Athletics or Track and Field?⏱

Lap 77: Sponsored by HOKA Postal Nationals

How does your high school stack up against the country’s best?

  1. Sign your team up for HOKA Postal Nationals

  2. You + 4 teammates race a TWO-MILE on the track

  3. Coach submits your results to RunnerSpace

  4. See where your team ranks in the nation

  5. Celebrate by winning HOKA gear and other prizes!

Falmouth Road Race 🌊

If Ben Flanagan wasn’t the nicest guy in the entire world, then he’d deserve some criticism for some atrocious finish-line hurdling. But instead, the unofficial mayor of Falmouth leaped to his third title running 32:25, and still had time to track down my family to introduce himself and kiss the baby before joining the CITIUS MAG Live After Show!

Following the disappointment of not making the World Championship team, the Canadian circled the late summer classic on his calendar and was determined to repeat. And Ben wasn’t shy about the fact that he was coming into the weekend in the best shape of his life — there couldn’t have been a bigger target on his back and the field knew who to watch.

Flanagan has proven that he possesses the clutch gene, whether that’s at an NCAA Championship or winning the race your future father-in-law puts on. Now he knows, “I gotta make some teams!” And for better or worse, that’s not done by winning — that comes from running fast. Flanagan may be the perfect example of an athlete who may benefit from the new inclusion of road races and cross-country in the world rankings, but more on that later!

After Sunday’s race, the women’s champion Keira D’Amato did the exact thing you’d expect the American record holder in the marathon to do — cool down by running the course backward. After all, with a newfound confidence that only 7 miles in 36:14 (5:11/mi) can bring, Keira had just revealed to the viewers of the CITIUS MAG Live After Show that her next marathon would be in Berlin and it’d be an attempt to run even faster than 2:19:12.

The thing you might not expect is that I’d join her on the return trip to Woods Hole, especially after doing the race myself and immediately sitting down for 75-minutes to interview athletes. Fortunately, Keira didn’t brag too much about running thirty seconds faster than I did — in fact, it was quite the opposite. I now have an open invitation to move my family down to Richmond and become her training partner! While I am respectfully declining, if you know anybody…

We did talk about the value of personally participating in the event because I now have firsthand experience of what it’s like to bake in the sun during those middle miles. So if I want to talk about hitting the final hill with 600 meters to go only to crest it and have to run down a hill that is TOO steep toward the finish, then I can not only better analyze, but have a greater appreciation for the effort.

But you don’t need to have had your innards baked by the New England humidity in order to look at Keira’s performance and say, “wow, that’s so good!” It’s obvious — look who she beat!

The real takeaway for me after my road racing right of passage (“having a rough day out there”) is that it made me more empathetic for those whose race didn’t go well. It’s a thin line between finishing high up in the money or being in the med tent on the receiving end of a rectal thermometer. That’s what is at stake on the roads! As opposed to a bad day on the track where you just finish a few seconds behind the pack and hate yourself for it.

The Falmouth Mile 😎

Are you the type to be more excited about the appetizers than the main course? That’s how I felt this weekend in Falmouth as I sat in an equipment shed adjacent to the Falmouth High School track, eager to announce the precursor to the road race that is Saturday’s miles.

The thing to love about the summer mile circuit is that it’s an opportunity for redemption and no one is getting more of it than Nikki Hiltz. Since their disappointment at the US Championships, Hiltz has won the Sunset Tour, Sir Walter Miler, Liberty Mile and now again at Falmouth in 4:28.93. For Hiltz’s efforts on Saturday, they took home a $6,000 prize, which extrapolates to a half-decent hourly wage! (That is if you don’t include the countless hours of work put in to have that capability…am I right, artists?!)

Admittedly, racing at 5 pm in an open field is not the optimal condition for running fast, especially with the coastal breeze. My understanding of why it’s held then is that it’s right after the expo concludes, everyone has to get up early the following morning, and there’s a wicked nasty case of night mosquitoes.

