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November 19, 2018

2018 NCAA Cross Country Championships Gallery

Photos by John Jarvis for Citius Mag

November 18, 2018

NCAA Championships Recap and Analysis: Upset, Not Upsets, and a Rockin’ Good Time

The 80th NCAA Cross Country Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, had one race go totally against form and the other totally hold form, all on a classic Midwestern late fall day in a fantastic atmosphere. It was the most fun I’ve yet had at an NCAAs.



The women’s team favorites were New Mexico and Oregon. They were #1 and #2 in the coaches’ poll, and 87% of NCAA champions came from the top two since the advent of the women’s poll. They both won their conference meets, the Mountain West and Pac-12 respectively, and 35 of the 37 women’s NCAA champions since 1981 won their conference meets. It looked pretty clear-cut as a two-team race.

The team standings shown at the 2k mark of the 6k race showed Oregon leading with 157, Colorado second with 185, Arkansas third with 183, and New Mexico fourth with 251. That score for New Mexico was a little concerning given the Lobos had three women in the top twenty, but it was early going and there was plenty of time for their 4th and 5th runners to move up.

At 4k the scores showed that Colorado had taken the race by the horns: 80 points for the Buffaloes, 140 for New Mexico, 147 for Oregon. Coach Mark Wetmore’s teams have a reputation for finishing strong, and this team underlined that reputation. At the finish it was Colorado 65, New Mexico 103, Oregon 160.

65 points is a very low score for an NCAA Championships, the third-lowest women’s score under the current 31-team championship format. Colorado’s dominance was so complete that their sixth runner finished before anyone else’s fourth. That sixth runner, Val Constien, finished 30th overall and was only a step behind 4th-place Michigan’s first runner.

New Mexico, the defending champions and #1-ranked team in the final poll, could hardly be accused of underperforming. Their 103 points was only 13 more than last year’s winning total, and the lowest runner-up score ever in the 31-team format. More often than not it is good enough to win, and coach Joe Franklin said he was “over the moon” with their performance and that “there was nothing else we could have done”.

The individual race is easier to follow visually, and that one was similarly thrilling with a hard finish. A large lead pack of 11 women never really broke up until New Mexico’s Weni Kelati surged away from the field with about a mile to go. That stretched it out and only five were able to remain in the chase: Anna Rohrer (Notre Dame), Erica Burk (BYU), Dani Jones (Colorado), Jessica Hull (Oregon), and Alicia Monson (Wisconsin).

Kelati maintained her lead until the last quarter-mile, when Burk led the charge to close the gap. Jones followed and unleashed a massive kick on the final uphill stretch to the finish. She flew past Kelati and her lead became so large that she looked over her shoulder and eased off to the finish.

Colorado pulled off the double victory, both using the classic cross country strategy: get into position, be patient, strike when ready. It is a simple plan, but not an easy one.


Just like in the women’s race, the men’s race was expected as a two-team battle, this time between #1 Northern Arizona and #2 BYU. 90% of men’s champions since the advent of the coaches’ poll were ranked in the top two. All of the last 44 men’s champions also won their conference meet; NAU won the Big Sky and BYU won the West Coast over #3 Portland. 26 of the last 31 men’s champions had finished in the top four the previous year (and the other five missed it by unusually small margins), and last year’s top four were NAU, Portland, and BYU.

NAU led the team scoring at every checkpoint of the 10k race, always in double digits while the rest were in triple digits. BYU was back in eighth at 2k, but moved up to third at 4k and 6k and into second at 8k. Portland was second until being bumped back to third by BYU in the late stages. The only surprise of any kind in the men’s team race was that #4-ranked Wisconsin finished eighth despite running on their home course.

Neither was there a surprise in the men’s individual race, though it was still dramatic. Last year the NAU duo of Tyler Day and Matthew Baxter made a hard push from early in the race and they were rewarded with second and third place. Baxter warned in Friday’s press conference that a repeat of that strategy was unlikely, and they held to it. A lead pack of a dozen men did not lose anyone until the final mile.

