Abbey D'Agostino ready for pro challenges

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
1:36
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Abbey D'AgostinoTim O'Dowd/Dartmouth AthleticsAbbey D'Agostino is taking her NCAA championship experience to the professional ranks.
Seven-time NCAA track champion Abbey D’Agostino signed a professional contract with New Balance on June 18. She will continue her professional career with coach Mark Coogan, who oversaw her success at Dartmouth.

D'Agostino's contract supports her through the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials, where she will look to make her first Olympic team. She spoke with ESPN.com recently to discuss her transition from NCAA star to the professional ranks.

Christopher Chavez: How easy of a decision was it for you to feel comfortable with New Balance

D’Agostino: It was pretty seamless. I knew I was looking for a company that wasn’t just there to give me free gear. It was more of a holistic commitment to the company’s values. That jumped out to me instantly with New Balance. They support the individual and not just the runner. It’s a close-knit community and they really embrace the spirit of running. I’m so thrilled to have found what I was looking for.

Chavez: The original plan was to run the 5K at the Monaco Diamond League. Why have you decided to take the summer off?

D’Agostino: In the past month, I haven’t really been in one place for an extended period of time. I think that’s something I’m going to have to adjust to, but there was definitely a bunch of emotional input in those few weeks. Once that starts to affect you mentally, it starts to become physical. I was started to feel that.

I’m privileged to have a coach and support from New Balance that will support the decisions that are best for me. This is a year where I can afford to take a nice long break and that’s what I decided.

Chavez: What’s the plan for the fall?

D’Agostino: If I do any road race this fall, it would be to get my feet wet as a professional. My focus is going to be the U.S. Cross-Country championships in February.

Chavez: What’s the best thing about your chemistry with coach Mark Coogan?

D’Agostino: It’s more than just a coach-athlete relationship and I think it’s also become a friendship. There’s respect there as coach vs. athlete as well, but I’ve come to trust Mark because of his experience racing at this level. He’s also spent a lot of time fine-tuning the mental aspects for him as a runner. That’s what he’s translated to his athletes. That was a very critical element to my success at Dartmouth. I’m really looking forward to what our relationship has in store just building off what we’ve already established.

Chavez: When you first started off with running was it mainly for fun. You weren’t a running junkie that constantly looked up the rest of the competition before meets. When did you flip the switch into really thinking this could be a full-time profession?

D’Agostino: Towards the end of my junior year I started to become more comfortable racing at this caliber. Before it was like ‘Get in there with them and hang on’. I did a lot more leading and racing more consistently against tougher competition. It just felt more comfortable and I started to trust myself however the race played out.

To me, running goes best when I’m very well balanced with other areas of my life and I need to translate that to my professional career. I’m excited to put more energy into running now and also apply myself to things that I probably wouldn’t be able to do if I had a nine to five job. At Dartmouth, I was a student and an athlete and worked to keep those priorities balanced.

Chavez: Outside of running, what are some of your big hobbies and passions?

D’Agostino: I’m a psychology major and there’s much that I can do in terms of internships. I’m more interested in counseling. I really enjoy working with kids. I’ve spent a couple summers as a camp counselor. I did Girls on the Run at Dartmouth, so I’d love to do some volunteer coaching. I was involved with a couple Christian organizations at Dartmouth, so I’m looking forward to finding a new church in Boston and making new friends there.

Chavez: What is a little known fact about Abbey D’Agostino that the track world doesn’t know?

D’Agostino: Playing the violin in middle school was a traumatic experience for me. I always say that when people ask me if I’m musical at all. That turned me off from playing any instrument. I would cry every lesson, because I was so sensitive. I hated practicing. None of that would follow me to high school.

Chavez: You just joined Twitter (@abbey_dags). Why did it take so long?

D’Agostino: Oh my gosh! I had people nagging me to get that for years. It’s funny because I’m pretty much a 60-year-old woman with technology. It’s not my first interest. Even when I’m handling an iPhone, my mom will ask me if I have the flashlight app and I’ll say ‘I don’t even know what that is’.

Now my perspective has definitely changed, people think I had to get one. It was very much a choice. It’s a way to stay connected and I thought it would distract me. Now I do have the time to keep up with pop culture and what’s trending. It’s fun to see high school students and everyone being really enthusiastic about running.

