Wednesday, May 2, 2012

All It Takes Is A Little Motivation

Well folks. I've sure been out of the blogging game for a while. I'm missing my time of being able to sit down and right about my passion for such great sports. For the past couple of months I have been incredibly busy coordinating and coaching the Track program for the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis and I must say it has been the adventure of a lifetime. There have been ups and downs and twists and turns, but all in all, I could not be more proud of how my youngsters have been doing on and off of the track. This has been an experience I would not trade for anything. Due to the busy-ness of all of this, I have fallen behind in my other passion of writing. So I decided to sit down and give myself a little motivation, because sometimes that is all it takes. The following story was not written by me and I could not find the original author of the piece, but found several sources claiming it is from Family Times. My father used to read this story in talks at church and sometimes when he felt our family needed a little extra motivation. The following is my favorite poem/sermon of all time and has been for many years. I believe it holds a special place in my heart due to my love of Track & Field and Cross Country, but it also  holds true to life in general. I hope you all enjoy this and find a little extra motivation to put toward whatever you may need. This piece is entitled "The Race".

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they shout and plead
there’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.
And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.

And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene,
for just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.

They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son,
and each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hopes of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
was running near the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”

But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands, flew out to brace,
and mid the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.

So, down he fell and with him hope, he couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”

He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs, he slipped and fell again.

He wished that he had quit before with one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face,
that steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”

So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last,
if I’m going to gain those yards, he thought, I’ve got to run real fast.
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
but trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.

Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye,
there’s no sense running anymore—three strikes I’m out—why try'
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had fled away,
so far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.

“I’ve lost, so what’s the use,” he thought, “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win that race.”

With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “you haven’t lost at all,
for winning is not more than this; to rise each time you fall.”
So, up he rose to run once more, and with a new commit,
he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.

So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered the winning runner as he crossed, first place;
head high and proud and happy—no falling, no disgrace.
but, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, last place,
the crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.

And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and hard and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.

“Quit!” “Give up, you’re beaten,” they still shout in my face,
but another voice within me says, “GET UP AND WIN THAT RACE.”

Thank you all! Be looking for my blogs again, starting this upcoming Sunday.
Shout out to all of you out there in TRACK NATION!

Benjamin Bradley 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Track Heroes: A Memorial...

There are probably not many of you who read this blog that have ever heard of or have known My Track Hero in this special edition of the series. He was not an elite athlete, Olympian, or collegiate runner, but his inspiration still fuels my fire for the love of track & field as much or even more so than every other athlete I have featured in My Track Heroes series. The man I am profiling this week was a dear friend, not only to me, but to just about anyone who had ever had the chance to meet him. In every part of his life, he lived with an infectious smile on his face which he spread to every person in his presence.

Robert Kyle Burnside, known by his middle name Kyle, was probably one of the biggest goofballs you could ever meet. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he could make you laugh. This especially was true in every track practice I had ever experienced with Kyle. Whether he was cracking jokes, playing pranks on the coaches, or leading the team in warm-ups wearing nothing but bright pink booty shorts and a tank top that was far too small, Kyle was spreading laughter each and every day. But when it was time to come down to business, time to run, that is exactly what Kyle would do, run like the wind.

Being a year older than me, I had not had much of a chance to get to know Kyle before our high school years together. I had known he and his twin brother, Darren, in middle school but had not started to bond with either of them until my freshman year. It was during this year that I had the privilege to train alongside Kyle for the 800. Man, was he fast?! Instantly, Kyle had taken me under his wing during our long distance training sessions and taught me so much just from being able to watch and compete by his side. With flawless running form and a crazy long stride, Kyle took to the track like a bird to flight. Kyle aided my coaches in teaching me everything I needed to know about the sport, I had been running for years before hand, but made amazing strides under the sophomore’s tutelage. Of course, the teachings did not come without a price. Being the new guy in the long distance crew, Kyle and our friends would always give me a hard time and joke around with how small I was or how I was the fresh meat for our coach, Nicole, to pick on. On several occasions the distance crew would pick me up and place me into the empty trash cans or lockers in our gym before practices would be begin; I would then have to sit and listen to our pre-workout announcements from my seat in the garbage can. I took it all in good stride and Kyle and our friends would later laugh about all of our pre-workout hi-jinks as we kept tradition with other freshman.

