The 2009 track and field season is shaping up to become one of the all-time greats. It seems like every weekend new U.S. #1 performances are posted, often times ranking individuals and relay squads in the U.S. top ten all-time. This past weekend was no different, as state meets across the country concluded the regular season for many. See what took place in this week's Top Ten Countdown, while we also feature an interview with Ohio middle-distance standout Danny Neff.
Midwest Distance Gala News & Notes
With less than three weeks to go until the fifth annual Midwest Distance Gala, registration is starting to heat up, as athletes from around the country start to sign up to run on Saturday, June 13, at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. Numerous state champions have registered thus far, with many more throwing their names into the mix in the coming two weeks.
Registration is open, linked on the Midwest Distance Gala website, along with the qualifying marks to make it into this year's event. We've also added a girls 2k steeplechase this year, as well as an open 5k (anyone can register for this event). If you have any questions please feel free to contact co-meet director Scott Bush at [email protected].
Top Ten Countdown
Regional and state results dot the Top Ten Countdown this week. Here's this week's countdown:
10. Colette Gnade (Sr., Waukee, IA) - In one of the most breathtaking races of the weekend, Gnade out-sprinted Shelby Houlinhan (So., Sioux City East, IA) to the finish in the Iowa State Meet 800m dash. Gnade finished first in 2:08.84, while Houlinhan finished a half step behind in 2:08.97. Gnade's time ranks her U.S. #6 in the event, and broke the Iowa state meet record.
9. Jordan Chaney (Sr., Maryville, TN) - At the Tennessee State Meet over the weekend, Chaney why he's one of the most underrated middle-distance runners in the country. Chaney had a superb weekend, winning the 1,600m run in 4:13.19, while finishing second by .02 in the 800m dash. Chaney was edged out by Leoman Momoh (Sr., Cordova, TN) 1:51.81-1:51.83, in one of the finest 800m races of the year nationally.
8. Terrence Livingston (Sr., Great Neck South, NY) - Perhaps the most hyped 800m showdown this past weekend came between Livingston and Cas Loxsom (Sr., Wilbur Cross, CT). The two middle-distance standouts went head-to-head at the Danbury Dream Invitational (CT). In the end, Livingston edged Loxsom to the line, running a U.S. #3 mark of 1:50.39. Loxsom finished second in 1:51.34.
7. Katie Flood (Jr., Dowling Catholic, IA) - Since her freshman year, Flood has dominated the Iowa State Meet. Despite getting off to a slow start to her season, Flood came on strong over the weekend, winning the 3,000m and 1,500m races, while finishing third in a loaded 800m dash. Flood's winning marks were 9:55.11 (3k) and 4:35.13 (1,500), while her third place time of 2:11.16 ranks her well nationally, too. That's quite the triple for one weekend.
6. McKinzie Schulz (Jr., Benet, IL) - For the first time since 1985, the Illinois Girls State Meet saw the winner of the 1,600m run dip under 4:50. However, not only did one runner accomplish the feat, but rather two did. Schulz had a great weekend, winning the AAA 800m dash title in 2:12.12, then coming back with a runner-up finish in the 1,600m. Schulz finished behind Rebecca Tracy (Sr., Barrington, IL) as the two pushed to the line, with Tracy crossing first, 4:49.35-4:49.77.
5. Drew Butler (Sr., The Woodlands, TX) - Running in the best distance running regional in the country, Texas 5A Region 2, Butler showed why he is one of the best middle-distance runners in the country. Butler won a blazing 800m dash in 1:50.96, only to turn around and place second behind teammate Reed Connor in the 1,600m event. Butler ran 4:10.85, which ranks him U.S. #7 in the event.
4. Megan Goethals (Jr., Rochester, MI) - At the Oakland County Meet, Goethals put on quite the show. The third-place finisher at Foot Locker Nationals this past fall, Goethals is finally starting to really show her best stuff outdoors, as she won the 1,600m run in a U.S. #3 mark of 4:47.04, while winning the 3,200m as well in 10:38.50. Such signs of speed bode well for Goethals, heading towards the state meet.
