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Ford Palmer - By ELLIOTT DENMAN(Jun 29th 2014, 8:54am)



Ford Palmer: Mystery No More - By Dave Hunter

Published by
ArmoryTrack.com   Jun 29th 2014, 8:52am

By Dave Hunter
Photo By Kim Spir 

Most emerging track athletes see a benefit in being out of the spotlight, under the radar.  Their relative anonymity allows them to be underestimated by their fellow competitors.  They can sneak up on them.  They can surprise them.

That is exactly what happened in the Thursday evening twilight here in Sacramento when a virtual unknown miler, Ford Palmer, roared the last furlong of the 1st heat of the men’s 1500 and bulled his way into Saturday’s final.  The tactical semi led to a furious concluding  300 meters as Palmer’s unexpectedly powerful kick left in his wake such middle distance notables as Garrett Heath, A.J. Acosta, Trevor Dunbar, David Torrence, and his NJ/NYTC clubmate Kyle Merber.. 

“Nobody saw me coming.  And that’s fine,” said the exuberant Monmouth University graduate. “Now they’re going to see me coming Saturday.”  For Palmer – whose previous 2014 highlight was his 4th-place finish in the mile at the Penn Relays – his performance was not that surprising. “For the last the 200 of this race, I’ve just been doing what I’ve been doing all year:  staying relaxed, staying calm, and kicking the last 200.”

The 23-year-old criminal-justice major, who joined the elite NJ/NY Track Club after his 2013 graduation from college, likes to keep it simple.  “I know there were fast guys in front of me like Torrence and Heath.  But I just ran my race, that’s it.”

Frank Gagliano – the coaching mastermind behind the many successes coming out of the NJ/NY TC – can count the young middle distance racer among his admirers.  “Gags told me to be confident, be competitive.  That’s exactly what I did,” said Palmer.  “I’m a Gags production,” he said.  “I joined this track club with a 3:44.9 PR and now I come in with a 3:38.5.  And now I finish second in the 1,500 semi.  It will be fun to see what happens Saturday.”

Saturday’s 1,500 final – run mid-afternoon in the blazing sun – began with a cautious pace, as  many championship races do.  Before long the tempo heated up – complete with the customary bumping that accompanies competitive championship racing.  Palmer – a former middle linebacker at Absegami High School in Smithville, N.J. – was able to give as good as he got as the finalists entered the last circuit.  The backstretch looked like I-5 during rush hour as the bunched milers began unloading their finishing sprints.  “I kicked pretty well the last 200,” Palmer said.  “But I had too much ground to make up.  I let them kick too soon and didn’t react.”  Leo Manzano, the Olympic 1,500 silver medalist, – a furious finisher – prevailed down the homestretch to win in 3:38.63.  Palmer – an unknown quantity weeks earlier – picked off several big names in the final half lap to get up for 5th in 3:39.78.

It’s been less than a year since Palmer and the NJ/NYTC connected.  Palmer called them.  “I called in mid-July and didn’t start running until August,” Palmer admitted.  “At first, I was a nobody.  I didn’t even know who Coach Gags was And Gags said he didn’t know who I was.  His assistant, Eric Schaffer, who is a Monmouth alum, was the one who vouched for me.” 

Months of dedicated work under Gagliano’s watchful eye produced results.  A hint of what was to come was Palmer’s 4th place-finish in the open mile this spring at Penn.  His time?  4:00.00.  Even a Gags-ordered review of the race video could not nudge the final time under the magical four minute barrier.  But – no worries – a subsequent workout suggested that Palmer may have several sub-4:00 miles in his future.  “In the middle of one of my workouts about 6 weeks ago, I was running a 1,200 and my coach wanted a 2:56,” said Palmer.  “And I took off the last 100 and I went through in 2:54 – easy – without a major sprint.”  It was then that Palmer and his inner circle knew a breakthrough was in the offing.

It happened this weekend.  What about Palmer’s future potential?  “I think I can definitely run a little faster,” Palmer offered candidly.  “I need to get my mileage up to about 90 miles a week and work year round.”  Any additional racing plans this summer?  “I have to talk with Gags.  I doubt I am going to Europe unless someone is paying for it.”

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