Quick Notes From Boston Meet
Willis Happy He Expanded Arsenal, Brown Gave Himself 5% Shot, Chelanga Loves LetsRun.com
February 6, 2011
Men's Mile News And Notes Start With Nick Willis - Disappointed But Glad He Wasn't A Wuss
New Zealand Olympic 1,500 silver medallist Nick Willis didn't win in Boston on Saturday (he finished 3rd in 3:56 behind Russell Brown and Garrett Heath), but he was cautiously upbeat after the race mainly because he employed a new racing strategy. Known as a kicker who often wins coming from just off the pace, Willis went into Boston thinking, "I wanted to challenge myself to stop being such a wuss and sitting and kicking." He planned to lead after the rabbit dropped out and experience racing from the front. He told us that he was "proud of himself for being more aggressive" after he led most of the race after the rabbit dropped out only 650m in. Willis said he wanted to work on some new tactical strategies to "expand his arsenal" as he prepares for the World Championships this year and ultimately to get ready for London's 2012 Olympic Games, where he hopes to again contend for a medal. He said when it came time to kick and Heath passed him, "my legs were zapped from leading and I couldn't go." For Willis, this loss couldn't be chalked up as just a shaky first race of the season. Asked at the start of his interview if this race was his rust buster, Willis responded, "No, I had a rust buster 2 weeks ago." Willis is hoping to run fast in the next 4-6 weeks to get an A qualifier for Worlds this year.
While the focus has been on Alan Webb and Nick Willis struggling in Boston, perhaps US miling Olympian Leo Manzano had the worst race on the evening, finishing in last place in an abysmal 4:07. Despite the poor showing, Manzano was upbeat after the race, as you can see by the interview to the left. He was soundly beaten by high schooler Lukas Verzbicas and said of the Oregon-bound senior, "That kid's gonna have a lot of potential, it's good to have another US guy in the mix. I'm hoping he's the guy!"
Verzbicas Runs 4:03, Says He Shouldn't Have Run In Last
While Manzano was impressed by Verzbicas, Lukas heads home dissatisfied despite running in what he called by far the most exciting race of his career. Going into the bell, the animated crowd was chanting "Lukas, Lukas!" as Verzbicas needed an unlikely 27 to approach 4:00. But at that point, Verzbicas was too far out of it to go under the magic mark. Looking back at his race, Verzbicas regretted going out in last despite still going through the first 200 and 400 well under 4:00 pace. He said he was aware that he was passing Manzano late in the race and said it was an unreal experience.
|Russell Brown answers questions after his big win.|
Men's Mile - NH Native Russell Brown Shocks As Favored Willis And Webb Finish 3, 7 (Verzbicas Runs 4:03)
Russell Brown won the men's mile in 3:54.81 in front of a large contingent of friends and family in Reggie Lewis. Brown was glowing after the race, talking to reporters for a long time about his race and what it meant to him to win. I asked him what odds he gave himself to win before the race and he thought about it and said, "5%, an outside chance." He went on to talk about how indoor track is huge in his native Northeast (he's right) and said about winning, "It's a dream. This is a track I ran on in high school. I imagined myself running high school New Englands here because it was the same track the pros raced on." He went on to talk about his winning kick, saying, "It just kind of happened. Garrett went first and then, I can't explain it." His performance, coming after years of injury and illness interrupted his training, was a lifetime best at the mile, indoor or out.
LetsRun.com Supporter Of The Meet - Sam Chelanga
Every meet we're surprised to find out which of the world's best athletes love LetsRun.com. Double NCAA XC champion Sam Chelanga was the latest surprise, as he was full of praise for LetsRun. I introduced myself to Sam Chelanga after he ran a 10-second PR 7:48 for 4th-place in the men's 3,000. When he heard I was from LetsRun.com, Chelanga lit up and gave a bunch of hilarious quotes about the site, including this one: "I know people talk about LetsRun and whether it's good. But I like it. Hey, we're sportsmen, we do stuff, people talk about it. If all we did was run races and live our lives, nobody would care. When we win and people cheer and talk about us, that's why it's fun. As long as you don't leave your family from visiting the site too much, I think it's fun." I like the last part the best and must say I agree. Perhaps LetsRun has a new motto: "You may like us a lot, but don't leave your family for LetsRun.com." Chelanga mentioned that he wants to win his first NCAA indoor title and then go for the double NCAA title outdoors, which he missed last year (NAU grad David McNeill beat him in the 5,000 after Chelanga dominated the 10,000).
Other Winners On The Evening: 1-Shoe Gebremeskel, Brown, Kipyego And Wright
Ethiopian Dejen Gebremeskel lost his shoe at the start of the super-fast men's 3,000, yet still ran 7:35, making him by far the best performer of the meet. Gebremeskel fought off the best efforts of highly fit front-running double Commonwealth Games Champ Mo Farah. We had Farah's final 200 in 26.8, and Gebremeskel came from behind to beat him, meaning he probably ran in the vicinity of 26.0.
|Gebremeskel (green, in 3rd) runs by late in the race wearing one shoe and one sock (blame Employee #1 for the shoddy camera work).|
Behind the men's mile, the men's 3,000m was by far the race of the evening (a barnburner as we predicted in the preview). Gebremeskel is a 12:53 5,000m runner, but this performance had even Mo Farah shaking his head. "If you only have got one shoe," Farah said after, "sooner or later you have to fall off the pace. I don’t know how he did it. I was very impressed." Farah knew early on that Gebremeskel had lost his shoe and tried to push the pace, predicting that running 60s for the entire race (except for one 400 in 63) would eventually tire his competitor, who was running in a sock. But he couldn't get rid of Gebremeskel, who looked the most effortless of the leading trio throughout the race. I talked with Gebremeskel briefly after the race and he showed me the darkened sole of his sock, said his race was good, and headed off.
Women's 3,000 - Kipyego Impresses Over Gezahegne And Simpson
In the women's 3,000, Sally Kipyego ran a super-negative-split race to surprise a strong field. In a race that only went out in 4:49 through the 1,600, Kipyego (not teenage mile sensation Kalkedan Gezahegne or Kipyego's former Big XII rival Jenny Simpson) had the best kick, closing in just over 60 to win.
Women's 800 - Tough Wright Holds Off Uceny
In the women's 800, 2010 Tennessee grad Phoebe Wright (seen pre-race, right) held off Morgan Uceny's best final lap move to get another gritty win, this time in 2:01. Maggie Vessey almost passed Uceny in the homestretch but settled for 3rd.
HSer Crevoiserat Impress With Shuffle Stride
Lindsay Crevoiserat, a Glastonbury, CT native headed to UConn next year, easily won the girls mile. This girl has big-time range and is a charismatic interview. She said she chose UConn over more traditional women's programs such as UNC and Penn State. When I asked her why UConn she replied, "I really liked the girls on the team and I think the coach will take me the farthest." She feels like UConn has a good track team and their distance program is on the rise under the leadership of Canadian national Andrea Grove-McDonough. Crevoiserat ran 16:51 indoors last year as a junior and almost won the Millrose Mile after leading the entire race with her unusual shuffling stride.