IN NOVEMBER OF 1981 Pat Porter made his TAC Cross Country Championships debut, finishing an unremarked 18th. But his name would be very much on every harrier fan’s lips for the next decade, as he began a record string of 8 straight wins, 1982–89. Here’s how T&FN reported his victories at the time, in the December issues of 1982–85 and the January issues of 1987–90:
1982: Porter Paces AW
Meadowlands, New Jersey, November 28 /by Jim Dunaway/—Twenty-three-year-old Pat Porter, who didn’t make a lasting impression on too many people in finishing 6th in the ’82 TAC 10,000 or winning the National Sports Festival 10,000, made a lot of converts today with an impressive frontrunning victory in the TAC Men’s Cross Country Championship.
Porter, the 1980–81 NAIA cross country champion from Adams State in Alamosa, Colorado (7600-feet), took the lead from NCAA winner Mark Scrutton after a mile of the 10,000m course had been run (in 4:26).
“We went out a lot slower than I thought we would,” said Porter. “Usually somebody goes out in something suicidal like 4:08 or 4:10. So I was comfortable. Then, when the pace eased a little I just kicked out.”
Surprisingly no one went with him, although a group consisting of Scrutton, Jim Hill, Thom Hunt, Nick Rose, Larry Cuzzort, Don Janicki, and Dan Dillon formed behind Porter, apparently ready to pounce if he should falter. But falter he didn’t. As the course twisted and turned Porter kept widening his lead. “Every time I went around a corner I thought I’d see them starting to reel me in,” he said. “But at about 3M I saw I was actually widening my lead and then I started to think that I’d win.”
Porter hit the finish in 28:50, 17 seconds ahead of Scrutton, whose only previous loss this year was also to Porter. Behind them came Oregon’s Hill, then Cuzzort and Rose.
Porter also led Athletics West to the team championship with 45 points to 62 for Maccabi and 93 for the New Balance TC.
Not that the team championship means that much in this meet. Asked when he became a member of Athletics West, Porter replied, “About two weeks ago. They called me up and asked me ‘Do you want to run in the Nationals?’ and I said ‘Yes.’ I’d probably have gone with anyone who asked me.”
If Maccabi (for example) had called Porter first, the LA club would have won the title easily. Ditto for New Balance, except that it would have been close.
Porter, whose best 10,000 time is the 28:26.27 he ran finishing 4th in the 8 Nations meet in September, is a Colorado native who attended the same Denver suburban high school (Evergreen) as John Hinckley.
Like women’s winner Lesley Welch, Porter has a twin sister who didn’t run in the meet. “She tried running for a while and liked it,” said Porter. “Then she beat her boyfriend in a race, and that was that.”
A fifth-year senior in Marketing at Adams State, Porter will get his degree in January ’83. After competing in the obscurity of the NAIA during his college career he accepts his virtual anonymity so far but hopes a national championship will bring him some respect. “Everybody always gets my name wrong—especially Track & Field News. They usually call me Parker or Potter.
“Maybe they’ll get it right now.”
1982 Results (10,000m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 28:50;
2. Mark Scrutton’ (4C) 29:07; 3. Jim Hill (adidas) 29:08; 4. Larry Cuzzort (Sub 4) 29:09; 5. Nick Rose’ (Sub 4) 29:10; 6. Dan Dillon (AW) 29:22; 7. Kevin Ryan (AW) 29:23; 8. Don Janicki (Macc) 29:23; 9. Bob Hodge (NBTC) 29:26; 10. Dan Henderson (UCTC) 29:27; 11. Tim Hacker (Macc) 29:29; 12. Scott Jenkins (Macc) 29:30; 13. Sosthenes Bitok’ (adidas) 29:32; 14. Ed Eyestone (Macc) 29:33; 15. Steve Plasencia (AW) 29:34; 16. Thom Hunt (AW) 29:35; 17. Paul Williams’ (Macc) 29:36; 18. Bill Reifsnyder (Macc) 29:37; 19. Zackariah Barie’ (UTEP) 29:37; 20. Bruce Bickford (NBTC) 29:40; 21. John ldstrom (UCTC) 29:41; 22. Steve McCormack (Macc) 29:42; 23. Tom Smith (AW) 29:46; 24. Paul Gorman (NBTC) 29:47; 25. Charles Bevier (unat) 29:47.
