Monday, June 30, 2008

Baylor University Shines in 400 Meters in Eugene!

-From Eugene, Oregon

What about the Baylor University 400-meter crew? Two of the four semifinal heats were won by current or former quartermilers from “The U”.

Legendary Baylor coaches Clyde Hart and Michael Ford have as much, if not more, impact than anyone in the world on influencing a single event in the entire sport.

All five runners earned automatic bids to Monday’s semifinal round. The number one 400-meter runner in the world, Jeremy Wariner ,won his heat (46.04), and Baylor senior Quentin Inglehart-Summers (45.87) also won his heat. Former 1,600-meter relay Olympic gold medalist Darold Williamson (46.00) placed third in his heat, Sophmore LeGerald Betters (45.46) from Waco, Texas finished second in his heat and former Bear Reggie Witherspoon (45.94) also finished second in his heat.

Former University of Texas alum Sanya Richards won her heat in the women’s 400-meter semifinal. She trains under Coach Clyde Hart at the Baylor University track in Waco, Texas.

Is it possible to see four Baylor runners in the Team USA 1,600-meter relay pool in Beijing?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gays Runs Even Faster, Dix Emerges On the Scene!


It was utter pandemonium when the stadium clock displayed 9.68 after Tyson Gay crossed the line. Track Town, USA was completely rocking for the next thirty minutes. The wind-aided time (+4.1) is still the fastest time ever run.

People sitting at home may question how six people ran under 10-seconds in one race. Similar to European track stadiums, the fans in the newly renovated Hayward Field are close to the track, and the athletes feed off of their infectious energy.

Walter Dix shut up all of the naysayers and doubters of his talent. He is headed to Beijing, and the shoe companies had better start adding some big numbers to their contract offers.

It was great to see Darvis Patton dip under 10-seconds again and qualify for the team after fighting injuries for the last couple years.

Coach Jon Drummond was ecstatic in the athlete area after the race. His athlete Tyson Gay had done it!

Check out my full article on the race as published on TheFinalSprint.com

By Jay Hicks.

Women to Watch in 400!

As we reported on TheFinalSprint.com, the women's quarterfinals heat just went down. The most impressive runners to watch are Mary Wineberg (51.46), Natasha Hastings (51.51), Shana Cox (51.69), Eboni Floyd (51.37), Dee Dee Trotter (51.97) and Sanya Richards (51.37).

Wineberg is a sleeper in this race, who has been overlooked by many. Shana Cox, the reigning 400-meter NCAA champion from Penn State, may have some gas left in her tank to get through the rounds. An injury this past year has allowed her to keep her races down during this outdoor season.

It would be surprising if University of Houston alum Eboni Floyd does not make the finals and earn a relay spot. Reigning World Champion Dee Dee Trotter has the ability to turn on her big game on a moment's notice. Sanya Richards comes in as the favorite to win it all, but the road will be hotly contested by this talented group of 400-meter runners.

By Jay Hicks.

Women's 100 World Champion Fails To Make Jamaican Olympic Team!

There are no guarantees in track and field, and even the best of the best runners have to earn an Olympic spot. In a shocking development, reigning 100-meter World Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.88) did not earn an automatic bid to the Olympic Games.

There was incredible sprinting Saturday night in the Caribbean. The Jamaican nationals saw four women dip under 10.90, with winner Kerron Stewart fighting to victory in 10.80.

The top three winners of Stewart, Shelley-Ann Fraser (10.85), and Sherone Simpson (10.87) will compete for Jamaica in Beijing.

Campbell-Brown will try to qualify in the 200-meters on Sunday.

Those looking for major fire works in the men’s 100-meters will have to wait until Beijing. Usain “Lightening” Bolt jogged a 9.85 to victory, ahead of Asafa Powell (9.97) who reportedly shut it down at 80-meters.

By Jay Hicks.

Photo courtesy IAAF.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Muna Lee Sprints On Oly Team!

Wow! Who would have thought that 10.93 would not get you in the top three slots in the women's 100-meter final?

That is the time put up by Marshevet Hooker, who was slow out of the blocks. The Olympic roster is also without Allyson Felix (10.96), who finished fifth in the smoking hot race.

Fight, determination, grit are all appropriate words to describe Muna Lee's career in the sport. She overturned some of the sport's biggest names. The Kansas City, Missouri native is known as an accomplished sprinter in track circles. Lee, who attended LSU, competed in the 200-meters in the 2004 Olympic Games. We predicted that the 26-year-old sprinter would be a force to reckon with at the trials, and she definitely lived up to those expectations.

Muna Lee, Torri Edwards, and Lauryn Williams are an impressive group of runners to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Beijing.

By Jay Hicks.

Tyson Gay Rewrites American 100-Meter Record in Eugene!

Tyson Gay put on a sprinting clinic during the quarterfinal heats. He set a new (9.77) American Record in the quarterfinal round heat. I’ve never seen a round of 100 heats that produced six sub-10 second times.

His time beat the previous (9.79 ) American record held by former great Maurice Greene. After the race Gay said, “If I can follow in [Greene’s] footsteps and win an Olympic medal, I’ll go down in history as one of the greatest.”

Tyson said that he nearly cried out of fear that he had not made it through the previous round when he inadvertently slowed up thinking he had reached the finish line. His coach Jon Drummond said that “champions do not do those kind of things, and you need to make up for it in the next round.”

Everyone has been just handing World Record Holder Usain Bolt of Jamaica the Olympic gold medal in Beijing. This race is indication that it will be war on the track in the men’s 100-meters in August. That, of course, is assuming that all goes as planned, and Gay qualifies for the U.S. Olympic Team. After a day like today, let’s just be clear that no assumptions can be made.

By Jay Hicks

Small Package, Big Time Results in Jamaica!

In other track news, do you remember again when we stated that Asafa Powell needs to bring the heat? Well last night the former 100-meter record holder Asafa Powell dropped 9.90 in the semifinals of the Jamaican National Championships.

Can he deliver a noteworthy performance in the finals against world record holder Usain Bolt? Powell is showing the kind of heart that his competitors have criticized him for lacking in the past.

The women’s 100-meters in Jamaica is shaping up to be a fierce competition. Kerron Stewart (10.99) ran her third career sub 11-second race at 100-meters. This makes for a huge drama in the finals as the reigning Olympic and World Champion Veronica Campbell-Brown is bringing the fire at this point in the season.

By Jay Hicks.

Team USA Olympic Uniforms Revealed!

After much anticipation and speculation, the Olympic Team uniforms have been presented for the world to see. How does the '08 gear compare to previous team uniforms?

By Jay Hicks.

Photo courtesy Image of Sport.

WCSN.com Now Universal Sports Delivers Olympic Trials Video!


Coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials, the pressure-packed competition held every four years to select the U.S. Olympic Team, continues on the networks of NBC Universal, with nearly 20 hours of swimming and track & field trials over the next two weeks including 10 straight nights of live primetime coverage on NBC and USA. Additionally, Universal Sports will present encore presentations of the trials.

U.S. OLYMPIC TRIALS – TRACK AND FIELD:
Tyson Gay, Allyson Felix, Jeremy Wariner, Bernard Lagat, Reese Hoffa, Sanya Richards and Lauryn Williams are among the top competitors at the historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon looking to earn a trip to Beijing to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games. Tom Hammond, Carol Lewis, Lewis Johnson, Ato Boldon, Dwight Stones, Ed Eyestone and Bob Neumeier report from Eugene, Oregon.

