Saturday, March 30, 2019

Epic World Cross Country

Historic Performances
on a 
Once-in-a-Lifetime Course

by Mark Cullen/ © 2019 All Rights Reserved
U20 Men in the Mud Pit
Photo Credit: Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly
On the day of the greatest presentation of the sport, two athletes embraced their opportunities and defined their careers. One confirmed what we already knew and placed herself forever in the upper echelons of the sport. The other was celebrated by even his celebrated opponents for redeeming himself from cross country’s most heartbreaking moment of the last quarter century.

Senior Women
Crowning Glory for Hellen Obiri
World Indoor Track
World Outdoor Track
World Cross Country

photo credit: Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF
Kenyan Obiri joins none other than Kenenisa Bekele as the only two to have achieved this indoor, outdoor, and cross country "Triple Crown." By any measure, this stamps her as one of the greatest runners in history. 

Obiri fought off stiff challenges by a young Ethiopian duo and pulled away on the final downhill to win by two seconds. That duo, Dera Dida (21) and Letesenbet Gidey (20), applied consistent pressure throughout the race and gave Obiri an unexpected scare. They had finished 1-2 in the Ethiopian Trials and are certainly stars in the making.World Cross is a breeding ground of new talent and often the place where stars of the future reveal themselves. 

Ethiopia’s sweet consolation was a four-point team win over Kenya, 21-25, with country of the meet Uganda 3rd with 36 points.

The US team had a dismal 8th place finish. Many of our best runners bailed on this race; the US women's all-time 10,000m lists were rewritten at Stanford this weekend almost as World Cross was taking place.
Imagine Emily Sisson and Molly Huddle on this US team.

Nonetheless, the USA fielded a strong team here with outside hopes for a medal. It was painful to see this team squander a golden - well, bronze - opportunity to make a name for themselves. 

Senior Men
Redemption for Joshua Cheptegai
Cheptegai would not stay 4th for long.
Photo credit: Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF
Two years ago Uganda's Joshua Cheptegai had what only can be described as an authentically terrible experience in distance running, a sport in which truly abysmal experiences are few and far between. In the 2017 World Championships in front of his hometown crowd in Kampala, Uganda, Cheptegai established a substantial lead that sent his fans into a wild celebration that proved to be premature. In the lead with 800m to go, he fell apart and staggered to the finish as the podium receded with every step. 

Today, in a race for the ages, Cheptegai defeated the strongest of challengers, including two-time champion Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, to win what he thought would have been his two years earlier. He led at the end of the 2nd and 3rd laps, but was two seconds behind on the 10k course entering the final one. 

In a stellar finish, he put 4 seconds on Jacob Kiplimo and 15 on Kamworor (who, granted, slowed noticeably when it was clear he would not win) to win the World title.

While I had thought that Uganda was a dark horse for a podium finish in the team race, here’s a sentence you don’t hear often: Uganda dominated Kenya and Ethiopia 20-43-46.

1-2 (Uganda) beats 3-6 (Kenya) every time.

It also beats 34-35, the places of the top two US runners. 

Team score? 198.

11th place.

I volunteer to lead the inquiry.

U20 Women
Women's U20 Race
Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF

The women’s junior race produced one of the most unusual and unlikely results in cross country history. It’s not so unusual to have two athletes finish in the same time with the nod going to one runner over another.

But three?

Kenya’s Beatrice Chebet has apparently not seen video of Molly Huddle’s legendary-for-all-the-wrong-reasons finish in the 2015 Beijing World Championships 10,000m race, when she raised her arms as she approached the finish line and Emily Infeld swept by on the inside to grab the bronze medal out of Huddle’s upstretched arms.

Here in Aarhus, up went Chebet’s arms as she approached the finish line. Ethiopia’s Alemitu Tariku and Tsigie Gebreselama swept by on either side.

Who won?


Then Tariku.

Then Chebet again.

All three are listed in 20:50; a lot can happen within a second.

Said the announcer, “By the width of a tissue.”

Uganda’s Sarah Chelangat and Ethiopia’s Girmawit Gebrzihair stopped the clock at 20:51 and 20:53 in 4th and 5th. With three in the top five and five of the top eight, Ethiopia won the U20 team title hands down. Note that with four scoring, Ethiopia had a displacer as soon as 8th place!

