Confidence Everlasting

Story written by EPelle

Have you ever had a group of guys with whom you shared your every wish and goal, and shed tears and blood as you strove to reach the pinnacle of those expectations?

I shared this with six boys who became men following one close defeat at a championship cross country race 21 years ago. These boys were the most prestigious and hard-working group of guys with whom I have ever been associated.

One muddy course helped seven high school boys become cross country men the day it rained in Rocklin, CA. Fourteen feet ran, slid and skid at different paces through the muddy trails at Sierra College – chasing the feet of talented runners with names like Mark Mastalir, Adam McAboy, Chris Hoepker and Robert Roberts, and chasing packs of runners with the letters Bellarmine, Lassen, Jesuit and Vacaville on their jerseys – before the mud was scraped from the bottom of the racing flats, the tally sheet was scored, and our championship team was written into our high school's folklore history.

Seven-thousand-six-hundred-and-ninety-four days have quietly passed since our team last ransacked the inside local sports pages during the autumn of that magical season.

We were headline-makers and news-shakers after every cross country meet – big or small.

Large school varsity or small school individuals. We accomplished so much the sportswriters had a difficult time to continually think of new angles to state the obvious: That our school was tough and going places that season.

We trained tough in the hills, and we ran hard around the perimeter of a university located nearby. We found success racing in the rain and in the sand.

And we had a lot of fun winning.


Beating the entire northern part of California was the flavor of the season. We started off by sweeping conference. We even placed our top-7 in the top-25 at the sub-section championships, with our first two athletes running 14.30, and 14.31 for fourth and fifth, respectively. Our third runner, a grade-10 athlete, ran 14.48.

We repeated as sectional cross country champions when our lead runner braved the local course with his 5th-place finish – running on guts after hurting his foot coming down the ramp. We headed to a destination just outside of Sacramento the day after Thanksgiving with a coach who believed in us, a team that believed in itself, and had just one goal in mind: sacrficing everything – the individual titles, the great Thursday meal and previous results – for the top step on the podium in our bright yellow sweats when the team scores were announced.

Each boy showed up, put it all on the line, finished the course and did his best.

And we finished second.

And was is for those silver medals which we proudly hung around our necks that day many years ago that we were honored with a golden reception in 2003 – for being true champions in the eyes of our community. For being grateful in times of victory, and equally true to each other and our sport when the race director made the announcement and we realized our destiny that day: that after all the months of training, team-building, encouraging and planning, a better team won the championship title...they took home the most prestigious team championship available to Northern California High School cross country teams by a mere five points.

The blue-and-white uniformed boys beat the best. They out-classed us at Clovis. The stumped us at Stanford. They pummeled us at Postal.

And they’d beaten us again.

We were tired of hearing their names ring throughout the Northern California cross country sports reporting world.

But it was in that defeat – in replacing our names in the winner’s circle with theirs – we were deemed champions in our own community. We were honored long ago in front of our peers, and we are honored now by peers we do not even know. We have become legends to an entire generation of Mariner athletes.

I had an opportunity to thank each and every one of my teammates personally and collectively for helping me to understand the value of true teamwork. Their inspiration and dedication then made such an impact on whom I have become today.

I was a stat-freak in school, and am quite thankful the internet did not exist as it does today. I made a point of remembering the small details – including who ran what, where, and how quickly. Had I had an entire world at my fingertips, I don't imagine I would have ever gotten my school work done.

However, one detail I never realized in all of my years was this: I won my very first race as a high school student, a 14.06 2-mile cross country victory in the fall of 1984 that is now lost somewhere in the memory banks of time. And I placed an absolutely, no-questions-about-it last in my final high school race – 4.29,7 1,600m run at the State Finals in the Los Angeles suburbs, and on the grandest stage in front of two of my former mentors.

I won a race I can’t remember, and I finished last in a race I would rather forget. I stepped up, and then stepped down. And to top all things off, during our most celebrated event in our high school's cross country history, I ran slower in my race than the girl’s race winner, Lauri Chapman of San Jose Gunderson.

But what I learned between the time I first set foot on a course and the last time I took a stride around the track were the values of integrity and teamwork. I learned to try, to push and to never give up. I learned to listen...and to laugh...to take the right things seriously. And I learned to help others as I was helped. To rejoice in someone’s new PR.

I was a newcomer to the varsity field during what we coined the “Road to the Championships”. I had run the total of one 3-mile race my entire life prior to getting the varsity call that season. I had absolutely no idea how significant and special that team was until long after the van returned from the high school, we each headed our own directions, and the Sunday sports section exalted: local kid leads high school to 2nd-Place at NorCal.

I learned more on the “Road from the Championships” than I had learned in all the hours and months preceeding it.

I learned to have integrity and determination like our number one runner demonstrated on the course and in the weight room. I learned to have poise and confidence – to “Face the Challenge” like our second in command did when he ran effortlessly (“like a machine,” one newspaper would later state).

I took the competitive, never-die attitude our wunderkind third runner exemplified as a 15-year-old, and believed with him that we were going to eventually break Jeff Nelson’s 8.36 2-mile high school record by the time we graduated.

The number four guy gave me the word “understanding”, and would continue to prove its worth in the future. The fifth boy gave me more confidence-building moments after that race and throughout the entire subsequent spring track season than I have time to list.

Finally, the seventh man on that team had been there along the championship site's cross country grounds before, and stepped up to the plate again in that great season. He helped me through every step of every race. We practived together, and we PR’d together. We beat the entire league runner-up team together.

None of this was possible without our coach.

"Coach" set the tables, and we brought our best every time he invited us to compete. I once had a great opportunity to thank him from the bottom of my heart for the chance to dream alongside those who were there before me, and to hope with those who follow.

The championship drive we had my grade-10 season helped the team the following year return to the same Northern California site for a 3rd-straight season. Our previous number two was now the head guy in charge, and captured the league title along the way – making our team an instant league success after winning the individual and team titles in its inaugural season (this athlete set two school 3.200m records, two school 5.000m records and anchored three school relay records prior to graduating a year ahead of me).

