about over year now and there is no difference between how it feels now and how it felt before having this situation.

"When I needed a friend, my family and friends have been there for me. If I live three times the life I wish to live, there is no way I can pay back their support and loyalty to me. I am honored and humble to say I am a Gopher, and be associated with such great people. My teammates are more than just a teammates to me. My teammates are my dearest friends and as close to me as my family. I know when I leave the University that I will have 'family' that will be based here for long time."

Whatever happens at the Trials, Mead has plans that are already evolving for his future.  He has a semester to finish to get his Masters degree in Sports Marketing, and he plans to keep on running.  How his running career will unfolds will be impacted by what happens at the Trials, but Mead is not planning on hanging up his spikes for awhile yet.
"There are many goals that I would like to accomplish before I decide to give up or step away from running," said Mead.  "But they are easier said than done, which I've learned through my time here as Gopher. There is nothing wrong having dreams of accomplishing great things in this sports, but you cannot forget that almost everyone who chooses to invest time and emotion in sports hopes to continue into post collegiate sports, and there are only a limited number of spots on the table. So, it’s important to have a great resume, and right now, that is our mission. Focus and finish the year with the best national performances as a team and individually, than move forward from there.

"(When I'm done running) I would like to either coach at a Division One program in cross country and track and field, or basketball. Right now I am little biased towards coaching track and field over basketball. All I know for sure is that I love sports, and I intend to spend great amount of my life sharing my experiences as athlete and a Gopher."

Photo by Gene Niemi.  

Follow the Olympic Trials with Us!

DtB is on the scene in Eugene at the Olympic Trials! 

We'll post Twitter and Facebook updates while the action is on-going -- starting this afternoon around 4:00 p.m. CDT --  and have full recaps of each day's events by the following morning. Look for photos, quotes, and audio.

Follow all the Minnesotans in the meet with DtB!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Yes/No: Olympic Trials Question #1

Unless you have been living under a rock, you already know that the Olympic Trials in Track and Field will be taking place in Eugene, Oregon over the next two weeks.  We've prepared a few Yes/No questions that we will offer up throughout the event as some local athletes prepare to compete for an Olympic berth.

See our first question below and stay tuned for more as you follow along with all the coverage on Down the Backstretch.

Some non-DtB sites to bookmark for the Trials:
- Olympic Trials Home
- Schedule
- Event entries/declared athletes

On to the contest...the first question of the Olympic Trials is...

Yes/No: Katie McGregor or Hassan Mead finish in the top eight in their respective races in the 10000 meters on Friday nights?

Katie McGregor is currently ranked 16th among the entrants in the Olympic Trials 10000 meters.  She has run 32:37 in 2012.  McGregor's personal best in the event is 31:21.  She finished third in the 2007 and 2009 USA Championships and fourth in the 2008 Olympic trials, all in the 10000 meters.

Hassan Mead has run 28:12.74 and is ranked 17th in the field of Olympic Trials 10000 meter men.  He is fresh off a fourth place finish at the NCAA Championships in the 5000 Meters.  Mead is more experienced in the 5000 meters and is currently entered in that race as well at the Olympic Trials.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 8:30 P.M. CDT, Friday, June 22nd. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail.

My answer: Yes

Last week's question was: Will Kara Goucher win the USA Half Marathon Championship AND break the course record of 1:10:00 on Saturday? The answer was yes - Goucher won and ran 1:09:46.  Thirty-two players answered correctly this week.  The first-place group remained the same and includes Jim GlazerRyan AylesworthGloria JansenEvan RobertsMike Mason, and Dan Vogel.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner, HERE.

Make Room for Some Vegetables

In Wednesday's New York Times, the "paper of record" in the US, contained some uncharacteristic errors in a retrospective photo collection from the 1972 Olympic Trials that were held at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene.  In the gallery of photos the Times published the caption on the tenth photo, that showed a scene from the men's 5,000 meters(HERE). It said that the winner of that race, Oregon's Steve Prefontaine, had set a World Record.