3. Elijah Greer (Sr., Lake Oswego, OR) - Greer is proving to be quite the showman. The senior standout won the 800m dash and 1,500m run over the weekend at the Oregon State Meet, both with furious kicks at the end. Greer won the 1,500m run over in-state rival Nathan Mathabane (Sr., Lincoln, OR), using a 26 second final 200m to win in a U.S. #1 time of 3:50.56. Greer also won the 800m dash, in a hyper-tactical, very slow race, while also helping his team place top six in the 4x400m relay.
2. Reed Connor (Sr., The Woodlands, TX) - While teammate Drew Butler came in as number five on this week's countdown, Connor earned the number two spot with his amazing distance double over the weekend, which saw him earn two U.S. top five marks. Connor won the 3,200m run at the Texas 5A Region 2 meet, running a U.S. #4 time of 8:57.26. Connor then came back to win the 1,600m event over Butler, running the U.S. #5 mark of 4:10.69. And this wasn't even the Texas State Meet!
1. Central Bucks South (PA) & 4x800m Relay - In what could be deemed as one of the best 4x800m relay races of all-time, Central Bucks South (PA) came out victorious, running a Pennsylvania State Meet record of 7:33.48, while is U.S. #6 all-time. CBS showed why they are one of the best relay teams of all-time, dipping under the 7:40 barrier for the third time this season. However, their race wasn't the only impressive performance, as seven teams dipped under 7:45, and ten teams overall broke 7:50. This was hands down the best race of the year thus far.
An Interview with Danny Neff
Last year at the Midwest Distance Gala, Danny Neff (Sr., Vandalia-Butler, OH) showed why he'd be a major force his senior season. Neff placed fourth in the mile, running one of the top junior marks of the season with his 4:11.74 finish. Since then, Neff has established himself as one of the top 800m/1,600m threats in the U.S., and will go after something special this year at the Ohio State Meet, as well as Nike Outdoor Nationals. The University of Georgia-recruit talked with Distance Gala Weekly this past week, laying out his goals the rest of the season, why he chose UGA, and much, much more.
Midwest Distance Gala (MDG): You've had an exciting season thus far, including new personal bests across the board. What are your thoughts on how your season has gone thus far?
Danny Neff (DN): It's gone great. I couldn't be happier about how it is going and am even more excited for what is to come in June when the really big races start happening. That is what my main focus is on and what I have been working for all winter and spring.
MDG: Earlier this season you had a chance to travel out to the Arcadia Invitational, where you placed third in the mile, lowering your PR to 4:09.86. What was that experience like, being able to travel out west and take on some of the nation's best?
DN: I've never been out west at all and to be placed in such a crowded city was crazy! Around here, you will never see so many people in such a compact city. Racing-wise, traveling out there was a great experience. It got me to understand a little feeling for the traveling aspect of my sport. Typically, we'll just travel a couple minutes to a meet, but to fly all the way out there was great, especially with the great competition.
MDG: You've had a great season thus far, but your biggest meets are still to come. What are your goals the rest of the season? Any chance we'll see you try to win the 1,600m and 800m at the Ohio State T&F Championships?
DN: The Arcadia meet was the biggest meet so far this season but it was so early in my season I was not able to perform as well as I would have liked. All my training has been aimed for June and to try and hit great times. At my state meet I will definitely try an win both the 1600 and 800, but with the competition in Division 1 in Ohio it won't be easy by any means. One goal in particular I have wanted to get in the regular season is beating our state record of 4:05.13 held by running legend Bob Kennedy.
MDG: What do your post-season plans look like? What events will you be running?
