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




Published by
Armory Track News   Jun 29th 2014, 8:54am


  SACRAMENTO – It was one best story lines on the Monmouth University campus in

West Long Branch, N.J.

    For the first nine years of his tenure as president of the private college in the handsome

setting on the Jersey Shore, retired U.S. vice-admiral Paul Gaffney was able to

tell people he was the fastest miler on that campus.

   It was the truth, the whole truth, too.

   Yes, he’d run four laps in the 4:10s in his days at the U.S. Naval Academy.  And yes, that was

faster than any miler then on MU Coach Joe Compagni’s varsity track and field team.

   But Ford Palmer came around to change all that.

   As Admiral Gaffney was completing the 10th and final year of his term, Ford Palmer,

an MU senior out of Absegami High School in South Jersey, was taking huge bites out of his

PR – which once stood at 4:26 - on a regular basis and at last got down to 4:08.

   Just as you’d expect, Admiral Gaffney – soon to be headed to a well earned-retirement in

South Carolina – was one of the very first to congratulate Palmer on taking away his

distinction as the fastest miler on the premises.

   Admiral Gaffney certainly left his mark on the Monmouth campus in many ways.  The

campus grew in many directions with numerous additions in capital projects,

increasingly challenging academic programs, and general recognition of

Monmouth as a “university on the rise.”

  Or, as a place where “great leaders look forward.”

    Perhaps the greatest addition  he saw to fruition was completion of the $55 million

Multi-Purpose Athletic Center, a gem of a building that is a world-class venue for basketball

and other activities, and includes an outstanding 200-meter indoor track that now allows

Coach Compagni’s Hawk teams to train full blast through the worst of Northeast winters,

as well as to host a series of indoor meets.

    In this comfortable Monmouth environment, Palmer – and an array of teammates  – went

on to prosper.

   And a year-plus after his Monmouth graduation, just look at his stature in the

track and field world now. 

   Ford Palmer, once upon a time a 200-pound middle linebacker on the Absegami football

team, turned to a vegan diet that helped slim to 156 pounds, joined the

Frank Gagliano-coached New Jersey Track Club to train in a world-class environment,

and keeps running faster and faster and faster, while gaining new confidence every time out.

  Heading into Sacramento for the USA Outdoor Championships, Palmer had

run a four-flat mile (yes, that’s right, exactly 4:00.00) for fourth place at the Penn Relays,

And then he popped a 3:38.58 1500 (3:56ish miling pace) at the Occidental

High Performance Meet three weeks later.

  But his fifth-place finish in the men’s 1500 final at the USA Nationals on

a brutally hot Saturday afternoon at Sac-State’s Hornet Stadium topped everything.

 It wasn’t his fastest race, but surely his most confidence building.

  Ford Palmer is beginning to realize he has the right stuff that will enable him to

run with any other American 1500/mile man for years to come.

   In a relatively slow paced race, with the pack of 12 closely bunched after

passing three laps in the 2:59s, Palmer hung tough with the best of his contemporaries

and kicked home to a fifth-place finish in 3:39.78.

The race went to Olympic veteran Leo Manzano, now representing his new

Hoka One One sponsors, in 3:38.63, over Pat Casey (3:38.94), Lopez Lomong (3:39.11) and

Will Leer (3:39.11, too) with Palmer hard on their heels. Seven other top Americans,

headed by AJ Acosta and Riley Masters, were  left in their


  “It’s a blessing to win a title; I spent a year and a half without a sponsor and

this shows that every  athlete needs support,” said Texan Manzano.

  “U.S. distance running has come a long ways and any time you race against

 these guys it’s not going to be easy. They gave me a good challenge today. Fortunately I was able to pull away

in the last 100 meters.”

  “Yes, a definite confidence builder for me,” said Palmer.

  Back home in New Jersey, Coach Joe Compagni and other members of the MU

track community were surely glued to their TV sets, yelling and sceaming for

Palmer from afar.

     While many of the top finishers in the National 1500 have plans to hit the

European circuit, Palmer’s current plans are to stay right at home. 

   He’s a lifeguard stationed at the Williams Street beach in Stratford, N.J. and has already been on that job for a month.

  By September, though, he’s planning to move to North Jersey and to house-share with a bunch of his NJNYTC training partners.

  Right now, the sky seems to be the limit for this Monmouth University graduate.

  In the early days of Monmouth track (when the school was named Monmouth College), it took pride in the achievements of such excellent racers as Mel Ullmeyer (a 1:50-flat 800 man); Gary Pierce (a 2:28 marathoner), and Eddie Hendricks (a 4:08 miler who once beat Patrick Rono, destined to win the 1988 Olympic 1500 title, in an epic indoor mile at the Meadowlands Arena.)

   But all that is relatively ancient history now.

   Very fast forward now. Every time out, Ford Palmer will continue writing some quickening history of his own.


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