Friday, July 10, 2015

Oiselle's First Nest

Kara Goucher, CEO Sally Bergesen, and Lauren Fleshman at Oiselle opening in Seattle

Oiselle, the pioneering women’s running apparel brand, opened its first brick and mortar store in Seattle's University Village on Thursday.

The lengthy opening day lines bode well for the company's future. Already a tremendous online success, this is Oiselle's first walk-in venture.

"We are passionate for running and passionate for the brand," said Oiselle running team member, Emily Brain. "We love Oiselle." 

Lindsey Pokorzynski is drawn to the brand by the sense of community and support she finds among Oiselle team runners. "The 'you go girl - I believe in you - how can I support you?' type of atmosphere is really great to be a part of. We’re proud to wear Oiselle because it represents the community we have.”

While it was a star-studded opening with Lauren Fleshman, Phoebe Wright, Danny Mackey, Kara Goucher, Adam Goucher, Andrew Wheating, and Nick Symmonds adding luster to the event, Oiselle founder and CEO Sally Bergesen focused on the many non-elite runners who are the heart of their community. 

“It’s how I feel about running and runners,” said the University of Oregon graduate. “I’ve had a really great group of running buddies for a long time. The company is really about embodying that and extending it further… it’s about the camaraderie and connection that runners have with each other.”

Sarah Hartnett likes the practical aspect of Oiselle’s clothing. "They are designing clothing that is really functional for real-life and running," she said. “You can buy something and wear it for running and wear it for work, too.”

Jess Graham is drawn by Oiselle’s sense of community as well as its unique approach to developing athletes. “Emily (Brain) and I both ran in college and then we met doing the Sunday long runs with Oiselle. We trained for Boston together.”

Bergesen’s goal is to “support emerging elite athletes as well as already elite athletes.” She wants to “help elite athletes who are breaking onto the scene,” and there’s no better example than Oiselle-sponsored Kerri Gallagher, who finished a surprising 3rd in the USATF 1500m.

Gallagher then demolished her PR with a five second leap to 4:03.56 in winning a 1500m in Lignano, Italy, on Tuesday. That gained her the World Championships qualifying standard and a trip to Beijing.

In supporting emerging elite athletes, Bergesen is to be commended for filling a gaping hole in the US post-graduate athlete support system. In Europe, a well-established club system takes university runners with potential and nurtures them into elite athletes. In the US, collegiate stars get big contracts, while promising second-tier athletes are left to fend for themselves.

Even Gallagher had to be convinced to continue her running career after college. “Stories like that can’t happen without support,” said Bergesen. To make a successful transition from college to international elite status is “quite a chasm to cross.”

Bergesen’s plan is to continue to expand Oiselle by opening additional stores across the country. But she’ll proceed at a steady pace by learning from the first before opening a second.

“Today is a little bit like a wedding or graduation,” she said. “It’s like being an empty-nester and seeing your baby go into the world.”

“And letting her fly?” I asked.

“And letting her fly.”

“The running community is diverse and wonderful and takes all types of people,” she said. “I love being in it and it’s really, truly, a spirit thing.”

Bergesen admires the many people who dedicate their lives to helping people love running.

“I think that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t see,” she said. “Even the most elite athletes all had a number of people – whether it’s high school coaches or trainers or friends along the way – that have supported them.

“That’s truly a beautiful thing.”


Full disclosure: I taught and coached Bergesen’s husband, Alec Duxbury, in junior high and high school; we remain teaching colleagues and friends to this day. 


Monday, June 29, 2015

Bernard Lagat

The US distance squads will have a different look in Beijing this summer. For the first time since 2005, Bernard Lagat will not be representing the United States at the World Championships.

Lagat was well positioned with a lap to go in Sunday’s USATF 5,000m final. He seemed poised to launch his signature kick at the top of the backstretch. Instead, the large lead pack pulled away from him and created immediate separation.

A visibly emotional Lagat reflected on his 10th place finish.

“I was trying to go with the guys, but then when Galen started moving with three laps to go, I just felt immediately that I was kicking already… that normally happens at 300m to go, but not three laps to go… I was feeling that I was already almost at the max… from 200m, I couldn’t even move the way I wanted to.”

Lagat revealed that he has been sick recently, skipped a planned race to recover, and has begun to train well again in only the last week.

After his 1500m race in Birmingham on June 7, where he finished 8th in 3:41.87, Lagat flew to Oslo, but was so ill that he cancelled his scheduled appearance there. He came home and took several days off to recover.

“My real good training happened only last week when I did a tempo run under 15:00.” It was his first effective training in almost three weeks, but “…it was already too late.”