Coming around the final turn to the 300-meter straightaway finish, the first to go to the lead was Iowa State’s Edwin Kurgat, who later admitted “I think I went too early”. He was caught by Stanford’s Grant Fisher, one of the pre-race favorites, but the man with a full head of steam was Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald. The Badger didn’t take the lead until very late but it was a clear win, and the pro-Wisconsin crowd lost their minds.


Old friends have “guy weekends”. Some go on fishing trips, some go to Vegas. My friends and I go to track meets. This was the sixteenth NCAA cross country I’ve attended with John, including the last fifteen in a row. If you’ve never been to one of these you’re missing out. Overall, I’d say this was probably the best one yet — it was a rockin’ good time.

It was the first NCAA Championships ever held at Wisconsin’s Thomas Zimmer Championship Course. If I understand correctly, the facility was first planned as a golf course but the developer ran out of money, so the university bought it and turned it into a permanent cross country course on the model of Indiana State’s Lavern Gibson course. Purpose-built cross country facilities such as these two are likely to host nearly all future NCAA Championships.

As a facility I think UW’s Zimmer course is second only to ISU’s Gibson course. The latter is striking in its vastness and open layout, which allows the less-than-speedy fan to observe the entire race from the finish area. The Zimmer course is on a smaller footprint and portions go through wooded areas, so one needs to be either swift and energetic to see the race, or stay put by the video boards near the finish. Another small drawback is that the Zimmer course has insufficient parking so fans are bussed in from remote lots, which means there is no pre-meet tailgating action.

As far as the course itself goes, it has its own special challenges. There are a couple of sharp upslopes but I still wouldn’t call it hilly. The difference between the highest and lowest points are less than at ISU. But the course never levels out, it’s always either going up or down. There are more turns, and more changes in footing, and it goes into the woods and out into the open. It never allows a runner to become comfortable (if there is such a thing at a national championship race) and this would be doubly true on a windy day.

But in terms of the overall atmosphere, Madison is the best host in a very long time. It’s bigger than Terre Haute or Ames or Greenville so hotel space is not as challenging to find, yet smaller than Louisville so the meet breaks into the public consciousness. Madison is a major college sports town, which means it’s a fun place to go.

And it’s the home of the Wisconsin Badgers, the most consistently excellent cross country program of the last half century.

The crowds appeared the best I’ve ever seen at an NCAA Championships, and they were the most energetic. A roar went up every time PA announcer Mike Jay mentioned Wisconsin, and they really went crazy when McDonald made his final push to victory.

The weather? My opinion is that if you’re thinking about the weather then you’re not thinking about racing. It snowed a bit and the footing got a little dicey, but warmer weather has produced worse footing. It was cold (28 degrees) but with very little wind, and the 36F/20mph wind at the 2016 championships felt much colder. All sport includes the classic conflict of man versus man, and endurance sports add in the conflict of man versus self. Cross country is special among these because it requires the additional conflict of man versus nature. Like Yuki Kawauchi said of this year’s Boston Marathon, “for me these are the best conditions possible”.

As it has for more than a hundred years, the collegiate cross country season drew to a close less than a week before the best holiday of the year.

November 16, 2018

The Leading Runners at Every College National Championship Ever

Here is something cool to peruse the night before the NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Over the last year I’ve put together a more-or-less complete listing of the top individuals at every collegiate cross country national championship (the NCAA Division I Championships and its various predecessors). You can access them below:



The number of competitors I included is a reflection of how deep the competition was at the time. I have the top 15 finishers from 1971 to present (1990 to present for women) and gradually reduce as the years go back. Cross country is a national sport now, but was mostly a midwestern and northeastern sport from its inception through the 1950s.

I included the home nation of each competitor because cross country is among the most international sports in the NCAA. Forty-four different nations are represented in these results: Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Botswana, Burundi, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, England, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Serbia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Sweden, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, United States, Venezuela, Wales, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.


Virtually every important US distance runner makes an appearance somewhere. Olympic champions Frank Shorter and Bob Schul do not: Shorter’s best NCAA finish was 19th (he went on to win four USA cross country championships) and Schul’s best was 20th.