Regardless, that didn’t stop Paul Ryan from finding a way to run a personal best while breaking the tape in 3:55.91. Going faster than ever before has become customary for the first-year pro, who has now rewritten his bests at 800/1500/Mile/5000 in 2022. And let me SPEAK to the question that I am sure some of you poli sci majors are undoubtedly wondering, to the best of my knowledge, there is no relation.

The rest of the European Championships 🍊

The biggest question I have coming away from the previous few weeks of exclusively non-America-included championships that looked like the most fun anyone has ever had is “what’s a bigger deal: a Commonwealth or European title?” Maybe it depends on your individual relationship to the crown, which in the case of the Netherlands, is non-existent.

This was Femke Bol’s championship. No one since Napoleon has come closer to taking over the continent. The Dutch star became the first athlete to win three gold medals at the European Championships since her countrywoman, Fanny Blankers-Koen, did in 1950. The 22-year-old Bol won the 400 (49.44, a national record), 400H (52.67, a meet record), and anchored the 4x400 (3:20.87, also a national record) completing a very busy week, but one that was certainly good for the gram.

(Why are the Netherlands suddenly getting so good at the 400? In 2018 there was a “close the gap” project that started in the 400m/400H — consider it closed.)

In the men’s 800m, Mariano García, the World Indoor Champion, had an early exit at the outdoor iteration, which is not completely unexpected. It’s difficult to keep the momentum from a huge breakout winter all the way until the end of August. García’s personal best of 1:45.12 was set over six months ago! That is, until the final day of competition at Europeans when he ran 1:44.85 to win Spain’s first-ever gold medal in the event.

As the saying goes, the sun never sets on the 2022 British Championship season. The strength-fueled late charge of Jake Wightman came up just short and he can now rest after his third championship meet of the month comes to an end.

But on the women’s side, Keely Hodgkinson finally earned her long-awaited gold medal, topping the field in 1:59.04. Granted, at 20 years old, it hasn’t been too long of a wait. But still, since her silver medal at last year’s Olympics, Hodgkinson had to pull out of World Indoors due to injury, and then finished a tight second at both the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

And that about ties a bow on a fantastic championship, especially for Germany, as the home team won 16 medals and showed the world that the key to getting fans asses into seats is good beer.


Welcome to The Lap Count’s first-ever personality quiz! Would you rather…

A.) Compete in front of 60,000-plus roaring fans but not have a world class beach nearby?

B.) Compete at what might at times feel like a high school dual meet, but with a world class beach nearby?

If you answered “A,” you probably would have enjoyed lining up for the European Championships, held last week in Munich. And if you chose “B,” then congrats — you would have had a blast at the NACAC Championships!

In fairness, this was only the fourth edition of NACAC and the European Championships pre-dates World War II. But the fact that the two events took place concurrently made it hard not to compare them. And there’s also the fact that unlike Europeans, NACAC was not broadcast from a major media outlet, but instead from some guy named Joey’s personal YouTube channel – but I won’t be casting any stones from inside this glass house! The chat worked together to try and figure out how the points system works and if winning the meet would qualify an athlete for worlds (for the most part it doesn’t).

Regardless of the kinks that probably still need to be ironed out as a championship in terms of overall presentation, NACAC is a great opportunity to earn some serious rankings points and to wear the USA jersey in international competition. Although it was close to 100 degrees for most of the event, Uncle Sam’s team won a meet record 29 golds and 65 medals.

Some meet highlights:

  • Kara Winger is supposed to be retiring in a couple weeks, but she threw her best javelin throw (64.68m) since 2019.

  • Holtamania continued as Empire Elite’s Eric Holt beat a deep 1500m field to win in 3:37.62 – not bad for a guy who never made an NCAA meet.

  • Heather MacLean closed in 59-seconds for her last quarter to take the 1500 in 4:04.53 – apparently running without Covid is like taking the donut off a baseball bat.