My 2-mile partner in crime grew to a formidable force our grade-12 season, and made it happen our final cross country season - beating me by 1,1 seconds in a 1-2 league finish, and leading our team team to a 2nd-straight conference championship title. His victory was the fifth-straight season a boy from our school had won a varsity league title - three in one league, and two in our new one.

With the opportunity to qualify for the first-ever CIF State Cross Country Championships, we ran all-out and finished 2nd and 3rd at our section championships, and opened up the door for future state championship qualifiers. For the fourth consecutive season, our school was in the post season finale. What the excellent lineup of boys started years before continued to bear fruit for our high school's program.

The “Road to the Championships” began long before I stepped on the starting line, and today a different road is being marched by others who wear my alma mater's high school uniform.

Today, the “Road to to the Championships” doesn’t stop down highway 80 near Sacramento, rather it leads from the training grounds to Woodward Park in Fresno, then further south through the hills above Mt. Sac College – and ends ultimately around a course in San Diego.

None of our names are listed on today’s school-record categories, nor are they mentioned when the gun is raised and the runners set to take their mark at aiming to do their best.

But talk about true champions, and I remember these boys as legends.

They did a fantastic job of teaching me the value of hard work, and taught me that pushing through one more hill repeat - going one more time around the pond for another repeat - was to be a bond unlike any other when one discusses the spirit of friendship - even when a collective goal fell five points short of becoming a reality.

Thanks For a Job Well Done

Story written by EPelle

Some genius once said that the trouble with dreams is that they’re just synaptic meanderings - gossamer mind fiction - so that one minute everything is perfect and this thing you’ve been chasing is so close you can almost inhale it, and the next, wham. It’s gone, and you’re back in reality, because no matter how wonderful a dream is, it’s never really real.

During the past 52 weeks, we’ve lauded superb gold-medal accomplishments, and have sat in utter disbelief through crashes and burns. We witnessed sprinters spike their shoes deep into the track and burst down the homestretch, and we've told the tale of how the first test of endurance was settled at the finish line in full view of several hundred million viewers - droves of personal crowds and classes of people who are proud of human accomplishment, motivated by the harmonious development of mind and body, and uncompromising in their conscious ideals of perfection.

Each of the high school, collegiate and professional athletes who dared to put it on the line this year - from grassroots level to the elites - was put to the ultimate test of dreaming and of finding a proper personal balance in your lives the past 365 days. We were there with you in spirit, and we have highly esteemed many of your performances both on and off the field. Our anticipation of what was to become climaxed when the dust settled and event winners and losers were declared.

A select few of you had the honor of being declared "champions" on medal stands at the state, collegiate and international level, and watched as your national flags were raised during your 15 minutes of fame. We as fans - through our collective acceptance of your efforts (notwithstanding victory or defeat) - gave of ourselves to you the honory crown of prestige and respect, and talk of your performances will live long past the final seconds it took you to reach the finish line, sucessfully glide over a final height, and cast an instrument its furthest distance.

Some of you athletes undoubtedly have touching stories of how you persevered under the most unusual circumstances to become champions in your homelands...you have been labeled heroes.

However, during the course of the season which was inked in 2006, you’ve learned that one’s hero status and merits may get him a cheap seat to the opening ceremony of the "big show". Ambition, longing and hunger may get her through the rounds and to the final. But gumption, guts, and a guilt-free conscious about passing up the world’s best runner during the final lap - realizing that in so doing, that person may not reach his god-like stature and final destiny if you beat him, are the only way assure you earn respect.

In the championships, it doesn’t matter if an athlete is underprivileged, overprivileged or has no privileges at all, the first three people across the line earned the right to stand on the podium and cry with the playing of their national anthems. Over time, many of the rest become forgotten...or end up as trivia questions on message boards across the world.

You dared to win in 2006, and you dared to fail. You dared to be perfect beyond perfection and live with the consequences of trying. You dared to face the challenge
, and in some cases, face the harsh reality of being terminated in your quest in disappointment, exhaustion, solemness and a shadow’s length from realizing your lifelong commitment to your dreams.

Some of you had a dream which produced a good story, but did not yet materialize into an actualization of your hopes. You had a dream which tasted so real and felt so close that you almost did inhale it. However, as of now, dreams which will take you at least one more year to lean across the tape and finish your races.

Thanks for not only dreaming about being champions in 2006, but for walking the championship walk, talking the championship talk, and for displaying true attributes of what makes the mark of a champion truly golden.

Here's hoping that Jordan Hasay continues her remarkable climb up the ladder, no one is able to cage Emily Pidgeon, David Klech makes a successful transition to the collegiate level, and A.J.'s Nation grows exponentially at the University of Oregon.

Here's also a toast to Xavier Carter for making the grade on two levels - showcasing his historic four NCAA medals on the collegiate scene, and the second-fastest 200m ever on the world scene.

May Kajsa Bergqvist find the extra two centimetres in her step at the 2007 IAAF World Championships - three days following the 20-year anniversary of Bulgarian Stefka Kostadinova's world-record jump of 2.09cm set at the inagural world championships in Rome. On the same token, may Stefan Holm be justly rewarded for deciding this autumn to stick with the event two more years.

Finally, as the light dims on 2006, and the dawn of a new year is upon us, may one brave soul cast away the shadows which darkened the sport from 2003-2006 by means of drug scandals and set permanently the cornerstone upon which clean sport will thrive and shine from this day forward.

Tearing Down, or Equipping?

Story written by EPelle

More discussion about Victor Conte, Marion Jones and BALCO

I have been accused by the moderator of an American-based message board of hijacking threads to spread doom and gloom to anybody -- and every person -- who wanders there to read about events which make up the sport. I've been told that I am a zealot who wishes to discuss drugs 24/7, and shouldn't expect anyone to tread murky waters with me.

Perhaps I should have started off my very first drugs-related post by asking for permission to discuss a major development in the sport. It would have read as follows:

"Excuse me, I have some news about performance-enhancing drugs. May I borrow your internet site because I need to make a point that there are lies, cover-ups and misleading statements made by some athletes and coaches - information which, if left closed and dust-covered, will do more harm than good to your readers?"