However, relatively few Americans who later won an Olympic or World Championships medal were an NCAA cross country champion first. Galen Rupp, Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflezighi, and Mary Decker are notable exceptions. Alberto Salazar and Craig Virgin are two other NCAA cross country champions who made major international impacts, by winning the NYC Marathon and and World Cross Country Championships respectively.

Shockingly, two top finishers from the 1997 championships were part of the elite field at last week’s NYC Marathon: Abdi Abdirahman and Bernard Lagat.

While cross country is obviously a training ground for future champion marathoners and long-distance runners, milers such as Lagat, Joe Falcon, Kevin Sullivan, or Suzy Favor sometimes make an impact too. The only international champion 800 runner who ever finished in the top end of an NCAA cross country championships is Dave Wottle. He took 12th in 1971, less than a year before his world record and Olympic victory.


What do those acronyms at the top of each result mean?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) first held its championship meet in 1938. For at least its first decade it was considered a national championship rather than the national championship. Western teams rarely competed until the 60s. The regional qualifying system was put in place in 1972; prior to that it was an “open” championship.

The Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A) has organized collegiate championships since 1908. Now exclusively Northeastern colleges, it was national in scope through the 1940s, although generally only a few Midwestern colleges attended.

The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was the governing body for women’s college sports from 1969 until a hostile takeover by the NCAA in 1982. Both the AIAW and NCAA held women’s championships in 1981; the talent was essentially evenly split between the two meets and no one ran in both.

The Central Collegiate Conference (CCC) was a track & cross country conference for Midwestern colleges. Its first cross country championships were in 1926, initially a triangular between the major independent powers of Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Marquette. The NCAA Championships were an outgrowth of this meet; the early NCAAs were so midwestern-oriented that the CCC was held concurrent with it for its first decade or so.

The Western Intercollegiate Conference (WIC) is now known as the Big Ten. It held an “open” cross country championships from 1908 to 1925. The CCC was created when the Big Ten closed its championship meet to members only in 1926. Another alternate name was the Intercollegiate Athletic Association (ICAA).

The Intercollegiate Cross Country Conference (ICCC) was the first collegiate governing body for the sport, eventually transferring power to the IC4A.

November 10, 2018

This one is for the walk-ons, the guys who just want a chance to run

This one is for the walk-ons, the guys who just want a chance to run. Bowling Green finished top 10 in their region. Thank you for making us proud once again.

November 8, 2018

The Wood Report: Projected NCAA Qualifiers, Individuals (Men)

The Wood Report has released its list of projected men’s teams and individuals who will qualify for the NCAA Cross Country National Championships.

October 12, 2018


Ranking the top 100 individual women for the 2018 cross country season.

September 4, 2018

Feast Your Eyes On The Best Cross Country Roster Portraits – Part X

The return of our hit series. We round up the best cross country headshots and portraits and roast them just a little.

September 3, 2018


It’s picture day for the 2018-2019 Georgetown Hoyas track and field day. Here’s a Behind the Scenes look by Spencer Brown.

August 27, 2018

Jacob Thomson: An Open Letter Ahead of Cross Country Season

Former Kentucky distance star Jacob Thomson shares advice for his former teammates and all runners before the start of cross country.

August 1, 2018

The Athlete Special: Epic Long Run Progression

Spencer ‘The Athlete Special’ Brown takes us on a 14-mile progression long run as he gears up for the 2018 NCAA cross country season.

July 12, 2018


The Athlete Special is back with the summer vlogs and returns in course-record fashion with a fun summer relay race with friends.

June 20, 2018

What Did The Division II Experience Mean To Me? (An Essay by David Ribich)

David Ribich looks back at his time competing for Western Oregon on the Division II scene and how dreams are greater than any label put on a group.

June 13, 2018

Predicting The Next Wave of Olympians from The NCAA Championships

Jesse Squire makes a bold move of trying to predict Olympians for 2020 from the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

June 9, 2018

What to Watch on Saturday at the NCAA Championships

Today is Day 4 of the NCAA outdoor track and field championships and the wommen’s champions will be crowned. This is the last meet ever held in the historic version of Hayward Field. On Wednesday I helped Chris Chavez preview the meet on the CITIUS podcast, and below is everything you need to know about today’s action.