Fri., June 27
Track & Field
USA
Featured events:
Women’s 10,000m Final
Women’s 100m Quarterfinal

Sat., June 28
Track & Field
8-9 p.m. ET
NBC
Featured events:
Women’s 100m Final
Men’s Shot Put
Men’s 100m Quarterfinal

Sun., June 29
Track & Field
7-8 p.m. ET
NBC
Featured events:
Men’s 100m Final
Men’s 400m Hurdle Final
Woman’s 400m Hurdle Final
Men’s 400m Quarterfinal
Men’s Pole Vault
Mon., June 30
Track & Field
11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET/PT
USA
Featured events:
Men’s 5,000m Final
Men’s 400m Semifinal
Men’s and Women’s 800m Final
Women’s 400m Semifinal

Thurs., July 3
Track & Field
11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET/PT
USA
Featured events:
Women’s 400m Final
Men’s 400m Final
Men’s 1,500m Quarterfinal
Women’s Steeplechase Final

Fri., July 4
Track & Field
11 p.m.-1 a.m. ET/PT
USA
Featured events:
Men’s 1,500m Semifinal
Women’s 5000m Final
Men’s 10,000m Final

Sat., July 5
Track & Field
5-6 p.m. ET
NBC
Featured events:
Women’s 200m Semifinal
Men’s 200m Semifinal
Men’s High Jump Final

Sun., July 6
Track & Field
7-9 p.m. ET
NBC
Featured events:
Women’s 1500m Final
Men’s 200m Final
Women’s 200m Final
Women’s Pole Vault Final
Men’s Javelin
Men’s 110m Hurdle Final
Women’s 100m Hurdle Final
Men’s 1,500m Final

UNIVERSAL SPORTS COVERAGE:
Universal Sports, a recently announced joint venture between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, and formerly World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), will air encore presentations of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in the following events: swimming, track and field, gymnastics, diving, softball (USA vs. China), whitewater canoeing, men's indoor volleyball (USA vs. Argentina), women's indoor volleyball (USA vs. Brazil), men and women's marathon, wrestling, judo, women's weightlifting, rowing, men's BMX, women's water polo (USA vs. Australia), men’s water polo (USA vs. Croatia) and boxing. WCSN has been rebranded as Universal Sports. Go to NBCOlympics.com and UniversalSports.com for up-to-date schedule information.

The Amy Begley Show!


While at the Olympic Trials, the 10,000 meter run was a final event. As reported on TheFinalSprint.com, Amy Begley was arguably the story of the night. Not only did she have to place third to make the Olympic Team, but she also had to run the A standard.

The top two finishers in Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher had left her behind earlier in the race.

With a lap and half to go, she left nothing to spare. She accomplished the A standard and third place with just 1.4 seconds to spare, leaving her race on the track in the process.

At the press conference she said, "I looked in the stands, and my husband had a worried look on his face. I decided I had to go now or regret this the rest of my life."

Gouche and Begley are lifetime friends, and both train under the Nike's Oregon Project with coaching sensation Roberto Salazar in Portland. This morning Begley has no regrets at all.

By Jay Hicks.

They Showed Out Tonight!

The crowd in Eugene may arguably be the best U.S. crowd ever assembled to watch track and field in this country's history. The athletes paid back the favor by really showing out today.

The women’s heptathlon usually runs in front of half-packed stands. Normally just friends, family, and a few other enthusiasts come out to watch—not this time around. A Hayward Field record crowd of 20, 964 packed the stadium today to watch the first day of the Olympic Trials.

Can Marshevet Hooker keep producing 10.79s through the rounds? As I reported on TheFinalSprint.com, although the wind-aided time (+3.4) was with a huge wind, the time has only been surpassed by Flo Jo, Marion Jones, and Merlene Ottey.

One the highlights of the day for many track fans was the honoring of the 1980 Olympic Team that did not go to the Olympics to boycott the 1980 Moscow invasion of Afghanistan. Some of the attendees included: Carol Lewis, Willie Gault, Renaldo Nehemiah, Alberto Salazar, and Mary Slaney to name a few. The attitudes of the former greats ranged from anger to happiness. It is sad thinking back that they were robbed of their Olympic glory. The Winter Olympic team attended the games. It was a very classy moment to honor the group with a lap around the track.

It was a pleasure speaking with former Olympic decathlete gold medalist, Dan O’Brien. He talked about missing the sport and competing at the highest levels. The Portland, Oregon native is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes ever. O'Brien also said that he is happy coaching current heptathlon athlete Jacquelyn Johnson, who is in strong contention to make the Olympic squad.

If Johnson performs within her capabilities, O'Brien expects Johnson can finish second overall. Jacquelyn has been recently signed with track legend and agent Michael Johnson. Michael Johnson also shared with me that he felt Jacquelyn could also finish second if things go her way.

Fan favorite, Matt Scherer of Eugene, made it through the first round of the 800-meters by finishing fourth in his round. He spoke with me during my work at TheFinalSprint.com after the race. "The name of the game today is not time, it's qualifying," said Scherer. "Fourth today is as good as first" he went on to say.

I spotted a very relaxed looking Al Joyner near the track area. There was not time to track him down today, but he was definitely on the scene.

It was purely amazing to watch Bernard Lagat pull a Michael Jordan moment tonight in the 5,000. You remember when MJ would play 18 holes before heading to the NBA court to dominate his competition... Lagat appeared as relaxed as a morning jog when he rolled through the first round of the 5,000-meters.

The men’s 400-meter hurdles was quite interesting. Kerron Clement and Angelo Taylor appear to be favorites to go 1-2 in the finals.

In the last race on the track tonight, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Amy Begley are officially heading to Beijing in the women’s 10, 000 meter run. The final event was brought home by a standing ovation for the top three finishers.

By Jay Hicks, a.k.a. Track Evangelist.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Live From the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon!!!

I have finally made the trek to track and field mecca with my press credentials in hand. I am working with TheFinalsprint.com to provide live blogging during the meet. Check out PreraceJitters.com for all the my behind-the-scenes run down, such as what legends attend the meet. Or who loses their cool after a disappointing race.

So far it has been everything it's cracked up to be. The superbowl of track and field in the United States. The meet, albeit extremely long (June 27 to July 6), will be show on television.

TV Schedule – all times are Eastern; subject to change; please make sure to check local listing before the running begins.

June 28: 12:00 midnight to 1:00 a.m. USA

June 28: 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. NBC (live)

June 29: 7:00 - 8:00 NBC (live)

June 30: 11:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. USA

July 3: 11:00 - 1:00 a.m. USA

July 4: 11:00 - 1:00 a.m. USA

July 5: 5:0 - 6:00 p.m. NBC

July 6: 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. NBC

By Jay Hicks.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

German Fernandez Is Tops!

It comes as no surprise, that after a season that included a California high school state championship and saw major records drop, German Fernandez was named the 2007-08 Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

The senior distance runner finished the 2008 season as the top-ranked high school runner in both the 1,600-meters and 3,200-meters. At the California Interscholastic Championships, Fernandez shattered the meet record (4:16.62), set in 2001 by the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trial Men’s Marathon champion Ryan Hall.

Fernandez also handles his business in the classroom and in the community. He maintained a 3.25 grade point average and donated his time as a youth basketball coach, in addition to serving as a race course monitor at the annual Riverbank Wine & Cheese Run, a charity associated with the Shadow Chase Running Club.

The Oklahoma State recruit, joins the likes of Alan Webb, Kerron Clement, Sanya Richards, and Allyson Felix in receiving the prestigious award. We can look for great things from this young phenom. Fernandez thrives on the big races and has instincts that you can not teach.

By Jay Hicks.

PreraceJitters.com Interview: Brianna Glenn--The Good Life!

Brianna is no stranger to the pages of PreraceJitters.com. As a matter of fact, she is a regular via her blog, which is a fan favorite with laugh out loud funny entries about the goings on in her so-called fabulous life in track and field.

