Wednesday, December 17, 2008

2008 RECAP

Here's a recap of the 2008 season in Minnesota that I wrote for the MDRA.

2008 Year in Review
by Chad Austin

It’s that time of year when every publication looks back on the year and reviews on the highlights. Why should we be any different? With running, sometimes we get so caught up in looking ahead to the next race that we forget to look back and appreciate all the hard work and great efforts that take place over the year. This article is a recap of the top performances that Minnesotans produced in 2008. This is a subjective list and, obviously, with all the great runners in the state I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch. But looking back on 2008 these are the performances that stand out the most in my mind.

Andrew Carlson kicked off the New Year by winning the Emerald Nuts Midnight 4-mile run in New York City. The former Team USA Minnesota runner ran 18:12, which bettered the course record of 18:28. Next he claimed his first national title with a victory at the Gate River Run 15K. A week later he returned to New York City and finished second to Jorge Torres at the USA 8K Championship.

Carlson was not the only Team USA Minnesota runner having a breakthrough season. Emily Brown was busy setting PRs, stadium records, and leading the USA women in cross country. Some of Brown’s performances include a 4:37.58 mile, setting a stadium record of 9:45.38 in the Drake Relays steeplechase, placing 18th at the World Cross Country Championships, and running 15:19.57 for 5,000m.

Minnesota Golden Gopher junior Jamie Cheever broke the 24-year old U of M record in the mile run when she ran 4:39.54. Cheever continued her record-breaking ways when she lowered her own school record for the 3,000m to 9:20.23.

Alex Gits, the former Edina star who currently runs for Stanford University, finished second in the U.S. Junior Women's 6K to earn a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for the World Cross Country Championships. At that race, Gits finished in 13th place to lead the USA squad to sixth place in the team standings. Gits also finished 3rd in the 10,000 meter at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, running 33:49.73.

During the Big Ten Indoor meet, the U of M’s Heather Dorniden tripped and fell during the 600-meter dash. Dorniden was able to quickly recover and still finish in 1:31.72 to win her heat and place second overall.

At the end of February, a team of Grand Masters dusted off their spikes and met at St. Olaf College in search of the four by 1,600 world record for over 50-year olds. The team of Brad Givot, Dan Morse, Bobby Paxton, and Dave Tappe, were successful when they stopped the clock in 20:14.

Continuing a strong tradition, Minnesota was well represented at the women’s Olympic Marathon Trials. In all, nine women with Minnesota ties were in Boston for the race; Michelle Lilienthal, Turena Johnson Lane, Nicole Cueno, Erin Ward, Marie Sample, Jenna Boren, Johanna Olson, Melissa Gacek, and Stephanie Herbst Lucke.

The day after the Olympic Marathon Trials, Ashley Anklam, the Holy Angels and Drake University alum, was the top American finisher and 15th overall in 2:48:43.

Perhaps the most notable performances of 2008 were run by a handful of high school runners, namely Zach Mellon, Jordan Carlson, and Rob Finnerty – all three were named to the USA Today All-USA track team. Mellon set a new All-Time State Meet Record by winning the 800 meters in 1:49.69. Then at the USA Junior Championships the junior from Buffalo established a new all-time best mark for Minnesota high school boys with his 1:48.64 clocking.

During the year, Carlson ran no less than four 1600 meter times between 4:07 and 4:11. His 4:07.12 places him #4 all-time in Minnesota. The Rosemount senior also ran 9:09.87 for 3200 meters to finish second at the State Meet.

Unfortunately, Carlson may go down in history as the fastest Minnesota prep never to win a state title. That’s because he always found himself lined up next to Burnsville’s Rob Finnerty. In 2008, Finnerty won both the 1600 and 3200 at State and then proceeded to break Garry Bjorklund’s 39-year-old State Record for the mile by running 4:01.09. He also moved into the #3 spot for Minnesota preps at 2 miles when he ran 8:50.96.

Minnetonka High School graduate Will Leer placed 4th in the U.S. Olympic Trails 1500 meter finals, clocking 3:41.54. Later in the summer the former NCAA Division III star for Pomona-Pitzer Colleges who now trains with the Oregon Track Club ran 1:48.06 for 800m and then set a 1500m PR with his 3:37.63.

Rasa Troup, the University of Minnesota alum who represents her native Lithuania, finished 8th in her steeplechase prelim. Her time of 9:30.21 was less than two seconds away from advancing to the Olympic finals. However, her time did establish a new national record – the 8th time Troup has broken the Lithuanian record in the steeplechase.

