USATF News & Notes: 1/20/2005

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    USA Race Walking Grand Prix set to begin with 30 km Championship

    The 2005 USA Race Walking Grand Prix consisting of 13 events will begin Sunday with the USA 30 km Championships in Chula Vista, California.

    The USA 30 km Race Walk Championships will feature several of America’s top race walkers and returning Athens Olympians. International walkers from Colombia, Ecuador, and Mexico have also been invited to compete. The race will be held on the same course used for the 2004 U.S. 30 km Championships, and last year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Men’s 50 km Race Walk. The race will include National Championship awards for Open and Masters walkers at the 30 km distance. Competitors may also race 10 km or 20 km (non-championship races) and be given official finish times.

    The 2004 Men’s Grand Prix Champion, three-time Olympian Curt Clausen, is entered in the 18.6-mile race, despite beginning his first year of law school at the University of Wisconsin. Two-time Olympian Philip Dunn, who is also doubling as the Race Director, is a co-favorite for the 30 km title. Athletes expected to battle for the other medals are David Doherty, Mark Green, Dave McGovern and Bill Vayo.

    The women’s race looks to be a three way battle. Erin Taylor, the 2004 40 km Champion, and Dorit Attias, the 2004 50 km Champion, have the endurance, while Heidi Hauch might have the upper hand because of the shorter distance. All three are patient and experienced athletes who don’t make tactical errors, so this contest should go down to the wire.

    The Grand Prix, in its second year, will quickly shift indoors for two events over the next two weeks before heading to Florida for the USA 50 km Championship on February 13. Full details on the USA Race Walking Grand Prix are online at

    Track athletes win NCAA Inspiration Awards

    The NCAA has recognized two track and field athletes, Widener University’s Macharia Yuot and Oklahoma’s Michelle Thomas, as winners of the organization’s 2005 Inspiration Awards presented January 9 at the 2005 NCAA Convention in Dallas.

    The NCAA Inspiration Award, which is part of the NCAA Honors Program, is presented to individuals annually who are currently associated with intercollegiate athletics or who are former varsity letter winners at an NCAA institution. Award criteria demand that the nominee must be someone who, when confronted with a life-altering situation, used perseverance, dedication, and determination to overcome the event, so he or she now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others in similar situations.

    Widener University junior and All-American track and field athlete Macharia Yuot spent most of his childhood as a member of the “Lost Boys of the Sudan.” When he was nine years old, he fled his home in Sudan, Africa, as a refugee from a two-decade-long religious civil war between the Muslims in the northern part of the country and the Christians in the south. Trekking nearly 1,000 miles on foot, with limited food and drink, Yuot and the surviving Lost Boys arrived in Ethiopia in 1991 only to be chased from that country not long after their arrival. Once again finding themselves homeless, the Lost Boys ate wild berries to survive. They eventually found their way to Kenya, where they lived in refugee camps. During his time in Kenya, Yuot received an education and studied Arabic, Swahili and English. He also played soccer.

    In 2000, Yuot and 3,600 other Lost Boys were relocated to the United States in one of the most ambitious relocation programs since Vietnam. Yuot was relocated to Pennsylvania. With the help of the Lutheran Church, he enrolled in West Philadelphia Catholic High School as a junior. At West Catholic, he played soccer and landed a spot on the track and field team where he caught the attention of the Widener University coaching staff. After a close friend was accepted to Widener, Yuot himself took a close look at the university and decided to apply.

    Yuot recently became the first Widener University student-athlete to receive All-American honors in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field. He was a runner-up at the 2003 NCAA Division III Cross Country championships, and won the Middle Atlantic Conference championship in cross country in both 2003 and 2004. He also won the Middle Atlantic Conference championship in the 1,500 meters indoors and the 5,000 meters and steeplechase events outdoors during the 2004 season.

    Fellow Inspiration Award winner Michelle Thomas of the University of Oklahoma faced many challenges during her senior year. Thomas and her twin sister stepped in when their two young nieces, ages five and seven, needed a home. The nieces’ mother had been sentenced to prison. Their grandmother, Thomas’ mother, was battling cancer and could not care for the children.

    Thomas, the first NCAA Inspiration Award winner in school history, probably would have welcomed just a single event in her final year of competition as a middle distance runner at OU.

