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Dr. J. on Running

Vicki Mitchell

Champ Points to Sydney

Published August 9, 1999 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The women's 2-mile race was the featured event at the last of the July Thursday Nite Races hosted by the Genesee Valley Harriers at the McQuaid High School Track. Runners came to Rochester from throughout Upstate New York, from Pompey to Buffalo. Former Cortland runner and perennial national champion Vicki Mitchell was favored to win the race.

Mitchell returned recently to her hometown to accept the position of distance coach at the University of Buffalo. She had coached and taught in Kansas City, Missouri, for a year when she received an offer to return to Buffalo. With a Division I team of over 40 distance runners, the Buffalo program offered Mitchell an opportunity and a challenge.

As the runners warmed up in the hot evening haze, Mitchell arrived in a casual outfit. Evidently, she had no plans to run. Her racing schedule included road races on both the previous and subsequent weekends, and precluded a time trial on the track. The disappointment of not watching Mitchell race turned into a chance to talk to her about her Olympic plans.

A Buffalo native, Mitchell attended Amherst High School, and competed in cross-country and outdoor track. After graduation, she attended the State University of New York in Cortland, where she studied physical education. After a slow start, Mitchell flourished through the coaching of Jack Daniels, winning seven national championships in her junior and senior years.

On the way to ten All-America honors, Mitchell won NCAA Division III national championships in cross-country, 3,000 meters, 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters. She graduated in 1991 with a Bachelor in Science in Physical Education, crowning an undefeated year on the trails and the track. Her indoors victory in the 5,000 meters in 16:48.79 remains an NCAA Division III national record.

Mitchell ran professionally after college, as she pursued a masters degree in exercise physiology at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. She returned to Buffalo in 1993 where she taught and coached for five years. During that time, she won numerous road races, including the Syracuse Festival of Races 5K and the Rochester Lilac 10K.

As Mitchell's experience grew her race times dropped. She improved her personal records at all distances, running a 15:54 5K, 32:23 10K, and a 2:41:05 Marathon. The latter race was her marathon debut, which she ran in Hong Kong last February to qualify for the United States Olympic trials.

The US women's marathon Olympic trials will be Mitchell's next step on the road to Sydney. The trials will be held in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 26, 2000. The top three finishers will represent the US, contingent on meeting the Olympic standard.

In addition to the marathon, Mitchell plans to try for the 10,000-meter team at the track and field trials in Sacramento, CA, in July 2000. In a change from past practice, next year's trials will not have preliminary races, but just a final. For that purpose, the organizers have tightened the qualifying standard to maintain a reasonable field. If Mitchell's past performances are any indication, she will qualify comfortably for the A-standard in the trials.

Mitchell's preparations for the Olympic trials consist of 60 to 70 miles of running per week, expected to peak at about 100 miles per week. Her week includes three quality workouts: a 6-mile tempo run followed by an hour at a steady pace, an interval workout on the track and a 15-mile long run.

In addition to the Olympics, Mitchell will be busy hosting the US Junior Olympics Track and Field competition at the University of Buffalo in July 2000.

Back at the McQuaid track, Mitchell cheered on Patti Ford to a first-place finish and a meet record in the 2-mile race. Mitchell's enthusiasm was evidence of her enjoyment of running as a racer as well as a spectator.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at

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