Published by the DAILY RECORD of Morris County, New Jersey
On Sunday, March 8, 2015
USATF National Championship quite a show
The US national track and field championships were held this past weekend in Boston at the Reggie Lewis facility. It is a place that is well known to New Jersey track racers, especially masters runners. The masters indoor championships have been held at Reggie Lewis many times over the years.
The event was covered on television on both Saturday and Sunday, and it occurred to me that the races were far more interesting when they are a national championship. Why? At a national championship there are no rabbits.
Rabbits are hired to control the beginning of the distance races. They take the lead and their talent is to be able to run an exact pace, sometimes to carry the favorite to a new record. After the proscribed number of laps, the rabbit steps off the track and the star now runs the rest of his/her time trial alone. Ooops. Did I just call it a time trial? But that is what these races often become.
With the rabbit in the lead and at a fast pace, the field gets strung out pretty quickly and all you see is a string of runners circling the track. Sometimes the star does not finish first in the event so there is a small element of suspense while watching the race, but more often the outcome is predictable.
At the national championship last weekend the races were actual races. The commentators noted several times how slow a race was, how bunched the field, as though that was a bad thing. With no rabbit, the runners had to set their own pace, make it slow or fast. A fast pace will take the kick out of a kicker and a slow pace will allow a kicker to wait, cruising with the pack and then bolt to the front for the lead.
All that strategizing makes for an interesting race to watch. New Jersey television viewers were treated to an exciting 1,000 meter men’s race on Sunday. Robby Andrews, the former high school sensation from Manalapan, was favored in the race. All eyes were on Andrews in his orange singlet when he moved around the pack and took the lead. But wait. Then he was dropped back falling into third, then fourth place. Those men who pulled ahead no doubt hoped their surge would take the fire out of Andrews, who is known for his ferocious kick. And kick he did. With just over a lap to go Andrews swung wide moving toward the front. Coming off the final turn, still trailing the leaders, Andrews hit high gear and sprinted to the front for the win in 2:21.91.
Each of the races had their excitement. Sometimes races can become a contact sport. Ajee Wilson, of Neptune ranked as the best US 800 meter runner, was expected to battle against American 600 meter record holder Alysia Montano but in close quarters one misstep can change the game. Wilson’s misstep halfway through the 600 meter race threw her to the track in a painful to watch face plant. With the other runners leaping to avoid their own fall, one stepped on Wilson’s left arm. She gamely got up and finished the race but significantly back in 1:39.39, while her unchallenged rival won the race in 1:26.59.
One disappointment in watching the television coverage was the lack of television coverage in the broadcast of the Masters exhibition 1,500 meter race. Fortunately it can be found on the USATF national website.
Four New Jersey runners were in the event; John Troutmann of Morristown who won the event in 3:59.47, a near record time for his M45 division, Peter Brady who lives in Jersey City, but who competes for the Central Park Track Club, who finished in second place in 4:02.54, Mark Williams of Columbia, who runs for the Morristown based Garmin team who finished in 4:02.61 for fourth and Anselm LeBourne of Maplewood who finished seventh.
LeBourne is 55 years old and was running against men as much as 15 years younger. No, he did not win the race, but he set a new age division world record with his time of 4:13.77. Watching the video it was disappointing that LeBourne received no recognition from the television commentators for his accomplishment.
St Paddy’s Day 5K on Saturday
Morris area runners can expect that they will not have quite the drama of track racing when they run in the St. Paddy’s 5K this Saturday, March 7th in Morris Township at 10:00 a.m. For the past eleven years the race has taken place prior to the Morristown St. Patrick’s Day parade and opens the racing season in the area. The race is being organized by Super Hero Racing in partnership with the Morristown Running Company.
A calendar of USATF sanctioned events can be found at www.usatfnj.org or at www.raceforum.com for running and tri and biathlon events.
Contact Madeline Bost at email@example.com.