Sunday, January 31, 2010

Georgia's State Champ Nicky Akande Verbals to Villanova

Gina Procaccio's squad has gotten a new addition in Georgia's state champion Nicky Akande. She is the reigning 2009 Georgia 5A state cross country champion, after finishing 2nd in 2007 and 6th in 2008. She also won the state championship at 800 meters in 2008. In October 2009 she finished 6th at the Great American Cross Country Festival meet of champions in Cary, NC. The following month, Nicky finished 5th at the Nike Cross Southeast Regional on the same course. Akande was named 2010 Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year in the state of Georgia. The following appeared recently on

Nicky Akande Commits (verbally) to Villanova
By Andrew Hudson / January 28, 2010

Nicky Akande, a senior at Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, GA, has verbally committed to run for Villanova University in Philadelphia, PA for her collegiate career. Nicky won the Georgia AAAAA Cross Country title in November with a record time of 17:55. She was undefeated against Georgia runners this year and swept the County and State runner of the year honors.

Villanova is the 2009 NCAA Division I Women's Cross Country Champions and the most storied program in Women's Cross Country history. Nicky is excited about the athletic and academic opportunities that await her at Villanova. She chose the Wildcats over Florida State, Arkansas, and Columbia.

Nicky also placed 2nd in 3 different events (800m - 2:13, 1600 - 5:00, and 4x400m - 3:50) in last spring's GHSA Girls State Track Meet and won the AAAAA State Championship in the 800m in 2008.

Coach Hudson
Head Cross Country and Track Coach
Collins Hill High School
Suwanee, GA

Sheila Reid runs NCAA #1 3000

Last night at the Saturday Night at the Armory II meet in New York, the Villanova trio of Sheila Reid, Bogdana Mimic and Nicole Schappert went 1-2-3 in the 3000 meters. In so doing, they ran the #1 (Reid 9:04.85), #3 (Mimic 9:07.96) and #7 (Schappert 9:14.15) times in the nation this indoor season. Reid & Mimic posted NCAA automatic qualifying times, and Schappert's is an NCAA provisional time. Here is a list of the top 10 performances through this weekend:

3000 meter leaders

1 Reid, Sheila JR-3 Villanova 9:04.85
2 Areson, Jackie SR-4 Tennessee 9:07.27
3 Mimic, Bogdana FR-1 Villanova 9:07.96
4 Infeld, Emily SO-2 Georgetown 9:09.24
5 Jesang, Janet SR-4 Western Kentucky 9:11.09
6 Blood, Nicole SR-4 Oregon 9:12.54
7 Schappert, Nicole SR-4 Villanova 9:14.15
8. Koll, Lisa SR-4 Iowa State 9:16.33
9 Jimenez, Betzy JR-3 Texas 9:18.03
10 Franek, Bridget SR-4 Penn State 9:18.40

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Running Sub-4:00 Past 40

Here's a story from The Irish Times on Eamonn Coghlan's successful quest to be the first (and still the only) man over 40 years of age to run a mile in under 4:00. He's is pictured above breaking the tape in 3:58.15 at the age of 41

Every generation needs its heroes
The Irish Times - Saturday, January 30, 2010

Eamonn Coghlan's immeasurable inspiration and influence is gradually being lost, another reflection of the decline in Irish distance running.

WE WERE somewhere outside Providence, driving I-95 South in a Toyota rental, on our way to the Millrose Games in New York. “Do you think he can do it?” Dave asked, from the front seat. I didn’t want to raise expectations and said we’d have to wait and see.

“Of course he can do it,” said Erin, from behind the wheel. “We’re talking about Eamonn Coghlan. In the Garden. Coghlan rules that place. He owns it. Of course he can do it.”

It was the winter of 1993, my junior year at Brown University. Dave and Erin were seniors, and we shared a house off campus, on John Street. We were utterly absorbed in running in those days, and when we heard Coghlan was coming to Millrose we agreed we had to be there. It didn’t matter that Coghlan was running the Masters Mile, not the Wanamaker Mile. He’d still be the headline act. No man over 40 had run a sub-four mile, indoors or out. Although, deep down, I wasn’t sure Coghlan could do it.

“We’re making pretty good time,” said Dave, as we passed the exits for New Haven. Dave was from New York, grew up on Staten Island. Erin was from California. Yet they both knew every bit as much about Eamonn Coghlan as I did. Chairman of the Boards, and no explanation required. Back then, Coghlan was a hero for every young miler in America, the same way he was for every young miler in Ireland. The TV commentaries I’d listened to on Saturday mornings were the same as Dave and Erin had heard live on Friday nights: “Final lap, Wanamaker Mile. And the fans are on their feet. Into the lead goes Marcus O’Sullivan. But here comes Eamonn Coghlan, right on his tail. Look at Coghlan go! And Eamonn Coghlan eases down to the tape. Three-fifty-five!”

We drove into Manhattan at lunchtime, the early February sunshine illuminating the great skyline in all its glory. Dave had it planned that we’d go to the Hop Kee restaurant in Chinatown, down on Mott Street, for the chicken dish, and then hit Ferrara Cafe in Little Italy, just a block away, on Grand Street.

“The best cannoli in New York,” Dave said, and he knew what he talking about.

“I’m getting nervous, man,” he said. “I think Coghlan’s going to do it.”

We parked right next to Madison Square Garden – at $10 an hour – and headed for window booth six. I’d managed to swing three competitor passes, through my dad, who was an old acquaintance of long-time Millrose meet director Howard Schmertz. We were free to sit anywhere, and found a good spot at the final curve. The place was filling up, fast. The Wanamaker Mile was scheduled for 10pm, but the Masters Mile was off at 8.30, and no one was about to miss it.

Coghlan got a standing ovation when introduced. He was wearing a black singlet and shorts, with a small Foot Locker logo, and the number 40 pasted on to his chest. He did own the place. “That’s unbelievable,” I said to Dave. Then they played the Irish anthem. “That’s unbelievable,” said Erin.

