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18th Nike Outdoor Nationals
June 19-21, 2008 - North Carolina A&T University, Greensboro NC

Derrick's Dispatches | an insider lends insight

Chris Derrick
of Neuqua Valley HS in Naperville, Illinois, has been one of the top distance runners in the nation this year. His senior cross country campaign, which included an Illinois state title, the individual and team titles at Nike Team Nationals and a runner-up finish at Foot Locker Nationals, was capped by being named Gatorade National XC Runner of the Year. His spring was highlighted by a breathtaking solo 13:55.96 5k at the Arcadia Invitational, before the season was cut short by a diagnosis of mononucleosis just days before his state meet.

Chris joins us as a special contributor to our 2008 Nike Outdoor Nationals coverage.

Thursday - Friday - Saturday

Conflicting Emotions

Chris interviews miler/message boarder Mac Fleet CA
I have taken a number of trips to large meets like Nike Outdoor Nationals. Big, fancy important meets where you fly out more than a day before and then end up sitting around your hotel in a state that is half boredom, half anxiety. Though good friends and bad TV can pass the time, the day of a big meet is boring, tense, and excruciatingly long. The big contenders for Friday night’s 2 mile could be found Friday afternoon sitting in their rooms watching college baseball or Ready to Rumble or BET. Most fundamentally it is an exceptionally lonely time. Not in the sense that companions cannot be found, but in the sense that the competing athlete is living a mental struggle only he can know, preparing to face the challenge of an all-out race in ways known only to him. It shows itself in a seriousness, a sense of single-mindedness that sets apart the competitor from the spectator. The race will be equally excruciating, but it will, by contrast, be short, intense, and focused. This too is a lonely time. The burden of effort rests squarely and solely on the shoulders of the competitor. The champion has to master each of these challenges, the one of action and one of inaction.

And yet, as soon as the finish line is breached it all melts away. Relief or endorphins take over and once again everyone is your friend or your confidant. The anxiety that was once so real and immediate seems to be fogged over and distant. The race that seemed so challenging and impossible to master at 10 in the morning becomes just another 8-lap effort at 10 at night. This incredible transformation of perspective has always been a mystery to me and yet I know it intimately.

Today I could not share in the ritual. I have known for some time that I would not be able to run today and I came to accept it. As I went around to the hotels today doing a few interviews I could see the above playing out before me like a movie I’ve seen a hundred times. I felt on the one hand pity for the athletes because I know how tough the day can be, and on the other intense jealousy because I would trade with them in a heartbeat. Watching the 2 mile I had a similar conflict. I was so excited that my hands quivered unsteadily as I tried to take splits and yet there lingered a forlorn longing to run as I watched others perform with the fitness I thought I had rightfully obtained. As a track fan I saw German Fernandez boost himself into the highest echelon of high school running and break a 29 year-old record, and as a competitor I sat on the sidelines.

But this day really isn’t about how I felt about things, and I’m a little embarrassed that I dedicated that entire paragraph to myself. This should be a coronation, not a Dr. Phil episode. So to the race, if you would like the blow by blow check out the DyeStat video coverage or the rest of the saturation coverage, I will just talk about what stuck out to me.

  • German was on a mission today. He said before the race that the record mattered more than the race to him and he showed it. I was collecting 400m splits and by my watch there was only one circuit over 65. Whenever the pace would drop, German would hit the front again or put in another surge. At one point the pace was lagging a hair and German was in second, I turned to say to one of the Nike guys that German would hit the front again but he had already done it.
  • Great athletes got buried. Luke Puskedra got beat by 13 seconds, damn. Kevin Williams ran 8:51 and isn’t even second page news.
  • After the opening mile, the record seemed inevitable. Such was German’s confidence and power that I could hardly imagine him not getting the record. Of course, for the athlete these things are never as sure but with a lap to go he knew it. With the crowd urging him down the homestretch and towards the bell he flashed a smile/grimace. He was just soaking in the crowd and loving all 8 minutes and 34.4 seconds of it.
  • German is the most incredibly even pacer (even while racing guys) that I have ever seen or heard of. Forget testing for drugs, test for a freaking computer chip.

P.S. I met king99 who is surprisingly coherent and understandable in person ;)

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