U20 Men
Dinkalem Ayele (Eth) led after two laps, but the early swift pace was too much for him to sustain and he lapsed to 11th at the finish – and 5th on his team. 
Vanquished Vikings
U20 Men's Race

Photo Credit: Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF
(note Vikings on the right)
Tadese Worku took over the lead from his teammate to lead at the end of the 3rd lap, but it was Milkese Mengesa who played the waiting game best on this 8k, 4-loop course. Never higher than 3rd at any of the intermediate splits, he kicked to a decisive 2 second win over teammate Worku.

Ethiopia won the team battle handily over Uganda and Kenya, 18-32-34.

Mixed Relay
Ethiopia’s Kenbede Endale ran a sizzling 6:01 2,000m opener before handing off to teammate Bone Cheluke, whose 6:47 tied for fastest split among the women relayists. 
    Bone Cheluke
Ethiopian Relay Specialist
Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF

At this point Ethiopia led by 13 seconds and the only question was what their margin of victory would be: a striking 33 seconds two laps later as they scored a dominating win over Morocco and Kenya.

Perhaps the most telling moment for the US was Eleanor Fulton's terrific final leg in the mixed relay, which cemented the US position in 4th. 

This just in: Eleanor Fulton is not sponsored. Not in any way. Not by any shoe or apparel company. Nope. Nothing. Nada. In Danish, "ikke noget."

She ran faster than Kenya's anchor by 7 seconds.

How can the anchor of our our best performing team not be sponsored?

Ikke no get, either.

Such was the dominance of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda today that in that in only two races did they not constitute the top 3: the U20 women’s race in which Japan edged Uganda for bronze by a point, and Morocco's reinstated silver in the Mixed Relay after a not-worth-the-paperwork protest regarding an exchange.

Please see the star of the show - the course - in my slideshow tour: Please note, too, two-time World XC Champ Craig Virgin's kind comment at the end of the slideshow.
Photo Credit: Jiro Mochizuki for the IAAF
A picture is worth a thousand words
Photo credit Lars Moller

Think I'm done with Aarhus? Not even close. Coming up, two more pieces: on how my interview with Crown Prince Frederik occurred, and this epic week through a personal lens. 

Prince Frederik on World XC Championships

The Trackerati Interview
Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark

Prince Frederik presenting silver medal to Ethiopia's Dera Dida
Awaiting her gold medal: Hellen Obiri, Distance Queen
Photo credit: Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly
Here is my brief interview with Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, after he served as starter and medal presenter for many of today's World Championship Cross Country and community races in Aarhus. He was gracious to pause and answer a few questions on his way out after a long day on the course.

Would you please say a few words about what you thought of the event today?

"The event is a big success for everybody - you should probably ask some of the participants (for their perspective), too! This is a major event for this country, we have amazing surroundings, we have a lot of backup, a great audience, and the weather was also looking our way.

People came from around the world for this...

Yes, I don't have a country count...

70, I believe.

...but there are beautiful colors and flags and sportswear (representing these countries).

I assume that Denmark would like to host events like this again in the future.

Yes, it's not the first time - we've hosted big world championship events in a variety of sports, so it's been happening. Thank you so much.

Friday, March 29, 2019

News You Can Use from Aarhus

World Cross Country Championships
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Aarhus, Denmark
Moesgaard Museum

See below for race analyses

In the US, Olympic Channel starting at:
2:30am Pacific
5:30am Eastern

Schedule in Aarhus time:
11:00 - 4x2k Mixed Relay
11:35 - U20 women 6k
12:10 - U20 men 8k
1:00 - senior women - 10k
2:00 - senior men - 10k
Photo credit: IAAF/Jan Kejser
Want to "run" the course? 
Here's a Vimeo from Jakob Larsen and IAAF. It's in two parts: the first shows the distinctive characteristics of the course; the second follows a runner running the 2k loop. Crank up the great soundtrack and be ready to be inspired:
(just under 5 minutes, well worth every second)

I have already published my course description with a slideshow of key features:'s Jonathan Gault published a more discursive piece and features comments from course designer and meet manager, Jakob Larsen:

Australian team member Mat Baxter published a highly entertaining sequence on Twitter regarding the course and its effects on one's legs and one's psyche: Congrats to Mat on having his course descriptions cited by IAAF President Seb Coe at today's news conference.