Allen nets rare double at U.S. outdoors

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
10:44
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Devon AllenAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesDevon Allen adds a national title in the 110-meter hurdles to his previous NCAA championship.
The USATF Outdoor Championships concluded Sunday with a handful of noteworthy performances. Here's the best of the best.

Performer of the day: Devon Allen of the University of Oregon became the first man to double as the NCAA Champion and U.S. champion in the 110-meter hurdles since Renaldo Nehemiah in 1979. Allen won with a time of 13.155, edging out defending champion Ryan Wilson by .005 seconds.

Allen’s 13.16 at the NCAA Championship in Eugene on June 16 was the second fastest time by a collegiate athlete and scored points that led to a team title for the Ducks. Allen is also a wide receiver on the Oregon football team.

Comeback watch: Wallace Spearmon may have finished in second place in the 200-meter dash, but his 20.19 matched his season’s best from the 2014 adidas Grand Prix. In his post-race interview, Spearmon said he will stick around through the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, which would be his third olympic team. The 29-year-old is currently unsponsored.

Donn Cabral had a dream 2012 season, capturing the NCAA steeplechase title to cap off an undefeated season over the water barriers, and he led the 3,000-meter steeplechase final for a few laps at the 2012 Olympics.

Cabral struggled in 2013, though, and finishing sixth at the U.S. Championships and being diagnosed with Lyme disease. He showed signs over the weekened of being back at full health with a late surge to challenge American record holder Evan Jager and Dan Huling in the last 400-meters of Sunday’s steeplechase final. Cabral would finish third in 8:20.04. Jager won in 8:18.83.

Heartbreak of the meet: Nike’s Bershawn Jackson went down after the first hurdle of the men’s 400-meter hurdle race with a pulled groin. Jackson finished fourth at the 2012 Olympic Trials, missing a place on the team by just one spot.

After qualifying for the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Jackson’s bad luck caught up to him in the semifinals and he suffered a hamstring injury. Jackson has said his goal is to return to the form that had him ranked in the top five in the world for most of his career.

Johnny Dutch won the 400 hurdles in 48.93 to capture his first national title after six previous appearances in the finals. Last year, Dutch missed a place on the national team for the IAAF World Championships by one spot.

Wire-to-wire wins: Duane Solomon took the men’s 800-meter title, running from the front at the start of the race. Solomon set a new stadium record with the 1:44.30 victory, thanks in part to an outstanding 1:15.8 split at 600 meters. Casimir Loxsom of the Brooks Beasts Track Club fought for second place and finished in 1:45.97 over Erik Sowinski.

New Balance’s Jenny Simpson won the women’s 1,500-meter run in 4:04.96, beating out teenage sensation Mary Cain. Simpson led from the start and took the field through the first 400 meters in 68.76 seconds.

Morgan Uceny fell 800 meters into the race, which brought back memories of her fall in the 1,500-meter final at the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. She finished last in 4:24.01.

National depth: The United States has six of the top 20 fastest women in the world for the 800-meter run in 2014. Ajee Wilson captured the U.S. national title with her season-best 1:58.70. NCAA champion Laura Roesler broke the two-minute barrier for the first time in her career as she finished second in 1:59.04. Brenda Martinez, the 2013 world bronze medalist, finished fifth in 2:00.18.

Coburn beats the heat at U.S. outdoors

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
1:11
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Emma CoburnAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesEmma Coburn's steeplechase title was won with a meet-record time.
The U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships continued on Saturday with more national titles awarded. Here's the best of the best from the day.

Performer of the day: New Balance’s Emma Coburn was not fazed by the 86-degree California heat. The 2012 Olympic finalist pulled away from the rest of the field to win the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:19.72, breaking the U.S. Championship meet record and coming within two seconds of her personal best. Coburn also has the third fastest time in the world with her 9:17.84 set at the Prefontaine Classic.

Ashley Higginson (2nd, 9:27.59) and Aisha Praught (4th, 9:34.69) set personal bests in the race, cutting seven and five seconds, respectively, off their previous marks.

Race of the day: 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson captured her third national title in the 100-meter hurdles, upsetting defending world champion Brianna Rollins in the final.

Rollins finished fifth in 12.81, but still owns the year's world-best time with her 12.53 from the Golden Gala in Rome on June 5.

Lolo Jones continued her return to track and field after competing at the Winter Olympics in Sochi with a third place finish in 12.65.

