Ryan Hall Wins USA Olympic Trials Marathon

Story written by EPelle

NEW YORK - Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenhein and Brian Sell won spots on the USA men's Olympic marathon team for the Beijing by finishing 1-2-3 Saturday at the USA Olympic Trials.

All three made the Olympics in the marathon for the first time, with Hall and Sell making their first Olympic team. Ritzenhein contested the 10.000m at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

Hall, who had never run a marathon before April, won with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 2 seconds after running five loops around Central Park. He was followed by Ritzenhein in 2.11.07 and Sell in 2.11.40.

This race started at a 2.20 marathon pace as the runners were feeling each other out early, with Hall running his first 10km in 32.36. Hall closed his race out in a stunning 1.02.45 -- a time which was spectacular considering the undulating Central Park looped course the runners faced five times in addition to the wind.

Hall set a USA Olympic Trials record with his victory,
and ran 10km splits of 32.36 - 30.38 - 29.53 - 29.25 between 10km and 40km, and ran his fastest 10km segment during the 25th and 35th kilometres, splitting 29.16.

Tony Sandoval held the previous record, timing 2.10.19 in winning the 1980 USA Olympic Marathon trials.

Hall ran an incredulous 4.32 18th-mile to break away from the pack once Khalid Khannouci cut into the lead shared by the five-person contingent through mile-17, and establish a lead he'd increase as the next eight miles wore on, even splitting 4.34 at mile 20.
"I'm just thrilled with the day the Lord gave me and thrilled to be part of this Olympic team," Hall said. "I was thinking about the Olympics when I was out there on that last lap and the fitness it will take. The last mile, I knew I was going to be OK. I know I can run considerably faster. There's definitely more gears in there. I'll get to test those in Beijing."
Hall, who set a national 20km record (57.54) while finishing 11th in the IAAF World Road Running Championships in Debrecen, Hungary one year ago in October, set his second American record in winning the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, in Houston, Texas, in 59.43 - a mark which also set a new continental record. He appeared to treat his final mile as a victory lap, raising his hands to the supportive crowds lined up to the finish line.

Ritzenhein, who improved his best marathon time by over three minutes in this, his second-career marathon, is stated to be considering whether or not to contest the 10.000m in Beijing - a distance which he has also qualified under the "A"-standard, but one which he would need to contest and finish in the top-3 at the USATF Outdoor Championships in June if he chooses to take the shorter race in Beijing's heat, humidity and smog.

Sell had cemented belief in his capabilities by winning the 2007 USATF 25K Championships. Sell led the 2004 Olympic Trials pack from the seventh through 22nd miles before he was caught and eventually faded during the final four miles to finish twelth (2.17.20).

American marathon-record holder Khannouchi, formerly of Morocco, finished fourth (2.12.33) and will be the first alternate if Ritzenhein declines to contest the marathon in Beijing or either Hall or Sell are unable to compete.

Khannouchi is also the former marathon world-ecord holder, and is the only man in history to ever run sub-2.06 three times. He was the fastest of the qualifiers, having run 2.07.04 in London in April 2006

Mebrathom Keflezighi, the 2004 silver-medalist in Athens, finished out of the running with a 2.15.09 eighth-place effort.

Hall enacted his second-consecutive revenge race on Ritzenhein, who had defeated him at two previous national championship events, winning the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships (29.14,1) to Hall's runner-up, and the 2000 Footlocker National Cross Country Championships (14.35) over Alan Webb and Hall.

Hall won the 2006 USATF National Cross Country Championships at the 12km distance. Ritzenhein finished a disappointing fourth, more than a minute behind Hall.

Hall, Ritzenhein and Webb have each gone on to record spectacular achievements at the senior level, with Webb setting the American record in the mile last summer; Hall setting two road-running national records; and Ritzenhein recording one of the fastest 2-mile times in American history last summer (8.11,74y) to go along with his 2007 IAAF World Championship and 2004 Athens Olympic Games 10.000m appearances.

Tragedy Strikes

Ryan Shay, the 2003 USATF Marathon Winner and 2004 Olympic Trials favourite, died today whilst falling down face-first near the five-mile marker according to a person reporting on Track & Field News's public bulletin board and later confirmed by NBC Olympics and USATF, which released a statement below.

"We all are devastated over Ryan's death. He was a tremendous champion who was here today to pursue his dreams. The Olympic Trials is traditionally a day of celebration, but we are heartbroken. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ryan's wife, Alicia, and all of his family. His death is a tremendous loss for the sport and the long-distance running community."

Shay had at one point in 2005 been suffering from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, also known as severe total-body fatigue before beginning a modest training buildup for his next marathon two months later. Shay stated to Runner's World "t
hat was quite a shock--an eye opener. It told me that maybe I used to push too hard."

It is not known if AFS is what caused Shay to not finish today's marathon race.

Shay, the 2001 NCAA 10.000m champion and a 2.14.09 marathoner, was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital and was pronounced dead at 8.46 a.m.

Shay is survived by his new bride, Hall's former Stanford University teammate Alicia Craig, winner of two NCAA 10,000 meter titles as a Cardinal. Craig, who possesses best times of 15.25,75 for 5000m and 32.19,97 10.000m, had planned on attempting to make the Beijing Olympic team at the 10.000m distance.

Shay was 28 years old.

Results (top-50):
  1. Ryan Hall 25 Mammoth Lakes CA 2:09:02
  2. Dathan Ritzenhein 24 Eugene OR 2:11:07
  3. Brian Sell 29 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:11:40
  4. Khalid Khannouchi 36 Ossining NY 2:12:34
  5. Jason Lehmkuhle 30 Minneapolis MN Team USA Minnesota 2:12:54
  6. Daniel Browne 32 Beaverton OR Nike 2:13:23
  7. Nathaniel Jenkins 27 Lowell MA 2:14:56
  8. Meb Keflezighi 32 San Diego CA 2:15:09
  9. Josh Rohatinsky 25 Portland OR Nike 2:15:22
  10. Jason Hartmann 26 Boulder CO 2:15:27
  11. Matthew Gonzales 26 Albuquerque NM Nike 2:16:14
  12. Mike Morgan 27 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:16:28
  13. Fasil Bizuneh 27 Flagstaff AZ 2:16:47
  14. James Carney 29 Boulder CO New Balance 2:16:54
  15. Steve Sundell 25 Redwood City CA 2:16:54
  16. Christopher Raabe 28 Washington DC 2:17:01
  17. Nick Arciniaga 24 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:17:08
  18. Clint Verran 32 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:17:10
  19. Matt Pelletier 28 Warwick RI Running Heritage 2:17:17
  20. Chad Johnson 31 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:17:58
  21. Joshua Ordway 27 Dublin OH Columbus Running Company 2:18:10
  22. Jacob Frey 26 Oakton VA 2:18:19
  23. Joe Driscoll 28 Blowing Rock NC ZAP Fitness 2:18:22
  24. John Mentzer 31 Monterey CA U.S. Navy 2:18:23
  25. Allen Wagner 27 San Diego CA 2:18:25
  26. Patrick Rizzo 24 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:18:30
  27. Sergio Reyes 26 Los Osos CA Asics Aggie Running Club 2:18:31
  28. Patrick Moulton 25 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:18:35
  29. Mikhail Sayenko 23 Bellevue WA 2:18:35
  30. Donovan Fellows 28 Woodbury MN 2:18:45
  31. Miguel Nuci 28 Turlock CA Transports Adidas Racing Team 2:18:47
  32. Michael Reneau 29 Rochester Hills MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:18:51
  33. Macharia Yuot 25 Chester PA 2:18:56
  34. Dan Sutton 27 Madison WI Wisconsin Runner Racing Team 2:18:59
  35. Nicholas Cordes 28 Ashland OH Brooks 2:19:01
  36. Teren Jameson 30 Taylorsville UT 2:19:05
  37. Chris Lundstrom 31 Minneapolis MN Team USA Minnesota 2:19:21
  38. Eric Post 28 Centreville VA 2:19:25
  39. Matthew Folk 31 Canfield OH Team Good River 2:19:47
  40. James Lander 28 La Habra CA 2:20:09
  41. Michael Cox 32 Princeton WV 2:20:12
  42. Greg Costello 26 Chicago IL Nike Central Elite Racing Team 2:20:28
  43. Luke Humphrey 26 Rochester MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:20:34
  44. John Lucas 27 Eugene OR Team XO 2:20:48
  45. John Service 27 San Jose CA Asics Aggie Running Club 2:21:12
  46. Adam Tribble 27 Fayetteville AR 2:21:21
  47. Todd Snyder 30 Shelby Township MI Hansons-Brooks Distance Project 2:21:30
  48. Nick Schuetze 25 Portland OR Team XO 2:21:36
  49. Alan Horton 27 Knoxville TN 2:22:03
  50. James Nielsen 28 Palo Alto CA Transports Adidas Racing Team 2:22:11