He confirmed that he’ll continue his planned summer schedule, including meets in Lucerne and London, with one notable exception.

“I’ll be looking at my visa (for China), which I got two days ago, and thinking that I should have been there.”

When asked about missing his first Worlds since 2005, he said, “It is really, really strange.”

As he realized he would not be traveling to Beijing with his children this summer, he became very emotional.

“I wanted to make it for them.”


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Late Round Heroics in Women's Hammer

Late round heroics were the order of the day in the USATF women’s hammer throw final on Saturday in Eugene.

In an event of many meters, mere inches made all the difference.

Amber Campbell pulled out a 6th round 237’ 5” to top NCAA champ DeAnna Price by 3 inches, win the national title, and stamp her ticket to Beijing – the 5th World Championships of her remarkable career, in addition to two Olympics.

NCAA champion Price also has met the World Championship standard, so she’ll be joining Campbell in Beijing in August.

Only two inches separated Amanda Bingson from Jeneva Stevens in the battle for the final spot on the World Championship team.

Bingson’s 5th round 231’ 7” bounced Stevens off the podium and assured Bingson her ticket to China.

All is not lost for Stevens, however, as she made the Worlds team in the shot put on Thursday.

It’s been a remarkable June for Price at Hayward Field. Here she won the NCAA title on June 11 and made her first Worlds team 16 days later.

“This is my place!” said the exuberant Price.

“I did what I had to do today and I’m happy with it,” she continued. “There’s a lot more in the tank and I’m just going to have to keep practicing, keep practicing – keep driving and keep going for what I need to do.”

The key to Price’s goals for Beijing is the consistency of her preparation: “Just train hard and do my job… that’s all I can ask for.”

“I’m a young athlete and I know I don’t have the experience, but I do have the drive and I know that I can do something.”

Amanda Bingson looks to Beijing as a chance to refine her focus. “I need to settle back down and work on myself to get back to mentally being right,” she said, “so that’s going to be a big part of our training.”

“The goal is always to win. We’re looking for big girl finals, being close to our PR, hopefully for a medal, and definitely going out and trying to win.”

A contrarian on Eugene’s sweltering weather conditions, Coastal Carolina graduate Campbell said, “This is pleasant! This is a nice 8:00 in the morning training session. We’ve had 95F with 90% humidity for the last two weeks, so I’m good – this is fine.”

Bingson agreed. As someone who has lived in Las Vegas and Austin, she said, “Oh, this weather is awesome - I love this weather! I was about to put on my sweatshirt, to be honest!”

Sweatshirt?!

Stevens views the weather as good preparation for what is to come. “Today was a down day being in the tent, in the call rooms, in the heat. You know what? It’s going to be hot in China so you have to go through this to get used to that.”

Next Amber Campbell will go to the Pan-American Games in Toronto and try to turn her ’11 bronze into silver or gold.

But Beijing is her ultimate goal.

“I want to do much better than I did today, make the final, and vie for a medal.”

It’s a dynamic team that the US is sending to Worlds:

Campbell, the accomplished veteran with a stellar resume of seven world and Olympic teams;

Bingson, at six years in the sport a relative newcomer, whose rapid progression includes the American record; and

Price, the exciting find of the year with unbounded potential.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Green Cards, Qualifying, and Jesse Williams

The semi-final round of the women’s 800m highlighted the dangers of the top-four-to-finals qualifying system.

Molly Ludlow won the first semi-final in 2:00.22, with Dana Mecke qualifying 4th in 2:00.76.

Heat 2 was even faster, with only .09 separating 1st from 4th.  Chanelle Price won in 2:00.05 with Ajee’ Wilson 4th in 2:00.14 – a true blanket finish.

This left Lauren Wallace on the outside looking in. Her 2:00.48 would have placed her a qualifying third in the first semi, but as it got her 5th in the faster second heat, she did not advance.

The point of track and field is to run faster, throw farther, and jump higher than your competitors. When you do, you should be rewarded.

It boggles the mind - as well as any sense of fairness - when you run faster and don’t advance.

At the very least, it should be top 3 in each semi-final with the next two fastest to finals.

Period.

***
                                                                   
Remember false starts?

The sprints used to be a mind game of multiple and intentional false starts. To end the gamesmanship that had infected so many events, the IAAF instituted the one-and-you’re-out rule in 2010 (and modified in 2012).

So far, at least three false starts at this year’s USATF championships have been called on the field.

Green cards abound.