2:20pm EDT (11:20am PDT) at — separate feeds for heptathlon and each field event
6:30pm EDT (3:30pm PDT) on ESPN2, switches to ESPN at 7:00

You’ll also want to follow the live results and use our handy visual schedule:

The USTFCCCA’s National Championships Central is a treasure trove of information.

Here is a fun and useful team scoring tracker with several different ways to project team scores–you can even customize it. It will be updated after each semifinal and final.


Any of five teams is capable of winning this meet.
Georgia has four chances at first or second in the heptathon, triple jump, and 400 and 200. The downside of this is that they have little room for improvement.

Stanford is depending on the discus and distance events. Those are relatively volatile events where they could score a lot or not much at all.

Kentucky is in a solid position with heavy favorites in both hurdles and dependable relays too. The Wildcats have upside potential in a few other events as well.

As with their men’s team, USC is going to score a boatload of points in the sprints, relays, and 400 hurdles.

Oregon is the team with the most potential to outscore the projection, though they are favored to win the 800 with Sabrina Sutherland and the 4×400.

Below are my projections for today. A blank means no qualifiers, a zero means qualifiers who are not expected to score.


LSU already broke the 4×100 relay collegiate record earlier this year, so another record is quite possible. This first race of the day has three of the five team contenders and will be a game-changer right out of the gate.

The sprints have a pair of stars who will not meet head-to-head. LSU’s Aleia Hobbs is capable of breaking the collegiate record. Harvard’s Gabby Thomas is a long-sprint specialist, and she may have her hands full with Georgia’s Lynna Irby.

It is not hyperbole to say that Kentucky has two of the world’s best in the 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles. Both Jasmine Camacho-Quinn and Sydney McLaughlin are the current world leaders in their events and a PR by either would be a collegiate record. McLaughlin has a very real chance at a world record.

USC’s Kendall Ellis is only the second collegian to ever run under 50.00 for the 400 meters, but Georgia freshman Lynna Irby isn’t that far off either. Oregon has two finalists and needs big points.

The 1500 meters and 800 meters are unpredictable events that have major team implications for Stanford and Oregon. There probably isn’t a strong favorite in either race. The sentimental favorite in the 1500 is Toledo’s Janelle Noe, who survived life-threatening burns to make an improbable run to the final.

The long-distance races, the steeplechase and 5000 meters, could be interesting. Boise State’s Allie Ostrander has never lost a steeplechase final, which is a far more meaningful stat than her fast times. She’ll try to come back later in the day and run the 5000; she did so last year and took 1st and 4th. Many of the women who went to the wall in Thursday’s 10,000 are also in this 5k, so it’s anyone’s guess how it will turn out. Stanford and Oregon have scoring chances here.

The 4×400 is always the best race of any meet, and this could be one of the classic races of all time. The team championship will almost assuredly be in play, and two of the three fastest collegians of all time are running for USC and Kentucky. It will be a wild and wooly conclusion to the last meet ever held in the historic version of Hayward Field.

June 9, 2018

NCAA Championships Day 3 Recap

What happened at yesterday’s NCAA Championships? Here is your short summary of the conclusion to the men’s competition.

Complete results


The Georgia Bulldogs won the team title in an upset. They never trailed on the scoredboard at any time during the meet. It was their first men’s championship; their previous was sixth (last year and 2014).

The Dawgs did it by exceeding expectations in the field events. Denzel Comenentia won a hammer-shot double on Wednesday, Karl Saluri and Johannes Erm finished 2nd and 3rd in the decathlon on Thursday, and Keenon Laine and Antonios Merlos took 3rd and 5th in the high jump yesterday. Those alone were enough points to win, and eight more points in the 100 and 200 gave Georgia a comfortable ten-point margin.

The Florida Gators had been the pre-meet favorites, but did not score as much as expected in the long jump, high jump, and triple jump. Their second-place finish is their tenth straight trip to the podium for one of the trophies awarded to the top four teams.

Houston and USC rounded out the top four. The Cougars represent the first mid-major university on the podium since 2005, and it is just the second time they’ve ever done it (the other was 1959). This is USC’s 48th top-four finish but just the third time they’ve done it this century.


