April 14, 2009
By Caitlin Bonney
Coming up on his biggest race so far this season, Washington State junior Sam Ahlbeck has his goals set high. Ahlbeck, ranked ninth nationally in the 3000m steeplechase, is looking to improve his personal record again in his second race in the event this outdoor season.
"This weekend I want to run 8:47 or 8:48," Ahlbeck said, "At Stanford, in my first steeple, I PR'd by two and a half seconds so that was kind of a rust buster. Now I've gotten to do some speed work, gotten that first steeple out of the way, addressed all the mental issues, so this is where we can kind of let the leash go and let the dog chase the car."
Getting on the same page as Coach Jason Drake has allowed Ahlbeck's times to drop and the possibility of an appearance at nationals is becoming very real. Listening to JD was one thing for Ahlbeck, but he says that buying into what he was saying has made the difference. Since "buying in" he is fourth in the West Region with a NCAA Regional Qualifying steeple time of 8:53.46.
The steeplechase itself is exciting for Ahlbeck because it isn't one of those events you can practice daily or compete in every week. Consistent training with mileage and speed workouts has kept Ahlbeck feeling good and ready to race, although he says his main tactic is to just "run fast."
Last weekend at UCLA Ahlbeck ran the 1500m in preparation for the steeplechase at the Mt. SAC Relays this coming weekend in Walnut, Calif. Ahlbeck's time of 3:53.33 was a PR.
"Sam won his race really easily this weekend so I think he can even go under 3:50 in the 1500m. We wanted him to compete at UCLA and he did," Coach Drake said. At Mt. SAC, Ahlbeck hopes to get closer to his season goal of running 8:45, an Olympic "B" qualifying standard. With a field of very fast men, including five professional runners, Mt. SAC is guaranteed to be a battle.
"I think 8:45 is possible. It'd be fun," Ahlbeck said, "But wherever I end up time-wise it doesn't really matter as long as I'm finishing well in races. I'd like to be top three at Pac-10s and top five at regionals to qualify for nationals." Another thing contributing to Ahlbeck's success this year is that he is having a genuinely good time doing what he's doing. His roommates, who are also members of the WSU track team, have been a source of inspiration and always been around to settle his nerves.
For this weekend though Ahlbeck has taken a nothing to lose attitude. He feels that even if the race is a flop and he throws up afterwards, the experience will all help him reach his goals in the end.