Although Kara Goucher now resides in Portland, OR, we still like to lay claim to the former Duluth resident. Goucher qualified for the Olympics in both the 5000m and 10,000m, finishing 9th and 10th, respectively. Her time of 30:55.16 for the 10,000m moved her into the #3 spot for Americans, behind only Shalane Flanagan and Deena Kastor. In October, Goucher returned to Minnesota and claimed her first U.S. title on the roads by winning the TC-10 mile in 53:19 – the fastest ever run by a Minnesotan. She then capped her season off by running 2:25:53 in her debut marathon at the ING New York City Marathon, good enough for 3rd place.

At the Run for Oromia Tadesse Tola of Ethiopia won the 10K title in 28:21 and Dennis Ndiso of Kenya won the 5K title in 13:57. Both times were the fastest ever recorded on the roads in Minnesota.

This year Kathy Peterson, 65 of Outing, MN set five state age records in distances ranging from 5K to half marathon. Perhaps her most impressive performance was 48:25 at the Crosslake Dam 10K.

Not to be outdone in the record setting department, Dan Morse set state age records at every distance from 1 mile to 25K for 55 year olds. Morse’s strengths are the shorter distances and it showed with his 4:52 mile record.

At the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, 83-year-old Burt Carlson finish is 300th marathon (or further) event by running the course in 5:54:12.

In the four-month span covering July through October, Matt Gabrielson finished 8th at the Olympic Track and Field Trails 5,000m, ran the equivalent of a 4-minute mile, and ran a 2:17:38 marathon. His second place finish in the USA Marathon Championships at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon earned him a slot on the U.S. team that will travel to Berlin in August 2009.

Team USA Minnesota’s Kate McGregor’s year consisted of making her sixth consecutive U.S. World Cross Country team, where she placed 22nd. She was 4th in the U.S. indoor 3000m, 2nd in the U.S. 10K, 15K, and 10 Mile Championships, and 4th at the Olympic Trials in the 10,000m. She finished out her year at the ING New York City Marathon when she placed 10th among women in a PR 2:31:14.

Jason Lehmkuhle started his year off by finishing second at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston with a PR 1:02:32. That performance earned him a slot on the U.S. World team where he was the first American and 21st overall in 1:05:17. The 5th place finisher at the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials in 2007 then returned to New York City for the marathon and placed 8th in 2:14:30.

Lukas Gemar, a sophomore from Moorhead High School, was the surprise winner in the MSHSL Class AA Boys race. Germar, who was ranked #7 entering the race, topped the field with a 15:32 clocking over the 5K course. Gemar continued his successful season when he placed 3rd at the Nike Cross National (NXN) Heartland Region.

Grand Rapids senior Jakub Zivec spent most of his season running JV. That was due to a MSHSL rule, not Zivec’s ability. The Czech national was not allowed to compete in varsity competition because he was not part of a recognized international exchange program. While Zivec was not allowed to run in the State Meet, he made the best of the situation, by focusing on the NXN and the Footlocker Cross Country Championships. He won regional titles at both meets before finishing second and fifth at NXN and Footlocker, respectively.

On the team-side of NXN, Minnesota will be represented by both the boys and girls Class AA champs. At the Heartland Region the Wayzata boys avenged their only defeat of the year when they topped Bismarck, North Dakota 62-65. The Eden Prairie girls won their meet with a 45-96 victory over Sioux Falls Roosevelt.

As a sophomore Marie Borner of Bethel University started the year off by winning the NCAA Division III indoor mile in 4:58.36. Outdoors she finished 3rd in the nation in the 1500 in 4:27.52. Now in her junior year, Borner won the individual title at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

In 2007, Brandon Gleason, a junior at Hamline University survived being run over by a truck while he was on a training run. In 2008 he returned to competition and nearly PR’d in his first race back, running 8:34.45 for 3,000m. He also ran 14:56.92 for 5,000m and then was the top Minnesota finisher in the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. He earned all-American honors with his 13th place finish.

The University of Minnesota women's cross country team defended its Big Ten and Midwest Regional titles before tying for 11th place in the nation. All year, the Gopher women were led junior Megan Duwell. She placed 4th at both the conference and regional meets before earning all-American honors with her 32nd place at Nationals.