  • Sean McGorty closed in 3:03 for his final 1200m in the 10,000m even though he didn’t have to – he ran 29:23 to win by ten seconds.

  • Sixteen years after winning the U23 NACAC 10000m, Stephanie Bruce won the senior version in 33:12.

  • Ajee’ Wilson nabbed a tight one over Allie Wilson in the 800 (1:58.47) by one hundredth of a second and Jonah Koech (1:45.87) didn’t need a photo finish to confirm his victory.

  • Woody Kincaid won the 5000m in a laughable 14:48 – that’s not a typo! Natosha Rogers won the women’s in a significantly better 15:11, but she did not close her last lap in 53.

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The New World Order 🌎

World Athletics released the standards for next year’s World Championships in Budapest (three weeks after the window to qualify opened) and let’s just say the people are RATTLED! It will now take dudes a sub-10 second 100m to rest on their laurels. Or in the women's 10,000m, it’ll take 30:40 or faster — something only four Americans have ever done!

This isn’t just some brash overreaction to the existence of super shoes. World Athletics is going to shove the rankings system down our throats no matter how badly we don’t want it! The intention has been for fields to be split 50-50 in terms of how they qualify for the major championships: half on time, half on ranking. As the bar has steadily been raised each year, athletes keep elevating their game to meet them and thus that dream ratio hasn’t yet been met.

So now, rather than inching it a bit higher, the expectations have been raised by a solid foot. The question now becomes whether athletes will just try to run that much faster or if they’ll start picking and choosing races more carefully as to game the system and bolster their rankings. If the quality of the team the US sent to NACAC is any indication, I think we may see more of the latter.

My main gripe with this system is that it continues to overcomplicate the logistics for bubble athletes and has no noticeable impact on the athletes who matter most to the marketability of the sport— the stars. Sydney McLaughlin won’t have any added incentive to run the Diamond League circuit with an added emphasis on World Rankings — she’ll race once to clobber the standard. But we will still probably see a number of smaller countries choose to not send athletes who “only” qualify on points.

The infrastructure of the sport should be designed to encourage regular head-to-head competition amongst the best athletes, not the 48th fastest ones.

Catching up with Freddie Crittenden

The biggest breakthrough performance from NACAC was without a doubt Freddie Crittenden in the 110 hurdles. The former Syracuse All-American who now trains out of Phoenix, finished fifth at the US Championships this year with a personal best of 13.14 (+1.2). In the Bahamas, Crittenden took the win in an impressive 13.00 (+0.3) to mark the biggest performance of his career. I caught up with him to hear the impact that race might have on his career, but also to talk about some of his work creating content off of the track.

Tell me about this huge performance at NACAC – finally running 13.00! I feel like you have had that in you for a while, but we finally got to see it. How does it feel?

It was an exciting moment! I knew it was there, but there wasn’t a chance to put it together on race day. I had a lot of stuff going on this year and it was intense trying to juggle everything. I've been working a lot and then got married in April, which was a huge moment for me that I wanted to enjoy. Then I had some hiccups with training where I had to pull out of some races. I ran well at USAs, but I left there not really where I wanted to be. Since then I’ve been waiting around as there haven't been many opportunities. And so I capitalized on NACAC because I knew it was in me and I manifested it. 

You're kind of in a unique position. Even before running 13.00, the fourth fastest time in the world this year, your times would have put you in the top 12 or so. But being fifth at USAs means it’s tough to get a lane because Diamond League meets don’t want every lane to be from the same country.

Exactly and that's unfortunately something I have to deal with. It is hard being a hurdler in the US, this year more than ever. It’s not just the times you have run, but the accolades you have and guys like Grant, Devon, Trey, and Daniel have that name where a meet has to let them in. Then the host countries let their athletes in and the points build up their rankings. You kind of have to put your head down to just keep working and stay patient, and hopefully opportunities will open up — you just have to stay ready. Now hopefully I’ll have a bit more pull.