For a man of 40, Coghlan looked superbly fit. He’d been training in Florida since Christmas, having come out of retirement just a few months earlier, determined to leave this one last mark on mile history. The fastest mile by a man over 40 was 4:05.39, by the lanky Kenyan Wilson Waigwa, who was now lining up next to Coghlan.

They dimmed the lights, and swept a spotlight around the Garden’s 160-yard oval. The lap counter was set at 11, and after the starting gun came the inescapable sound of the runners thumping on the wooden boards, drowning out the faint background music.

“What’s going on here?” I asked, as Coghlan began to trail off, sluggishly, almost sinking into the track. “2:02 for Waigwa at the half-mile mark,” they declared, and Coghlan was a good 15 metres adrift, suddenly looking every bit his 40 years.

“Man, this is not good,” said Erin. For the first time all day we wondered if we should have left Providence at all.

What happened next remains one of the great displays of indoor running I’ve witnessed. Just as suddenly, Coghlan looked half his age, accelerating around the tight bends like a sports car. He blew past Waigwa, and in front of an adoring crowd of 18,176 breasted the tape, eyes closed, pointing up at the clock: 4:05.95, the fastest mile run indoors by a man over 40. Coghlan had turned back the clock, in many ways, and it was no less a thrill that he hadn’t gone sub-four. Coghlan again ruled the Garden, owned the place.

The Wanamaker Mile, the climax of the night, and a race Coghlan had won a record seven times, was something of an anti-climax in comparison. Marcus O’Sullivan came close to beating Noureddine Morceli, of Algeria, who ran 3:55.06. But as we headed out into the mild winter night, play-acting around Times Square, each of us knew that Coghlan had been the star of the show, the inspiration for several sessions at the Brown indoor track, maybe even the rest of the season.

Deep down, himself, Coghlan believed he could still go sub-four. Three weeks later, back at the Garden, at the US Indoor Championships, he ran 4:01.39. “That might be as good as it gets,” I read in the New York Times. I thought so too.

A year later, during the worst winter in Providence in 30 years, I heard Coghlan was running an indoor mile up in Harvard, as part of a high school meeting. I didn’t think it was worth risking the old Volvo 145 Estate to make the trip. To this day I regret it. Coghlan, at age 41, ran 3:58.15, the 75th sub-four mile of his career. No other man over 40 has done it.

Last night, back at the Garden, at the 103rd staging of the Millrose Games, the Kenyan-born Bernard Lagat set out to beat Coghlan’s record of seven Wanamaker Mile titles. Lagat now runs for the US, and won the race the last five years in succession, plus 2001 and 2003. Chances are he did win a record eight last night. That might even give Lagat some claim on the title Chairman of the Boards, but I doubt it. Coghlan set the reputation of Irish indoor milers in stone, building on the success of Ronnie Delany, and paving the way for the likes of O’Sullivan, Niall Bruton and Mark Carroll. Between the five they’ve won the Wanamaker Mile an incredible 19 times.

The only disappointment about last night’s Millrose Games was the absence of any Irish miler to keep that reputation going. It doesn’t matter if Lagat won or lost; what matters is Coghlan’s immeasurable inspiration and influence is gradually being lost, another reflection of the decline in Irish distance running. Every generation needs its heroes, and when we left New York in the winter of 1993, the three of us felt that inspiration for days and months afterwards, that Coghlan’s life could somehow be our lives.

It never transpired that way, but at least the dream was real and alive.

Down goes Coghlan: #8 for Lagat at Wanamaker Mile

Track and Field: 103 Millrose Games

An anticipated, Eamonn's Coghlan's record 7 Wanamaker Mile wins was eclipsed last night at the Millrose Games by Bernard Lagat (both men are pictured above). Lagat easily won his eighth Wanamaker mile over Olympic champion Asbel Kiprop and Englishman Andrew Baddeley. Eamonn will now have to content himself with holding the Millrose Games master's mile record (4:04.55 set in 1994).
Here are the results:

103rd Millrose Games
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - 1/29/2010

Event 37 Men 1 Mile Run Wanamaker
Name Year Team Finals
1 Bernard Lagat USA 3:56.34 1500: 3:42.0
2 Asbel Kiprop KEN 3:58.03 1500: 3:42.4
3 Andrew Baddeley GBR 3:58.09 1500: 3:42.7
4 Peter Van Der Westhuizen RSA 4:00.35 1500: 3:44.0
5 Mark Draper GBR 4:02.30 1500: 3:45.0
-- David Krummenacker USA DNF

Koons & Muncan at Millrose Mile

Recent Villanova graduates Frances Koons and Marina Muncan competed in the Fred Lebow women's elite mile last night at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden. In the race Hannah England held off the USA's Sara Hall for the win. Koons and Muncan were 6th and 7th, respectively. Both were well off the times they posted last weekend at the Armory (4:33.24 for Koons and 4:36.05 for Muncan). Here are the results:

103rd Millrose Games
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY - 1/29/2010

Event 33 Women 1 Mile Run Fred Lebow

Name Year Team Finals

1 Hannah England GBR 4:31.48 1500: 4:14.7
2 Sara Hall USA 4:31.50 1500: 4:15.0
3 Sally Kipyego KEN 4:32.30 1500: 4:15.5
4 Sarah Bowman USA 4:34.84 1500: 4:16.1
5 Molly Lehman USA 4:36.57 1500: 4:18.3
6 Frances Koons USA 4:37.32 1500: 4:18.0
7 Marina Muncan SRB 4:41.72 1500: 4:21.2
-- Karen Shinkins IRL DNF

Friday, January 29, 2010

Llerandi is Villanova Vault Queen

On January 9th Ashlyn Llerandi, a junior vaulter on the Villanova T&F team, set a new school record in the vault, breaking the record set back in 2002. Here is an article about Ashlyn from The Ridgewood News (NJ):

RHS Grad Llerandi Sets Villanova Vault Record
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Ridgewood News

