Lagat Rocks the Reggie With American 5-k Record
By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
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BOSTON (06-Feb) -- He may have been wearing number 13 on his hip, but
tonight's Reebok Boston Indoor Games at the Reggie Lewis Center here
was anything but unlucky for two-time Olympic medallist Bernard Lagat.
The 35 year-old three-time world champion uncharistically ran from the
front to win his first-ever indoor 5000m in 13:11.50, breaking Galen
Rupp's one year old American record by 7 seconds.
"Which I normally don't do," Lagat commented about the nine laps he was in the lead during the middle of the race. "You know, it's like different territory."
Lagat found himself in the lead when the second of two pacemakers, Kyle Miller, took the field through 2000m in 5:19.31 then dropped out. Lagat looked a little tense leading the race, but said afterwards that he was relaxed and in control.
"As long as you're comfortable in front, you can do it," he said.
Rupp, who had been running steadily in the pack behind Lagat, jolted the field when he surged with five laps to go and took the lead. Lagat followed, along with the Ethiopian trio of Bekana Daba, Dejan Gebremeskel, and Markos Geneti. Rupp continued on the front until about 300 meters to go when Lagat shot past him on the backstretch in his bid for victory. Pouring it on, Lagat scorched a 27-second final lap to get his second victory of this indoor season after his historic 8th Wanamaker Mile title last Friday in New York.
"I was determined to push it hard," said Lagat who was spurred by chants of, "USA, USA" from the crowd.
Gebremeskel and Daba nearly caught the American in the final 50 meters, and both were timed in 13:11.78 as they finished second and third, respectively. Rupp, who arguably made the race, had to settle for a personal best of 13:14.21, also breaking his own national record.
"The plan was just to relax as much as possible," said the former Oregon Duck who slept 13 hours last night to fight off a lingering cold. He added: "It ended up being a real kicker's race, but I'm real happy with where I'm at right now. My strength is better than it's ever been."
Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis of New Zealand also won a classic kicker's race in the men's mile. And like Lagat, he got help from another competitor, Will Leer, who strung out the field after a sluggish 2:59 split was recorded through the three-quarter mark. Willis followed Lear, the two men were about even at the bell, but Willis pulled in front for good on the backstretch to win in 3:55.26, 4/10ths of a second up on Leer.
"I felt great with 400 to go, but when I crossed the line I was exhausted," said Willis slumped in a chair speaking with reporters. "Not having raced for a while it's been so long since I dug that deep."
Kalkidan Gezahegn, the 2008 World Junior Championships silver medallist at 1500m, didn't look as though she was exhausted when she won the women's 3000m in 8:46.19. Off of a pedestrian pace of 3:01 through the first kilometer and 5:59.13 through the second, Gezahegn, Ethiopian compatriot Genzebe Dibaba, and American Shannon Rowbury split from the field to fight it out for the top three spots. Striding smoothly, the tiny Gezahegn took the lead with five laps to go and simply couldn't be caught.
"Based on my training I thought I would win," said Gezahegn, 18, through an interpreter. She was particularly excited about the many Ethiopian fans who had come to the Reggie Lewis Center to cheer. "Because people of my country are in the crowd, it was giving me a lot of moral support, and giving me a lot of encouragement," she added.
Dibaba, the younger sister of Tirunesh and Ejegayehu, finished second in 8:47.01. Rowbury, last summer's world championships 1500m bronze medallist, finished third in a personal best 8:47.18.
"It was fun just to practice running tough, keeping myself in the race as long as I could," said Rowbury who turned a 30.5-second final lap and said that she had been basically doing 1500m training. "Thirty feels more comfortable than 35's in a way."
Anna Pierce, the reigning USA 1500m indoor champion, didn't win the women's 1000 meters as she had hoped, getting pipped on the line by Jamaica's Kenia Sinclair, 2:38.62 to 2:38.76. Neither woman came close to Jen Toomey's USA record of 2:34.19, a six year-old mark which seemed likely to fall here.
"I think I need a few more weeks; I don't think it gets any simpler than that," said Pierce. "You know, I'm in good shape. It's just a matter of whether that translates yet. I think I just need a couple of more weeks, and by USA's I'll be ready to go."
The two junior miles were won with strong kicks, especially the girl's race where 17 year-old Roslyn High School senior, Emily Lipari, avenged her loss last Friday to Pass Christian's Cory McGee at the Millrose Games. Lipari, who is barely five feet tall, blazed past McGee on her way to a 31 second final lap and a meet record and personal best 4:46.77.
"I came on this track with a vengeance," said Lipari who was very disappointed with her 5th place Millrose finish. "Knowing it's my senior year, I put it all out there."
On the boys' side, Alex Hatz got a surprising victory after Millrose champion Pat Schellberg wilted badly on the last lap after leading most of the race, and Hatz surged home with a two-second victory in 4:12.08.
"I just wanted to be in it with 400 to go and just be competitive," said Hatz, a senior at Manlius High School in Upstate New York. "You never know with this kind of race. Today is my day."
In the final race of the evening, the 5000m and 10,000m Olympic champion from Beijing, Tirunesh Dibaba, faced the impossible task of running for a 5000m indoor world record when both of her pacemakers quit just five laps into the 25-lap race. Lap after lap, Dibaba circled the blue Reggie Lewis track alone to finish in 14:44.53, well off of her own meet record of 14:27.42 set back in 2007. Former Texas Tech star, Sally Kipyego, kept Dibaba within sight, and was rewarded with a personal record 14:52.67.
This was the 15th edition of the Reebok Boston Indoor Games, and the meet once again drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 5000. Despite bitterly cold temperatures outside, hundreds of fans lined up waiting to pick up tickets before the meet. It was well worth the wait.
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