1983: 2 In A Row For Porter
State College, Pennsylvania, November 26 /by Ruth Laney/—Pat Porter proved he is for real today, winning his second consecutive TAC Cross Country title with a characteristic frontrunning strategy.
The 24-year-old Porter, a recent graduate of Colorado’s Adams State College, became the first harrier to win back-to-back national championships since Frank Shorter won 4 in a row from 1970 through ‘73.
Porter went out hard over Penn State’s Blue Golf Course route. Brisk winds helped dry most of the mud left by the previous day’s snow and rain. Porter led past the mile (4:33) and 2M (9:00) posts, towing a pack which included John Easker, Bill Donakowski, Jim Stintzi, Greg Fredericks and Hans Koeleman. The followers struggled along some 50m off the pace at the 2M mark.
By 3M, Porter held a 100m bulge, with Ed Eyestone and Stintzi battling for 2nd. After another mile, the pack had thinned out with Easker now holding the runner-up spot.
Porter widened his margin to 150m on an uphill stretch at 5M, with Easker still 2nd, Eyestone 3rd and little-known Samson Obwacha coming on strong. By the finish, it was Porter by a football field, with Obwacha collaring everyone thanks to a strong finishing surge. Porter clocked 29:19, with Obwacha 14 seconds back.
“I like to go out hard. That’s just me,” said Porter. “I was a little bit surprised that no one went with me today. Last year when I made my break [after a mile], no one came with me because nobody knew who I was. They figured I’d fade and come back to them.
“But when I made my move today, they all knew who I was. I figured someone would try to go with me. I wanted to show people I wasn’t a fluke.
“No question about it, I had a great day today. I felt if I went out fast and anyone came with me, I had the strength to stay out front. I felt I could outkick anyone if I had to.
“They go out hard in the World Championships and that’s what I’m training for,” said Porter, who regularly trains at about 8000-feet. The ’84 IAAF race will be held next March on the Meadowlands course over which Porter won the TAC title a year ago. He then ran 9th in the ‘83 IAAF contest.
[Ed: Porter went on to finish 4th in the IAAF XC, his highest finish ever.]
Porter also led Athletics West to a successful defense of its team title, easily outdistancing Converse West and the New Balance TC.
1. Pat Porter (AW) 29:19;
2. Samson Obwacha’ (CW) 29:19; 3. John Easker (WU) 29:41; 4. Ed Eyestone (Macc) 29:50; 5. Jim Stintzi (AW) 29:55; 6. Bruce Bickford (N Bal) 29:57; 7. Stijn Jaspers’ (Clem) 30:00; 8. Greg Fredericks (PSSS) 30:05; 9. Mark Curp (N Bal) 30:07; 10. Domingo Tibaduiza’ (S4) 30:08; 11. Mark Stickley (JSR) 30:09; 12. Rod Berry (PE) 30:09; 13. Bill Donakowski (CW) 30:10; 14. Bill Reifsnyder (adi) 30:17; 15. Danny Grimes (Tig) 30:18; 16. Lloyd Ness (UCTC) 30:18; 17. Hans Keleman’ (Clem) 30:19; 18. Herb Lindsay (AW) 30:20; 19. Steve Bishop (Macc) 30:26; 20. Jeff Drenth (Macc) 30:27; 21. Ivan Huff (C Ag) 30:28; 22. Jim Hill (Or) 30;29; 23. Mark Finucane (N Bal) 30:30; 24. Greg Kangas (CNW) 30:30; 25. Sam Ngatia’ (CW) 30:31.
1984: Porter Gets Third Title
Boston, Massachusetts, November 26 /Larry Newman/—Pat Porter changed tactics this year, but not by much. For the first time in his three winning efforts, he let someone else help with the front running at the TAC Cross Country Championships. BYU senior Ed Eyestone, the NCAA champion, tried to push the pace, but it was for naught as he had to let Porter go after 2¾M.
