published Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Baylor graduate Strang on world silver-medal team

Former Baylor School runner James Strang from Signal Mountain was part of a monumental United States achievement Sunday in Poland.

It has been tabbed "Miracle on Dirt" in Internet postings.

The six-man U.S. team finished second to Ethiopia and two points ahead of bronze medalist Kenya in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. The Americans all are pro runners, with Strang and Bobby Mack the oldest at 28.

"Historically, Americans don't finish in the top 30 in this event," Strang said Tuesday night soon after getting back home in Colorado Springs. "This is our first silver medal since 1984 and our first medal of any kind since 2001."

The competition is held every two years.

Ben True from New Hampshire led the U.S. contingent with a sixth-place finish on what Strang called "the most challenging course any of us has ever run in our careers. We've never faced so many elements in a race. We were constantly changing our game plan and our strategy -- right up till our race. We watched the juniors and women who ran before us and refined our tactics some more.

"Our game plan was to hold back the first two laps and then start moving up, which is exactly what we did."

The strengths of the U.S. group, Strang said, were the runners' relative equal ability, experience and camaraderie.

"On any given day any one of us can beat the others," said Strang, who ran collegiately for championship teams at Colorado and Arkansas. "This was one of the most balanced, experienced groups of cross country runners the U.S. ever has assembled."

And that combination paid off.

"This was the best of the best. This was the world championships. Just to be part of it was a huge accomplishment for all of us on the team," Strang said. "But to get a silver medal -- it was historic, beating the Kenyans -- is an experience I'll never forget."

Now he takes that experience and feeling of triumph into the outdoor track season.

• Current Signal Mountain junior Preston Elwell finished ninth in the javelin throw in a field of 20 college athletes last Saturday at the VertKlasse Invitational at High Point, N.C. His best throw was 160 feet, 10 inches.

The colleges represented included Duke and Wake Forest, among others.

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