Comeback of the day: Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano kicked down Patrick Casey of the Nike Oregon Track Club in the final 100 meters to claim the 1,500-meter national title in 3:38.63. Manzano is in his first season under contract with Hoka One One.

American record threatened: Erik Kynard attempted three high jumps at 2.41 meters. Charles Austin's American record of 2.40 meters has stood since 1991. Currently 5th in the World, Kynard has spoken only about his desire to attack the world record of 2.45 meters set by Javier Sotomayor in 1993.

Lagat continues dominance at U.S. outdoors

June, 28, 2014
Jun 28
11:00
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Bernard Lagat Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Bernard Lagat now has seven national titles at 5,000 meters.
The U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships continued at Hornet Stadium at Sacramento State on Friday, with several national titles awarded and plenty of noteworthy accomplishments.

Best male performance: Bernard Lagat captured his seventh U.S. title at 5,000 meters. The 39-year-old closed in 54.76 seconds for his final 400 meters and took the title with an overall time of 13:31.41.

Lagat, who passed Andrew Bumbalough of the Bowerman Track Club with 100 remaining, is coming off an indoor season in which he captured a silver medal at 3,000 meters distance at the IAAF World Championships. He will turn 40 in December.

Best female performance: American record holder Molly Huddle out-kicked Shannon Rowbury to win her second U.S. national title at the 5,000 meters in 15:01.56. Huddle led the majority of the race, but had to hold off several attempts by Rowbury to pass her in the final 50 meters.

Most surprising moment: Camas (Wash.) High School junior Alexa Efraimson knew only the top four finishers in her section of the women’s 1,500-meter semifinal would advance to the next round. Halfway through the race Efraimson ran on the heels of world championship finalists Jenny Simpson and Mary Cain. The teenager would finish seventh in her section and fail to advance, but her race tactics will serve her well as she competes at the U.S. Junior Championships for a chance to represent America in the IAAF World Junior Championships.

Comeback stories
Trey Hardee won the decathlon with a world-leading total of 8,599 points. Hardee scored 8,518 earlier in the year at the Hypomeeting in Götzis, Austria.

Sanya Richard-Ross continues her comeback season after a toe injury sidelined her for a majority of 2013. Her 50.03 in the 400-meter semifinals matches a world-leading time. It is her fastest race since the Stockholm Diamond League Meeting after the Olympics, where she ran 49.89 seconds for the one-lap race.

Scratches yield new champions
Michael Rodgers has yet to run under 10-seconds in the the 100-meter dash in 2014, but his time of 10.09 was enough to claim the title in Sacramento. Justin Gatlin and Baylor freshman Trayvon Brommell are the two fastest 100-meter runners this year, but they opted not to compete this weekend, and Dentarius Locke pulled up with an injury in the semifinals.

Olympian Ryan Bailey took second behind Rodgers in 10.23. Rodgers will face stiffer competition as he takes on Gatlin and Tyson Gay, returning from a doping suspension, at the Lausanne Diamond League meet next week.

On the women's side, defending national champion English Gardner did not react well out of the starting blocks in the 100 meters, but Tianna Bartoletta took off quickly and captured the title in 11.15.

Bartoletta was fourth at the 2012 Olympics and dabbled in bobsled before refocusing on track. She capitalized Friday on the withdrawal of Olympic champion Allyson Felix and Tori Bowe, the fastest American woman in 2014

Triathlete Verzbicas back after injuries

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
11:29
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Lukas VerzbicasAP ImagesLukas Verzbicas is back from a harrowing accident and aiming for success near his hometown.
Lukas Verzbicas’ road to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro is making a stop in his backyard, with the graduate of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, taking part in the ITU World Triathlon Series in Chicago on June 29.

“The Olympics are two years away and there’s still a lot of work and improvement to be done,” said Verzbicas, who was a track star at Sandburg High before becoming a professional triathlete. “The Olympic qualification points period already started, but there’s still time to focus on the big picture and continue being healthy in training.”

For Verzbicas, a successful summer would be defined by a return to the podium that puts recent struggles behind him.

Verzbicas is less than two years removed from a bicycle crash while training in Colorado Springs that left him with broken collarbone, two fractured vertebra and a collapsed lung. The sub-four minute high school miler needed to learn to walk again after suffering post-operation paralysis in his right leg.

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