For the past 10+ years, my wife and I have attended the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University the first weekend in May. Over the years we have witnessed some outstanding performances. Race such as Meb and Denna setting American Records in the 10k and Shalane Flanagan setting the AR in the women’s 5,000. Additional highlights include Bob Kennedy’s 27:36 and Alan Webb’s 10k debut win, this on top of the great 1500’s, steeples and 5,000 that happen every year. Even though this meet has some excellent distance events, the highlight of the evening are usually the 10,000’s.
Our travel plan every year is pretty much the same, load a group of like minded distance running geeks into a large vehicle, drive up the afternoon of the meet. Watch every event until the end of the meet, then drive the 3+ hours back arriving home around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.
This year it was my turn to drive. So this past Saturday, my wife Jennifer and I drive down the street to pick up San Luis Obispo HS distance coach Steve Boaz, then we proceed to the San Luis Obispo Home Depot parking lot to pick up Armando Siqueiros the head coach of Mission Prep HS. Steve coached Brian Medigovich in high school. Brian ran 13:29 at Mt Sac in the 5,000 a few weeks back and is entered into the Invitational 10,000, Steve has more than a passing interest in the event. Mando is a long time track fan who coached high school phenom Jordan Hasay at Mission Prep. Mando is always up for this trip.
We leave at noon and arrive at the designated Kirk Burger across the street from the track for a bite to eat before the meet. There we meet many of our Asics Aggie teammates before we caravan over to the meet. We group up in the stands near the start of the 100m on the home stretch with even more friends. The overall crowd is usually somewhat small, but knowledgeable. The faces in the crowd and on the track is a virtual who’s who of competitive American Distance running.
The steeples go off and Lindsay Allen who runs for McMillan Elite wins the women’s invitational event. She is an athlete we have known since she started in the sport and its good to see her win. Ben Bruce an athlete who competed locally for Cal Poly and now races for OTC takes 3rd in the men’s steeple.
The women’s 5,000 proves to be a great race. Shalane Flanagan takes off like a shot at the gun and quickly establishes a significant gap on the field which is no small feat considering the 2 closest behind her are last year’s US 10,000 champ Amy Yoder-Begley and Shannon Rowbury who earned a 1500m bronze medal at last year’s World Champs. Flanagan is out in 4:43 at the mile and has a good 60 meters on the field. She maintains this gap until the final lap. Then at the gun, Rowbury starts her kick and immediately gains ground. On the backstretch you can see her making up a LOT of ground and the crowd starts chanting “oooooooo”. At the top of the turn, Rowbury passes Flanagan and kicks for the win. Rowbury is 8 seconds down at the gun and wins by 4 seconds, a 12 second swing in 1 lap – definitely a solid kick.
Our friend Ed had the good foresight to order up some pizzas that he has delivered to the stadium. They arrive as the women’s 5,000 finishes, just in time to take the edge off and get us good and ready for the men’s invitational 10,000. Jennifer spots Dr Joe Vigil one of the most well known and successful distance coaches in the US. We walk over and invite him to sit with us during the men’s 10,000. We take our seats in the front row just as the race is about to start when my cell phone rings. It’s Dave Frank who is the head coach at Central Catholic HS in Portland. Galen Rupp is a favorite in the field and is one of Dave’s former students and alumni of his HS track and cross country teams. Dave is driving from Eugene back to Portland and wants updates of the 10k. I hand the phone to Mando who supplies the play by play to Dave, all 25 laps.
The race is one for the ages. Chris Solinsky and Galen Rupp each run spectacular races, both break the old American Record set by Meb 10 years ago. Solinsky comes out on top and now owns the new US Standard in the event, breaking the old AR by a cool 14 seconds and is the first US runner to break the 27 minute barrier. It’s the first sub 27 10k I’ve ever witnessed in person. My friend Bryan is in tears afterwards and coach Vigil asks him why he’s crying. Bryan responds “That was the most beautiful race I have ever witnessed.” Coach Vigil loves the passion Bryan displays.
The last event of the evening is the B heat of the men’s 10,000. An athlete I help Sergio Reyes is in the lead pack of 5 throughout the race. They go through 5,000 in 14:17 as they stay on a steady pace of 69’s. At the bell, Sergio is in 5th and goes through 24 laps at 27:30. The A Standard for the USATF National Championships next month in Des Moines is 28:30, so he needs to run a sub 60 for his final 400m to get his qualifying mark. At 300 to go, Sergio is still in 5th, but he swings wide and starts a very strong kick. At the top of the turn he has a slight margin and he kicks hard for the tape. He wins in a PR 28:29 and get’s his qualifying mark. The meets ends on a particularly good note for our group. Sergio grew up only a mile or two from where we live and all the people in our car have known him since he was a teenager. It’s great to see a local kid stick with the sport and continue to improve.
All 4 of us load back into Jennifer’s car at 11:00 PM for the 3+ hour drive home. I expect lots of chatter about the great meet we just witnessed. Instead, my co-pilot Steve falls asleep immediately after we exit the stadium parking lot. Mando soon follows suit and by San Jose, Jennifer is on the same program. I power home non-stop fueled on adrenaline and sunflower seeds. We drop Mando off at 2:00 AM and I’m in my own bed at 2:30 AM.
I can’t wait till next years event, this is just a great meet every year. I’ll be particularly excited the next year since it will be somebody elses turn to drive.