PHILADELPHIA — From the beginning of time, humans have tried to fly, to soar through the air like a bird. Ashlyn Llerandi has learned the secret and has flown to great heights.
Llerandi, a 2007 Ridgewood High School graduate and current junior at Villanova University, set a new school record in the pole vault, jumping 12 feet, 5.5 inches at the Penn State Relays on Jan. 9. The previous record had stood since 2002, and she cleared it by 1.5 inches.
During her four years at RHS, Llerandi participated in cross-country, track, lacrosse, swimming and the pole vault. "I was a confused athlete," Llerandi said with a laugh and her trademark sweet disposition.
During the spring of her freshman year, she casually walked onto the field and picked up a pole just to try it out and cleared 8 feet in her first jump. According to Maroons pole vault coach Don Cooper, that height would have won her the freshman county championship. She joined the track and field team her sophomore year. Llerandi credits Cooper, her neighbor in Ridgewood, with her interest in the sport.
When the Llerandi family moved next door to Cooper in 1991, he saw the talent in Ashlyn and encouraged her to take up the sport. But she enjoyed being a multi-sport athlete, even if it meant being a dilettante in all and a master of none. That all changed when she took the pole vault more seriously and set her sights on Villanova.
During a visit to the university her senior year, she called the Wildcats' pole vault coach, Talen Singer, and asked for a meeting. He had no idea who she was but was impressed with her moxie, her talent and her determination.
"She is amazingly dedicated and has what it takes to be the best," said Singer. "She put in a ton of work to become a dedicated pole vaulter, and it has paid off for her."
For Llerandi, who comes from a sports-dedicated family – her parents Mike and Alyson are both competitive triathletes and runners – this is a dream come true, and she thrives on the training and the competition.
"I don't know what I would do with out it," said Ashlyn, who was voted a VU team captain. "My parents always told me to find my passion, and I have. I love what I do."
Making the switch to dedicated one-sport athlete from a multi-sport background wasn't easy. The pole vault is very different from her other sports, and Llerandi found the preparation more strenuous than anything she has ever done. "There are so many variables to contend with in this sport, and they all need to click together to make the leap," she said.
In fact, from her first step on the mat to the final push over the bar to the landing takes all of six seconds. There is no room for error.
Llerandi is making sure that no errors are made on her way to becoming the best she can be. Singer believes she has the talent to go all the way to a Big East title. "She's made the sacrifices and has the savvy to compete on the big stage," said the coach. "I couldn't be happier with her performance. She has a winning attitude and is a great leader to the younger girls on the team."
Ashlyn Llerandi has evolved into an athlete who feels comfortable competing on the big stage and along the way has raised the bar for Villanova and herself. Cooper had this to say about her: "I don't believe she is done growing as an athlete, and she will achieve higher heights in the future if her vaulting is anything like her work ethic. For her, the sky is the limit."
One can only guess where this talented young lady with the big smile and contagious personality will land.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Healthy Blincoe Aims Toward October | Video from FloTrack

After his outdoor season in 2009 was washed away by a freak injury, VU alum and assistant coach Adrian Blincoe is interviewed here after his 3:58 indoor mile at the New Balance Games on January 23. As a Kiwi, Blincoe will participate in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, to be held this October in India. He's trying to regain his 13:10 5000 meter form incrementally and his sub-4:00 indoors at New Balance constitutes his 2010 debut. Blincoe is the New Zealand national record holder at 5000 meters. Among Villanovans, only Sydney Maree has run a faster 5000 meters.

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Villanova Coach Marcus O'Sullivan on How He Ended Up Back at Nova | Video from FloTrack

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

NCAA Champs Villanova Reflect on Their Winning Season | Video from FloTrack

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Usurping Coghlan?

Eamonn Coghlan and Bernard Lagat are presently tied for the most Wanamaker Mile victories at seven. Later this week, Lagat will attempt to take sole possession of the crown. Below is an article on his quest, from Reuters

Lagat Eyes Record Eighth Wanamaker Mile Win
Tue Jan 26, 2010
By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Kenyan-born American Bernard Lagat plans to seal his legacy with a record eighth victory in the Wanamaker Mile at Friday's 103rd Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden and then shift his focus to longer distances.

Lagat is tied at seven wins with Irishman Eamonn Coghlan, who chalked up his victories between 1977 and 1987, at the annual indoor event named after the head of the Wanamaker's Department Store in New York City, Rodman Wanamaker.

"When they open that page of the record book and they look at Bernard Lagat winning eight in the same page as those great champions that have run before, that would be very special," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Employees of the Wanamaker Department store started up a track club that gave birth to the meet and the mile name and every year since 1926 some of the greatest milers in the world have tested themselves on the Garden's board track.

The list of mile winners at the Garden besides 'Chairman of the Boards' Coghlan include his fellow Irishman Marcus O'Sullivan, Kenyan Kip Keino, Noureddine Morceli of Algeria and American Glenn Cunningham, a six times winner in the 1930s.


"Somebody somewhere, a little boy somewhere, will see that I did this and would be thinking: 'Bernard did this and I could become one of them'," said Lagat, who has won the last five mile races at the Millrose after victories in 2001 and 2003.

"That is the meaning of winning the eighth for me -- leaving a legacy that will inspire others."

Following the Millrose, which launches the U.S. indoor season, Lagat plans to run the 5,000 meters in Boston and in Birmingham, England to gauge his readiness to contest the 3,000 at the world indoor championships in Doha in March.
"I will run 5,000 next week in Boston, testing how good my preparation for the 3,000 is. I would like to win the world championship in Doha and (regain) my 3-K title from way back in 2004. I feel like I can do that."

Lagat's greatest triumph was becoming the first man to reign as the 1,500 and 5,000 meters world outdoor champion with his double success in 2007 in Osaka. At the 2009 worlds in Berlin, he won bronze in the 1,500 and silver in the 5,000.

"In the future, I would like to move to the longer stuff," said Lagat, adding that he still planned to mix in some 1,500 races to maintain his speed.

