Portland Track Weekly: We're Live! / by Scott Bush

Welcome to the first Portland Track Weekly. Every Monday from now until the Portland Track Festival (June 14-15), we’ll be bringing you recaps of the past weekend of track and field action, interviews with some of the top distance runners in the country, updates on the Portland Track Festival and much more. Great ready! 

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Weekend Recap

Pro: On the pro side, the major focus was on the roads this past weekend, especially on a couple big races in Europe. At the Paris Marathon Sunday, distance running legend Kenenisa Bekele won the race in his marathon debut, smashing the course record on his way to a 2:05:03 victory. So much for the learning curve of becoming a great marathoner! 

A day earlier, and a hop, skip and jump away in Prague, Kenyan Joyce Chepkirui put the world on alert with an eye-opening, dominating victory at the Prague Half Marathon, winning by over two minutes in 66:19, the fourth fastest half-marathon performance all-time. 

Back in the United States, Olympian Janet Bawcom broke her own single-sex American 10 Mile record at the USA 10 Mile Championships in Washington D.C. Bawcom pulled away from Sara Hall and never looked back, winning in 52:12. Christo Landry pulled off the kind-of-surprise win on the men’s side over a tough field.

College: In case you didn’t hear, the Oregon men’s and women’s track and field team beat the University of Arizona’s teams soundly in a dual meet at Hayward Field over the weekend. PTF alum and superstar 1,500m runner Mac Fleet edged multi-time NCAA champion Lawi Lalang over the 1,500m distance, in what was the most anticipated match-up of the weekend. 

Speed was the name of the game at the Florida Relays…and we mean legit, amazing, utterly awesome SPEED. Florida standout sprinter Dedric Dukes won the men’s 200m dash in a top 10 all-time collegiate time of 19.97. Wow! To top it off, the Florida men’s 4x4 ran the second fastest time EVER, with their 2:59.73 performance. LSU’s collegiate record of 2:59.59 is definitely in jeopardy. Oh, and this Florida quartet comprises two sophomores and two juniors. 

Okay, back to distance news…the Stanford Invite once again proved to be one of the best distance meets of the year. 28 guys broke 29 in the 10k. 28!!! That’s staggering and just shows how crazy deep the NCAA is right now. BYU teammates Jason Witt and Jared Ward placed 1-2 in 28:36.64 and 28:37.36. Meanwhile, Texas’ Marielle Hall won the women’s 5k in a breakthrough performance of 15:19.26. Looks like Abbey D’Agostino might have some competition this spring.

Prep: It was a fun weekend of T&F across the country, with a few U.S. #1 performances, but we’re going to hold off this week…but, next week we promise to have a loaded recap of the sweetest prep action. 

Interview with PTF Director Craig Rice 

Craig Rice started the Portland Track Festival in 2008, growing a small, local event into one of the premier track events in the United States. Here’s what’s on tap for this year.

PT Weekly (PTW): It's a year of transition for many athletes, as well as meets. What are you most excited about as PTF 2014 draws near? 

Craig Rice (CR): Who needs a world championship when you have the level of excitement that American track and field has had so far this year?!

The change that a non-champs year brings can be tough on the sport but it also brings renewal in a way that is not possible if each year was organized in the same way. Among the potential positive outcomes for this season are a strengthening of the TFAA  and the growth of the number of domestic track meets as the American Track League begins this May.  

This could be a landmark year where the athletes apply their freedom to changing the sport. In the meantime we’ll still be bringing you the same great PTF meet in June. Some things should remain unchanged.

PTW: Last year was the best year in Portland Track Festival history. What can be done this year to make it even better?

CR: We talk about creating story lines as we plan the meet. Our best events are those that have a compelling angle like the boys Sub-4 mile attempt in 2009 or Mary Cain’s 5000 HSR last year. Many track fans don’t need a special reason to go see a meet but to broaden fan interest in the sport it helps to bring concise story lines that appeal to the more casual fan or general public. Providing opportunities for the athletes will always be our focus but we’ll continue to package interesting races in a way that helps bring out the fan base.

PTW: The Portland track and field community is so strong. What makes Portland such a special place to put on a professional-level track meet?

CR: Portland has a deep connection to track and distance running that goes way back. We’re plugging into a culture that includes a long lineup of charismatic personalities like Grelle, Bowerman, Prefontaine, Salazar, Hasay, Symmonds and Groenendaal. The state enjoys the numerous championships won by the University of Oregon and University of Portland, and we have access to big-time events like the Olympic Trials, Prefontaine Classic and the NCAA championships that keep fans in touch with the sport at a high level.  

Read the full interview

Quick Reads

Here are three of our favorite articles from this past week, all definitely worth your time and attention.

Five Minutes with Dartmouth’s (and future Oregon Duck) Will Geoghegan (Running Times)

Olympians To Compete in Downtown Setting at Kansas Relays Shot Put (KU Sports)

A Deep Look at the Evolution of the Boys Pole Vault (Track & Field News)

Look Ahead, Get Excited

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah takes on a star studded field at the London Marathon this coming Sunday. If Bekele dominating in Paris did anything, it gave a boost of confidence to Farah, as he makes his own debut over the 26.2 mile distance. Oh, and American (and Portland resident) Ryan Vail is in the field and eyeing a sub-2:10 performance. Go Ryan!!!

And…we finally get to see Alexa Efraimson v. Sarah Baxter (both PTF alum) Part II. The always amazing Arcadia Invitational takes place next weekend in southern Cali and the girls 3,200m is loaded. There could be four girls dipping under 10. Get excited!