    Last fall, each morning, Thomas got up and got the children to day care before she went to early morning cross country practice. She kept that schedule throughout the fall semester and finished with a 3.56 grade point average in her major of microbiology with a minor in chemistry. She also earned Academic All-Big 12 honors in cross country for her performance.

    Thomas, her sister and the two nieces settled into life. She returned to school and practices in January in preparation for the 2004 indoor season. Life was beginning to return to normal when tragedy struck again. Returning from workouts, Thomas and her teammates noticed an OU police officer talking to their coach. Shortly after, the coach approached Thomas with the news that her oldest sister had been murdered. The fact that the murder occurred on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day set aside to honor the memory of the man who preached nonviolence, only added to the pain.

    Money was tight and ultimately the expense of paying for her older sister’s burial fell to Thomas and her twin sister. Utilizing money they had saved for school expenses, they paid the expenses for the services.

    Still, Thomas continued to go to class, train for competition and provide a stable home for her young nieces. Following the funeral, she returned to school and the team, now facing the challenge of paying college-related expenses. Soon after her return to Norman, she was called to the athletic director’s office and informed that an academic scholarship had been awarded to her.

    Thomas, a Bill Gates Scholar, competed in the Big 12 Indoor Championships, running on OU’s distance medley relay that scored at the conference meet with a fifth place finish. She competed throughout the outdoor season and continued to succeed in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big 12 first team honors for the third time in her Sooner career.

    Her nieces returned to live with their mother after she was released from prison. However, in November, after a series of setbacks, Thomas went to McAlester and moved her sister and the two nieces back to Norman. She got her nieces re-enrolled in Norman Public Schools and has encouraged their mother to return to school. Scheduled to graduate in May with her bachelor’s degree in microbiology with a minor in chemistry, Thomas says that she did what she needed to do. A lifetime of helping may be in store for Thomas who is interested in pursuing a career in medical research.

    Stork Report

    2003 World Indoor men’s 400m gold medalist Tyree Washington became a father on Thursday, January 13, when his wife Chara gave birth to a baby girl in San Diego. Baby Tyra was born at 2:04 p.m., and entered the world at 5 lbs., 11 ounces. Mom, baby, brother Malik and Dad are all doing fine.

    In addition, 2004 World Indoor men’s long jump gold medalist Savante’ Stringfellow became a father on Monday when his wife Leah gave birth to their son Kennedy. Everyone is doing fine.

    This Day in Track and Field – January 20

    Compiled by Walter Murphy ( [email protected] ) of Eastern Track and X-Country X-Press

    1968 — Bob Beamon gave a preview of things to come later in the year when he set a world indoor record of 27-1 in the long jump in Kansas City.

    1976 — Clifton Perry (Menchville,Va.) ran 1:10.0 at the Navy Invitational to set the still-standing high school record for 600 yards. Since the event is rarely contested these days, Perry’s mark may last forever.

    1979 — Renaldo Nehemiah set a world record of 6.89 for the relatively new 55-meter hurdles at the U.S. Olympic Invitational at NY’s Madison Square Garden. The mark also smashed the 60-yard (slightly shorter than 55m) best of 6.95 which Nehemiah and Greg Foster had run in a dead heat the night before in Philadelphia. A second record at the Olympic Invitational came in the men’s 1000 meters, where Don Paige set a new American mark of 2:20.3.

    1980 — President Jimmy Carter announced that the U.S. would boycott the Moscow Olympics if the Soviet Union didn’t pull its troops from Afghanistan.

    2001 — Running in an open mile at the New Balance Games at New York’s famed Armory, Alan Webb (South Lakes,Va, H.S.) ran 3:59.86 to become the first high school runner to break 4 minutes indoors. Webb broke Thom Hunt’s 25-year old H.S. record of 4:02.7 and became the first prep to run a sub 4-minute mile since Marty Liquori ran 3:59.8 at the 1967 U.S. Outdoor Championships. (Webb also got credit for the 1500-meter record, with his split of 3:43.27).

    South Lakes coach Scott Raczko, wary of too much pre-meet hype, had asked race organizer Ian Brooks to keep Webb’s entry quiet, but a few “insiders” got wind of the race and were lucky enough to be present for the historic race.

    For more on Webb’s race, visit the link to the write-up in Eastern Track –

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