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Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.

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Ryan Hill, photo by PhotoRun.net

 


US 5000 Champion Seeks Consistency

Earlier this summer, when Ryan Hill - newly-crowned national 5000 meter champion - appeared in the Hayward Field mixed zone after his unexpected victory, the first question tossed out by the press corps was, "Who are you?" The former North Carolina State graduate patiently rolled out a detailed reply for the media representatives, many of whom had frankly forgotten - or never really knew - that Hill had competed in 2013 World Championships in Moscow, advanced to the final, and finished a respectable 10th.

Ryan Hill - a Hickory, North Caroling native - honed his middle distance skills at NC State under the watchful eye of the highly-respected Rollie Geiger. As a Wolfpack athlete, Hill was a 10-time NCAA All-American and was the runner-up in the mile in the NCAA indoor championships. Now a member of the Bowerman Track Club, Hill continues to perfect his craft while guided by Jerry Schumacher.

In the preliminary round of the 5000 meter run here at the World Championships, Hill ran a heady, controlled race, gliding over the line to finish 6th in 13:19.67 - easily notching the fastest time qualifier and advancing to Saturday's final. "It always is a sloppy finish," notes Hill in reflecting on the always-frenetic scramble for qualifying spots for the final. "It's always tense. It takes years off my life, I think." Was he aware of the second heat's faster pace opening the door for additional second heat athletes to advance? "Oh yeah. Without even looking at the clock, I could feel that we were running much faster. I was happy because I knew 10 guys could get through. So at that point I could just relax, sit in 12th, and just have a strategy of racing my way into the top 10 - which is a lot easier than trying to get top 5 and putting yourself out there a little more." Hill's USA teammates - Galen Rupp [a time qualifier in 13:20.78] and Ben True [an automatic qualifier in 13:45.09] - will join him in the 5000 final.

With the capture of his first outdoor national championship in June, Hill is eager to develop the consistency of performance that will demonstrate his 5000 title was not merely a one-off fluke. "I'm 25 now. Physically, I am not going to get a whole lot better. It's just running a good race now," Hill explains as he assesses how he ascends to the next level. "Physically, I probably have all the tools I'm ever going to have - maybe add some strength in my late 20's. But it's really all about running the right race - tactically nailing it."

Hill knows he needn't tinker with his training/coaching environment. Now living in Portland, he is a member of the Bowerman Track Club and is training with other top distance talent. "I work out with everyone: Evan Jager ; Dan Huling; Mo Ahmed; Chris Derrick; Lopez Lomong," offers Hill as he cites his top flight training partners and the sharp practices they consistently crank out.

"Yeah, we're racing each other on speed days. It's insane. But it helps us get a lot better." Hill knows the work is hard and the margin for error is thin. "You can see that Evan is in the best shape of his life. You just have to run a perfect race to get a medal. Sometimes it can be discouraging. It's a great challenge." Hill is quick to give props to coach Schumacher and acknowledges the responsibility for improvement rests with him as the athlete. "Coaching is not the problem," he smiles. "It's all me!"

Looking ahead to the 5000 final, Hill knows the race presents a great opportunity. He winces when a journalist innocently asks about how it feels to make his first world championship final. "Well I was in Moscow's final, so I know all about it." And Hill offers more details. "It's really hard. You might get lucky to get top 8," he reveals. "Hopefully some luck will play in. Hopefully I can stick in lane 1 and some things will open up so I don't have to pass people outside." What about anticipated race pace? "God, I hope it's slow. But there's no telling. You've got some big hitters in the final who probably want it to be a little quicker," observes Hill as he thinks about toeing the line next to Mo Farah and Hagos Gebrhiwet. "I have to get ready to hang on."

Just minutes after completing his preliminary race, the young distance star is already thinking about his race strategy. "There are two ways to do it: Go for a medal and you risk blowing up; or sit back and you risk not being in the top 10 - but maybe you can get 5th that way," Hill puzzles. His victorious outing in the USATF 5000 final proved to be an important teachable moment for the young star. "It helped me learn that I can make a big move with the leaders with 2 or 3 laps to go and still have a big kick. That's always been my problem in the past. I am really going to have to sit and think about which one I want to try for a few days." The former Wolfpack athlete already knows what will mean success for him in the final. "I am always just trying to get better, improve myself. I was 10th in Moscow. So if I can get better than 10th, that's improvement. If I get really lucky and things go well, I can get a medal."

After the world championships conclude, Hill is off to Switzerland for one final race. "I am hoping to get into the Brussels 5K, finish off the season there, and get a PR." What is he planning to do this fall? "Hopefully I can celebrate a good race on Saturday."

But first Ryan Hill has a date with the best distance runners on the planet in the World Championship 5000 final. A good performance - the kind of performance which is well within Hill's current capability - on Saturday will not only be one step forward on the road to greater consistency. But a good showing will most certainly be one giant leap toward greater name recognition.

RunBlogRun Some photographs on this site have been reproduced with permission from runblogrun.com.