|September 30, 2004|
Ann Gaffigan ran a meet record 9:39.35 to win the 2004 USA championship in women's 3000m steeplechase. Now ranked among the world's top ten this year, she could represent the USA in 2005 World Championships at Helsinki next August.
But Elite USA runners need experience against international competitiors and their tactics. That usually requires overseas travel. Ann Gaffigan raced on 5 Sept 2004 at Rieti Grand Prix, against a world class field including global leader Gulnara Samitova of Russia, and she replied to our request for a personal trip report:
"The Rieti meet was my first international racing experience, and it was a great one. I flew from Omaha to Atlanta to Rome. There was a man there who picked me up as well as several other athletes arriving from Athens Olympics to compete at Rieti.
We were driven to Rieti, about 50 miles inland from Rome. We stayed at the Quattro Stagioni hotel, which is owned by the meet director. It was very nice, and I roomed with Roisin McGettigan of Ireland who had run as a student for Providence. It was great to talk to her because she has been racing pro for about a year.
They had breakfast out for us in the hotel every morning; for lunch and dinner, they had us go to two different restaurants, depending on the day, where they would serve us pretty much anything and everything we wanted. The waiters were very nice and hospitable and patient. Few of us knew any Italian!
The track was only about a half mile away from the hotel, and it was a nice Mondo surface. The steeplechase water pit was on the inside of the track. There was a split clock every 100m on the track, and the meet was run very efficiently and on time. There were a lot of spectators at the meet--there were even people tailgating for it earlier in the day.
After the meet and our showers, the meet hosts held a big dinner party for us in a large tent set up along the back of the stadium. They served us food until it was all gone, and they had entertainment as well -- drummers who also sang and danced; they had been drumming while we were racing as well, which was fun. The race organizers were great at making sure everyone had everything they needed: a shuttle to the airport, etc."
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