As we ran through our high school years, Kyle and I both started running the quarter mile. In a 400 meter race Kyle’s senior year, the first race of his that whole season, Kyle went down with an Achilles tendon tear with only 110 meters to go in the race. Our entire team was so excited to see just how fast he could run the quarter and was on track for a sub 50 second time. Our team became intensely quiet and worried about our good friend when he went down in that race. As Kyle was assisted in walking back to our team, he turned to me and said with a smile, “Well buddy, looks like you and my brother will have to lead the team to state. I’ll be rooting for you.” By “the team” he was mainly talking about our 4x400 meter relay team and I knew. The four of us who were supposed to be on it that year were like brothers. Unfortunately, we missed out on our chance at state by two places. At Kyle’s graduation that year, he told me he would still be rooting for me the next season. Nearly every day I had seen Kyle after that he would ask me if I had broken 53 seconds in the 400 meter yet. When that happened he would ask if I had broken 52. Then 51. Then 50. My senior year, our 4x400 meter team made it to the state championships in Eugene and Kyle was probably the most excited person as I told him we had made it to TrackTown USA.

If you were to ask any teammate of Kyle’s that ever had the good fortune of being able to compete alongside this incredibly gifted, hilarious, and good-natured young man about a memory they have shared with him on or off the track, a smile will instantly pop up and they would have too many from which to pick.

Robert Kyle Burnside was too early taken from this world, his friends, family, teammates, and every one else who had the amazing opportunity to meet him by a car accident on August 2, 2010. Ever since that tragic day I have wanted to celebrate the memory of this dear, dear friend of mine and have just not been sure how to do so. To immortalize him in this blog series and spread his memory to all of you track & field fans out there has given me the perfect opportunity. Everyone who has ever known Kyle miss him more and more as time goes by and I know he is looking down on us and wishing the best for us all. I can still hear him asking how my 400m progress is coming. The next time I win a race will be for him. You are truly missed and loved by us all Kyle. You were a great friend and even greater inspiration.

Robert Kyle Burnside, 21, was born in Portland, Oregon, on December 1, 1988. He is survived by his parents, Rob and Ann, his sister Tara, brother Darren, and grandparents Joan Burnside, and Darrell and Bev Keating, and many loving aunts, uncles and cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, Robert Dean Burnside. Love ya, Kyle. Thanks for helping me come to love a sport that has been one of the biggest passions in my life.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Tack Heroes: In Lane 1...

So here we are in the final week of My Track Heroes. I really hope all of you have enjoyed reading about these amazing athletes and why they are heroes to so many track & field athletes, cross country athletes, and just runners in general all over the world. Many of you may already know who will be My Track Hero in lane 1, but you might not know that this lane is shared in my mind.

The first hero in lane 1 is, yep, you guessed it folks, Steve Prefontaine. Of course it is Pre, how could it be anyone else? The man is a running legend whose story is told the world over. Pre painted a picture when he ran, he set his sights on being the best and would never stop. His story is one that we have all heard and celebrated many times. Races are run in this man’s honor, track clubs are named for him, he even has movies about his life and running career, both of which ended far too soon. Having only lived to the age of 24, Steve Prefontaine grew from small town kid who discovered a love for running, to an internationally renowned running phenomenon.

“A race is a work of art people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding” is one of many, many quotes from Pre. Another of these, probably the most famous quote of his, is “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”. This quote can be read on T-shirts, bags, shoes, shorts, sweats, Facebook pages, literally anything that can be attached to a runner, track athlete, cross country athlete, coaches, etc. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”; Straight from the mind of Steve Prefontaine and he put those words into action every single time he ran. Pre was known for his talent, but more so, his will, determination, and guts to go out into a race and run his heart out.

Prefontaine attended Marshfield High School in Coos Bay, Oregon, where set a national high school record in the two mile, and went on to break 19 more national high school records in track. At one point in his short life, Pre held the U.S. records in every long distance event from the 2k to the 10k. He truly is an inspiration to runners of any background, demographic, age, gender, any runner or athlete or person period. Pre inspires us still to this day because of his will, determination, guts, and his drive to be the absolute best. He is the epitome of never giving up, reaching for your goals, and breaking through that proverbial wall and running through the pain. Pre painted us all a picture to tell us that when you set your mind to something, you reach deep down within yourself and find the strength to make it happen.