Pre ran an American Record of 13:22.8 at the Trials in 1972.  The error was quickly corrected.  In the photo accompanying the story by Steve Sutton, the photographer who took the pictures in 1972, two runners were identified as Rick Wohlhuter and Dave Wottle, who finished one, two at that year's trials in the 800 meters(Photo HERE).  But the photo was from the 1,500 semi-finals and while it was indeed Wottle with the cap, Lowell Paul was the runner next to him. That error took a bit longer to correct.

I mention this not to embarrass the Times.  Mistakes are made, and when discovered, corrected. Perhaps this was more of a symbol of the decline of the sport in the US that such mistakes would happen and take some time to correct.  "Track and field is kind of a vegetable sport," said University of Minnesota track and cross country men's coach Steve Plasencia by phone as he was en route to Hayward Field in Eugene for the 2012 US Olympic Track & Field trials on Wednesday.  "And generally 'Joe Public' doesn't like vegetables."

"I wish Joe Public had a wider appetite, but what do you do to a vegetable to make it something people want?" said Plasencia.  "The mass media has a ton to do with (what people gravitate toward or want to see).  To really be a major sport in the US you have to be accepted, embraced by ESPN.  Track and Field does nothing to make it a spectator sport.  It's treated as more of more of a participant sport."

From being the glamour sport of the Olympics, track has fallen to the "vegetable bin" in the minds of the public and the media, said Plasencia, who made the Olympic team at 10K and lived in Eugene for 15 years.  He has many fond memories of Hayward Field, nicknamed "the Cathedral" of the sport in this country.  It's the Wrigley Field or Fenway Park of the sport to make a baseball comparison.  Eugene is "a city that does love track and field," Plasencia says.  "It embraces the nuances of the sport."

"I always get a thrill and a joy to come back to this area," Plasencia said. For the next 12 days(June 21 to July 1 with a two day break on June 26-27) Oregon will play host to the center of the track world in the US.  The stands at Hayward Field will be packed with track fans making the pilgrimage to Eugene for the once every four years event.  There will be media coverage.  Olympic broadcast rights holder, NBC, will televise parts of the trials on the NBC network and NBCSN(schedule HERE).

"The excitement is still there," said Plasencia.  "Hopefully, the internet and the websites help to fuel the interest in the event."  So, get out your "forks" and be ready for a nutritious serving of "vegetables."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Olympic Trials Await for Minnesota's Best

The countdown clock on the Tracktown USA web-site is nearing zero.

Elite athletes from across the United State are making final preparation -- or waiting with crossed fingers -- for the start of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track and Field in Eugene, Oregon.

The event will kick off tomorrow -- in Beaverton, Oregon, as it turns out -- with prelims and finals of the men's and women's hammer throws.  On Friday, however, all the action, all the triumphs, and all the heartbreak will move to storied Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus -- the house that Bill Bowerman and Steve Prefontaine built and that Nike keeps in splendor, so to speak.

More than twenty Minnesota athletes are expected to compete in the meet which runs until July 1.  The top three finishers in each event can earn the right to compete in the London Games, if they have attained the Olympic "A" standard in their event. 

Down the Backstretch has compiled a list (below) of 21 athletes with Minnesota ties likely to compete at the Trails.  Since the meet features a rolling declaration process, entrant lists aren't finalized until 48-hours before the start of competition in an event.  (Let us know if anyone is missing!)

Olympic Trials Men:
800m:  Harun Abda, David Pachuta
1500m:  Rob Finnerty, Garrett Heath, Will Leer
5000m:  Elliott Heath, Hassan Mead
10,000m:  Jonathan Grey, Hassan Mead
3000m SC:  Justin Tyner
High Jump:  Jim Dilling

Olympic Trials Women: 
 800m  Laura Januszewski, Heather Kampf
1500m:  Gariele Anderson, Heather Kampf
5000m:  Meghan Peyton
10,000m:  Katie McGregor, Meghan Peyton
3000m SC:  Jamie Cheever
Pole Vault:  Kaitlyn Rains, Samantha Sonnenberg
Triple Jump:  Amanda Smock
Discus:  Liz Podomonick, Rachel Longfors

(One Minnesotan has already felt the cold shoulder of the Olympic Trials entry process.  Men's hammer thrower Bryan Tolcser, the throws coach at the St. Catherine University, narrowly missed making the field in his event.)

