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U.S CHAMPIONSHIPS PREVIEW: FOCUS ON TENNESSEEANS

by Dave Milner

A total of eight Tennessean distance runners will be in action this week at the U.S Junior Championships in Eugene,OR. Cordova's JoshMcAdams will compete in the men's 3000m Steeplechase. From Knoxville, former UT runner, Andrew Dawson, will run the men's 800m, and Anthony Famiglietti, another former Vol,will run the men's 5000m. Hazel Clark (the reigning U.S champion) and Treniere Clement will run the women's 800m and 1500m respectively. Recent ETSU grad, Heidi Dahl, who resides Johnson City is also in the women's 1500m, and runs in Clement's preliminary heat. Among current collegians, Signal Mountain's Phoebe Wright (a junior at UT) will also tackle the women's 800m, and Brentwood's Andrew Bumbalough (a junior at Georgetown) will run the men's 5000m. Action involving these eight kicks off tomorrow (Thursday) evening. On the line will be spots on the U.S team for the World Championships in Berlin, Germany in August. Be sure to check out TR's pre-meet interviews with Josh McAdams, Hazel Clark, and Treniere Clement.

In the U.S Junior Championships being held in conjunction, Brentwood's Sean Keveren is the sole Tennessean distance runner. The University of Virginia freshman will compete in the 5000m on Sunday night. If he finishes in the top 2, he will be eligible to represent the U.S at the Pan-Am Junior Championships in Trinidad & Tobago next month.

Running Times published their distance preview today, and what follows below, in the same format, is TR's event by event preview of each distance race (no, I don't care about the sprints), with an emphasis on the Tennesseans competing in Eugene, complete with predictions for the top 3 places (in order). Here we go; ladies first. (Actual finish positions will be added in parentheses after the completion of each event)

WOMEN | MEN

800m

World Championships "A" Standard: 2:00.00
Prelims: Thursday, June 25; Semi-finals: Friday, June 26; Final: Sunday, June 28

This could be the year the younger generation finally usurps the older one in the women's 800m. Last summer Knoxville's Hazel Clark (interviewed by TR this week) won her 6th national championship at this distance, and she has run fast this year, too (2:00:09 at the Reebok Grand Prix), but so have several others. Maggie Vessey charged into the spotlight when she won the Pre Classic in a PR of 2:00.18, but the woman to watch out for may be Morgan Uceny.

A graduate of Cornell, Uceny made a strong showing at last year's Olympic trials with a 6th-place finish in the 800m and a 4th-place in the 1500m, and then she continued to improve, posting her PR of 2:00:01 last July. If she can shave that pesky .01 off her time before August 3, she would be one of the only runners other than Clark to have the A standard. (As in the 1500m, the American leader in the event—in this case, Anna Willard at 1:59.29—won’t be running it in Eugene.)

Geena Gall ran a strong race at the NCAA championships earlier this month and took the win by leading wire to wire. Her winning time of 2:00.80 is less than a second off the world champs “A” standard.

Also representing Tennessee is Signal Mountain's Phoebe Wright, a junior at the University of Tennessee, who shares the same coach as Clark.

It would benefit the field to have a fast race here, as only Hazel Clark has the “A” standard.

TR Prediction : 1. Clark (1); 2. Vessey(4); 3. Gall (2)
RT Prediction: 1. Gall (2); 2. Clark (1); 3. Uceny (6)

1500m

World Championships "A" Standard: 4:06.00
Prelims: Thursday, June 25, Final: Saturday, June 27

If the declared athletes run up to their potential, the qualifiers in this event are clear as day. Shannon Rowbury, Anna Willard and Christin Wurth have all run both under the “A” qualifying standard and more than 5 seconds faster than any other entrant. These women have the speed to outkick the rest of the field if they’re feeling good. (The U.S. leader, Jenny Barringer with her 3:59.90 jaw-dropper from Pre, isn't running this event; she's entered in the steeplechase and 5,000m.)

If one of the Big Three seems to be having an off day, however, look for Erin Donohue, Sarah Bowman or 3-time U.S Champ, Treniere Clement (interviewed by TR this week), to be there to take advantage of the situation.

Johnson City's Heidi Dahl runs in the same preliminary heat (the first of two) as Treniere Clement. With 56-second 400m speed at her disposal, the recent ETSU grad may well advance to the final, but this is her first time at the U.S Championships, and she may well be intimidated or get bumped around in a crowded, physical race.

In theory, Willard could (ad maybe should) play it safe here, as she’s doubling in the steeplechase. Her schedule comprises a 1500m qualifying round on Thursday, a steeple heat on Friday, the 1500m final on Saturday and the steeple final on Sunday. But she likes to win and has been working toward the double all year, so she may throw caution to the wind.

TR Prediction : 1. Willard (2); 2. Wurth (3); 3. Clement (5)
RT Prediction: 1. Willard (3); 2. Rowbury (1); 3. Wurth (2)

 

3,000m Steeplechase

World Championships "A" Standard: 9:40.00
Prelims: Friday, June 26; Final: Sunday, June 28

No Tennesseans in this one, but this could be the most epic battle of the whole meet, and definitely the most exciting women's steeple battle in U.S history. In one corner, Anna Willard is in great form, showing great turnover over the shorter distances, clocking PRs over 800m (1:59.29) and 1500m (4:01.44) this spring. She's very effectively taking the speed work approach to running a better steeple, despite her move to the high-altitude training grounds at Mammoth Lake, Calif.

