Cat Bird Seat


By David Yon

As I write this column the end of May and Memorial Day are rolling around. Memorial Day weekend used to be a time when a large number of GWTC people gathered at 300 Ocean mile condos and other assorted places on St. George Island for a beach weekend. I used to burn the roads up in between Tallahassee and SGI trying to catch the best of the FSU regional baseball tournament and the SGI Beach choir doing their best imitation of CCR’s “There is a bathroom on the right.” There was always a great bond fire by the water, usually masterfully designed and maintained by the pyromaniac Kiff Mendoza. Generally, it also signaled the start of the really hot weather. The tradition dwindled as 300 Ocean Mile deteriorated, raised its prices, increased its minimum stay period and generally just made the group feel unwelcome. The weekend quickly made it clear that this was a group of runners (or maybe partiers), not singers, but the memories of Bill McGuire (who is truly all of the above) playing until the fire gave way to embers at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning are grand.

Sarah Docter-Williams and Wendy Smith continue to put together some bang up socials. A great crowd showed up for the outing at Maclay Gardens. So many of our members these days do much more than run. Just check out the Tri-pages. The May social definitely reflected this as Lake Hall provided the opportunity to swim and the trails gave everyone the chance to run or bike before breakfast. It was hard to count, but I think there were 60-100 people there. It was a perfect place for kids. June brings us the Great Pot Luck 5 Mile Bash with music and another party.

There are some really good things happening on the men’s American distance running scene. There are a number of runners that actually have the potential to compete at the world class level over the next few years. Runner’s World reported in its online version that, for the first time ever, two Americans broke 27:40 in a 10K. Bob Kennedy and Alan Culpepper ran 27:38.37 and 28:39.23 at the Cardinal Invitational on May 7. If you keep up with these things, you know Bob Kennedy is The Man for U.S. distance running right now. He holds the American record at 3,000 (7:30.84) and 5,000 (12:58.21) meters and was a serious medal contender at the 1996 Olympics, so his performance (10th fastest US 10K ever) was not unexpected. But he has pretty much been the only American to run at that level. Alan Culpepper, however, signaled there may be a new group ready to move up. His time was the 11th fastest time ever and followed a decent performance in the World Cross Country Championship where he finished 21st. Unlike the last few years when Americans were unable to run the “A” qualifying standards for the Olympics or World Championships, this race saw no less than 6 Americans beat the 28:10 necessary for the World Championship. Two outstanding prospects, Ryan Wilson and Pascal Dobert acted as rabbits for Kennedy or the number may have been greater.

Coaches at Stanford (Vin Lannana) , Arkansas (John McDonnell) and Colorado (Mark Wetmore) (to name a few) have outstanding programs and are producing top quality runners who will be a force on the world level. There are a number of “enclaves” that have developed that have allowed runners to train together beyond college. The biggest group is in Boulder, Colorado. Dan Browne (part of the Army group), Adam Goucher, Keith Dowling, Marc Davis and many others are training here. Goucher, a Colorado alumni and budding star, finished 12th at the world cross country championships and has run 13:31 for 5,000, 3:39.15 for 1500 meters and well under 4:00 minutes for the mile. His times will drop considerably over the next year or so, if he stays healthy. Seneca Lassiter from Arkansas will continue to improve over the next few years and may just develop into the best miler around. There are many others, including Todd Williams who is rebounding from injuries, who have a chance to restore some luster to American distance running.

The opportunities for these guys to run in this country are growing also. The CanAm track series in the Northeast U.S. and Southeast Canada has provided some good opportunities. The USATF just announced the Golden Spike Tour. This tour includes 5 outdoor meets, all of which will be televised. There is over $3 million in sponsorship and $1 million dollars in prize money and appearance fees. USATF reported that its indoor national championships received a 2.5 rating on NBC, higher than any of the basketball, boxing, hockey, golf and figure skating on that weekend.

On the local level, congratulation go to the Maclay, Port St. Joe and FAMU programs again. The Maclay girls were first in the state with 93 points, while the boys were second with 61. The FAMU High girls won second place with 71 points. Port St. Joe beat out the Maclay boys scoring 65 points to win the title. One of the best stories of the meet however was Matt Katz’s effort in the regional. We all talk about giving 100 percent in our athletic efforts, but it is rare anyone really does. Look for a longer story on his race on our web site (and for Allison Eagan summary of the state meet), but suffice it to say that Matthew put everything he had into his effort to reach state. A group of 7 battled each other in the 3200 meter race for the four spots that meant a trip to the state meet. They were separated by less than one second at the mile mark. As the pace started taking its toll only one dropped off and with just two laps to go there were still six in the hunt. Matt was at the back of this pack. Coach Droze had given him some good advise, however. Do not leave the race to a kick at the end, there are two many guys with too much closing speed. As the bell lap rang Matt shot out of sixth place and began pushing the pace. He quickly went to the front of the pack. Despite heavy legs and painful oxygen debt, he pressed on. 200 meters to go, he clearly was among the coveted top 4 places. 100 meters still there. But those kickers were coming, so he had to keep pushing on. The mind was willing, but the body just could not keep up. With no more than 50 meters he pushed for the finish line with everything he had. But instead of carrying him across, his legs just gave out. He crashed to the track. But he had put some distance between himself and number 5 and when he struggled to his feet he still had a chance. He pushed again, but with the finish line just out of reach – crash he went down again. It was truly an inspiring and winning effort. Matt may not have made state, but he sure provided us all with a great example.

Well, have a month full of happy trails!