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Bernard Lagat and Renee Metivier Baillie Win 3k Titles at Day 1 of 2010 USATF Indoor Championships

By David Monti
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

ALBUQUERQUE (28-Feb) -- Using completely different strategies to deal with the high altitude and their toughest competitors, Bernard Lagat and Renee Metivier Baillie won the 3000m titles at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships here last night in front of a sellout crowd of nearly 3000.

Lagat decided to make it a slow race --painfully slow-- to force his rivals to challenge his kick.  The two-time Olympic medallist jumped on the front of the race immediately, then slowed it way down, hitting the first kilometer in about three minutes.

"That's marathon pace," commented USA Olympic Marathon Trials winner Ryan Hall who was amongst the spectators.

Although the pace remained middling, Adam State College's Aaron Braun opened things up a bit in the second half, giving Lagat, and his primary chasers Galen Rupp and Chris Solinsky, a chance to position themselves for the final sprint.  Lagat didn't wait too long, pushing hard before the bell, and leaving Rupp and Solinsky to chase.  He put the race out of reach within seconds.

"I didn't know how I was going to feel with altitude," said Lagat.  "But you know what? I didn't feel any effect after five laps, and I'm like, OK, then.  I'm just going to have fun.  I'm just going to protect my position."

Lagat got to the finish line on the brick-red synthetic track in 8:12.60, while Rupp beat Solinsky through the final turn to take second.  Rupp was satisfied he had made the team, and said he had saved something for the IAAF World Indoor Championships next month.

"I made the team; that's the top goal," said Rupp.  "It's not about doing anything special here.  I'll save that for a couple of weeks from now over in Doha."

Solinsky was clearly disappointed, especially given that he had spent most of the last six weeks training here.

"To be honest, I feel fine coming out of the race," said the former University of Wisconsin star.  "I just didn't have that next gear in my legs.  I didn't know why."

Metivier Baillie, who lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., which is at an almost identical altitude to Albuquerque, decided to get away from the field early, far away.   As the rest of the women stayed together, Metivier Baillie was leading by ten seconds with seven laps to go in the 15 lap contest, a lead she ultimately built to 14 seconds with four laps to go.

"I could tell that just everyone was putting on the brakes and I was like, screw it," said Metivier Baillie.  "I'm going to go."

Shannon Rowbury, the 2009 world 1500m bronze medallist, mounted a chase with Sara Hall, and the pair began to bring the gap down.  They were within eight seconds with two laps to go, and at the bell they were just four seconds down.

"I was just trying to run to qualify and so I just kept focusing on my race," said Hall.  "And once I could see us gaining, I went for it in the last 200."

Coming out of the last turn, Rowbury and Hall were right on Metivier Baillie's heels, but she held them off in the final scramble for the line to win by just 2/100ths of a second over Hall in 9:14.90.  Rowbury, who has the fastest sprint, had to settle for third.

"I wasn't exactly sure how I would react to the altitude, and maybe was a little over cautious as a result," said Rowbury who lives and trains in San Francisco with the Bay Area Track Club.  "If I had the kick that I normally do, I knew it would be possible, but I just didn't quite get it."

For Metivier Baillie, an accomplished cross country runner, the victory was particularly sweet.  She had never won a national title before.

"I don't always get to use it, but I have a turbo which lasts about 70 meters," she said.  "You have to be confident in yourself to the end, whether you win or lose."

Although she won the race, Metivier Baillie told reporters that she does not plan to race at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha in two weeks.  She had previously qualified for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Poland at the end of March, and coach Jay Johnson had been working on her strength and endurance for that event (she also does not have the 9:03.00 qualifying standard).  That would open the next spot to Rowbury who has the standard, or fourth place Desiree Davila, a marathoner, who ran 9:00.73 at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games earlier this month.  Hall, who also qualified for the World Cross team, said she would give up that team spot to focus on World Indoor.

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There were only a few surprises in 800m qualifying.  Brian Gagnon beat Jacob Hernandez in the final sprint in his heat, knocking the former NCAA champion out of the meet.  Gagnon, who ran for the University of Connecticut, said that his coach had told him to be confident.

"I was feeling great," said Gagnon.  "My coach has been telling me I'm one of the fastest guys out there and that I just have to have confidence in myself.  I didn't fly 2000 miles to leave the first day.  I already did that outdoors, USA outdoors.  I went out in the first round.  I'll never let that happen again."

Nick Symmonds (1:47.59) and his Oregon Track Club Elite teammate Tyler Mulder (1:47.80) led all qualifiers out of the first heat.  Symmonds was feeling confident.

"We kind of wanted to all work together a little bit," said Symmonds who was sporting a moustache.  "I was supposed to take over the lead with 150 to go, but it was too fast, so I just wanted to work with them (Mulder and Mark Wieczorek).  For sure he was going to get in with that time.  I didn't think anyone was going to run under 1:48 on this track, I think we may have just done that.  I'll take it."

More USATF Coverage: Day 1 Distance Race Recaps

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