CONVERSATION COACH ALBERTO SALAZAR ON STAR PUPILS GALEN RUPP & MARY CAIN

Coach Salazar all smiles after Mary Cain sets American high school 1500m record 4:04.62 at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May.

Coach Salazar all smiles after Mary Cain sets American high school 1500m record 4:04.62 at at the 2013 USATF Occidental High Performance Meet in May 2013.

Boston, Ma. — Had a nice sit down with old friend and Nike Oregon Project coach Al Salazar today after hosting the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix press conference at the Lenox Hotel.  Al , who grew up in suburban Wayland, Mass., has Galen Rupp racing the one-mile tomorrow, while Bronxville, N.Y. high school sensation Mary Cain will go in the 1000 meters.  Both athletes have already had great success this indoor season with Galen taking down two American records — the 5000m (13:01.26) and the two-mile (8:07.41), both at Boston University in January – and Mary knocking down the world junior record in the 1000m January 17th (2:39.25), then barely missing the world junior mark in the mile January 24th at the B.U. Terrier Invitational by 1/100th of a second in 4:24.11.

Galen had originally planned to take a shot at Hicham El Guerrouj’s indoor world mile record of 3:48.45 at B.U. tomorrow as the NBIGP was being run at the Reggie Lewis Center on the campus of Roxbury Community College, but after the two-mile record and 4 X one-mile workout that followed 45 minutes later (4:20, 4:20, 4:16, 4:01!) they thought better of it.

“It came down to realizing that the travel and effort for these record attempts was taking a toll,” Al said.  “And doing another one was too close.” Continue reading

2014 BEGINS FAST AND FURIOUS

Though it’s an arbitrary beginning, the calendar turn does give structure to what’s ahead.  As 2013 morphed to 2014 a number of significant moves have been witnessed throughout the sport of running and track.

With the success of the Nike Oregon Project and OTC Elite out west, the recent move toward elite team building continues at pace.  It was announced today that 1996 Olympian and Dartmouth women’s cross country coach Mark Coogan has taken a position with New Balance in Boston — joining coach Terrence Mahon in Beantown, who signed on with the Boston Athletic Association late last year to develop an elite group for the venerable purveyors of the Boston Marathon.

Simultaneously, another elite team has been started in Flagstaff, Arizona by Ben Rosario, the young running entrepreneur from St. Louis for whom, it seems, no challenge should go unmet.  The one-time specialty running store owner, Olympic Trials qualifier, track meet founder, cross country championships meet director, and running fan shop developer has, along with wife Jen, gone all-in to create Northern Arizona Elite. Continue reading

COACH SALAZAR AND GALEN RUPP DETERMINED TO WIN IN 2013

I button-holed old friend Alberto Salazar to discuss last weekend’s 3:50.92 indoor mile PR by Galen Rupp at the B.U. Terrier Classic across town.  Salazar has coached Rupp since his high school days in Oregon, and lead him and training partner Mo Farah of Great Britain to the gold and silver medals at last summer’s London Olympic 10,000 meters.  Of course, Alberto grew up in nearby Wayland, Mass. where he began his own legendary running career.  Tonight, Al and a bunch of his old Greater Boston Track Club mates will meet up with their old coach Bill Squires for a laugh-filled dinner in the Back Bay.

Rupp’s 3:50.92 solo mile at B.U. was the fifth-fastest indoor mile in history and # 2 on the all-time U.S. list.  His coach was pleased, it’s what he expected, but wasn’t overly impressed.

“He ran 3:334.7 last year for 1500 meters,” said Al.  “That’s equivalent to a 3:51.7 mile. So he’s just a little faster now. It’s a natural progression as he gets older, not like a WOW! all of a sudden sort of thing. He’s gotten faster at all distances from the mile to 10,000 meters.”

The Salazar-Rupp connection began when Al saw Galen play soccer on the same team as one of his sons in junior high.  That led to a long-term relationship similar to the foundation of the old British club system where an athlete is coached by one man his whole career.  But even now with success at the highest levels, Galen has only whetted his appetite for more. Continue reading

DEMENTIA TEST

Brain

So a friend calls me this morning.

“What do you put in a toaster?” he asks.

“Bread?” I reply.

“Say ‘silk’ three times in your head.”

(“Silk. Silk. Silk.”) OK.

“Now, what does a cow drink

 “Water?”

 “Ok. You don’t have it.”

                                                                   “What?”

                                                                     “Dementia.”

                                                                 “Gimme a chance. I’m working on it.”

Press conference this morning at the Lenox Hotel in Boston at 11 a.m. for the 18th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, featuring the 3000m runners Galen Rupp, Donn Cabral, and Miles Batty of the USA and Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia.  Galen and Dejen hold Olympic silver medals from London 2012.  Full report to follow.

END

HURDLES CHAMP ARIES MERRITT OUT AT SATURDAY’S INDOOR MEET IN BOSTON

Oly champ Aries Merritt

Oly champ Aries Merritt

Merritt, 2012 Olympic hurdles champion and world record holder, has withdrawn from this Saturday’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix at Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center. The news was released by meet organizers late this afternoon.

