RRW: Solid Debut by Mo Ahmed Highlights Day Two of Armory Collegiate Invite

By Chris Lotsbom, @Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (08-Feb) — University of Wisconsin Olympian Mo Ahmed timed an impressive 7:55.45 for 3000 meters, leading the University of Wisconsin to a team victory here on the second day of the Armory Collegiate Invitational. Ahmed, 23, earned ten of Wisconsin’s 63 points thanks to a dominant performance.

Toeing the line for his first race since the 2013 IAAF World Championships last August, Ahmed was anxious to compete. Despite feeling ill earlier in the week, the Somalian-born native of Canada charged to the front, settling in behind Wisconsin teammate and designated pace setter Michael VanVoorhis.

Repeatedly, Ahmed and VanVoorhis rattled off laps of 31 and 32 seconds before the latter stepped off the track with just over a mile remaining. Passing 1600 meters in 4:13, Ahmed was well on his way to victory, the field about ten meters adrift.

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With his long, loping stride and comfortable lead, Ahmed resembled another man by the name of Mo — double Olympic champion Mo Farah, whom Ahmed raced against at both the London Olympic Games and World Championships in Moscow.

Winning his season debut with a time of 7:55.45, Ahmed was pleased.

“I just wanted to come out here and give it a try,” he said as the Wisconsin fight song played over The Armory’s loud speakers. “This is the beginning.”

Ideally, Ahmed said he wants to double in both the 3000m and 5000m at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March. His 3000m time from today ranks sixth in the NCAA thus far. With the confidence gained from his ninth place showing at the World Championships last year, Ahmed is shooting for the top spot at NCAAs.

“It’s not going to be easy. Lawi Lalang is a great athlete, a lot of the Oregon guys are really good,” he said. “I respect my competitors, but I’m gunning for that. This is my last year and I really want to put the icing on top.”

The women’s 3000m appeared to be a runaway victory just like the men’s contest, as Arizona’s Maria Larsson opened up a ten meter lead by the one kilometer mark. Larsson’s gap would continue to grow until she unexpectedly stepped off the track with exactly a kilometer remaining.

Suddenly, a race that seemed all but over was now wide open. Eventual winner Silvia Del Fava didn’t realize Larrson had stopped until the public address announcer announced she was in the lead.

“I heard the speaker say that. I didn’t see because I was focused on my race” said Del Fava, a native of Italy. “I was like ‘what?'”

Del Fava held on for first, finishing in 9:33.50. Columbia’s Caroline Williams and Wisconsin’s Erin Cawley placed a close second and third, finishing in 9:34.07 and 9:34.57.

An unexpected dropout also played a factor in the women’s mile. While pacesetter Frances Koons stepped off the track at halfway, Villanova’s Kelsey Margey followed suit. Margey, who looked to be in control of the race early on, was now out of the picture. Taking over first was Rachel Schneider.

“My coach emphasized that I needed to work from 800m to 1200m, and when Kelsey wasn’t going to go I was like ‘alright, time to take it over and see what I can do,'” said Schneider, who attends Georgetown University. Taking the win in 4:37.98, Scheneider defeated Villanova’s Stephanie Schappert (4:39.45).

The men’s mile was won out of the second, unseeed championship section by Duke’s Nate McClafferty in 4:09.26.

Arkansas’s Stephanie Brown returned to The Armory’s oval less than 24 hours after winning the distance medley relay to claim the Championship 800m. Powering away from the field, Brown’s final time was 2:06.91. Just missing a meet record in the men’s 800m was Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride, who stopped the clock in 1:48.29.

Among the prep races contested, two national leading marks were set in the 4x800m relays.

A day after finishing a disappointed 11th in the Junior 1000m, Denise Branch anchored Benjamin Cardozo to the 4x800m title in 9:08.97, a US #1 by over ten seconds.

“It was a good chance for me to redeem myself from yesterday,” said Branch, who will run at the University of Illinois next year. “I wasn’t going to let a bad race get to me. I had to pull it off and be strong for my teammates.”

Blacksburg, Virginia’s Kenneth Hagen –yesterday’s Junior 1000m champion– led his team to the 4x800m win in 7:44.52, the top high school time in America this year. Next month, Hagen and his teammates plan to return to The Armory in hopes of chasing a national title at New Balance Nationals Indoor.

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