Heitzman three times golden at Nationals
Paul Heitzman finally found some competition, and then he ran right past it.
Heitzman ran at the USA Track and Field Master's Championship at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., last weekend and came home a champion in the 5,000, 10,000 and 1,500 meter runs.
"It was really a good meet," the 69-year-old rural Eudora resident said. "I was pushed in all of (the races). I had to really run hard to win."
Going into the national meet, winning the 5,000 meter run was one of his main goals because it was the first race of the meet. Heitzman's best race turned out to be his last.
He won the 1,500 meter run in 5 minutes 18.11 seconds his best time in the 1,500 meters this year by passing two runners on the home straight away.
"I really kicked it in in the home stretch and passed both of them," said Heitzman, who led for the first two laps of the race. "I've never really been challenged. It was great to come from behind."
Heitzman achieved his goal of winning the 5,000 meters a goal he set after placing second in last year's nationals. But he finished in 19:09.03, a time similar to those he has run all year, but just over nine seconds slower than his goal of a 19-minute run.
"I was pleased to win it," Heitzman said. "The competition was there. It was a really good race. I would have like to run about nine seconds faster, but I wasn't too disappointed."
With that first victory under his belt, Heitzman headed into the 10,000 meter run with a boost of confidence and another goal to achieve. Health concerns caused him to pull out of the 10,000 meters at last year's national meet, and this was a year to retake the crown. And he did just that.
Heitzman won his fifth 10,000 meter national title in 40:26.21 and ended his reign in the 65- to 69-year-old age bracket a champion in his three main events.
The 800-meter run was the only race Heitzman ran that he didn't win. But it was only about 4 hours after the 10,000 meters.
"The second lap I just ran out of gas," Heitzman said. "I had to run pretty hard to win the 10,000. It just wasn't enough time to recover. I tried to do too much."
He said he went into the race thinking he was going to run faster than he had before, but his legs just wouldn't cooperate.
"Every time I run, I run as fast as I can," Heitzman said. "So it's pretty hard to do any better than you normally do."