This is the second part of 2 parts. If you would like to read Part I first, which is neither recommended nor not recommended, you can do so by clicking here. Triple negatives are as rare as white rhino’s by the way.
#6 – The Nike Farm Team – Biased? Yes. The Farm Team (along with the Stanford Team) basically rabbited every elite race at Stanford from the late 90’s all the way through 2007- when they moved the team to Eugene and became the Oregon Track Club Elite. Jeff Johnson, then Vin Lananna, then Gags (with help from Jack Daniels and Ray Appenheimer) took the reigns of the Farm Team. They understood that Americans needed fast races in America. Palo Alto was the perfect location. You know what happens when people start running fast? Other people have to decide whether they are going to run that fast. If you came to Stanford to race you came to run fast, really fast. The bar was just set higher. It was that simple. And if the bar was set higher at one level there is a chance that other levels (above and below) will respond. They did.
#7 – Jared Leto and Billy Crudup aka Steve Prefontaine and Steve Prefontaine – When those movies, Prefontaine and Without Limits, came out I was a 22 year old 5th year senior at North Carolina who had read the book Pre by Tom Jordan at least 20 times already. If I had read the book at age 9 or had seen Without Limits at 11 my career would have been very different. I would have been better. The movies were OK. Their significance lies not in their place in cinematic history but rather that they were real running movies. They were movies about a real runner. They were movies that legitimized our efforts on the big screen. I could have used a movie like that in HS. We were still watching Chariots of Fire. Great movie but you can only drink champagne and do steeple drills for so long. (Watch the movie for crying out loud!) I graduated HS in 1994. The Prefontaine movies came out in 1997. Running in the 90’s sucked. If you were an 8th grader though in 1997 when the movies came out you would have been a senior in the Fall of 2000. You would have had to run against fellow HS seniors Dathan Ritzenhein, Alan Webb and Ryan Hall. Coincidence? Obviously not!
#8 – Social Media – (It’s different than the internet dammit!) Twitter. Instagram. Facebook. Tumblr. You name it. HS runners don’t even need to be rock stars to have a rock star presence on line. And if that makes them work harder well so be it. Just remember kids – If you want to act like a rock star off the track you better run like one on the track first.
#9 – Alberto Salazar & Jerry Schumacher- Alberto Salazar took a HS kid and said he was going to make him world class. A HS kid! What was this the NBA? He was so matter of fact about it happening too. Most importantly he was upfront that it would not happen until years and years later. Salazar made all of us that thought the Kenyans and Ethiopians were unbeatable feel like wusses. We were. He also changed they way we thought about ourselves and the time horizons we operated under. We needed to dream bigger, train harder, expect more and understand that this road to success we were on was not endless it was just a lot longer than we had thought. So keep going! He just did it again and this time with a girl. It seems to be working. Jerry Schumacher recruited Americans to Wisconsin and made them elite. Truly elite. And he was quiet about it. Which made it interesting. And they were midwestern kids. Which somehow made it more special. Like they were all farmers sons and were running world class times while also holding down a low paying investigative journalist job at the Daily Planet. It just seemed like American kids could now actually become world class runners. It had been awhile. Now, he rules the roost at the Bowerman Track Club elite. You may have heard of some of his athletes – Evan Jager, Shalane Flanagan, Chris Solinsky. And yes, I had to put Jerry and Alberto with each other. I had to. Besides, their rivalry is great for the sport.
#10 – The Rebirth of Eugene AKA Vin Lananna – It is ESSENTIAL that there is a crowd, an actual crowd, in the stands when a track meet is on TV. It is ESSENTIAL that meets are run professionally. It is ESSENTIAL that the sport is treated as legitimate by the people who run the sport. It is ESSENTIAL that Track & Field have at least one place that it knows it can go and receive all of these things. It is ESSENTIAL that we understand that the sport of Track & Field when presented properly can stand on it’s own two legs without gimmicks. And believe me, the resentment towards Eugene for getting all of these big time meets is great for the sport. It forces other towns and cities to put together some type of a bid that can compete with Eugene if it wants to host a meet. And when a city fails to put together a show that merits taking a great meet out of Eugene again it forces all of us to ask the question “What is Eugene doing that we are not doing anywhere else?” NCAA’s and USATF meets before Eugene was reborn TrackTown USA were poorly attended and looked unexciting and to be honest made our sport look like the peripheral sport it had become. Track & Field could not even FAKE that it was healthy for one or two weekends a year! Growing up with TrackTown USA there to take care of the big ones is a great relief and kids get to watch the stars of their sport compete on a stage that they deserve. Maybe, someday those kids will take that stage themselves. And that stage they get to compete on is a whole lot cooler than any stage they used 20 years ago.
#11 – The Jon Riley, Sharif Karie, Gabe Jennings Mile Showdown at HS National Championships in 1997 –
For the first time in a really long time there was talk, legitimate talk, about a potential HS Sub 4. Almost every year now it seems that there is a discussion about a HS boy breaking 4 or a HS girl running faster than Mary Decker did which to me is the same conversation. Before this RUNaissance (so proud of that word) if someone wanted to break 4 in HS they were told to address the wish to the North Pole. In 1997, everything changed. There was not 1 but 3 potential sub 4 runners in HS. This race was standing room only at NC State and local and national papers picked up the story. If my memory serves correct Ryan Travis took the pace early. The 3 studs came up short but Karie ran 4:02 in a HS only mile and we left excited by the spectacle and more importantly what may lay ahead for American Distance Running. If you want to look into the future just look at the youth around you. You have to be pretty excited about what’s coming next.
Bonus #12 – I will leave this blank. But, I assure you it is really filled with thousands of volunteers and new coaches and long time coaches and parents that drive their kids to practice and older siblings that inspire and grandparents that tell stories about John Walker and Joan Benoit and photographers that show up at meet after meet and charge little to nothing for their work or newspaper reporters that do amazing work writing about our sport and still have to worry about their job and officials that work at meets and put the kids first and race organizers that put in countless hours so we can compete and then put in countless hours picking up our paper cups and orange slices. So, yeah, there is a big blank but not empty #12 on this list.
Is this list, even with the Bonus #12, complete. No way. Not even close. Do you agree with the list? Probably not. Then again, you asked, maybe not you specifically, but you asked.
Maybe now you know why my family never did.