Stanford Women's Track Hangs Tough
May 6, 2008
Who says distance runners aren't tough? It certainly can't be said about the Stanford women's track team over the last two weeks. First, at the Penn Relays Alicia Follmar took a nasty spill during her opening leg of the distance medley relay only to get up bloodied and run a fantastic split. Then last weekend at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational Alexandra Gits lost her shoe halfway through the Payton Jordan 10,000 meters and was forced to run the final 5k with just a sock on her left foot and still ended up finishing with an NCAA automatic qualifying time.
Follmar, an All-American indoors this season was looking for a fast leadoff leg to put Stanford in position to have a chance at the prestigious Penn Relays DMR title. However, just a lap into the race, Follmar got tripped up and took a nasty fall that included getting spiked in the head by a trailing runner. Despite the fall, Follmar got up and finished the race, running a 1,200 meter split of 3:26.0. Stanford ended up third in the race, but it clearly could have been much worse if not for Follmar's quick recovery.
'I was in a good position, right on the shoulder of the leader,' said Follmar. 'But right after we went through the first lap someone behind me clipped my leg and I went down. Unfortunately I was in the path of all of the other runners behind me, so I got run over by the field. I felt my head and I saw some blood, but I didn't know if looked as bad as it did. I was able to catch up on a lot of the runners after I got up, but I handed off pretty far behind the leader.'
Gits mishap was a little less obvious, but the freshman showed her mental toughness to continue to hit her splits as she attempted to earn the automatic qualifying standard for the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships. When the race finished she had run 33:19.42 to earn her trip to nationals.
'Anyone who loses their shoe halfway through a 10K is bound to ponder the possibilities for at least a couple of the next 12 laps,' said Gits. 'It happened really fast, some girl's spike caught the back rubber portion of my shoes and it fell halfway off. I had to make a quick decision to stop and risk losing the auto time which I was quickly realizing I had a pretty good chance at, and save my foot a little bit or put it back and stop and just run my heart off with the safety of an even stride. I chose the latter and I'm glad I did. I was too close to the auto mark to have taken the time to lace my shoe and I was in perfect position at that moment (just sitting on girls who were running the right pace) to have to fall back and then catch up again.'
Both Follmar and Gits were able to ignore the pain and worry about the task at hand.
'I was not really in pain, I was more annoyed than anything,' said Follmar. 'I really wanted to hand off to Idara (Otu) in a good position, so once I got back up I just focused on staying relaxed and catching one person at a time. Even though I didn't hand off where I would have liked, I tried to make the best of an unfortunate situation.'
Gits also downplayed the afftect, saying, 'Overall it didn't affect me much, I just concentrated on keeping a rhythm and not getting sucked up in my odd bounce I felt every time I took a step.'
Gits also claimed to gain strength from her teammate the week before, 'I also thought about Alicia and how she immediately got back up after getting spiked in the head and didn't have a second thought because she was going to finish that race no matter what and she ended up PRing. I knew if I took on her mentality and just let things glide, everything would be OK. Also, I wasn't bleeding profusely so I figured everything was bound to be OK for the next 12 laps anyway.'
Follmar was also impressed with her younger teammate saying, 'I was watching Alex's race from the infield, and I had a really close view. When we noticed that Alex was missing a shoe with half of the race still to go, I was amazed that she did not drop out. I can't even imagine what it must be like to run that far with a shoe on one foot and a sock on the other. And then when she kept running well and we realized that she was on pace for automatic qualification to nationals, all of us watching couldn't stop talking about how amazing that was. It was crazy.'
Both Gits and Follmar look to be key contributors for the Stanford women as they head to post-season. Follmar has qualified for Regionls in both the 800 meters and the 1,500 meters, while Gits has secured her ticket to Nationals in the 10,000 meters.