The evening was cool and rainy, so record expectations were dampened. But the records fell and in amazing fashion.

Houston got the meet off to a rousing start with a collegiate record (and Hayward Field record) in the 4×100 by running 38.17. Ohio State surprised everyone with a second-place finish, pushing traditional sprint powerhouses Florida and Arkansas to 3rd and 4th. It should be noted that first and second were the champions of the Penn and Drake Relays respectively, and the winners of Arkansas’ “National Relay Championships” were not, in fact, national champions.

The next record to fall was in the 400 meters, one I mentioned as a possibility in the CITIUS Mag podcast. USC’s Michael Norman ran a stunning 43.61, but what was even more stunning was that he had to work to win the race. Auburn’s Akeem Bloomfield and Nathon Allen were close as the trio came off the turn before Norman powered away down the homestretch. Norman broke the Hayward Field record held by Michael Johnson, which puts it all in perspective. Bloomfield ran 43.94, also under the old record, and Allen was third with 44.13.

Without a doubt the performance of the night came in the 400 hurdles and from another USC Trojan. Rai Benjamin was already the only collegian to ever run sub-48.00 before the NCAA Championships, so you figured he might kick it up a notch at the NCAAs. Did he ever. He ran 47.02, the second-fastest ever run. Anywhere. Ever. It wasn’t just a collegiate record or Hayward Field record, it was a record for the entire western hemisphere.

So with those two record runs you figured USC might be decent at the 4×400, and they did not disappoint. When USC handed off to Norman with a lead at the last exchange everyone thought it was over, but Texas A&M’s Devin Dixon closed the gap over the first 300 meters before Norman pulled away as he did in the open 400. USC ran 2:59.00, breaking LSU’s collegiate record from 2005, and Texas A&M slipped under 3:00 as well.


Two middle distance races featured similar upsets. New Mexico’s Josh Kerr (1500) and UTEP’s Michael Saruni (800) both set collegiate records this year and both won their events at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Both put themselves in difficult situations they couldn’t bail themselves out of.

Kerr had mentioned that he might attack his own collegiate record, but he was not able to get to the lead in the first 100 meters of the race and instead settled into the middle of the pack. The pace was very slow and that meant a lot of runners all trying to occupy the same space. Kerr found himself seventh at the bell and worked hard to get out of a box and did more work to get to the lead with 200 to go. Kerr faded down the homestretch, as did everyone else except Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare. The Badger ran his last lap in 53.01.

In the 800, Saruni similarly found himself back in the pack but not because the pace was slow. Texas A&M’s Devin Dixon led through a 51.09 first lap and Saruni was a well-situated fourth. His fatal mistake was making a too-aggressive move and doing it too soon. He overtook the lead with 200 to go and was fading by the homestretch, where he was passed by Penn State’s Isaiah Harris. Both struggled over the last 50 meters, but Harris held on for the national championships win that had eluded him for so long. He had twice been a runner-up and twice more he finished fourth.

The men’s 5000 feature three men who have won NCAA championships in Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, Stanford’s Grant Fisher, and Northern Arizona’s Andy Trouard. None of them won, instead the title went to Stanford’s Sean McGorty. The pace wasn’t painfully slow as in the 1500 but it still wasn’t eliminating many runners. McGorty got to the lead at the right time (700 meters to go), took charge of the race, and repelled the challengers. In many ways it is an unsurprising upset, if such a thing is possible; he was the NCAA runner-up in this event two years ago but spent much of the time from then until now dealing with an Achilles injury.


The Houston Cougars were rated as having a small chance at the championship if they had extraordinary results. They got off to a great start with a win and a record in the 4×100. Next up was the steeplechase, where Brian Barraza was one of many contenders for the win. He ran from the front and built a large lead – and then disaster struck with 300 meters to go. His lead leg didn’t make it over the barrier and he took a hard fall. Dazed and hurt, he got back to his feet but finished tenth and out of the scoring.

