Each year, the best Track & Field athletes in the country compete at the USATF National Championships. Most years, there is an Olympic or World Championship birth on the line. From June 22-25 this year, these national championships were contested in Sacramento, California, where a maximum of 3 athletes would be selected from each event for the IAAF World Championships to be held in London this August.
With several hundred professional athletes and nearly 200 Universities and High Schools now using ElliptiGO-integrated training, our team made sure to have a presence as nearly 100 ElliptiGO supported athletes competed in these Senior Championships. Blended with this meet was the Junior National Championships as well, which included athletes age 19 and younger. This overlaps both the High School and College level, so ElliptiGO training was a common theme among those coaches and athletes’ preparation.
The heat was a concern for both athletes and spectators, but the ElliptiGO team was again offering group rides as they’ve done the last several years. This offers the opportunity for coaches, athletes, and spectators to get alternate training in before the meet each day. ElliptiGO was partnered with Fahrenheit 250, a restaurant next to the Sac State University Stadium, which has become a convenient meet up spot when in Sacramento before and after the competitions. Having the American River Bike Path right next to the stadium made it easy to coordinate several rides each day and we were very appreciative to have the support of SOS Hydration on those rides, as temps rose to well over 100 degrees.
With athletes at this level, there are always good days and bad days, even good years and bad years. ElliptiGO has supported their athlete relationships through all of those peaks and valleys. With the hopes that the valleys won’t be quite as long or quite as dark, and the peaks will be even brighter when they summit. We can’t highlight every story from these past championships, but here are a few athletes that we were proud to be supporting.
Making the Team
There were seven US ElliptiGO athletes that have earned the opportunity to represent Team USA in London, who will join several of our international athletes from other countries. Some of these athletes are returning to the world scene as experienced veterans, and others making their first appearance. One with tremendous experience is Shannon Rowbury (Women’s 5000m), who is the current American record holder in both the 1500m and 5000m. At 32 years old, she is the first to hold those records simultaneously since Mary Decker Slaney. She doubled in both the 1500m and 5000m at these US Championships, finishing seventh in the 1500m, the day after securing her 5000m spot with a second place finish. This will be her fifth World Outdoor Championship selection (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017), in addition to her two World Indoor Teams (2014, 2016), and her 3 Olympic Teams (2008, 2012, 2016). Coming off a fourth place finish in the Olympic 1500m final last year, she’ll be looking to use her experience to continue performing at the highest level year after year and hopefully add to the two bronze medals that she already has.
Joining Shannon’s veteran status will be the two-time World Champion Trey Hardee (Men’s Decathlon), who won his fourth National Title just shy of his thirty-third birthday. Trey continues to show his stamina and resilience in this grueling event as he will go to London in search of his third gold medal.
Bowerman Track Club athletes Colleen Quigley (Women’s 3000m Steeplechase) and Emily Infeld (Women’s 10,000m) will also be returning to the World stage after qualifying in both 2015 and 2016 in the same events. Colleen is only two years out of college and Emily only three years out, but they have quickly risen through the professional ranks after their days at Florida State and Georgetown. Even at a young age, these teammates have had their fair share of injuries. And after a scare of not making the Olympic team last year when they both had stress fractures in April, they now put an even bigger emphasis on cross training throughout the year to ensure that they don’t have to go through that stress again. Infeld won a surprise bronze medal in the 2015 World Championships and will be eyeing more hardware in London, as will Quigley.
One of the most talked about performances in Sacramento was Colorado-based athlete, Sara Vaughn (Women’s 1500m). She was one of 13 women with the World Qualifying Standard heading into the meet and was certainly in the shadows of World finalists Jenny Simpson, Kate Grace, and Shannon Rowbury, during pre-meet predictions. The Boulder-based Vaughn is 31 years old, coached by her husband, a mother of 3, and a full time Realtor. While she may not have been listed as a favorite to make the team, she was certainly an emotional favorite among the crowd and all of her peers that have known Sara as a great representative of the sport for many years. Read about how her fans reacted here, and the path she took to get there in this Runner’s World Article.
Furthermore, Serena Burla and Lindsay Flanagan (Women’s Marathon), both ElliptiGO athletes and training partners, were selected earlier in the season and will represent Team USA with their newly named teammates above. Selections for the Marathon squad that will head to London were made earlier in the season, giving time for proper build up to the 26.2 Mile event.