The sprinter and long jumper has hurdled, run around, and gotten under all of the obstacles that could have potentially kept her from the Olympic Trials. If there was test for persistence, Brianna would pass with flying colors regardless of the outcome at the Trials where she will focus on the long jump in her journey to make the Olympic Team.

With less than a week before the Olympic Trials, we caught up with Brianna and here is what she had to say:

PRJ: Your blog is wildly successful. The sport has struggled to attract new fans in large numbers. Your larger readership is made up of hardcore track fans and people who know generally about track but maybe have not followed the sport closely. So what do you make of all of this?

BG: I think it’s awesome. I didn’t really start a blog with the hopes that I would reach a whole lot of people that I didn’t already know…it was more so for my friends and family to keep up with me. But it turns out that a lot of people I have never met read it as well as people who have never previously been big fans of track and field. Whatever their reasons are for stopping by, I am just happy that they find enough interest in what I do to continue to check back and hopefully in the process they can learn to appreciate the sport I love.

PRJ: What if anything have you learned from readers since you began blogging and where do you see your athlete blog going in the future?

BG: There is a lot you can gain from putting yourself out there in the blog world. For the most part people are very encouraging and supportive, which is such an amazing bonus to it all. Not only do people take the time to comment on what is going on in my life, but I constantly get emails and messages that are incredibly uplifting or just to say they appreciate a certain picture…which is also very flattering!

PRJ: Did you have any role models when you started competing?

BG: I have always been a huge fan of Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She is one of the greatest athletes of all time and she did it with the utmost grace and humility.

PRJ: When did you first realize that you wanted to sprint and jump?

BG: When I was younger I was always involved in sports, just not track. I knew I was fast but it wasn’t until high school when I actually saw where my talent was and that I was meant to sprint and jump. So I ran with it. Literally.

PRJ: After last season your life ran like a Hollywood movie—only in reverse. You changed coaches and packed up and moved from Los Angeles to Tucson where you had a great deal of success during your time at the University of Arizona. How has the overall move worked out for you so far?

BG: I am no stranger to moving and switching coaches. I always do what I feel is best for my career at the time and this year it made sense for me to go back to working with my coach from college, someone I trusted immensely. Trusting your coach is a huge piece of the puzzle and as much as I loved living in LA, it was a small sacrifice to make. Being out here has allowed me to focus and prepare how I needed to.

PRJ: Do you have a good chance to qualify? If so, what do you feel you need to do in order make sure you get an airline ticket to perform in Beijing?

BG: This year the field in the women's long jump is stronger than it's
been in quite some time. We have a number of women who are capable of
jumping far and getting on that team and I definitely see myself in
that mix. I think the great competition among us will push us all to
jump far and to produce some great marks. I have a feeling that if I
jump what I am capable of jumping I will definitely be on the team.
My focus is on jumping well and when that happens the results will
fall into place.

PRJ: The pressing matter on everyone’s mind in track and field is the pending Olympic Trials. You have recently had knee surgery and are back to working out. How is your knee and physical conditioning going into the trials?

BG: This is 2008. Everyone knows what the deal is this year and where the focus is. My knee surgery was most definitely a setback but there was nothing that was going to keep me out of the Trials in my mind. I told the doctor he could duct tape it together if necessary but one way or another, I would be out there. I’ve healed quickly enough to give myself a great opportunity in Eugene and that is all I can really ask for.

PRJ: There has been a huge build up to the Olympic Trials. Do you feel any pressure heading into Eugene?

BG: It’s exciting. Sure, it’s a pressure filled situation because we all know what’s on the line, but you have to embrace the opportunity.

PRJ: Is there one thing in particular you're looking forward to if you get to Beijing?

BG: I’m looking forward to competing with USA written across my chest.

PRJ: Are you anxious about anything outside of competition that you're going to encounter in China? I've heard about some non-traditional toilets.

BG: Track athletes do a lot of squats so we will be ok. I’m looking forward to some authentic orange chicken and shrimp fried rice. Whatever we encounter, I’m sure we will embrace it all.


PRJ: Thank you for making time in your busy schedule to speak with us. Good luck in your efforts at the Olympics Trials and the remainder of your season.

By Jay Hicks.

Who Is Chris Jones?

This article was co-written by former track standout Marlon Ramsey and Jay Hicks.

With the Olympic Trials just around the corner, Chris Jones had been dropping his times and moving ever closer to his goal of creating a legacy for his children, ages 6 and 7-weeks-old, by making the U.S. Olympic Team. It is his latest efforts to make the Olympics after three years out of the game that could very well bring the eyes of the track and field world to his cause. So, we set out to learn exactly who is Chris Jones.

This track and field disciple, if you will, comes out of the legendary Texas high school 400-meter track scene. He was part of a group of trailblazers that were your favorite runners, favorite runners. He ran during the impressive high school quarter-miler era that produced former greats such as Deon Minor (45.75), Milton Mallard (45.80), Danny McCray (45.74), and of course, Marlon Ramsey (45.36). A group that Texas high school stand outs Brandon Couts (Greenville), Kellie Willie (Houston), Jeremy Wariner (Arlington), and Kerron Clement (LaPorte) grew up watching.

He is a 400-meter talent. During his collegiate running, he was a four time 400-meter conference champion while attending Rice University and University of Houston respectively. Jones is the former 1997 World Outdoor Champion at 400 meters and still holds the school records at Rice University (1994) and University of Houston (1997) in the event.

Today the Houston resident is driven by his passion and love for the sport that has given him so much. Many of his counter parts have long ago retired or left the sport all together, but Chris is running toward his dream of representing the U.S. in Beijing.

Jones started the season at the Komen Houston Run For Breast Cancer, a distance he had never run before in his life and ran 24th in the road race featuring 2,000 runners. Jones then became inspired and called Coach Tom Tellez to lay down a base and begin fall workouts for the 400 meters again. "I love to run. No matter what the distance is, I will be competitive," says Chris Jones. Things started to take off when Jones won the UTSA Invitational in 47.40. He said, "It was an unbelievable feeling, surreal."

In his prime, Jones claims a personal best of 44.87. Today he has a family, a full-time job, and has still managed to run a season best of 46.23 so far this year. This time is very close to the Olympic Trials qualifying time (45.95).

"I feel rejuvenated, like a new man said Jones. I was real skeptical at first, and then the pieces started coming together."

This is the picture of a man chasing down his dreams. Chris Jones returns to the sport to finish his story of achieving an extraordinary goal by making history and the U.S. Olympic Team. His grandfather told him "never be an ordinary man, always stand out in life." And Chris is being anything, but ordinary.

By Jay Hicks and Marlon Ramsey. Marlon Ramsey is a PreraceJitters.com guest contributor. He is a former SWC Champion and NCAA runner-up at 400-meters while wearing the green and gold of Baylor University. Ramsey is also a former World Champion as a part of the 1995 Team USA 4x400-meter relay.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

PreraceJitters.com Interview: Lolo Jones: Looking Back to the Future!

One of the sport’s brightest stars knows that she is needed now more than ever.

The new Oakley ads featuring Lolo Jones hit the stands this spring. The photos of Lolo are crisp black and white, taken as a part of the Oakley ad campaign. In the shots, Lolo stares intently back at the camera, eyes aglow, hot light bouncing off her outfit.

The picture looks like a sports goddess figure, a female superhero. All kidding aside, as far as pro track goes – and the current pro sports world in general right now – Lolo Jones as sports’ guardian angel might not really be all that far off.

Think about what has gone down in pro track circles in the last twelve months: the Mario Jones drug admission, Tim Montgomery, the Trevor Graham Trial, the Dwain Chambers debacle.

