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Distance Races Also Thrill at 2008 Reebok Grand Prix
By David Monti
(c) 2008 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (31-May) -- It is true that most of the 6,000-plus spectators who filled Ichan Stadium here, especially the 1,000 or so Jamaicans, came to see explosive sprinters like Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Allysun Felix.  Their cheers, deafening during the sprints, were largely lacking during the distance events, despite the entreaties of RRW's favorite meet announcer Scott Davis.

However, some exciting sprint finishes in the longer races did get the crowds on their feet, in particular the finish of the men's 5000m where Shadrack Kosgei of Kenya and Ali Abdosh of Ethiopia duked it out on the final 100m, the first race after a 45 minute delay caused by a heavy thunderstorm.  The pair were running close to 13-flat pace throughout the race, and it took a 56-second final 400m by Kosgei to lock down the win by just 4/100ths of a second, 13:14.46 to 13:14.50.  Abdosh was sprinting so fast in the final meters he nearly fell as he crossed the finish line.

"I thought the sprint was fantastic," said a beaming Kosgei.  "I was really strong."

Before the rains came, another Kenyan, Paul Kipsiele Koech, put on a steeplechase clinic, putting half a lap on the field and making a serious bid for a sub-8:00 performance or perhaps the USA all-comer record of 8:04.51 set by Brahim Boulami of Morocco at the adidas Track Classic in Portland in 2002.  He was nearly on schedule for the sub-8:00 with three laps to go (4:47) and two laps to go (5:51).  With Davis's help, the crowd was now getting into it and helped push Koech to a 65.6 second final lap.  It was enough to get well under Boulami's ACR, but not quite into sub-8:00 territory.

"I was trying to get under eight minutes and beat the season best of the year," said Koech who accomplished that goal with a world-leading 8:01.85.  But conditions were just too difficult to break eight minutes he said.  "It was too windy."

American Steve Slattery finished a distant second in 8:28.21 in his first steeplechase of the year.  "I came here with the intention to run 8:12," said Slattery who did not finish his 5000m races at the Mt. SAC Relays or Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational meetings.  "My training is going very well.  I wanted to go to Mammoth (Mammoth Lakes, Calif.) to work on my strength.  I think I got stronger.  That's what I need to do."

Lauren Fleshman was delighted with her 5000m race which came after the Big Rain.  Paced initially by Serbia's Marina Muncan, then closely trailing Oceana 10,000m record holder Kim Smith of New Zealand, Fleshman surged to the lead with 600m to go, taking a shot at cracking the 15 minute barrier.  A 68.3 second closing lap put her into that exclusive club with a personal best 14:58.48.

"I tried not to think about the time," said Fleshman wearing the white and green of the Nike Oregon Track Club.  She added: "I don't run well to think about time."  She said she was fortunate to have Smith, who clocked 15:03.83 in second place, to draft behind in a near-perfect set-up.  "I'm really grateful," she said. "I clipped her about seven times.  I think I owe her a beer now."

Fourth place Ariana Lambie, the former Stanford star, set a personal best in fourth place: 15:19.42.

In the last event to be held before the Big Rain, Yusef Kamel of Bahrain won the 800m in a spirited sprint against Khadevis Robinson and Canadian Gary Reed.  The former Gregory Konchellah and son of former world champion Willy Konchellah, ran a meet record 1:45.53 to Robinson's 1:45.55 and Reed's 1:45.81.  [NOTE: The athletes and media were rushed out of the mixed zone due to the threat of lightning so there were no interviews conducted after this event --Ed.]

Running in his second professional race, Lopez Lomong won the 1500m over Kevin Sullivan with a strong sprint out of the final turn.  He wasn't even supposed to run this event and had thought that his manager had entered him in the 800m.  Meet director Mark Wetmore said the 800 was full, so Lomong ran the longer race, instead, clocking 3:37.81 to Sullivan's 3:38.22.

"I thought I'd be doing an 800 today," he said with an infectious smile.

Lomong, one of Sudan's "Lost Boys," was raised in the Upstate New York community of Tully, and saw his run here as something of a homecoming.  He wanted to represent.  "It's home, man," he said.  "I'm back in New York.  It's like someone knocking on your door.  You have to protect your house.  That's what I did here."

Aussies swept the top-2 places in the women's 1500m with Lisa Corrigan setting a strong early pace and Sara Jamieson sprinting for the win in 4:06.93 to Corrigan's 4:07.57.  It was Jamieson's second victory here.  American Amy Mortimer finished third in 4:07.62, her second close brush with the IAAF Olympic "A" standard of 4:07.00 in a week.

Maryam Yussuf Jamal won the women's 800m in 2:00.42.

*  *  *  *  *  *

The meet's final event, the men's 100m, was extraordinary.  Twenty-one year-old Usain Bolt not only beat world champion Tyson Gay but broke Asafa Powell's world record, clocking 9.72 to Gay's 9.85 with a legal 1.7 m/s following wind.  The house came down as the crowd, led by the Jamaicans, went wild and had to be restrained from running onto the track.

"My coach said concentrate on the drive phase and that's what I did," said Bolt.  "It doesn't matter if I have the world record if I don't have the Olympic gold medal."

Liu Zhang scratched from the hurdles with a hamstring injury to his trailing leg.


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