Alan Webb And Nick Willis Impress In Italy

September 9, 2010

*Official Webb bandwagon pulling into town -- hop on or get left off in 2011, 2012
*Webb in 1500 in Milan 9 Sept

The comebacks of former Michigan Wolverines Alan Webb and Nick Willis reached new levels in Italy on Thursday. In his first 1,500 since having knee surgery in March, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis got a comfortable victory in a 3:35.17.

In his second 1,500 since June of 2009, Alan Webb showed huge improvement, running 3:36.21 to finish fifth - a huge step up from the 3:41.16 he ran on August 28th. It's sort of remarkable to realize that in just two races and a few months of training, Webb has already run within .35 of his seaonal-best time for the Olympic year 2008.

The race was rabbitted and the field strung out into single file running pretty quickly. Willis hung out in the middle of the pack or near the front for most of the race. Webb, on the other hand, was a bit more conservative, as he was in the back, fifth from last at 800m (but less than a second behind Willis, as it wasn't that spread out). The rabbits hit 800 in 1:53.35 and is estimating that Willis was in the 1:54 range and Webb was at 1:55.1 at this point.

The final rabbit hit 1,200m in 2:52.08 and dropped out while he was half a second clear of the rest of the field. 2009 European indoor silver medallist Diego Ruiz of Spain was then in the lead at this point with Willis in 4th, and 2009 world champ Yusuf Kamel in 6th and Webb 8th. Ruiz kept the lead until 150 to go when 2008 world junior bronze medallist Demma Daba Bikila of Ethiopia, whose pro career highlight came earlier this year when he got 4th in New York in 3:34.06, came to the front. Heading into the final 100m Willis, who had been biding his time in 4th, started to go wide on the straight and Kamel was right behind him.

Willis got the lead probably 60m from the finish and won comfortably. Ruiz, who looked dead with 150 to go, had a good kick the last 100m and came back up for 2nd and Kamel, who didn't finish his first 1,500 of the year until August 22nd but did run 3:33.06 in Rieti on August 29th, moved up the entire last stretch to finish 3rd.

Webb started to go wide about 80m from the finish but then saw space on the inside and stayed on the rail and moved up to finish 5th.

Webb and Willis both have to be pleased with their runs. Willis seems poised to have a great chance of defending his Commonwelath Games title later this year. As for Webb, this is probably the only time in his life that he can actually lose races and have his fans end up being really psyched for him. And psyched for him they are, as the Alan Webb bandwagon is getting ready to leave the station, as shown by this message board thread:
Official Webb bandwagon pulling into town -- hop on or get left off in 2011, 2012.

As for the future, Webb and Willis are both slated to run the Fifth Avenue Mile in new York on September 26th.

Results, leader splits and race video appear below.

300m 41.4
700m 1:38.7 (57.31)
800m 1:53.35
1,100m 2:37 (58.32)
1,200 2:52.08 rabbit drops out (Willis 4th, Webb 8th)
1,500 3:35 (58.13)

1. 34 Nick WILLIS 1983 3'35.17
2. 27 Diego RUIZ 1982 3'35.47
3. 24 Yusuf Saad KAMEL 1983 3'35.70
4. 26 Demma Daba BIKILA 1989 3'36.14
5. 30 Alan WEBB 1983 3'36.21
6. 36 Hillary MAIYO 1993 3'36.42
7. 28 Collins BIRMINGHAM 1984 3'36.53
8. 29 Oleksandr BORYSYUK 1985 3'37.31
9. 25 Mitch KEALEY 1984 3'37.96
10. 31 Goran NAVA 1981 3'38.04
11. 32 Kristof VAN MALDEREN 1983 3'38.27
12. 33 Johannes RAABE 1987 3'43.12
RIT. 35 Yoann KOWAL 1987 RIT
RIT. 37 Benson ESHO 1987 RIT
RIT. 38 Vickson POLONET 1985 RIT


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