As I mentioned in my post from this past weekend I wanted to break down the Prefontaine Classic. But the more I thought about it the more I found myself looking back at other races over the last couple years and thinking about what famed announcer Tim Hutchings was talking about most of the weekend and that is the power house that the US is becoming in the mid and long distance events.
Mid distance drought.
Basically from the time that miler Steve Scott (3:47 miler) ended his career the States really didn't have any milers worth talking about until Alan Webb came on the scene and Bernard Lagat was made a naturalized US citizen. Then all of a sudden in the early to mid 2000's the country went from having nobody worth mentioning to having 2 men who were running 3:30 for the 1500m. This is what really started the ball rolling and the states seemed to up their game.
Training groups began popping up like the Nike Oregon Project, OTC Elite, Mammoth Track Club (more long distance focused but still). The US seemed to be catching on to the East African philosophies of training in group environments and things started moving in the right direction. By the time we came to the 2008 Olympic trials there was a new breed of athletes coming through the NCAA like Andrew Wheating who made the US team and represented his country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics eventually becoming a 1:44 800m man and a ridiculously fast 3:30 1500m performer.
USA 2008 800m Olympic Trials.
As the years past the Americans have really become a force in the mid distance events and at the longer track events as well. In the mid distance scene right now the one to watch out for is Matt Centrowitz. His father was an amazing 5000m runner and he is the real deal with a PR of 3:31 and the racing senses to really excel in championship races as we saw with his Bronze Medal performance in the 2011 World Champs, a 4th place finish in the Olympic final in 2012 and a silver medal in the 2013 Moscow World Champs. Obviously we can't sleep on the likes of Leo Manzano either who took home the silver in the Olympics in the 1500m but I think Centro is the one to watch in the future, and if Robby Andrews gets himself training consistently he is another one who has crazy talent and good 800m speed.
As for the distance events of 5000m and 10000m I think it all started when Bernard Lagat became an American citizen and started his dominance in the red, white and blue singlet. But then came Matt Tegenkamp in 2007-2009 running some great times 8:07 for the 2 mile and 12:58 for the 5000m. After that we saw Ritz run 12:56 for 5000m in Brussels.
Another big breakthrough for the Americans was Chris Solinsky running 26:59 at the 2010 Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. This really showed that non African born athletes can mix it up with anyone. Since then Galen Rupp has really placed himself among the top echelon of today's crop of distance runners. He came 2ed in the Olympics over 10000m and has run 12:58 and 26:44 for 5 and 10km....that's just incredible running. He closed his last 5km of the Prefontaine Classic 10km in 13:18.......that's just ridiculous. The top american to run the 5000m the following day, Chris Derek only ran 13:15. So it shows you the type of level he is on when he is running in a good race with an honest pace from the gun.
On the women's side of mid/distance running.
The American women are making some waves as well. They, like the men, have began training in groups and are certainly reaping the rewards. In the mid distance events (800m/1500m), they have Brenda Martinez who has been running amazingly of late setting an 800m PR of 1:57 and taking a Bronze Medal in last years World Champs. Brenda is an amazing athlete and has tremendous range, she can compete with anyone from 800m all the way up to the 5000m.
Then in the 1500m there is Jenny Simpson.....this girl is NAILS. She is the World Champion for 2011 over 1500m and the Silver Medalist from 2013 over the same distance. Coached by the legendary Mark Wetmore, Jenny is running her best right now and just posted a new 1500m PR of 3:58 low at Prefontaine.
The future for the Americans in the mid distances is secure as well with the likes of High School sensation Mary Cain who under the guidance of Alberto Salazar is already a world beater at age 18 and is only going to get better, I imagine she will be going sub 4 for 1500m this season in the right race.
Over the 5000m/10000m the Americans have Saucony's Molly Huddle, national record holder in the 5km with a PR of 14:44, she recently ran a 10km personal best of 30:48 and ran a half debut of 1:09 flat. Look for Molly to throw down some fast times in the years to come.
Anyway I don't know what the purpose of this post was other then to talk about what the Americans are doing well right now, training in groups, developing athletes from a young age and are now at the point where they are contenders in World Championships. It's great to see and I hope we as Canadians can emulate what they are doing right and start to produce our own crop of great athletes. We are well on our way with the likes of Cam Levins, Mo Ahmed, Sheila Reid and Melissa Bishop. These athletes are young up and comers with the potential to run with anyone in the world in their respective events.
Anyway, I'll see you all Sunday for my weekly update!
Stay after it,