Insofar as I have public-use information about athletes and coaches who, themselves, have bankrupted fans of their ability to fully celebrate the harmony between pure hard work, willpower, determination and the resulting excellence which ensues from that accord, I have not left it up to fate to bind together the past with the future.

These athletes owe back to the sport and its fans more than they have been willing to pay, and discussions about their misdeeds - many of which have gone unpunished - keep bringing a heavy hand down people's necks in some circles on the internet - hands which clutch and grip as hard as they think they are able to flex.

I've always been transparent on my stance against cheats.

If posters are made aware of these misdeeds, and act upon them, they can be better equipped
and enjoy the sport. If that mechanism of communication is silenced - if those open channels of influence are broken - fans will lose more than they will gain.

There are a few rotten apples in the athletics basket. I believe it is better to tell folks how to avoid believing certain apples are good to eat so that they won't bite into them and taste a deep, sour and utterly bitter fruit instead of chucking them out and looking through the bunch for better ones.

The moderator stated that he welcomes discussion on negative developments, stating that he "wouldnt' have it any other way."

However, he holds a belief that when there is nothing happening on that front his message board is pounded with non-stop drug talk, which, according to him, does "nothing to clean up the sport and only serves to further depress fans who are already becoming marginalized. We need things to build the sport, not tear it down."

I've used the word BALCO in 107 posts of which the great majority involved drugs topics - many of which arose from Michael Johnson stating it would be better if Jones quietly went away following her positve-negative fiasco in August.

Moreover, I have posted information on Jones a total of 187 times out of the 11.643 posts I have made on that message board. These 294 posts represent a grand total of 0,26% of my total contribution to that internet site. I've used the word "doping" in 145 posts between those two aforementioned topics. I've spent a majority of my time enjoying the sport with others, and a very miniscual fraction of my time discussing what is going on behind closed doors.

I'm not picking on the moderator here on this platform - please make no mistake about that. I am, rather, posing a question to you whether or not you feel there is a mystery in the air people are withholding about the state of doping affairs as they relate to athletics, and why people seem reluctant to shed light on it.

Some folks hold tight grips around the neck of doping discussion, and that turns people who would like to inform and involve others in this important dialogue blue. I am not sure there are people who believes folks who don't want to tackle the issues are doing so just because they are nice guys trying to keep fans focussed on the positives in the sport.

This little big word BALCO doesn:t seem to ever die out or go away. There are steps being taken on this front every single week, and news items which are first-cousins with athletics. Those closely following the developments realise that there is a small army marching toward certain individuals for their involvement with that company.

I'm merely a messenger who sees the footprints, hears the heavy wheels turning, and had never had his head down in the sand. I feel my work is not to be a zealot - or provoker, rather to keep folks involved in all aspects of the sport, no matter how painful those secret events may hurt when they are brought to light.

I don't wallow in the muck on this blog site. There are so many positives being discussed about the wheels which turn this sport forward into a greatly anticipated future full of promise, hope and excellent human potential. I will, when necessary, discuss the past as it is intricately intertwined with the
present, and will continue into the future if one is not motivated to derail the train which is deception.


The BALCO Legacy

Story written by EPelle

I have been part of a three-year debate on Track & Field News's message board about the BALCO case - most often times the lone ranger on the Marion Jones suspicion case.

I have spent countless hours racking up notes, quotes and information surrounding key figures in the case, that I now have collected more than what seems a book's worth of information on Marion Jones and Victor Conte.

I usually keep my thoughts about Jones' BALCO involvement to the message boards, but Track & Field News's Chief Officer stated yesterday that Jones' positive-negative this past summer had nothing to do with BALCO, and he was still perplexed over Justin Gatlin's positive test.

Track & Field News - the "Bible of the Sport" as they are called - has not taken any position on the subject of drugs usage in athletics since the genesis of this long debacle. Suddenly, when the BALCO legacy is revisited by the San Francisco Chronicle, one member takes the stance that Jones' initial positive test had nothing to do with BALCO.

"...I'd say the general public greatly associates Gatlin w/ BALCO for the simple reason of Graham's involvement with it. And just as damning for track was the Jones incident. Even though her positive/negative this summer had nothing to do w/ BALCO, I think virtually every story on her (and they were legion) rehashed Conte, C.J., Monty, etc., etc. We're still stuck needing hip waders in this swamp."

I have a difficult time understanding why no one connects the dots between Conte's recovered USADA letter concerning Gatlin and Gatlin's positive test three years later for the same drug - testosterone - that Conte stated Gatlin had received by Trevor Graham through Andrew Tynes.

I'm not going to go into a super long dissertation on the state of affairs as they concern BALCO, because I have done so ad infinitum on message boards for the past two years. This one will have a high word count, but is only a small outline of how things really stack up in the BALCO world.

Whereas folks stated this was all old news, and it should have been hung up with the Conte conviction, muddy shoes continue leaving deep stains on the fabric of the sport.

The statement above about Jones' positive-negative having had nothing to do with BALCO seems a bit too conclusive in the absence of knowing the exact details of the initial test and the results of the second. Moreover, I ask the question of how it can be stated with 100% conviction that Jones had nothing to do with BALCO when Patrick Arnold stated the sprinters had sneaky ways of getting drugs from him?

Make no connection here between Jones and Arnold - this is simply a question posed to provide an alternative to the statement that Jones steered clear of any personal BALCO entanglement.

A recurring question to which no one has been able to offer a definitive answer is: Can a liar tell the truth?

There are two types of liars in the BALCO affair: liars who have cheated, broken rules/laws and been caught, and court-proven testimony liars.

So far in the three-and-a-half-year-old BALCO case, Tim Montgomery, Chryste Gaines, Kelli White, Conte, CJ Hunter and Angel Heredia have been proven to be liars - no mistake about it. However, none of them have been court-proven liars when it comes to their testimonies in the BALCO case. Their witness testimony has never come back to harm them, personally.

Jones team banked a great deal of her innocence on Montgomery's testimony - something they maintained supported what Graham had stated, namely that Jones was innocent.

Trevor Graham has been indicted for lying to the court. He's not convicted, merely suspected.

What will a conviction do to the nature of the Jones case? If her counsel say that Graham's testimony keeps her from the law's tight grip, but Graham's testimony later is proven to have been false, does that weaken her lawyers strategy of positioning themselves behind Graham in the first place?

