by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Dathan Ritzenhein, a 2001 Rockford High School graduate, qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the 10,000 meters by finishing third in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field trials on June 23 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. He needed to finish third and also reach the American A standard of 27:45, which he handily did with a time of 27:36:09. This will be Ritzenhein’s third Olympics. In 2004 Olympics, Ritzenhein ran in the 10,000-meter event but dropped out mid-race due to a stress fracture and in the 2008 Olympics he finished ninth in the grueling marathon. Ritzenhein (“Ritz”) emerged as a cult figure among high school track fans during his junior and senior years at Rockford High School (RHS). He set numerous state and national high school records during this time. In 1999 “Ritz” claimed an unexpected national title in the 5k while setting the course record in 14:29. As a senior at RHS he set the Michigan 5k record of 14:10 at state finals and capped his high school career with six national championships. “Ritz” followed up his storied high school years by having a dominant college career at the University of Colorado. He owned the American 10k collegiate record (27:38:50), and four Big 12 Conference titles (2003 cross-country, 2004 indoor 3,000-meter, 5,000-meter, and outdoor 5k). He also received four All-American titles (2001 and 2003 cross-country, 2004 indoor and outdoor 5k), the 10,000-meter school record (27:38:50) and the nation’s only undefeated cross-country season in 2003 to capture his first and only NCAA crown. Rockford Public School’s Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Ryan Kelley, has this to say about Ritzenhein – “Having been Dathan’s high school principal, I remember him as being one of the finest athletes we have ever had in Rockford. More importantly, I remember him being very humble and down to earth. He was the ultimate role model for the younger kids. To see Dathan on TV, competing in the Olympics, makes us all very proud.” With a heart and work ethic as big as the outdoors he so dearly loves, “Ritz” has his entire hometown community proudly backing him as he “runs for the gold” in the 2012 Summer Olympics. Ritzenhein’s 10,000-meter Olympic event will […]
American record-breaking champion Dathan Ritzenhein isn’t the only person from Rockford who loves to run. The eighth annual Run for the Prize, hosted by Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church, last year raised an amazing $3,500 to donate to the North Kent Service Center. With requests for help at an all-time high at the service center, lacing up and hitting the streets—either running or walking—has never been more important. The annual 5K run is Saturday, September 12, with packet pickup and late registration on Friday, September 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday, September 12 at 7 a.m. Pre-register by visiting cosrock.org or goracego.com. The race begins at 8:30 a.m. Pastor Thomas Martin is excited to offer the race as a fundraiser for the service center, which helps so many of our neighbors in need here in our own community. “I know that all of us have been greatly affected by the current economic conditions,” Martin said. “The North Kent Service Center is standing there in the midst of it all, trying to meet the many needs of the families in the area who are struggling.” Martin said many in the community may not realize that the church has been holding this run for seven years. Each year 100 percent of proceeds has gone to the center. Participating in the walk/run or making a donation can make a big difference to a family struggling to pay bills and put food on the table. The event features post-race refreshments and awards for the overall male and female and top two finishers in each age division. A Little Tykes dash takes place for children 6 and under at 9:30 a.m. There is no charge to enter the Tykes race, and every child will receive a ribbon. There is free childcare for infants and toddlers for those who register for the race. The cost for the 5K race is just $25. Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church is located at 4610 Belding Road, just off Wolverine Blvd.
by BETH ALTENA Former Rockford runner and two-time Olympic athlete Dathan Ritzenhein placed sixth in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, Germany, in the 10,000-meter race on Monday, August 17. It is an amazing accomplishment: the fourth-fastest time ever run by an American in the event, the second-fastest ever by a native-born American. Ritzenhein said after the race he was very happy, and this event is somewhat of a milestone. “It was tough, but I felt very good and was able to hang in there and run very well. I feel like it was sort of a breakthrough race for me,” he stated. “What got me so excited is that I closed the gap and made the thought of winning medals at the Olympics and World Championships seem a real possibility. The advance I made over this summer has been dramatic and I am so excited about just being competitive again. I recall in Osaka in ‘07, I was ninth, but I got lapped and was way out of contention. This time I was able to stay in contact, and really hung in there. The race was difficult because we started at a modest pace, but the middle was incredibly fast. I think I averaged 64-second laps for a couple miles.” Ritzenhein began running at age ten, his father Jerry Ritzenhein said. “He wasn’t very fast at first. He had to work hard and keep working hard. Pretty soon he came into his own.” Ritzenhein married his high school sweetheart and another Rockford running star, Kalin Toedebusch. They now have a daughter, Addison and reside in Oregon. Ritzenhein’s father said distance runners peak in their mid-thirties, so Dathan has plenty of career ahead of him. He is hopeful his son will compete again as an Olympic athlete. “This is his life career. He has a long career ahead of him and has an Olympics or two in his future. That’s his hope.” He also said part of Dathan’s success was the great start he had in Rockford athletics. “He had a great time here in Rockford.” “The life of a professional distance runner is not always easy,” Ritzenhein commented. “There is a lot of hard work and pressure to perform, it can be monotonous, and […]