As Porter wound his way through the second of two circuits of the 5.95M Franklin Park course, he began his descent of Schoolmaster Hill. En route to his 28:07 win, he breezed through 5M in 22:33, made a hairpin turn, and began to acknowledge the enthusiastic response of the more than 5000 spectators. Giving several upward thrusts with his right arm, he showed his position with a solitary digit raised.
“I just couldn’t hold it in any longer,” said just the fourth man ever to win 3 consecutive TAC/AAU titles, and the first since Frank Shorter’s 4 in 1970-73. “I was really enjoying it out here today. I’m just in more of my own element out here.”
Showing no ill effects from a planned 6-week layoff following the Olympics, Porter ran uphill with Eyestone to the first mile marker, reached in 4:15. By the time the duo had reached 2M, the 25-year-old Coloradan steadily began to pull away as the 9:03 pace killed any chances Eyestone may have had for becoming the first NCAA/TAC doubler since Al Lawrence in ’60.
“I thought I’d try and make a race of it,” said Eyestone. “I felt good in the beginning. I thought I could stay with Patrick. But from about 2½ out I started to feel tight and it was a long race from then on.” Eyestone faded to 5th, running 28:31.
After dropping Eyestone, Porter was never pressed and looked strong and very smooth. “I went out a little more conservatively than I usually do,” he explained. “I just wanted to see who was going to stay up. About 2½M I just turned it on. Once knew Ed wasn’t going to help me lead, I just had to press to see how hard he wanted to hurt.”
By about 4M the second pack was getting ready to make the run for the runner-up spot. NCAA 4th-placer John Easker prevailed in 28:15 as he pulled away steadily from Gabriel Kamau (28:24) and his own teammate, Scott Jenkins (28:26).
The course and the title at stake lent themselves to bringing out the best in Porter: “This is probably the best cross country course I’ve run on in a long time probably in this country anyway,” he said. “It’s got everything: crummy footing, nasty hills, rugged downhills and good competition. This was just an incredible event.”
Keen on peaking for the World Championships in Portugal and the selection meet beforehand, Porter talked about his paucity of road appearances. “If I start chasing the money it’s too easy to get caught up in that scene,” he pointed out. “I’m just not money motivated. My priorities are to do well in the World Championships right now.
“You know, there’s no title on the roads. You can run well on the roads, but I still have the National Championship.”
1984 Results (5.95M)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 28:07;
2. John Easker (WU) 28:15; 3. Gabriel Kamau’ (CW) 28:24; 4. Scott Jenkins (WU) 28:26; 5. Ed Eyestone (BYU) 28:31; 6. Eamonn Coghlan’ (NYAC) 28:32; 7. Jeff Drenth (AW) 28:35; 8. James Sapienza (Dar) 28:39; 9. Brian Dunne’ (Roos) 28:41; 10. Alberto Salazar (AW) 28:42; 11. Tim Hacker (WU) 28:43; 12. Dave Barney (N Bal) 28:47; 13. Dan Henderson (AW) 28:50; 14. Charlie Bevier (WP) 28:52; 15. Dan Dillon (AW) 28:54; 16. Kevin King (Macc) 28:55; 17. Greg Beardsley (Edin TC) 28:56; 18. Keith Hanson (Mar) 29:03; 19. Adrian Leek’ (Roos) 29:05; 20. Mark Stickley (JS) 29:06; 21. Dave Gordon (AW) 29:06; 22. Charles Breagy’ (JW) 29:08; 23. Sosthenes Bitok’ (Roos) 29:09; 24. Joseph Nzau’ (Roos) 29:11; 25. Mark Anderson (Nik) 29:19.
1985: Porter’s String Now 4
Raleigh, North Carolina, November 30 /Gene Cherry/—This, said Athletics West coach Bob Sevene, would be Pat Porter’s cup of tea. It was.
Like an energetic bird dog, the long striding Porter lightfooted it around a soggy 10,000m course at Meredith College to win the ’85 TAC Cross Country Championship by a whopping 200m.