"For London in 2012, the 5-K is most likely," he said referring to his Olympic ambitions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

VU signee Lipari posts New US#1 Mile at New Balance Games

Roslyn (Long Island, NY) senior all american Emily Lipari, a Villanova signee, improved upon her US#1 indoor mile time in winning the elite invitational mile by 3 seconds at the New Balance Games at the Armory. Here are the results:

Varsity Girls One Mile Run Finals ========================================
Name Yr Team Time
1 Emily Lipari 4:53.84
2 Joelle Amaral 4:56.81
3 Ajee Wilson 5:03.71
4 Alaine Tate 5:03.83
5 Corrie Gethard 5:06.29
6 Lindsay Kerr 5:09.75
7 Sarah Quinn 5:10.29
8 Kalyn Fisher 5:10.82
9 Alyssa LaGuardia 5:13.59
10 Tobin 5:16.93
11 Rachel O'Driscoll 5:30.36

2010 New Balance Games @ The Armory

Several former Villanova runners competed at the 2010 New Balance Games at the Armory over the weekend of January 22-24. Frances Koons took 4th in the elite mile, running a new PR, and Marina Muncan came 9th. On the men's side, Adrian Blincoe and Bobby Curtis competed in the elite mile. Blincoe came 4th in 3:58.53 and Curtis finished 6th in 4:01.73. Here are the results:

Fourteenth Annual New Balance Game - 1/23/2010
New Balance Armory Track and Field Center

Elite Women One Mile Run Finals
Name Time (1500s)
1 Erin Donohue 4:28.92 (4:12.0)
2 Nicole Edwards 4:29.42 (4:12.4)
3 Sarah Bowman 4:32.14 (4:13.6)
4 Frances Koons 4:33.24 (4:15.2) PR
5 Hilary Stellingwerff 4:34.28 (4:15.0)
6 Elizabeth Maloy 4:35.12 (4:16.6)
7 Maggie Infeld 4:35.37 (4:17.4)
8 Amber Mcgown 4:35.72 (4:16.8)
9 Marina Muncan 4:36.05 (4:17.9)
10 Megan Metcalfe 4:36.44 (4:15.6)
11 Heidi Dahl 4:36.99 (4:17.6)
12 Dana Buchanan 4:46.42 (4:26.4)

Fourteenth Annual New Balance Game - 1/23/2010
New Balance Armory Track and Field Center

Elite Men One Mile Run Finals
Name Time (1500s)
1 Andy Baddeley 3:55.64 (3:40.6)
2 Ricky Stevenson 3:56.31 (3:41.1)
3 Mark Draper 3:56.80 (3:41.5)
4 Adrian Blincoe 3:58.53 (3:42.6)
5 Tim Konoval 4:01.64 (3:45.2)
6 Bobby Curtis 4:01.73 (3:44.9)
7 Kyle Boorsma 4:03.60 (3:46.0)
8 Neil Speiaght 4:05.72 (3:48.1)
9 Dustin Emrani 4:16.46 (3:58.2)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Review of Eamonn Coghlan's Chairman of the Boards, Master of the Mile

Here is a review of Eamonn Coghlan's recent autobiography published by Red Rock Press that appeared on the Armory website. The book is not widely available in the States, and I had to do a bit of digging to purchase a copy via the Irish publishing house's website (see below for the url). It's quite an interesting read, and I intend to devote greater space to it on this blog in the near future. But, for now, here is a small taste of what's in the book, thanks to the review below by P. W. Coogan. Just remember: Make one move, and one move only.

Book Review
By PW Coogan

Chairman of the Boards, Master of the Mile

Written with George Kimball
Red Rock Press, 2008

Eamonn Coghlan’s life story published in Ireland and co-written with George Kimball, is pure in voice, joy and pain. Traveling to America via the yellow brick road that Villanova painted green, Coghlan arrived a dazed and innocent young man, standing at the door of Emerald City.

Under the coaching of the bigger than life Jumbo Elliot and his assistant Jack Pyrah, Villanova became the first stop for the Celtic Invasion. Marcus O’Sullivan, Ron Delaney, Noel Carroll, Frank Murphy, Hartnett and Walsh, Reardon, John Joe Barry and Sonia O’Sullivan are just some of the Irish Wildcats that were nurtured by the Big V and adopted by those of Irish ancestry living throughout America. Villanova became to track what Notre Dame was to football. For the first time the Irish were invited to a foreign land, not to work coal mines, carry bricks, build railroads and fight other people’s wars, but to excel as scholar athletes.

Some say Villanova was the first school to offer a Track scholarship to a foreign athlete. And in 1971, Coghlan would become the latest and maybe the most famous of the Wildcat runners.

Eamonn Coghlan ran like Jimmy Cagney could dance. And, like Cagney, he had a twinkle in his eye and a boyish charm, that is ‘til you screwed with him on the turns, then you would see the other side of an Irish smile.

Coghlan’s story is of a knock-kneed boy in corrective shoes, growing up in the tough Dublin of the 1950s. It is the tale of home, love and loyalty. He’s still married to his teen aged sweetheart, Yvonne. He reveals publicly for the first time his battle with depression, a condition brought on by constant injuries, lonely hotel rooms and unrealized dreams. As an elite runner the pressure is stressful, he tells us. He ran injured because when he gave his commitment, he stood by it and he could not permit himself to let down his fans.

Coghlan’s world records in the indoor mile were topped with a 3:49.78 in 1983, at East Rutherford, NJ. In 1987, he took the 2,000 meters in Inglewood, CA in the world record time of 4:54.7. In 1983, he won the 5,000 meter world championship in Helsinki, where upon hearing the news in Dublin, Bono of U2 stopped his concert to tell the Irish of Eamonn’s victory. His experiences at the Olympics were difficult, where his running for the gold brought hardship and despair.

Running the Wanamaker mile at the Millrose Games is what gives legs to Eamonn Coghlan’s biography. Lacing up in NYC, Coghlan made everybody Irish in the smoke-filled, beer stained, popcorn smelling arena. Some say it was his size and stature that enabled him to take turns like a Masserati and gave him the edge over his competitors. Others say it was the benefit of the Villanova wooden track that each season was built outdoors by the runners and coaches. But more probably, it was his heart and the immeasurable scream of thousands of fans, vicariously pushing him to encompass their own dreams. If you say Wanamaker Mile, you think Eamonn Coghlan.

