Ritz Is Going Pro

As much as it pains me to pass up the opportunity to absolutely rail on Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery for stopping the drugs and suddenly running the 100m slower than Kevin Toth (the house like structure who heaved the shot put like it was a tennis ball, poking a needle in his arse for the energy to do so), I must turn to the men's 10k. There is bigger and better news. Dathan Ritzenhein ran 31:13. And now he's turning professional.

Dathan Ritzenhein (two time National High School Cross Country Champion, 13:44 5k in High School, 13:27 as a college freshman, last year's NCAA cross country champion, and most recently a 27:38 for 10k, also an Olympic 'A' standard) might just have had enough. Of course, this may all be speculation, but what better place to speculate than the online column where Coach Wetmore himself comes to read about the latest.

You see, Ritz came out of high school as what would have been the most prized high school runner ever, had he not come out when Mr. Webb did as well. In college, in his first NCAA Championship race, Ritz was fourth, Webb 11th. That track season Ritz turned heads with an eye popping 13:27 on the track. Adam Goucher, the former four-time NCAA star and Colorado legend (he's the only runner I've ever seen a huge painted mural of) and multiple time USA champion (PR 13:11) ran 13:31 as a senior in college to PR and win NCAA's over some small names like Keflezighi, Abdirahman, and Lagat. Ritz could have beaten him as a freshman. He is the real deal, and he just may take a page out of Webb's book and take advantage of that while he can.

You see, after that stellar Freshman campaign, Ritz spent his sophomore year out with stress fractures, then returned to action as a junior, winning NCAA Cross and finishing up this year with his incredible 10k PR. Now, he has one year of school left, and two years of eligibility. Of course, you would think he would run this year, finish school, and talk to Nike. But here we are, July 11, Ritz is hobbling around on yet another stress fracture, and no one is talking about him getting ready for his senior cross country season. So what is the plan?

It doesn't take long to see a slight change in his attitude towards things from 2003 to 2004.

On famed and sometimes criticized coach Mark Wetmore of Colorado:
In July of 2003 he told Parker Morse of mensracing.com - "Coach Wetmore is one of the best coaches out there. We train smarter than almost every other program, we just happen to have thick headed people like Gouch and me. Coach Wetmore is underappreciated given what he has to work with and how he balances all the egos."

In June of 2004 he told Parker Morse of mensracing.com -"It's still a good fit (with Wetmore). We have our differences, but we're consistent. We work together. He always says we have 51 percent of the say, but really he has 51 percent and we have 49 percent." (slightly less enthusiastic about his mentor?)

On using he eligibility:
In July of 2003 he told Parker Morse of mensracing.com - "I think our team is going to be great in two years."

In June of 2004 he told Parker Morse of mensracing.com "I have to run a lot more than some post-collegians do" (In response to Morses') Are you considering not using all of your eligibility: "No Comment."

Excuse me Mr. Ritzenhein? No comment? You're not a running back who slaughtered his ex wife - you can tell us more than that!

On turning pro:
In Winter of 2003 Ritzenhein told Erik Heinonen (Colorado journalism student) in a runnersworld article this summer - "When they're flashing big numbers, it's pretty appetizing."

You see, while Ritz is having to race the amazingly asinine NCAA schedule (he won the Big 12 5k one day after his 10k PR in California!), Webb has his year structured around his personal training and racing.

I have no inside source, and I'm privy to no information that you can't access with a cup of coffee and your 'google' search engine. But one thing is for sure- Ritz won't be in the Colorado black and gold one year from now.

It's just too bad that when Ritz leaves the college scene, he'll have to face EPO-spiked roid raging runners with nothing but the greatest cardio respiratory system known to white man. And you get the feeling that if he could get on a better schedule than the NCAA run til your fried and quit when you're 23 years old, he might be able to stay healthy and compete with the best in the world. But for now he's just got to get healthy. I've been trying to reach him all day; apparently there's this great new place out in the San Francisco Bay Area that does amazing rehab with runners.

Contributing pieces to this article came from: (www.mensracing.com) and (www.runnersworld.com).

Note: Matt Goodwin is a freelance columnist for scrunners.com. A new column will be posted from Goodwin each week. Goodwin is a graduate of Wade Hampton (G) High School and Furman University.

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