In the other corner, though, we have Jenny Barringer, who took last fall completely off after the Olympics and has returned in the form of a record-setting robot at every distance she has tried so far this year. She ran a 15:01 5,000m PR, and stunned the field and the country by breaking 4:00 in the 1500m at the Pre Classic earlier this month. At the following week's NCAA championships, she won the steeple title in an evenly paced, tightly controlled 9:25. Keep in mind that 9:25 is only 3 seconds off her all-out-American-record-setting performance in Beijing last year. This year, she runs that kind of time as a tempo workout. Then again, in her one steeple this year, Willard ran a similarly solo 9:26.

This will be the first time these two (pictured, right) have faced off over their specialty distance this year (Barringer beat Willard in the 1500m at Pre), and all hands should be on deck to watch these two classy stars take each other on.

Behind these two world leaders, we have a long list of possibilities. Lindsey Anderson, Willard’s and Barringer's Olympic teammate, will be making a strong case for third once again. Lindsay Allen and Marie Lawrence have both chopped large chunks off their PRs this season to join the top of the list. Allen is fresh out of college, training in Flagstaff with the McMillan Elite, and Lawrence is fresh into college, a true freshman at the University of Washington. Nicole Bush finished a distant second behind Barringer at NCAAs just off her PR of 9:39.38.

TR Prediction : 1. Barringer (1); 2. Willard (2); 3. Anderson (4)
RT Prediction: 1. Barringer (1); 2. Willard (2); 3. Anderson (4)

 

5,000m

World Championships “A” Standard: 15:10.00
Final: Friday, June 26

This race will be a little odd. For a variety of reasons (including a jaw-droppingly dumb piece of scheduling by USATF Track & Field), none of the fastest 5000 exponents are likely to to e the start line. The U.S record holder, Shalane Flanagan, is declared for it, but has said she won’t run it in the highly likely event that she makes the 10,000m team the night before. Last year’s Olympic trials champ, Kara Goucher, is running, but will contest the marathon in Berlin. After those two, only Jenny Barringer and last year’s third Olympian, Jen Rhines, have the worlds “A” standard. Barringer’s participation in the race is highly doubtful, given that the steeplechase heats start half an hour before the 5,000m final.

Shannon Rowbury ran a solo 15:12 this spring, but has said nothing about seriously contesting the event here, especially with it falling the night before the 1500m final. Rhines’ training partner, Sara Hall, is said to be in great shape, but we’ve seen little evidence that she’s ready to pop a sub-15:10 to make it to Berlin. The same is true of other perennial contenders like Sara Slattery and Lauren Fleshman, the latter of whom was debating withdrawing from the meet last week because of injury. We’ve seen little evidence that these women are the sort to set out at sub-15:10 pace and let the chips fall where they may. (As always, we would love to be wrong.)

Goucher has recovered quickly from the Boston Marathon and has shown good speed in recent shorter track outings. She’ll want to win while wearing the Oregon Track Club uniform, and she’ll want to get in a good effort.

Unless Barringer and/or Rowbury make a surprise appearance here, Rhines will likely be the sole U.S. entrant in Berlin.

TR Prediction : 1. Goucher (1); 2. Rhines (2); 3. Hall (18)
RT Prediction: 1. Goucher (1); 2. Rhines (2)

 

10,000m

World Championships “A” Standard: 31:45.00 "B": 32:20.00
Final: Thursday, June 25

At last year’s Olympic trials, this was one of the best races, with Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher duking it out the whole way, and Amy Yoder Begley launching an incredible drive over the last kilometer to dip under the Olympic standard. This year, expect a snoozefest by comparison.

After taking Olympic bronze in this event and setting an American indoor 5,000m record in February, Flanagan moved out wes to Oregon in the spring to become the sole woman to be coached by Jerry Schumacher. She has not been as dominating since, but nonetheless seems a lock for the trip to Berlin. Yoder-Begley has been training with Kara Goucher (who isn’t running this event) and beat her training partner over 2K at the Prefontaine Classic. That run, coupled with a national 15K title on the roads in March, would suggest she has her bases covered.

Behind those two Olympians, the race for third is wide open. Lisa Koll set a collegiate record of 32:11 last year, but bombed at NCAAs earlier this month, placing 9th. Katie McGregor is a moidel of consistency -- almost always a solid runner in national championships, but has been off her game for much of the last two years. Amy Hastings has a 32:18 qualifying mark but hasn’t run anything this year that points to that kind of fitness. The rest of the women in the field would need to PR by more than 30 seconds to get under the worlds “A” standard. The dark horse, and TR's pick for 3rd, is California-based marathoner Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, who almost, you may recall, stole the show at last year's Olympic Trials marathon.

TR Prediction : 1. Flanagan (2); 2. Yoder-Begley (1); 3. Lewy-Boulet (4)
RT Prediction: 1. Flanagan (2); 2. Yoder-Begley (1)

 

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