USATF Champs: Tracking stories from the road

Follow the USATF Championships, both Junior and Senior meets, right here with webmaster Tim Fulton. This blog with focus on observations and impressions of the track meet, as well as travel, eating, running in Eugene, and some site seeing.

2008 Olympic Trials Blog


June 26th -  Morning run, afternoon races

Friday morning I headed out to do teh Ridgeline run with Austin Baile, who ran for Colorado and works as a masage therapist.  Neadless to say, this kid can run.  I can do some running but this guy is at another level so I kept telling him to run ahead but we stayed together for the entire hour, climbing up a huge hill.

The Ridgeline run is a fantastic trail in a think forest.  We passed a man bringing an item-4 type service down the trail and maticulously spreading it out.  There are narrow bridges and plenty of people walking dogs, running, and enjoying nature.

Actually as you drive around Eugene you can see quite a bit of human activity.  Many more people are outside, walking, running, biking, and being active than back east.  They have  bike lanes on almost every single road.  Combined with their recycling program it really feels like Oregon has it figured out.

I headed over to the meet after noon to start taking pictures of the junior events.  I ran into Jan Mitchell, a coaching buddy at Iona Prep in New Rochelle, NY.  Jan had 4 athletes qualify this year, more than he has ever had compete here in his 30 plus years of coaching: two steeplers, one 800m runner, and one hammer thrower.

The thing that jumps out so far in this meet has been the fast sprint and hurdle times.  Some are do to the wind aided marks and some to the talent base.  In the women's 100m, Muna Lee ran 10.78 and placed 2nd, the only woman to ever be able to make that claim.

I watchted the hammer more than I ever have today.  One thing that I noticed is that the size and shape of hammer throwers varies greatly.  Some look like throwers, with big, wide shoulders and large arms and legs.  But others are more slight, shorter, and just smaller.  The thing that really matters  is their speed through the circle, which is obvious once they start their spin.

The 5000m finals are coming up in about 30 minutes and I am excited to se how Renee Baile does.  Baile ran for Colorado and now runs for Nike.  She didn't have her best race in the 1500m semis yesterday but her whole focus has been this race all along.  Since I'm staying with her and her husband Austin, I am obviously now a fan.  It doesn't hurt that both are about as nice as they come.  Hopefully we'll be at The Willard Street Pub tonight celebrating her success.

June 25th - Day One at Haywood

Day one on the track was a great start. I got to see Tyson Gay up close for the first time since last June when he pulled his hamstring in the 200m trials. He was never the same after that. Gay looked strong and comfortable in winning his heat in a wind aided 9.75, the 6th best time under any conditions.

Alan Webb looked OK. He seemed to exert more enegy in the 1500m prelims than you would like to see but he placed 2nd and moved on. It was a good thing he snuck up and grabbed 2nd place at the end since the final heat ran very fast and all the qualifiers on time came from that section. He'll have his hands full in the final.

The 10K was won by Oregon's home town favorite Galen Rupp. Rupp has had a magical year but I had mixed feeling watching his race. Rupp sat back on the eladers early before letting Dathan Ritzenhein pull him for the better part of the 2nd half of the race. While the coach in me was thinking he was running a smart, tactical race, the fan in me wanted to see him take the lead and help push the pace. I couldn't help wonder what Steve Prefontaine would have thought of Rupp's tactics, tactics he is becoming very familiar with. Many fellow photographers were talking about how Ritz should be a little mad about it. I am still torn on what is right and what isn't.

The women's 10K was a fantasic display of teamwork and competitiveness. Amy Begley and Shalane Flanagan traded leads every lap the whole way, as the trainer partners had planned. Then with two laps to go it became a race. Begley looked very strong to me the whole way - powerful really. While Flanagan looked more smooth and relaxed. In the end Begley grabbed the track record from Flanagan with a furious kick.

I'm lucky enough to be staying in a house for the 4 days I'm here instead of a hotel. Phil Wharton of Wharton performance hooked me up with Renee and Austin Baile. Renee is a top 5K runner competing this weekend and Austin works as a physical and message therapist with elite athletes such as Lopez Lomong.

After Renee ran her 1500m prelims I had the pleasure of having dinner together, discussing her race, talking about her training, and just getting to know each other better, something that just doesn't happen in quite the same way when you're staying in a hotel.

I better get to bed now though. Renee and Austin are both going to beat me up on a run in the morning, though I'll do my best to represent NY well.


June 24th - Before Eugene: California and Oregon

Anytime I schedule a trip to Oregon to cover one of the numerous championship meets out here, I try and work in at least a few days of vacation and travel. With a brother that lives in San Francisco and a few friends in Portland, it usually works out pretty well.

This year with the junior and senior USATF meets in Eugene it was obvious that and were going to be here to provide onsite coverage.

Though the meet starts today I flew to San Fran last Thursday morning with my girlfriend Carolyn. We met up with my brother Greg and his buddy Brandon and drove out to Yosemite National Park and basically slept on the side of the road Thursday night, in rogue campgrounds that the rock climbing and backpacking community uses.

Friday morning we were up early to head out on a three day, thirty-two mile trip into Yosemite’s back country. Night one we slept in the shadows of El Capitan and night two we camped staring at Half Dome from the top of North Dome. The hike down the next day was treacherous and exhausting but well worth it, despite the rattle snake I had to avoid.

It was time to head to Portland on Tuesday after a day of relaxing in San Fran. While in Portland I canoed the Wyllamette River and had a fantastic burrito, which is a theme for me on both coasts.

Thursday morning a fellow journalist, Dave Devine of Dyestat, picked me up and we headed south to Eugene. As we drive down to the meet I am excited to return to Haywood Field but I am disappointed that some of our top stars are not competing in their signature events; Jeremy Wariner is running the 200m instead of the 400m; Bernard Lagat is running the 800m for some speed work instead of the 1500m or 5000m; Tyson Gay is running only one round of the 100m; All are defending champions from the last world championships and have byes into this year’s in Berlin.