Former 2:24 marathoner, now pushing 50 and reduced to a pitiable spastic shuffle • Magazine writer, book editor and author, and commentator on distance running since 1999; mostly a crank since approximately 2016 and possibly long before • Coach and adviser of less pessimistic perambulators • Dobie-mix owner Sentence-fragment impresario

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Liberty Bell Invite results exemplify an ongoing Colorado youth bonanza

I closely follow high-school running in my home state of New Hampshire, and manage to stay on top of the rest of the New England prep scene as well (the latter partly by default; interstate competition is frequent in neighboring states that are all practically small enough to fart across on a clear, dry day). Now that I seem to have settled in Colorado permanently, I keep tabs on the kids here as well. But I'd like to think I'd be paying attention to Colorado high-school running anyway, because there are some notable things happening here at both the once-in-a-generation level and the top-ten-in-the-U.S. level. While Colorado appears to be enjoying an unusually strong ripple, I think the reasons for this are manifest in the rest of the country as well, and that these reasons fairly easily explain why we're seeing about the same number of superhero-level outliers as before, but quite a few more kids in the "extremely good" range.

At the Liberty Bell Invitational at Hertrage High School south of Denver last weekend, an affair that ranks among the biggest regular-season cross-country events in the state if my guess is close, both the boys' and girls' already impressive course records were broken. Cole Sprout of Valor Christian, arguably the top prep runner in the country, ran 14:38 to break the 2007 mark by 13 seconds, while junior Sydney Thovaldson, now considered the second-most-influential woman in Wyoming behind Liz Cheney but overwhelmingly the more popular of the two, erased Brie Oakley's 16:43 standard from 2017 by three seconds. The finish line of this course reportedly sits at 5,466' above sea level.

I'll delve into the influences of the physical setting as a whole on the times at this event, but as a glance at the winners through 2015 reveals, some very talented athletes have raced at LBI in its forty-one year history. When future Olympian Adam Goucher of Doherty (Colorado Springs) broke the course record by over 18 seconds in 1993, the same fall he proceeded to rip a 14:41 to win the Foot Locker National title in San Diego, his blistering new mark was "only" 15:05. The next kid to get within even 15 seconds of Goucher's time was Brent Vaughn, who recorded a 15:16 in 2002 and went on to run 9:05 for 3,200 meters the next spring, a time that stood as the state record until quite recently and is now decisively held by Sprout. The next year, Ryan Deak of Smoky Hill of Aurora, at one time a veritable talent factory, was the first to break fifteen minutes (14:58); in 2007, Williams, who'd go on to reach FLN and run 8:51 for two miles at sea level the following spring, notched the 14:51 that had stood until Saturday.

On the girls' side, the erratic nature of the progression is even more evident. When Lize Brittin ran 17:50 at LBI in 1983, she broke the course record by 47 seconds, but the race was then only five years old, and it also may not have made her 17:36 the next fall seem as phenomenal as it proved to be, even if Lize did run those times in campaigns in which she placed 15th and 7th at FLN. Lize was the furthest thing from an open-road time-trialer as you'll ever find, so of her various course records from the 1980s, her LBI time would have looked the most vulnerable. But even as the race grew to include more and more out-of-state athletes, no one even came close. The first runner to go under 18:00 after Lize was Megan Kaltenbach of Smoky Hill in 2000 -- sixteen years later. In fact, Kaltenbach would win the race three times, with finishes of 17:40, 17:49 and 17:36.0. For good measure, in 2003, Katelyn Kaltenbach, also of never the hell mind because don't be a dumbass, ran 17:42 to put two extraordinarily hot sisters (as I would have seen them as a high-schooler, but not either in real time, when I was over 30, or now, when I am pushing 50) a total of about 31 seconds outside Lize's record in four combined tries.

As you can see from that PDF, which I won't link to again because I'm trying to get to the point as quickly as humanly possible before the missiles hit, the Smoky Hill sisters ushered in a new era (a phrase I just used on purpose because it should be abolished from the vernacular and is probably incorrect anyway) of faster winning times, but Lize's mark stood until 2011, when Eleanor Fulton broke it by less than a second. Then, one year later, Jordyn Colter of Cherry Creek (Denver) appeared to do the equivalent of hitting a baseball clear out of the old Tiger Stadium with a 17-flat. This meant that a record that had stood for 27 years and fallen by about half a second was now over half a minute in the dust. Colter would run 2:04.5 for the 800 and 4:41.1 for the mile as a senior in 2015, so anyone speculation that her record would stand for a good spell would have been reasonable. But in 2016, Lauren Gregory of Fort Collins ran an unbelievable 16:52 -- and lost the race by nine seconds to Oakley. You may remember Oakley running 10:09 to win the 2017 Colorado 5A 3,200m title (where Gregory ran 10:16; never, ever, ever again will a high-school girl finish second in 3,200-meter race at 5,560' with a time that fast, mark my or someone more reliable's words on that one) a few months after running 15:52 to set a national high-school indoor record in the 5,000m.

That sets the table for discussion of current events, now that I myself am sick of writing about them. I'm taking a break, but the rest will appear below the "Read more" link when I'm good and ready.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Coleman offered leniency owing to exceptional efficacy of doping regimen

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Citing the youth, promise, and above all remarkable success of U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, the figurehead organization U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) declined to apply its rules and uphold its suspension of the decorated athlete from competition.

Coleman, who holds bests of 9.79 and 19.85 for the 100-meter and and 200-meter  dashes, was reportedly unavailable for between three and sixty random drug tests in a 12-month period between April of 2018 and this year. Coleman's lawyers, who candidly note being professional shit-sacks whose ideal ultimate fate is being found face-up, naked, and badly defiled in filthy roadside drainage ditches, were able to provide Coleman's sponsor, U.S.A Track and Field (USATF), with a plausible excuse to allow its wayward athlete to continue racing and typically besting the world's pre-eminent international dopers.

One of Coleman's attorneys, also an official in Nike's human development division at USATF's main offices in Indianapolis, expressed gratitude for the language intentionally placed in the USADA guidelines at the organization's inception that allows for especially successful dopers to continue competing after clear rules violations while allowing for the occasional sacrifice of over-the-hill talent to provide a veneer of concern for rules enforcement.

"Christian is young and doesn't understand that skipping tests outright is dumb and attracts attention," said the attorney, who was visibly intoxicated during the conversation and late for his third disbarment hearing of 2019. "He doesn't quite get that dirty urine goes down a biochemical rabbit hole if it comes from the right bladder. But the kid's only 23."

One of Coleman's trainers was more sanguine, emphasizing the willingness of USATF to limit its punitive doping-related actions to aging athletes whose real value is limited but whose name recognition suggests to the public that someone gives a rip. "They'll pop some American over 30 before Tokyo," the lawyer predicted confidently as he pleasured himself to a rare VHS video of Scrooge McDuck ejaculating into the face of an impoverished gosling. "Someone who ran 9.95 to 10.00 four years ago. It won't fool anyone, but it'll push enough attention back to the Russians and Turks so that we can absorb our own fucking carelessness. I mean really." The official said her real name was Ann and that the reporter could probably figure out her true identity if he wanted.

"Fuck this shit," a sprinter with knowledge of Coleman's thinking reportedly added sometime late last week. "I'll answer the door when I'm home and if I'm out, I'm out. I do what I need to do, which is what everyone does. Sadly, it's considered uncool to say that, so I won't."

Coleman, who is carefully being groomed for an eventual 9.65 on today's pharmacological aids but expects to break 9.50 in 2022 after a new class of rapid intramuscular kinase enzymes is secretly introduced, declined to go on record for this report.