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the Distance Gods

Part 3 - The Distance Gods are Back!

Eric Logsdon:
Rising to the Top

By Stephen ("steveu") Underwood

When Eric Logsdon lines up Saturday evening for the Golden West 3200 meters, facing all but a couple of the nation's best 8-lappers, he can be forgiven if he doesn't seem too nervous.

The Canby OR senior has already gone toe-to-toe with two of the biggest competitors imaginable: One has been outstanding rival and FootLocker CC 3rd-place finisher, Ian Dobson, whom Logsdon defeated with his magnificent 8:10.66/3:51.39 3000/1500 double at the 4A state meet two weeks ago.

The other is no longer living, except in the hearts of runners everywhere. Ah, yes, in this year of tremendous achievements for prep distancemen and women, it's only natural that some of the fireworks should take place on the stomping grounds of the man who could be called the original "Distance God."

To the surprise of many, Steve Prefontaine hasn't held any "official" (see note at end of story) high school distance records for a long time. Even before his life was taken in the tragic 1975 auto accident, Pre's monster 8:41.5 outdoor 2-mile HSR from 1969 had been pipped by Craig Virgin's 8:40.9 in 1973. Jeff Nelson later ran faster, while Gerry Lindgren actually better marks from the 1964, for both the deuce (albeit indoors) and the 5000 meters (where Pre is No. 2 all-time).

Yet it's Pre's gutsy brand of courage and his maverick spirit, revived in no small part by two recent feature films, which the vast majority of would-be present-day stars around the country wish to emulate. And he certainly still holds the Oregon standard in the event from his days at Marshfield HS in '69 - a mighty 8:08 (a 5000m split, no less; his 2M record converts to about 8:03).

There was some anticipation of 2000 being a banner year for Oregon 1500 and 3000 runners, with the number of high state placers returning and a big cross-country season having just passed. But it was a memorable duel between Dobson and Noel Paulson at the Centennial Invitational April 29 that really upped the ante, with the Klamath Union runner nipping his foe, 8:18.16-8:18.72.

After the meet, and in stories that would be published in the days to come, Dobson said - without bravado, but very directly - he was going to try and break the Pre mark at the state finals.

Meanwhile, Logsdon had a PR 8:27.8 to his credit from the April 18 Canby Invitational. Knowing beating Dobson was a huge challenge, he focused instead on season-long time goals of 8:15 and 3:55, wanting to win, but focusing on his own efforts rather than those of others.

"The atmosphere picked up after Centennial," says Logsdon's coach at Canby, 26-year veteran Tom Millbrooke. "I got phone calls from supporters and fans. More importantly, Eric and I realized what a great challenge and opportunity the races at state would represent."

At the PAC-8 district, Eric improved to 8:22.46, while rumors flew that Dobson had suffered an injury in the weeks before. Then it was on to Hayward Field for the finals, May 26-27 - 25 years to the weekend after Pre's passing.

The 3000 pace started fair with a pair of 65s, but when the third go-round slipped to 67, it was clear that a record was not in the offing unless�

Unless Logsdon took off. He rambled through the next 400 in 64.71, then hit the hyperspace button with a 62.70. After a 64.09 6th lap, he had done 1200 in 3:11.50 after an opening 1200 in 3:18.87.

Looked at another way, Logsdon covered the 1600 from the 800-2400 in a scintillating 4:18.82. "There was all this adrenaline � and there was Ian," he recalls. "When I made my move at 1200, I knew if I relaxed at all, he could get back in it."

After seven circuits, the Canby star's tank grew severely depleted. The final furlong went in an excruciating 35, but the win was more than in the bag at that point. "I was dead tired � but the crowd was really loud and I was just overwhelmed at the finish."

Logsdon not only had decisively beaten a rival who had gotten most of the media attention all year, but earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as Oregon's favorite son.

It was a moment that might have been hard to imagine after some humble beginnings. He started running in middle school track and CC, getting some inspiration along with way from the "Running Brave" movie about Billy Mills. As a 9th-grader, his PRs for the 15/3 were just 4:34 and 9:18, but he cut 30 seconds off his 3000 as a soph and a whopping 26 off his 1500.

"I grew a lot," says Logsdon of his progress his 10th and 11th-grade years. "I just started working a lot harder."

"Eric's breakthrough race would have been his taking second in the state 3000 last spring (8:32)," says Millbrooke, noting that he overcame a broken collarbone and a forced break of over a month during the winter. "He then recognized the possibilities and had a great (senior) fall, which he capped with his 20th at FootLocker nationals (after a third at state)."

Logsdon's confidence this spring came from a couple things, including that knowing - for some reason - he's always been better on the track than over hill and dale. Then it's been the solid trackwork he's done all spring.

"Much of our pace work was done with the ideal of being able to run an 8:15 3K," says Millbrooke. "So one of our key workouts every three weeks would be repeat 1000s, 4-6 of them working towards 2:45 for each. Two or three weeks before district, Eric was able to handle the pace well."

But this season hasn't just been about times. "Eric is our team leader by example in both workouts and races," says Millbrooke. "He takes a sincere interest in his teammates and their progress. Our program will be better because of what Eric has accomplished and because of the positive model he has set for our developing runners."

Logsdon also has high praise for his coach. The two have worked together on a feature for the web site  Oregon Preps that has consisted of "journal" entries from the senior on his training and racing.

"He really pays a lot of attention to what the great coaches have to say (Lydiard, etc..). He really does his homework. I give him a lot of credit."

The follow-up from Logsdon's smashing triumphs in Eugene has come in many forms, including the congratulations of buddies that had previously "given him a hard time" as he worked to ascend past Dobson to the top. But he claims a lot of support from them, as well as his family.

In a lot of ways, the two national meets are really icing on the cake for a young warrior who will join Paulson at the University of Oregon this fall. "The ultimate goal was the double title," he says. But there is another motivation: redemption.

Last year, a mostly "happy-to-be-there" Logsdon was 10th at GWI.

Don't expect a repeat performance.

In the days ahead, leading up the Foot Locker outdoor championships in Raleigh, N.C. on June 16-17, we'll take a closer look at some of the athletes and teams who have made the biggest splashes this year - for both boys and girls, in the mile/1600 and 2-mile/3200.

Next: As Golden West weekend comes to pass, we look at some of California's best girls.


The Distance Gods series by Stephen Underwood:



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