Feast your eyes:

There is a favorable forecast for Saturday's championship races. Highs will be in the mid to upper 50sF/13-14C. The wind is predicted to be 25mph/40km from the SW.

While it was cloudy and quite chilly with intermittent rain earlier in the week, Saturday's forecast is in many ways a best-case scenario for runners and spectators alike.

Race Previews
The women's side seems to be dominated by Hellen Obiri, and at today's press conference she was cautiously confident. Beatrice Chepkoech (Ken) flew to a steeplechase world record 8:44.32 in Monaco last summer; when she gets rolling, she doesn't stop. She won one of the IAAF XC races earlier this year by an astonishing 34 seconds - but Hellen Obiri (Ken) was not in the race.

Obiri looks unbeatable as she defeated Chepkoech by 37 seconds in Spain in February. She won the 2017 London World 5,000m title going away, and last summer won the classic Rabat Diamond League 5,000 in 14:21.75 with 4 more behind her under 14:25!

Ethiopia sends its usual deep squad, though perhaps it's not as well-known as some squads of the past. Dera Dida won the Ethiopian Trials, while Letesenbet Gidey is one of the very few to have ever won the World Juniors XC twice.

Rhonex Kipruto (Ken) and Selemon Barega (Eth) are two of the brightest young stars of cross country and track. Berega ran his phenomenal 12:43.02 5,000m as an 18-year-old last August in Brussels, but Kipruto defeated him in a January IAAF XC meet in Spain by applying the pressure and drawing away from Berega 2/3 of the way through the race.

Many are picking Uganda's Joshua Cheptegai, but he lost to teammate Jacob Kiplimo by 16 seconds, also in January, when Kiplimo ran a 26:41 road race 10k (fully certified but slightly downhill) in Madrid. Cheptegai ran 26:57 and finished 2nd! But here it's not even the time as much as it is Kiplimo's margin of victory that counts. He also won the World Junior title in 2017.

Geoffrey Kamworor is the defending champion and Kamworor will achieve legend status with a third straight win. He wins everywhere he goes, and three of his five World titles are at the half-marathon distance. With that kind of strength - remember, this championship is contested over 10km for both men and women - Kamworor also looks unbeatable on the relentless terrain of Moesgaard.

But looks can be deceiving. Anyone who is able to make a break here on Saturday will have a huge psychological edge as this is a front runner's course. I don't see anyone who has been dropped by the lead pack finding his or her way back. So, while it may seem crazy to say that a 12:43 5,000m runner is not the favorite, Barega's strength is running 7 laps in a row at 4:00.1 per mile pace on a flat track at the end of a 5,000m race, not over hill and dale and hill - and over 10k. He's not there - yet.

I'll go with Kamworor and Obiri. Obiri feels like the stronger choice, with Kiplimo and Kipruto not unexpected champions should Kamworor falter.

- I like steeplers on a course like this, and look for Courtney Frerichs (US) to snag a top-ten finish.
- Kenya's women did the impossible two years ago and swept places 1-6 in an event that allows only 6 entrants per team. Unlikely we'll see that again.
- Just a hunch: watch out for Uganda's Albert Chemutai who is a reasonably solid steeplechaser.
- Uganda has a stealth men's team. Looking forward to seeing them on the podium.

Three-Time World Cross Country Champion
Lynn Jennings
IAAF Heritage Exhibit
Aarhus, Denmark
Five-Time World Cross Country Champion
Paul Tergat
at World XC Championships course
with local students he had coached the day before

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Why Don't You Just Meet Us in the Middle?

Peru's National Teams
Prospects Dim with Addition of Guy in the Middle

Thursday in Aarhus got off to an auspicious start when I was offered a ride to Moesgaard Museum and the site of the 2019 World Cross Country Championships.

It's always helpful when the person offering the ride is Henriette Leth Nielsen, Director of Communications of the host Danish federation.

We were joined by noted journalist Geshom Nyathi, of Zimbabwe and now the UK, who has written for The Guardian among many others.

Said Nyathi, "I am here for the love of sport."

As soon as we arrived at the start/finish line, we encountered the Peruvian teams coached by none other than the brother of distance pioneer and three-time world record setter, Tegla Loroupe.