White Clears Her Conscious

Story written by EPelle

Kelli White, as you have learned in the history of this sport from sources unlimited and too numerous to state, had, like Marion Jones, committed the worst possible athletics sin known to the spirit of competition: she did wilfully, and with extreme prejudice for achieving the objective for which she had set out, participate in a plan to execute and cover up a scheme to defraud this sport of its history, records and reputation – resulting in condemnation for her, shame on her family, and banishment for two years from the sport which had provided her success and livelihood.

White sided with Victor Conte
and became a cheat, or a person despised for betraying the ethics of hard work and dedication by using an illegal method to defy the limits placed on nature. She carries with that a stigma which will always stick to her side like an unbearable cramp during a marathon race this one a race away from the past and into a future of her choosing.

By using a needleless syringe filled with a pale yellow-coloured clear under her tongue on an average of every second day, applying the cream to her arm and taking EPO injection shots into her stomach to wilfully deceive and cheat and being linked with using these undetectable drugs, White was immediately removed from her arsenal were the free passes to Eugene, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo, Zürich – and every other place which seemed to glitter under the night lights by the world’s greatest, most knowledgeable fans in attendance cheering on her every step toward the finish line.

Her redefined place in the sport has been a spot behind a television set several time zones removed from the action in which she had longed to compete, and had sorely missed. White was subsequently stripped of her 2003 USA Outdoor 100m and 200m titles, her 2003 World Championships 100m and 200m titles (including $120.000 in prize money), and was stripped of all results between 2000-December-15 – 2004-May-19.

The results were Kelli White’s own problem and were her own doing. She made a mistake, and the consequences – tough as they might have seemed – were fair, accurate, and immediate.

The thing with Kelli White, however, is that she rose, she fell, she cried and then made her peace with the sport
a seemingly everlasting one which appears to have paid dividends in not having come clean beyond her ability, so help her God, but in having shown true remorse for actions which were shameful and incredibly selfish, and taking action to ensure others have a fighting chance of not repeating her mistakes.

Three years after being exposed as a cheater and stapled together with the BALCO bunch, White spoke before the 2007 Anti-Doping Congress about the lures of using performance-enhancing drugs and the obstacles anti-doping officials are facing to cleaning up the sport.

When she was asked yesterday by the Associated Press why she continues to talk about her failure when so many others have hidden, she simply says that she has to.

“The pain is so deep, it’s important that I tell you ‘Don’t go there, don’t even bother.’”

White carries with her a black mark in the history of the sport which was created with indellible ink – such a mark which stirs up bad memories for those who value the meaning of clean competition and fair play among competitors. She has had her liberties taken from her to a certain extent, but has taken the opportunities afforded her to risk hitting an emotional bottom whilst preventing other athletes faced with similar choices to cheat an opportunity to make the correct choice and not give in to the temptations – despite the lure of money, fame and fortune.

White had earlier testified about her use of performance-enhancing drugs before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, S. 529/U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Tuesday, 2005-May-24.

Excerpted are statements White made during that testimony:
“Shortly thereafter [her graduation from the University of Tennessee, and return home to California to train under Remi Korchemny], in December, 2000, my coach introduced me to BALCO founder Victor Conte. Conte initially gave me a package containing both legal supplements, as well as a substance which later became known as the clear or the designer steroid THG. At the time, I was unaware that anything I received from Mr. Conte was a prohibited performance enhancing substance as I was told by both my coach and Mr. Conte that the vial they had given me contained flaxseed oil. A few weeks later, Mr. Conte admitted to me that the substance he had given me was indeed not flaxseed oil, but rather a prohibited substance that if not taken properly, could yield a positive drug test. I immediately ceased using the liquid because at that time in my career I did not believe it was necessary to take performance enhancing drugs to be competitive. I competed over the next two years without the use of any performance enhancing substances despite being constantly urged to do so. I was continuously being told that the usage of performance enhancing substances were necessary to be competitive because everyone else was doing so.”

“In March of 2003, I made a choice that I will forever regret. I visited Mr. Conte at his lab which was near my home, and we sat down and devised a program to utilize performance enhancing drugs in my training and competition. At that time, I began taking EPO, the clear (or THG), the cream and stimulants. I remained on this program over the course of four months, and with the help of Mr. Conte, I was able to pass 17 drug tests both in and out of competition while utilizing these prohibited performance enhancing substances.”

“A few weeks after the World Championships, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies raided the BALCO Laboratory. A few months later, I admitted to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) officials what I had done as I have outlined for you today. I received a two-year ban from competition for my actions, as well as lost all of the results from my previous four years of competition. I also agreed to assist USADA in its mission to clean up sport, and now offer to be of service to this Committee in any way you see fit. I believe athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs are hurting themselves, cheating the public and betraying our youth. A performance-enhancing drug user trades his or her overall health, well-being and integrity for a shot at fame and fortune.”

“My attorney, Jerrold Colton, and I have worked with assisting USADA in its efforts, and we believe this Committee should further support USADA as the fight is a very difficult one. Being mindful that my use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs was not detected through the extensive testing I received, USADA needs the resources to go further in its fight to detect the people who are breaking the rules. The BALCO scandal may not have been discovered without a competitor’s coach anonymously sending a syringe of THG to the USADA testers which ultimately led to the discovery of this heretofore unknown steroid.”

In a twist of fate, White, a former drug-cheat and a deceiver, stands to be the shining star in the BALCO bust by stating that she did, solemnly swear that she took undetectable substances which would be prohibited at all times had they been known – substances which should never be used.

Counsel for Tim Montgomery questioned White's motives in offering her testimony during CAS hearings against Montgomery and Chryste Gaines concerning Montgomery's use of the Clear and, more generally, his relationship with BALCO. They sought without success to impugn her honesty and to draw attention to White's own history of involvement with BALCO and her efforts to conceal that involvement. However, the CAS Panel declared its finding with respect to White's credibility as a witness in those proceedings and its view was that she was telling the truth.

USADA also believed White's having been up-front and personal in the matters concerning her drugs use proved to be an invaluable assett to her.
“Kelli White accepted accountability for her actions and she is able to look herself in the mirror and the world will forgive her,” said Travis Tygart, USADA's general counsel. “These two [Tim Montgomery and Chryste Gaines], for the rest of their lives, will go down as not only using drugs but doing everything possible -- and at great expense to clean athletes -- to avoid the truth.”
Last time White spoke on the matter of BALCO and her drugs use, she was closer to the fall-out, and had fresh experiences from which to describe.

“I felt that to do this (drug use), I had to become someone totally different than I was. I had to compromise my integrity, my value system. I knew it was so wrong. “I look at that person and I'm like, 'That's not Kelli White. That's not who I am, who I started out to be.’”

White, in a story written by USA Today’s Dick Patrick, stated she felt betrayed by a coach with whom she reunited, and was provided drugs without her consent and she contends that Korchemny played clueless when he was indicted for BALCO involvement. She reveals to reporters in a Manhattan conference room in 2004-December that her performance-enhancing drugs usage began after her having later falling behind due to injury and seeing a rival athlete compete well at the 2003 USATF Indoor National Championships.