All year long, Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough have provided the U of M with an outstanding 1-2 punch. At the Big Ten meet, Mead won the individual title, while Rombough finished 3rd. The duo then led the Gophers to the Midwest Regional title by claiming the top two spots. At the NCAA Championship meet, Rombough finished 17th to become the Gopher's first-ever three-time All-American in cross country. Mead also claimed all-American honors with his 31st place finish.

There you have it. What started out as a “Top-25” list has spun out of control. When you consider all the great Minnesota runners competing in high school, college, professionally, and at road races, you can see that it’s very difficult to limit such a list. Finally, I’d be remiss if I did not thank Charlie Mahler and his “staff” at Down the Backstretch for their incredible coverage of our great sport in the state. Without their website, such a recap would have been exponentially more difficult to compile. If you’re not familiar with their site, please be sure to check them out.


Anonymous said...

I love the article, but I want to add one more great MN native performance. Chris Raabe, a Sauk Rapids, MN native, took 6th at Grandma's this year with a 2:17:35. Although it was technically last year, he also took 16th at the trials last November with a 2:17:01. Raabe is a true Minnesota native, and deserves recognition as such. He may not run the amount of races, because he is mainly a marathon runner, with a few half performances, but is one of the top 20 American marathon runners.

Chad said...

Thanks for the feedback. I've been aware of Chris since the Olympic Trials. On one hand he should be included, but then I think it'd open the doors for other similar performances, like some of Jenelle Deatherage's early track races, Antonio Vega's half marathon debut, heck, even Michael Reneau's performance at Chicago could be considered. The list goes on and on.

Chad said...

Here's another one; Former Duluth resident Brandy Erholtz was named USA Track and Field's female Mountain Runner of the Year.

Anonymous said...

Under that logic, Matt Gabrielson's performance at the TC Marathon already opens those doors.

Chad said...

Look back at my intro;

This is a subjective list and, obviously, with all the great runners in the state I’m sure I’ve missed a bunch.

And to compare what Matt did in 2008 to what Chris did doesn't make sense to me. I didn't just include Matt's performance at TCM, which was the US Championships, by the way. I included his impressive performances at the trials and in Europe. His range from 1500 to the marathon is what stood out - not "simply" running 2:17 at TCM. I didn't even mention his near-PR 13:30 in Europe.

Anonymous said...

I love it when you guys talk back and fourth. Good healthy conversation. OK and I promise I'll never put a link again, so you don'y have to delete it, thinking its a spam.

A fellow ruuner, who is trying to get better every day.

Chad said...

anonymous, maybe you were sincere with you posting those links. However, I've seen too many blogs and message boards where people will create an account and their first post will be to promote something they're associated with.

Anonymous said...

My point is, when a Minnesota native finishes in the top 10 at Grandma's Marathon, it deserves mentioning on any report of Minnesota distance running for that year. This compares to Gabrielson's performance at the TC Marathon as
a) both Raabe and Gabrielson can be considered Minnesotan and
b) both performed great at one of the two high quality marathons in Minnesota.

If Raabe would have run a 2:17 at a marathon outside of MN, I would never had posted, but the fact that he did this at Grandma's, which is a Minnesota institution for distance runners (and if you do not know this I am forced to assume you have not been to Duluth the 3rd weekend of June) makes his performance more important for the MN distance scene. This is my point, plain and simple.

Anonymous said...

Chad, wow, your list really illustrates what a great year for Minnesota runners! As all lists invariably do, it misses a few, like Chris Raabe and perhaps others. It also gets into the problem of what's a Minnesota runner? Native-born, transplant, etc., and is it important if the race was done in the Gopher state or some other locale. By the way, I consider Kara (Wheeler) Goucher a "Minnesotan".....I'll always think of her as Kara Wheeler from Duluth, MINNESOTA!! Likewise, her sister Kendall was pretty talented.

Chad said...

I guess Raabe's performance is debatable. I'd still argue that 2nd at the U.S. Championships is more deserving than 6th at Grandma's. And, again, Michael Reneau's 6th place performance at Chicago was at least as equally as impressive Raabe's. Sure Reneau is technically from WI, but Hudson is practically a suburb.

With your new criteria; "when a Minnesota native finishes in the top 10 at Grandma's Marathon, it deserves mentioning on any report of Minnesota distance running for that year" would you also say that the MN women that finished in the top-10 at Grandma's and TCM should included?

Since this article has already been turned into the editor. I would suggest that you write a letter to the editor of Run Minnesota and tell them why you think Chris should be included.