While the world’s greatest sport will always win out in the end, these blights have been made worse by the frenzied media. None of the aforementioned events will ever stop any hardcore track & field fan from watching, loving, and following the sport. However, the media has and will continue to seize upon the sport’s issues, looking to pounce on headlines and blowout stories about arrogant, spoiled, drug using athletes. The antidote? Lolo Jones.

Lolo will tell you straight up that she is a reminder that if people believe in something and in themselves that they can do anything. Look at her. She hit a hurdle in 2004 and in the process failed to make the Olympic Team. But Lolo got back up and has since landed two fab sponsors in Asics and Oakley. The 5 foot, 9 inch regular girl from Des Moines, Iowa made it. And she’s had the opportunity to live out some of her wildest dreams.

Lolo hardly needs us to act as her public relations mouthpiece, but nonetheless, it’s hard to deny her All-American, mom-and-apple pie package. She’s easy to champion. In putting together this interview, she was exceedingly pleasant and cooperative. Even so much as following up to make sure that everything was done in order to hit my deadline.

On top of everything, Lolo can run. She is the reigning World Indoor Champion and currently lays claim to 12.57, the fifth fastest time in the world this season. This time puts her in the discussion of the world’s top hurdler.

We caught up with Lolo to talk about her place in the sports world, the Olympic Trials, and one of the most difficult times in her life….

PRJ: Win or lose, what’s the best race you’ve run so far?

LJ: The best race this yearwould have to be when I ran 7.77 indoors. That’s when people began to associate my name with the all-time great Gail Devers. So far outdoors, I've hit my personal best three times now! So I can’t really say a race outdoors. Hopefully the Olympics!

PRJ: Do you think you’ve run as well as you are capable of?

LJ: No. What athlete does though? The moment I think that is the moment, I will cease progress. I honestly can see 12.4, but the moment I hit that, I know I will say to myself I can hit 12.3 and etc.

PRJ: Is there any other hurdler that you’ve been particularly impressed with this season?

LJ: World indoor record holder Susanna Kauller. Her technique is very impressive and she has just good clean hurdling.

PRJ: Grading your own racing from A to F, what would you give yourself and why?

LJ: I would give myself a C plus to B minus. I say this because sometimes my lead leg kicks out to the side and my arm will get long on occasion.

PRJ: I’ve heard you bring up the rough times in ’04 and ’05. How do you think it has affected you and the way you look at track and field?

LJ: Well coming out of college, I wasn’t like the Jeremey Wariners or Sanya Richards who signed a six figure contract. After I didn’t make the team in '04, I was broke and essentially without a job. I had my fresh degree in Economics and Spanish, but I knew if I would’ve gone out and got a 9 to 5, that would have been the end of track. So instead, I choose to work two flexible part-time jobs and train. It was hard. I had to live off of credit cards and sometimes it was embarrassing. Now I look back and I am just humble and thankful for those times. I can ride in my car to practice and not have to worry about how I am going to get to practice. I can help provide for my family and others and not worry about if someone can help me. The biggest thing is I see is a lot of the rookies coming out of college every year. Some of them look just like I did four years ago. Confused. Not knowing if they should pursue their dreams or get a job. I just can relate and tell them about my own past experiences.

PRJ: A lot of success has come to you after weathering some storms in the sport?

LJ: A lot of the times I complained and was very depressed while weathering the storms in the sport. But what I have learned is that the storm is what helps give you victory. I would compare it to lifting weights. When you lift weights it is hard and heavy. The weights break your body down, but in the end they make you strong. So storms seem to break you down when you are in them, but they make you strong when you come out.

PRJ: Who is your biggest competition going into the Olympic Trials and what can we expect to see from you performance wise in Eugene?

LJ: Well, normally this is an easy question. This year is quite different as World Outdoor champ Michelle Perry and U.S. Outdoor champ Ginnie Powell have both been hurt and not competing. So, I have no clue where they are in their training. So I would just say that I am my biggest competitor. As that is the case for most athletes anyways. Getting not only over the physical hurdles but the mental ones as well.

PRJ: Right now the sport world is going through a series of negative story lines—NBA ref Tim Donaghy, Marion Jones, Michael Vick, the Trevor Graham trial, and track and field is dealing with some of its own issues. You seem to be the natural antithesis of those things.

LJ: It’s crazy. I really never thought their decision to cheat would effect me, until one day I introduced myself to someone at a track meet. The person looked at me weird for awhile and fnally said, "your not that one that cheated are you?" I got associated with a drug cheat, because I have of one of the worlds most common last names in Jones.

Also, it’s an Olympic year and track is always in the prime time viewing. I just found out that the prime time Olympic sports will be Swimming and Gymnastics, not Track. Those are just little things, but the reality is that there are athletes sitting at home who got second to Marion or other drugs cheats. It's frustrating and heart breaking to know that they will never receive that moment in their life . No one wants to receive their medal via fedex.

PRJ: After missing the ’04 Olympic squad, what would making the ’08 Olympic Team mean to you and your family? You danced in Boston after winning the Visa Indoor Championship series title.

LJ: It's universal. Even a person who has never competed in athletics before, can understand what a great honor it is to have a chance to represent your country and fellow Americans. So it would just be a huge honor to represent my country. A huge honor.

Thank you for making this interview happen and we wish you the best at the Olympic Trials and with the rest of your season.

By Jay Hicks.

Monday, June 23, 2008

PreraceJitters.com Interview—Matt Scherer: Living By the Moment!

Since he came on the pro scene in 2007, Matt Scherer has been making a name for himself on the U.S. 800-meter scene. The former 400, now 800 runner is currently the fourth-ranked American and is taking it moment by moment as he is poised to contend to make the U.S Olympic Team. In this exclusive Q & A with PreraceJitters.com, Scherer reveals what it is like to live and train in Eugene with the Olympic Trials coming to his home town in less than one week.

PRJ: What is the best thing about living and training in Eugene, Oregon, a.k.a. Tracktown, USA? Is it as interesting as it seems?

The best thing is by far the people. It may be because I went to college here but it is really cool to be recognized at the grocery store or at the mall by real track fans. I don’t know of anywhere else where track athletes are recognized out in public. The fans in Eugene make track seem like a big-time sport.

PRJ: Who did you look up to while running track as a youth? And is there anyone that you pattern your race after?

Through high school and college I always seemed to look up to my peers/competitors. I didn’t follow the pro circuit much. I would look up to a runner until I beat them and then found someone else to take their place as my ‘idol’. I think that’s where my competitiveness on the track comes from; I like to beat people. Some names that come to mind are Adam Steele, Craig Everhart, Christian Smith, and Marc Sylvester.

PRJ: You had a stellar career at the University of Oregon that included a personal best of 45.19 in the 400. Why did you decide to move up from the 400 to the 800?

To me it seemed like a logical move to have my best chance at Beijing. Even though I’d had success at the 400, I really wasn’t that fast in terms of speed. I was always the last out of the blocks but finished well. My 200 time wasn’t anything special either. My best workouts were always the longer, harder ones. It’s also been a new challenge for me. I love taking on new things and this has been one of the biggest, but it may also have the biggest reward in the end.

PRJ: Take us back to the decision making process to move up to the 800. Who did you consult during this process and what pushed you over the top to make the move?

I talked to my coaches Dan Steele and Vin Lannana quite a bit about the decision. Dan was supportive of whatever decision I made and Vin (being on the distance side) was excited about the possibility of moving up because not many people at my level had done so. But what tipped the scales was Frank Gagliano and the opportunity of the Oregon Track Club. I had talked to several pro athletes while in college and the theme seemed to be that it was very difficult to transition to the pro athlete life because so many things change. So the opportunity to stay in Eugene and keep training at my home track with a coach that I was very comfortable with actually made the decision to change events very easy.

