Fragments – It Is Our City so Tell the Story!
I hope you got a chance to read Jim Lamar’s piece in the Thursday edition of the Tallahassee Democrat. Lamar is the sports editor of the Tallahassee Democrat and he received an email from a reader complaining about all the coverage Joe Franklin received this year. I don’t know if the reader just didn’t think Joe’s accomplishments were very impressive or if the person doesn’t like track and field, but Lamar’s response hit the mark and was great. If you agree please let him know with an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course any fan of track and field understands that what Joe Franklin is doing is truly special and we (fans) NEVER seem to get tired of reading about the sport. But while Lamar rightly pointed out how impressive Franklin’s performances were (top 15 marks in the nation in the 800 (1:51.30) and the 1600 (4:08.84)) as justification for the story, he also focused on something GWTC members have long appreciated – the value of the special people and things in our community. Lamar went on to say that he took the job of sports editor because he “wanted to be the one helping our readers discover the sports stories that make our town so special.”
Congratulations to Tony Guillen and Julie Clark for wins in Greensboro at the Firecracker 5K. Tony took the lead from the start and never looked back – well, rumor has it he did look over his shoulder a few times, but his win was never threatened. Speaking of Greensboro, it is the other side of the world from the Yon’s usual Fourth of July experience. Most Independence Days find us in Atlanta, Georgia, for Peachtree where 55,000 run through the streets of Atlanta. Greensboro had 86 finishers. But it is one of the great things about our wonderful sport – because I find each to be equally wonderful. While it is a great tradition, it is hard to explain why Greensboro would put such a great effort together every year (25 of them) for a crowd of runners. Although, I would have to agree with one runner who said “you would think a small southern town would have more pride than to serve biscuits from a can,” it is still a fun day.
Just a little north, Marianna got a taste of this year’s running boom when it nearly doubled the expected number of participants in the Freedom Springs Triathlon. Helen Libby and Kiko Centrone were the winners there. Terry Edwards, the race director, sounded down right gleeful at the great turnout. We all have been to the movie when you expect 150 to show up and almost double that number show up on race day. The adult tri had 236 finishers, a record I am sure, and the kids tri had 68 finishers. I still heard a lot of stories from participants who had fun.
It has been an incredible year so far for track and field, for me at least. Certainly, Joe Franklin’s efforts were a great start. It has also been a great year on the U.S. track circuit. From the Penn Relays to Ichan Stadium in New York to Eugene (for Prefontaine) and then to the U.S. Championships there has been good TV coverage and great races. And how can you not celebrate FSU’s second straight NCAA title made possible by some very impressive people – Walter Dix, Andrew Lemoncello and of course Bob Braman. Dix is on the cover of the “bible” of track and field – Track and Field News – and there is just page after page of coverage of FSU’s win. Then there is Alan Webb’s story. He of course has run the gamut from high school phenom and “savior of the sport” to a ridiculed disappointment as he has tried to learn how to not just run fast but race at the highest level. Somehow, other than a few “moments in the sun” he has not yet lived up to the hype. This, however, seems to be his year to put it all together. He started with a very impressive win in New York at Ichan Stadium where he beat a strong field that included Bernard Lagat, Craig Mottram and Nick Willis. Then he had a big disappointment in the two mile race at Prefontaine and it looked like more of the same up and down runner. But at the U.S. Championships he proved he was mile ready and had learned much about “racing.” First, he and his main rival (and friend) Bernard Lagat agreed to keep the pace fast even if they had to lead. Webb led a good portion of the race, but did so in a controlled manner. Then on the last lap when it seemed time to fade as others made their moves, Webb matched strides with all competitors until he exploded with 50 meters to go to win by a half second. But perhaps the best proof came at the Meeting Gaz de France Paris St. Denis meet where he ran a personal best 3:30.54 in the 1500 to secure a win over probably the best field he has ever beaten. It made him the third fastest American of all time. Maybe the 1500 record (3:29.30) or the twenty five year old mile record (3:47.69) of Steve Scott is within reach.
The Tour de France started this weekend and as usual my recorder will be tested to the max. This year’s race will be without a former winner for the first time since I have been watching it and it will be indelibly stamped by the impact of drugs. But I tip my hat to those who are working so hard to make the Tour free of illegal performance enhancing substances. I know among some on this side of the pond there is a feeling that drug testing and drug allegations have become a vendetta for those unhappy with the last few champions. As a fan of track and field, for a long time I refused to believe anyone other than the Russians and East German’s cheated. (Not that they could stop little Mary Decker.) Those delusions were shattered long ago though. Ben Johnson’s coach maintains to this day that his runner was set up when he failed his test. The sad thing is he says that, not because Big Ben didn’t use lots of illegal performance enhancers, but because the coach knew how to beat the test and never would have let him get caught. And now the parade of stories, whether doping records or confessions of athletes, shows cycling has been no different. I am not passing judgment on any specific athlete, but I am saying thanks to those who seem now to be trying so hard to clean up cycling as well as the sport of track and field. Maybe it is an impossible task as Ben Johnson’s coach would have us believe, but then again, maybe the Tour can teach us all something special. It is that kind of effort, and those of this year’s riders that will keep me watching even if there are no defending champions riding.