Stephen (steveu) Underwood
RALEIGH, June 17, 2001 -- Some had to catch early planes and others simply chose not to hang around or run. But Sundays prep distance superstars made sure that the fans got their moneys worth. Erin Donohue heated things up early with her second outdoor mile title in 4:42.96, while Alan Webb (3:59.80 1600 leg) and his South Lakes teammates capped it off with a jaw-dropping 9:49.78 distance medley relay national record.
All in all, it was definitely worth waiting for!
As high noon approached, there was little question that those who stayed around for the storm-delayed finale of the AOC had witnessed some outstanding championship performances.
Alan Webb and South Lakes HS (VA) made sure they would remember the day forever.
With Webb running his 4th career sub-4 (including relays and 1600s), a 3:59.80 anchor, South Lakes not only overcame rival Atlantic Community (FL), but sent the distance medley record plummeting to an unbelievable 9:49.78 - topping a 14-year-old mark.
After a neck-and-neck fight for most of three legs, South Lakes took a lead of just over 2 seconds going into the anchor, thanks to a 1:56.6 by Kanda Karmo. But Atlantic Communitys (FL) John Jefferson scorched a 56.5 first 400 of his 1600 anchor to pull even, then slightly ahead of Webb. The indomitable Webb grabbed the lead back, however and the Reston, VA team pulled away to win by nearly 15 seconds.
Webb - who hit times of 1:58.1 and 2:59.9 en route - appeared more than ecstatic in helping his team add the DMR national mark to the mile mark he set in Eugene three weeks earlier, gleefully leading his team around the infield for photos and autograph signings. I couldnt have asked for anything more from these guys, he said. A lot of credit goes to Coach Raczko.
Naturally, Webbs teammates were a huge part of the win and record. Smith opened with a 3:03.2, just 1.5 seconds down to the 3:01.7 of Atlantics Sean Jefferson. Justin Smyser made up most of that for SL with a 50.2 400 to the 51.4 of Preston Bean. Karmo then gave the Reston team the lead as Ken Schappert hit 1:59.2 for 800.
John Jeffersons anchor for Atlantic (10:04.63) was 4:12.2 after the blazing start. We knew we had needed to get the lead on Webb if we were going to beat them, he said. I wanted to get on him and sit, and try and open up a gap on third.
Tim Moore nearly led his Novi (MI) team to the runner-up spot with a late surge, but they settled for a still-great third in 10:08.00. Moores anchor was 4:12.7, while Chris Toloff had gotten the crew started with a 3:04.5 opener.
We hate to win and run, but we have a plane to catch!
Its not an actual quote, but the preceding words could have been uttered by any of the Boys & Girls (NY) stars and their entourage. They risked missing their flight back to The Big Apple for one more showdown with Rockford (MI) Sunday morning.
They were richly rewarded.
In a back-and-forth battle - yet another super duel between these dynastic programs - B&G used an incredible finish in the final straight by anchor Tameka Johnson to snatch away the national DMR title in 11:43.58. B&Gs time - also put together by Alikah Vargas (3:40.2 1200m), Meisue Francis (54.8 400m) and Stacey Livingston (2:08.3 800m) - was just 2.33 seconds outside the national record.
Rockfords runner-up time of 11:45.05 beat their winning mark from last year. Amazingly, the Michigan school had a second foursome that clocked 11:51.21 for third place, over 4 seconds ahead of Red Back Reg (NJ).
Johnsons effort basically rendered her speechless afterwards. But Vargas said she and her teammates felt real good and blessed with the result. It was an excellent race, added B&G Coach Thomas, as he tried to gather his troops for the drive to the airport. It was really good to see Tameka come back at the end like that.
Rockford anchor Linsey Blaisdell appeared about to lead her team to the record herself as she had retaken the lead from Johnson on the second lap of the 1600. But she wasnt able to expand on it during her third lap or into the fourth. Johnson, who actually maintained the lead Livingston gave her in her first lap before faltering in the middle, wound up at 5:00.4 to Blaisdells 4:59.4.
The race began with Kalin Toedebusch running an outstanding 3:36.1 1200 to give Rockford a lead of nearly 4 seconds to start. But Francis made up more than half of that on Lady Ram Sarah Ellis (57.1). B&G took the lead about 500m later as Livingston passed Aimee Keenan (2:12.2) on the 800 leg en route to building a 2.3-second gap.
For Erin Donahue Sunday morning, the icing on the cake may have been as satisfying as the cake itself.
By roaring to the front in the final 300 meters, Donahue (Haddonfield, NJ) not only ran a nation-leading 4:42.96 and claimed a third national title in the girls mile (including Nike Indoor in March), but also achieved a long-sought goal. This is awesome, she said. Michelle Rowan set the New Jersey state record of 4:43 in 1983 and its just been there, hanging over me, for a long time.
First, Donahue had to win the race. The national leader going in, Brooke Novak (Kaukuana, WI) flew ahead of the pack in the first lap, coming through in 68.2. But defending champ Alicia Craig (Gillette, WY) and Donahue overtook her at 800 (2:21.4).
Craig upped the ante as best she could during the third lap (70.5/3:31.9), but could not shake her rival. With 300 or so left, Donahue struck and there was nothing Craig could do.
I always feel like thats a great spot to go, the winner explained. After winning in 99, she finished third here last year, but won Nike Indoor in March.
You never know what others are planning, but I didnt want a slow pace, said Craig. If I hadnt led when I did, the pace would have slowed.
Molly Huddle (Elimira, NY) took her second third-place finish of the meet, passing Novak and running 4:50.98.