I saw you recently started a podcast/YouTube channel – Float The Backstretch. You work as a videographer, correct? I love the content, and the whole thing is produced so well.

I picked up a camera because I was wasting a lot of time playing video games and I needed to put some time into something that could actually be a good investment – maybe give me something else to focus on. So I started doing videography stuff and I was connected with a non-profit program with this broadcast studio to help underprivileged kids. We’d bring them to the studio to show cameras, green screens, and how stuff works behind a news broadcast. Afterward, they offered me a paid internship and said if I had any passion projects I was welcome to use the studio equipment and they’d help me navigate and improve.

I’ve always had super interesting conversations at practice with my training partners about the sport and one day I said we need to put them on camera. I just woke up one day and was like, “we're starting a podcast.” And we have been rolling with the punches since, trying to find interesting stories and doing meet recaps, just like we would at practice. Jarret and I love doing it so we’ll keep building it. And the response has been great. 

Is the goal to build your personal brand or is it to address the lack of athlete-created content? Is there motivation beyond just enjoying and having fun?

We each have our own experience in the sport that we feel needs to be talked about more. And so it's wanting to advocate for athletes — people who get thrown under the rug. We want to shed light, perpetuate conversation, and talk about interesting things. We have our own opinions, but it's the banter that I think can help grow the sport, just like news, and current events.

I would love for it to benefit me individually, to hopefully make me more marketable or more profitable for sponsors. By investing in myself then I can support this dream, so I can continue to run track even if I don't have a contract.

It could be something to help me run track even longer and contribute to the sport as a whole. But the best part is hearing people's stories and understanding what they're going through. We just had Omar Craddock and he shared things I wouldn’t have ever known about and that’s the most rewarding part.

Well, I'm excited to see where it goes! It’s always a challenge talking about people who you are going to see the following week at a meet.

I have some strong opinions, but if I want to put those out there I definitely feel like I should be able to stand on them. Like if they're standing in front of me, I need to be able to say it if I'm going to say it at all, you know?

(This interview was condensed and edited for the sake of space and clarity.)

Rapid Fire Highlights 🔥

  • Addy Wiley, who ran 4:11.43 to finish 5th at the U20 World Championships this summer, has decommitted from Colorado and will instead run for Huntington University in Indiana and continue to be coached by Lauren Johnson.

  • Vanessa Fraser has made the decision to leave the Bowerman TC to work for a venture capital firm in San Francisco. She will continue to run for Nike and be coached remotely by Shalane Flanagan. (Story)

  • Devon Allen caught a 55-yard TD pass in the Eagles pre-season game vs. the Browns and jumped over some invisible hurdles in celebration.

  • The NCAA 1500m champion from Ole Miss, who represents Italy, Sintayehu Vissa, has decided to turn professional and join the On Athletic Club.

  • Pete Watson has been hired as Director of T&F/XC at Boston College, which would have been huge for me had it happened 15 years ago because at one point it was my dream to be an Eagle.

  • Leaving eligibility on the table, Worlds bronze medalist in the Heptathlon Anna Hall has made the decision to turn professional and will be competing for Adidas.

  • Chris Derrick has announced his retirement. His career was long and fruitful, from NXN champion at Neuqua Valley, to 14x All-American at Stanford, to 3x US Cross Country Champion with Bowerman — but I will always remember his career best for the time he somehow beat me, Lawi Lalang, Evan Jager, Riley Masters, and Jeremey Rae in a 1500 at the Stanford Invitational in 2012.

  • Check out the Cade Flatt documentary by Alex Andrei, “When Winning isn’t Enough” on the CITIUS MAG YouTube channel.

Thank you so much to HOKA for sponsoring this week’s newsletter! If I was in high school or had four friends then you know I’d be signing up for Postal Nationals. If you are a loyal Lap Count reader and enjoying the weekly newsletter, then please do us a favor and share it! xoxo