Part of the fun of these Championships is what happened next.

Geshom and I offered to take photos of the entire group. Then I found myself standing on the edge of their teams for one last group photo. 

Or so I thought. 

They insisted on my placement as shown above.

It's important to have a theme song for moments like this.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Aarhus World Cross Country - The Berm

Feel "The Berm"
by Mark Cullen/ © 2019 All Rights Reserved
The warning tape says it all.
Coming around the corner from the Moesgaard Museum Roof 
around the dreaded Berm and uphill again.

"The course is the thing," said Shakespeare.

Or was it Jakob Larsen?

Larsen is the brilliantly inventive Meet Director of the 2019 Aarhus, Denmark, World Cross Country Championships.

Widely viewed as the saviour of modern cross country, Larsen has designed a course so imaginative, so creative, so inspired and so spectacular that it leads to only one conclusion: this is one of the greatest cross country courses ever conceived.

It reaches back to the sport's chasing steeples - and rabbits - roots.

It reinvents the term "over hill and dale" - it's only hill and dale.

If you say, "It feels like I'm running through mud."

You are.

"It feels like I'm running through water."

You are.

"It feels like I'm running through sand."

You are.

"It feels like the course never stops rolling."

It does not. There's not a square inch of flat anywhere out here.

And where is here?

Why the top of a museum roof - as if to seal the deal.
Up on the Roof
Moesgaard Museum
Aarhus, Denmark
Note the pitch of the museum roof - this is one steep uphill.

Start/Finish Line
Competitors will run up and down the museum roof 5 times.
The far reaches of the course behind the museum
with the Club Tent Zone at the top of the hill.

The Mud Pit
The finest mud Denmark has to offer.
The finest mud in Denmark deserves a close up.
Are you ready for your close up - or face plant, as the case may be?
You just can't avoid the mud.

Note the unevenness of the turf - and hence the footing.
It is like this the entire way.
The Berm
Go screaming downhill and hang a right - then back uphill.
5 times
Run wide on this one, run wide.
Blessed be the volunteers who put out all the fencing.
The filling of the water pit on Tuesday afternoon.
So pleased to be able to claim the first action shot of #2019Aarhus.
We couldn't do this without the volunteers, true.
Remind me why I volunteered for this job, he says.

This man stood there for hours Tuesday afternoon 
watching the water pit fill.  
Of course, I stood there for hours watching him watch the water pit fill.
I'm looking forward to having you join me on this wonderful ride to see the very best the world has to offer in cross country running.

Much more to come...

A brief note to Jonas and Jakob, two Danish law students I met on my course walkthrough Tuesday afternoon. Our conversation was memorable, to be sure. We ran the gamut from global warming to US politics and back again, and your statement, Jonas, that what we need is "fundamental change" will stay with me for a long time to come. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the two of you for posting here in this story. If you are comfortable with that and would like to send me one, I'll include it in my Championships wrap up next week. Thank you for what truly was a profound conversation on the top of Moesgaard Museum.

Jakob and Jonas came through! 
Many thanks for the photos.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

First Class

In their own words:

Some of the Sport's Greatest Stars 
Why They Succeeded

Anniversary of First US Track and Field High School 
Hall of Fame Ceremony

Copyright 2019. Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved.

Tonight the second class of the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame will be inducted at the New York Athletic Club.

I had the privilege of attending the inauguration of the first class one year ago at the invitation of Linda Prefontaine, who was there to speak on behalf of her brother, Steve.

Before the March 8, 2018, ceremony, I asked inductees (or their representatives) why they thought they were included in the inaugural class – what did they think it took to have been included in such august company?

The next day, as the New Balance Indoors national high school championships took place in The Armory, I asked three athletes there what they thought it would take for them to qualify for the Hall of Fame in the future.

Allyson Felix, sprints and relays
I think first and foremost it’s a love of the sport - having a true passion for it - and being dedicated and seeing the long term picture and just going after it. When I think about high school I think about having so much fun – with my friends, with my teammates – that’s what sticks out to me is those friendships and those relationships. Working together for a common goal – that’s really what sticks out.

What is the source of your drive?

A lot of it came from family. Even though my parents weren’t athletes they were hard workers who taught me never to give up and never to quit. That’s something I brought to track and field and I hope to take it into other ventures as well.

