Americans Shine On Opening Night of Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games

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By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

LONDON (26-Jul) — America had a night to remember in the distance disciplines at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games IAAF Diamond League Meeting, contested here at Olympic Stadium in front of 65,000 spectators. Of four events contested at 800m and up, Americans took home three wins and nine podium positions, more than any other nation competing.

Shannon Rowbury ran a world lead in the 3000m, a pair of Patriots in Nick Symmonds and Brenda Martinez won the men’s and women’s 800m, and two Americans came in the top five of the women’s 1500m, securing a successful first day of competition at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The 28-year-old Rowbury got things started in the 3000m, which looked more like an American championship than an open Diamond League meeting. With seven Americans in the field, the red, white, and blue took over once Spain’s Dolores Checa and Kenya’s Irene Chebet Cheptai had had enough time in the lead.

In the early stages of the race, Rowbury sat in perfect position lap after lap, tucked in behind the leaders. When Molly Huddle took to the front with two laps remaining, Rowbury stayed calm knowing she had her finely tuned 1500m speed in her back pocket.

“The last lap I was pretty excited I was in a good position. I wasn’t sure what was going on behind me,” said Rowbury, who will compete in the 5000m at next month’s IAAF World Championships. “I had a clear straightaway and was like ‘let’s go.’ You never know that last 100 meters — sometimes you keep going and sometimes the elephant jumps on your back. I’m happy it stayed somewhere else today.”

With 150 meters remaining, Rowbury simply went to another gear one no one could match. Cruising home in 8:41.46, the Duke alum stopped the clock in a world best time. Of the top eight positions, seven went to Americans, with only Canada’s Sheila Reid –who also lives and trains in the USA– disturbing the trend in fourth.

Tonight’s race was Rowbury’s last before she toes the line for 5000m in Moscow.

“I’m just trying to prepare myself for that toughness that I’m going to need [in the 5000m],” she said. Gabriele Anderson and Huddle rounded out the top three, both recording personal best times of 8:42.64 and 8:42.99, respectively (Huddle will join Rowbury in the 5000m in Moscow). Jordan Hasay finished fifth, also in a new personal best (8:46.89).  She’ll be running the 10,000m in Moscow.

Another American victory came in the men’s 800m, where Nick Symmonds led a USA sweep of the top three. Recording a season’s best time of 1:43.67, the 29-year-old was encouraged by his tactically-savy racing style, overtaking USA champion Duane Solomon with less than 200 meters remaining.  The pair last competed on this track in the Olympic final where Solomon finished fourth and Symmonds fifth.

“With my strength that I’ve proven last week, I have enough strength to get through that first 200 meters at that pace. It shows me that I can be up there with Duane and [Mohammed] Aman kicking for a medal,” said an energetic Symmonds. “I’m sick and tired of this bullshit trying to get through 25 people to get a medal. I’m going to be more aggressive this year.”

Brenda Martinez ran away with the women’s 800m title, setting a meet record of 1:58.19 in the process. While Britain’s Marilyn Okoro took the pace out hard –using the hometown crowd’s cheers to her advantage– Martinez was content sitting back in the pack. At the bell, Martinez began moving, then unleashed a surge with 250 meters remaining. With half a lap left, it was clear she was the best athlete in the field today.

Crossing in under 2:00 for the fourth time this season (five if you count her irregular mark at the Re:Run Meet in San Diego), Martinez was all smiles.

“I just tried to be patient and relaxed and know when to go,” said last year’s Fifth Avenue Mile champion. “I felt it was a bit easier and that’s when I began to push.  I still feel like I can compete with the big girls. Today showed I really think I can run sub-1:58. I’m ready for it.”

Fellow American Ajee’ Wilson gave her best effort to finish second, but was nipped by Elena Mirela Lavric at the line. Wilson wound up third in 2:00.20.

In the women’s 1500m, many eyes were on American junior Mary Cain. Walking by the media mixed zone and into the stadium, Cain’s eyes widened and a faint smile came across her face, the sight of a sold-out Olympic Stadium sweeping her off her feet.

“It’s a bit overwhelming,” said the 17-year-old. “Yesterday at the warm-up, I was like ‘Jordan [Hasay], we’re good here, this isn’t that big.’ And then today I walked out and was like ‘Oh…’ I was pretty scared. Before hand I was fine but getting out there and doing my strides, I felt like the whole crowd just drained me.”

Cain found herself in 15th place with a lap remaining, while Nicole Sifuentes (Canada), Susan Kuijken (Netherlands), and Mary Kuria (Kenya) battled for the lead. Over the course of the final 400 meters, things would shake up drastically: Sifuentes and Kuijken would fade, Kuria would escape being boxed in to claim the victory, and Ibtissam Lakhouad (Morocco) would improve from fifth to second. American Katie Mackey closed hard to finish third, and –most surprising of all– Cain would make up ten positions to finish fifth.

“It’s OK, kind of pathetic but going into it I knew I was kind of worried,” said Cain, whose time was 4:09.77. As her interview with Race Results Weekly went on, the Bronxville High School student cheered up a bit. “I came in fifth in the end, which wasn’t that bad.”

A spot behind Cain came Morgan Uceny, clocking 4:09.79.

On Saturday, distance action continues with the men’s Emsley Carr Mile, 3000m steeplechase, and 3000m. In the 3000m is double Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah.


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