Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Mexican Runners Chase the London Olympic Standards

Several notable showings by the crew of local athletes this Spring. The year's first two large national track meets were run at the Mt SAC Relays and Stanford's Payton Jordan Invite toward the end of April. Just about all of the top athletes currently training in the States attended to chase down Olympic time standards as well as Olympic Trials standards. All the top college programs competed to get a feeling for the fast, high-stakes, pre-nats atmosphere.

At Mt SAC, Santa Fe based pro Aron Rono torched a 13min 23sec 5000m, good for fifth place behind a few Olympic caliber collegians. Former UNM all-American Rory Fraser followed close in 13:27 for eighth. Santa Fe based Nike athlete Haron Lagat was just behind in 13:33 for eleventh. In the night's second heat, former New Mexico prep standout and Univ. of Colorado athlete Matt Tebo (Go Buffs!) stopped the clock with a brilliant time of 13:48 good for fifth. Impressive performances.

At the Payton Jordan Invite just about every event was stacked six heats deep. The meet's marquee event was the men's 10,000m which I was lucky enough to catch streaming live after a night out with friends. Half the field was aiming for the Olympic 'A' standard of 27min 45sec, a crazy-quick goal for folks to be aiming for. Santa Fe's Aron Rono had great positioning up front most of the race and was looking strong at the halfway point. He moved to the lead and started pulling the pace at mile four. At that point something happened that you'll seldom see in a race of that caliber - a group of collegians went to the front and proceeded to blow-up the field.

The 10000m field at Payton Jordan. Aron Rono in 4th position wearing yellow
Eight in the lead-group ducked under the standard, including four collegian runners. Southern Utah's Cam Levins earned himself a spot on the Canadian Olympic team as did Northern Arizona's Diego Mercado who will be running for Mexico. Chris Derrick of Stanford finished third but broke the American Collegiate record in the event. Rono fell off and finished in a respectable 28min 6sec, good for 19th place. Don't know what happened to the guy but that's a killer pace and he may have just been cooked. Former Lobo Rory Fraser started but dropped. Another former UNM all-American and Mizuno athlete Keith Gerard ran 28:34, good for 22nd place in the second heat. Albuquerque's Jeremy Johnson dnf'd.

Alvina Begay
In the women's 10,000m Alvina Begay of the Navajo Nation and Univ. of Arizona ran an awesome solo effort to earn herself a spot at the Olympic Trials. The pace at the front of the second heat fell off at mile four so Begay charged out on her own, finishing 2min better than her previous best and 11sec under the Trials standard of 32:45. Begay will be one of the VIP athletes at this September's BuffaloThunder Half Marathon along with '64 Olympic Champ Billy Mills.

In the men's 5,000m, former UNM all-American Chris Barnicle ran a time of 13min 42sec, followed closely by former UNM all-American Ross Millington in 14:11. In heat two Albuquerque's Matt Tebo improved his best to 13:43, and UNM's Nicholas Kipruto ran 13:59.

And lastly in the men's 1500m, (yet another) former UNM all-American David Bishop scorched an elite time of 3min 37sec (3:54mile equivalent) in the top heat. Former Los Alamos standout and Adams State all-American RyanMcNiff ran 3:42.19 for fifth place in heat three - a notable finish time in that it's two tenths faster than the equivalent of a four minute mile. A career milestone if there ever was one.

Related Posts:
  - A Brief Meeting with Billy Mills ('12)
  - Olympic Marathon Trials Showdown ('12)
  - Armijo Runs to an Olympic Trials Qualifier
 - A series of London Olympic Games race summaries can be found here
       - Olympic 10,000m Recap

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