RITZ AND RHINES TAKE GASPARILLA TITLES IN TAMPA

IMG_446294836Tampa, Fl. —  Finishing under a warm butterscotch sun three-time U.S. Olympians Dathan Ritzenhein and Jen Rhines captured top honors today at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic Half Marathon. Dathan and Jen both broke year-old course records in the process, Ritz’s 1:03:17 erasing Ryan Vail’s 1:04:09 from 2014, while Rhines’ 1:12:35 white-outed Lindsey Scherf’s 1:13:08 from the books.  They each won $8000 for their victories, as well.  But how they won their titles, ah, that is where their stories diverge.

The men lit out into the pre-dawn darkness at a modest pace under calm but humid 57 degree temps.  A pack of seven soon formed as the course led over the bridge onto Davis Island for the first five miles.  Four-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman, just back from a six week training stint in Ethiopia, established the pace with Americans Ritz, Fernando Cabada, Ian Burrell, Brett Gotcher, Carlos Trujillo and 22 year-old Tampa resident Brian Atkinson all in easy contact. Mile two passed in a desultory 10:06, perfect from the Ritzenhein standpoint.

“The slower the better as far as I’m concerned,” Ritz told me during a chat on Friday.  “I haven’t rested for this at all, and would rather not have to press early.”

Ritz is gearing up for his first run at the Boston Marathon on April 20, and only decided to run Gasparilla on Monday as record cold temperatures descended on his upper Midwest home in Rockford, Michigan.

“It had been a pretty good winter till the first of the year,” Ritz laughed.  “But I’ve only had one long run outside since.  You can tough it out, or I could have stayed indoors at Grand Valley State (where Ritz volunteer coaches), but I needed a longer rhythm run, and that wasn’t possible. So I decided to come down.” Continue reading

USATF NATIONALS BEGIN

     Eugene, Oregon – USATF Nationals began today at historic Hayward Field in a dry run for next year’s Olympic Trials. Accordingly, Tracktown USA is packed with the rabid and transfixed fanatics who make up the faithful in this sport, the people who keep the flame alive even as the powers-that-be continue to search for a new CEO as well as an effective marketing and promotional approach on a scale which track both deserves and once experienced.

Skies were thick and temps low throughout the day until the sun broke out and winds fell to a lull for the evening finals.  Ideal conditions prevailed for the women’s and men’s 10,000 meters, and weren’t that bad for the finals in the women’s shot put and discus, men’s triple jump and discus.

Shalane Flanagan dominated the women’s 10,000 meters, dipping under 31:00 for the fourth time in her career.  Kara Goucher rode the pace work of Jen Rhines till moving past in the final stages to grab second place, leading the consistent Ms. Rhines, Desi Davila, and Magda Lewy Boulet under 32:00, which, from stats man extraordinaire Ken Nakamura, is the highest number of American women ever to crack the 32:00 barrier in a single race.  Flanagan, Goucher, and Rhines will reprise their 2008 Olympic 5000-meter teaming to this year’s 10,000-meter World Championships squad in Daegu, South Korea in late August.  Continue reading