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Two more ZAP runners earn spots at U.S. Olympic Trials — with a nod to ‘losing’ MVP teammate

By David Rogers. PORTLAND, Ore. — Whether consciously or sub-consciously, a long distance runner’s otherwise losing performance can make him a track team’s MVP on any given day.

Blowing Rock-based ZAP Endurance team member Ryan Ford unofficially earned that honor  on June 9 while competing in a 5000-meter race at the Portland Track Festival.

Ford, who was joined by ZAP teammates Andrew Colley and Eric van der Els in the elite international field for the 5000 race in Portland, had previously qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials (June 21-29, Eugene, Ore.) at the 10,000 meters distance. All three were hoping to automatically qualify at the shorter, 5000-meter distance, too, by running faster than 13:25, the auto-qualifying standard set for the Trials. The Portland event was the last opportunity before the qualifying window closed, according to ZAP Endurance head coach Pete Rea.

“The race started out slow,” Rea recalled to High Country Sports. “So Ryan picked it up and did all of the heavy lifting. He pulled the rest of the pack with him until burning out with two laps to go. He didn’t win but his understanding what was needed and his initiative vs. our goals proved critical.”

Without Ford’s torrid pace, Rea said, there was a lower probability that van der Els, Colley and the other top seven competitors would have bettered the automatic-qualifying standard because of the slow, early pace.

As it turned out, both van der Els and Colley lowered their personal bests for the 5000m, to 13:21.78 and 13:23:24, respectively, in placing No. 4 and No. 6 in the elite field.

Dylan Jacobs, running under the Switzerland-based On athletic apparel banner, finished No.1 (13:18.18), followed by India national team member Gulveer Singh (13:18.92) at No. 2 and Wesley Kiptoo (13:21.77) at No. 3 (just 1/100th of a second ahead of ZAP’s van der Els).

van der Els’ No.4 finish established a new ZAP Endurance team record for the 5000-meter distance, the long-standing old record set by Tommy Morgan (13:27; 2004-2011). Morgan, who now lives in Oregon with his wife and children, was on hand to help celebrate the ZAP team’s accomplishments.

Also among the 20-man field of runners in the 5000-meter event was Daniel Simmons, an American Fork High School (Utah) athlete who smashed his own national high school record in finishing No. 8, in 13:25.86, a fraction of a second short of the automatic qualifying standard for  U.S. Trials.

ZAP Endurance, the Blowing Rock-based, professional running team organized in 2001 by former women’s elite marathoner Zika Rea, will have almost half of their elite distance running team members competing in Eugene’s U.S. Olympic Trials, vying for berths representing the United States at the Paris Olympics.

  • Women’s 10,000m: Amanda Vestri
  • Men’s 10,000m: Ryan Ford, Andrew Colley
  • Men’s 5000m: Eric van der Els, Andrew Colley

Of the other members of the ZAP team, Tristin Van Ord, Tyler Pennel, Josh Izewski, Annmarie Tuxbury and Whitney Macon are focused on the marathon. Dan Schaffer just missed qualifying for the U.S. Trials at 1500 meters.


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