Kathy McMillan, ’76, long jump
I think first of all it’s an amazing honor and I think that what it took to get here was the right people motivating me and encouraging me to do well in high school and do well in athletics and to do well in life. It’s a lot of hard work – something that I love doing.

Mc Millan cites her brother, Alexander Jim, as an inspiration.
He played football, and I would go out and train with him. I would run with him and he would encourage me to do well and he would say that he saw a lot of talent and ability and that I would do well in track.

And also my high school coach, William Colston, encouraged me a lot, too.

Encourage young athletes to stay encouraged and to love what they do. It doesn’t have to be track and field. They can be successful in their own career.

Chandra Cheeseborough, ’77, sprints
A pure love of the sport.

I don’t think that when we participated in high school that we were looking for anything. I think that we really genuinely loved track and field. We went out every day and did our very best. We worked hard and it paid off. Now we’re reaping the fruits.

On being a member of this first class: That is so amazing! It’s something you can’t ever take away. Knowing everyone will come after us. That is such an honor and a blessing to be the first.

She was joined at the ceremony by her daughter. They (her family) are very excited that (their Mom) be honored and blessed to be recognized.

We reminisced about the 1976 Olympic Trials in Eugene, the first track and field event I ever covered, as well as that summer’s Montreal Olympic Games.

’76. I remember being the fastest 17 year old in the 100m final in Montreal.

’76. To see the fan base in Eugene was so awesome. I go back there now with my college team and it was just unreal! People were behind you whether you were from Oregon or whatever school - they were just rooting on a good performance.

Montreal. We were young and we used to get in a little trouble and the manager (Evie Dennis)  had to call our coach and get us back on track, but we had fun and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.”

John Dye,
Perhaps the single inductee with the greatest sense of awe and wonder at his induction was 82-year-old founder John Dye.

“I’m amazed just now people I’ve never met before are coming to talk to me. It’s so humbling. It blows my breath away. 30 people out of a first hundred years of high school track! It just shows what the power of the internet did – it just changed communications.

“We created an (online) community of people who were interested in high school track. I had so many kids tell me they got more publicity on DyeStat than they did in their hometown newspapers.

“(DyeStat) took an awful lot of hard work – persistence, follow through, and perseverance.

“Allyson Felix persevered – she came out of high school 15 years ago and she’s an Olympic Champion. She’s the most amazing one in my time.

“I was 60 years old before I started the website. There would never had been a Dyestat if my kids hadn’t gone out for track. I just wanted to keep track of their competition.”

Once Dye received results in Maryland for his son in high jump and his daughter in pole vault, then they wanted to know how they ranked nationally, and “DyeStat blossomed from there.”

And how did he come to choose to list the top 100 nationally?

“To make sure my kids are in it,” he laughed. His son, Derek, and daughter, Natalie, came from Japan and Germany, respectively, to be there for their father’s induction ceremony.

Dye was proud of the incentive his lists created. “It becomes the event of a lifetime when a kid comes into their own and they become excellent. It regenerates itself every year as you have new faces every year.”

“Dyestat turned the stats into stories you wanted to follow.”

Tom Newton, son of high school coach, Joe Newton
It’s about a commitment to excellence – when you commit to excellence, you can do anything. I think that’s the key to it, whether you’re a coach or an athlete.

My dad would be thrilled and honored to be here today. He would be looking down here saying, “How sweet it is.”

When you love what you do, you strive to be the best you can be no matter what.

When you look at all the great athletes that are here today, they hate losing. I would challenge any one of them to say, “Oh, I didn’t mind losing.” They hate losing, whether you’re playing cards or running track. They’re competitors, always.

Gerry Lindgren, ’64, distances
I think it takes stubbornness and pain in your heart – not physical pain, but there has to be a reason why this has to be. It comes from the bad things in your life, the things that didn’t go right. The things that make you feel you’re not as good as other people, the things that leave you feeling bad.

Home life was really, really tough. It was like living in a little Vietnam. When I had an opportunity through running to shut the door on that kind of a life and leave it behind me and just go run – I took it! The more time I was running the more time I was away from the home life. There has to be a burning desire that makes it so you have to succeed.

