It's been an interesting couple days with the news coming out about Lukas Verzibcas leaving Oregon and heading back to the triathlon world. I have stayed away from reading ever comment under the articles and blogs more than I have in the past because I know there are going to be plenty of mixed feelings about Lukas's departure not only from Oregon, but from the sport of track and field. But in all honesty its hard to avoid with Facebook and twitter.
I am sure this was a difficult decision and series of events on all sides, but the thing is no one knows exactly how it went down. There are two things I thoughts on my mind that I would like you to consider. First off, we don't know the dynamic of the team at the University of Oregon....by we I mean the majority of the public in the running community. The one thing that was apparent is that Lukas was upset about his performances and was having a difficult transition into college. How did this affect the team, the coaches? It is the championship part of the season, it is crunch time. Is Oregon better off as a unit with seven guys that want to be there and are excited to run or are they better if they have six ready to go with one other they are counting on that is not happy? I am not saying this was or is the atmosphere in either case, but do you see my point? A quick story...
I was part of a team that was the best and had one guy that (our best guy in this instance) that was unhappy and we were all stressed because of it because he was a guy we were leaning on to lead us. It got so bad that he quit the team the day before our high school state championship...we were favored to win. I spent the night before the state meet with another teammate trying to convince this guy that the team needed him. We showed up to the bus the next morning not knowing if he was going to show up. As we were pulling out he arrived, got on the bus and we drove....in silence....to the state meet. We ended up winning the meet, I finished 2nd...our unhappy guy 17th. Being only a freshman, finishing second at state and winning a team title it seems like this would be pretty awesome. Fact is this was the first of 6 state titles I was a part of and it is the worst memory I have of any. Way to set the tone for your high school career right? It was not the only incident of its kind with this guy either.
Now I recognized that this is a different senario than exactly what happened with Lukas and Oregon, but the point I am getting to is that the Oregon men may be a better unit without an unhappy member of the team. By no means I am saying Lukas is a bad person because he was unhappy but the fact is that time, energy and emotions from the coaches and teammates would be going towards making sure this one person is in a good state of mind each day and at the start of these important races. This is energy that would be better served going towards that task at hand...making the NCAA Championships and making sure you perform to the best of your ability individually and as a cohesive unit.
This leads me to my next thought regarding comments of Lukas being selfish. Without knowing how it all went down, without knowing what is best for the University of Oregon men's team can we really say Lukas is being selfish? I have yet to hear any of his teammates or coaches say they are at a loss without Lukas or he left the team in a bad place. I have spoke to both the Oregon SID and Lukas, neither had anything negative to say about the past couple of days. WE think Lukas should stay and race because there's only two meets left. WE think Lukas should stay because the team needs him. WE think Lukas should stay because WE want to see where he finishes. WE think Lukas should stay because he can be a great runner.
Are WE the ones being selfish?
*Update (11/11, 4:40pm) - Philip Hersch of the Chicago Tribune did an interview with Lukas Verzbicas this morning. Link to article here