- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 8, 2006

Alisa Harvey traveled some 280 miles round trip yesterday to compete at a meet organized by the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Md.

The newly minted masters runner, national champion and area favorite since high school would have much preferred the short drive from her Manassas home to George Mason University, which also was staging a college meet.

Officials at George Mason, however, told her earlier in the week she was not welcome.

“I am amazed that in 2006 I have to deal with this,” said Harvey, who believes it was vindictiveness on the part of Patriots women’s track coach Angie Taylor, for whom she worked from 2002 to 2005.

Taylor denied that yesterday.

Harvey, who crushed the American masters records for the 800 (2:11.04) and 1,500 (4:41.34) at the Armory in New York on Dec. 30 in her first track meet as a 40-year-old, has been a draw at area track meets and road races since she competed for Jefferson High School in Alexandria more than two decades ago.

She had been a frequent competitor at George Mason’s Father Diamond Meet, held in the first or second week of January for more than 20 years.

Harvey said she was told by a George Mason assistant track coach in early December she could run at yesterday’s meet. When she sent an e-mail Monday inquiring about the schedule of events, she was told Taylor was handling the entries for all unattached women.

“So I called [assistant athletic director] Tracy Kirk, who works with Jay Marsh on the meets, and I said, ‘Tracy, I hear there’s a problem,’ and she said, ‘Oh, well, Angie doesn’t want you in the meet,’” Harvey said. “So I called [athletic director] Tom O’Connor and explained the situation and asked him what policy Angie was following to keep me out of the meet. He said he’d get back to me. That was Tuesday.

“The next day I found out at [Metro Run & Walk, where Harvey works] that others [including former Hayfield High School and Wake Forest star Nikeya Green] were out of the meet, too. So I called Tracy on Wednesday, and she said we’re going back to the old rules of the top ranked in the world in your respective event.”

Taylor, reached at the meet yesterday, said the policy was not meant to keep Harvey or anyone else specifically out of the meet.

“We’ve had a policy that the administration established that if you’re in the top 50 in the world, you can run,” said Taylor, who coached the U.S. women at the 2003 world championships. “That’s been our policy for the past two years. You can check it in the archives of our Web site. Some schools say either you’re in or you’re not. I think it is pretty fair that we allow the top 50 in the world.”

Taylor explained further: “It’s a collegiate meet. It doesn’t make sense to have a collegiate meet where the unattached make it to the finals but the collegiate athlete doesn’t. I know that the meet was getting too many unattacheds, and the administration decided to change it.”

Taylor said meet officials also allow coaches from participating teams to compete, which is the reason Harvey was allowed to compete last year, when she finished second in the mile and second in the 800. Another unattached athlete, Samia Akbarcq, who finished third behind Harvey in the mile last year, was listed as a member of the American University coaching staff.

Harvey called the top 50 rule unfriendly and unnecessary.

“If you are an athlete in the top 50 in the world, you’re not going to be competing at George Mason,” she said. “Number 1, the competition isn’t there, and Number 2, the facilities are not that great. You’d run in New York at the Armory.”

Only four unattached athletes competed yesterday, three sprinters/hurdlers and a long jumper. In contrast, five of the top seven in the mile alone in 2003 were unattached, including Harvey.

Even though the rule didn’t affect her alone, Harvey said it was the result of a vendetta against her.

“I coached there for three years [as an assistant from 2002 to 2005], a long three years,” she said. “When I left there, I had a conversation with O’Connor and talked with him about how they were mistreating their women athletes, how Angie should treat her athletes better.

“I don’t do them a disservice competing in their events. It’s actually works the other way. I always enhance the performance of their meets. It’s an insult to me. I don’t appreciate that.”

Her performance last week would have won yesterday’s 800 meters by more than seven seconds against women half her age.

Associate athletic director Jay Marsh defended the school’s policy.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a philosophical change,” he said. “Our meets are for college athletes. It’s been a provision of this meet for a year now. It’s for all of our meets. We are trying to limit the number of unattached athletes. It was never our intent to knock the local people out of the meet. We’re looking for a consistency in all of our meets.”

Harvey wasn’t the only one upset, though, at a policy that runs counter to the original philosophy of the Father Diamond meet. It was meant to be an early season, low-key developmental meet, not an exclusionary event.

“Top 50 in the world — that eliminates everybody,” said former assistant Joe Showers, who was involved in the Father Diamond meet virtually from the start with founder and former George Mason coach Norm Gordon before both were fired in 1999. “It doesn’t make a difference to them. But when we did it, to make good competition for the teams coming in [from Stanford, USC and Seton Hall], we’d have to get good athletes. We’d try to build some fields up. These people aren’t nuanced enough to know that. It will be basically a Division III meet. From the results I’ve seen in the past few years, it’s trash.

“When you look at the top 50 in the world, there aren’t many Americans in some events. It’s a way of saying, unless you have an in, you’re not welcome. Norm knew everybody back then, so he could verify athletes’ credentials. Nobody over there knows the sport anymore. They are just mechanics. They do the basketball games, set up the soccer games, but in knowing the sport, they have no idea.”

For the record, Harvey still holds the George Mason Fieldhouse record in the 1,000 yards, set in 1987 and rarely contested now.

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