Trevor Graham's trial has the potential of being the first open-court BALCO testimony which can connect dots between supplier-receiver-user should he not cop a plea and opt out of testifying.

The International Court of Arbitration could not force Montgomery's hand, and they could not coerce Gaines to testify, either. Had either one gone on record to testify on their own behalves, questions would have immediately arisen about the purported Gaines involvement with Jones, whereby Gaines is stated to have demanded a cut from Conte if Jones - a direct competitor - received the same drugs as Gaines.

Montgomery told the United States Grand Jury this information, but was not required to speak about the matter in an open court. He and Gaines took their punishments laying down. It is not standard protocol for athletes to avoid the CAS witness stand, despite what some here have stated. This is the one chance ahtletes have available to speak freely and directly to a panel considering their ultimate fates.

Heredia, a court-proven, non-testimony liar will be called to the United States v Trevor Graham trial to testify for the prosecuting attorney. When his testimony comes to pass, his having stated he made drugs schemes for Marion Jones and others will come back into the picture, and heavily under fire. That testimony will be refuted and denied by Graham's counsel, and it will be up to a jury to determine whether or not Graham is guilty.

If Graham is proven guilty, more weight can be garnered for a United States v. Marion Jones
and/or USADA v. Marion Jones case.

Many readers around the world wonder why the United States government have not acted on information it received three years back, and, unfortunately, continue believing that Graham's case will simply be more of the he-said, she-said merry-go-round upon which the news reports have been spinning since Conte went on air on "20/20".

However, as I stated earlier this winter on the Track & Field News message board, there are bigger fish to fry.

Tammy Thomas and Graham may be the first to come out in the open with who did what, when, where and how. We already know why.

Why do I continue to bring up this three-year-old information about Conte, Montgomery and Gaines, and don:t ever seem to give it a rest? The reason is two-fold:

  1. To prepare you for the hurricane gathering strength on the other side of the waters - one which has been slowly twirling along a path due west until its day of appointment.
  2. To keep you informed, involved and in touch with a story that didn:t end when teams of scholars had hoped it would - or when one athlete said that his/her test "proved that I have never taken a drug".

As long as there is news to cover, you'll get the hard, cold facts in an unadulterated fashion. One hopes for the sake of everyone who has love for this sport that this long, dark chapter will conclude, and everyone can go back to the business of appreciating good marks without suspicion.


Carter Headed to Birmingham

Story written by EPelle

Xavier Carter will make his only 2007 European Indoor Circuit race a 400m dash around the six-lane 200m synthetic track at the Norwich Union Grand Prix in Birmingham, England on 17-February.

Carter, who debuted as a professional athlete at the Norwich Union London Grand Prix in July, finishing second to his fellow American Tyson Gay over 200m, 19,84-19,98, will make his first return to England.

Yahoo Sport reports that Carter signaled his go-ahead for Norwich, because the meeting has garnered a reputation of being one of the best of the indoor circuit.

"The people in Britain seemed to take well to me when I was over here and to enjoy the fact that I'm putting a bit of fun back into the sport hopefully I can put on a show for them in Birmingham," he said, while also stating that he'd like to make the most of his single European visit this winter.

Carter, who ran a world-leading 45,28 in Fayetteville in 2006, will be running on a Mondo Sportflex Super X Classic surface, and may have an exciting finish in store for the fans. Though Carter may not quite yet be ready to challenge for Kerron Clement's two-year old world-record of 44,57 - set in Fayetteville, he may showcase his sprinting brilliance and dip under 45 seconds.

Robert Tobin won the 2006 400m dash in 46,18.

The Norwich Union Grand Prix has been no stranger to excellent marks, with Kenenisa Bekele setting the current 5.000m World Record of 12.49,60 - the only time ever recorded under 12.50 indoors - there in 2004.

Bekele nearly established a second world record in Birmingham last winter, running two miles in 8.05,12, a mark which was just 0,43-seconds outside of countryman Haile Gebrselassie's still-standing 8.04,69 set in 2003.

Wilson Kipketer set the current 1.000m WR - 2.14,96 - at the same meeting fours years earlier.

Yelena Isinbayeva, who set a world record in Birmingham in 2003 with a clearance of 4.88m, nearly missed setting a pole vault world record there in 2006 with three attempts made at 4.92m.

Fellow Russian Svetlana Feofanova was also successful at setting a world-record in Birmingham, vaulting 4.77m in 2003.

Carter is coming off one of the most successful sprint seasons ever recorded in athletics. He won four NCAA titles in Sacramento in June, becoming the first person since Jesse Owens won four titles for Ohio State University 70 years earlier, and followed up that campaign by recording the 2nd-fastest 200m ever recorded, 19,63, in Lausanne. Carter broke 20,00 three times, and also recorded three sub-45,00 400m clockings last year.

Carter is no stranger to record performances, having anchored LSU to a NCAA collegiate 4x400m record in 2005, running 44,00 to bring the Tigers home in 2.59,59. Their mark was the third sub-3.00 performance in collegiate history, and eclipsed the 2.59,91 set by UCLA 17 years earlier. Three of UCLA's four relay runners went on to become individual and/or relay world record-holders in the future.

Carter set three LSU indoor 200m records during his first season there, running 20,67-20,47 and 20,39.

What makes Carter such a remarkable talent is that all of the above was recorded off of American collegiate football training in the autumn of 2005. Carter did not do any track work until after LSU's football season ended with a 40-3 victory over Miami of Florida in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (formerly known as the Peach Bowl) - one which LSU is 4-0 in its history.

Carter opened his 2006 track season with a 20,74 200m victory on 21-January, and promptly recorded a 45,89 400m on 10-February. He set the yearly indoor leader pace seven days later in Arkansas.

Carter was a hot ticket in high school as well, running a 20,69 indoors in 2004 to become the first USA high school athlete to run under 21,00 indoors. He competed in the 100m, 200m and 400m dashes for Palm Bay Senior High School in Florida, winning 10 regional, division and county titles, nine Florida state titles, and nine conference titles. Carter won the Florida state 100m/200m/400m in back-to-back years, becoming the only Florida athlete to ever achieve that remarkable triple crown twice.

