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Interval Session #35 - Elijah Greer

February 21, 2008

Last weekend, Lake Oswego OR junior Elijah Greer was one of a select few preps entered in the Husky Classic at the University of Washington. Most high schoolers were slotted for Sunday's UW Open at the same venue, turned back by stiff entry standards which kept everyone but high-level collegians and elite post-collegians out of the fields. Greer, however, carries a sterling 1:51.49 PR from the Pre Classic 800 meter B-heat last summer, when he was a precocious sophomore. That got him into a heat at the Husky, and he got himself into the mix with a 1:52.66 season opener that marks just his second effort ever indoors. It also catapaulted him to the top of the DyeStat US#1 List for the 800.

Greer was the Oregon 6A state champion at 1500 meters (3:57.76) last spring, after entering the state series as a favorite in both the 1500 and the 800. He eschewed the 800 that weekend to focus solely on the longer event, but is clearly a force to be reckoned with over two laps as well. A "known quanity" in Oregon for several years, Greer has the potential to make a major splash on the national level in the two remaining track campaigns of his high school career.

DyeStat assistant editor Dave Devine plays a home game for once, knocking out a few intervals with a rising mid-d star in his own backyard of Portland OR.

1) I think you surprised some people, and maybe yourself, by running such a fast 800 [1:52.66] up at UW last weekend. Can you talk about how that race unfolded for you? Did you have a time goal heading into the race? Was it intimidating to be running with all collegians and post-collegians, and what did you think when you heard how fast you'd run?

The race flew by for me. Everyone took off from the start and I went through the 500 in 1:07. It was very fast, but it felt smooth. I hadn’t really done any speed work to come off a 1:07 and still run strong, so I hung on from there and ran a 45 for the final 300. I wanted to get under 1:55 for my goal. But I had visualized running faster than that, so when it happened I wasn’t really surprised. During my freshmen year I had run at a similar meet at the same place, so this time it felt just like home. When I found out my time, I was like, “Awesome: good race and good time”.

2) There isn't much of an indoor track season in the Northwest, and it seems like you're someone who hasn't run many races indoors. In your experience, what's the difference between running indoors and running outdoors, and do you prefer one over the other?

Indoor races seem to go by much faster. Also, the environment inside is much more controlled, so from one race to another in the same facility is very similar. I’d say I prefer outdoor races more, but running at one or two indoor meets is also fun. The shorter track adds a different aspect to the race which makes you think and prepare for it differently.

3) What has your training been like this winter, heading into the race at UW? Were you doing much speed work, or were you able to run 1:52 off of mostly distance base? Can you give a rough idea of what a typical week looks like for you at this point?

We haven’t done any speed work. Every workout begins with 12-15 minutes of warm-up followed by the dynamic warm-up. Next, we do striders then a couple 150 meter pick ups. For a workout we might go over to a hill near our track and run a 600 followed by 3 400’s. Then back at the track, we’ll run 4 more 400’s with some cooldown 200’s following that. The idea is for these workouts to feel at about 85%. I should get my heart rate up and working but nothing that is too serious.

4) Oregon has a well-earned reputation as a hotbed of distance and mid-distance talent, and this year's junior class is particularly strong, with yourself, Nathan Mathabane, Samot Turina and Elliot Jantzer a few of the standouts. Do you connect with any of those guys at meets or in training? Is there a sense of camaraderie in the midst of the competition for the top-level Oregon runners?

I don’t know all of Oregon’s top athletes, but I know many of them. Nathan and Samot were both part of the XC team I was on in 8th grade that won JO Nationals. When you leave your high school team and go to other meets like Junior Olympics or Foot Locker Regionals, you see the guys you have been hearing about and you want to run with them. Having such a strong common ground (running) makes it fun to run with them.

5) When we last spoke, at the 2007 Oregon state track meet, you mentioned you had received some coaching from Ugandan Olympian Julius Achon. Are there particular things you learned from Julius that you carry into races, or training ideas he passed along that have been helpful in your development?

Julius is a very good coach. He liked to prepare us for every aspect of the race. Last year he gave the athletes a motto sheet that acted as a reminder in how to compete and train. He liked working with the mental aspect of running to increase your performance.

6) Very few track and field athletes can reach the higher levels of the sport without a pretty good support structure in the form of family and/or coaches and mentors. Can you talk about the role some of those folks have played in your ascension in the sport, and the people who have been a major influence in your life thus far?

I definitely have had a very good support system. My parents have been a very big support for me. They bring a lot of logical thought to the table. Often times I’ve gotten caught up in a situation and they’ll bring me back on my feet. My coach, Bob Williams, has been very good in working with me. He reads the situation I’m in and helps take me from there. Overall I’ve felt the people around me have always been helping me reach my best.

7) Besides running and school, what other things do you like to do in your spare time? Are there hobbies you pursue or other passions you're involved with? Anything you've had to set aside as you've gotten deeper into your running commitment?

I’m pretty involved with the church I go to. My parents wouldn’t want me running if I didn’t understand the importance of that in my life. I have had to choose between different things as running has gotten more involved. Scouts are on Tuesday night as well running practice. I’m pretty sure I haven’t been able to go to a meeting in almost 3 months. As I’ve gotten older my life has gotten more focused. Instead of trying to do everything I’m trying to be good at something.

8) Hypothetical question: It's the day before the biggest race of your life, and you can go for an easy shake-out run with any runner (present or past) and ask them for racing advice. Who would you run with, and what would you talk about?

I would hands down choose Jim Ryun. Not because he was the first high school athlete to run a mile in 4 minutes, but because of the struggles he went through. He learned many things in his quest for gold. I would want to talk to him about the book he wrote and how he managed it all.

Photo: Greer family

Interval Sessions Indoors 08