St. Louis, Mo.- I’m back in my old hometown to serve as guest announcer for tonight’s fourth annual Big River Festival of Miles presented by Under Armour. Taking place at my high school alma mater, St. Louis University High School, the FOM is a series of races from an open mile for boys and girls from first to eighth grade, to invitational boys and girls high school miles, to an elite/pro women’s 800 and men’s mile to close the program.
The Big River Festival of Miles was conceived in 2008 by fellow SLUH alum Ben Rosario, co-owner of the Big River Running Company, and a former Hanson’s Distance Project runner. The first FOM was staged to benefit the family of Brigette Schutzman, a standout cross country and track runner for Saint Louis University who had been badly injured in a car accident on New Year’s Eve 2007. The meet raised $8,000 for the Schutzman family.
Then, just two months after the inaugural Festival of Miles, another tragedy struck the Saint Louis track and field community when Mike Rathmann (pictured below), an All-State high jumper from Saint Louis University High School was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident while on vacation. To make matters worse his mother was going through chemotherapy treatment for her own battle with cancer. It was an easy decision to hold the event again in 2009 and to raise money for the Rathmann family this time.
From then on, the meet has gained momentum and support. Former University of Texas All-American and 2008 Olympian Leo Manzano ran in the 2009 FOM, and set the FOM record at 3:55.29. The $5 entry fee for fans continues to support a fund for injured local athletes, this year’s recipient is once again 2008 SLUH grad Mike Rathmann.
Former Edwardsville, Illinois star Stephen Pifer, who was an All-American at Colorado and now runs for the Oregon Track Club, is among the men shooting for a sub-4:00 performance tonight. Challenging Pifer will be former Marquette University standout Tommy Schmitz. Now living in Santa Barbara, California and representing Saucony, Schmitz will be making his fourth appearance at the FOM looking for his first win. He’s been on the podium all three years, finishing second in `08 & 2010, and third in `09 behind Leo Manzano’s event record 3:55. Team USA Arizona sub-4:00 man, Jordan Horn, will also contend, and says he won’t be afraid to press the pace if it slackens.
The women’s 800 features two Team USA Minnesota athletes, Heather Kamp and Gabriele Anderson. Heather came within 3/100ths of a second of her 2:01.05 PR while finishing fourth last week at the Oxy High Performance meet in Los Angeles. Anderson, more of 1500m runner, is looking for a new 800m PR. Her best career moment to date was her runner-up finish at last year’s outdoor NCAA championships where the University of Minnesota Gopher surged from fifth to second in the final 200m in the 1500.
High School Stars to Shine
Two Missouri state 1600 meter champions will compete in the boys and girls invitational miles. Westminster Christian Academy star Daniel Everett comes in ranked seventh in the nation in the 1600 meters off last weekend’s state championship win in Jefferson City. Everett’s 4:08.43 PR was the sixth fastest time in Missouri state history in a state which has produced stars like Joe Falcon, Jason Pyrah, and Matt Tegenkamp. Everett also earned an invite to the June 11th Adidas Grand Prix high school “Dream Mile” in New York City with his performance. He’ll be returning to NYC this fall to attend Columbia University.
Nerinx Hall senior Colleen Quigley won her first state 1600m crown last weekend in 4:52, but needs a sub-4:50 to earn her way to New York for the Adidas Grand Prix. She’s already been a frequent visitor to NYC, as she has been a working model for several years.
The pro races and the high school invitational miles will each have pacers, and there’s a $1000 on the line for the pro wins, along with a bonus $1000 for a sub-2:00 or sub-4:00 time. The action begins tonight at 6 p.m.