Neither rain, mud, a face-first fall nor Bruce Bickford could keep the Colorado runner from his fourth consecutive championship, a feat last accomplished by Frank Shorter in ’73.
“He’s just the best cross country runner there is,” said runner-up Bickford after 30 minutes of chasing the leader of AW’s team champions.
Almost always a front-runner in cross country, Porter needed 600m to assume command this time, but once he got going, the race for first was over.
Bickford and ’84 NCAA champ Ed Eyestone slopped it out for 2nd with Bickford, America’s top 10K track runner of 1985, finally breaking Eyestone over the last 2 kilos.
Porter’s winning time of 30:34 was incidental considering the adverse course conditions and the gaping leads he enjoyed. By 3km, which he passed in about 8:30, Porter had built margins of 10 to 15 seconds over Bickford and Eyestone, the advantage eventually going to 25 seconds before he settled for the winning margin of 21.
Eyestone was another 9 seconds back. Then came NCAA champion Tim Hacker and ’84 TAC runner-up John Easker.
His performance earned Porter an automatic berth on the U.S. team which will compete in the IAAF Cross Country Championships on March 23 in Neuchatel, Switzerland.
The remaining 8 members of the men’s team will be selected at the Trials on February 15 in Waco, Texas.
“It’s about damn time the national champion is on the team,” said Porter, referring to the fact that for the first time since the Trials began in ’75 the national champ was an automatic qualifier.
Porter probably will still run the Trials as a tuneup, but “I wanted to qualify here because it is the National Championship,” he said.
Two days of rain and numerous age group races had left the course looking as if dozens of cows had trod the layout. Water was ankle-deep in several spots and runners had to progress through mud at least that deep at several other locations.
“I knew that if I ever got in the lead, it was all over,” said Porter, 26, who continues to make his home in Alamosa, Colorado.
Bickford and Eyestone thought differently, at least on one occasion. About the 2M mark, Porter no longer was increasing his lead and the two challengers figured if they could work together they could reduce the margin.
But by the halfway point, which Porter reached in 15:10, reality had set in. “There is no way to stay with him,” Bickford would say later.
Bickford did shake Eyestone momentarily at about 6000m, gaining a 3m advantage, but Eyestone pulled back even and they ran together until about 2000m remained. Then Bickford wrapped up 2nd.
Porter remained well in advance despite a skidding fall just after the 9-kilo mark
“It was almost face-first,” he said later. “I tried to stop from falling and boom, I went right into it. I got up and said, ‘Well, I hope I still have a good enough lead.’”
He did, so much of a lead, in fact, that he couldn’t see the other runners.
“The weather didn’t affect me so much positively as it did other people negatively,” he said later. “Everybody seems to think I run well in this sort of stuff. It’s just that it slows me down less.”
1985 Results (10,000m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 30:34;
2. Bruce Bickford (NBal) 30:55; 3. Ed Eyestone (Reeb) 31:04; 4. Tim Hacker (Wi) 31:12; 5. John Easker (AW) 31:14; 6. Alan Scharsu (AW) 31:16; 7. Brendan Quinn’ (N Bal) 31:32; 8. Yobes Ondieki’ (Eto) 31:36; 9. Marcus O’Sullivan’ (N Bal) 31:37; 10. Keith Hanson (Mara) 31:38; 11. Mike Vanatta (Nik) 31:38; 12. Greg Beardsley (Edin TC) 31:43; 13. Dave Barney (NBal) 31:45; 14. Craig Virgin (FRRT) 31:45; 15. Charlie Breagy’ (JW) 31:47; 16. Dan Henderson (AW) 31:52; 17. Troy Billings (AW) 32:00; 18. Mark Stickley (JS) 32:01; 19. Jim Cooper (CS) 32:02; 20. Dave Gordon (AW) 32:05; 21. Sal Vega (NYAC) 32:09; 22. Robert Ferguson (Ad TC) 32:10; 23. Jeff Drenth (AW) 32:11; 24. Steve Lacy (N Bal) 32:11; 25. Grant Whitney (Corn) 32:12.