Despite the foregone conclusion that both White and Conte, two people who had stated they would like to clean up the sport have been deemed cheaters, and have broken a rule in society which is sacred to harmony and trust with others – with White also being deceived by Conte, they have both stated on record – in understandable second-grade terms, that they admit to their wrongdoings, and want to set the record straight as far as drug cheating and performance-enhancing drugs is concerned.

Marion Jones may attempt to take a cue from White's come to Jesus sermons offered up to boys and girls around the United States and take the higher, more moral ground in attempts to tell as much truth as possible. Her 15 minutes of fame have elapsed, however, and White has beaten her to the finish line fairly and squarely - one truthful statement at a time.

I wish White every success in her life's ventures -- despite the fact that in doing so I appear to be praising a "cheat" for coming clean when she should have never gone astray in the first place. There's a hard lesson learned in this mess somewhere, and White, victim of a facial stabbing near James Logan High School, her alma mater, seems poised to tell a good story with the best of intentions.


Q&A With Brandon Couts

Story written by EPelle

A rainy-day, exclusive Athletics in the News conversation with Brandon Couts.

(Original interview conducted in June 2007 and saved for such an occasion as this)

Brandon Couts was part of a great tradition at Baylor
University, and lived outside of Michael Johnson’s long, far-reaching shadow to make a name for himself with his circle of peers.

Baylor University’s 4x400m team was once synonymous with Johnson's exploits, having once shut down his jets with 50m remaining in the NCAA qualifying rounds and still managing to split under 44-flat (43,5). Couts created his own ways in high school and emerged as a prolific and high-stakes player on the NCAA scene after choosing Baylor University -- a team with a rich tradition of excellent one-lap running.

Couts, by the time he turned professionial, had become synonymous with Baylor University, and had even raised a question on an the Track & Field News message board years later debating who had been Baylor’s best anchor man in its history - a discussion which generated lively answers from fans around the globe.

The Baylor Bears provided Couts a tremendous opportunity to grow personally and athletically, and he took an opportunity to discuss some of those events in his life which are most memorable -- including witnessing Baylor set a new school record at the NCAA championships in June 2007 -- a mark which continued building on the deep, rich heritage of which he had been a part.

In order to help give readers a better understanding of what the magnificence of the Baylor tradition, why Couts, himself, chose to sink his teeth into Clyde Hart’s training methodology and what legacy he left in the sport in general, I asked Brandon, now an assistant coach at the University of Colorado, a series of questions via e-mail in the first of two interviews -- questions which both required a few seconds of thought and others which took more time to reflect and consider.

This is the first of a multi-part exclusive Q&A session which Athletics in the News had with Couts.

Athletics in the News: What was your first experience with track and field as a fan?
Brandon Couts: The first race that I remember watching was the 1993 World championships. All I remember is Roger Black getting a distant second. I’m going to beat people like that one day.

AIN: What was the first sprint race you ever saw in person?
BC: I was at 1996 Texas Relays. I’m not sure who won the invitational 100m race, but Henry Neal got second. He’s from my Hometown. Would you believe he ran 20.1 on me in practice!!! I ran a distant 20.6 that day, lol

AIN: When did you begin competing in track and field, and what was your first event?
BC: My school had a rule it may have been statewide were you couldn’t compete until the eighth grade. It was changed when I went to the eighth grade L. My Coach Pat Brown, who went to college with my mother, made me a 400m runner. I wasn’t happy at all, but on a funny note. I couldn’t break 13 flat.

AIN: What was the first time/mark you recorded?
BC: I think that I ran 55 as an eighth grader. My first high school meet that I remember I ran 52.81. I hurt my back trying to triple jump and became infected with chicken pox from my sister. I didn’t run again for almost a month.

AIN: When did you first lose a race?
BC: This question should be “ when did I win my first race. , lol” I open up my sophomore year with a 50.0 in 40 degree weather. I didn’t lose again until the state meet with a 4th place finish 48.17. On the bright side, I learned to run the 400m dash that night.

AIN: What did losing that race teach you about the spirit of competition?
BC: It made me very hungry. I was supposed to win. I had too many people telling me that I couldn’t win. I couldn’t let go. I made up my mind that I would win the next year. I did with a 46.40 at the state meet. During my first season of summer track, I ran no slower that 46.30 and pr with 45.83

AIN: Who was your first role model in life?
BC: I’m going to have to say my paternal grandfather “Tommie Jay Couts” I wanted to be just like him growing up. I can’t even put into words what he means to me.

AIN: Who was your first track and field role model, and why? What did their winning/losing efforts teach you?
BC: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Henry Neal. In preparation for the 1996 trials he came back and trained in Greenville. I tried to beat him everyday, lol. He worked hard and wouldn’t let me slack up in my training.

AIN: Who was the first high school student you competed against who later became an Olympian?
BC: Ja’Warren Hooker… He won my 2000 semi-finals heat. If I would have executed my race instead of trying to imitate what Michael Johnson did in his semi-heat. I most likely would have medaled that year. I learned a valuable lesson. Do what it took you to get there.

AIN: Did you have Olympic aspirations as a child?
BC: Nope, I just wanted to beat people. I always thought I would be scoring touchdowns on Sunday afternoon.

AIN: What lessons did you learn about yourself during your grade-9 school year?
BC: It’s an adjustment year from junior high school, and the expectation level is raised by default. At the regional meet my freshmen year, my teammates asked me to false-start because we would be in the race. I couldn’t do it, but I gave them a 49sec leadoff leg, so they were in the race. I was still only a 52.8 open runner at the time. I learned people will doubt you until you have proven yourself.

AIN: Who was your high school coach, and what is the greatest lesson s/he taught you about yourself? About teamwork? About sacrifice? About college? About humility? About believing in a dream?
BC: Darren Duke was my high school coach. He basically taught me track workouts hurt, lol. It was a good lesson but a bad one as well. As I got older, I ran a lot of races hurt. Believe it or not I only lost 4 or 5 races healthy my entire collegiate career. Most of the championship races, I wasn’t healthy but I was a team player.

AIN: Who on your high school team most mentored you to achieve your goals?
BC: A guy named Calvin Hale who was a sophomore. He was a 50.0 400m runner. He would always tell me to come with me. I would try and die the last 100m, lol. He didn’t run anymore after my freshmen year.

AIN: Whom did you repay the favor to before you graduated?
BC: I mentored most of the underclassmen before I left. I had to other guys that ended up getting collegiate scholarships. I couldn’t help them with their grades, lol.

AIN: Tell me about your first state meet. What events did you compete in, and how did you qualify to the state meet?
BC: I went the first time my sophomore year in the 400m dash. In Texas the 2 top from each region go to state. I won because I was starting to live in the weight room. The top 4 times were 48.23, 48.23, 48.23, and 48.25

AIN: Who has the old scrap books of your newspaper clippings and all of your awards?
BC: Different family members have different things. I have a scrapbook with a lot of my high school articles in it and a couple of NCAA championship rings. My grandfather has all the plaques. My mother has a few items. One of my uncles has a couple of rings as well.

AIN: When did you first stand in the spotlight as a prep athlete and have your first interview?
BC: My first real interview most likely came after winning the National Scholastic Meet in 1997. At least 6 of the 9 runners ran under 47.0 seconds with Geno White and me run under 46 seconds.

AIN: Is Texas the most difficult sprint-state to compete in, and, if so, why? Many will argue that California has had a significant number of high school athletes fair well on the all-time lists – the prep ones, the NCAA ones and the USA lists.
BC: Yes, I think it is one of the most challenging states for sprinting. If we had a huge state meet with prelims times would be even faster. California has better weather year around.

AIN: What are you most proud of concerning your high school achievements?
BC: I was a clutch performer in both football and track. Whenever I was asked to step up, I was able to perform.

AIN: What are your parents most proud of with respect to you and high school?
BC: I’m going to say that I graduated and stayed out off trouble. I’m sure it help that I earned a full ride for college, lol.

