Friday, June 22, 2012

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.  

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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.

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