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The 10 Best Moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2008

Date: 
12/18/2008 - 06:38

December 18, 2008 By Ryan Lamppa, Running USA wire (CA) Since 2001, U.S. distance running has produced some noteworthy and historic achievements, particularly compared to its status the years before 2001, and 2008 was another year of achievement and outside powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia, no country had a better year than the USA if one considers the entire sport. In 2008, U.S. distance runners had success on the track, on the roads, up and down mountains and over trails and turf. There was some disappointment in the U.S. distance performances at the Beijing Olympics, but when only one bronze medal is considered a "disappointment" than certainly the bar and expectations have been raised since 2001 and those are good things for the sports further development.

Below are the 10 best moments in U.S. distance running for the year:

#10 Yoder Begley Gets Olympic "A" Standard at Olympic Trials and Beijing Berth
At the Olympic Trials, on Friday, June 27, Amy Yoder Begley willed her way to a personal record 31:43.60 for the coveted third place spot. Moreover, a big negative split of 16:10 vs. 15:33 (and propelled by the Eugene crowd), the Arkansas grad earned the Olympic "A" standard by 1.4 seconds and a trip to China.

#9 Jurek Three-Peats at the Spartathlon Ultra
Last September, ultra star Scott Jurek became the first man to win three consecutive times the storied Spartathlon endurance race in Greece. The Seattle resident traversed the grueling 152.8 mile / 246K course from Athens to Sparta in 22 hours, 20 minutes, 1 second, the fifth fastest race time (and his best time); only ultra legend Yiannis Kouros has run faster at the event.

#8 U.S. Women's Steeplechase Record Chase by Barringer and Willard
During 2008, U.S. steeplechasers Jenny Barringer and Anna Willard had a record duel, and at the KBC Night of Athletics meet in July, Barringer edged Willard, 9:22.73 to 9:22.76, to shatter Willard's U.S. record (9:27.59) set at the Olympic Trials. Later in Beijing, Barringer, a Colorado University student in Boulder, reset the U.S. record with her 9:22.26 at the Olympic steeplechase final where she finished 9th (Willard was 10th).

#7 Kastor's Late Charge Captures Olympic Marathon Trials
At the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Boston on April 20, U.S. record holder and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Deena Kastor of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. became a three-time Olympian with a negative split, comeback win in 2:29:35 (second fastest women's Trials performance). Magdalena Lewy Boulet, who led until the 23rd mile, earned the second Beijing berth as runner-up in 2:30:19 (a personal record), while 2004 OMT 4th place finisher Blake Russell nabbed the coveted third Olympic spot with a controlled 2:32:40. An impressive 14 of the top 16 set personal records over the multi-loop course in downtown Boston.

#6 Goucher Breaks U.S. Debut Record at ING New York City Marathon
On November 2, Kara Goucher, with her 2:25:53 at New York to finish third behind defending champion Paula Radcliffe and master Ludmila Petrova, broke Deena Kastor's U.S. marathon debut record of 2:26:58 from 2001 New York City. Goucher, a 2008 Olympian, also became the third fastest U.S. woman behind Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

#5 California State Meet Wows with National and State 1600 & 3200 Meter Records
At the California CIF State Track Meet on May 31, Christine Babcock and German Fernandez, with impressive solo efforts, set national scholastic records at 1600 and 3200 meters, 4:33.82 and 8:34.23, respectively. Two hours earlier, Fernandez broke the 1600 meter state meet record with his solo 4:00.29 (a 4:01.7 mile equivalent). Many in the sport consider his distance double the best ever in U.S. boys high school track history. Also, if that wasn't enough, in the girls 3200 meters, Jordan Hasay and Laurynne Chetelat pushed each other for 8 laps with Hasay just edging Chetelat, 9:52.13 to 9:52.51 - both under the old state meet record and the #2 and #3 H.S. performances all-time. Wow.

#4 Flanagan Shatters U.S. 10,000m Record at Cardinal Invite
On May 4 at Stanford University, Shalane Flanagan, 26, demolished the U.S. and U.S. All-Comers 10,000 meter record with a 30:34.49 clocking - in her debut at the distance. The old U.S. mark, also set on the same track, was 2004 Olympic medalist Deena Kastor's 30:50.32 from 2002. Flanagan, who also holds the U.S. 5000m record, and New Zealand's Kim Smith raced around the track together before Flanagan of Pittsboro, N.C. pulled away at the end. Smith set an NZL/Oceania record with her 30:35.54, and ten women ran under the 2008 Olympic Games "A" standard of 31:45.

