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Whiteley a Step Closer to Olympics

July 22, 1988|Barbie Ludovise

Unlike many young runners, Greg Whiteley never got caught up in the popular, but often damaging, pursuit of running endless miles.

Run 80-mile weeks? Whiteley, 21, wouldn't hear of it.

Instead, Whiteley, a former University High School star and the most recent Orange County prep to run under nine minutes for 3,200-meters (8:57.4 in 1985), developed a successful track career on a basic virtue.

Patience.

It has helped Whiteley become one of the nation's best 5,000-meter runners.

Thursday night, Whiteley, who will be a senior at Brown University in the fall, qualified for the final in the men's 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. He finished second in his semifinal heat with a time of 13:50.26. The final is scheduled Saturday.

The top three finishers in the final will go to the Olympics in Seoul.

Whiteley was in third for most of the race behind distance standouts Mark Nenow and Doug Padilla. But with 400 meters to go, Whiteley outkicked Padilla with a 57-second final lap to place second.

As for the final, Whiteley said, "I'm excited. It's going to be a lot of fun. I never doubt myself, but it's going to be a real honor to be in the race with such great runners."

Whiteley said that when he and Brown coach Dan Challener began outlining his schedule for the 1988 season last December, the Olympic trials weren't even mentioned.

"I thought about it--but not for '88," Whiteley said. "We decided my first priority should be the NCAA outdoors, then the Penn Relays, then NCCA indoors . . . the (Olympic) trials weren't really in the picture."

But, after placing third in the 5,000 at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in June, Whiteley decided to give qualifying a try. He met the Olympic qualifying standard (13:49.15) with a 13:37 personal best at an all-comers meet in Boston.

In high school, Whiteley was recruited only by Brown, which offers no athletic scholarships. Although UCLA and Arizona showed some interest, they told Whiteley they'd welcome him, but only as a walk-on.

Whiteley chose Brown after meeting Challener.

"I didn't want to go to a real high-powered program right from high school," Whiteley said. "I was a young runner (in that) I only ran about 30-35 miles in high school. So I knew if I was thrown in a 70- to 80-mile-a-week program, I'd probably be finished after the first (season)."

"He (Challener) was always talking about the big picture, about bringing me up slowly, and aiming for the future after college as well as during college."

Longevity--and the avoidance of burnout--is a popular topic with Whiteley and his coach.

"Greg knows he has a long future in front of him," Challener said. "He doesn't live or die running every day. He still trains much less than the average distance runner, about 60 miles (a week) at most. He has a real understanding of taking days off. He knows what's important for a (long-lasting) career."

Whiteley, who has steadily improved his speed, dropping his time in the mile from 4:13 in high school to 3:57 this season, sees great days ahead.

"I'm just set on improving every year, mostly," he said. "But 1992 is really the time I'd like to have an impact."

Mark Junkermann, formerly of Los Alamitos High and UCLA, survived the preliminary and semifinal heats of the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Olympic trials. He, along with 13 others, will compete in the final tonight at 8.

Junkermann, 22, ran a 8:39.41 and placed seventh in his preliminary heat. In the semifinals, he placed third in his heat in 8:39.15.

Junkermann entered the trials as the 10th-ranked steeplechaser in the nation with a personal best of 8:33.66.

A month ago, Junkermann said: "Everyone goes in thinking they can make the team, and probably 10 of us could. You really never know. People can be surprised."

Other performances by Orange County runners at the Olympic trials included:

--Beth McGrann of UC Irvine placed 23rd in her heat in the 10,000-meter run with a time of 36:06.70.

--Jill Harrington of UCI finished eighth in her heat in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:29.65. Buffy Rabbitt of UCI also finished eighth in her heat in the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:24.40.

--Polly Plumer, former University High runner, finished 10th in her preliminary heat of the 3,000 meters with a time of 10:04.09.

--Rusty Knowles, formerly of UCI, finished 12th in his preliminary heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 9:10.04.

This week's schedule:

Tuesday: Saddleback College all-comers track meet, 5 p.m. Three-mile cross-country race starts at 7 p.m. For information, call 582-4545.

Thursday: El Toro Three-Mile Cross Country series, 6:30 p.m. Sycamore Park, El Toro. For information, call 770-0444.

Saturday: Seventh Cypress 5 & 10K. 5700 Orange, Cypress. 7:30 a.m. For information, call 229-6780.

San Clemente Fiesta 5,000 5K Run/Walk. 8 a.m. Bank of San Clemente, San Clemente. For information, call 492-1131.

Sunday: First 5K Run of the Yorba Linda/Placentia YMCA. 7:45 a.m. For information, call 777-9622.

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