PRJ: What time are you shooting for at the U.S. Olympic Trials and how difficult to you anticipate the rounds to be?

My first goal is to run under 1:45.50 and past that I’m shooting for the 1:44’s. I’ve typically done well with rounds, especially mentally, and so am not very concerned about running 3 rounds. And having a day off before the final is awesome. Typically in meets like this (in college) I would be running 6 or 7 races in 4 days. Now I only have to run 3 (hopefully!).

PRJ: Your seasons best time of 1:46.11 puts you in the mix going into the Trials, what would making the Olympic Team mean to you?

First, I’m just excited to be in the mix; to have my name mentioned in people’s discussions about who has a chance to sneak into that 3rd spot. At this point I really don’t think I can even comprehend what making the team would mean to me or even feel like. I guess with the Trials next week I should start visualizing that… haha. But the only experience I’ve ever had with the Olympics is watching on TV. I don’t have anything that I can compare what the feeling might be. But at the same time that just means I have less to worry about. If I make the team I’ll be ‘that guy’ that people say, “He should act like he’s been there before.” I’ll be out there on tv acting like a fool.

PRJ: Do you feel there is additional pressure to make the U.S. Olympic Team squad because you live and train where the Olympic Trials are to be held?

No, not at all. The only pressure I have is what I’m putting on myself. Everyone around me (teammates, family, and the community) are just happy that I’m doing so well after changing events. That’s been nice to not feel any pressure from them. I’ll leave that to the Nick Symmonds’ of the group. I feel much more comfortable being a dark horse than being the one that is expected to make the team. Now, I will say that eventually I’d like to be in that position but for now, and in this situation, I’m perfectly fine where I am.

PRJ: What has been the biggest difference you have noticed in the training regimen for the 800?

Hands down – tempo runs. Those were a new concept for me. It seems like I start out running hard and keep getting faster until I die. Over the past 2 years I’ve gotten better at them almost every time, literally. Most everything else I can compare in some way to something I did as a 400 runner, but tempo runs were something else. Note: and I usually only do 3 mile tempo runs so you know it must be hard for me. Meanwhile, other OTC guys are doing like 8 mile tempo’s. I don’t envy those guys!

PRJ: You recently ran 1:46.11, and ran the “A” standard for the Olympic Trials. How did that feel?

That race felt really good actually. I finally got a chance to try something I’d been wanting to for a long time, which was going out in 49 in a fast race. My last 100 wasn’t very good but after a 49 most people’s aren’t. But I was glad to have felt how that pace feels and learned a lot about what my optimal race is. As for the time I was very confident that I would run a 1:45 that day. And even though I PR’d by half a second I was actually a little disappointed that I wasn’t .11 faster. And on the positive side of that it is still keeping me very hungry to get that first 1:45.

PRJ: Have you had a welcome to the professional circuit moment? A situation or moment when you realized “wow, I am running with pros?” If so, can you share with fans how that went down?

The first time that feeling hit me was shortly after graduating from Oregon. I was in Europe to run a couple races that summer and at my first meet I had to start from the blocks with a starter that wasn’t speaking English. In fact, I didn’t even know what language he was speaking. And I remember being in the set position before the gun thinking, “This is pretty cool, I can’t believe I’m racing in Europe…hmmm…I hope that last word meant set (I then look at the guy behind me to see where he was in the blocks).”

PRJ: Your times have been incredible this year, how have you been able to drop your times so effectively in the relatively short amount of time of running the 800-meters?

I’ve always been a big fan of the “naive” mentality. By that I mean having a mentality that is oblivious to the typical limitations that people have. As far as I am concerned, it shouldn’t be a big deal to go run 1:43 at the trials. It’s only a couple seconds off my PR. Most people would say that is impossible for me right now to me its in the realm of possibilities because in my mind I don’t even know how good that is. Andrew Wheating of Oregon is a perfect example of that. The kid just goes out and runs and has no idea of what his current times mean. He just shrugs it off and says, “That was fun.” I love that attitude and have been using it since high school. As a freshman I ran 49.4 and had no idea why people were amazed. I was actually disappointed because I lost. Now I at least realize that 49 is good for a 9th grader but I still carry the same idea into my mental training now.

PRJ: As you are maturing in the 800-meters, are you relying less on your speed and more on race strategy?

To be honest, I still have no clue about what I’m doing in an 800. I learn so much about the race every single time out. My speed is my greatest asset though so I have to utilize that to my advantage. The big difference between this year and last is that I have a lot more strength now which only allows me to use my speed in the first half of the race. It is a misconception (at least for me) that people have that since I have speed they think I should be able to close the last 200m. But it is really the opposite, at least for now. I use my speed to go out in 50-point and feel more relaxed than everyone else even though they are 51 or 52. That gives me a head start for the strength portion of the race: the last 200. That’s why people like Nick Symmonds are so good with 100 to go. Nick has the most strength out of anyone I know.

PRJ: What is your go-to music to get you in the groove before you hit the track for meets?

I actually don’t listen to any music. I usually am on my computer working on websites or sending emails right up until I leave for the track. I am one of those people that has to keep busy. I don’t like to have a lot of time to think. Even warming up I often stop to talk to people or am joking around. Thinking too much about the race is a negative for me. I step up to the line just trusting that my body is ready and am focused on hitting those couple of key objective points of my race. But if I did listen to any music it would be Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw.

PRJ: I know you are an integral part of Runnerspace.com, how often do you post and update your profile?

Definitely not as often as I should. I am usually busy with other parts of the site, making sure content is getting up or helping plan coverage for events. Oh and I play the arcade games quite a bit. I may actually be more competitive in those little flash games than on the track. Haha. We’ve all played those games before – pacman, frogger, kick-ups – but RunnerSpace keeps track of your scores and ranks them against other members. Its one of those things that you get addicted to because you want to get one of those trophies the top 3 people get. Oh, and I’m pretty good at them and challenge anyone to my best game: F/A-18 Hornet. (and the overall winner of the arcade each month wins $100).

PRJ: You have your own company FastRunnerZ.com and Emerald Valley Marketing. Between that and Runnerspace.com, do you think you’ll go into that stuff full-time when you retire from running track?

I hope to. I’ve taken the last few years to learn as much as I can about the internet business and web design. All that “mumbo jumbo” code seems to make a lot of sense to me and I absorb it very easily. Right now web design is one of my side jobs that I hope to develop into a career when I’m done running. And I’ll always be involved in RunnerSpace in some capacity. Its just too good of an idea to fail and has the back end site operations that hasn’t been seen in the track world.

PRJ: Thank you for taking the time out to sit down with us. Good luck at the Olympic Trials and the rest of your season.

By Jay Hicks.

Just Press Play - 2006 Matt Scherer Pac-10 Conference Win!


PreraceJitters.com came across this video of a young Matt Scherer winning the Pac-10 Championships at 400-meters back in 2006. Look for then freshmen Lionel Larry of USC in the third position. Larry took second place in the 400-meters at this years NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

This is Scherer's personal best (45.19) and a fine run!

By Jay Hicks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Last Lap: The Surprises Keep Coming!

  • Oklahoma State University recruit German Fernandez is so cold that he inspired a website. The California high school runner just broke the junior two- mile record in 8:34.40 at the USA Track & Field Juniors. German Fernandez

  • Remember when we said that Asafa Powell needs to drop the mother of all bombs? Well 9.96 is a good start in the right direction. IAAF

  • Could Justin Gatlin make a surprise appearance at the Oly Trials? A U.S. district judge seems to think so. SportsIllustrated

By Jay Hicks.

Just Press Play - Michael Johnson 1992 Olympic Trials

This is a classic. 5 days before the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon is an appropriate time to watch a legendary race from the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials. The 200-meter race featured arguably two of the greatest modern Olympians in Michael "The Man" Johnson and Carl "King" Lewis.

