Baddeley, Muncan Win 2011 BAA Invitational Miles in Dramatic Fashion, High Schooler Lukas Verzbicas Impresses

**High School Lukas Verzbicas Close Second**
By Chris Lotsbom
April 17, 2011
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

Editor's Note: The tight, spectator friendly, perhaps athlete dangerous course at the BAA miles feature a 90 degree turn less than 100m from the finish that almost guarantees an exciting finish.

BOSTON (17-Apr) -- Photo timing was needed to determine the winners of both the men's and women's divisions of the B.A.A. Invitational Mile here on the streets of Boston.  The races were part of the activity-packed weekend leading up to the 115th Boston Marathon, which will be run on Monday.

As the sun began to peak through the clouds, the men's elite field of five athletes, ranging in talent from a high school stand-out to 2008 Olympian, toed the line on Boylston Street.  Run on a course which is a little over three laps of a city block, the race saw the pack of five pass through one lap (522m) in 1:36, led by defending champion Andy Baddeley of Great Britain.  Slow from the start, everyone seemed concerned about the four 90-degree turns and the slippery pavement, wet from rain an hour before the race began.

The lead would change before the group passed the finish line on Boylston for a second time, as Craig Miller, the eight-time all-American at the University of Wisconsin, took the lead.  University of Oregon-bound high school senior Lukas Verzbicas was off of his shoulder, making his presence felt in the elite field.  Verzbicas, who won the mile, 2-mile, and 5000m at the New Balance Nationals-Indoor meet last month, was not about to let the professionals run away from him.

As the field turned onto Dartmouth Street with 400m to go, Verzbicas made a bid for victory. The confident senior took the lead, knowing he had to start his kick early in order to have a chance at defeating Baddeley --a 3:49.38 miler-- and the rest of the field.

"I did not know what to do," said Verzbicas. "I just ran just to run, because I was in a position I didn't think I would be."

Baddeley approved of Verzbicas's tactics.  "Down the back straight when he made the move, I was thinking 'Right, this is good.  It will stretch out a bit and not be so physical.'"

As the two turned the corner together, with the rest of the field on their heels, the crowd in front of the Boston Public Library came to their feet, awed by the thought of a high schooler beating all the pros.

The two ran stride for stride down the short stretch, with Verzbicas gritting his teeth, looking like he wanted the win more than anything.  A step in front of the line, Verzbicas's right arm reached out, as if he wanted to block Baddeley from taking the win.  Emotional and extremely competitive, Verzbicas natural reaction was to grab the tape across his chest and throw it to the ground in frustration.  Shortly after, before a winner was announced, the two went over to a photographer and asked to see the close finish.  While watching the finish, Baddeley was pronounced the winner in 4:16.7, with Verzbicas second in at 4:16.8.

Asked after the race if he was trying to block or push Baddeley, the experienced Briton answered before Verzbicas could even respond, making sure to put any thoughts of a violation away.

"My take on that was that he was celebrating. Or maybe just excited," said Baddeley, who had trained for the last four and one-half weeks in Kenya.  "It's such a short finishing straight, and I thought I had learned from last year.  I was very keen on it not being that close at the end, but that's how it turned out."

Verzbicas was pleased afterwards. “I’m pretty happy,” said Verzbicas, who will be racing at the Prefontaine Classic next weekend and then the Adidas Grand Prix Dream Mile. “It could have been better, but I can’t be disappointed, it was pretty awesome.” His goals in his last high school track season are to “produce the best season possible and hopefully break some national records.” Verzbicas looks forward to running at Oregon next year, saying that “it is a great honor, with all the history around Oregon, I think we are going to produce some very good performances as a team… Vin Lannana is a great coach and he understands where I am coming from.”

    1  4:16.7 Baddeley, Andrew                         28 Great Britain           
    2  4:16.8 Verzbicas, Lukas                         18 New Lenox IL            
    3  4:17.4 Miller, Craig                            23 Madison WI              
    4  4:17.6 Miller, Kyle                             25 Austin TX               
    5  4:24.3 Gagnon, Brian                            23 Hanover NH                          

Marina Muncan Prevails in Tight Finish

The women's race was just as close, with Anna Pierce, Marina Muncan, and Treniere Moser all battling for the win in the final straight.

After Charlotte Browning led the first two laps, the field began to pick it up, tired of the extremely slow pace.  With the finish in sight, Muncan took the outside, Moser the middle, and Pierce the inside.  The three would stay three-wide until after the tape.  Similar to the men's race before, fans, athletes, and reporters had to wait to hear who was the victor.

Eventually it was announced Muncan had won in 4:58.7, with Pierce and Moser a tenth of a second behind.  The 28-year-old Muncan's win marks her third of this year in Boston-- indoors she won the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, as well as the 800m in a national record at the Boston University Valentine Invitational.

"I guess you could say this is my lucky city," said Muncan.

Post Race Comments: Anna Pierce to Focus on 1500m in 2011
This was Pierce’s first race of the 2011 season and despite being disappointed in herself for not holding onto the win, she was happy with her race performance, “With a race like that it’s kind of weird, you can’t really tell where you are,” said Pierce. “Usually on the track you always know where you are, where your competitors are… I mean, it is my fault that somebody snuck up on me. I probably should have run harder that last 100.” Pierce has not been on the scene the past few months and this has been due to sickness, “I had a really rough winter, I was sick a ton,” said Pierce. “I kept getting a chronic cold.” After making some tweaks to her diet, including eating a lot more meat and vegetables, Pierce says she has been feeling excellent the past two months. Pierce says she is in strong shape right now and that she is hoping to have better year this year than last year, which she says was subpar. Her ultimate goal is to get a world medal, “Getting on the podium is always going to be my number one goal,” said Pierce, who added that she will focus mainly on the 1500 this season. Anna has had success at the steeplechase (US Champion), 800 (undefeated in the World in 2009 with 2 Diamond League wins), and 1500m (sub 4:00 1500m) in the past.

The women’s mile also featured Charlotte Browning, the former NCAA mile champion from University of Florida. Browning led for most of the race, but did not have enough to hold on at the end. “I am not pleased with my race, I thought I was better than that,” said Browning, who is currently taking 20 credits at University of Florida. Browning found herself at the front of the race, which is not where she wanted to be, “I am not a front runner, I am more of a tactical runner, I like to stay in the back and kick.” Although she was not pleased with her race Browning said she felt better than she did indoors. Her training is currently geared toward the European season and the world trials. Brie Felnagle also used this race as her 2011 season debut, finishing fourth in 4:59.1. “It was good. It was fun, I didn’t know what to expect, it’s a cool race,” said Felnagle, who is training back at home in Tacoma, Washington. “I was a little apprehensive about starting off with a mile, a lot of our training has been distance oriented.” Felnagle’s training is currently geared toward the 5k but she also plans on running a few 1500s, with the goal race being the trials 5k in June.

The high school mile races were won in opposite fashion, as Newton's Kathy O'Keefe and David Melly took the girl's and boy's races, respectively.  O'Keefe, a senior, will run for Boston College next year.

Editor's Note: Letsrun.com's Jess Barton and Tom Davis contributed to this with the post-race comments from Anna Pierce, Charlotte Browning, and Lukas Verbicas.

More BAA Sunday:  2011 BAA 5ks: Ben True Wins a Narrow One, Lineth Chepkurui Cruises 

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