It’s easy for us to see Eamonn Coghlan in his victories, but as is often with success, a runner’s pain and failure become invisible to a demanding public. Fortunately, the unlikely duo of acclaimed sports photographer Vic Sailor, and New York Athletic Club coach Paul Mascali, gave Eamonn the opportunity to go where no runner had gone before. On February 20, 1994, at the age of forty two, Coghlan took his revenge on time and history running the first sub-four minute Master’s Mile in the world record time of 3:58.15. Yeah, this is a book with ups and downs, but at the finish line you find Coughlin humble in his glory and, like a Jimmy Cagney movie, the reader feels part of the story.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dave Patrick and the 1968 Olympic Trials Controversy

The story of Dave Patrick and the 1968 Olympic Trials is well known within Villanova running circles. It is told as a story of injustice and unfairness, resulting in Patrick, a senior at Villanova and by all accounts the #2 miler in the United States behind Jim Ryun, being left off the 1968 Olympic team. That an injustice was done seems to have been confirmed when in 2008 the 1968 Olympic track coach Peyton Jordan surprised Patrick by announcing that he (Jordan) and the fellow members of the US Olympic Committee had voted to admit their mistake and retroactively -- 40 years later -- name Dave Patrick as an official member of the 1968 team. How Patrick was mistreated, though, has always been a bit murky, unexplained, and complicated. This post seeks to provide some details.

The US Olympic Committee in 1968 decided to alter its normal method of selecting the US track and field team. The 1968 Olympics were to be held at altitude in Mexico City, and the Committee thought that it would be wise to simulate those conditions and integrate them into the Olympic team selection process. It was decided, then, to hold a two-phase Olympic Trials: (1) at the Los Angeles Coliseum at the end of June 1968, and (2) at altitude at South Lake Tahoe, California in September 1968. The vague notion at the time was that the winners at the Olympic Trails in Los Angeles would have to show fitness at altitude at Lake Tahoe in order to be assured a spot on the Olympic team. What "fitness" meant, unfortunately, was not clear when the two-pronged process started. Ultimately, to Patrick's detriment and by some rather odd machinations, the Los Angeles "trials" were thrown out and the Lake Tahoe "trials" became definitive. But that's giving away the ending.

The first "trails," as stated above, took place at the LA Coliseum over June 29-30, 1968. The 1500 meters start list included 14 individuals who had earned the right to compete at the trials by virtue of their performances at either the NCAA championships or the AAU nationals. Dave Patrick had won the NCAA 1500 that year, in 3:39.8, in the process beating five of the other 13 men at the Los Angeles trials. These 14 men on June 29th ran two 7-person heats, with the top 5 finishers in each heat advancing to the finals the next day. Jim Ryun did not compete at the Los Angeles trials. Villanova had three runners in the competition: Dave Patrick, Marty Liquori, and Charlie Messenger. Here are the results of the two heats, which elimiated four runners: Royce Shaw and Villanova's Charlie Messenger from heat 1, and Dave Farley and Bob Delaney from heat 2:

1.  John Mason        3:45.2
2.  Tom von Ruden     3:45.4
3.  Dave Wilborn      3:45.5
4.  Sam Bair          3:45.7
5.  Jerry Richey      3:46.6
6.  Royce Shaw        3:47.1
7.  Charlie Messenger 3:53.7

1.  Dave Patrick      3:46.2
2.  Brian Kivlan      3:46.3
3.  Roscoe Divine     3:46.4
4.  Marty Liquori     3:46.5
5.  Jim Crawford      3:46.8
6.  Dave Farley       3:46.8
7.  Bob Delaney       3:54.3

Patrick & Liquori go 1-3 in LA "Olympic Trials" Final
 The 1500 finals were held on June 30th and the race was won by Dave Patrick, with Liquori 3rd:

1.  Dave Patrick      3:43.6
2.  Sam Bair          3:43.7
3.  Marty Liquori     3:44.2
4.  Dave Wilborn      3:44.5
5.  Jerry Richey      3:44.6 
6.  John Mason        3:44.6   
7.  Roscoe Divine     3:44.7
8.  Tom von Ruden     3:45.4
9.  Jim Crawford      3:49.1
10. Brian Kivlan      3:50.0

Patrick had won the race at a meet called the Olympic Trials. By most estimates, the second "trials" at Lake Tahoe was aimed at demonstrating that the individuals could run at altitude. However, between the Los Angeles "trials" and the Lake Tahoe "trials," the format was inexplicably altered. The September 30, 1968 issue of Sports Illustrated described the change this way:
"But then, for reasons still not clear, the officials embarked upon an experiment in democracy. Just before the Tahoe trials they let the athletes themselves, in a series of group discussions, decide upon the selection system. Prior assurance to the Los Angeles winners was dissolved by a vote of all the contenders -- among whom the Los Angeles winners were a negligible minority. The majority decided that the top three finishers in the Tahoe events would make the team, and that would be that. So the Los Angeles trials, which drew 25,654 spectators who thought they were seeing the trials, were actually a preliminary meet, a big trial heat. As it turned out, Patrick was the only one of the earlier winners who definitely proved himself at high altitude (he ran the fastest 1500 meters at Tahoe in a preliminary heat) and yet was eliminated (in the final heat he ran fourth).... The entire selection process was misleading. The system should have been established early and adhered to. Then no one would have had grounds to complain that the officials had in effect reneged on an earlier promise."
By all accounts, it was the track and field assistant coach Bill Bowerman, the head man at Oregon, who had raised the option of making the Tahoe trails be the determinative meet, not the trials in Los Angeles. So off to Lake Tahoe went the runners, this time including Jim Ryun. Patrick and Ryun had raced twice previously. Patrick (1:48.9) had beaten Ryun (1:50.7) indoors at the March 1967 NCAA indoor championships in Detroit over 880 yards, setting a new indoor world record at that distance (see photo left). Ryun had defeated Patrick over a mile at Madison Square Garden in February 1968.