AIN: What goals did you leave unfulfilled and unrealized?
BC: I really felt that I could have ran around 45.0 It’s hard running out front. I wished that we would have broken our school’s 4x400m record. If I had a little more help. The record was 3:16.50. My team ran 3:17, and I split 45.5

AIN: What one race sticks out most in your mind when you look back on your high school career?
BC: My last high school 4x400m anchor comes to mind. My coach clocked me at 44.5. I got the stick in seventh and it came down to a photo finish. We lost by .01

AIN: Who was your one main rival who continued to threaten – or defeat – you in invitational and championship high school events?
BC: It would have been Obea Moore if anybody. We raced in the 1996 Junior Olympics in Houston, TX. He won 45.83 – 46.10 It was my first big-time race and the only time I lost that year. We never raced again because of injuries.

AIN: When did the recruiting letters (or phone calls) start arriving at your home and/or to your high school?
BC: My letters started after my sophomore season, but I received more football offers than track offers at the time.

AIN: What was your first reaction to the very first recruiting letter you’d received?
BC: I thought the coaches had placed it in the wrong locker, lol. I saw the seniors receiving letters. It’s when I first started thinking about the possibility of an athletic scholarship.

AIN: Which universities did you visit on your recruiting trips?
BC: I visited Rice(football before I decided I was playing), Tennessee, Arkansas, and Baylor.

AIN: What did Baylor University have to offer on your recruiting trip?
BC: Honestly, it was about my teammates and having my own room in an apartment. I realized early on that my teammates would be my family if I didn’t like them then I wouldn’t be happy. My host was Brandon Terry. He was a state qualifier that I knocked out my in the photo finish my sophomore year. Marlon Ramsey was there, so he was my next target. I felt he would also be a good training partner as well. I liked the small classes also. I most of the classes had 30 to 40 people in them. I got a chance to chat with Michael Johnson as well. It was cool putting a name with the face. He called me a couple of times before my visit.

AIN: What was the interaction like with the Baylor track and field athletes with whom you spent time? What were some of the tougher questions you asked them to help you decide if, on the surface, Baylor could be a right fit for you?
BC: I felt like I was around my high school friends. Everyone was making an effort to at least come meet me. On the other track trips, I feel most of the athletes were intimidated by me, once we talked about times. I was also very shy, so I really hated talking about myself.

AIN: Did your parents accompany you, and what were their impressions of the university’s education system, student life and activities as well as your opportunities for growth in your athletic pursuits?
BC: I did all my visits by myself. I feel its better that way.

AIN: What did you do the summer prior to making the step between high school life and college life? Did you find yourself closer, as close or more distant to your friends and family as you prepared yourself to turn the page in your life?
BC: I went to Houston and ran summer track my junior and senior year. My Godfather wanted me to have more competition. I spent most of those summers running fast.

AIN: Describe your initial scholarship details.
BC: I was offered full athletic scholarships in both my sports. Even from places that did not normally offer full rides. I think track wise it was related to me consistently running below 47 seconds each week by myself.

AIN: What was the very first day of university life like? What memories do you have of the goings-on that day?
BC: It was exciting, since me and my recruiting class didn’t participate in Welcome Week activities. We did see all the intelligent beautiful women running around. I just remember people walking up to me and speaking. They knew that I was an athlete, but not my talent level.

AIN: What was your very first practice session at Baylor University?
BC: We went to the weight room a lot of the guys were surprised at my leg strength. After we finished lifting, we went outside ran 2 laps around the stadium.

AIN: Were you, in your opinion, transitioned into the program rather easily, or did you hit the floor running, so to speak?
BC: I think that I hit the floor running. I hit the times that I was asked to do then left it on the track after my last one each day.

AIN: What challenges did you face, personally, during your adjustment into college life?
BC: I was shy, so I had to be more outgoing. Otherwise, I would have been truly miserable. I’m an honest person, so I had to learn that some people have good intentions but aren’t reliable.

AIN: What challenges did you face on the practice field which differed from your high school background?
BC: I wasn’t use to off season. I would be in the American football field until late November. I started getting anxious and wanted to race. I had to be more patience.

AIN: What distance did you first time-trial, and what was your time?
BC: We ran a 350m. I’m not sure what the finishing time was that day, but Marlon Ramsey told me that I can through 21 low in my waffles and continued to move. We had this discussion recently it the only reason that I remember it.

AIN: Did you take everything Clyde Hart had to say in like a sponge, or did you incorporate his philosophies in with your own experiences?
BC: I incorporated what he said into my own philosophies.

AIN: What was Hart’s take on young 400m runners competing in the NCAA system, and how did he help you manage his expectations?
BC: I had a tendency to set my goals too high and not be able to achieve them. It’s a long season and I think it was more than twice as many races as I ran in high school. It took it’s toll on me towards the end of my freshmen season. I was pretty much done after the conference meet.

AIN: Did you have an induction program into the Baylor Bears track and field team, and, if so, what did it comprise of?
BC: A couple of the upperclassmen challenged me and I wasn’t the type to turn down a challenge. I got the funny prank phone calls with people disguising their voice and telling me what they were going to do to me on the track. I just listened.

AIN: Did you latch on to any one athlete – or group of athletes – during your first year in order to emulate what they were doing and create a model for your future success?
BC: I can’t say that I latched on anyone. I looked at everyone’s personal records compared to mine and decided I should always lead. I always lead by example. If I showed any weakness my team would most likely feel the repercussions.

AIN: Did you feel as though you were required to carry a big burden on your shoulders when you first put on a Baylor uniform due to the legacy left by others ahead of you?
BC: I knew of the legacy, but it wasn’t as strong for me. Marlon was still competing. It wasn’t my burden to bear. The first time I felt the burden was the frigid 1998 NCAA championship in Buffalo. Everything was going okay until the prelims of the 4x400m when Bayano Kamani hurt his hamstring on his 2nd leg carry. Instead of stopping, he limped home with a 49 sec split. We went from well out front to last place. I remember the announcer saying about Baylor had never missed a final. My third leg Stephan Bragner gave me a lifetime best 44.5 split and I went and got the auto qualifier with a 44.0 anchor.

AIN: Describe the first time you heard your name announced over a PA system as “Brandon Couts from Baylor University”.
BC: Unfortunately, I didn’t look too much into it. I was a school employee then , lol.

AIN: Describe the successes you enjoyed during your first season as a Bear – including your NCAA indoor title. Were they in line with what your coach had stated at the beginning of the training season?
BC: I feel that is something that I missed from my collegiate career. We never sat down and chatted about goals for the upcoming season. It’s something that I sit down and do with my athletes now. Just in case you didn’t now, I’m the sprint coach at the University of Colorado now.

AIN: What goals did you, personally, have set for your first year of college – both scholastically and athletically?
BC: I just wanted to be a good student. My freshmen year I had the highest G.P.A. on the men’s team. Athletically, I wanted the indoor and outdoor title.

AIN: How did you fare against your goals?
BC: Indoors, I smashed the fast heat which included Angelo Taylor and Milton Campbell, but unfortunately I finished 2nd overall to Davian Clarke out of the slow heat 45.86 – 45.90 Outdoors, the 4x400 leg took too much out of me. I did make finals though.

AIN: What was your biggest disappointment – your greatest challenge unmet – during your first year at Baylor, and what did you do to ensure you climbed past that hurdle?
BC: My biggest disappoint would have been my dismal performances at the NCAA championships. It was no excuse for me not finishing in the top 3 outdoors. If I would have kept running instead of watching the jumbo-tron, I would have most likely broken the collegiate record my freshmen year.

AIN: Did any of your high school peers make significant improvements their first year of university, and, if so, how did this affect your confidence in your own training?
BC: I can’t say any of my high school friends made huge strides our freshmen year. I was the only one that ran track out of my immediate circle.

AIN: Is there an unwritten Baylor Bear motto which you’d like to share with readers? BC: No Comment… It’s unwritten after all.