Now as I told you all, Lane 1 in My Track Heroes is being shared with Pre. But who could possibly stand next to Pre in a ranking of track & field heroes and legends? Who else can even come close to being as monumental as him? Let me tell you who…

Also in lane 1, the ultimate heroes of the running world, are all of YOU. That’s right ladies and gentleman. Each and every one of you are at the pinnacle of my list of track & field, cross country, and running heroes. I applaud each and every one of you everyday for being so passionate about an amazing sport, which unfortunately takes the backseat to others much of the time. You are all heroes for going out there and running, jumping, or throwing even when the training can be absolutely draining or painful. Thank you all for being crazy and continuing what you do even when others say, “How can you possibly enjoy running as a sport?” or “All you do is throw something?” or “You just have to jump as high or as far as you can? That sounds easy.” When these things are said, we just shrug and answer by putting ourselves through more demanding training sessions than those people could even imagine. It is all of us in RUNNER NATION or JUMPER NATION or THROWER NATION who make the sports of track & field and cross country the insanely fun and passionate sports that they are today. Whether you are an elite, amateur, high school, collegiate, youth, or any kind of athlete, you are making this sport possible. It is all of the runners, throwers, jumpers, officials, coaches, athletic trainers, and just straight up running enthusiasts who make our sports what they are today. So keep on running, jumping, and throwing, because honestly, there is no way anyone will be able to make you stop.

There it is folks. The final segment of My Track Heroes series is complete. Thank you all for reading and I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a closer look at some of my favorite athletes from my favorite sports of all time. It was difficult for me to choose this list because as I said, every track & field and cross country athlete, and runner in general are a hero of mine. Next week will be a special edition of My Track Heroes in memory of a young man and runner who touched the lives of not only myself, but an entire community as well who will forever be missed. Join me next week for My Track Heroes: A Memorial…

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lanes 3 and 2...

Well, here we are in the last two weeks of My Track Heroes blog series. Sorry I am posting a little late. It is finals week here at OSU so I have been quite busy. Anyway, it has been a lot of fun to discuss and take a closer look at some of my favorite track athletes of all time. My Track Heroes this week feature a pair of 400 meter runners. Sticking true to my roots in the quarter mile, these two men had to be near the top of my list.

In lane 3, a King in the Quarter, Baylor University graduate, and Olympic medalist, Jeremy Wariner. Ever since I began running the 400 meter as a sophomore in high school, Wariner has been a runner I have always looked up to. I would study his races and running form, tried to emulate how he did things in practice the next day, go home, and repeat. Wariner is exciting to watch in every race he runs because you never know if/when he will be breaking the 400 meter world record, still held by Jeremy’s agent, Michael Johnson. Wariner is a man that any sprinter, of any age, can idolize. The quarter miler strives not only to be the best 400 meter runner of this generation, but the most decorated quarter miler in the history of the event. He craves championships. Once Wariner’s eyes are set on a prize, he gives his all to get there.

The stats: Wariner was a high school state champion in Texas in the 200 and 400 meter sprints. After enrolling at Baylor, Jeremy instantly became a collegiate sprint star. (From Wariner’s website) Jeremy Wariner is the only athlete to ever win the following in the same year: Gold medals at the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the 400m and 4x400m relay, gold at the US Olympic Trials in the 400m, and gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens in the 400m and 4x400m relay. Since then, Wariner has won 5 gold medals (3 in the 4x4, 2 in the 400) at World Championships and a silver in the 400 at a World Championship, a gold medal in the 4x400m relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wariner’s personal best time of 43.45 seconds in the 400m is a mere .27 seconds behind Michael Johnson’s world record of 43.18 seconds. Jeremy’s personal best is the third fastest of all-time.

Unfortunately, due to a plague of injuries, not much has been seen of Wariner since 2008. He ran quite a few races in 2010/2011, but none were near his best times. I have high hopes that we will all be seeing Wariner’s return in full effect in this Olympic year. We can all hope that come July/August we will be watching Wariner sprinting his way to gold yet again.

In lane 2, it could be none other than Jeremy Wariner’s mentor and agent, Michael Johnson, once thought to be the fastest man in the world. Johnson is a man that I have heard/read about and admired for what seems like my entire life. The sprinting sensation was an American hero in the Nineties being titled, “the world’s fastest man”. Johnson has been an idol for sprinters around the globe for about two decades now. As I would study tapes of how Wariner raced, I would do the same with Michael Johnson. Both men are extremely talented sprinters and can teach other runners so much even if it is merely by watching them on film. Michael Johnson is without a doubt, one of the greatest track athletes of all-time.

