Waller keeps on running to national title

Michael Waller isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill 50-year-old.

Instead of rolling through a midlife crisis and buying a convertible BMW, Waller is spending an hour and a half everyday sprinting around a track in an attempt to become the best 50-year-old runner in the world.

All the hard work is definitely paying off for Waller. The current assistant track and field coach at Pacific Lutheran University recently won the 400-meter title at the 2008 USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships at Spokane Falls Community College.

Waller bested the field of 26 men in the men’s 50 to 54 age-group division during the outdoor championships, which were held Aug. 7-10. The Masters meet included athletes ages 30 to 95 years old, six Olympians and 41 current world record holders. There were over 1,000 competitors

“It is a pretty big deal,” Waller said. “It is really a thing to behold seeing the 90 year olds. It’s pretty inspiring.”

Waller’s journey into the Master’s Division started back in 1995 when he competed at the U.S. Nationals for the first time.

“I have been attempting to win gold since ‘95,” Waller said. “This was my first free and clear title and the first time I’ve ran the 400. Usually, I’m just a 100 and 200 guy.”

Waller won the 400 final in a time of 53.80, nearly a second faster than second-place runner Henry James from Bellingham. Dave Brown from Canada finished third in 55.49.

In comparison, the winner of the 2008 Class 4A state high school 400-meter champion, Evergreen’s Brad Wall, ran a time of 48.59 and the top Olympic men run the 400 in around 44 seconds.

Even with the national title, Waller still isn’t satisfied with his 400 time. His next goal is to break the over-50 world record in the event. According to Waller, the current world record in the over-50 Master’s Division is 51.36.

“I think I can do it,” Waller said. “At the national championships I had to run preliminary races for the 400 and 100 and was not going to put it all out there for the final. I was just pressed a little hard.”

Waller’s next attempt at the world record will come in November at the South American Championships in Argentina and he will run next year at the 2009 World Track and Field Championships in Finland.

“I just want to challenge that world record,” Waller said.

Waller’s workout regimen is the same as the 20 year olds he coaches on the Pacific Lutheran University track team. The workout is a combination of a lot of research Waller has done on the art of sprinting.

“I usually train four to five days a week,” Waller said. “It’s usually an hour and a half a day. I also lift weights three days a week. I started off doing this thing for fun, but these guys are serious.”

Waller is in his fourth season as an assistant coach at PLU. His primary responsibilities are the sprints and relay events.

His coaching background also includes six seasons as an assistant at Decatur High School (1999-2004) and six years at the Federal Way Track Club (1995-2000) as the head sprint coach. Waller helped coach the Decatur girls’ team to a third-place finish at the state championships in 2004 and coached Princess Joy Griffey, the 2004 and 2005 state champion in the 100 meters.

Waller competed for one season at Utah State University, one season at Spokane Community College and two seasons at Whitworth College in both football and track. At SCC, he anchored the school’s 4x100 relay team that won the NWAACC championship. At Whitworth, he was a two-time NAIA national qualifier in the indoor 55-meter dash and the 4x100 relay.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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