For those who tuned into the 2014 USA Indoor Track & Field Championships last weekend, you may have noticed Furman Elite runner Craig Forys competing in the men’s 3000 meters final. Forys joined the Travelers Rest-based post-collegiate team in 2013 with plenty of high-caliber running experience under his belt. Forys made the finals of the 3000 meter Steeplechase at the 2012 Olympic Trials. So when he hit the 2K mark on Saturday right step for step with eventual first and second place finishers, Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp, it was of little surprise to see him right in the mix of things. Forys fell back to 9th place with his 8:18.33 clocking.
Teammate Jack Bolas was a late scratch in Sunday’s 1,500 meter final. It has been a busy indoor season for Bolas. He ran 3:43.59 in the 1,500 meters at the 19th annual New Balance Games in January. Then at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on February 8, Bolas ran 3:59.35 (an indoor personal best) to place 5th in the mile with teammate Jeff See in just meters behind him in 4:00.00. Originally, the 1,500 meters at the USA Indoors was intended to be a two heat final, but was merged into one field.
Several Furman athletes have been training at altitude over recent months while competing in top level national indoor meets around the country. Bolas and See both ran under four minutes in the mile in 2013 on three separate occasions. On April 12, these runners will be at the Blue Shoes Invitational Meet at Furman as part of the men’s elite mile. The meet is open to the public and has been shifted to a new twilight venue. Last year, four runners broke the four minute barrier in the race. Three of the four were Furman Elite athletes (Bolas, See and Cory Leslie, last year’s Blue Shoes Mile champion).
The USA Indoors was not without several intriguing subplots. First there were reports of Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar having to be physically restrained during an altercation with fellow Nike coach Jerry Schumacher. It was alleged that Salazar was irate over Schumacher’s athletes employing team tactics to take down Rupp, Salazar’s prodigy, in the 3000 meters. Was this not a race? And not just any race, but a national championship? And didn‘t Rupp recently shatter the American indoor record in the 5000 meters? But I digress.
Further controversy ensued in the women’s 3000 meters on Saturday. Brooks/Team USA Minnesota runner, Gabrielle “Gabe” Grunewald, appeared to have secured her first national title when she motored down the homestretch. Grunewald, a two-time cancer survivor, had overtaken Shannon Rowbury and Jordan Hasay in the final 200 meter lap. But in a belated decision, it was ruled that Grunewald had interfered with Hasay when the runners made brief contact. The ruling disqualified Grunewald, stripping her of the national title and a spot in the World Track & Field Champions in the process.
A number of runners in the meet demonstrated their obvious displeasure with the decision to disqualify Grunewald. The field of women’s 1500 meter runners held hands as a sign of solidarity to protest the ruling as they exited the track.
Said Will Leer following his second place finish in the men’s 1500 meters, “I’ll be remiss if I don’t take this moment to say how badly I feel for Gabrielle and how much I think it’s a grace. U.S.A Track and Field needs to get their act together with that one.”
In era when most professional athletes straddle the middle line, it was rare, yet refreshing, to see runners be critical of their governing body. Their protest profoundly influenced USATF’s decision to reinstate Grunewald as the 3,000 meter champion on Monday afternoon where she will now compete at the World Indoors, March 7-9 in Sopot, Poland.
USATF needs to also reconsider the indoor configurations of the 60 meter hurdles. With no extended track, athletes are given little more than a few strides to slow themselves down, world class sprinters reach speeds of over 25 mph at this distance. The only thing to halt their continuation past the finish line is a padded line. Unfortunately, some indoor tracks come equipped with an inclined ramp around the turns. This led to multiple athletes receiving leg injuries in three consecutive heats- two in one heat alone (see attached video). Certainly running events at obscure distances is one of the draws of indoor track, but at some point the safety of its athletes should be the main objective.
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