As the Sports Illustrated article quoted above made clear, Dave Patrick had the fastest time in the two preliminary rounds. At Lake Tahoe on September 14-16, 1968 twelve 1500 meter runners competed in two 6-person heats, which eliminated only one runner each (Jim Crawford and Preston Davis). The ten remaining men then competed the following day in two 5-person semi-finals, which also eliminated only one runner each (Brian Kivlan and Jerry Richey). Finally, on September 16th the remaining 8 runners then competed in the finals. Here are the results of the heats and semi-finals:

1.  Roscoe Divine    3:58.3
2.  Jim Ryun         3:58.3
3.  Jerry Richey     3:59.4
4.  Brian Kivlan     4:00.5
5.  Dave Wilborn     4:01.4
6.  Jim Crawford     4:03.4

1.  Marty Liquori    4:00.9
2.  John Mason       4:01.3
3.  Tom von Ruden    4:01.4
4.  Dave Patrick     4:01.6
5.  Sam Bair         4:02.0
6.  Preston Davis    4:03.4

1.  Dave Patrick     3:48.8
2.  Marty Liquori    3:48.8
3.  Roscoe Divine    3:49.3
4.  Dave Wilborn     3:50.0
5.  Brian Kivlan     3:55.2

1.  Jim Ryun         3:53.0
2.  Tom von Ruden    3:53.4
3.  Sam Bair         3:53.8
4.  John Mason       3:54.1
5.  Jerry Richey     3:54.7

The eight-man final was now set. Dave Patrick was considered one of the two favorites (along with Ryun, of course, who owned the 1500 world record). Patrick had run the fastest time of any runner through two rounds, but thanks to the mid-process change of rules, he would have to finish in the top three in the finals to make the US team. Surprisingly, he failed to do so. Also surprisingly, teenager Marty Liquori, his Villanova teammate, did make the team. Here are the results of the 1500 final:

1.  Jim Ryun        3:49.0
2.  Marty Liquori   3:49.5
3.  Tom von Ruden   3:49.8   
4.  Dave Patrick    3:52.0   
5.  Roscoe Divine   3:52.0
6.  John Mason      3:57.0
7.  Sam Bair        3:58.6
8.  Dave Wilborn    4:03.8

Here is a video of the Lake Tahoe 1500 final, narrated by Jim McKay and Jim Beatty:

Ryun came from well off the pace to win the race. He was last after 3 laps, in 3:12.4, but stormed past the other seven runners to beat Liquori by a half second. Three seconds back was Patrick, in the dreaded fourth place, and off the Olympic team. He had won the Los Angeles trials and had proven himself at altitude (his semi-final 3:48.8 was the fastest time of the Tahoe meet), but was out. Crestfallen by the developments, his track and field career was essentially over. Years later he commented that "I can certainly forgive what happened, because I have to do that. But I will never forget what happened. ... That really pretty much ended my competitive running. I had always felt that I had earned the right to be an Olympian, and on paper I wasn't." His wife Michele admitted that "he has carried this burden for 40 years of knowing he qualified." So, when Peyton Jordan 40 years later announced at a 40 year reunion of Villanova's great 1968 team that now, officially, Dave Patrick was an Olympian, perhaps some justice was done. In the end, though, Patrick got it right: "I can certainly forgive what happened, because I have to do that. But I will never forget what happened."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dynamic Distance Doubles

Six Villanova greats -- Ronnie Delany, Marty Liquori, Don Paige, Sonia O'Sullivan, Vicki Huber, and Carrie Tollefson -- executed historic individual distance doubles at either the NCAA, European, or World Championship meets. At the 1958 outdoor NCAA championship meet, Delany won the 880 yards (1:48.2) and the mile (4:03.5). He was accustomed to doubling up, as he had pulled similar double duty at the IC4A meets in 1957 and 1958 where he won the 1000 yards and 2 mile races each year. Marty Liquori won double NCAA championships at the 1971 indoor meet. There he won the mile in 4:04.7 and the two mile in 8:37.1. At the 1979 NCAA championships held at the University of Illinois, Don Paige won both the 800 meters (1:46.18) and the 1500 meters (3:39.20 CR) and landed on the cover of Track and Field News. Sydney Maree won the 5000 meter championship at that same meet. On par with Delany, Sonia O'Sullivan was a prolific doubler. She won double gold (5000 and 10,000) at the 1998 European championships in Budapest and double gold (8K and 4K) at the 1998 World Cross Country championships in Marrakesh. Her win on day two at the 4 kilometer distance was actually easier (by 14 seconds) than her tight 3-second win over Paula Radcliffe at the 8 kilometer distance on day one. She was named 1998 Track and Field News athlete of the year for her efforts. Sonia also executed a double silver (5000 and 10,000) at the 2002 European Championships.
Vicki Huber also won two individual NCAA titles at the same meet, at the 1988 indoor championships. She won the mile in 4:31.46 and the 3000 meters in 9:05.67. She would repeat the 3000 title at the 1989 indoor meet as well. Finally, Carrie Tollefson was the first woman to win the 3000 and 5000 meter championships at an NCAA outdoor championship. She accomplished this feat in 1999 in Boise. She ran the 3000 meters on June 4 and won in 9:26.51. She came back the next day and won the 5000 meters in 16:09.51.

