Sunday, February 14, 2016

A REAL SPORTS SATURDAY

It wasn't a bunch of pampered, entitled guys in pads, crushing each other, showboating after every play, topping it off with some inane touchdown celebration.

It wasn't a hockey game a slam dunk, or coverage of the Wide World of Sports Sheboygan thumb wrestling championships.

It wasn't even a presidential debate.

It was, simply, an athletic competition featuring the finest trained, most dedicated athletes this country has to offer.

It was the United States Olympic marathon trials.

And it was magnificent.

First, hats off to NBC for what I thought was superb coverage, with concise, knowledgeable commentators, great visuals, and poignant story lines.

And what stories they were.

Galen Rupp, in his marathon debut, in record-setting heat, proved that he can compete against the best marathon runners in the world when he heads to the Rio Olympic Games this summer. He won the race easily, in a time of 2:11:12.

It seems impossible not to love Meb Keflezighi, who will be the oldest American male ever to run an Olympic marathon. He will be 41 years of age at the Rio Games. Meb also earned the honor of being our country's first three-time Olympic marathoner. He gutted out a second-place finish in 2:12:20, brandishing an American flag and a wide smile as he crossed the finish line. Jared Ward, third place finisher at last year's Los Angeles Marathon, captured third, with a time of 2:13.

Runners understand the importance of having reliable training partners. They keep us focused and are instrumental in helping us to achieve our best racing times.

Amy Cragg won the women's race, with a time of 2:28:20, followed by a tremendous finish by Desiree Linden, who surged into second place, in 2:28:54 and Cragg's training partner, Shalane Flanagan, hung on to finish third in 2:29:19.

Amy Cragg and Shalane Flanagan train together in Portland, Oregon. Throughout the race they ran practically stride for stride. During the middle of the race, Flanagan's encouragement got Cragg through a rough couple of miles, so when Flanagan hit the wall at mile 24, probably due to the heat, Cragg was happy to return the favor.

"I asked her, 'Hey, are you OK? And she said, 'No, I'm not,'" said Cragg, as the two approached an aid station. "There were a couple of times where she said, 'I'm not sure I can do this.'"

Finally, Cragg, for the sake of her own race, was forced to cut the rope with Flanagan, who was eventually passed by Linden.

Flanagan finished valiantly, collapsing before being led to a wheelchair. Her friend, Amy Cragg, may have helped Flanagan earn her second Olympic marathon berth.

It was a great sports Saturday.

American marathoning is back!

On to Rio.