1986: 5 In A Row For Porter
San Francisco, California, November 29 /by Howard Willman/—Pat Porter almost seemed apologetic as he accepted congratulations for winning his fifth consecutive TAC Cross Country title. “I was lucky today,” he claimed. “But I’ll take the win.”
He should; as usual, he earned it. Running alone almost the entire race, Porter whipped his way around the 10,350m course in scenic Golden Gate Park to once again humble a collection of fine distance runners who had gathered for the 89th U.S. Championship.
His victory margin this time was 10 seconds—small for Porter. But he looked like he wanted to lead by that much after one mile as he blazed a 4:15 opener.
Only Paul Donovan went out with Porter, but early in the second mile the Irishman dropped back and joined the huge pack battling for 2nd some 6 seconds behind Porter.
By 2M, though, Porter had company again—a nagging stitch. “That’s when I felt it,” he explained. “So I thought I should just relax for a quartermile or so and see what happened.
“I waited about 600y and then tried to put the hammer down, but as soon as I started to press, it just got unbearable, so I had to relax again.”
He didn’t let on about his pain, though. In fact, he increased his lead to about 15 seconds midway through the race. Behind him, the fight for 2nd was becoming interesting. After 3M the trio of Keith Hanson, John Treacy and Steve Jones separated themselves from the rest.
But none of them knew how worried Porter had become. “I kept looking over my shoulder at every curve,” the 6-0/135 Porter revealed. “The stitch was so bad that I wasn’t sure I could have opened up if I had had to. You know, if someone had been moving on me, I don’t know if I could have pushed hard enough to have broken away.
“I had my little scouts all over the course,” he continued, “about 30 of them from Adams State. They kept telling me what kind of a lead I had throughout the race.’
That lead, though shrinking ever so slowly, looked safer all the time. He won by 10 seconds, and said, “Shoot, not a great race, but good enough to win.”
Meanwhile, the tussle for 2nd lost a combatant with a mile to go as Treacy dropped back. That left Hanson and Jones, and the Welshman had the lead as they reentered the Polo Fields.
But Hanson overtook Jones with 300y to go and looked like he would take 2nd until Jones put on a rush to just nail the American in the last 50m. Jones finished in 30:46, Hanson at 30:47.
Porter, as American champ, automatically qualifies for the U.S. team that will go to Warsaw on March 22 for the IAAF Championships. The remaining 8 U.S. runners will be selected at the trials race in Dallas on February 14.
Obviously, Porter is psyched about the IAAF race. He was 6th last year (first non-African) and hopes to improve on his best-ever finish, the 4th he took in ’84.
1986 Results (10,350m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 30:36;
2. Steve Jones’ (GB) 30:46; 3. Keith Hanson (Nik) 30:47; 4. Richard O’Flynn’ (N Bal) 30:55; 5. Art Boileau’ (OTC) 30:59; 6. Chris Fox (AW) 31:00; 7. Paul Donovan’ (Reeb) 31:02; 8. Marcus O’Sullivan’ (N Bal) 31:06; 9. Thom Hunt (Nik) 31:09; 10. John Treacy’ (N Bal) 31:11; 11. Danny Henderson (AW) 31:13; 12. Brian Abshire (Nik) 31:16; 13. Tim Hacker (AW) 31:18; 14. David Swain’ (unat) 31:21; 15. George Nicholas (Reeb) 31:22; 16. Paul Craig (J&W) 31:23; 17. Dave Barney (N Bal) 31:24; 18. Gerry O’Reilly’ (Vill) 31:27; 19. Kris Herdt (VTC) 31:28; 20. Kevin Ryan (OTC) 31:29; 21. Bruce Bickford (N Bal) 31:30; 22. Art Waddle (Reeb “B”) 31:31; 23. Mike Quinn (PortRC) 31:33; 24. Mark Fricker (Accu) 31:35; 25. John Easker (AW) 31:37.
