There has been all kinds of scrutiny this week over what is going on in Portland with the hastily put-together meet at Roosevelt High and the on-again, off-again participation of Jordan Hasay and Tara Erdmannn.
First, a little background.
As the Portland Track Festival concluded last month, organizer Craig Rice heard a recurring refrain from several coaches: Wouldn’t it be great to have a post-U.S. championship meet somewhere nearby?
And then, post-U.S. championship, when two of Alberto Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project athletes finished in the top three of the women’s 10,000 but still needed the IAAF standard, there was a conversation between Salazar and Michael Bergmann (who by the force of his will and political skills built a very nice track at Roosevelt).
Essentially, Bergmann told Salazar that Roosevelt could be a great venue to host a track event should he need one for Hasay and Erdmann.
Salazar said, basically: Yes, let’s do it. (10K races are not easy to find, particularly ones that spin around the track at sub-32 minute pace).
The Portland Track Festival group, including Rice and Jonathan Marcus, got involved as meet managers. Marcus suggested to Salazar that if the event were expanded to include a variety of other events — be more like an actual meet — it might be good for the Roosevelt neighborhood. It might add some energy.
Salazar said go for it and agreed to pay for the whole thing (timing, etc.).
Then Salazar and Marcus began to delve into the IAAF rulebook. What constitutes a meet? What has to be in place for a race result to count?
So they studied the rulebook and they called Bob Hersh (who lives in New York) and asked him questions. Hersh is the only American who is also a high ranking IAAF official. He knows the rules back and forth and also has the authority to interpret their nuances.
That’s when Salazar found out that mixed gender races could be accepted for IAAF qualifying purposes. He didn’t know that was legal but Hersh explained to him that it was not only legal but that in some places it is standard practice.
The IAAF A standard for the women’s 10K is 31.45. That’s a strict standard. It lends weight to the thought that the IAAF doesn’t particularly want a big field in that event, whether that’s a result of penny-pinching or something else.
In a developing nation, for instance, where there might be only one woman capable of attaining even the B standard (32:05), how difficult would it be for her to find a race with other women that can pace? It’s very difficult, which is why the IAAF added a rule to accept mixed gender race results over 5,000 meters. The 10K is a different animal than, say, the long jump. There are very few opportunities, in part because championship races tend to go slower.
Salazar and Marcus wanted to be sure it was OK for Hasay to run with expert pacers Ahrlin Bauman and his brother Oscar. Were they impinging on any sort of “code of ethics” or “spirit of competition” clauses?
This is the email of Hersh’s reply:
Having a mixed gender 10,000 with male pacers for the women does not violate the IAAF’s Code of Ethics, which does not deal with such matters. I’m not sure what you mean by the “spirit of competition rule as per IAAF international standards.” There is no “spirit of competition” rule. If you are talking about violating the spirit of the competition rule that permits mixed competition in races of 5,000 or longer, and the other rule that permits pacing subject to the limitations set forth in Rule 144.2, I don’t think that having men entered in a mixed raced pacing women should be a concern, again, as long as the rules are complied with.
The next issue involved Roosevelt’s track. Bergmann dug out the blueprints and specifications for inspection. The facility, which has undergone a massive facelift from community eyesore to state-of-the-art gem, was not built with a rail.
That was a problem for the IAAF. So Bergmann quickly went to work finding someone who could get a rail installed at Roosevelt, and he was successful. Within a matter of days, a rail was going in even as Salazar was having concerns about the weather being too hot on the meet date of the 15th.
Ultimately, the IAAF was not satisfied with the rail. I’m not sure I can completely articulate the problem there. Perhaps it doesn’t fit quite right, but the placement of the rail pushes the “hypothetical running path” outward 10 cm (because runners tend to not risk stepping on it) … so that makes Roosevelt an “oversized” track (even when it’s really not).
After Monday the rail will be dismantled and stored at Roosevelt and adjustments will be made so that next time — if there is a next time — the rail will not be out of compliance with the IAAF rulebook.
Salazar wanted Hasay to run at Roosevelt. After all, he was paying for a meet there. But when the IAAF decided Friday morning that it was unsatisfied with Roosevelt’s rail, the race had to be moved. So now it’s at Jesuit. (And Salazar’s only coaching stake on Monday at the Roughrider Twilight meet is Dorian Ulrey, who is coming back from an injury by running in the 3,000).
Salazar’s mission is to get two young U.S. women their first chance to compete at a global championships as pros.
Hasay is ready to go tonight, to prove she can cover the distance in 31:45. Erdmann has been dealing with a slight Achilles strain. Salazar thinks an extra couple of days’ rest might be smart. And after Sunday, she’ll know whether she only needs to run the B standard pace.
I completely understand that the Oregon Project, and Salazar, come under a lot of scrutiny. And from afar, it’s easy to wonder about decisions that seem bizarre and come to the conclusion that somehow he’s trying to game the system. I’ll admit that over 12 years of covering that story there have been times when I didn’t understand it either. But I’ve usually been amazed at how it all comes into focus and makes a lot more sense when you are standing right next to him and asking questions.
UPDATE on ROOSEVELT: Olympian Cyrus Hostetler is apparently now involved in the meet and may be chasing a standard in the javelin. He contacted the PTF crew staging the meet and asked if he could get in a few days ago. He even agreed to round up some extra competitors I’m told. So the start time is now 6:30 for the javelin, 7:30 for the track events.
Jordan Hasay plans to come to Roosevelt on Monday to make an appearance and sign some autographs if she reaches her goal tonight