Follow the declaration process for the meet HERE.  Check out Track & Field News magazine's form chart of the meet HERE (men) and HERE (women).

Today's Olympic Trials Links

The Minnesota Daily's Megan Ryan has an interesting feature -- with a great photo -- on Gopher 800-meter runner Harun Abda, HERE,  The story tells of Abda's unlikely journey from Ethiopia to a refugee camp in Kenya to his new home in Minnesota.

Also, Runner's World has been catching up with track Olympians from the past, and recently posted a Q/A with Richfield High School alumnus Steve Holman, HERE.  Holman made the Olympic team in 1992 and is still ranked #6 on the All-Time U.S. 1500m list and #8 on the mile list.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kampf, Januszewski Eye Olympic Trials 800m

They raced for rival high schools in Dakota County.  They competed for rival universities in the Midwest.  Now, 800-meter runners Heather Kampf and Laura Januszewski will race for a shared goal:  a berth at the London Olympic Games.

Kampf, the Rosemount High School and University of Minnesota alumnus who competed then as Heather Dorniden, and Januszewski, the former Laura Hermanson of Burnsville High School and North Dakota State fame, will be the first two Minnesotans to step on the Hayward Field track in Eugene, Oregon later this week at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

The opening rounds of the 800m take place Friday night, where both half-milers hope to start a journey through the meet that will lead them to the event's final on Monday, June 25th ... and, ultimately, the Olympic Games.

The pair shared their thoughts about the Trials and their Olympic dreams in separate articles recently.  There's a GopherSports Q-and-A with Kampf HERE.  There's a Fargo Forum feature on Januszewski HERE.

Kampf says she's eager for the Gopher track reunion the Trials will offer -- she, 1500-meter runner Gabriele Anderson, steepelchaser Jamie Cheever, and discus thrower Liz Podomonick are all slated to compete in Eugene.

(Read a GopherSports Q-and-A with Podomonick HERE.)

Januszewski reveals that her professional racing career will end either in Eugene or London.  She and her husband are building a house in Pelican Rapids and she's taken a teaching job in Breckenridge for next fall.

The Olympic Trials open Thursday in Beaverton, Oregon with the men's and women's hammer throw competitions, to be held at Nike World Headquarters.  Action at Hayward Field begins Friday and runs through Monday, June 25 before resuming again on Thursday June 28 and concluding on Sunday, July 1.

Find lots of Olympic Trials details -- including entry lists, schedules, and feature stories -- HERE, at the official Trials web-site.

Down the Backstretch at the Olympic Trials

DtB will be on the scene in Eugene for the Olympic Trials! 

We'll post Twitter and Facebook updates while the action is on-going and have full recaps of each day's events the following morning.  (We're also planning some bonus Yes/No questions during the meet, so our fantasy players can more thoroughly enjoy the meet!)

Look for coverage on our social media outlets beginning on Friday and wrap-ups starting Saturday morning.  Follow all the Minnesotans in the meet with DtB!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Minnesota Preps Shine in National Meets

With MSHSL State Meet successes still echoing in their memories, some of Minnesota's top high school athletes were in action over the weekend at the a pair of national championships for high school and junior-aged athletes.

USA Juniors ... Headlining the USA Junior Championships in Bloomington, Indiana, St. Francis' Maggie Ewen finished 3rd in the discus throw with a mark of 171-0.  She followed up the podium-worthy performance with a 5th-place finish in the shot put, throwing 46-9 1/2.

Also in the throwing circle at the meet was Andover's Tom Anderson.  He finished 5th it he shot put, marking 61-9.  Anderson was scheduled to compete in the discus throw, but results of that event, inexplicably, are not yet posted.

Also competing at the meet were Eric Gebeke of White Bear Lake, 6th in his heat of the 800m in 1:53.38; Austin Salargo of Hopkins, 6th in his heat of the 400m in 49.00; and Roseville's Samantha Nielsen, 5th in her 800m heat in 2:12.11.