The 2-Mile Relay World Record

On February 17, 1968 Ian Hamilton, Charlie Messenger, Frank Murphy, and Dave Patrick set an indoor world record in the 2-mile relay at the Mason Dixon Games at the Fairgrounds in Louisville, Kentucky. Their time was 7:23.8. Thirty-five years and five days later on that same track future Villanova all-american Bobby Curtis ran the USA #3 prep 3000 meter time for 2003, 8:38.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Villanova's Sub-4:00 Milers

Starting with Ron Delany in 1956 through Michael Kerrigan in 2007, Villanova has produced 28 different sub-4:00 milers. Five of these number (Ron Delany, Dick Buerkle, Eamonn Coghlan, Sydney Maree, and Marcus O'Sullivan) set world records at the mile or its metric equivalent). If the sub-3:42.22 1500 meter men are counted as having achieved the metric "sub-4:00," then Villanova's list swells to 34 individuals, including 2009's Matt Gibney. Here the list, with the year and time of the individual's first sub-4:00, followed by his PR at that distance):

The Villanova Sub-Four Minute Milers

Ron Delany (1956: 3:59.0 -- 3:57.5) WRi
Dave Patrick (1967: 3:59.3 -- 3:56.8)
Marty Liquori (1967: 3:59.8 -- 3:52.2)
Pat Traynor (1968: 3:59.6)
Frank Murphy (1968: 3:58.6 -- 3:58.1)
Chris Mason (1970: 3:59.9)
John Hartnett (1973: 3:58.3 -- 3:54.7)
Dick Buerkle (1973: 3:58.0 -- 3:54.9) WRi
Eamonn Coghlan (1975: 3:56.2 -- 3:49.78) WRi
Sydney Maree (1976: 3:57.9 -- 3:48.83) WR 1500
Don Paige (1978: 3:58.10 -- 3:54.19)
Phil "Tiny" Kane (1978: 3:59.37 -- 3:55.77)
Amos Korir (1979: 3:59.3)
Mark Belger (1979: 3:58.4 -- 3:57.37)
Ross Donoghue (1979: 3:58.0 -- 3:55.26)
Marcus O'Sullivan (1983: 3:58:84 -- 3:50.94) WRi
Ken Lucks (1984: 3:58.96)
John Keyworth (1984: 3:59.43)
Gerry O'Reilly (1986: 3:54.63)
Sean O'Neill (1987: 3:58.42)
Ken Nason (1995: 3:58.91 -- 3:58.09)
Brad Sumner (1995: 3:59.11)
Stephen Howard (1997: 3:58.8)
Adrian Blincoe (2002: 3:58.19 -- 3:54.4)
Ryan Hayden (2002: 3:58.27)
Jason Jabaut (2006: 3:59.07 -- 3:57.26)
Bobby Curtis (2007: 3:57.20)
Mike Kerrigan (2007: 3:59:60)

Sub-3:42.22 for 1500 meters = metric equivalent of a sub-4:00 Mile

Ken Shappert (1976: 3:42.0)
Jan Friedli (1988: 3:42.08)
Dean Childs (1978: 3:42.1)
Louie Quintana (1993: 3:41.24)
Tom Parlapiano (2004: 3:41.51)
Matt Gibney (2009: 3:40.58)

Below is the video of Terrence Byrnes and Adrian Blincoe rabbiting Bobby Curtis and Michael Kerrigan to their first sub-4:00 miles at Swarthmore College in 2007.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Melbourne 1956

The fact that Ronnie Delany considered himself a half-miler until 1955, and that he had the finishing speed of an 880y man, explains a lot about his closing kick in the 1956 olympic 1500 final. The picture above captures the second when his chest hit the tape in Melbourne, but it belies the fact that Delany was at the back of the peleton with 300 meters (see below) to go and needed that closing speed to reel in those in front, including the home-standing world record holder John Landy.

It was Ireland's first olympic medal in 24 years. In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of this historic victory, the Republic of Ireland honored Delany with his own postage stamp.

“It was on Jumbo’s insistence that I ran a mile in Dublin in the summer of 1955,” he recalls. “I ran 4.05 on wet grass in College Park, and on returning to Villanova Jumbo began to groom me for the Olympic 1,500m.”

In Melbourne, Delany easily qualified for the 1500m final. The field was still bunched as they hit the bell and the final lap of the Olympic 1500m. A blanket could have covered the contenders at that point. Ronnie Delany was at the rear of the field but was not worried about his position. “My task was merely to stay in contact and to be very much in touch at the bell, “ he said. “I then planned to be a position to make the decisive break that would take me clear to the tape.”

With just 180 metres to run, Delany made his decisive move. His natural speed carried him clear to breast the tape in a new Olympic record of 3.41.2. When he crossed the finish line with arms outstretched, Delany sank to his knees for a few private moments of prayer.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Penn State Relays

At the Penn State Relays this past weekend, junior Ashlyn Llerandi set a school record in the pole vault and qualified for the Big East championship meet. Also, Sarah Morrison won the mile in 5:10.39, establishing a new meet record. Big East qualifying standards were achieved on the men's side by Nicoy Hines and Stefan Goodridge (60 hurdles), Chris Kearney (500 meters), Curran Darling (HJ), and Robert Sainvil (TJ). For the women, Sherika Ward (60 hurdles) Ashlyn Llerandi (PV), and Ariann Neutts (1000 meters) all posted Big East qualifying times. Neutts was the first collegiate finisher at 1000, trailing by 1 second only ex-Villanova star Frances Koons, who ran unattched.
Among other performances, Oakton, Virginia's Joe LoRusso won the mile, finishing in 4:22.16. LoRusso also ran the opening leg in Villanova's 4 x Mile victory (in 16:47.83) with Chris Williams, Bobby Papazian, and Dan Lewis (all pictured above). Matt Wickler won the 1000 in 2:30.09 in a 1-2-3 Villanova sweep.
Next up for the team is a meet at the Armory in New York on January 16.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Was this the Best Ever Villanova Track Team?

Click on images for larger view.