While I’m well aware of the pitfalls of the one-and-done approach (see: Usain bolted, 2011 Worlds), it’s a mystery to me what the basis is for calling false starts here on the field instead of on individuals.

Did they change the rule and nobody told us?

***

Think of the cachet the term “Olympic Trials” has in Eugene.

Our national championships are called that, often followed by ‘which also serve as the World Championships qualifier.’

How about “World Championships Trials”?

OK, that’s a bit of a mouthful, too, but it does sound like a meet with greater importance – an importance it already has to the Hayward faithful.

Greater clarity about the purpose and importance of this meet to the fans Vin Lananna hopes to attract to our sport from beyond these cozy confines can only help to further and accomplish his compelling goals.

***

Evan Jager looked supremely fit and fluid in his steeple qualifier, which he won in a modest 8:40.13. Perhaps his evident confidence comes from his 3:32.97 1500m run at the end of May. He is showing a remarkable range that leaves many hoping he’ll run an open mile before Beijing.

Will an even moderately cooler Sunday see him take on the 8:00 minute barrier?

***

The 100m finals interrupted a perfectly good men’s high jump final.

A scintillating competition saw Erik Kynard win at 7’ 9 ¼”; he then came oh-so-close on two of his three attempts at a new US record of 7’ 10 ¾”.

JaCorian Duffield followed at 7’8”, while ’11 World Champion Jesse Williams (Oregon Track Club) joined the Beijing squad at 7’7”.

“I got excited again,” said Williams, Eugene’s crowd favorite. “I haven’t been excited on the track in a while… I’m just so grateful. I’ve been working really hard the last few years.”

“The first team I made was 10 years ago,” noted the super vet. “Everybody’s calling me ‘old man’ out there! I don’t feel old - I’m 31 - but for a high jumper it is old. But I’m as physically fit as I’ve ever been, and my technique is much better.”

Williams, who did a masterful job of calling the NCAA high jumps on Hayward Field’s internal radio broadcasting system, reflected on that experience.

“I enjoyed it - time flew by and it was fun,” he said of speaking into a microphone for three hours.

“I definitely did a little research,” he understated of his voluminous knowledge of each of the collegiate jumpers.

I was surprised to learn that he called the meet from press row in the West Grandstand, as he gave his commentary the feel of being right next to the high jump apron.

“I got some binoculars and made it happen."

***

Eugene’s weather on Friday was in some ways surprising. It wasn’t the heat so much, as 97F degrees - while uncomfortable - is not entirely unusual for Eugene.

It was the humidity that made the conditions so challenging for the athletes and enervating for the fans. 

Simple tasks such as climbing the stairs in the grandstands would result in people being drenched in sweat. Hayward’s faithful were there, but their enthusiasm was tempered by the conditions.

Perhaps we’re lucky that the meet wasn’t scheduled a week later, as the forecast for next Thursday through Saturday is for highs in the 102-103F range.

Meanwhile, Eugene’s forecast for today is for 99F with 69% humidity.

In our take your pick department, in Beijing today it’s 88F with 79% humidity.

Friday, June 26, 2015

US Men's Hammer Throw

Updated 6/26, 7:26am

Kibwe Johnson urged his second round hammer throw to "Come on!" and "GO!"

It did as commanded at the USATF Outdoor National Championships in Eugene on Thursday when it exceeded the World Championships qualifying standard of 76.00 meters by 22 centimeters.

He later surpassed that with his farthest throw of 76.95m (252' 5"); each was good enough to win.

Conor McCullough (76.09m/249' 7") and A.G. Kruger (76.01m/249'4") will join Johnson at Worlds in Beijing, as each exceeded the championships standard as well.

The depth of Thursday's results was remarkable, with the top 8 recording bests of 71.16m (233' 5") or better.

Even 4th place joined the fray, as James Lambert responded to early adversity by throwing 3 personal bests to rewrite his own record, now at 72.49m (237' 10").

"I'm finally healthy," Lambert said. "I had a little bit of a knee problem at the end of indoors which kind of hindered me at the (indoor) championship where I lost by two inches."

Consistency in training has been key to his ability to peak so well this season. In addition, he is adjusting quickly to any mistakes.

Lambert said that after his first throw "got way away from me, I moved over so I can stay in front of it, and that really helped a lot."

McCullough said,  "I'm excited that all three of us made the team. It's my first senior team and I'm elated." In Beijing, "I'd like to improve and leave it all out there."

It's the first time since 2009 that the US will be sending all three.

Kruger likes the look of the event's future in the US.

"In most years 76m is going to (win) it," he said, "but it was a great competition. It was a great look as to what the men's hammer throw is going to come to in years to come."