The stats: Johnson won 4 gold medals in 3 different Olympic games, 1 in the 4x400m relay in Barcelona in ‘92, 2 in the ‘96 Atlanta Games in the 200m and 400m, and 1 in the 400m at 2000 games in Sydney. World Championships: Johnson won gold in the 200m in ‘91, golds in the 4x400m relay and 400m in ‘93, golds in all three events in ‘95, gold in the 400m in ‘97, and gold in the 400m in ‘99. In 2004, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Track & Field Hall of Fame and his 200 meter race at the ‘96 Olympic Games was named the greatest track & field moment in the last 25 years. Johnson still holds the world record in the 400m at 43.18 seconds and in the 4x400m relay at 2 minutes 54.29 seconds.

Not only is Michael Johnson an amazing 400m runner, arguably the best of all time, but he is a stand-up guy as well. Michael Johnson voluntarily returned his 4x400m relay Olympic gold medal from the 2000 games in Sydney because he believed it was not earned fairly. On August 2, 2008, the International Olympic Committee stripped the 2000 Olympics U.S. 4x400m relay team of their gold medals because Johnson’s teammates Antonio Pettigrew, Alvin and Calvin Harrison, and preliminary round runner Jerome Young all admitted to or were tested positive for performance-enhancing supplements and some were involved in the BALCO scandal. Johnson never was or has been implicated in any drug scandal. He is also an amazing person for willingly giving up an Olympic gold medal because he knew it had not been won fairly. Kudos Mr. Johnson, that is why you are a hero to so many.

Join me next week for My Track Hero in lane 1. Also the following week I will be adding a special addition to My Track Heroes series. I hope you are enjoying my blog. I will continuing updating fun and interesting track & field stories, bios, workouts, memories, etc., every week. So be sure to check out my blog Runnin’ Down a Dream every Sunday/Monday. Thank you all! See you next week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lanes 5 and 4...

The Track Heroes in lanes 5 and 4 are the epitome of the term “Hero”. Both have overcome, and continue to overcome, adversity and pursue their dream and put their all into everything for which they strive. Both have celebrated great success and suffered from great obstacles. In lane 5…

South African runner, Oscar Pistorius. “The fastest man on no legs” has made amazing strides in the sport of Track & Field. What amazed me when I first heard of Pistorius were the accomplishments and times he posts while running with two prosthetic legs. This man is a truly gifted and determined human-being. It is easy to say that any disabled athlete deserves the utmost respect, and Oscar Pistorius has gone above-and-beyond what many able-bodied runners could ever wish to accomplish. Pistorius suffered a double-leg amputation before his first birthday, having been born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs. Regardless, Pistorius went on to compete in rugby, water polo, tennis, and wrestling as he grew up. After suffering a knee injury in 2003, he was introduced to running in rehab and the rest is history. Oscar is the world record holder in the 100m, 200m, and 400m in the T44 sporting class, which identifies T44 eligible athletes as, “Single leg below knee amputation. Combined lower plus upper limb amputations. Ambulant with moderately reduced function in one or both lower limbs.”

 The stats: Pistorius has world records in the T44 sporting class in the 100m, running 10.91 seconds in  2007 at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled, 200m, running 21.58 seconds at the same meet the next day, and a 47.49 second 400m at the 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing, but also a 45.07 second personal best at an able-bodied meet in Lignano, Italy, qualifying for the 2011 World Championships in Daegu and hitting the A Standard for the 2012 Olympic Games. In Daegu that same year, Pistorius qualified for the semi-final in the 400m with a time of 45.39s in the prelim round, but did not quite make it to the finals. He assisted the 4x400m relay squad in running a national record setting performance of 2 minutes, 59.21 seconds and making it to the finals, but was not selected for running in the final heat in which the South African relay team took a silver medal.

Pistorius runs using J-shaped prosthetics known as the “Cheetah Flex-Foot” made by Icelandic company Ossur. Oscar has battled much adversity and criticism in that he has been challenged that his prosthetics give him an advantage over able-bodied athletes who do not use equipment such as prosthetics, wheels, etc. Yet, Oscar Pistorius has overcome such obstacles and sets his sights on running for South Africa in the 2012 London Olympics and becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all times.

Much of what inspires me about Oscar Pistorius are not the accolades and records he has accumulated, but more so his drive, will, and determination to become one of the greatest track athletes of all time despite the fact that he had a double-leg amputation between his knees and ankles. Anyone can look up this accomplished track runner with no legs and be inspired to become something great themselves. Good luck to you and your future goals and aspirations, Mr. Pistorius.