Two events later came the 100 meters, where Houston had three finalists. Cameron Burrell and Eli Hall finished first and second to put the Cougars back into contention. And then Burrell said this to ESPN’s Jon Anderson:


Field events are full of as much drama as running events, though you’d never know that from the “oh here’s the winner” field event coverage on ESPN’s broadcasts. All three were upsets.

The high jump went to Kansas State freshman Tejaswin Shankar. The 19-year-old from New Delhi became just the third Indian to ever win an NCAA championship. He flew under the radar because he missed the NCAA indoor championships in favor of going to the Commonwealth Games. He had no misses through his first four heights and was the only man to clear 2.24 meters (7′ 4¼”).

Memphis’ Luke Vaughn was staring elimination in the face when he sat tenth in the third round of the discus. His next throw not only rescued him but put him in first for good.

It wasn’t much of an upset for Texas A&M’s Tahar Triki to win the triple jump, but he did beat the reigning NCAA indoor and outdoor champions and did it in his first full season of NCAA competition. He took the lead on his first jump and never relinquished it.

June 8, 2018

Ben Flanagan’s NCAA 10,000m Victory Illustrated

Michigan’s Ben Flanagan kicked his way to the NCAA 10,000 meter title. CITIUS MAG artist Luke McCambley illustrated the final stretch.

June 8, 2018

What to Watch on Friday at the NCAA Championships

New Mexico’s Josh Kerr has won the last three NCAA championships in the 1500 meters or mile and looks invincible. He gets started in Eugene.

June 8, 2018

NCAA Championships Day 2 Recap

Sharon Lokedi won her first NCAA win and a long time coming; seven other times she’s finished between third and tenth. Karissa Schweizer finished 3rd.

June 7, 2018

What to Watch: Thursday at the NCAAs

All indications are that Missouri’s Karissa Schweizer will win the 10,000 meters despite the fact that it’s only the third time she’s ever run this distance

June 7, 2018

NCAA Championships Day 1 Recap: Ben Flanagan Unleashes A Kick, Twitter Goes Wild

Jesse Squire breaks down all the action from the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships including Ben Flanagan’s monster close.

June 6, 2018

What to Watch: Wednesday at the NCAAs

Jesse Squire breaks down the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships which features the 10,000m finals + field events.

May 23, 2018

The Joggler: A Story on Zach Prescott – (CITIUS MAG’s First Mini Documentary)

Watch CITIUS MAG’s first-ever mini-documentary on Zach Prescott, the Boston University runner who ran a 4:43.2 mile while juggling three balls.

April 30, 2018

Ten Parting Thoughts from Drake Relays & Penn Relays Weekend

Ten reactions by Jesse Squire on the last three days of the Penn Relays, Drake Relays and National Relays as outdoor season is now in full swing.

April 28, 2018

WHAT2WATCH on Saturday at the Penn, Drake, and National Relays

Today is the final day of competition at the Penn Relays, Drake Relays, and National Relays. It’s an all-day party of track and field!

April 27, 2018

WHAT2WATCH Friday at the Penn and Drake Relays

Friday marks Day Two for the Penn and Drake Relays and the debut of Arkansas’ new National Relay Championships.

April 25, 2018

WHAT2WATCH: April 26 at the Penn and Drake Relays

It’s the day you’ve been waiting for all spring — the Penn and Drake Relays are here & here’s the first full day of competition.

April 24, 2018

Notable Celebrities That Have Competed At Penn Relays or Drake Relays

Here are some people who you know, but may not have known that they competed at the Penn or Drake Relays at some point in history.

April 21, 2018

The Oldest Stadiums in College Track

Let’s take a look at the ten oldest NCAA Division I track stadiums as plans for a new Hayward Field were unveiled recently.

April 5, 2018

Everyone Needs a Rival: Assigning An Enemy To Every Division I Track Team

In this week’s Thursday Morning Trackstravaganza and Field Frenzy by Jesse Squire, he assigned a rival to every Division I Track and Field team in the U.S.

March 30, 2018

Track and Field Viewing Guide For Florida Relays, Raleigh Relays, Stanford Invitational, Texas Relays

Jesse Squire breaks down a full schedule for you to know what + when to watch track and field action this weekend includes Stanford Invite & Florida Relays.