1987: Porter’s Winning Streak Reaches 6
Bronx, New York, November 28 /by Jim Dunaway/—Pat Porter won his sixth straight TAC Men’s Cross Country Championship as the national title races returned to Van Cortlandt Park’s challenging 10,000m course for the first time since ’68. Nike Boston edged Reebok for the team title by a mere 7 seconds.
Porter became the first runner ever to break 30:00 for the course, with a winning time of 29:58, a time even more impressive when you consider the true distance was actually 10,150m.
Porter is very possessive about the national cross country championship. He likes being the champ, and he wants to keep the title—so much so in that October he made a special trip to scout the VCP course, fighting off Charlie Bevier to win a 5-miler on October 10. He expected to get a tough challenge today from Bevier; he was challenged, alright, but not by Bevier.
As is his wont, the 28-year-old Coloradan took the lead at the gun and quickly put daylight between himself and the rest of the field. By three-quarters of a mile he was a full 30m ahead of a group of 10 or so that included Bevier, Marcus O’Sullivan and a group of relative unknowns (but then, most cross country runners in the U.S. are relative unknowns).
As they went up Cemetery Hill for the first time, Porter pushed hard and widened the gap on all but one of his pursuers, 22-year-old James Farmer. From then on it was a 2-man race, with Porter out in front and Farmer hanging tough. But for a couple of miles Porter thought he was alone.
Then, going over a bridge in the winding, hilly back part of the course the second time around, Porter glanced back and was startled to see Farmer perhaps 20m behind.
“I was cruising along, thinking, ‘It’s in the bag,’ looking at the scenery and talking to the squirrels,” recalled Porter. “Then I looked behind me and saw this guy, and I thought, ‘Holy moley!’”
Porter managed to lift the pace enough to add another 20m to his lead, and it was a good thing for him he did. When they came onto the flat for the final half mile, Farmer began gaining and closed the gap to about 15m at the finish. The win left Porter one shy of Don Lash’s record of 7 straight titles (1934–40).
In the finishing chute after the race, Porter turned to Farmer and asked the question on everyone’s mind, “Who are you?”
Farmer is a North Carolina senior with indoor and outdoor track eligibility. His previous claim to fame was winning the ’86 NCAA District II harrier title. He said, “This has been a big shock. My expectation was to finish in the 30s, maybe in the top 20 if I was lucky. When we hit the 2M mark and I was 2nd I thought maybe I’d rig. But after another mile I felt a little more comfortable.”
1987 Results (10,150m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 29:58;
2. James Farmer (NC) 30:01; 3. Richard Nerurkar’ (Nike Boston) 30:29; 4. David Barney (TFox) 30:38; 5. George Nicholas (Reeb A) 30:39; 6. Tim Springfield (unat) 30:40; 7. Keith Hanson (Nike Boston) 30:44; 8. Bob Kempainen (Dar) 30:45; 9. Joe Rocha (Nike Boston) 30:49; 10. Marcus O’Sullivan’ (NBal) 30:52; 11. Chris Schille (Brown) 30:52; 12. Reuben Reina (Reeb B) 30:53; 13. Brian Roche (Pum) 30:55; 14. Chris Fox (AW) 30:59; 15. John Esquibel (Reeb A) 31:01; 16. Troy Billings (Nike Boston) 31:02; 17. Mark Junkermann (ARE) 31:04; 18. Pat Piper (NCSt) 31:05; 19. Charlie Bevier (Reeb A) 31:07; 20. Arnie Schraedler (Nike Boston) 31:09; 21. Doug Tolson (Reeb A) 31:12; 22. David Swain (TFox) 31:13; 23. Dennis Leck (Reeb A) 31:15; 24. James Murphy (Ind TC) 31:18; 25. Mike Quinn (PortRC) 31:19.
1988: Porter Racks Up No. 7
Raleigh, North Carolina, November 26 /by Gene Cherry/—Pat Porter surged down the final hill, blood trickling from his left leg. Yet, he bore a happy look.
And why not?
On an afternoon blessed with unusual warmth for late November, the pressure of the preceding days and months were deflating with increasing frequency as the lanky Coloradan strode toward the finish chute at the TAC Cross Country Championships.