In lane 4, U.S. hurdling inspiration and go-getter, Lori “Lolo” Jones. Lolo has been hurdling adversity and life obstacles since she was a young girl. Jones’ mother often held two jobs in order to support her family of six, while her father was either in the Air Force or prison for most of her young life. Lolo and her family once had to live in the basement of a church in Des Moines. When Jones’ family decided to make a move to Forest City, Iowa, Lolo did not want to go to a city where there was no track because she wanted to pursue her dream. In her time at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Lolo lived with four different families. Lolo Jones attended Louisiana State University where she received silver medals in the 100m hurdles and 4x100m relay in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2002, a gold medal in the 60m hurdles at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Championships, gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2003 NCAA Outdoor Championships, silver in the 60m hurdles and 60m dash at the 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships, gold in the 100m hurdles outdoor at the NCAA Mideast Region Championships, SEC Championships, and the Penn Relays, and gold in the 4x100m relay at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Lolo’s pro stats: Jones got sixth place in the 100m hurdles in 2007 at the World Outdoor championships in Osaka, Japan. In 2008, Lolo took first in the 60m hurdles at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain, seventh place in the 100m hurdles at the Olympics in Beijing, China, after stumbling on her second to last hurdle, and a second place in the World Athletics Final in the 100m hurdles in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2010, Jones defended her World Indoor Championship in the 60m hurdles.

Jones has recently recovered from surgery to repair her tethered spine. Before the surgery, Lolo could barely walk without feeling severe pain. Now, Jones is back and ready to compete. She won the 50m hurdles at the U.S. Open earlier this year and still has her sights set on the 2012 London Olympics. My money is on Lolo to get there and accomplish great things in the future. She is the epitome of an amazing athlete and an amazing person. A phoenix arisen from the ashes of her difficult childhood, and phoenix beginning her rise from the ashes of a risky spine surgery. Lolo Jones is an iconic figure to runners, hurdlers, men, and women all over the world. Also, she’s pretty easy on the eyes as well. I have no doubt we will all be seeing her on the Olympic track in London this summer. Get it Lolo.

Next week in “My Track Heroes” two more athletes will be revealed in lanes 3 and 2. Thanks for all the views and reads everyone! The “My Track Heroes” series will continue for the next three weeks with some older, well-known track & field athletes making their debuts on my heroes’ list and a relatively unknown, yet unforgettable high school athlete who made an impact on everyone around him. Join me next week on my blog, Runnin’ Down a Dream.

Also, shout out to all the USA Track & Field athletes at this weekend's IAAF World Indoor Championships! Do work Team USA! Congrats to those that have medaled thus far and to Ashton Eaton for his third time breaking the indoor heptathlon World Record! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lanes 7 and 6...

My next two track heroes to be featured are both fairly recent up-and-comers in the sport of track & field. Both have achieved some amazing accomplishments in the past several years and continue to climb the ranks of their respective competition areas.

In lane 7, Jenn Suhr, the pole vaulting, American record holding phenom. Suhr has been making leaps and bounds in rankings and records in whatever sport she participates in since she was young. Jenn’s drive and determination gives her a step ahead of the competition in everything she does. Attending Robert Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York, Jenn graduated as the all-time leading scorer in basketball and record holder in the high jump, javelin, 400m hurdles, and 100m hurdles. It wasn’t until 2004 that her coach, and now husband, Rick Suhr, introduced Jenn to pole vaulting, and she took to it like a fish to water. The amazing woman seemingly breaks an American record in the event every time she jumps. Since 2005, Jenn Suhr has won 11 national titles between indoor and outdoor competitions, the most recent of those occurring only a week ago at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I hold a special respect and admiration for pole vaulters in my heart. They are a crazy group of people who like to launch themselves to heights up to 19 feet in the air and then fall all that way back down. It may just be my slight fear of heights, or the fear of the pole breaking as it launches people upward, but you have to respect anyone who puts themselves through that. Having tried to pole vault before, I know you have to be strong in order to do it. Look at some of the best pole vaulters in the world, look at Jenn Suhr, they are RIPPED. They have to work their entire bodies in order to have the strength to perform the mechanics and techniques needed for shooting themselves that high in the air.

It is not only because of her achievements, her strength, or her athletic drive to be the best that Jenn Suhr is one of My Track Heroes, but it is also because she is a positive and inspiring icon to female athletes across the globe. Suhr is a person that all women can look up to for inspiration in anything. Being one of the most respected and accomplished track & field competitors in the U.S. gives her an amazing pedestal upon which Jenn can inspire hundreds of thousands of women everywhere.

Jenn Suhr came into the competition of pole vaulting being an unknown, unranked competitor and has vaulted her way to the top of the elite pole vaulting world and will continue until she is the best of all time.