19.79 from lane 8--who does that?

The lesson taught by MJ is that it doesn't matter what lane you end up with in the finals. Watch Michael Johnson light up the track from what looks like another area. The race also had sprinting great Mike Marsh, who also run under 20 seconds that day. Every athlete heading to the trials should study this race before boarding the airplane for Eugene.

Click here to watch the 200-meters featuring Michael Johnson from the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials.

By Jay Hicks.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Surprise! Chryste Gaines Comeback!

At first I thought it was a misprint or error. Chryste Gaines ran 11.23 in the 100 at the meet last Saturday in Clermont, Florida?

For real?

But the real news is that the 37-year-old runner is back to the sport to regain her name and career.

Gaines is trying to repair damage from her association with the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO). You may recall that Kelli White admitted to U.S. Anti-Doping Association officials that she had used several banned substances, mainly undetectable steroids such as “the clear” or THG. White then fingered Gaines as a drug user and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) utilized the testimony of White to eventually ban Gaines from the sport two years. Gaines maintained her innocence throughout that entire ordeal.

Chryste is a determined individual who is slated to take the track in Eugene in order to attempt to make another Olympic Team. The world will get to see her compete for yet another spot on a U.S. Olympic relay team.

By Jay Hicks.

Friday, June 20, 2008

When Athletes Blog – Olympic Hopeful Brianna Glenn

Making the U.S. Olympic team is a life time achievement for many elite runners. Rockers AC/DC summed it up best saying "It’s a long way to the top if you wanna to rock 'n' roll." Long jumper Brianna Glenn has fought fear and injury on the pot hole filled road to achieve her ultimate goal of making the Olympic Team.

Brianna took to her blog to share with fans the most recent events in her experience.

"Well, on to my update…

This past week I have been back to regular training and at the end of the week I even did full approach pop ups. (Technical talk for doing take-offs in the long jump without landing). I am ecstatic because I’m still fast. Granted, I am not as fast as I believe I would have been without the setback, but I am definitely fast and this is one of my advantages to already being one of the fastest jumpers in the world (in my humble opinion). It was a bit nerve racking putting back on my spikes without knowing what to expect from my body. I did not step on a track surface for a month’s time and then I did a somewhat abbreviated and accelerated rehab program so that I could get back to doing what I need to do. Needless to say, this caused some achy joints and bones. I am not the spring chicken I once was!

As important as balancing on one leg and stepping down from a 1 ft. box is, I could not wait to start to be able to feel as if I was really preparing for my task in 3 weeks. Here is the thing about this whole process – it can be truly overwhelming if you let it. I have taken things one step at a time because that is the only way to feel as if it’s manageable. If I could only lie on my couch and squeeze my quad 25 times every hour, I made sure I stayed on top of it. Once I was able to jog in the water, I tried to be the best water jogger I could. (No easy feat as I am no fan of things done in the water.) When I was able to get on land and do things that were not too much impact, I put all my energy towards that. I could not focus on what I could not do, only on what I could. It was hard. I’m not going to lie. But for the most part I was proud of myself for staying in the moment and staying positive and continuing to believe that I would be ok."

By Jay Hicks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is The Women’s Olympic 4x100 Winner Already Decided?

With just 50 days left until the 2008 Beijing Games the speculation is rampant. Who will take home gold in the women’s 4x100-meter relay? Are the Jamaican women heavily favored to win? The Jamaicans has some big names, a strong overrall squad, and maybe better chemistry. Over the last 12 months Veronica Campbell-Brown (10.88) is the most consistent 100 meter runner on the planet. The rest of the candidates are Sherone Simpson (10.94), Simon Facey (10.95), Kerron Clement (10.99), and Peta-Gaye Dowdie (11.31).

The American women relay pool has depth, depth, and more depth. Can a loaded Team U.S. hold off Jamaica and a fast-closing Veronica Campbell-Brown? The U.S. relay pool consists of: Torri Edwards (10.94), Allyson Felix (10.93), Marshavet Hooker (10.94), Muna Lee (10.97), Carmelita Jeter (11.07), Bianca Knight (11.11), Lauryn Williams (11.13), and Porscha Lucas (11.15), Sanya Richards (11.26) , and Miki Barber (11.31).

Who do you think will win the 4x100 and why?

By Jay Hicks.

PreraceJitters.com Interview: Ludus Tours---Are You Game?

So, you want to venture overseas to watch a track meet on your own? Think again. For some track and field fans seeing the Olympic games or a track meet on the European pro circuit is a lifetime goal. Well, Ludus Tours offers tour packages customized for track and field fans to meet their every need.

In its 5 years of business, Ludus Tours in Austin, TX has specialized in packages to major U.S. and international track meets, such as the U.S. Olympic Trials, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, and the Oktoberfest Tours in Munich, Germany.

Ludus Tours is the only tour operator to offer packages which include tickets and accommodations for the U.S Olympic Trials in Eugene. Last year, Ludus became the Official Tour Operator for USA Track & Field and USA Triathlon.

Co-founders, Adam and Jessica Dailey, are some of track’s own, having participated in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials as distance runners. Ludus can typically arrange meet tickets, accommodations, ground transportation and some flights, meals, and sightseeing. They even provide staff onsite in the tour city.

PreraceJitters.com had the distinct pleasure to catch up with the jet-setters from Ludus Tours, and here is what they had to say:

What is your background in track and field?

My wife and I were both All-American runners at the University of Arkansas. We met through running in high school and we were married in 1999. I was a 5 time NCAA All-American and part of 9 NCAA National Championship teams. Jessica was a 12-Time All American. We both capped off our career in 2000 with a spot at the Olympic Trials in Sacramento. Track and field was what brought us together and we are still pretty passionate about the sport.

For readers not familiar with Ludus Tours, can you please tell us about your organization and services?

We’re a smaller but personable company that offers tours and hospitality to global sporting and cultural events. Our main focus has evolved into the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. We offer packages that include everything from transfers to tickets and hotels…or just friendly advice when appropriate.

How did Ludus Tours get started?

My wife and I started Ludus in 2003 because we wanted to find a way to get back to Europe. We had lived in Barcelona from 2000-2002 and really missed that lifestyle. In Athens, it wasn’t as much a viable long-term business plan as it was a one shot deal. We wanted to create some tour packages for hard core track fans. We realized that the main competition was Track and Field News, but that their demographic were older people who don’t really care about being in a good location. So we jumped on it on booked some rooms in Central Athens with the hope that the whole experience could cover our living expenses in Athens for that year.

Or a shorter answer would be: credit cards.

What is your organization seeking to achieve by placing a team in a host city one year in advance of a major athletic event in which you are selling tour?

We try to learn the city like a local so that we have a lot of insight to show our clients during their Olympic experience. We can learn the language, know where the tourist traps are, show people how to take public transportation and basically be a better hosts for our clients.

It’s one thing to go in and visit a city a few times and then try to host a bunch of clients there. It’s what most tour companies do, and I guess that’s okay. But we found you lose one of two things: personable guides who have some insight of the city or an interesting host who actually speaks English and can relate to the client. We pride ourselves on the experience that we provide the client and we want that to be as genuine as we can. The formula isn’t that complicated, but it works for us.

Talk to us about your organization’s exclusive partnership with USA Track & Field? And how did that relationship come about?

We met with then CEO Craig Masback in a Starbucks in Paris and through it back and forth until it made sense. It took close to a year to actually get a contract signed, but it’s a logical step for us. It’s a great way that we can give back to the sport. I think both organizations are putting a lot of faith in each other. For us, we feel good about the contributions we make an Official Partner of USATF. We fill a void in terms of their needs as well. Business-wise, it gives us a good in-line to be able to offer our services to USATF members as well as agents, athletes, families, etc.