Fans around the world are excited to see what the second-year professional can bring to the indoor campaign with an autumn focussed on track rather than the grid-iron. Folks believe that if Carter could accomplish so much in 2006 with so little preparation, he'll be primed for greater successes in 2007 with a singular focus on athletics.

Those who had an up-close and personal look at Carter in Louisiana saw him compile the following accolades in two seasons at Louisiana State University:

  • Seven-time NCAA Champion
  • 10-time All-American
  • 2006 NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year
  • 2006 NCAA Men’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year
  • 2006 NCAA South Central Region Men’s Outdoor Track Athlete of the Year
  • 2006 NCAA South Central Region Men’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year
  • 2006 SEC Male Athlete of the Year
  • 2006 SEC Men’s Outdoor Runner of the Year
  • 2006 SEC Men’s Indoor Runner of the Year
  • 2005 SEC Men’s Outdoor Freshman Runner of the Year
  • 2005 SEC Men’s Indoor Freshman Runner of the Year

If Carter can add to his professional CV any semblance of the collegiate success he achieved, no world record - individual or relay - is safe from his reach.

First things, first, however.

We'll get a glimpse of just how dominant Xavier Carter - the "X-man" is indoors three days after Valentine's Day.

Until then, stay tuned here for much more of Xavier Carter and his exploits!


Through the Pages of Time

Story written by EPelle

How many times have you gone into your basement, dusted off the top of a plastic container carton and dug up a particular athletics magasine to find the result to a trivia quiz?

How many stacks of those magasines do you have available at your disposal to wade through for old time's sake?

I own a small collection of Track & Field News magasines - 86 to be precise, and have seven Athletics Weekly ones to add to the growing pile for good measure. Or was that good dusting?

I began subscribing to the monthly publication, Track & Field News, back in 1986. I used to read it from cover-to-cover, often memorising all the stats, results and records printed therein. I'd re-read the same issue the following three weeks until a new one arrived, so I had time to let everything sink in!

The issue above is the oldest edition I have, and was given to me as a gift by an old running buddy of mine - an Olympian who happened to also be one of my five other housemates. He'd ordered it from the Track & Field News archives, and it was a true treasure chest; the NCAA edition was relevant to my competition level at the time.

Many a face has graced the cover of Track & Field News, and many of history's fastest, furthest and longest marks ever recorded are in my basement. Collecting dust. Hardly visited. They lay stuffed under another carton of books I've already read and likely won't re-read any time soon.

I'm the proud owner of some of the most fascinating historical data in print - including programs and newspaper clippings from meets around the world, but I don't recall the very last time I was so inclined to open the books and re-live those old memories.

High speed connections and a world at my fingertips has caused me to stare at flashing photos and fancy graphics instead of looking at standard black print on white glossy pages under a dim light. Whereas I once used a yellow highlighter to recall an important fact, I now use a mouse click to bookmark that important result, that tidbit of information -- that "must remember" detail meant to give me appreciation of who did what, where, when, why and how.

I'm good on bookmarks - I won't need to lift another finger for a local, national, international or championship result anywhere around the world so help me God. Everything's nightly packaged into one folder visible on my laptop screen.

Feature articles and everything news-worthy has its place, too, as RSS feeds give me the first-hand scoop I need when events happen, names make the news, and the world should know.

Honestly, I can't recall when the last time was that I read an athletics article in magasine print, which has brought me to the question of the hour:

When does a collection hardly used turn into a bonafide junk pile?

I can see the terrific value of holding on to old magasines filled with more stats and information for trivial games than one can handle. Athletics magasines are data intense.

However, I realise that any stats, figures, numbers, names, places, times, dates or the like are readily available as quickly as I can tap the enter key and a server can take me to my requested page - to that spot among hundreds I have saved for such an event as trivial awareness.
Meanwhile, the cobwebs continue forming along the edge of my carton along a wall in a dark room. Inside that space are eight piles of 10 magasines in yearly order - July 1984 at the top, April 2003 the final of the subscription mail pieces I have ever received from Mountain View, CA, USA - home of Track & Field News.

I've grappled with the thought of nicely parting ways with the magasines, but conscious has held me back on my only serious attempt. I've donated issues to fans new to the international scene - people eager as I was to read physical print back in the day.

I suppose only thing keeping me from tossing them all together is that there is a market for such treasures - there is a price on Carl Lewis' head, so to speak. Then again, it feels completely unnatural to sell off undefinable treasures - splits, paces, times and honours - when those exact details are what made the sport interesting to me when I took it up 21 years ago.

The other compelling reason I have not thrown out my aging newsprint is that Track & Field News calls itself "The Bible of the Sport."

Funny, but it feels that, by some supernatural occurance, throwing out history will be a curse of never being able to repeat it - quite to the contrary of the principle of one's not knowing his history making him doomed to repeat it. Knowingly parting ways with one of those magasines seems to be akin to leaving a Bible near an open fire with gasoline tipped over without a lock.

Oddly enough, no matter how quickly I've been able to pace my way through results around the world - one mouse click at a time, it seems nothing truly has taken the place of previously having waited an entire four weeks - 30 whole days - to appreciate what athletes had accomplished nearly two months before the results hit my post box. I couldn't appreciate clicking on results three days old - let alone 10-times that amount - nowadays.

Therefore, it seems most prudent to hold on to the memories as long as I have a computer. The day computer results turn into the next best invention to trick me out of reading, I promise to take a day, open that clear plastic rectangular box with a blue top, and try remembering who this guy named Michael Johnson was, and what was so special about some hot night in Atlanta.

Until then, it'll be click, click away until my fingers turn numb.


Thanks, Pal!

Story written by EPelle

I've never really gotten into the whole pen-pal game.

As a youth, I found a way to find others' live more interesting than mine, and became easily distracted by the perception of surface spendor and greatly exaggerated excitement lived by my letter-writing friends.

I tried it once - this pen and send - back when I was 16-years-old, gaining excellent insight to how folks on the island nation of Jamaica lived and carried about. Then I felt guilty about being a teenager with so much more than they had, that I stopped talking about my life after a couple of rounds.