AIN: What one piece of advice did Clyde Hart give you which has transcended the playing field and continues to be as useful today as it was when he provided it?
BC: If you keep working hard you will eventually reap the benefits. I’m a collegiate coach now, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity at my age if I wasn’t the collegiate runner that I was.

AIN: When did you most please your coach – in which context? Was it a particular race, practice session, achievement?
BC: I’m going to have to say my last NCAA championships. I wasn’t 100% healthy at most maybe 85%. I didn’t want to anchor, because my leg hurt. Avard Moncur seemed to be running his best whenever I was hurt. I ran anchor and Moncur was trying to run me down 50m from the finish my hamstring started popping . We won in a photo finish. We placed 3rd overall with 6 people. I made the 400m finals and I was the last qualifier. I believe that if I didn’t have my name I most likely would have gotten in that year.

AIN: When did you feel you most let him down?
BC: Anytime I lost I felt that I let him down. I talent wise I was suppose to loose. Did I always execute, no where close may be 50/50.

AIN: What was the coach-per-athlete time like at Baylor during your career there?
BC: It was one top dog per event. I was the top collegiate runner but I took a seat to Mr. Johnson. I think that I would have benefited more if Michael had retired a few years earlier.

AIN: Were you well-known on campus, and, if so, did regular people uninterested in athletics support you as you competed during your four seasons there?
BC: Everyone knew of me , but most people did realize it was me burning up the track. I had classmates come to the meet looking to see the “Brandon Couts” run, but they didn’t realize that I was the man. I was just Brandon to them, most didn’t even know my last name. On the bright side, I was able to stay low key which always bode well for me.

AIN: Why does Baylor have a seemingly impenetrable grip on 4x400m racing?
BC: A lot of they guys come from high school teams where they were the only fast guys, so when you get a chance to run with your peers you tend to excel. Baylor normally has a lot of depth as well. Look at the number of people that can split 46.5 or faster on the roster. It’s a true plug-and play team. For example, my freshmen year my “B’ team ran 3.05.xx while we ran 3:02.XX.

AIN: When did you first meet Jeremy Wariner, and what promise did you see in him when you first saw him practice?
BC: I never actually saw Jeremy practice. A few races that I did see him run, I could tell he needed to get stronger. With his foot speed, I knew he should have been beating Darold to the breakpoint.

AIN: Did you have any idea he would find the amount of success he had in such a short stay at the university?
BC: In a way, I could see it coming about. The training methodology changed a lot after I graduated on how to handle the guys coming out of high school running 45.xx. They reaped the benefits of my struggles. Look back at the number of 200m/400m double for him in college. Hopefully you will start to understand.

AIN: Is it discouraged for track and field athletes at Baylor to leave the program early for the professional ranks?
BC: The leaving college early in a new fad in track and field, I would tell anyone that producing to leave if they can get a guarantee to be able to finish school. Track would be a totally different sport if we were guaranteed millionaires by signing a contract. This is one of the main reasons we continue to lose quality track athletes to football. It’s the opportunity for big bucks.

AIN: At what stage of your collegiate career did you consider the fact that you may have had several ingredients to become a successful professional runner?
BC: I realized it my freshmen year. As I look back, if I had made a few different choices not telling what kind of times that I would have run.

AIN: Describe your final NCAA meet. Did you feel yourself turning a corner to newer and greater prospects, or did you feel as though you were severing ties – by name only – with a great experience?
BC: I was happy to be finished with collegiate running. I couldn’t be force to race anymore when I wasn’t 100% healthy.

AIN: What is the most difficult short-sprint workout that you’d ever done at Baylor? The longest?
BC: We were running repeat 200m relay style. I ran a couple rally fast to get us back on pace. I finished on pace on my last one, but I broke down really bad. Marlon tried to walk across the infield. I ended up lying down halfway across the infield and didn’t get up until 30 minutes later.

AIN: Is there one memorable workout you can describe which made boys men, and grown men cry, so-to-speak?
BC: Mike and I were running a 2x 450m. The first one was on pace the second one, Mike started rolling. We had 4 people running that day. I tucked in behind him and I started to him pulling me. I wanted to stop, but I had to keep the distance respectful. Mike came through 46 flat and I was 47 flat in out tennis shoes. I was hurting bad and Mike disappeared. I found him laid out in the locker room where I joined him, lol. The told me it hot outside “ I’m not going to laid out in the sun lol”

AIN: Did you ever find yourself not buying into the Clyde Hart process, and, if so, how did you overcome your own personal objections?
BC: I thought we should have done more speed work for my teammates. If didn’t do any extra work because I realized it compromised the plan that he had for us.

AIN: When did you turn professional?
BC: After my final NCAA meet, they wanted to redshirt me my senior year after I had a serious hamstring injury at 2001 Big 12 indoor championship. When I look back, I wish that I would have redshirt. It would have worked out better for me. I got a really crappy contract..

AIN: How is the process undertaken to find a reputable agent, sign a shoe contract and seal a short-term future in the sport which rewards you for your merits?
BC: If our not a business person which I wasn’t, it falls on the hands of your coach to me. I don’t think I got anywhere near the deal I should have gotten, but its history now. I promise you that I will look out for my athletes completely.

AIN: I’m going to drop the name Michael Johnson on you. What is the first thought which comes to your mind?
BC: I think Michael was a phenomenal runner. He was blessed with a strong support system and no rival for his coach’s attention.

AIN: Carl Lewis?
BC: He was in my eyes a great team player. He opened many doors for the people in his training group. He was the only other runner that I knew besides Jesse Owens before I heard of Michael.

AIN: Steve Lewis?
BC: He was a freak of nature to me. I wished that I could have produced the times he product at his age.

AIN: Hicham El Guerrouj?
BC: I look at him as the “Pre” of the entire world in middle distance running.

AIN: Did you then, whilst you were in university – or do you now – ever find yourself focusing specifically on your own event and not knowing what occurs in other events?
BC: Only during finals would I focus on my event until I was prepared. After I was ready, I would be spectator until I got in the blocks then I would refocus on my execution.

AIN: Describe the camaraderie built with members of a relay team, and if you or your other three teammates on any given relay squad have ever done something outer-worldly to bring things back together when one person may have faltered a bit on his leg?
BC: We had each other back no matter what the issue. They believed in me as much as I believed in them. My junior and senior year we had ¾ of my summer track team Track Houston. We had run 3:06.xx but did break the record. Everyone stepped up somewhere along the line. I got the stick in 1st 90% of the time.

AIN: What friendships were the strongest you built whilst at Baylor?
BC: I can name a handful of people and were like family. Marlon Ramsey, Stephan Bragner, Bayano Kamani, Damian Davis, Martin Dossett, Michael Smith, and Randy Davis, Edrice Bell (trainer), Blake Rowe (student manager) , and Jeff DaCunha. I’m sure that I going to get in trouble but this was my track family.

AIN: What advice would you have for a high school star like Bryshon Nellum who is on the brink of stardom, but hasn’t hit the NCAA system yet? What are some eventual pitfalls which could await him in his transition period?
BC: I’m going to have to say cherish every moment. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be successful. Make sure you take good care of your body and handle your business in the classroom. If he feels that he not getting what he looking for training wise, don’t be afraid to move on. Being a good collegiate runner takes sacrifices.

AIN: Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Walter Dix, Xavier Carter. Who wins a one-off?
BC: I like this question for several reasons. It could unfold several different ways. Just looking at it I’m going to say Gay because of the 9.7s, Dix if he doesn’t run the first 100m too hard, and Spearmon. I think Carter is going to be right there but unfortunately loses on the dip. I really expect someone to pull out after the 100m dash finals. J So I’m saying Gay, Dix, and Spearmon.

Stay tuned for more on Brandon Couts, the former boy wonder sprinter from Greenville High School who turned into a leged as a Baylor Bear, then turned his life into one of mentoring as a man.

