Bridget Franek Gets The “A” As The Other Americans Falter
May 25, 2013
New York, NY – At the IAAF opener in Doha, Kenya’s Lidya Chepkurui was viewed as a big surprise as the non-Olympian beat five of the top six from last year’s Olympics. Well, this afternoon in New York, in a rematch with the runner-up from Doha (Ethiopia’s 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Sofia Assefa), Chepkurui showed that her win in Doha was no fluke as she won again in very similar fashion
In Doha, the 27-year-old Chepkurui got the victory in a new personal best of 9:13.75 after a blistering last 1 km of 2:57.32, with Assefa second in 9:14.61. Today in New York, Chepkurui’s last 1k was 2:57.89 as she won in 9:30.82. The time was a little slower than Doha, but the conditions here were much, much worse (low 50s temps, winds 20+ mph gusting to 39). The runner-up was 2012 Olympic sixth-placer Etenesh Diro (9:33.76) with Assefa third (9:33.84). Former Penn State star and 2012 US Olympian Bridget Franek finished fourth and left a very happy as she was easily under the 9:43.00 “A” standard thanks to her 9:35.42.
Today in NYC, the race started out very conservatively with the rabbit way out front and no one willing to go with her. Leading the race for the first couple of laps were US steeplers Bridget Franek of the OTC and Ashely Higginson of the NY-NJ Track Club. Assefa and Chepkurui were sitting in the pack. That arrangement would continue through the first mile with the pacemaker way out front and the field running slowly, around 80-second quarter pace (10:00 minute pace).
Then at about the 2k mark, Chepkurui went to the lead with Etenesh Diro in second, Franek in 3rd and Assefa in 4th (Higginson had faded outside the top 4). Going into the last lap, the order remained unchanged and Chepkurui put in a surge and started to pull away. Back in 4th, Assefa started to move up as well, going around Franek, but she moved too late as Chepkrui and Diro already had a gap by the time she made a move.
In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered for the win, as Chepkuri crushed the last lap in 65 and put about 3 seconds on second place. Assefa did gain ground on second place in the last 200m, but Diro Neda just held her off for second with Franek in fourth.
Behind Franek, the next American was former UVA star Stephanie Garcia, who was ninth in a new seasonal best of 9:45.78 (she’d run 9:50.79 in Puerto Rico last week). 2012 Olympic Trials steeplechase fourth placer Ashley Higginson, who ran 9:45.83 at the USATF Oxy meet earlier this month, was 10th (9:49.30), just in front of Sara Hall (11th – 9:54.88).
After the race, we caught up with a pleased Franek and a slightly disappointed Higginson. You can watch our interviews with them below. On her race, Franek said it felt way easier than her first steeple of the year, which was a 9:46.99 win at the Oregon Twilight meet. A pretty good sign considering the conditions today. Franek was in contention with the world’s best with a lap to go. Higginson said if she could do it all over again, she wouldn’t have led once the rabbit dropped off.
Quick Take (QT) #1: Chepkurui is for real now. Two Diamond League wins in two attempts for 2012.
QT#2: We forgot that Sara Hall was in this race until looking at the results at the end. That’s not a great sign as she was never mixing it up with the top Americans (Franek/Higginson) even given the slow pace. Still, she’s headed in the right direction and there is still a month to USAs. 9:54 is way better than the 10:11 and 10:06 she ran in her first two steeples of the year (one in perfect conditions at Oxy). And this was run in horrible conditions.
QT 3: In finishing fourth, Franek beat 21- year-old Purity Kirui, the 2010 world junior champ, who had lowered her PR from 9:35.61 to 9:19.42 in Doha.
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