Memories of an ill-fated trip to the Seoul Olympics would continue to haunt him. But with the day’s gentle breeze went fears of how the lack of a proper training base—not to mention an anguishing flareup of tendinitis—might affect his bid for a record-tying seventh consecutive title.
Thirteen seconds ahead of all who would end the streak, Porter ran alone as he reached the terminal point of his 10K journey.
“The pressure won’t be as great next year,” Porter promised a few minutes later as he cooled down from a 31:07 clocking that put him yards ahead of former Dartmouth runner Bob Kempainen (31:20) and lowa State Kenyan Barnaba Korir (31:32).
“This doesn’t make up for Seoul in any means at all, but…”
He didn’t need to say more.
Tim Hacker (31:39) and International Trials winner George Nicholas (31:44) rounded out the top 5. Jim Farmer, who had surprised everyone by pushing Porter to the wire last year, was well off the pace with his 32:26 in 24th.
Porter’s Olympic teammates did not fare well, as Brian Abshire was 21st, Mark Conover 26th, Brian Diemer 37th and Ed Eyestone 38th.
Cross country has been Porter’s game for years. You expect him to win. And win again. Even when the Olympics come late and Porter had but seven weeks to build his cross country base and overcome a Seoul infection that left him a non-advancing 11th in the 10K heats.
So he came to Raleigh a nervous man. So nervous that reassuring words from women’s winner Lynn Jennings were needed just before he faced the mob.
“Just go,” she finally said. And he did.
He and Briton Richard Nerurkar zipped through the first mile in 4:19. Then Porter surged ahead after 1.75M and enjoyed a 4-second spread over Nerurkar at the 2M mark, which Porter passed in 9:09.
A 4:52 third mile increased the margin to 17 seconds. But between miles 3 and 4, Kempainen replaced Nerurkar as Porter’s challenger and closed the gap.
When Porter reached the 4M mark in 19:00 he had lost 3 seconds of his advantage. Less than his usual crisp self, Porter managed a 5:02 clocking for the fifth mile to restore his margin to 17 seconds.
Now he was free, able to cruise home and tie Don Lash (1934–40) as the only man to win 7 U.S. cross country titles.
1988 Results (10,000m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 31:07;
2. Bob Kempainen (NikB) 31:20; 3. Barnaba Korir’ (laSt) 31:32; 4. Tim Hacker (AW) 31:39; 5. George Nicholas (Reeb) 31:44; 6. Richard Nerurkar’ (NikB) 31:48; 7. Chris Schille (NikB) 31:54; 8. Bill Taylor (NikN) 31:58; 9. Mark Coogan (NikB) 31:59; 10. Mark Dani (UCLA) 32:00; 11. Gerard Donakowski (AW) 32:03; 12. Dennis Leck (Reeb) 32:04; 13. Roland Pauwels’ (laSt) 32:05; 14. Kurt Corvin (REG) 32:06; 15. Jose Rocha (NikB) 32:11; 16. Mark Stickley (SpDa) 32:12; 17. Pat Piper (unat) 32:13; 18. Tony Williams (NiKRR) 32:14; 19. Dan Dillon (RCTC) 32:16; 20. Dirk Lakeman (Reeb) 32:17; 21. Brian Abshire (AW) 32:18; 22. Frank Powers (NikB) 32:24; 23. David Krafsur (Reeb) 32:25; 24. Jim Farmer (NikB B) 32:26; 25. Charlie Bevier (Reeb) 32:27.
1989: Porter Wades To History
San Francisco, California, November 25 /by Jon Hendershott/—Pat Porter’s attempt to win an eighth consecutive TAC cross country title went just swimmingly, thank you—literally.
The 30-year-old Coloradan grabbed an immediate lead and dared anyone to take it away. But nobody even got close as Porter splashed over the 10.35K route in 32:08 for win No. 8.
Porter supplants Don Lash as owner of the longest string of consecutive national wins; Hoosier Lash won 7 in a row from 1934 to 1940.
“These are the worst conditions of any of the 8,” said Porter afterward. “I’ve never run in rain this bad. I’m just glad I had extra-long spikes.”
