Nevada Union grad looking toward Olympics
Corey Creasey was 20 miles into the first full marathon of his eight-year, long-distance running career when the one thing he could always count on – his body – began to betray him.
Creasey, a former Nevada Union and University of California-Berkeley cross country and track and field standout who, along with some of the top long-distance runners in the nation if not the world, was in Duluth, Minn. for Grandma’s Marathon last June. He was forced to dig deep.
” The pain came on real fast. I was surprised,” the 1997 NU grad said, “Cardiovascularly I was fine, but it was like my legs didn’t work anymore. With every step, I could feel the impact (in my bones). The muscles in my legs felt dead.
“Sometimes when you run, you close your eyes and just try to get through it. I did that for the about two miles, but when I opened them again, I started to see some blackness forming at the edges of my vision. I didn’t do that again.”
A little first-marathon trouble hasn’t slowed him down, though. Now he has his sights set even higher.
Aside from testing himself over 26.2 miles, Creasey’s main motivation for the trip back east from his home in Berkeley was to post a qualifying time for the 2004 United States Olympic Men’s Marathon Team Trials a little under seven months later.
“I knew I was close (to the qualifying time), so that really helped me,” he said. “I was running a sub-five minute, 30 second pace for the first 20 miles, but I was starting to slow down.”
Creasey fought through the pain and bouts of dizziness to finish 13th with a time of 2 hours, 21 minutes and five seconds to make the cut.
“It was my goal (to qualify), so I felt very lucky to have made it my first marathon,” he said. “It’s pretty common to train for the time you think it’d take to finish an event, so I’d run two and a half hours before, but at a much slower pace. I’d never run that far, that fast before.”
With a ticket to what may be the biggest race of his life in hand, Creasey will go toe-to-toe with close to 100 of the nation’s top men’s marathoners in Birmingham, Ala., at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The top three finishers will earn a spot on the Olympic team, provided their times are under 2:15.00. If not, the next highest finishers who have posted times 2:15.00 or better at sanctioned events since June will represent the United States in Athens this summer.
” I’d probably have to have a 2:13.00 to make the top three. I’m in the best shape of my life, so I think I have a slight chance. If I have the race of my life, who knows?,” Creasey said. “I think a top-20 finish it’s more feasible. And if all goes well in the future, there’s always China in 2008.”
Clyde Lehman, Creasey’s cross country coach at NU, had a warning for those foolhardy runners who would underestimate the rookie Saturday.
“I’ve coached cross country for 35 years and I’ve never seen anyone with his work ethic. It’s just phenomenal,” Lehman said. “With his focus, I wouldn’t count Corey out in any race on the planet.”
Born to run
Creasey’s career in running shoes got off to a relatively late start, but with a mix of innate talent and the aforementioned rock-solid work ethic, he found a way to make up for lost time.
“Corey came out for the team as a sophomore, but he showed instant promise,” Lehman said.
The next season, Creasey played a key role as the Miners won the first of three straight Sac-Joaquin Section Division I titles. He added to his already ballooning resume’ his senior year when he won both the section’s individual cross country and track and field 3,200 meter championships.
From there, Creasey went on to letter for Cal in both cross country and track and field.
Creasey, who posted an eighth-place finish in the 10,000 meters in the Pac-10 championships as a senior, said his best is yet to come.
“I feel like I’ve made a big jump since I left college. I find I do really well (training) on my own,” he said.
Instead of the short bursts of ultra-intense training he received at Cal, Creasey made the move to a more conservative regimen.
“Right now I’m on a high-mileage program. I’m running 100-110 miles a week, whereas in college I never ran more than 80 miles a week,” he said. “My program (works for me) because it’s at much more of a consistent level. It was very intense training in college over shorter periods of time. That tends to burn you out (more easily.)”
The switch in philosophies has paid big-time dividends.
Creasey, who topped former U.S. Olympian miler Gabe Jennings by .09 of a second to win the Humboldt Redwoods Half Marathon Oct.19, won the Pacific Association/United States Track and Field Association Road Race Grand Prix in the Men’s Open Division for 2003.
“I feel really comfortable competing with the upper echelon of runners now. The tone was set early because of my high school coach. Mr. Lehman was the first person who showed a belief in me and that helped me believe I could run with anybody.”
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As far as experts go, The Union’s “experts” have not exactly lived up to the billing so far this season.