Our main focus has always been the support group. That’s the athletes’ families, coaches, agent, friends, etc. These people are going to the Games no matter what because the Olympics are a once in a lifetime opportunity. While they care about the cost, they’ll go at any price. The problem is they don’t know if they’re going until a month before the Games. But that point, it’s crazy…price gouging all the way around and pure mayhem because hotel and ticket availability changes daily like the stock market. We offer some stability for these support groups and we walk through the process; sometimes they’ve never traveled outside of the country.

What can clients expect when they book a group tour with Ludus Tours?

They can expect the experience of a lifetime. We say that and we know it sounds cheesy, but we get emails and testimonials from clients saying that we’ve changed their outlook on life and rejuvenated them. Everyone loves our energy and the fact that we exceed expectations. As a business, we strive for clients to feel like their friends are showing them around.

What are some unique services that Ludus Tours offers?

We offer a lot of customization and we also pride ourselves on not saying the word ‘no’ to clients. We work on some large corporate accounts, but I guess our specialty is dealing with the individual traveler.

We are very up front with clients with what we offer and what type of organization we are. If they’re seeking a full service tour where they’ll have hand-holding get to do a bunch of sightseeing from a tour bus, we’re not the right fit. If they want to get a unique experience and see some of the coolest things a city has to offer, they’re going to have a great time.

Our focus for events like the Olympics revolve around the hard-to-get tangibles, mostly tickets and hotels for the Games. But we love doing bigger corporate hospitality projects as well. We always say that if people want to see the sights, they should go with someone else. If they want to experience, touch and feel the sights, we’re the right company to help them have a great trip.

We offer everything you need during your trip, from some fun excursions to airport transfers to tickets.

How fun are the tours you present?

Fun. Look at our portfolio of events…you’ll see
of the Bulls. I would contend no other Olympic event company is in Munich drinking beer this September a few weeks after the dust settles in Beijing.

What advice would you give to travelers heading to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games?

Don’t go it on your own. Some countries are easy to maneuver on your own. China is not one of them. You can book a hotel room online through some websites, but that room might not be there when you show up. The Chinese are shrewd businesspeople and even though you have a confirmation, they’ll sell it to the next guy who offers $5 more. They just don’t care. We have found the challenges of this event to be significant in that respect. But it’s all a learning curve, and the consumer has the benefit of learning from our mistakes. That being said, we offer weekly packages starting at $1895 per person. You’re not going to find anything like that anywhere else with everything we offer. Get things done early like visas, as they are constantly changing the rules an requirements. But for the most part, we offer a service to clients that we’re going to host them and put everything in front of them to have a good time. Whether they do or not is ultimately up to them!

What are your top three international locations in which you have watched an athletic event? And what about those experiences make the event special?

Athens was a great experience because it was our first event and I was running at the Trials four years earlier so I knew most of the runners. And by the point track and field was on, we already knew that our business venture had passed the break-even point so we were really glad to be enjoying ourselves at the Olympic Games! The Winter Olympics were a lot of fun for us because it was our biggest event to date. We hosted almost 2,000 clients in Torino, Italy, and Jessica and I lived in Italy for 14 months. We spoke Italian, had a lot of sentiment towards the city and really got into the event. Plus, it was our first Winter Games experience. And World Cup in Germany would be a highlight of my life. For the Olympics, you’re getting a lot of rich Americans (a great overexaggeration, but still an accurate demographic). At the World Cup, you’re getting people from Asia, Latin America, Africa, etc. that don’t even go to the Game. They come out of the woodworks just to celebrate and be a part of the fun. It’s one big traveling party. There is a game on at all times and the entire country is into it. I definitely found myself going through World Cup withdrawal after that event. In the evenings after, it was like “well, what we are going to do since there’s no football game on.” Before, our entire social life and work schedule revolved around these matches.

What is the price range of the annual group tours that Ludus Tours organizes?

Our price points start at $1895 and they go as high as $7950 (per person). You have to keep in mind that these are premium packages during the most sought after time. And the way we price our packages is we look at the competition and we go lower than them. It’s important for us to the lowest priced tour company out there.

What can you share with track fans about the experience of attending a European and/or international professional track meet?

It’s a great experience. Europeans know track and field (and cycling) like we know baseball or football. Even non-fans know who someone like Bernard Lagat or even Stefano Baldini is. It’s much more important to them. But in my opinion, track is on its way back in the USA. They’re putting together some great domestic meets nowadays.

Where do you see Ludus Tours in five years?

Good question. We would like to be involved in more events. This year is our first domestic event in Eugene (the 2008 Olympic Trials). It’s going to be a low-key event for us, but we would like to start focusing more on stuff that’s in the USA. I have lived outside of the country since 2003, but now we’re in Vancouver so we’re slowly making my way back to the States. In 5 years, we’d like to have more of a foothold in the world of track and field. I feel hospitality-wise it should be marketed like other big sports (football, baseball, etc.). We’ll continue to do as much as we can to contribute to the sport. I would like us to be to go-to company when it comes to traveling and track.

By Jay Hicks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

PreraceJitters.com Interview: Steve McGill & Hurdlesfirst.com—Flying Over Hurdles!

Part II. Pioneers in the Internet Landscape of Track and Field.

The first part of the Pioneers in the Internet Landscape of Track and Field series was published June 9, featuring Tom Borish and Trackshark.com. Steve McGill, founder of Hurdlesfirst.com, a site dedicated to everything hurdling, is our second pioneer to spotlight.

The inspiration behind the current series was Steve McGill and his tremendous contribution to the track community through his work at Hurdlesfirst.com, writing at Trackshark.com, Ncpreptrack.net, and Blackathletes.com.

But Steve is much more than Hurdlesfirst.com. He is a teacher, intellectual, coach, friend, father, husband, son, and all-around good guy. His dedication to the art of hurdling is evident in Hurdlesfirst.com.

What the site lacks in the way of name recognition, it more than makes up for by delivering substantive content including interviews, profiles, all-time hurdling list, training tips, workouts and much more. Steve has interviewed some of the greatest current and former hurdles to ever run. The site is a treat for hurdles, coaches, and fans of the sport.

Steve’s passion for the sport oozes throughout the pages of Hurdlesfirst.com, and since launching Hurdlesfirst.com in 2004, he has put together a nexus of information combined with content to die for. He is someone who draws on all of the knowledge and understanding he has gathered to share with readers about the hurdling game. And for these reasons, PreraceJitters.com has selected Steve McGill as one of the pioneers in the Internet landscape of track and field.

PreraceJitters.com finally caught up with the ultra busy Steve McGill, the founder and editor of Hurdlesfirst.com. Here is what he had to say about his journey.

What is your background in track and field?

I didn’t get seriously involved in track until the 11th grade, when my high school started an indoor program, and I quit the basketball team so I could run indoors. I started hurdling in the 10th grade. I hurdled for the rest of high school and also in college, at a DIII school and then a DII school. I’ve been coaching at the high school and youth level since 1995. Mainly hurdlers, but also sprinters.

How long have you been running Hurdlesfirst.com?

I started the site in September of 2004. At first it was on the server of the school where I teach. All faculty members have their own page that is supposed to focus on the classes they teach. I was like, who wants to read about that boring stuff? So I made mine a hurdle site. The original url was www.ravenscroft.org/upperschool/hurdlesfirst/index.html. Or something like that. Now tell me that’s not a mouthful.

Why did you start Hurdlesfirst.com?

I started it because I love the hurdles and always have, beginning the moment I was introduced to them. I felt I had a lot of knowledge about the hurdling events that I wanted to share. Also, I like to write, so I felt that a website would be a good way to combine my passions of hurdling, coaching, and writing.