#3 Ritzenhein, Hall 9th and 10th in the Olympic Marathon
Under less than ideal conditions for 26.2 miles, Dathan Ritzenhein and Ryan Hall finished 9th (2:11:59) and 10th (2:12:33) at the Olympic Marathon in Beijing. Sammy Wanjiru of Kenyan ran an otherworldly Olympic record 2:06:32 in the heat and humidity. Historically, Ritzenhein and Hall also produced the 4th and 6th fastest Olympic Marathon times by the U.S, and in the modern era, it was the second best U.S. men's team by place total with 41 points (9 + 10 + 22 - Brian Sell) behind the 1972 team of Frank Shorter, Kenny Moore and Jack Bacheler (1 + 4 + 9 = 14).

#2 Hall Pops 2:06:17 Marathon at London - #2 U.S. performer all-time
At the Flora London Marathon on April 13 against a stellar field, Ryan Hall of Mammoth Lakes, Calif. ran another impressive marathon to finish 5th in 2:06:17, only former course and world record holder Khalid Khannouchi has run faster (twice) as an American. In his third marathon, the Team Running USA athlete continued his development as he prepped for the Beijing Olympics. The top six men broke 2:07, the first time that has ever happened at the same marathon on the same day. Winner Martin Lel of Kenya defended his London title with a course record 2:05:15.

#1 Flanagan Earns Olympic 10,000m Bronze Medal and AR at Beijing
At the Beijing Olympics on August 15, Shalane Flanagan won the bronze medal in 30:22.22, shattering her own U.S. record and equaling the best-ever U.S. women's performance in the event. Earlier in the week, the 2004 Olympian had suffered from food poisoning. Flanagan's hardware was the first American track medal, male or female, at a distance longer than 400 meters since Lynn Jennings' bronze in Barcelona 1992, which was also a U.S. record at the time. Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH) and Elvan Abeylegesse (TUR) won the gold and silver medals with impressive times under 30 minutes, 29:54.66 and 29:56.34, respectively.

HONORABLE MENTION LIST

* In November, Kami Semick won the silver medal at the 100K World Cup in Italy to also lead the Team USA women to the silver medal. Semick's time of 7 hours, 33 minutes, 58 seconds made her the second fastest U.S. woman for 62 plus miles (only the legendary Ann Trason is faster).

* At the World Mountain Running Trophy hosted by Switzerland in September, the U.S. men's team won their first medal at the competition, while Alex Dunne earned a bronze medal in the Junior girls race (also the first for the USA).

* At the recent Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego, Jordan Hasay won her second title, edging 2007 champion Ashley Brasovan, but the best moment was in the boys' race when Zack Torres dove at the finish line to tie Dylan Sorensen for 15th, the final All-American position. The heart of a champion sometimes is displayed by person who doesn't break the tape first.

* Sophomore Lisa Koll of Iowa State, at the Stanford Invitational, ran a 32:11.13 for 10,000 meters to break the U.S. collegiate record of 32:19.97 set by Stanford's Alicia Shay (nee Craig) in 2004 on the same track.

* Led by rising star Emily Brown, the Team USA women were edged by Australia, 84 points to 87 points, for the bronze medal at the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh, Scotland. As a first-time Team USA member, Brown, 23, finished 18th overall against a top international field.

* On June 6, Jen Rhines finished 5th and set a PR 14:54.29 at the Bislett Games 5000 meters to become the 4th fastest U.S. woman at the distance.

* At the Cardinal Invitational 5000 meters, Colorado's Brent Vaughn ran 13:18.46 to finish second, the #4 collegiate all-time performance.

* With her 14:58.48 personal record and first sub-15, Lauren Fleshman won the Reebok Grand Prix 5000 meters in New York City on May 31.

* The 2008 U.S. Women's Olympic Marathon Trials was part of the Boston Marathon weekend and a smashing success.

* At the same Olympic Trials, Joan Benoit Samuelson's career came full circle in Boston with her final "serious" marathon, and for good measure, the inaugural women's U.S. Olympic Trials and Olympic Marathon champion (1984) set a U.S. 50-54 age group record with her 2:49:08 clocking. Brava!

* At the ING New York City Marathon, three-time Olympian Abdi Abdirahman led four U.S. men into the top 10 with his sixth place finish (2:14:17), followed by Josh Rohatinsky seventh (2:14:23), Jason Lehmkuhle eighth (2:14:30) and Bolota Asmerom tenth (2:16:37). It was the most U.S. men to place in the top 10 in New York since 1982, when Alberto Salazar's victory in 2:09:25 led five Americans in the top 10.

* The Olympic Track & Field Trials returned to Eugene, Oregon and famed Hayward Field, and the knowledgeable crowds were large and loud.

* With a commanding performance in Terre Haute, Indiana, Galen Rupp won his first NCAA Cross Country title to lead the Oregon Ducks to their second consecutive team title.

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