Soon, two months into the autumn following my summer visit there, I stopped buying stamps, never got a new piece of mail, and lost out on a terrific learning opportunity.

I've always enjoyed writing and discussion - there is no mistake about that. It just took me a good while to learn that others may look forward to mail more so than me.

So I tried it again three years later.

My last actual pen-pal attempt was with my childhood friend whom I had intended on confiding during my first few months away at university in America.

I had every intention of discussing with him the challenging courses I was enrolled in, the difficult workouts I was running, and the complete change of pace university brings about.

However, four weeks turned into six, and the one page I had saved to describe life far away from home was moved into a pile. That stack became dusty and soon became scrap. As a starving student, that scrap of sheets was used - and re-used - for notes, dwellings and thoughts about everthing once-upon-a-time. I finally hitched a ride on the communication wave by picking up the phone and calling him long distance.

No answer.

And so the great experiment which was called letter-writing began and ended before ever setting sail for true north.

An Olympic gold medalist ruined my personal retirement from this game by one simple answer to an e-mail nearly two years ago.

I was hyped following one of his historic achievements now 21 months old, and sent him an e-mail congratulating him on his remarkable day.

I wanted to participate in athletics full-circle.

Being a fan to me was more than watching athletes compete on television - and in person when they make their way to Göteborg for indoor and outdoor competitions. So I typed up a quick congratulations - one of thousands I am positive he received after that performance - and left it up to fate to work out the response effort.

I was at work one morning in March 2005 when a personal e-mail added depth to my total athletics experience.

Stefan Holm had written back.

He'd read my e-mail and wanted to thank me for writing. He told me he'd actually kept up with some of the message board topics related to high jumping on Track & Field News that I linked in my e-mail. He'd just become the fifth high jumper to clear 2.40m indoors, recording this at the 2005 European Indoor Championships in Madrid, and athletics fans around the globe were celebrating this great achievement.

He'd become a star after winning the 2004 Olympic high jump title in Athens. He made even greater headlines when he beat Russia's Jaroslav Rybakov by 2cm to win the continental championship in excellent fashion. Rybakov had also taken attempts at 2.40m, but it was Holm who managed a life-time best - indoors or outdoors - to elevate himself into the upper elites who have ever contested the event.

The high tide has rolled back out to sea after more than 20 e-mail exchanges, but Holm has made a magnificent go at keeping the fire burning. He's been great at responding to e-mails, and has been a treasure chest for a fan like myself who loves an inside scoop. He's a very down-to-earth person.

Connection with Holm prompted me to try my hand at this again this past summer, writing to three more athletes - two female high jumpers, and to a pole vaulter.

I have had early success connecting with one of the high jumpers, exchanging words on a few occasions to share the typical "great job" - "thanks" dialogue which follows any considerable achievement.

Tia Hellebaut was extremely easy to speak with this past summer. She'd beaten Kajsa Bergqvist here on our own home turf for the 2005 European Championships high jump title.

Hellebaut seemed to almost apologise for wrecking the day for Bergqvist here, and took her victory - actually each of her successes this past year - in stride. I mailed her a couple of photographs she took with a stranger during the championships, and told her what a great job she did in winning a major international title. She responded in kind, and we've written a few times during the off-season.

I had hoped for more with the second high jumper, but have never received a communication in return.

Logging into e-mail has never been more fun than over the past two years. Sometimes I feel like a small boy does when sees his favourite person on television - it makes me proud. It's interesting how I peek and hope that a returned letter (e-mail) is waiting with a few words from a pal on the other side of the server.

I've had more to bring to the smörgåsbord than the small portion of table salt I had previously left for the other partakers in my snail mail game.

I've been enriched by what others take the time to write, and I hope everyone has an opportunity at some point and time in life to spend time discussing fotboll and books with an athlete of their choice. You'll feel a connection to the sport - and to their event - on such a greater level, and the recipient of your mail just may take a moment to say thanks for thinking about them.

It's funny how this works!


2006: Success From A to Z

Story written by EPelle

Gosh, has 2006 been a year to remember.

So much has happened, with several world records set indoors, several outdoors, and four athletes staying undefeated against international competition.

I could spend an hour talking about what made the year great, but thought I'd make it easy on you today and give you the facts as they appear A-Z -- those people and moments which made my year!


Asafa Powell twice equaled his WR, went undefeated. Powell finished the season with top-10 times of 9,77 - 9,77 - 9,85 - 9,85 - 9,86 - 9,86 - 9,89 - 9,91 - 9,95 and 9,96. He also ran 19,90 over 200m.

Brad Walker joined the 6,00m club in Jockgrim on 19-July. Walker ended the season with five jumps over 5,85m.

Carro went undefeated and won European gold. Carolina Klüft has been atop the IAAF leader board for 222 weeks as best heptathlete in the world.

Deena Kastor broke 2.20! Kastor ran perfect splits in setting her American record with her London Marathon victory, running the fourth-fastest women's marathon all-time - 2.19.36. Kastor also ran an 8.56,35 3.000m, a 31.58 road 10km, and a 1.04.07 half marathon this year. Kastor also won the USA 8km championships in March, running 25.05.

European Championships. Enough said.

Francis Obikwelu doubled up at Euros. Obikwelu impressed me with his consistency this season. He kept quite and to himself this season, letting his spikes tear through the red track att Ullevi Stadium and power him home to first-place finishes in the 100m (9,99) and 200m (20,01). He brought our 200m specialist, Johan Wissman, home to a silver medal and a new NR (20,38) in the process.

Gary Kikaya set a non-USA WR! Americans have owned the 400m for what seems ages on end. They have not lost an Olympic 400m race since 1976 (they boycotted in 1980), and have broken 44,00 39 times - the only nation with athletes under 44,10. Kikaya made great strides this season by blistering home a 44,10 at the World Athletics Final, only 0,08 seconds from Jeremy Wariner's winning mark.

Haile Gebrselassie went bonkers on the roads. Gebrselassie set world records in the 20km (55.48/Phoenix, AZ, USA), the half-marathon (55.48/Phoenix, AZ, USA) and a 25km best (1.11.37/Amsterdam), and finished his year having run a 60.08 half-marathon for a win in Granollers, along with marathon times of 2.05,56 (PB), 2.06,52 and 2.09.05.