What were your goals when you started Hurdlesfirst.com and where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My original goal was simply to be a source of information. That’s still my focus, although I also like to consider the site a source of inspiration for those hurdlers out there who feel they have no one to provide them with guidance or a sense of direction. Five years from now, I’d like to still be doing what I’m doing. I learned a long time ago that nothing is more important than taking advantage of opportunities to help people, and this site puts me in a position where I can do that on a regular basis. So I’d like for the site to just continue to grow naturally.

When you started Hurdlesfirst.com, what did the internet landscape look like in the track & field community?

Well, that’s another reason I started the site – there was nothing out there on the hurdles. There were plenty of sites on distance running and even a good amount of information to be found on sprinting and field events. But for the hurdles there seemed to be very little. So I figured that even though I was just a high school coach, starting a site that focused on the hurdling events would serve to bring more attention to the hurdles and maybe even legitimize hurdling in the eyes of those who saw it as something people do once they realize they’re not fast enough to sprint.Now there are great blog websites like Ron Bramlett’s and David Oliver’s, and you can always download races on youtube, as well as at sites like flotrack and wcsn.com. What I like about my site is that it is, first and foremost, an educational site. Nowadays, people don’t like to read. My site forces you to read. It forces you to think. I don’t ever see having forums or chat rooms or anything like that on my site. I can’t deal with people being ignorant toward each other, and forums encourage such behavior just by their very existence. Nor do I see the site ever including meet results, etc. People can get that kind of stuff at other sites. People who visit to my site go there because they want to learn more about the hurdles. I appreciate that.

What is the hardest thing about publishing Hurdlesfirst.com and writing?

Just the time element. It takes time to write articles. I teach full-time, I’m coaching during most of the waking hours when I’m not teaching. Then I have to make time for family, and my own running, and at least a little bit of leisure time. Like right now I plan to interview 1996 400h Olympic champ Derrick Adkins for a profile, but when I called him last week he didn’t pick up, so finding the time to call him again, when I know I’ll have an hour’s worth of space to converse, is proving difficult. Then it’ll take another chunk of hours to put the interview material together and make an article out of it. I love doing it, but finding the time to do it on a consistent basis is the hardest thing about it.

What do you do work related, when you are not publishing Hurdlesfirst.com?

I’m a high school English teacher. That’s the job that pays the bills. I’m always grading papers, which is another thing that cuts into my website time. Finally, there’s the time I spend coaching, which is at least two hours a day, often more.

You are also published author, share with us your work?

In 2001 I put together a collection of short stories, poems, and personal essays that I had written over a period of five years. The name of the book is A Hurdler’s Dream, and it centers around hurdle-related themes, obviously. I also wrote it as a tribute to my dad, who passed away in ’97.

What do you want readers to know about you?

That I’m a family man first. I have a ten-year-old daughter named Sanura who is my best friend and favorite hang-out partner. I also enjoy spending time with my wife, Joy, and my stepson, Akil, when he stays with us during the summers. I love my mom more than anyone in the world. I miss the days I spent growing up with my older brothers Greg and Glen, and my older sister Jo. And I’ll miss my dad forever.

Who has been your favorite individual to interview?

I’ve immensely enjoyed all of the interviews. I learn tons of stuff every time.But the one that stands out the most is the one with Renaldo Nehemiah in April of ‘05. Watching him hurdle in the early ‘80s was what inspired me to pursue the hurdles to begin with. So he was a key childhood hero of mine. Plus the interview itself was just incredible. When he stressed the importance of “becoming one with the hurdle,” I felt tears forming in my eyes, because I realized that I was talking to someone who understood the spiritual dimensions of athletic pursuits. For me, learning how to hurdle well, and learning how to coach hurdlers well, and this whole struggle to master the various aspects of hurdling well, has always been a spiritual quest that requires total involvement of body, mind, and spirit. What sets apart the interview with Renaldo from the others is that I could tell he had approached hurdling on the same level. People talk about how fast he was and how gifted he was. But very few people get just how deep he was. And is.

Who would you like to interview if given the opportunity?

When I started the site, the person I dreamed of one day interviewing was Renaldo because, as I said above, he was a childhood hero. So, now that I’ve interviewed Renaldo (and I’ve interviewed Edwin Moses for a different website), I’d have to say Allen Johnson. I’ve never met him, but it seems to me that he’s a very genuine person. Also, as a hurdler, he has dedicated his adult life to mastering his craft, and you have to respect that. When he loses he doesn’t make excuses; when he wins he doesn’t gloat. And you have to respect that too.

If you knew someone was thinking of starting a track and field website, what would you tell them? Figure out what your niche is. What will your site offer that isn’t already out there? Once you know what your niche is, get on the keyboard and start typing. The great thing about the web is that if your site is good, people will find it.

Is there a question that you wished I asked you?

The one question you didn’t ask me is where my passion for hurdling comes from. Answer: when I was a seventeen-year-old high school senior, I fell ill with a rare, life-threatening blood disease called aplastic anemia. I was treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where, to make a long story short, I was miraculously cured. I was able to return to school in time to rejoin the track team and graduate with my class. The whole time I was in the hospital, the only thing that kept me alive – that kept me wanting to live – was the hope that I would one day be able to hurdle again. I didn’t care about keeping up with my school work or anything else that had to do with the real world. The only thing I cared about as I lay dying was hurdling. That which matters most to you when death is staring you in the face is what matters most, period. Ever since then, I have dedicated my life to the hurdles, because I’m convinced that the hurdles saved my life.

By Jay Hicks.

Chanelle Price Awarded Top Honors!

  • Rising star Chanelle Price had one of the best races in the history of high school track this year and no one is more deserving of accolades. At a ceremony on Wednesday, she was named 2007-08 Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year.

    Price is the first student-athlete from Pennsylvania to win such an award. She is also in the running for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the year. The winner will be announced at a ceremony before the ESPY Awards next year.

    Some of the past winners of the prestigious award include: Bianca Knight, Allyson Felix, Monique Henderson, and Sanya Richards.

    Price is currently ranked in the top 10 of all female 800-meter runners in the United States. The University of Tennessee recruit has qualified to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials beginning June 27 to July 6 at the University of Oregon.

    Last month at the Pennsylvania state meet Price shattered the PIAA-AAA and National Federation record in the 800 in a time of 2:02.90.

    Earlier this month, fans saw her place sixth among the sport’s elite at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Oregon with a stunning 2:01.61—registering the second best time in scholastic history.

    In the classroom, she has maintained a 99.28 average to be in the top five percent of her class.

    By Jay Hicks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

When Athletes Blog—David Oliver!

David Oliver is in the driver’s seat heading into the U.S. Olympic Trials. But that doesn’t mean the standout hurdler doesn’t have a lot on his mind.

David took to his blog to share his gracious thoughts with fans. Here is what the America’s top ranked hurdler had to say about Cuba’s Dyron Robles new World Record in the 110-hurdles.

“Today in Ostrava, the guy who I have proclaimed as the best 110 hurdler since 2006, came through with the best performance in the history of the event. A World Record run of 12.87 seconds. Bettering Liu Xiang's performance of 12.88 seconds set in Lausanne in 2006. It was the most amazing race I have ever seen. Congratulations to Robles and his camp for running the record and once again showing the world again how the 110 hurdles is the best event in track and field to watch.

This race has caused me to undertake some changes to my site, as I had Mission: 12.87, now I have had to lower it down to 12.85. I think I should put it at 12.75 because then I might be able to hold on to that title without changing it for a while. I'm sure 12.85 will be surpassed by someone here in the next coming months.”


Click here to read David Oliver’s full blog.


By Jay Hicks.