I was just lucky, but I’ve always thought you have to make your own luck. If you do something that no one else is willing to do, then you make your own luck.

Tina Wood, granddaughter of Frank Wykoff, sprints
Tina Wood represented her late grandfather, who was the greatest American sprinter in the period immediately before Jesse Owens.

By the time I knew him, he was done with racing and had become superintendent of public schools in special education in Los Angeles. I just remember him being a great grandpa with a roomful of awards in his house and understanding that that was pretty monumental – and that he ran with Jesse Owens. I’m sure he worked very hard.

As a kid, her dawning realization came when others would say,You know Frank Wykoff?!” – or they knew of him.

I just knew him as my grandpa. At one point he had 8 world records. I’m still learning about him and I’m very happy to be here and to represent the family.

What became of all his medals?

We donated all of his medals to USC

Gina Strachan – Jesse Owens’ granddaughter
“I got to know my grandfather very well and I think he was always humbled by any kind of recognition.

“Work ethic was #1 – that started and continued from the athletic field to his life. I think he would have thought it was the same dedication, the same perseverance, the same hard work and just plain will power to do it on the high school level and to get to a place like Ohio State.

“His relationship with Luz Long was a true and authentic friendship, and he talked about it being just that. Long wrote my grandfather a letter after the Games and before he went to war which my grandfather kept and which we shared with his son, who came to my granddad’s funeral.”

One of the highlights of Strachan’s life was lighting the Olympic cauldron at the dedication of the refurbished Berlin Olympic Stadium with none other than Ragna Long, the granddaughter-in-law of German long jumper Luz Long, silver medalist to Owens in Berlin.

“It was WONDERFUL!” exclaimed Strachan, still awed by the experience. “Wonderful, wonderful. She and I and the families have remained friends for all these years.”

“Our family is just thrilled,” she said of Owens’ induction, “and we are always humbled as to how his legacy has continued over 80 years.”

Alan Webb, 01, middle distances
I think it took a great amount of dedication and the willingness to do things that other people aren’t willing to do. I was pretty disciplined as a senior in high school – it wasn’t an instant change, but it grew on me. If you’re willing to do what it takes from a training and lifestyle standpoint as a high schooler, you will stand out. You will.

I’m going to steal a line from a Prefontaine movie and say, “The hay’s in the barn! So get out there and let the big dog eat.”

Linda Prefontaine, sister of Steve Prefontaine, ’69, distances
Steve Prefontaine did not have to go far to find an accomplished athlete in his family.

In fact, he did not have to leave the house.

His sister, Linda, was a nationally ranked racquetball player of the 1970s who came within one point of winning the national amateur title in 1978.

An outstanding athlete herself, “I get what it takes.”

“It is not normal to set a national high school 2 mile record - not normal,” she said. It takes dedication, discipline, and working harder than everyone else. If you want to be a standout, you have to put out above and beyond the maximum - and not occasionally, consistently.”

In her induction speech she said, “When he started running twice a day, and he would go out and run before the rest of us got up in the house, that was such a new thing in Coos Bay that the police actually stopped him because they thought he had been robbing someplace!

“Steve Prefontaine, as a high school senior in 1969, wrote a paper called “Involvement in Distance Running,” in which he asked a profound question.

“’Why run?’ is a question often asked. Why go out there every afternoon and beat out your brains - what does it prove? Running in itself probably won’t count for much a hundred years from now, or maybe even tomorrow. What is the logic of punishing yourself each day? Of striving to become better? More efficient? Tougher?

“The value of it is what you learn about yourself. In this sort of situation all kinds of qualities come out, things that you may not have seen in yourself before.”

Lynn Bjorklund, ’75, distances
Appreciate the blessings you have in this life.

Don’t let yesterday take up too much time today.

High School Athletes
2018 US Indoor High School National Championships

Jaqueline Gaughan – ’18, G 5000m winner
“I think those people are really driven,” she said of the 2018 inductees. “Not only are they talented but they don’t think of themselves that way. They just want to work as hard as they can – and see what they’re capable of.”

Chad Johnson – ’18, B 5000 winner, is from rural Ohio
“I’ve always loved running – I really enjoy it – I just have to work hard to get somewhere.

