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Week in Review: July 27-August 2

August 2nd, 2014

Molly Huddle Running to the win

Molly Huddle Continued Her Winning Ways with the USA 7 Mile Title. (Image: Quad City Times)

USA 7 Mile Championships takes over Davenport, Iowa

The Quad City Times Bix 7 is one of many gems on the USA road-racing calendar each year. The race, named for jazz musician and Davenport, Iowa local, Bix Beiderbecke, is the largest non-marathon race in the Midwest each year. It has a list of past champions that reads like a road running hall of fame, with names like Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samulson, and Khalid Khannouchi. The race typically fields a star-studded international cast but in some years it plays host to USA championship races, which have seen winners like Meb Kelfezighi and Ryan Hall. This year was an American only year, as it again hosted the USA 7 mile championships. Each champion brings home a shiny new trumpet as his or her trophy in honor of the race’s namesake.

Coming into the race, the two athletes that dominated the headlines were this year’s Boston winner and former Bix champion Meb, and Molly Huddle. Huddle, another former Bix champion, is fresh off her American record 5000m in Monaco. Molly certainly lived up to the pre-race hype as she took the lead from the gun and never looked back, winning by over a minute. Meb was not quite as triumphant as some hamstring troubles took him out of the race at mile 5 after leading the early miles. Sean Quigley won the race in a kick after numerous runners shared time in the lead.

Commonwealth Games shows off some former NCAA stars

As we mentioned in our Commonwealth games preview blog: Glasgow, Scotland played host to most of the English-speaking world’s best athletes outside of Americans. While Americans don’t participate in the Commonwealth games, there was a good representation of former NCAA athletes that have adopted America as their training home at some point in their lives.

UTEP’s Blessing Okagbare set the Commonwealth Games record in the 100m and won the 200m while representing her home country of Nigeria. University of Oregon alumni Brianne Theison Eaton, wife of decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, won a gold medal in the heptathlon for her home country of Canada.  Southern Utah’s Cam Levins got himself a bronze medal in the 10,000m for Canada, While Stephen Chemlany of Iona and Kenya won silver in the Marathon. Shane Brathwaite of Barbados and Texas Tech won bronze in the 110 hurdles, and others surely represented American universities as well as their home country in virtually every event in the competition.

The success of these athletes truly speaks to the NCAA’s ability to develop star track and field athletes. Considering that the vast majority of athletes in the NCAA are American yet the Commonwealth games doesn’t feature them, makes the success of the American system admirable worldwide.

Ethiopian Athletes leave IAAF World Junior Championships Facility, Seeking USA Asylum

Many of the world’s greatest track athletes unfortunately come from some unstable regions in the world. Ethiopia in particular has seen more than its fair share of turmoil in recent memory. With political tensions coming from Egypt over large damming projects on headwaters of the Nile River, the ever-anxious border with Eritrea, formerly part of Ethiopia, as well as porous borders with similarly volatile countries: Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Ethiopia is right at the cross-roads of many unsavory situations.

With that in mind, one could hardly blame four young Ethiopian athletes from seeking a better life in their escape from the IAAF World Junior Championships that concluded last weekend in Eugene, Oregon. Amanuel Abebe Atibeha, Dureti Edao, Meaza Kebede, and Zeytituna Mohammed left the athletes village on the University of Oregon campus in a sedan headed for Portland last Friday. They have been found by police and are confirmed to be safe and unharmed. Political asylum is a long hard process and these young athletes have a tough road ahead of them whether it is in Oregon or in Ethiopia.

This is not the first time that runners have used their talents to escape their countries’ unrest. Following the 2008 World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh Scotland, a group of Eritrean runners never boarded their flight home and have lived in Scotland ever since. Their escape of landmines and civil war has resulted in minimum wage jobs and a cold apartment in Glasgow. This story particularly hits home here because Tewoldeberhan Mengisteab, the oldest of the athletes finished 52nd in those championships… I finished 51st in the same race and we recorded exactly the same time. We are the same age, have a similar skill set, but hardly share similar paths in life. Stories like this certainly add a bit of perspective to the lives we live.

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Common Wealth Games take over Glasgow

July 24th, 2014
Commonwealth games now running

The opening ceremony of the Commonwealth games began with a bang yesterday (Image: Getty)

While the sun may have set a while ago on the British Empire, much of the pomp and circumstances of the time endures to date. The Commonwealth Games, especially for sports fans, are the epitome of those traditions. Glasgow, Scotland plays host to this year’s edition of the quadrennial sports festival that mirrors the Olympics, albeit in a smaller scale for most of the English-speaking world outside of the United States.

Many of the world’s greatest track athletes are invited, making the event a significant fixture on the track calendar. With countries like Jamaica, Kenya, Australia, New Zealand, and India being represented, the competition is sure to be intense. Of course, the United Kingdom will also bring their best athletes to Glasgow as well. However, in this competition they represent their home nations of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales instead of wearing the Union Jack.

While the withdrawal of Mo Farah is a big blow to the event, there is still enough great talent in the mix to create legacies and introduce new heroes. The most prominent name on the marquee is surely Usain Bolt, but he is only committed to Jamaica’s 4 X 100m relay team. Other prominent stories include Kenyan David Rudisha, world record holder in the 800, continuing his comeback from injury. New Zealand’s Valerie Adams is continuing her unprecedented winning streak in the shot put, and Englishman Greg Rutherford is hoping to add a matching Commonwealth medal to his Olympic gold in the long jump.

Rudisha Running World Record

David Rudisha has high hopes this year after recovering from a knee injury (photo: AP)

The Opening Ceremonies occurred yesterday and featured Rod Stewart belting out his hits and Scottish terriers leading each country in the parade. Also, during the opening ceremonies, £3.1 was raised for the charity Unicef to help children world wide with some of the participating countries being some of the neediest. While athletes don’t take to the track until Sunday, competition has started in earnest today with swimming, track cycling, gymnastics and many other sports already handing out medals. England’s Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny did do some running today to win gold and silver (respectively) in the triathlon while Jodie Stimpson won for England on the women’s side.

The Commonwealth of Nations is, at best, a rough alliance of countries that share some language, culture, and an increasingly distant history under one monarchy (many times an unsavory history at that). The ability of the countries to come together and celebrate many of their greatest athletes is worthy of notice. Athletes like Bolt and Rudisha, choosing to travel to Glasgow and represent their countries instead of saving their legs for more lucrative meets in the months to come, is a testament to the games and their prestigious history.

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