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Finucane hangs with Alan Webb

September 20, 2007|By ANDREW MASON

Mercersburg Academy senior James Finucane is one of the top distance runners in the Tri-State area. American Alan Webb is one of the best in the world.

Their paths crossed this past June 29 in - of all places - Malmo, Sweden.

"My mom is Swedish, and we have a little summer house there, and we go there every summer for a month or two," said Finucane, whose family lives in Chambersburg, Pa. "I was biking through the city, and I saw this guy running on the other side of the street, and he looked like he could be pretty fast. When I got closer, I was pretty positive it was Alan Webb.

"I went up to him and said, 'Are you Alan Webb?' He looked kind of confused and said, 'Yeah, I am.'"

Even world-class runners aren't the most recognizable athletes.

"I was like, 'Whoa, this is weird that someone in Sweden knows me,'" said Webb, discussing the encounter in a podcast interview on letsrun.com.

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Webb, who was in Malmo to compete at the MAI-Galan track meet on July 2, didn't mind the company.

"We just started talking," Finucane said. "I told him I ran cross country and track, and I asked him if he wanted to go for a run with me. The next morning we went for a run, about 8 miles at 6:30 pace, which is an easy run for him."

The story gets even sweeter.

"During the run I asked him if he wanted to come over to my house for dinner," Finucane said, "and that night he came over and had dinner with my family. ... My mom made some kind of pasta dish, and then we had ice cream and strawberries for dessert. He actually ate a lot. ... It was really cool."

Webb placed second in the 800-meter run at the meet two days later, and Finucane was there to watch.

"I talked to him after his cooldown," Finucane said. "And the next day we did another 8-mile run."

A few weeks later, Webb broke Steve Scott's 25-year-old American record in the mile, running 3:46.91 at a meet in Belgium.

Finucane - who ran 1:57 for 800 meters, 4:23 for 1,600 and 9:54 for 3,200 on the track last spring - has been tearing it up this fall. Last weekend, he placed second in a field of nearly 200 runners at the Mountain Lion Invitational in Altoona, Pa., covering the 3.1-mile course in 16:22.

"It was obviously motivational to meet a guy like Alan Webb," Finucane said.

The two have since exchanged e-mails.

"I want to see if he'll come to Mercersburg sometime to run with us," Finucane said. "He said he would sometime."

Webb, who lives in Fairfax, Va., knows that at least Finucane can hang with him.

"The kid's a decent runner," Webb said in the podcast. "I think he's going to do pretty well."

Finucane said his focus this fall is on defending his Mid-Atlantic Prep League title, taking a shot at the Pennsylvania Independent Schools state title and performing well at the Foot Locker Northeast regional championships.

"I'm not focusing on these early races. I'm training through them more," he said. "I want to run well in November."

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