“All our roads are a mile long and there’s a cornfield in the middle. If I want to run a hill workout I have to travel 30 miles to find a hill,” which he does, twice a week.

His dream is to “go to the Olympics – it’s as simple as that – that’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid - that’s the ultimate goal is the Olympics.”

“It would take lot of focus,” he said. “You have to love running – I’ve never regretted a day of running.”

“I train smart not hard,” he added.

He listens to the ‘elders’ within his own family.

 “I have four older brothers who are also runners – they are always giving me advice and I take it to heart.”

Katelyn Tuohy, ’20, winner G two-mile, anchor winning distance medley, silver sprint medley
Of the high school athletes interviewed, multiple distance record holder Katelyn Tuohy would have the clearest path to a future induction ceremony, even if she stopped running today, so remarkable have been her freshman and sophomore year exploits.

Not only do you have to be a great runner but you need to have great character. Being on a relay team is a great example: you’re not just doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for your team.

Running your hardest and believing in yourself and believing in your training and knowing that no matter what you do, if you believe in your training, you can do anything.

When you run you’re doing it for a lot more than just yourself – you have a team, you have coaches, and you have family – you can’t let them down.

Being part of a team is something very special.

Katelyn Tuohy as a sophomore after anchoring her high school
Distance Medley Relay team to a national title.

photo credit: Mark Cullen/
Ed Grant, reporter
We’ll let 91-year old Ed Grant have the last word. For 70 years a New Jersey track and field reporter, the 91 year old Grant brought house down when he said he got the award “because I’m still here!”

He concluded, “When I’m with track people I’m with the best people in the world.”

Research Credit
Steve Underwood wrote the excellent Hall of Fame biographies for this ceremony.
I have relied on these for much of the biographical information used in this article:

Note: As this website is based in Seattle, WA, US, it’s of note locally that Washington State is well-represented tonight (March 10, 2019) with inductees Patty van Wolvelaere, hurdles, Renton High School, ’68, and Casey Carrigan, pole vault, Orting High School, ’69, both of whom made the legendary 1968 US Olympic team as high schoolers.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Crouser and Kovacs Trump Kushner and Kim

Two US Shot Putters Save the Day

by Mark Cullen

Copyright 2019. Mark Cullen/ All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday could not have been much worse.

The show stopper was Michael Cohen’s testimony in front of the US House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the sitting US president, who has a shrewd scheduler and was in Vietnam hanging out with his nuclear playpen pal.

Speaking of sitting presidents, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un unwound from his 2,000 mile, 60 hour train trip by singing, “I’d ride a million miles, for one of your smiles, my Donny.”

Speaking of tone deaf, what was the US president’s son-in-law doing in the hours just  before Cohen testified? Why, Jared Kushner was in Saudi Arabia meeting with the prince - yes, that prince. 

Track and field rode to the rescue. 

Track and field?

Wednesday's saving grace was an engaging New York Times article featuring Olympic and World shot put champions, Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs, by Lindsay Crouse. 

Crouser and Kovacs are two of track and field’s most accomplished competitors, and Crouse’s article captured the warmth and mutual respect of the terrific friendship these great rivals have.

When was the last time the shot put earned coverage like this? Not since the glory days of the ‘50s and ‘60s, when Parry O’Brien and Randy Matson were on the cover of Sports Illustrated - and magazines were made of a substance produced from trees.

Crouser and Kovacs have been the two best in a deep event since Kovacs won the World title in 2015 and Crouser the Olympic title – with Kovacs winning silver – the following year in Rio. 

Crouser is throwing so far so early this year – 73’ 3¼” to win the Millrose Games on February 9 – that the world record (75’ 10 ¼") seems within his reach.

On a day when the world threatened to sink even deeper into its current quagmire, two shot putters named Crouser and Kovacs trumped Kushner and Kim and restored order. Friendship, appreciation and mutual respect nudged morals, ethics and integrity to remind us of the essential goodness of our core. Together, they righted the ship.

Ryan Crouser (right) with (l-r) Allyson Felix, Jenny Simpson, Tianna Bartoletta,
Christian Coleman and Christian Taylor at the US team press conference
prior to the 2017 London World Championships

photo credit: Mark Cullen/

Joe Kovacs
after winning the shot put silver medal
at the 2017 London World Championships

photo credit: Getty Images/IAAF