Close Races Highlight First Day Of USA Club Nationals

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By Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
June 28, 2013

NEW YORK — Close, come-from-behind finishes defined the opening day of distance competition here at the USATF National Club Championships on Randall’s Island. Despite blustery winds and temperatures soaring into the upper 80’s (27C), athletes ran through the finish aiming to score the most points for their clubs on Icahn Stadium’s blue oval.

WETZEL, REID TAKE CLOSE 800M RACES

To open up the middle distance program, Rose Wetzel drove down the homestretch to take the women’s 800m title, defeating early leader Stephanie Herrick. Herrick, competing for Central Park Track Club New Balance, led the field through a pedestrian first lap of 69 seconds, a perfect scenario for the waiting Wetzel.

“I’ve been working on my speed a lot,” said Wetzel, representing Club Northwest. “I even jumped in a couple 200s [meter races].”

Biding her time until 100 meters remained, Wetzel made her move to take control of the race. Crossing the line with a pump of the fist Wetzel timed2:12.89, a step ahead of Herrick in 2:13.26.

“With 200m to go I knew I could kick it in,” said Wetzel. “I was like, ‘this feels good!'”

Wetzel will return to the track here on Sunday, hoping to retain her 5000m title.

A close finish prevailed on the men’s side as well, with New Jersey/New York Track Club’s Nicholas Reid taking the discipline in 1:51.39. Fresh off a fourth place showing at the Jamaican National Championships last weekend, Reid was ready to prove himself on American soil. After all, he had to match the performances of his NJ/NY Track Club teammates from last week’s American Championships — when coach Frank Gagliano had a number of athletes advance on to the finals.

That he did, earning the impressive victory over Lucas Manring.

“I knew it was going to be a kick race, so I just sat in third or fourth place and just waited ’til the last 100m,” he said. “It feels real good.”

1500M A TALE OF TWO RACES

Kansas City Smoke’s Michael Hernandez nipped Christopher Heibell at the line for the 1500m Club National title. At the bell, Hernandez knew it was now or never, time to go to the front and make the other competitors hurt.

“I thought I’d make a move, I just had to go,” said Hernandez, who timed 4:01.32 for the win. “It’s guts. Pain is temporary but the prize is forever.”

The women’s 1500m was a runaway win for Central Park Track Club’s Rolanda Bell. The 25-year-old, who has dual citizenship (USA/PAN), ran away from masters ace Sonja Friend-Uhl and Impala Racing Team’s Tasia Potasinski at the bell. Ultimately she would win in 4:27.97.

Primarily a steeplechaser, Bell dropped down in distance and said she felt great doing so. She will return to the longer distances Sunday as she races in the 5000m.

HRDLICKA DEFEATS VONGVORACHOTI, FAULKNER RUNS AWAY WITH 10,000m TITLE

In the women’s 10,000m, it looked as if Central Park Track Club would earn another title, as Jane Vongvorachoti gapped the field within the opening kilometer. Vongvorachoti –who like Bell has duel citizenship (Thailand)– passed halfway in 17:51 with more than a 20 meter lead. That’s when the wheels began to slowly fall off. Over the next three laps, Kayli Hrdlicka of Kansas City Smoke would draw closer and closer, ultimately passing the tiring Vongvorachoti with a mile to go.

“I saw an opportunity and I got kind of hungry for the win,” said Hrdlicka. “My plan was to let her do her thing and stay relaxed as long as I could.”

Hrdlicka went on to win in 36:21.40, Kansas City Smoke’s second distance title of the day. Vongvorachoti finished nine seconds behind in second, crossing the line and falling into medical personnel’s hands. The temperatures clearly had gotten to Vongvorachoti, a former national team soccer player.

The men’s 10,000m was won with ease by the New York Athletic Club’s Jerry Faulkner, who this fall will race the ING New York City Marathon. After a 15:37 first half, Faulkner ran away from Andrew Brodeur.

ROMO, RATHNAM TAKE STEEPLECHASE WINS

Making the long trip from California was Jesus Romo for the men’s 3000m steeplechase, a discipline he would win in 9:07.82. Running in front on and off through the opening two kilometers, the New Balance Silicon Valley athlete broke from the field with 800 meters to go.

Hope Rathnam of the Greater Boston Track Club earned the women’s 3000m steeplechase win in her first race with barriers in approximately three years.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said Rathnam with a smile. “I just tried to jump the barriers and the water jumps were my thing, where I kind of pulled ahead.”

Her final time was 11:46.00.

On Sunday, competition continues with the 5000m, distance medley relay, and 4x800m relay.


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