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Running without pain, Chorny sets sights on future.

Byline: Ron Bellamy / The Register-Guard

USA OUTDOOR TRACK & FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

INDIANAPOLIS - You could call Tom Chorny the stealth steeplechaser, because he's largely flown under the radar since arriving in Eugene last year to train.

To be sure, he's had an impact as a part-time worker at the Eugene Running Company store at Oakway Center, where he's sold shoes and led group runs.

But mostly he's been simply a fast-moving figure on Pre's Trail, and the Valley River bikepath, and the Ridgeline and Rexius trails.

And you wonder if joggers realized they were being passed by a former national champion. Which Chorny was in 2001, when he won the 3,000-meter steeplechase in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field, ran his personal best of 8 minutes, 22.16 seconds and earned a berth in the World Championships.

Since then, it's been a struggle for the former Indiana Hoosier. He hasn't broken 8:30 since then. He's had one decent year - he was fourth at the USATF meet in 2003, and fourth at the Pan-American Games that year - and more injuries and frustration.

And yet as Chorny runs today, in the first round of the steeplechase in the national championships at Carroll Stadium, his sights, at age 29, are set on the future. On running for berths on the World Championships team next year and in 2009; on the Olympic Trials that will be held at Hayward Field in 2008.

"The next three years are big years," Chorny said. "I'm in it at least until 2009. If I do things right, if I stay healthy and don't get major injuries, there's a chance I could push to 2012. I've always felt that my best years were in front of me."

Certainly, some tough years are behind him. At the end of his best season, 2001, he developed a stress fracture in his ankle, and the effects lingered through the next two years.

By 2004, he was in Palo Alto, running for the Nike Farm Team, and feeling good about his chances as a contender for a berth on the Olympic team, but that March he suffered a pelvic injury, from running too hard on hills, that threatened to end his career.

"It came at the wrong time, it shot me down," he said.

Last year, he was on the "slow road back" when an ankle injury in March pretty much ended his season before it started.

And so in October he came to Eugene, initially to train with another former Hoosier steeplechaser, Thomas Brooks, who's run a personal best of 8:28.71 this year, and because he'd run well at Hayward Field in the past.

"Being Track Town USA," he said, "I figured it was definitely a good place to give it a go."

He's been revived, both running, and working at the running store.

"I've been very impressed with how much people run in Eugene, and how knowledgeable they are about the sport," he said. "It's great."

He's run 8:36.52 this year, and figures he's in shape to go under 8:25 in the USATF meet.

"I'm definitely aiming for as high a finish as I can," he said. "Depending on the weather, I'd like to run under 8:30, and I'd like to be in the top five in the final."

Modest short-term goals, compared with his big-picture goals. "It's really frustrating," he said. "I'm looking at that and going `Wow, that's really close to my PR,' but I'm disappointed that that's all the faster that I feel I am.

"My mind has been on running under 8:15. I always have the American record (8:09.17 by Henry Marsh, set in 1985) out there as one of my top goals.

"Running 8:22, 8:25, it sounds very disappointing to me, because I've always felt that I'm faster. The biggest thing that's going to get me there is to be consistent with my training, and I've had one of my most consistent years training."

Indeed, last year, Chorny's total mileage was under 1,500; this year, he expects to finish at 3,000. Where next year finds him is yet to be determined.

He's spent recent weeks with old teammates in Indiana, he's got family in Michigan that he misses, and he's enjoyed his time in Eugene.

The only certainty is that he'll be running somewhere, seeking to get back on the radar screen in the steeplechase when it counts the most.

U S A O u t d o o r T r a c k & F i e l d C h a m p i o n s h i p s
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 23, 2006
Words:783
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