What A Race: Molly Huddle Triumphs Over A Brave Effort From Shannon Rowbury In 2014 USATF 5,000

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by: LetsRun.com
June 27, 2014

Racing does not get any better than this.

American 5000m record holder Molly Huddle and former World Championship 1500m bronze medallist Shannon Rowbury waged an epic battle to the line in the women’s 5000m final at the 2014 USA Track and Field Championships in Sacramento with Huddle prevailing in 15:01.56 to Rowbury’s 15:01.71 with both runners finishing in lane two.

Neither runner wanted to give an inch the final 100m, but someone had to come out on top and in the end the grit and determination of Huddle prevailed. Huddle had led the entire race, but Rowbury had seized the lead with 200m to go and appeared to be kicking to the win down the homestretch. Huddle’s only chance looked to be to sneak by Rowbury on the inside, but Rowbury saw that and drifted towards the rail to close off the pass in lane 1. Huddle then tried to swing wide around Rowbury, but was running out of real estate. The finish line was fast approaching and Rowbury now started drifting wide to make sure Huddle would not be able to pass her before the line. It was to no avail as Huddle just got by Rowbury to punch the tape for the victory. A tremendous race with Huddle running 62.42 to Rowbury’s 62.45 on the final lap.

The Build Up

As the American record holder and 2014 US leader Molly Huddle was the favorite  and the other women made her do the work. Huddle led every step of this race until the final 200. The first 1600 was in 4:55 and 3200 in 9:50 as a field of 7 was still with Huddle.  NCAA champion Marielle Hall of Texas stayed right on Huddle’s heels.

Huddle would increase the pace every lap from just past half way (2600m) to the finish. Things did not really heat up until the final mile when Huddle ran 71.33 to make it a three women race between Huddle, Rowbury and Hall as Aisling Cuffe, Treniere Moser and Kellyn Johnson began to crack.  A 70.81 lap, made it a two woman race with 800m to go as only Rowbury could hang with Huddle. Huddle then ratcheted it down to 69.84 at the bell, but it did nothing to deter Rowbury.

On the final lap, Rowbury sat right on Huddle and then seized the lead just before the final turn. Coming off the turn, Rowbury was in front and full of run and she moved off the rail to make Huddle go wider around her. Huddle’s only chance appeared to be to try and pass on the inside. Thus began the final sequence of events that saw Huddle first try to come by on the inside, but then have to go back outside to pass Rowbury as they both ended up in lane 2 with Huddle your champion.

QT #1: What a race: Not only was this a tremendous battle the final lap, it was a fast race. Rowbury just missed joining the sub 15:00 club and breaking her 15:00.51 pr from 2010.

Both ladies deserve a tip of the cap. Rowbury has to be left wondering if she just went a little too hard too soon, but it’s hard to fault such a strong run in a championship race. Great racing and a fast time.

QT #2: The Marielle Hall Show Continues

Marielle Hall was third in 15:12.79, and she ran like she belonged in this race. The Texas Longhorn who only had a 5000m pr of 16:22.83 from two years ago starting this year ran stride for stride with Huddle until 800m to go. Very impressive. Hall was rewarded with a 6.5 second pr.

QT #3: Trenier Moser Fades

Trenier Moser ran 15:43.84 to finish in 8th place. She was much more of a factor than that. With 3 laps to go Moser was in 4th, doing her best to stay close to training partner Shannon Rowbury. She’d pay the price the final three laps and finish 43 seconds behind the winner, but like a lot of Alberto Salazar’s runners, Moser ran to win.

Interviews and results are below.

Molly Huddle talked about how hard it was to get around Shannon Rowbury in that last 100m, but didn’t think it was DQ worthy as she said she’d probably have done the same herself.

Huddle said her plan coming in was was to take it easy the first two laps to see if anyone else would take it and if not wanted to pick it up in the middle laps, but still be ready for that last “mile wind down”. She admitted she was starting to get a little nervous leading in the middle so she would move to the outside a bit on the straights to see if anyone else wanted to take over. She knew Rowbury is a great closer so wanted to make sure she had something left for a kick.

Talking about the battle with Rowbury over the final 200 Huddle said that she’s really improved the timing of her kick as she used to go all out from the bell and would fade in the last 200. Here she says she went about 80% at the bell so she had something saved for the final 200 which is when she knew Rowbury would make her move. When Rowbury passed her she said to herself, “Try to go with her, try to take the inside the last 100 if it’s there … be ready for a lean” and then just went until her “legs went numb”. She said there have been a couple times in her career where she should have leaned, but didn’t because she was afraid she was going to fall. Here she thought, “Just fall if you have to, just get over the line.”