March 22, 2018

The Biggest Upsets in NCAA Track And Field History (Plus the Weekend’s Best Matchups)

In the spirit of March Madness, here are the biggest upsets in the history of college track and field and came up with a list across a variety of events.

March 15, 2018

Five Ways Track Fans Can Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, plus The Weekend’s Best Matchups

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up on Saturday. How can you as a track fan and/or runner, more sedately celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

March 8, 2018

Your Roadfood Guide to Indoor Championship Weekend

One of my goals whenever I travel is to find good roadfood. If I can find just one it’s a successful trip. What do I mean by “roadfood”?

March 1, 2018

Why Conference Championships Are The Best

The beauty of conference championship season is that everyone acts out Bo Schembechler’s words: the team, the team, the team.

February 26, 2018

Where Did The Athlete Special Go?

A LetsRun thread popped up with the title: “Where did “The Athlete Special” (Spencer Brown) Go?” Well, here’s your answer.

February 23, 2018

The 30-year old ice dancing routine I think about daily

I haven’t been able to get Maurice Ravel’s Bolero out of my head for the last ten or so days.

There are a lot of reasons we like sports. Many times they merely act as a distraction from the weight of the world. It’s certainly been that way for me over the last two weeks, which have been very difficult for me personally, both physically and emotionally, as I deal with a series of family issues. Sitting back and watching track meets or the Winter Olympics has allowed me to decompress. Usually, though, it’s more than that which draws us to the action.

The most popular sports draw their popularity from tribalism, the belongingness to a particular group. This is absolutely true for soccer on a global basis and for football, basketball, and baseball in the USA. The act of supporting a team and opposing the other teams is what those sports are all about. It is the reason that four college football teams averaged a home attendance over 100,000 last year. It’s also the reason why fans of opposing teams can sometimes clash violently.

Fans of individual-based sports in general and track and field in particular don’t tend to find our interest based on tribalism. While we might cheer for certain athletes based on their national or collegiate affiliation, we very often just like seeing athletes perform on a high level. We are in it for a different kind of experience.

Look back at the 2012 Olympic men’s 800 meter final. You probably were cheering for the Americans, Duane Solomon and Nick Symmonds. Neither won a medal, but the race is probably seared into your memory as a transcendent experience. Kenya’s David Rudisha ran a stunning world record of 1:40.91. It was one of the greatest performances of all time, something well beyond what we thought possible.

Which brings me back around to Ravel’s Bolero. For some reason I’ve always been more fascinated with the Winter Olympics than their summer counterparts. I’m going to guess that’s because I’ve almost always seen the Summer Olympics as a really big track meet muddied up with a bunch of other stuff I don’t care about, but it may also be because the first two Olympics I remember were both winter games, since there was little US hubbub surrounding the 1980 summer games in Moscow.

I’ve never been a fan of judged sports, but in 1984 you watched what the network was showing you, tape delayed or not, because there wasn’t any other option and the relatively slow pace of the news cycle meant you didn’t yet know what had happened. I was 12 when ABC broadcast the winter games from Sarajevo and whatever they put on screen sure beat doing homework or going to bed. So I watched the ice dancing that year.

I remember the British duo of Torvill and Dean and their gold medal performance set to Bolero. I was transfixed. I don’t know diddley-squat about ice dancing, now or then, but even my 12-year-old self instinctively knew that I was seeing something special. It is considered ice dancing’s greatest performance ever, one of the immortal moments of the Olympics.

The Olympics at their best are a blend of the tribal and the transcendent. Who we cheer for is highly dependent on the nation they represent, but there are also ample opportunities for the kinds of things you instantly realize you and the rest of the world will never see again.

College track has much of this, albeit on a much lower level. Everyone has an allegiance to a college and that drives quite a bit of our interest. Still, we recognize a great athletic accomplishment when we see one, and appreciating those accomplishments no matter who achieves them is part of being a track fan.