“At the beginning of yesterday’s workout, I experienced a cramp as I went over a hurdle during one of my drills,” said Merritt in a prepared statement.  “I hate to disappoint Boston area track and field fans, but my physio think it is best if I withdraw to ensure I stay healthy for the rest of this World Championship year.  I hope everyone understands.” 

Merritt was one of the first athletes to commit to the 18th NBIGP, and is a big loss.  He’d run the meet twice before, taking seventh in the 60m hurdles in 2010, then second last year.  That still leaves Olympic champions Tirunesh Dibaba (10,000m) and Jenn Suhr (pole vault) as meet headliners, along with Olympic silver medalists Galen Rupp (10,000m) and Dejen Gebremeskel (5000m) who will meet in the 3000m on Saturday.   Dibaba opens her season on the way to a highly anticipated debut marathon in London in April.  She’s broken the 5000m indoor record twice in Boston (2005 & 2007).

END

YES, BUT IS IT A REAL TOUR?

13BBTMtourLogo     Having just passed its first year anniversary the Bring Back the Mile campaign just announced its Bring Back the Mile Tour 2013 which will include 13 stops and an end-of-the-year gala celebrating a Mile legend and the year in the Mile.

Knowing how loosely strung most running “tours” have been in the past,  I emailed BBTM founder Ryan Lamppa the following query:  “Is this simply linking all these mile races up on paper, but not actually creating a specific tour with a prize purse attached at the end?  Now that would be news. Not that this isn’t.”

Here’s Ryan’s response:

“The BBTM Tour 2013 is about the Big Tent, and our main Tour objective in year one is about promotion – promotion of the Mile, Tour events and the athletes, and our broader vision is to have a national Mile grand prix series in 2014 (only top prize money races). In short, we are scaling this. Call the BBTM Tour 2013 lap 2 of the Bring Back the Mile campaign.”

Makes sense, Ryan. Like the mile race itself, it’s important to have a strategy to execute. You’ve had a good first lap, I’d say. Now it’s on to the second.

_____________________________________________________________

NBIGP2013
The first tour site is this Saturday night’s New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center.  I’m fortunate to be the house announcer for the meet.

In the featured men’s mile, 2011 World Championship bronze medalist Matthew Centrowitz, Jr. heads the field. There will also be both boy’s and girl’s junior miles, events which always light up the raucous New England fans.  The meet sold-out early, but you can watch it live on ESPN3 Feb. 2nd, and again on tape-delay on ESPN2 Sunday, Feb. 3, from 2-4 p.m. Eastern standard time.

Of course, the race that has everyone on the edge of their seats is the match up between Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp and his Olympic 5000 counterpart Dejen Gebremeskel of Ethiopia. These two battled three years ago at the Reggie over 5000m with both losing out to Bernard Lagat’s American record 13:11.50.  Gebremeskel took 2nd, Rupp a close fourth in what was his inaugural pro season.

But now they each hold Olympic hardware, and Rupp is coming off the fifth fastest indoor mile in history last week at the B.U. Invitational (3:50.92).  Gebremeskel will have to run something similar to his memorable one-shoe 3000 at the 2011 NBIGP meet where he bested now double Olympic champion Mo Farah in a final lap thriller.

This meet is not one to miss.

END

DIBABA RETURNS TO COMPETITION AFTER LONG LAYOFF

Boston, Ma. – The 17th New Balance Indoor Grand Prix goes off tomorrow evening in Boston’s Reggie Lewis Center, showcasing some of track and field’s top talent before a sold-out, often frenzied audience.  Six world records and 28 national marks have been set in this meet, and more will be in jeopardy tomorrow night.

Tirunesh Dibaba

Among the athletes returning to The Reggie is Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba, aka “the Baby Face Destroyer”, who rose to world-class status at the tender age of 17, has eight world championship gold medals in her collection, and came into full flower with her double Olympic gold in Beijing 2008 in the 5000 & 10,000 meters.  But since that career peak, it’s been a rough road for the 25 year-old Dibaba.  After marrying Olympic 10,000-meter silver medalist Sileshi Sihine in October 2008, Tirunesh has been sidelined with a recurring bout of shin splints.  In that time she’s missed two World Championships, Berlin `09 and Daegu `11, and now, as she enters the all-important Olympic year, she is taking her return to competition very slowly.

Tomorrow night in Boston, rather than butt heads with countrywoman and rival Meseret Defar, American 1500m World Champion Jenny Simpson, and 2009 World Championship 1500m bronze medalist Shannon Rowbury, herself returning from an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, Tirunesh will run the two-mile against a decidedly less glittering field.

“I have only had a few months training now,” said Tirunesh through translator Elias Kebede.  “My goal is to run a very good time, and also be competitive.”

When I asked Shannon Rowbury why she decided to contest the tougher 3000m rather than the JV two-mile, since she, too, is coming back from a down year, she said, “the best way to know where you stand, especially early in the year, is to jump in against the best.  That way you know exactly where you are and what you need to work on.”

While Tirunesh did get the better of fellow Ethiopian Gelete Burka at a 10K in Madrid January 4th in 31 minutes and 30 seconds, an athlete of her stature, freighted with the weight of expectations, lingers in a more defensive posture when revisiting the oval after a long absence. Continue reading