To say the rain was torrential is putting it mildly. Sheets of rain, whipped by strong winds, lashed the Bay Area on race day (of course, the day before the meet and the day after were gloriously sunny and clear). This was the TAC all right: The Aquatics Congress.
Like Athletics West teammate Lynn Jennings in the women’s race, Porter wasted little time in bolting to the front. After less than a quartermile of the Golden Gate Park route, Porter was in the lead to stay.
Some pre-race speculation claimed that John Halvorsen aimed to challenge Porter, and the Norwegian settled into a solitary 2nd in the early going. The pack pursuing Halvorsen was paced by Steve Plasencia, Brian Abshire and Matt Giusto.
After the first of four loops outside the Polo Fields start/finish area, Porter held a commanding margin of about 80m over Halvorsen.
That would be the way the race went to its muddy conclusion: Porter maintaining his lead while everybody else jockeyed for places. Halvorsen became the target; it appeared that everyone had already conceded the race to Porter.
After a second outside loop, Porter reappeared on the Polo Fields with nearly 100m of real estate to his credit. His gait, notably light in the early going, had been bogged down by the mucky footing.
But it was clear that about the only way Porter could lose would be if he fell in a mud puddle and didn’t come up.
Heading into the final pair of outside loops, Halvorsen had been swallowed up by the pack, now paced by track 5000 champ Tim Hacker.
Returning to the Polo Field after some 412M, Porter appeared to have lost some significant ground; Hacker looked to be some 50m behind and was running strongly as a solitary 2nd. Last year’s runner-up Bob Kempainen lurked behind Halvorsen and Plasencia.
On the final outside loop, Porter merely maintained his margin over Hacker. Pat had put in the hard push early and could just cruise home into the recordbooks.
Down the final grass straight on the Polo Fields, Porter strode victoriously as the rain lashed its hardest of the day. He saluted the crowd several times before crossing the line 11 seconds ahead of Hacker (32:19).
The ’86 NCAA overland champ, Hacker’s fine effort pulled him away from Kempainen (32:33) who took 3rd ahead of Plasencia (32:36), Reifsnyder (32:38) and Halvorsen (32:49).
Said Porter’s coach Joe Vigil, “Once Pat started preparing for this race, his training went well. The weather today didn’t matter to him. He just ran to win.”
1989 Results (10,350m)
1. Pat Porter (AW) 32:08;
2. Tim Hacker (AW) 32:19; 3. Bob Kempainen (NikB) 32:33; 4. Steve Plasencia (AW) 32:36; 5. Bill Reifsnyder (Nos) 32:38; 6. John Halvorsen’ (Nor) 32:49; 7. Bill Taylor (NikN) 32:52; 8. Darrell Smith’ (IaSt) 32:55; 9. Matt Giusto (Nos) 32:57; 10. Aaron Ramirez (Nos) 32:58; 11. Craig Dickson (Reeb) 33:03; 12. Tom Wood (PF) 33:04; 13. Tim Gannon (NENTC) 33:10; 14. Jim Sapienza (NikN) 33:11; 15. Noel Berkeley’ (Fox) 33:12; 16. Brad Barquist (unat) 33:13; 17. Steve Spence (Nos) 33:15; 18. Mark Donahue (CMS) 33:16; 19. Arnie Schraeder (NikN) 33:22; 20. Brian Abshire (AW) 33:22; 21. Harry Green (Reeb) 33:23; 22. Dennis Leck (Reeb) 33:26; 23. Dan Reese (unat) 33:31; 24. Reuben Reina (Fox) 33:32; 25. Dan Gonzalez (Reeb) 33:34.
The Porter streak finally came to an end in ’90, when Bob Kempainen authored a solid 12-second margin of victory, with Porter 2nd. Porter followed that with another 2nd, a 3rd, two more 2nds and then wrapped up his marvelous career at age 36 with a 20th in ’95. He died in a private-plane crash in 2012.
If you’d like to read more about Porter, note that during his big streak he was twice the T&FN Interview and those stories can be accessed here (May ’86) and here (January ’90). □