Brandon Couts
Greenville High School, Texas (10,59s; 20,71s; 45,74s)
Baylor University (10,58s; 20,48s; 44,72s)
Conference: Big-12


2007 Wishes Did Come True

Story written by EPelle

I made five requests of 2007 when putting together my wish list for this athletics season (blog entry), and by most accounts, I didn't waste precious space hoping for things further than the imagination could stretch. Though Marion Jones still bugs me, Trevor Graham still annoys me, and BALCO has continued living on despite the archaic form it has taken on the current events chart, I nearly struck pay dirt with the first item on my agenda, namely getting closer to a semblance of having clean sport and knocking some of the haughty riders off their horses -- including Jones and Graham.
  1. Clean sport. Athletics is closer to it than at this time last year, with Jones caught with her hands in the cookie jar, some (but not all) of her medal collection returned to the rightful recipients, and Graham facing an insurmountable battle with the U.S. Justice Department over lies, lies and even more lies. Bulgarian disgraces Venelina Veneva and Vanya Stambolova were both found to have been in violation of anti-doping rules and one athlete, France's Naman Keïta, accepted responsibility for having made his mistake. There was not much trouble turning the murky waters into wine with the public, metaphorically speaking, as fan support seems to have been relatively unchanged by negative press and nearly untouched by the positive events which unfolded in 2007 -- though I'd have wished that Tatiana Lysenko, the world-record holding Russian hammer thrower, could have avoided making news in this department. Veneva had long been suspected of drugs usage by her competitors following suspicious activities which saw Veneva take long absences from main stream competition, obtain good marks in obscure competitions inside of Bulgaria where the belief that drug-testing -- if it exists -- is at a bare minimum, then hit the championships with more power and better marks than she had at any other time of the season.
    "As [the way] she has set up her seasons and suddenly appeared at championships, I have understood that there was something shady. That she has finally gotten caught is an unbelievable relief, but one had hoped that it could have occured earlier," says Kajsa Bergqvist.
  2. Alan Webb did stay injury-free in 2007, but I still felt for guy following his 2007 IAAF World Championships performance when he'd been bitten by a flu-like bug which seemed to take his finishing kick and transform his legs from the Ferrari-backed motor he'd packed in there prior to his first heat to a local gym rat pushing uphill on a treadmill going nowhere fast. Webb never competes for "also ran" showings, and he laid it all down on the line in Osaka -- keeping himeslf in there from start to nearly the finish over the three laps and 300 metres which made up his 1.500m event in Japan. Webb proved in 2007 that he could keep things tightened under the belt in the middle distance department, focussing on the 800m (1.43,84 PB), 1.500m (3.30,54 PB) and mile (3.46,91 PB) events to set new best marks in each of the those, lead the world at the latter two, and set a national record in the mile; he recorded the year's second-fastest 800m. Webb seemed spent by the time his final was run, however, and had a less than successful follow-up on the Grand Prix circuit before closing out his season with a road mile victory in New York. All-in-all, however, he broke a long-standing record in Steve Scott's mile best, and outkicked Mehdi Baala on his home turf in prime time and under the lights in Friday Night fashion.
  3. Stefan Holm decided to stay with the sport in 2007 and continue on through Beijing in defense of his Olympic title. I had wished for Holm to win his first IAAF World Outdoor Championships gold medal, but one Donald Thomas would steal the thunder this season -- taking the world's highest available honour in his first-ever competition at that level. Holm finished out of medal contention with a fourth-place effort in Osaka. The season-ending best mark in the event -- 2,35m, which was shared by Thomas, Jaroslav Rybakov, Holm and Kyriakos Iannou -- was lower than I'd expected, but noteworthy about the "down" high jump year is that 30 athletes cleared 2.30m outdoors -- including seven by Russians and five by Americans. That left a lot of guessing at nearly every meet this summer as to which of those folks would win what, where, how and under which circumstances, and, almost as important as who would win the global title, who the number-one ranked athelte will be is completely up for grabs, too -- though Thomas seems to have the advantage in head-to-head battles. Thomas had a losing record against Holm, and "close" records against Linus Thörnblad and Tomas Janku, but Thomas beat Holm in their World Athletics Final clash, as did he Janku and Thörnblad. However, Thomas did lose to Thörnblad in Shanghai where neither Holm nor Janku competed. André Silnov, the 2006 European Champion, tied Thomas at 1-1 on the season due to Thomas no-heighting in Shanghai. Thomas's lone loss to Victor Moya was atoned for at the world championships. Holm had five losses on the outdoor season -- four of which were in his final four competitions.
  4. The world did not see Kenenisa Bekele at his best in the 2007 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Mombassa, Kenya. Scorching humidity and heat ended the reign of the Great Bekele, who did not complete the race following a late charge to take the lead, and threw his track and field season off as well. For once, Bekele was made human over the hills, and scooped up times and marks on the track which scraped any hopes of him doubling at the IAAF World Championships in an equally hot and humid Osaka. Bekele had commanded my total respect for disabling competitors upon demand and playing catch with fire since his initial double-double IAAF Cross Country World Championships victories in 2001, and in the winter of this year, he became the first man to break 4.50 over 2.000m indoors, running 4.49,99 at the Norwich Union Grand Prix. His competitors, however -- many of whom were his compatriots -- gained new-found hope and life in believing they could make a challenge of defeating the weaker, non-dominant Kenenisa Bekele a reality over 25 laps to be run at 21.40 on a hot August evening, the 27th of August -- first and foremost Sileshi Sihine, who stuck it to Bekele in a masterful and memorable final lap, but one which saw Bekele turn back the charge and create a silver-medalist out of Sihine again following their identical finish two years earlier in Helsinki, which followed their identical finish at the Athens Olympics as well. Sihine has collected three silver medals and a bronze at either the World Championships or Olympic Games. Bekele was able to record the year's three-quickest outdoor 3.000m times, running 7.25,79 - 7.26,69 and 7.29,32. Bekele's world-leading mark is the eighth-fastest of all-time, and he's the sixth-fastest ever at the distance.
  5. The final golden moment of 2007 was to have been Kajsa Bergqvist jumping over 2,09m either indoors or out. She didn't. Kajsa had trouble hitting 2,00m this outdoor season as she found it difficult to balance ground training her coach, Yannick Tregaro, had wished for her to endure versus getting in quality meets which she believed would help her reach her season's potential, which she felt was certainly higher than the 2,02m she recorded in Torino. Bergqvist would separate from Tregaro's group following the World Championships. Bergqvist had my hope button alive with talk of improving her world record in 2007, but it was Blanka Vlašic who made headlines this season. Bergqvist made it clear in no uncertain terms last winter that she was going to make an assault on the 16-year-old world indoor record of 2,07m held by Heike Henkel, and she eclipsed that mark with Henkel in attendance, jumping 2.08m in Arnstadt on 2006-February-4. She then made a pact to give a go at seriously attempting to take down Stefka Kostadinova's 2,09m from Rome set 19 years earlier. That perfect-day, best-ever jump was not to unfold outdoors in 2006, leaving Bergqvist even more loaded and focused from having missed nearly a year-and-a-half following her ruptured achilles injury suffered in the spring of 2004. What Bergqvist hadn't had time to see as she struggled in chartering for green pastures in the world record pursuit was that Vlašic had found incredible focus and determination during the indoor season, and was able to translated that to a near-undefeated outdoor campaign, topping the yearly list at 2,07m, and also jumping 2,06m, twice clearing 2,05m and finishing two other competitions with 2,04m victories; she toppled the 2,00m barrier in an incredible 17 competitions in 2007. Her lone defeat was a second-place finish at the Oslo Golden League to Yelena Slesarenko, who at that early time, was in contention for the $1.000.000 Golden League jackpot. Vlašic had the misfortune of having her only loss of the season come in the Golden League, and also missed out on the jackpot. Russia's Anna Chicherova as well as Italy's Antonietta Di Martino brought their "A" game to the World Championships, where I'd hoped that clearing 2,04m would only yield a bronze to the third-best of the group. Both athletes cleared 2,03m, with Chicherova taking the third spot on the podium. The most women ever to clear 2,00m in an IAAF World Championships final before Osaka was three, but five women in Japan went on to attempt 2,03m -- with four successful over 2,00m. Slesarenko had the misfortune of finishing fourth in 2,00m, with compatriot Yekaterina Savchenko the fourth over the same height -- making that three Russians over 2,00m in the same competition. Bergqvist finished tied for seventh with a best of 1,94m.
A thousand other small wishes came true throughout the 2007 season as well, with Asafa Powell setting a new world record in the 100m (9,74) and me having had the opportunity to meet Xavier Carter in person (Glasgow). I had also hoped that Carolina Klüft could finally break the European record in the heptathlon. She was able to manage that in Osaka, amassing 7.032 points and becoming the second-best performer of all-time behind American Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

I'd also hoped for a season of faster times and good marks, and 2007 did not disappoint in that category, either, with Allyson Felix running excellent 200m (21,81) and 400m (49,70) times in Europe and Osaka, and a stellar 48-flat relay leg on the winning 4x400m at the IAAF World Championships. Tyson Gay blazed an incredible 9,84-19,62 at his national championships, and U.S. collegian Walter Dix screached to 9,93 - 19,69 times whilst in university competition.