The IAAF World Championships start in London on August 4 and run through August 13. Visit the IAAF website for more details.
With only three spots up for grabs, there were a lot of athletes that fell short of their goal to wear the Red, White, and Blue in London. Some knew that it would be a long shot and were just looking to place as high as possible. Others were bitter near-misses and will have to look ahead to the 2019 World Championships as their next opportunity. With Vaughn’s huge story of making the team, fourth place Lauren Johnson (Women’s 1500m) would have to go home disappointed, who was passed by Vaughn in the final 20 meters of the race. While it ties Lauren’s best US finish to date (4th in 2015 also), the goal was certainly not top 4.
Similarly, Stephanie Garcia (Women’s 3000m Steeplechase) is in the best shape of her life, running PR’s in every event this season, but would have to settle for a fourth place finish behind the Olympic Trio from last year. Fortunately, she has quickly put that behind her with back-to-back victories in the 3000m at the TrackTown Summer Series, and a 4:24 Mile performance in London, which puts her tenth on the US All-Time list.
Ben True (Men’s 5000m) also endured a near miss at these championships. Johnson, Garcia, and True will remain alternates for the World Championships this year in the event that one of the 3 athletes in front of them is unable to compete.
Further back in the Women’s 1500m prelims, not even making the finals, were some courageous performances that should certainly be noted and admired. Heather Kampf has a 1500m PR of 4:04.46 and would normally be one of the favorites to be chasing a spot on the world team. But only 10 weeks before these championships, Heather suffered a sacral stress fracture and was told that her 2017 season was over. With cross training and quick healing, she started running two weeks before USAs, but still only had a combined total of 28 miles over a 10 week period. Most people -even the best athletes in the sport -would not give them the confidence to line up in a national championship event. But Kampf decided to risk all embarrassment and toe the line with the best in the nation, running 4:15.40, which is a ways off her PR, but far better than anyone expected (herself included).
She had this to say after her race, “In early April, I was told I’d be lucky to be racing again by this fall. Leading up to USA’s, my weekly running mileage went from 2, to 7, to 19. While the race I had wasn’t what I wanted pre-injury, I am so incredibly grateful for where I’m at already.”
Even further back in that women’s 1500m was an athlete that’s been getting global attention. Not because of how fast she’s running, but because of what she’s running through. Gabriele Grunewald is a world-class athlete (1500m PR of 4:01.48). But in the preliminary round on June 22nd, she finished last in 4:31.18 – and the entire crowd was on their feet cheering her name. Grunewalk started her first stage of chemotherapy a few weeks before these championships in her current fight against cancer. Since 2009, Grunewald has fought cancer 3 times, and beat it each time. This is her fourth time fighting and she still very unsure of what the outcome will be. When she found out earlier this spring that her cancer had returned in the form of 12 small tumors in her liver, she made it a goal to continue running as much as she could, and if possible, compete at the National Championships with her peers.
After finishing that race, Grunewald said, “Everything about this hurt. Everything about this felt good. I never knew a broken heart could feel so whole. Cancer slowed me down, but I haven’t let it stop me. Track, I’ll be back.”
She later communicated about how she would hope to continue training through her treatment, “I will continue to train as much as I can while on chemo, but it certainly will not be all running, so I will be spending considerable time on the ElliptiGO this summer. The break from running after my last surgery was hard for me, but way better being able to get outside on the GO. I am thankful as always to have this tool in my life.”
To read more about Gabriele’s story and the strength that comes with it, read this recent article in Sports Illustrated. To donate to her medical fund, please click here.
Other athletes of note that used ElliptiGO integrated training to get to these championships included:
Lauren Paquette (Women’s 5000m – 6th)
Liz Costello (10000m – 7th)
Stephanie Bruce (10000m – 8th)
Shannon Rowbury (1500m – 8th)
Amanda Eccleston (1500m – 9th)
Mason Ferlic (Men’s 3000m Steeplechase – 9th)
Nicole Tully (5000m – 9th)
Dana Mecke (800m – 9th)
Jess Tonn (5000m – 12th)
Joe Stilin (5000m – 12th)
Clayton Murphy (1500m – 13th)
Meghan Peyton (10000m – 14th)
Ben Bruce (10000m – 15th)