The 1957 Villanova track team is pictured before departure for the NCAA national meet. In front (from L to R) are Ed Collymore, Ron Delany, coach Jumbo Elliott, Alex Breckinridge, and Charlie Jenkins. In back (also from L to R) are Phil Reavis, Charlie Stead, and Don Bragg. Five of these seven athletes were olympians, and combined won four olympic gold medals. In perhaps the greatest moment in Villanova olympic history, Ron Delany won the 1500 gold at the 1956 Melbourne olympiad. Charlie Jenkins won two gold medals at the same olympic games, in the 400 meters and the 4 x 400 meters (his son, Charlie "Chip" Jenkins, Jr., also a Villanova runner, likewise won an olympic gold medal in the 4 x 400 at the 1992 Barcelona olympics, marking the first time in history that a father and son had won olympic gold medals in the same event). Another Villanovan at the 1956 olympic games, Phil Reavis, an NCAA and AAU high jump champion, finished 7th of the 28 competitors. At the 1960 olympics in Rome, Don "Tarzan" Bragg won an olympic gold medal in the pole vault (see photo below). Bragg set a pole vault world record at the 1960 US olympic trials, to go with the indoor pole valut world record he had set in 1959. Also in Rome, in the famous marathon race won by Ethiopia's barefoot runner Abebe Bikila, the 5'9" 143 lb. Alex Breckinridge (a 15 km and 30 km AAU champion) finished 30th in the field of 69 runners. His time was 2:29:38. One could argue that this 1957 Villanova team was the most accomplished collection of track and field even assembled on the Main Line.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Anatomy of an NCAA Title

The Villanova Women won the 2009 NCAA cross country national championship last December, defeating the heavily favored defending 2008 champions from the University of Washington. Washington entered the meet ranked #1 in the country and Villanova was ranked #2. Comparing the 2008 and the 2009 nationals, one can get a better appreciation of how much Villanova improved from 2008, and how Washington's performance in 2009 failed to match its 2008 effort. Four Villanova runners from the 2009 squad ran in the 2008 national meet, held on the same course at Indiana State, where Villanova finished 6th. Their 2009 performances reveal just how much improvement occurred in the intervening year.

Name__2008 Place__2008 Time__2009 Place__2009 Time
Amanda Marino____ 27__20:38__ 6__ 20:03
Bogdana Mimic____ 53_ 20:57__20__ 20:26
Alison Smith______183_ 22:14__22__ 20:33
Kaitlyn Tallman____ 73_ 21:10__81__ 21:16

Three newcomers to the 2009 meet were Sheila Reid (12th in 20:16), Nicole Schappert (26th in 20:38), and Brooke Simpson (51st in 21:01). Villanova's average time across the 6000 meter course improved from 20:54 (2008) to 20:24 (2009). Washington, on the other hand, failed to improve on its 2008 performance, despite returning 5 runners, including their top 4 from 2008.

Name__2008 Place__2008 Time__2009 Place__2009 Time
Kendra Schaaf______9__ 20:18__ 2__ 19:52
Katie Follett_______20__ 20:33__21__ 20:32
Marie Lawrence____19__ 20:33__27__ 20:39
Christine Babcock___5__ 20:02__29__ 20:43
Kailey Campbell____41__ 20:51_148__ 21:54

Washington had two newcomers in 2009: Allison Linnell (109th in 21:35) and Kayla Evans (136th in 21:48). Washington's average time went in the wrong direction, from 20:25 (2008) to 20:41 (2009). With the exception of Kendra Schaaf, who improved both place and time from 2008, the Washington runners either performed essentially the same as in 2008 (Follett & Lawrence) or fell off (Babcock & Campbell). At bottom, Washington's team did not improve from 2008-2009, while Villanova's did.

The good news for Villanova for 2010 is that 5 of its top 6 finishers return and 2008 competitors Callie Hogan and Sarah Morrison come back off red shirts. Add high school all-american recruit Emily Lipari from Long Island into the mix, and it will be Villanova that has the target on its back. Time will tell if Gina Procaccio's squad will be able to handle the pressure in 2010 better than Washington did in 2009. Below is a video interview with the team immediately after the winning race, as well as a skype interview with Gina Procaccio.

Track and Field Videos on Flotrack

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dick Buerkle: Unexpected World Record Holder

When Dick Buerkle graduated from Rochester, NY's Aquinas Institute in 1966 he had a modest 4:28 mile PR, hardly a time to generate scholarship offers from any top-notch university. Eleven and a half years later, on January 13, 1978 Buerkle set the indoor world record at that distance, running 3:54.93 in College Park, Maryland. So sure was he of breaking the record that night that he telephoned his parents to urge them to come to the meet, saying he was going to break the world record. That same year he won the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, beating Filbert Bayi and generating the Sports Illustrated cover above. By one unofficial estimate, only four men, two of whom (Bannister and Landy) were also world record holders, made a more drastic improvement in his mile time from high school PR to career PR:
                    HS PR   all time PR   improve
Roger Bannister     4:52.0     3:59.4     52.4
Scott Strand        4:50       4:00+      50
Liam O'Neil         4:50       4:02       48
John M. Landy       4:43.8     3:58.0     45.8
Dick Buerkle        4:28       3:54.93    33
Brian Culley        4:51       4:19       32
Tom Byers           4:21       3:50       31
Finn Pincus         4:53       4:22+      31
Paul McMullen       4:21.5+    3:51.7+    29.8
Dave Wottle         4:22       3:53       29

Buerkle competed at Villanova as a walk-on for three years without a scholarship, earning one finally as a senior after breaking 9:00 for two miles. He was a three-time NCAA All American while at the school, finishing 3rd at three NCAA finals: at the 1969 and 1970 indoor 2 miles, and at the 1970 3-mile outdoors.
Despite the mile world record effort, the Wanamaker mile win, and the SI coveer declaring him the "New Master of the Mile," Buerkle was more acclaimed as a 5000 meter runner. Between 1970 and 1981, Buerkle was ranked among the top 10 Americans at 5000 meters 7 times, and was top ranked in the USA in 1974 (when he was ranked #4 in the world) and 1976. He was ranked #2 in 1980 and #3 in 1973. He competed at the 1972 US Olympic Trials (see photo below, with Buerkle in 6th place) and came back to win the 1976 Olympic Trials at 5000 meters and make the 1980 Olympic team as well. In January of 1974 Buerkle broke the 4-year unbeaten streak of Steve Prefontaine when he defeated Pre decisively over two miles at the national CYO meet in College Park. Buerkle finished in 8:26.2, a full seven seconds ahead of Prefontaine.