The True Speedsters
I used to hear that fast-twitch muscle fibers – i.e. those associated with explosive motion like sprinting – tend to lose their effectiveness more quickly than the aerobic slow-twitch ones. I am not here to debate the science behind that assertion, but evidence seems to support such a theory. Grandmaster athletes make up a higher proportion of top 10 finishers at ultras than they do at 5K’s, for example. Most of us don’t even bother too much with the really short stuff. My kids beg me not to run in the 100 or 200 meter at summer track because they don’t wish to witness the spectacle.
But there is a small cadre of individuals who defy the odds in this regard. Every Thursday of summer track, you will find a few members of this group gathering near the 100 meter starting line stretching, chatting and adjusting their starting blocks. I would like to introduce you to a few of them that have been there in recent years. I won’t be listing times because comparisons might detract from the point, which is to recognize them for their competitive spirit and their ability to remain strong in these events despite the tug of aging.
The most famous of the bunch is undoubtedly Bill Tharpe. Bill has placed among the top 3 places at national competition in the 100 and 200 meter. He has taken that to a new level recently with an 8th place finish in the 100 meter at the Masters World Championships 60 – 64 age division. Yes, World. Bill has been recognized locally in the Democrat as well as a local TV feature a year or so ago. Even more remarkable is that, after running track in high school, he didn’t restart running until his 50’s. He is obviously an intense competitor, but is also a very kind and gracious person to talk with. Doug Covert may be known by Maclay track fans as the webmaster of maclayrunners.com and as the father of rising star Travis. He also used to run the hurdles at FSU in the mid 1980’s and, after being sidelined by a knee injury a couple years ago, is now back with a vengeance and recently was among the top 10 Masters nationally at 200 meters. He also can run a good 5K. Tarik Noriega is another Master who can power through the short races. He usually shows up near the end of the kids’ heats, ties on his shoes and just goes. As a nod to us distance runners who stumble through the sprints at summer track, he has been known to extend his races to the 1 mile at Breakfast on the Track – as a warm-up for the Hamstring 100. Doug Fowler is another intense competitor sprinting well in his 60’s. Scott Hartsfield recovered from a severed Achilles several years back to win the Summer GP Masters overall title a couple years ago. We haven’t seen him in a while and hope he shows up again soon. Others that have been dogged competitors in the sprinting events over the years include familiar Gulf Winders Charles Futch and John Rakestraw. Hobson Fulmer, Bill McGuire, and Craig Willis have also shown great versatility by being competitive in the short events. On the women’s side, Kim Thomas (perhaps better known to us as the mother of 3 very good youth runners including Chiles star Carly) can beat a large number of the men at 100 and 200. Jacque Myers is another that belongs in the highly versatile category like Hobson that can run well from 100 meters to ultra.
You are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned Dave Rogers. Dave belongs in a separate category because he has been an instrumental behind-the-scenes influence on the development of Summer Track in Tallahassee over the years. He has also provided advice and encouragement to many fellow athletes along the way. He knows these people well and helped me with some of the details about the above runners. Dave was a miler in high school and ran college cross country. He ran a 4:45 mile and some 5K’s as an adult before going against the grain and discovering the need for speed as he got older. He relishes the competition and has been terrorizing Summer Track sprints ever since, winning the Summer GP title in 1995. We usually see him barefoot, but rest assured he sprints with shoes on. He will tell you that the reason people come back is not so much for the pursuit of PR’s, but rather the quality of the race. There is strategy in the 100 and 200, and these guys take it seriously. Dave also coordinates the Hamstring 100, and has many great tales to tell. If you ever see his byline on a Fleet Foot article, do not miss the opportunity to read it. Dave has been sidelined by a foot injury for over a year and a half and he misses the competition dearly. We’re still likely to see him out there this summer supporting the event regardless. I wish him a speedy recovery.
Speaking of the Hamstring 100, the field will be set this coming Thursday with the top men and women in the Summer GP 100. I know there are other closet sprinters out there. Don’t be shy. For the rest of us distance folks, do your best and keep the hammies loose.