Huddle didn’t seem annoyed at Rowbury about all the weaving she had to do to get around her in the last 100. Huddle said, “I was trying to get that inside line and Shannon saw me and moved in and then saw me and moved out, so I wasted a little more, but I said ‘I gotta get around her somehow’ so I just kind of threw myself real wide at the end.”

When we asked her if she thought Rowbury’s tactics were DQ worthy since she impeded her, Huddle was non-plussed about it saying, “She didn’t touch me so no. I probably would have done that too to be honest.”

Shannon Rowbury was gracious in defeat and admitted that Huddle’s strength won out in the end.

Rowbury knew that Huddle was strong after her win at the New York Mini 10k on June 14 and wasn’t surprised when Huddle battled back over the last 100. She later said that her former coach John Cook used to tell her that speed comes from strength and in this case Huddle’s strong performances over 10,000 (30:47, #2 all-time U.S.) and the half-marathon (3rd in the NYC Half in March in 69:04) benefited her in the 5,000. Rowbury added that she didn’t anticipate the wind on the finishing stretch after she moved with 220 meters to go.

Rowbury believed in her own speed though and drew on her victory in a 3,000 in London last summer — where she beat Huddle — for confidence in this race. The same thing happened to Rowbury in this race as it did to her Nike Oregon Project teammate Jordan Hasay in the 10,000 last night, as both runners took the lead just before the final turn only to be re-passed in the home straight. But when we asked if that race factored into her decision-making at all, she didn’t mention it, suggesting that the answer was no.

Rowbury has finished second and third at the last two U.S. championships at 5,000 and we wanted to know whether that would be her focus for Worlds/the Olympics over the next couple years. She said that she still really loves the 1500, but that the 5,000 is growing her.

Aisling Cuffe viewed Friday’s 5,000 final as a collegiates vs. pros battle.

Marielle Hall has been the breakout collegiate star this spring, but Cuffe has been almost as good. She’s #3 all-time among collegians with her 15:11.13 PR and still has another year to go at Stanford. Cuffe said that she keyed off Hall tonight.

“If I ever got tired, I could see Marielle and know like, ‘No, I’m supposed to be here.”

Cuffe added that it was nice to see some familiar faces such as Hall and her Stanford teammate Jessica Tonn (who was 9th) since she was unfamiliar with most of the field.

“You’re not on the same team, but it’s like the collegiates versus the pros. We had to have each other’s backs.”

No female Foot Locker champ has ever won an NCAA XC title but Cuffe, who won Foot Lockers in 2010, has a very good chance to end that streak this fall.

Texas’ NCAA Champion Marielle Hall acknowledged she probably could have conserved a lot more energy if she had tucked in more early instead of running right on Huddle’s shoulder.

Hall didn’t regret getting after it early though saying, “I’m glad I got out there I pushed in the beginning because I know I can do that … I wanted to make a presence so I did the best I could.” She didn’t want to be intimidated by the big names as she felt good coming in despite the long college season and was actually disappointed with her finish. She said she never wants to finish that way where she’s slowing down running out of gas hoping no one catches her saying that they definitely broke her. When we asked if there was some extra motivation to beat Cuffe at the end and be the top collegiate Hall said, “I graduated more than two months ago, I’m not a collegiate anymore. … These are the ladies I have to compete against and if I start playing games with beating my age group or the top collegiate I’m never going to be where I want to be. Today was about beating the two ladies who were in front of me and I didn’t do that so I have more work to do.”

Asked what the future holds for her she says she has “no idea” about racing this summer or post-collegiate sponsorship or anything like that. She says she’d like to do some more racing though as she feels like she can still drop her PR even more.

Results below. Full lap splits here.

Place Athlete Time
1 Molly Huddle
Saucony
15:01.56
2 Shannon Rowbury
Nike Oregon Project
15:01.71
3 Marielle Hall
Texas
15:12.79
4 Aisling Cuffe
Stanford
15:13.15
5 Kellyn Johnson
Northern Arizona Elite
15:25.63
6 Rochelle Kanuho
Boulder Running Company/adidas
15:25.85
7 Alexi Pappas
Nike / Oregon TC Elite
15:28.38
8 Treniere Moser
Nike Oregon Project
15:43.84
9 Jessica Tonn
Stanford
15:48.31
10 Jessica Tebo
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC
15:50.02
11 Angela Bizzarri
Brooks / BROOKS Beasts TC
15:59.02
12 Lauren Penney
Oiselle / New Jersey New York
16:07.34
13 Chelsea Reilly
Saucony
16:07.79
14 Katrina Coogan
Georgetown
16:16.17