Isaac Songok broke away from Bekele. Songok began his international career as a 1.500m runner. He took his game to a new dimension this season in defeating Kenenisa Bekele in the Oslo Golden League meeting, 12.55,79 - 12.58,22. Songok finished his season with bests of 3.31,85 - 7,28,92 (list-leader and PB) and 12.48,66 (PB). He even put up a 7.28,98 and two more sub-13 times to set himself up as a threat in Osaka.

Jeremy Wariner moved up to 4,7 all-time. Wariner's only blemish on the season was pulling up in his final meet of the season. He ran superbly, three times running under 44,00-flat -- 43,62, 43,91 and 43,99. Wariner also ran a 20,19 PB in the 200m.

Kajsa Bergqvist jumped 2.08m! Bergqvist owned the indoor season before injury struck her toward the World Indoor Championships. Bergqvist captured the mark on her first attempt in a classic showdown with Blanca Vlasic, who skipped 2.03m, and made attempts at 2.05m - a height which Bergqvist missed on her first, but maneuverd on her second.

Lornah Kiplagat ran superbly on the roads. Kiplagat led the road warriors with a 30.50 10km (and running 31.11 and 31.24 en-route to longer races), ran a 47.10 15km en-route to her Debrecen 20km WR (1.03.21). Kipligat extended herself to a 2.32.31 marathon. Kipligat also recorded a 30.37,26 on the track.

Meseret Defar set a WR! Defar was dangerous on the track, lighting up the outdoor circuit with a list-leading 8.24,66 (with 8.34,72 backing that up), and a world-record 14.24,53 in New York City, USA in June. Defar also recorded 14.33,78 - 14.35,37 and 14.39,11 in Grand Prix races.

Nobody could touch Powell, Wariner, Saladino or Richards. Each won their share of the IAAF $1.000.000 jackpot, never suffering defeat in a Golden League event.

Olga Kotlyarova ran well when it counted. The former 400m specialist won the European Championships (1.57,38) and recorded a season-best of 1.57,24. Kotlyarova ran under 1.58 three times, and also ran a 50,99 open 400m for a runner-up finish in Sochi as part of a 400m/800m double in which she recorded a 1.58,95 (also a runner-up).

Paul Koech broke 8.00 without Shaheen. Saif Saaeed Shaheen would have been my "S" selection in any other year - he twice broke 8.00 in the steeple, ran a personal best 3.33,51 1.500m, and ran a 12.51,98 5.000m in Rome - 0,54 seconds off of Bekele. Lost in the steeple shuffle was Koech, who - without the aid of following Shaheen - ran 7.59,94, 8.00,29 and 8.01,37 -- all victories on the European Circuit - the final time recorded at the World Athletics Final.

Qaulity was in order this season: 15 sub-13,10s; 23 sub 1.44s and 13 sub-4.00 1.500m. Xiang Liu twice ran under sub-13,00, with his world-record 12,88 recorded in Lausanne. Hurdlers faced off often and furiously against each other in 2006, with the world record and subsequent excellent times a result of not ducking one another. The 800m was again worth watching this year, with Wilfred Bungei recording four of those times. Bram Som broke out to establish himself among the next World Championships medal contenders with two well-placed 1.43 clockings. The Russians simply ran away from the world this season in the 1.500m, trading places and world-leading times in several outstanding efforts.

Russia ran a 3.23 WR indoors!

Sanya Richards went undefeated, broke AR. Richards closed in on the American record in 2005, running a world-leading 48,92 - which was also her personal best. She broke 50-flat nine times in 2005. This year was a year unparalleled in the young American's career, as she topped the world-list at 48,70 - a time which also broke the 22-year-old American record of 48,83 that Valerie Brisco-Hooks established at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA. Richards ran the year's five-fastest times, and again broke 50,00 nine times.

Tyson Gay had a season to remember. Men's 200m sprinting took the sport to a new postal code this season, with 16 performances under 20,00 by far the best year in ages. Tyson Gay ran the third (19,68)-, fourth (19,70)-, fifth (19,79)- and sixth (19,84)-best performances of the season - with his personal best, 19,68, making him the equal third-best performance and equal fifth-best performer of all-time. Gay also recorded 9,84 - 9,88 - 9,88 - 9,92 - 9,96 - 9,97 in a sprinting campaign which must be considered one of the best seasons ever.

Usain Bolt broke Powell:s 16-day 200m NR. Usain Bolt set the world junior record, 19,93, in Deveonshire in 2004. He followed it up with another sub-20,00 - a 19,99 in London in 2005. Bolt has shown excellent flashes of greatness, but had not previously been able to stay away from injury. He had the great fortune of competing against Americans at their best in Lausanne, broke Asafa Powell's two-week-old national record (19,90), but finished "only" third in 19,88 in what many consider one of the greatest races in history. Bolt finished the season with top-5 bests of 19,88 - 19,96 - 20,08 - 20,10 and 20,10.

Virgilijus Alekna went undefeated, and won ECs. Alekna has the 2nd-furthest discus throw in history, hurling the implement 73,88m in Kaunas, Lithuania in 2000. He is the two-time defending Olympic champion in the event. Alekna had the second-furthest throw of the season, a 71,08m victory in Réthimno, and had two of the year's four 70-metre throws (70,10m in Tallinn).

Wallace Spearmon made sure we quickly forget his father. Spearmon's father was an All-America sprinter for Arkansas. Nothing he did can compare to Spearmon Jr.'s 2006 season in which his top-five times were 19,65 - 19,87 - 19,88 - 19,90 - 19,90. Spearmon's 19,65 was a personal record, and run completely alone, as second place in Daegu, South Korea, was more than a second behind. Spearmon is the 3rd-best performer with the 3rd-best performance all-time in the 200m. He threw in a 10,11 100m in Shanghai for good measure.

