Saturday, March 6, 2010

Llano and Quinn at Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame

(L-R: Matt Llano and Tim Quinn)

We headed to South Bend, Indiana for the Alex Wilson Invitational at Notre Dame on Thursday afternoon. We flew to Chicago and then drove the 90 minutes over to South Bend. It was pretty easy trip. Kind of funny that I’ve wanted to get a Garmin GPS for traveling and decided I would make the purchase before the trip…So, I went to Wal-Mart on Wednesday afternoon and started my search. The particular model I was looking for was listed at $169.99 and I did not particularly want to spend that. To my surprise the man working that section of the store informed me that the model was on sale for $99.00…Ooohhh yea…that’s more like. I made my purchase and was on my way.

The next day when we got to Chicago it was 5:30PM and the peak of rush hour. We plugged the Garmin into our rental car and searched for the nearest Olive Garden…Matt Llano and Tim Quinn’s choice for their prerace dinner. Let me tell you, the GPS paid for itself that night. We got off the highway and the bumper-to-bumper traffic and zipped right over to the nearest Olive Garden….had dinner and by the time we finished the traffic was over…then we had a smooth and easy drive on over to South Bend.

We got to our hotel, the Residence Inn and checked in. They were expecting us and had the keys ready. When I got back to the car I gave Matt and Tim their choice of rooms…#411 or #412. The front desk informed me they were identical and next to each other. Matt and Tim chose room #412…So, I had the other. We walked up to their door and opened the door and to my surprise there in the room was a 42” flat screen TV and a gas fireplace…Wow, a fireplace I thought. I turned and opened my room’s door expecting the mirror image of #412. Not quite…there sat a 22” box TV and no fireplace. I informed Matt and Tim who found a great deal of humor in this and then informed me, “We chose wisely.” That’s one of my favorite things to say in a situation like this…I guess they enjoyed it…and their fireplace.

The next 15 hours were uneventful…as they were supposed to be. I call it, “the calm before the storm”. I believe this is the hardest time for an athlete. Before this, they are busy with school work and don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the race and the pain that is coming. Then they arrive at the hotel and wait and wait and wait. Both Matt and Tim have learned how to handle this. We work on it in practice and talk about the steps necessary to keep those emotions in check. There’s a huge difference between practice and race day though. Both Matt and Tim are mature and confident and handle it well. They got in a 3 mile run to get the trip out of their legs the morning of the race and then studied for a few hours before we departed for the track & field facility at the Loftus Center on the Notre Dame campus. The track is nice. It’s 320M in length surrounding a “Field Turf” football field.

When we walked in the building was pretty quiet. Athletes from over 75 Universities we scattered around preparing for their competitions. The 5K race was 15 2/3 laps total…Not your typical indoor track length. The atmosphere, although initially quiet, soon became fevered with the banging of drums and tables during the women’s 5K. As Matt and Tim returned from their warm-up the crowd was beginning to get larger by the minute as the two track events to be contested on this evening were in motion….The 5K for women and men, followed by the Distance Medley Relay Races for women and men.

As the started called the men’s 5K racers to the line I could hear the men from Flotrack getting more and more excited as they talked about the depth of the field as they began their live coverage. It was clearly the best men’s 5K race assembled so far this indoor season. I spoke with a couple of coaches to confirm Patrick Smyth would serve as the rabbit taking the leaders through 3K in the 8:10-8:12 range. As the gun sounded the track was full with 28 men answering the call. They juggled back and forth for position and eventually found the pace. Matt and Tim were together through the 800M going through in 2:14.6 and then the drummers began to bang away to the cadence of 65 second 400M pace.

By the 1600M Matt was running in roughly 12th place as he went through in 4:25.4, while Tim was 4:29.2. The race rolled along like clock-work. Matt kept pace hitting 3200M in 8:55.2. Tim was 9:16.4 at 3200M. They ended with solid performances even though they both expected to be faster. Matt ran 14:11.19 and Tim 14:42.41.

Matt’s time of 14:11.19 was just short of the NCAA provisional qualifying mark of 14:10.00. Even though he was close to the provisional mark we knew it would take in the 13:55 range to make the NCAA Championships. Both ran hard and competed well…they just weren’t able to hold on over the final 1600M.

Since the Atlantic 10 Conference Championships Tim’s had excellent workouts and looked ready to run 14:20-14:28…but it wasn’t there tonight. Matt on the other hand has been on the opposite side of the training curve the past two weeks. I believe he’s been on the verge of getting sick but has done a great job of getting his rest and not letting it get a hold of him. IMO this race says a lot about their goals and competitiveness. They got in there and raced without fear and remembered the purpose… I believe this is a good indicator of things to come this outdoor season.

Matt Llano’s 5K Splits by 400M: 68.8/2:14.6/3:20.4/4:25.4 at 1600M/5:31.1/6:38.1/7:46.9/8:55.2 at 3200M/10:04.7/11:15.4/12:27.6/13:35.4 at 3 miles/14:11.19 at 5K

Tim Quinn’s 5K splits by 400M: 68.9/2:15.3/3:22.4/4:29.2 at 1600M/5:38.4/6:49.9/8:02.4/9:16.4 at 3200M/10:30.6/11:45.3/12:58.3/14:09.7 at 3 miles/14:42.41 at 5K

Again, there was a great field here this evening. Many of the best distance runners within the NCAA were here and there were some great races. Matt and Tim stepped out there and competed well and raced hard. Matt narrowly missed the NCAA provisional qualifying mark on a night that he would agree was not his best. That speaks volumes to the level he has elevated himself as a distance runner. The atmosphere was electric. The beating drums continued to grow in tempo and rhythm throughout the races, especially the men’s 5K. No wonder it was the fastest NCAA 5K race of the year.

Watch a video of the 2010 Alex Wilson Indoor 5K race:

For those watching, Llano run’s in the 12th position for most of the race…

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