Finally, not to continue touting my Swedish team, but Johan Wissman's 400m exploits this summer -- culminating in a seventh-place finish at the World Championships following a national-record 44,56 in the semi-finals -- was one of those hidden gems which made wishes worth making and dreams worth having.

Now that the season is virtually concluded (although there was a 10,10 100m recorded last week at the World Military Games), I'll have time to finally sit back and reflect on what was truly inspiring, and which athletes I believe can provide me the greatest entertainment value leading up to Beijing.

Until then, I'm going to enjoy cross country and the road races around Europe. I hate to admit this, but I am a bit "tracked" out.


Forgive and Forget? Not So Fast Marion

Story written by EPelle

I bit down hard on my tongue during Marion Jones's televised "confession" about having lied to U.S. Federal agents conducting two separate investigations into improprieties in which she had been involved -- actions, which, according to her, were "stupid".

I held my breath -- or withdrew my fingers from writing, that is -- for two weeks on the topic until reading through enough of the "Forgive Marion, she's only human" articles to be able to skip church for the rest of the year -- columns written by writers who'd jumped on the Marion Jones bandwagon long, long past the point of even being able to understand the complexity of that staged event.

Sure, we've all come up short at times in our lives - I am no exception to this rule of human nature.

However, there is a line between falling short of an expectation on one or several occasions -- even over a lifetime -- and making an attempt to feed lies to diminish the value of that expectation as Marion Jones had done her entire professional career prior to "retiring" (read: "forced exit").

The only thing
silly about the entire made-for-tv moment was the absolute waste of time Jones made it in providing a few words meant to be taken as an explanation for her motives for lying and revealing all she knew about cheating -- in this case, absolutely nothing.

Marion Jones stated that all she'd done was cover up a couple of small, little details about a simple little check her ex-boyfriend (and father of her first child), a dope cheater, himself, deposited into her account in the amount of $25.000 as part of a money laundering scheme to which he plead guilty, and only told a little white lie to a couple of I.R.S. agents when she'd sworn an oath to secrecy about flaxseed oil that a big, bad man named Trevor Graham had told her to keep to herself.

Previously a lawsuit-wielding, outspoken defender of (mis)truth, Marion Jones was now stating that she'd fallen off her high horse, was
victimised by a bad apple and played a small, insignificant part in a couple of items considered foul play.

All of that power she attempted to wield the past four years over the authorities chasing her trail -- the USADA -- is now, suddenly, to have been nothing more than (or should that be less than) hot air in her fists if one is to buy the notion that she was able to shake them with great might at pursuers of truth and lie straight to their faces, but could not demonstrate power to say "no" to a person of bad favour, Trevor Graham.

Graham tricked her, she said, and she simply lied to save her career.

Her career, my friends, is one which had encompassed travelling the world on advertisers' budgets; staying at hotels under the money meeting arrangers saved for their expensive guests of honour; being paid enormous amounts of appearance fees to grace their tracks; leaving those tracks with even more money in bonuses for breaking records and running fast times; and winning prestige, honour and fame by method of deceit and fraud. It also meant meeting dignitaries, having a stadium named after her and being named to a U.S. Presidential Advisory Committee by George W. Bush.

That about sums it up for Marion Jones's 9-5 job.

Her second one involved shopping and spending the money in such a way as to continue with the lifestyle she'd grown accustomed to as she sneaked around the world in plain day as a cheat and laughed her way to the bank believing no one would ever find out.

We found out about her moonlighting, because her former coach, Dan Pfaff, was stiffed on a sum in excess of 200 large by Jones, and he sued her to collect money she owed him -- not the first time Marion Jones has been through the halls of justice in matters concerning non-payment of monies owed.

"You made some good money. Where did that money go?" Pfaff's attorney, Eric Little, asked Jones earlier this year in a Texas courtroom according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Who knows?" Jones replied. "I wish I knew. Bills, attorney bills, a lot of different things to maintain the lifestyle."

Going broke with that money -- which was not hers to use -- caused her to lose a couple of houses and get exposed as a pauper. It also called for an arduous process by the IAAF to attempt to recoup years of monies she was paid under false pretenses.

Marion Jones didn't tell you about the tens of millions she amassed in wealth over those years spent cheating. What she did do was limit her culpability to a short period of time as to not be outed as a complete farce or a total cheat -- if such a distinction can be made for one who cheats for a short period of time and one who had cheated since their first season on the track as a professional athlete.

Marion Jones will fall into that second category.

The evening she
confessed, she wore a pinstriped suit before an audience which stretched around the world, put on an act of sorrow and guilt with the trifecta of emotions secured by her red eyes dripping tears down either side of her face.

Some in the public bought it. Most other people forgot it about a week later.

I, for one, however, never will.

I'm not shy in stating that I'd known Marion Jones was a cheat a long time ago, and there are no shortage of quotes on the internet for you to read at your leisure (including an earlier blog from me here from 2006-December-12).

Marion Jones needed not confess to tell me that -- logic and reasoning did an excellent job in not failing me when called upon to put understanding to how she climbed suddenly up a ladder in which she had never before been in the same postal code and pulled off a world championship victory in her first season as a professional (liar) back in 1997.

I wanted to strike certain buttons on my computer during her self-awareness speech two weeks ago, hit "enter" and just get it over with for her -- to simply
confess for her right then and there as she followed her prepared revelation of some things past, and most things still hidden.

I couldn't, however, because Marion Jones's legacy, as well as that of her destiny -- as far as this sport is concerned -- is married to half truths, half lies and every denial in between; one peep from me about the real "truth" behind her confession and how deep her sins against the sport were rooted would have ended in Marion Jones contradicting herself and having her commit yet one more act of perjury before the authorities with whom she had earlier that hour discussed the details of her indiscretion with as little revelation as possible in order to receive the lightest punishment available.

Marion Jones, the heretofore "golden girl" of the sport, had revealed that she had misstated the truth, and attempted to forge ahead with as little of her blood spilled as possible on the issue. She exited the stage and was to not look back -- leaving nearly as nonchalantly as she entered the scene following a tumultuous 2006 season which pegged her as a drugs cheat, yet exonerated her at a later date for reasons too far and too touchy to discuss on one blog entry.

The only difference between the before and after of that night was that Marion Jones's mother, of whose first name she bears, had fallen down on the steps to justice, but was standing behind her daughter, patting her on the back, after justice was to be revealed to an audience of a few hoping to transmit the message to the four corners of the world.

Marion Jones lied another time to you and to me in leaving us with four minutes and 25 seconds of air time which revealed little about the truth, accomplished much less in terms of educating the public, and left her standing with medals and honours collected illegally from another period of time, namely the 1997 IAAF World Championships.

There are mixed messages we in the media and blog world are sending out to you concerning what to do with the information provided by Marion Jones that she conned people and had subsequently turned into a con, herself.

Some writers would have you take up her cross for her, forgive her and move on in an act of kindness which they say refreshes the soul and causes us to not harbour bitter feelings.