In lane 6, Ashton Eaton, the rising star of the multi-events, the decathlon and indoor heptathlon. Ashton Eaton has been one of my favorite athletes for several years now. Coming from Bend, Oregon, Ashton used to compete for Mountain View High School in the Intermountain Conference. Even back then, having competed against Eaton in high school, I would look up to him and think that he was going to be a great track athlete one day. Sure enough, Eaton has gone on to accomplish much as a member of the University of Oregon Ducks and currently as a member of the Oregon Track Club Elite program.

The statistics and achievements: Eaton won three consecutive NCAA titles in decathlon between 2008 and 2010. In 2010, Eaton won the NCAA Indoor Championships and broke the world record in the indoor heptathlon with a score of 6499. Later, in 2011, Eaton went on to break that record again at a combined events meet in Tallinn with a score of 6568, despite underperforming in the high jump. Eaton, in the decathlon, placed fifth at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, second at the 2009 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, 18th in the 2009 World Championships in Athletics, and second at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics.

In my mind, there is no better showing of all-around athleticism than the multi-events of track & field. The multis contain something to satisfy every type of competitor. It astounds me that a person can be so good at all the different types of competitions that are involved in the multi-events, especially at the elite level. You look at some of those men and women competing in the multis and think, “Wow, not only are they good enough to compete at elite level in some of those individual events, but to combine all the events in which they compete and stay at elite status…. That is amazing.”

So hats off to you, Jenn Suhr and Ashton Eaton. Both athletes have achieved much recently in their track & field careers, and rest assured, both have much, much more to achieve. Expect even greater things to come from these two Track Heroes.

Next week, the athletes in lanes 5 and 4 will be revealed. Join me again next Sunday on my blog, Runnin’ Down a Dream.

Disclaimer: Photos portrayed in my blog of professional athletes or athletes other than myself do not belong to me and belong entirely to those who took the photos. The only purpose of using them here is to portray the amazing athletes that I decide to feature in my blogs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Track Heroes: In Lane 8...

Usain St. Leo Bolt! Bolt has quickly made his way onto the lists of favorite track athletes or track heroes of hundreds of thousands of track fans around the world in recent years. For good reason this man who is at the pinnacle of sprinting competitors has become one of the most exciting spectacles to see in the sport of Track & Field. Although many may look at Bolt and say they see a man with a cocky, “I’m-the-best-and-I-know-it”, attitude, or an athlete who does not take his sport seriously, I, for one, cannot agree with them.

Usain Bolt might be a little cocky, but hey, he can back it up. Sure Bolt goes out onto the track before his races and showboats and clowns around with the audience for a bit, but track & field events around the globe are sold out simply by Bolt being present there. He is a man that works hard at what he does, but also loves, and has fun, doing it.

Bolt is an incredibly fun and exciting runner to watch. Not only does he give you a show before and after races, but seeing him tear up the track as he barrels toward the finish line, is a very fun spectacle to witness. Standing at about 6 feet 5 inches, and a weighing in at a little over 200 pounds, Bolt is a big man on the track. His stride is insane! And the power in his movements as he gallops down the track, seemingly leaving his competitors in the dust, is incredible. Not only is he just fun to watch run, his races are the most exciting to watch because a lot of the time you will catch him setting records or winning championships.

Setting seven world records, three of which were in the 100 meter, two in the 200 meter, and two in th 4x100 meter relay, Bolt is a superstar among the track community. He also holds a world record in the 150 meter at 14.35 seconds, and a second fastest time behind Michael Johnson in the 300 meter at 30.97 seconds. Bolt’s 100 meter record currently stands at 9.58 seconds, 200 meter record at 19.19 seconds, and the 4x100 meter relay record at 37.04 seconds. Usain won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He also won first place medals in those three events at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany. In 2011, Bolt took first place in the 200 meter and 4x100 meter relay at the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea. An unfortunate false start caused Bolt to be disqualified in the 100 meter at the 2011 World Championships, but he brushed it off and went out and won the 200m later in the competition. Despite this unfortunate incident, Bolt’s career has picked up speed and gained momentum and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

Bolt is currently one of my top 8 track heroes because of the accomplishments that he has made, the fact that he is so charismatic and exciting to watch at meets where he competes, and that he has brought so much more media and mainstream attention to my favorite sport. Keep doing what you’re doing Bolt. I’d like to see a few more WRs at this year’s Olympics in London.

Join me next week where I will introduce my track heroes in lanes 7 and 6 and profile a couple more of my favorite athletes.