Find USA Junior results HERE.

New Balance Nationals ... This season's wholesale revisions to the state's girls' all-time 3200-meter/2-mile list continued at New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina where Blake's Clare Flanagan clocked a 10:20.75 2-mile -- the equivalent of a 10:17.17 3200m -- to finish 5th in the event.

The mark ranks Flanagan, only a sophomore, as the third-fastest prep two-miler in Minnesota history.  (See the rewritten top-10 list below.)  Also competing in the New Balance two mile were Maria Hauger of Shakopee, 8th in 10:28.40, and Eagan's Danielle Anderson, 15th in 10:41.00.

In the 5000m, Anderson finished runner-up in 16:43.65, while Hauger as 4th in 16:53.07.

Other Minnesota's competing at the meet included Lakeville South's Shaina Burns, 3rd in the heptathlon with 4706 points and 4th in the 400m hurdles in 1:03.47; Rochester Mayo's Riley Macon, 15th in the mile run at 4:20.92, and Brandon Clark of Blake, 4th in the 5000m in 14:44.32.

Find complete meet results HERE.

All-Time Minnesota Girls' 3200m List:
(List based on work by Kevin Moorhead.)

10:06.98  Bria Wetsch, Holy Family 2006
10:12.09  Elizabeth Yetzer, Lakeville North 2006
10:17.17  Clare Flanagan, Blake 2012
10:24.57  Jamie Piepenburg, Alexandria 2012 
10:24.78  Maria Hauger, Shakopee 2012
10:26.61  Shannon Bergstedt, Hopkins 2004
10:27.80  Lisa Dyer, Moorhead 2001
10:29.75  Joanna Deeter, Eden Prairie 1996
10:29.94  Lisa Waanen, Maple Grove 2003
10:30.28  Carrie Tollefson, Lac Qui Parle 1994

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Goucher Wins USA Half on Home Streets

USA Half Marathon Champ Kara Goucher.
(Photo courtesy of Grandma's Marathon.)
Duluth native Kara Goucher and three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman won USA Half Marathon titles this morning at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon held in conjunction with Grandma's Marathon.

Goucher ran a course record-breaking 1:09:46, unofficially, on the scenic run along the North Shore of Lake Superior to Canal Park in Duluth in her first race in her hometown in 16 years.

Abdirahman, who will compete in his fourth Olympic Games later this summer, won in 1:02:47, unofficially, edging Brett Gotcher for the title.

Former Team, USA Minnesota runner Michelle Frey finished 3rd in the USA Women's Championships, according to preliminary results posted on the USA Running Circuit web-site, HERE.

Marathon Results ... Berhanu Girma, of Ethiopia won the men's competition at Grandma's Marathon, running 2:12:25 on the course that starts in Two Harbors and finishes in Duluth.

In women's competition, Everlyne Lagat of Kenya was the victor, running 2:33:13.

Look for complete results HERE.

Duluth News-Tribune Coverage ... Here are links to the Duluth News-Tribune's extensive coverage of Grandma's Marathon:

Women's USA Half Marathon ... Goucher had goose-bumps on Superior Street.

USA Half Marathon Champ Abdi Abdirahman.
(Photo courtesy of Grandma's Marathon.)
Men's USA Half Marathon ... Abdirahman runs 1:02:46 for Title.

Garry Bjorklund Half Marthon ... Former Carleton 800m Runner Wins.

Grandma's Marathon Men's Champ Berhanu Girma.
(Photo courtesy of Grandma's Marathon.)
Grandma's Marathon, Men ... Girma is Grandma's First Ethiopian Men's Champ.

Grandma's Marathon Women's Champ Everlyne Lagat.
(Photo courtesy of Grandma's Marathon.)
Grandma's Marathon, Women ... Winner Everlyne Lagat "felt like a shark."

Grandma's Weekend in Photos ... The DNT's Photo Gallery from the Weekend.

Grandma's Wrap-Up ... The Whole Weekend, Tied Up in One Story.