X²+8=19,63 was the equation of the year. Xavier Carter had the best of two world in 2006. He became the first athlete since Jesse Owens to win four gold medals at the NCAA Championships at the conclusion of the collegiate season, then opened up the senior circuit record books by running the 2nd-fastest time in history, 19,63, from lane eight in his first-ever professional 200m race - a victory in Lausanne. He finished the season with marks of 10,09 (10,11 - 10,12 - 10,15) - 19,63 (19,97 - 19,98 - 20,13 - 20,22 - 20,30) and 44,53 (44,76 - 44,84 - 44,96). He is the most versatile sprinter in the world, having managed these marks after playing American collegiate footboll in the autumn season.

Yelena Soboleva smashed the indoor 1.500m WR. Soboleva ran astonishingly indoors at her national championships, becoming the only clean athlete in the history of the world to record a time under 4.00 at 1.500m, running 3.58,28. Her fast running didn't stop there. Soboleva, who also ran 1.58,53 indoors - becoming the 15th-fastest person in history, put up outdoor marks of 1.57,28 (1.58,17 - 2.00,00) and 3.56,43 (3.56,74 - 3.58,60 - 4.00,36 - 4.00,47 - 4.01,95). Soboleva had five Grand Prix victories in 2006.

Zulia Calatayud kept her nose in the 800 leadership. Calatayud ran the third-fastest women's 800m outdoors in 2006, stopping the clock at 1.56,91 in a great third-place finish in Lausanne. Calatayud also recorded six additional sub-2,00 clockings in 2006.

Gifts Which Keep on Giving

Story written by EPelle

Here's a fine gift idea to any student of the sport - whether for an amateur stat keeper, a school boy keeping abreast of his peers at the schools and grass-roots level, or a person truly passionate about the sport.

An Athletics Weekly magasine subscription will be a favourite with your family and friends - anyone with an inkling of appreciation for athletics.

Athletics Weekly was established over 60 years ago, is published each Tuesday, and covers events within the U.K., national and international meetings and championships, and it offers a look into international stars on the rise.

Its journalists are passionate about the sport, and offer incredible insight on the athletes, coaches and management which make up this sport. Their news is fresh, their content is magnificent, and their choice of detailed feature stories makes receiving the magasine ever worth the wait at the post box!

Athletics Weekly also has a great internet site where fans can read information on upcoming fixtures, and debate and their opinions on domestic and international events among other things.

For subscription information, click here.

Track & Field News, run out of Mountain View, CA, USA, has proclaimed itself the "Bible of the Sport," and is rich in content, features, photos and championship form charts.

Track & Field News was also established over 60 years ago, and offers excellent performance charts and results from the USA high school through the international professional levels during their peak seasons.

Track & Field News also provides fans of all interests great coverage of the European Circuit.

Track & Field News also has a large selection of books and videos for sale through its e-store, and offers subscribers to receive at no additional cost a very comprehensive electronic subscription which typically is e-mailed on Tuesdays.

The electronic subscriptions, known as eTrack, offers results, stats and splits for the major invitationals in America and around the world.

Track & Field News also runs a website which is broken down into four categories by which the moderators adhere. No subscription is necessary to sign up for discussion in one or all of the following categories: Current Events, Historical, Dope Talk (which opened at the height of the BALCO investigation, but is generally closed) and Things Not Track & Field - a hodge-podge discussion forum.

For subscription information, click here.

Svenska Mästerskap i friidrotten 1896-2005 is a unique book in Swedish that includes 110 years, 702 championships arrangements and 14.500 Swedish medallists in all events.

Fans interested in the rich tradition Swedish athletics has donated to the world will be interested in the excellent coverage this book provides.

This year's book offers the reader for the first time ever each outdoor medallist presented with name, club and result complemented with text and pictures.

Svenska Mästerskapen i friidrott 1896-2005 also includes the 50 most frequent medallists of all times no matter which event, the 50 most frequent clubs, portraits of all the big names and lots more. The book is 280 pages, contains 227 pictures and is 210x270mm, hard cover.

For order information, click here.


Ivanova Banned Two Years

Story written by EPelle

BBC Athletics announced today that Russian steeplechaser Lyubov Ivanova was handed a two-year drug suspension by her athletics federation for failing a test administered during the IAAF World Athletics Final (WAF) held in Stuttgart, Germany in September.

Ivanova, ranked fourth in the world in her event, finished fourth at the European Championships here in Göteborg in August, running 9.33,53.

The IAAF stated on Tuesday, 2006-November-14, that an unnamed athlete had failed a drugs test at the WAF final, with a planned announcement due shortly thereafter. Ivanova's name was announced on a message board 10 days later as having been the athlete in question.

Ivanova's ban took effect on Friday, 2006-December-22.

Seven Russians have committed doping offenses in 2006 according to the latest available statistics published by the IAAF. A total of 23 Russian athletes failed drugs tests in 2005 according to Rotislav Orlov, Russian Athletics Federation's spokesperson.

Ivanova competed in 10 races in 2006, opening her season with a 9.26,54 victory at the Russian Athletics Championships - her first race in 11 months. Her fastest time of the season - which was also a personal best - was a 9.21,94 clocking at the Tsiklitiria meeting in Athens, where she placed 2nd behind Poland's Violetta Janowska, who also set a personal best (9.17,15).

Ivanova's personal best ranks as the 17th-fastest time ever recorded, and she is the 6th-fastest athlete ever in the event. Janowska is ranked seventh and fourth, respectively.

Russia's Gulnara Samitova set the world record of 9.01,59 in 2004.

Ivanova was a dark horse this season, having run no faster than 9.00,90 over 3.000m (a mark she achieved in 2005 indoors with a fifth place finish at her national championships).

She recorded a 9.27,57 indoor world best steeple in the 2005 Russian Indoor Championships in Volgograd - winning by just under eight seconds over teammate Marina Ivanova two days before her open 3.000m final. The indoor barriers are not standard, nor is there a water jump.

Ivanova's best steeple last season was a 9.46,63 recorded at the 2005 SPAR European Cup in Florence, Italy - a silver medal performance which helped Russia win the overall title.

Her lifetime best prior to this year was a 9.28,02 2nd-place finish in Rieti, one of four times she ran the distance in 2004.

Ivanova does not have 800m/1.500m speed, having recorded 2.11,37 (2005)/4.14,87 (2006).