I'm not as apt to simply forgive and forget, because Marion Jones is destined to come back into the spotlight at a future junction -- she intimated that she would like to write a book.

Expectations from most are that the book will tell common John more than he knows now, but it will never fully tell the truth of the matter of
Marion Lois Jones vs. Reality.

My reality is that I don't have to spend much time defending my propositions which suggested that Marion Jones was a cheat. She did that for me and everyone else who had either supported some of those notions, had their own, or those who had no idea that she should ever have been a suspect in the matter.

Talk today is based on how long she was a cheat, not if she was one.

My other sense of things real and not perceived, however, is that no matter what others may believe they know about Marion Jones with regard to the information she deliberately and carefully doctored as truth to the world, nothing outside of Marion Jones's own will can cover the gaping hole she left out as fact when stating she was merely a victim to a couple of other people's transgressions.

To have lied during a moment of truth reveals to me that Marion Jones, no matter how much one prods and pokes, threatens and takes away, will never, ever, ever give up the fight to keep the imposing amount of information she has left within herself -- even if that, too, could turn her long-term fortunes around.

That's why one believes that Marion Jones is better off away from the sport so that most folks go on about their lives in the moment of the scandal, but not affected by the greater lie left untold. If Marion Jones returns, the engine revvs up again, a similar song gets sung by -- and about -- her and a few people get on getting interested in the great Marion Jones -- a woman who once won five medals in a single Olympics, but who had to give them back...because she was a cheat.

Please, Marion, for God's sake -- since you've stated you've put your trust in Him to take you on through past this state of events -- stay out of the sport for your good and mine. You'd do us both a huge service, we could both go on with the rest of our lives not worried about what you say, how you cover it up and the sport could simply take this punch from you as a knock-down, but not a knock-out with respect to how average people view its cleanliness.

Then again, I'm not one for wishful thinking.


Mottram (8.03,50) Wins Pre 2-Mile Classic

Story written by EPelle

Australian Craig Mottram, a 2007 IAAF World Championships 5.000m gold medal hope, won the Prefontaine Classic Grand Prix 2-mile yesterday evening - smashing nearly nine seconds off his previous personal best and Australian record, and in the process, clocking the sixth-fastest time ever in the distance, 8.03,50.

Mottram entered the meet after suffering a slight setback at the
Reebok Grand Prix in New York last week (results link), finishing third in the mile (3.54,54 SB) to Americans Alan Webb (3.52,94) and Bernard Lagat (3.53,88), but bounced back in superb fashion in the 12-strong field Sunday, covering his mile splits in 4.04,0 and 3.59,5.

"It's a win and it is better than last week and better than three weeks ago and I will be a lot better in two months. I was strong today. I will take the fast time but it doesn't mean much come August; I will have to beat five or six more of them," he told the

Mottram handed Ethiopia's
Tariku Bekele (8.04,83) a spirited defeat in front of a standing-room only crowd at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field, which let out a loud roar when third-place finisher, American Matt Tegenkamp, crossed the line in 8.07,07 - setting an American record by sheering more than four seconds off of the two-year-old record national standard set at the 2005 Pre Classic. Free video of the race can be found here courtesy of NBC.

Bekele, who is the younger brother of 5.000m and 10.000m world-record holder
Kenenisa Bekele, holds 7.29,11 3.000m and 12.53,81 5.000m personal bests - both Ethiopian national junior records, is 0-5 lifetime against Mottram. They've clashed twice at 5.000m (13.03,37-13.12,49 in Bislett in 2004; 13.32,96 - 13.34,76 at the 2005 World Championships), and the young Ethiopian has also been unsuccessful at beating Mottram indoors at the 2-mile distance, with Mottram winning the 2005 BIG Boston indoor Games in 8.26,54 to Bekele's 4th-place 8.27,56. Mottram also defeated the younger Bekele in their only 3.000m clash as well, with Mottram finishing third in the 2005 Zürich Weltklasse in 7.38,03 to Bekele's ninth-place 7.43,47.

Webb set the previous American record in finishing 2nd in the 2005 Pre Classic 2-mile to Kenya's
Eliud Kipchoge, 8.07,68 to 8.11,48, but managed only a ninth-place finish (8.23,97) on Sunday.

Mottram lingered back in the middle of the pack for the first 1.320 yards of the eight-lap race right in front of Webb, but made a decisive move up behind Bekele and the two pace-makers in the race to hit a very good first mile split at a desirable pace (rabbits were asked to split 4.03).

Bekele and Mottram held tempo and command of the race, and made decisive moves at the beginning of the final lap, but Tegenkamp, who began making a long charge with three laps remaining - running just ahead of American
Dathan Ritzenhein (8.11,74) - had launched into his own extended kick with 300m remaining.

Mottram passed Bekele on the backstraight with approximately 250m remaining and held a comfortable lead heading into the homestretch - where he began waiving to the crowd with 40m remaining. Neither Bekele nor Tegenkamp were able to gain on Mottram following his explosive kick.

Mottram, whose previous best was established in a victory over Kenya's
Boniface Songok - 8.11,27 to 8.12,86 - at the 2005 Norwich Union Grand Prix in Sheffield, England (results link), holds seven track and road national Australian records, and appears to be in excellent form heading to the world championships to be contested in August in Osaka, Japan, where he is one of the favourites.

Mottram's 2-mile time equates to a 7.27,69 3.000m according to Track & Field News, with Bekele's new personal best equating to a 7.29,85, followed by Tegenkamp netting a 7.31,0 equivalent.

"It's too early to get too wound up about the world championships just yet," Mottram said to Australia's
Herald Sun newspaper.

Indeed, the European season has not yet kicked off (the Oslo Golden League Meet is first on tap this Friday), yet Mottram is in excellent position heading into what promises to be an exciting year for the 2005 bronze medalist at 5.000m, and 2006 Commonwealth Games champion.

The world two-mile record - 7.58,61 - was set by Kenya's
Daniel Komen in Hechtel, Belgium in 1998. Komen, the only man who has broken the eight-minute barrier, twice achieved the mark, with his second-best effort - 7.58,91 - set in a 1998 blow-out in Sydney, Australia. The only other person on the all-time in front of Mottram is Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie, the outer-worldly two-time Olympic and nine-time World Champion (indoors, outdoors, road), who ran 8.01,08 in Hengelo in 1997, and followed that effort up with great performances at Hengelo (8.01,86) and London (8.01,72) two seasons later.

Mottram is traveling back to his London base camp in preparation for his first
European Circuit race on 27-June in Ostrava Golden Spike meeting, where he will contest the Emil Zatopek Memorial 5.000m (meet site), a favourite stop for early-season fast times and excellent racing. Kenya's Stephen Cherono holds the meet record in the event, running 12.48,81 there in 2003.

Mottram holds a lifetime best of 12.55,76 in the 5.000m, and has broken the magical 13.00-minute barrier a total of three times (12.56,13, 12.58,19).

The top-10 2-mile times outdoors:
  1. Daniel Komen (KEN) 1997 7.58,61
  2. Daniel Komen (KEN) 1998 7.58,91
  3. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1997 8.01,08
  4. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1999 8.01,72
  5. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1999 8.01,86
  6. Craig Mottram (AUS) 2007 8.03,50
  7. Daniel Komen (ETH) 1996 8.03,54
  8. Tariku Bekele (ETH) 2007 8.04,53
  9. Matt Tegenkamp (USA) 2007 8.07,07
  10. Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 1995 8.07,46
Mottram's Personal Best Track Times:
  • 1.500m: 3.33,97
  • Mile: 3.48,98 (3.54,81 indoors)
  • 2.000m: 4.50,76
  • 3.000m: 7.32,19 (7.39,24 indoors)
  • 2-Mile: 8.03,50 (8.26,54 indoors)
  • 5.000m: 12.55,76
  • 10.000m: 27.50,55
For a full-list of the all-time 2-milers, please go to www.alltime-athletics.com, or click this link here for immediate access to the list.