Handing out the medals for the best in college track…

Gold – NEC Women’s Championship
Is there anything better than a conference meet that comes down to the 4×400? The Northeast Conference women’s championship matched up four-time defending champions Sacred Heart against LIU Brooklyn. LIU held a 99-74 lead with three events remaining, only to see it vanish in the 5k as Sacred Heart went 1-3-4-7. LIU gave up another point to Sacred Heart in the distance medley, meaning they led by a score of 103-102 going into the concluding 4×400. Workhorse sprinter Shantae McDonald gave the LIU Blackbirds a big third leg that more or less sealed the win.

Silver – Martha Bissah
The sophomore at Norfolk State had a hand in 46 of her Spartans’ 70 points at the MEAC Championships. She won the 800, mile, and 3000, and ran on the winning distance medley and third-place 4×400.

Bronze – GNAC Women’s Championship
This meet was even closer than the NEC. Central Washington trailed Seattle Pacific by three points going into the 3000 meters and appeared to pull ahead by virtue of a third-place finish…but SPU’s Mary Charleson won the slow heat by over 23 seconds and actually bumped CWU’s runner in the fast heat to fourth. That plus a SPU seventh meant CWU trailed by six going into the 4×400. CWU overtook the lead halfway through that relay, then had to hold off a furious finish by Simon Fraser. SPU took fifth, which meant the meet was a tie.


The top meets of the upcoming weekend are rated from one to three dip finishes for sheer watchability…

Three Dips: Every Conference Championship Meet

Conference championship meets ROCK. Doesn’t matter if it’s the SEC or the lowest level of Division III, they’re all a blast. Not only does every race and every field event matter, every scoring place in every event matters. Two weeks ago I was the PA announcer for the championship meet of one of the NAIA’s less competitive conferences, and it was a blast. The athletes were running less for themselves and more for each other, and for me that’s the best thing I can ever watch.

So if there’s a meet near you, go. Just go. Set aside time on Saturday or Sunday and get there. Doesn’t matter if it’s Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA, junior college, or USports, just go and soak it all in.

That said, if you’re going to be that guy who just sits on your couch and watches a meet on TV or the internet and aren’t intensely following your particular college, the SEC Championships is the meet to watch. It’s not just that it offers up the highest level of competition, it’s that the team championship is likely to be close and unpredictable.


This is actually the title of the film, and, shockingly, it gets worse from there.

Lugosi was the pre-WWII horror film star best known for portraying Count Dracula in the classic 1931 film. His roles became ever more limited as time went on, and by 1952 he was doing movies like this one.

The IMDB description merely says Two goofy entertainers meet a mad scientist on a jungle island. Lugosi is the mad scientist, of course, and the two “entertainers” are doing obvious ripoffs of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. I’ve long thought that Lewis was the single most annoying person ever put on camera, but I now know that he has been supplanted only by A GUY DOING A BAD IMPRESSION OF JERRY LEWIS. Egad.

This film was reportedly shot in nine days, and it shows. It’s the work of a director known as William “One Shot” Beaudine, so dubbed because of his reluctance to ever shoot a second take.

The two “entertainers” are stranded on a South Pacific island and are rescued by a local tribe. One of the “entertainers” falls in love with a pretty young member of the tribe, but there’s a mad scientist (Lugosi) running evil experiments on the island and he wants the young woman too. Lugosi hits him with a syringe full of growth hormone which turns him into a gorilla, and it gets worse from there.

Bad dialogue, bad acting, bad filming, bad plot – what more could you want? Wonderfully awful.

Enjoy the conference meets, everyone!

February 15, 2018

You’re Killing Me, Smalls

Could new collegiate record holder Grant Holloway go on to a 13.00 clocking this spring like Renaldo Nehemiah did in 1979? He’s on the way.

February 8, 2018

The Spectacle

I was happy with Super Bowl LII because the Eagles used to play in Franklin Field, home of the greatest annual track meet in America.

February 2, 2018

Q&A with NCAA Champion Karissa Schweizer on the 5,000m, Injuries and Career Outlook

We recently had a chance to catch up with University of Missouri senior and three-time NCAA Champion Karissa Schweizer to chat about her career and more.

February 1, 2018

Cross Country in the Olympics? Yes, please.

For all the talk about “edgy” and “extreme”, the kind of Olympic cross country that would benefit our sport is old-school.

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