Portage Invitational
Oct 9, 2004 at Portage MI

Visions of San Diego

Portage winners Jeff See, Rachel Wittum and Dan Roberts
hope to qualify for Foot Locker national finals this year

by John Dye

PORTAGE MI 10/9/04 -- After impressive victories here, visions of San Diego in December danced in the heads of the three individual stars of the day -- Jeff See, Rachel Wittum and Dan Roberts. The Foot Locker Cross Country Championships national finals will be held in Balboa Park, San Diego on December 11. These three hope to be there.

Two of them are looking for San Diego to prove they are all the way back from injuries and illness that have held them back. For the third, Foot Locker would indicate a logical progression from a solid sophomore season.

Jeff See

Middletown OH sr Jeff See has been in the national elite since setting the sophomore national mile record (4:06.07) at AOC Raleigh 2 years ago. That broke the record held by Alan Webb, who in turn took it from Jim Ryun.

Pretty illustrious company. But See hasn't quite fulfilled that promise. He missed AOC last June because of thyroiditis. Then he hurt a toe on the beach this summer.

Coming into this year, See delayed his training schedule to peak for his last chance to run at Foot Locker. He appears to be right on target. At Great American 10/2 See came from far back to come within 4 seconds of front running winner Robert Bedsole with a time of 15:18 5k.

That was a PR that lasted only a week. See won Division 1 here in a breeze in 15:10. "I wanted to go sub-15, but this was a good, solid race. I like running here a lot," See said after winning Portage for the second straight year.

See was quite aware of superstar Dathan Ritzenhein's course record of 14:40 at Portage. "That's insane," See said. But he may be doing some insane things himself before his senior year is over.

Rachel Wittum

Rockford MI soph Rachel Wittum emerged last year as the latest in a string of superstar runners from Rockford (Jason Hartmann, Dathan Ritzenhein, Kalen Toedebusch, Linsey Blaisdell and Nikki Bohnsack). She even beat Bohnsack in her debut as a freshman at the 2003 Midwest Meet of Champions, finishing second behind Foot Locker finalist Alissa McKaig and ahead of Foot Locker finalist Maddie Schueler. Wittum went on to finish 20th (second best freshman) at the Foot Locker Midwest region in November.

At the start of this season, Wittum was on the sidelines with injuries. It started with a hamstring pull and then spread to her right knee. She started running again 4 weeks ago, and Portage was her first major race back. She came through in flying colors, pulling away from a lead group in the last 800 meters to win by 8 seconds in 17:45.

"I was feeling it at 2 miles, but then I got my breathing back in the last mile," Wittum said. "It felt great. No pain. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm almost there."

Wittum thinks she has a better chance at Foot Locker nationals this year than last, but she is in no hurry. "We have a long range plan to peak in my senior year," said a very sensible young lady.

Dan Roberts

After seeing Vicksburg MI jr Dan Roberts run the fastest time of the day (15:06), I was wondering who he was. My bad.

In June 2003, Roberts won the freshman mile at AOC Raleigh in 4:24.46.
As a sophomore last June, Roberts doubled in Division 2 of the Michigan State Meet, winning the 1600m in 4:13.8l and the 3200m in 9:18.48. Then he went to AOC Raleigh and was one of the few who tried both the mile and 2-mile. He was 11th in the mile (2nd soph behind Craig Miller of PA) in 4:16.15 and 19th in the 2-mile (first soph) in 9:24.82.

Roberts PR'd here today in 15:06 in Division 2 and then sat back to watch the Division 1 race. "Being in Division 2 in Michigan, I'm used to running first and then having Division 1 guys come along and do something better," Roberts said. "I knew Jeff See was here, so I wanted to put up a good time to challenge him." Roberts' time was good enough -- 4 seconds faster than See -- leaving observors wishing they had been in the same race.

Roberts' goal this year is Foot Locker finals. He finished 13th in the Midwest regional last year and is the fourth highest ranking returnee bidding for the eight qualifying spots November 27 at UW-Parkside, Kenosha WI.

"Lord willing, I'll be there. He's the focus of every race I run," Roberts said.


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