Former Wisconsin Badger will run his first cross country race in five years on Saturday.
Written by: Mario Fraioli
He sat at the table facing reporters with a stoic look on his face. Matt Tegenkamp wasn’t not telling anything to the crowd assembled before him, but one got the feeling he wasn’t in the mood to give too much away, either. It was apparent that this will be anything but a relaxing weekend in sunny San Diego for the Oregon Track Club athlete. This is a business trip.
“I’ve done the training that’s needed to be here,” said Tegenkamp, who will be running his first cross country race of any sort in five years tomorrow at the USA Cross Country Championships being held at Mission Bay Park. “It’s kind of exciting to do something you haven’t done in a while. You can’t simulate the hurt that you get in a race that you get in practice.”
Tegenkamp is making his return to racing after a tough 2010, a year which featured very limited racing due to various injuries plaguing the right side of his body. It was an anticlimactic encore to the year prior, when he won the 5,000 meters at the U.S. Track & Field Championships and later that summer became only the second American to break 13 minutes for 5,000 meters with a 12:58.56 clocking.
“Things are going great after a tough year last year,” Tegenkamp said. “Jerry (Schumacher) doesn’t put us out on the course unless we’re really ready to race and compete well. I’m excited to get the season underway tomorrow.”
Even though he hasn’t raced on grass since his days as Wisconsin Badger, Tegenkamp is considered amongst the favorites in tomorrow’s open men’s race. He’ll be challenged by former NCAA cross country champion Jorge Torres, who said earlier this week he is feeling “well recovered” from that last weekend’s U.S. Half Marathon Championships in Houston and “wants to win his first national title” tomorrow. Also in the mix will be Abdi Abdirahman, who hasn’t raced since sustaining a stress fracture in his femur after the Healthy Kidney 10K in New York last May.
“My recent training tells me I’m fit and ready to run,” Abdirahman said at Friday’s pre-race press conference. “I’m expecting to do well.”
Two-time world cross country team member Scott Bauhs, who said if he makes a third U.S. team he will pass on representing the U.S. at the world championships in Spain on March 20 in order to focus on his outdoor track season, stated quite confidently on Friday that if he “can’t win the race, he’d like to make it hard for others to win the race.”
After shaking off some rust at this weekend’s championships, Tegenkamp will head back to Portland and turn all of his focus toward the track, specifically this summer’s World Championships in Daegu South, Korea, where he hopes to land himself on the podium in the men’s 5,000 meters. He came close in 2007, finishing fourth and missing a medal by three one-hundredths of a second.
Over the next few weeks Tegenkamp and teammates Chris Solinsky, Tim Nelson and Andrew Bumbalough will tune up with an indoor race or two at the University of Washington before heading to Australia to contest the 5,000 meters at the Melbourne Track Classic on March 3–an early attempt at the sub-13:20 world championships-standard. The race Down Under will feature a fast crowd, including American record-holder Bernard Lagat and Australian sub-13 minute man Craig Mottram.
“The goal is to get it out of the way,” Tegenkamp explained. “That way we have free reign leading up to U.S. outdoors. I’m just trying to get in some races to get the feel of it again. Getting in some race scenarios, work on some tactics and try to feel a little bit sharper before some of the big races start.”
He’ll get his start this weekend in San Diego, and despite an extended absence from the office, it will be business as usual tomorrow for Tegenkamp.