Johnson echoed Kruger's view. "Everyone was awesome! I can't remember a time when everyone was in it, at least since I've been around. The country in general is coming up. We have a lot of good young talent."

Johnson would like to throw 78 metres or more in Beijing, make the finals, "and see if I can get on the podium. Outside of Pawel Fajdek (POL), who is leading he world by three meters, it's pretty wide open."

Johnson sees his throwing career winding down, but he'd like to stay involved in the sport.

"I'm going to phase my way out and start coaching these young kids. It's something I'd like to do - to give back. I've learned so much from so many people on my journey to where I am now."

In US track and field, the men's hammer throw is a resurgent event.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Heat is the Story

Updated Thurs, 6/25, 7:32am
Note that the trend is upward for even hotter weather, not cooler:

With highs of 99F/37C 100F/37.8C now predicted for Friday's and Saturday's USATF Championships, the weather is the story in Eugene.

Combining forecasts from the National Weather Service, Weather Underground, and weather.com, here are the forecast highs for each day of the championships:

93        - Day #1 - Thursday, 6/25
99 100 - Day #2 - Friday, 6/26
99 100 - Day #3 - Saturday, 6/27
90        - Day #4 - Sunday, 6/28

1. USATF announced that the senior men's and women's 5,000m will be run Sunday morning instead of Sunday afternoon:

Sunday, 6/28 - W 5,000m - new start time: 10:20am 

Sunday, 6/28 - M 5,000m - new start time: 10:45am

2. The men's and women's 20k walks will be a combined race:

Sunday, 6/28 - M+W 20k walks combined race: 8:00am

3. The junior men's 10,000m, originally scheduled for Saturday evening, will now have an early Saturday start:

Saturday, 6/27 - JR M 10,000m - new start time: 10:00am

That leaves several races of 3,000m or more to be run in what are likely to be brutally hot conditions.


The senior women's and men's 10,000m remain at 7:35pm and 8:15pm on Thursday, 6/25, preceded by the first round of the women's 3,000m steeplechase at 7:05pm.

The first round of the men's 3,000m steeplechase remains at 6:10pm on Friday, 6/26, and the women's steeple final remains at 1:55pm on Saturday, 6/27.

The biggest impact of the heat likely will be felt in the multis, especially their final events:

- The men's decathlon 1500m at 7:40pm on Friday, 6/26, when temperatures are forecast to be in the upper 90s;
- The women's heptathlon 800m at 1:11pm on Sunday, 6/28, with forecast highs in the upper 80s at that time of day.

Scant consolation to have 'cooler' temperatures than the men, but the cumulative effect of seven events in such heat will be quite similar.

The heat will have a decisive role in shaping the US World Championships multi-events teams, among many others.

It will encourage sit-and-kick races in the middle and long distances, not that those are anything new to national or world championships. Now these are virtually guaranteed.

Weather and schedule updates will be posted here as warranted.










Saturday, June 20, 2015

Shoreline Stunner: Hill's 100m US National High School Record

Sprint prodigy Candace Hill set the US National High School 100m record with her historic 10.98 at Shoreline Stadium in Shoreline, WA, today.

The 16-year-old became the youngest woman in the world ever to break 11.00 for 100m.

“I was hoping to run 11.1,” said the sensational sophomore from Stockbridge, Georgia, “after running 11.21 into a headwind at adidas (New York, 6/13/15).” 

Today’s wind was the maximum allowable 2.0 meters per second.

Hill had a national record on her mind as she shattered the previous record of 11.10 set by Kaylin Whitney at the USA Junior Championships in Eugene, OR, on July 5, 2014.

“I’ve been working on my start and my drive,” said Hill. “I was pleased with my start, but it always could be better.”

While she was hoping for a personal best at the aptly named Brooks PR Invitational, “… there was nothing in my training that said I’d run a 10.9 today.”

When asked if this race might alter her summer schedule, she said, “World Youth is next.”

When asked if she instead might run at USATF Senior Outdoor Nationals, she remained firm.

“World Youth is next,” she reiterated.

The understandably pleased Hill smiled and laughed throughout her suddenly many interviews, but the import of her achievement settled even more deeply when she was informed that her time today would have placed her 3rd* in this year’s outdoor NCAA final.

“Really?” she asked, with an expression that was equal parts astonishment and surprise.

Hill’s time is also a World Youth (11.10, Whitney, above) and American Junior (11.03, English Gardner, 14 May 2011) record.


*or 2nd depending on how the wind is factored
- birthdate: 11 February 1999