As a junior, Nick Schneider (Victoria, MN) came to Raleigh as a relative unknown, then took an impressive second in the 2-mile. One of the few that doubled, he somehow got stuck in the slow heat of the mile the next night and won by over four seconds in 4:08.33, taking fourth overall.
Well, Schneider got in the fast heat of the 4-lapper this year, but the heavy favorite was Ryan Hall. But while the Californians flight was not until later, he chose not to compete after the meet was delayed until Sunday.
So presented with an even better opportunity, Schneider - coming back all winter and spring from an injury that ended his CC season early - made the most of it. In a race with several lead changes, the last one came when he surged past Shane Stroup in the final 200 to finish a 59.0 last lap and 4:09.42 victory.
I just wanted to give my best in my last high school race, Schneider said. Im usually pretty good in the last 200. I was confident when I got back up to him and just went as hard as I could.
I got tired with 250 to go, said Stroup (Highland, MD), who took the lead with a mighty surge to start the final lap. But I just tried to give it all I had.
Stroup held on to second with a PR 4:10.61, just a tenth ahead of Jesse Rodenbaugh (Oxford, OH). The early laps had seen Schneider lead through 400 (62) and Adam Perkins (Liberty, MO) through 800 (2:05.5).
Joe Thorne and Liz Gesel may not believe in beginners luck. But after Sunday, they certainly have to believe you can win a national championship in your first try at a track and field event.
OK, so the 2000 meter steeplechase isnt exactly an event that all of the best distance runners are embracing. But both Thorne (Chamblee, GA) and Gesel (Manchester, NH) decided over recent weeks to give it a shot - and wound up grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.
Thorne owned times of about 4:12 and 9:06 in the 1600 and 3200 this year, but said he was a little burned out in those events. During the race, he ran smartly and conserved somewhat as defending champ Justin Romaniuk (Suffern, NY) led most of the first four laps. But no one could handle Thornes last 400, though Romaniuk had a final push in the straight.
I knew coming in I had one of the faster mile times, said Thorne (5:56.98). I knew I could run up near the front and, even though people kept passing back and forth, I just relaxed. At the bell lap, I just went. My attitude was just to have fun and enjoy it.
I felt pretty good (but) Joes a great runner, said Romaniuk (5:58.13). I beat my time from last year.
Gesel had not only the challenge of her first attempt at the race, but a surprising target from the first section of the morning. Kristina Roth (Celina, OH), also a neophyte in bounding over barriers, had blown away the field by 34 seconds and taken the national lead with a 7:04.48. Its awesome; a lot of fun, said Roth, who had run 10:44 over 2 miles Friday night. I just started practicing it two weeks ago.
But Gesel took the lead in the second section after a lap, and it was soon clear the sub-5 miler could top Roths time if she held strong. She did (6:52.25), noting afterwards that she never tried her first water jump until the day before. When she won the state meet mile in 5:06 with three lanes of the track under water, I said she can do this, said Gesels coach, Joe ONeil.
Meet officials indicated uncertainty, but its believed Gesels time is a national record.
Marc Sylvester (Cleveland, OH) ran like he was trying to beat a storm, and if he didnt run the fastest first 400 ever in a prep 800 meters, he may have shot the most withering opening salvo in such formidable conditions.
After Adrianne Anderson executed a fine swan dive (give her a 9.0) at the line in an attempt to beat Shannon Rowbury in the girls two-lapper (it didnt work), the first bout of pouring rain abated slightly as the boys took the track. The highly-anticipated summit meeting featured Sylvester, defending champ Jonathan Johnson, Said Ahmed and a host of others.
Ahmed (Boston, MA) led through a little over 100 meters, but Sylvester stormed ahead and the crowd was electrified upon hearing the announcer shout 25.0 for his first 200. The powerful senior increased the volume level at Paul Herr Track again when he barely slowed through an announced 51.0 at 400 meters, with Colorados James Hatch (Boulder) and Ahmed his closest pursuers.
Everyone slowed on the final circuit, but few major moves were made - and certainly none that seriously challenged the St. Ignatius titan. Losing little form, he maintained through the tape at 1:48.76, completing a journey back from a collapsed lung that began here last year with an agonizing runner-up finish.
As he stretched out unhesitatingly on the soaked ground afterwards, Sylvester revealed that he not only had felt real tight from his 1:47.2 4x800 leg from Friday night, but also had still intended to go out as hard as he actually did. I knew Johnson was a great kicker and I wanted to take him out. But I was really feeling it from yesterday. I tied up some the last 50, but I just tried to maintain and hold on as long as I could.
Trent Rider (Shoreview, MN) finished well and nosed out Hatch for second, 1:49.30-1:49.60.
Meanwhile, Rowbury (San Francisco) and Anderson (Roseau, MN) were still talking about their wild race. Their second heat of the girls event had begun as the first onslaught of rain had reached its apex. The finish was so close that Rowburys first act was to enter the timers tent, where many were huddled while the girls raced, and ask if anyone knew who had won.
Both were close together at 400, with Andrea Austin (Hallandale, FL) also right there. Austin was still there at 600, but faded in the final furlong. Rowbury and Anderson came to the line together, with the former prevailing by the slimmest of margins, 2:12.00-2:12.01 - despite the latters dive.
I couldnt see with my contacts, said Anderson, who jokingly added, No! Dont do that to me, when it was said her photo might be up on the Web site.
Theresa Feldkamp (Lorain, OH; 2:12.33) and Kassi Andersen (Alpine, UT; 2:12.90) came up for third and fourth.