DN: After the state meet I'll be running at the Midwest Distance Gala. I'm not certain yet if it will be the 800 or mile. I would love to get a fresh 800 in since I have not had that opportunity once this season due to weather, but that mile field might be too good to pass up! Following that, I will be running at Nike Outdoor Nationals most likely in the mile, which I've wanted to since I was there two years ago and saw a buddy of mine, Sam Borchers, win it.
MDG: You signed with the University of Georgia this year, which seems to have picked up quite a few great recruits. Why UGA?
DN: Yeah, UGA is doing great in terms of middle distance and distance! It's a program that will be on the rise in the next couple years, and that is why I wanted to be part of it. One of the biggest reasons behind Georgia was the coach, Coach Pigg. He's a superb middle distance coach and that is what I classify myself as. Along with him, the team is great and the school has a beautiful campus! I couldn't have found a better group of guys to do something I love with for the next couple years of my life. Also, I am a huge sports fan and love the SEC. But it's a decision I made to try something different in a new atmosphere down south, too. I wanted to get a way and experience different things out of Ohio.
MDG: You've run in quite a few big meets over the past two years, including many of the biggest meets on the east coast? Do you have a particular race that stands out as your favorite?
DN: I don't know if this is considered the east coast, but the Midwest Distance Gala sticks out in my mind. Not only because I was in a race where Rob Finnerty almost broke four minutes, but it was a huge PR for me. I had been hitting workouts all year, and they weren't showing due to competition here in Ohio, but in that field at MDG I really got to see the benefits of my hard work. I have to say that after that race my coach and I were expecting to race at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games but some of those big indoor meets along the coast didn't go as planned.
MDG: How did you first get into running? When did you know you could be pretty good?
DN: I first got started running because my parents made me! I was always with the basketball, football, and baseball guys. However, they thought it would be a good idea my freshman year because I just had my second knee surgery on my ACL. I managed to injure both knees playing football. In fourth grade for school we had to run the 800m, and I got the record in about 2:30, so they figured I could try it for a year and get some down time from football.
I ended up at 2:00 for a freshman, but of course being stubborn, did pole vault in practice so I didn't have to run because I was not a fan of running in circles or cross country. It wasn't until my sophomore year, when I ran 1:53; I thought I could do something great in this. So my junior season of track I actually started running in the winter and into spring and I ended up at a 4:11 mile. Now it is something I love to do. Weird how things work out!
MDG: Ohio has had some great milers over the past few years, including Nike Outdoor Nationals champions Jeff See and Sam Borchers. What's it been like having so many great middle-distance runners to look up to and try to beat what they did?
DN: Having Jeff and Sam here in the Dayton area is great! I had a huge article of Jeff when he was a senior, and just won the NON mile in 4:04, even though I had never met him before. Then, I got to meet Sam after my sophomore year just before he ran at NON and went 4:03. I saw Sam's race in person and it gave me goose bumps. I told myself I wanted to do whatever it took to win the NON mile. However, I absolutely have to say that it was so impressive of Ben
Hubers to take that pace alone! But, with them being from the Dayton area, it is great. Sometimes there is too much pressure to try and break their records, but if you were to ask me, I am nowhere near as good as they were in high school. I just want to keep the trend of area runners winning the mile in NC this June. I almost don't want to let them down!
Quick Six (Six quick questions, six quick responses)
MDG: Favorite movie?
DN: Anything with Will Ferrell
MDG: Favorite TV show?
MDG: Shoes you run in?
DN: Nike Air Pegasus
MDG: Favorite pro runner(s)?
DN: Alan Webb and Nick Symmonds
MDG: Favorite band?
DN: The Fray
MDG: Favorite website?
DN: Runnerspace by far!
Additional Articles of Interest
Additional Articles of Interest Interval Session with Georgia's Amanda Winslow (Dyestat)
Interval Session with Connecticut's Cas Loxsom (Dyestat)
A Brief Chat with Kara Goucher and Alberto Salazar (Runner's World)
A New Running Novel on the Market (Track & Field News)
To submit an article or results to Distance Gala Weekly please contact Scott Bush at: [email protected]