July 26, 2014
It’s official: Ethiopia owns the 5,000.
Two nights ago, Alemitu Heroye and Alemitu Hawi went 1-2 in the women’s 5,000 and on Friday at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., Yomif Kejelcha and Yasin Haji repeated the feat in the men’s 5,000. Remember, at World Juniors, it doesn’t get any better than that as each country is only allowed two entrants per event.
Kejelcha ran 13:25.19 for the win, with Haji a second behind him. Kenya’s Moses Letoyie took the bronze in 13:28.11 while Americans Colby Gilbert (University of Washington) and Brian Barraza (University of Houston) were ninth (14:09.98) and 13th (14:13.33) respectively. We recap the race with results and quick takes below.
Though the winning time of 13:25 was similar to what you might expect in a championship 5,000 at senior worlds, the lower talent level at World Juniors meant that this was a very honest race. The race went out in 4:22 for 1600 (4:22 is 13:38.75 pace) and at that point, a group of eight runners had broken away from the field. Led by Uganda’s Phillip Kipyeko (6th at World Juniors in ‘12, fastest PR in the field at 13:16), the group also included Kejelcha, Haji, Letoyie, Kenya’s Fredrick Kiptoo, Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei (doubling back from his 10,000 win three nights ago), Eritrea’s Tsegay Tuemay and Canada’s Justyn Knight.
Everyone in the lead pack seemed to want an honest race as the lead was traded several times, and the pace never relented as 3200 was hit in 8:44 (still 13:18.75). At that point, Knight had fallen off but everyone else remained. After a 66.27 lap, Haji seized the lead at 3600 while Tuemay fell off. It was down to six.
Shortly thereafter, Kejelcha went to the front and really started to ratchet it down. He ran 63.09 for his next lap and the field was starting to string out behind him, with his countryman Haji in second followed by Letoyie and Cheptegei. Kiptoo and Kipyeko had dropped off the back and out of medal contention.
Kejelcha kept squeezing it down, running a 61.77 from 4000 to 4400, and once he hit the bell he really started to hammer, causing the gaps behind him to widen. It was still Hawi in second but the gap to Letoyie was now about 20 meters and Ethiopia seemed assured of gold and silver. Up front, Kejelcha was looking around to see how much of a gap he had on Haji and, confident in his lead, let up slightly in the home stretch but still crossed in 13:25 for the win (60 last lap). Hawi came in a second behind with Letoyie finishing in 13:28 for bronze.
|4||1492||Joshua Kiprui CHEPTEGEI||UGA||13:32.84||PB|
|5||975||Fredrick Kipkosgei KIPTOO||KEN||13:35.39|
Quick Take #1: Kejelcha was on a higher level than the rest of the field.
Though he didn’t have the fastest 5,000 PR (mainly because he rarely runs the event), Kejelcha entered with by far the best resume of anyone in the race. He won the World Youth title at 3,000 last year, ran 4:57 for 2,000 in February and ran 7:36 for 3,000 in Ostrava in June, second only to Caleb Ndiku on the world list in 2014. Kejelcha was the best guy out there and he knew it.
He won by gradually tightening the noose until he reached a pace that no one else could handle. Check out the 400 meter splits for the leader starting from 2800 to 3200 (Kejelcha took the lead just after 3600 meters):
4800: 58.14 (4:10 from 3200 to 4800, 4:07 and change last 1600 from 3400 to 5000)
To employ a strategy like that, you have to have supreme confidence in your fitness and a firm belief that you’re the best guy in the field by a considerable margin. Those kinds of long drives to the finish don’t always work, but when they do, they’re memorable. We know it’s borderline heresy to compare this performance to Kenenisa Bekele’s Olympic 5,000 victory in 2008 (a race we called the “greeatest 5k ever run“) but that was the first race we thought of once this one was over. Obviously Bekele’s performance was more impressive (much faster, better competition, doubling back from 10,000 gold), but tactically it was very similar.
Quick Take #2: Races like this are what make the World Juniors great.
Yes, from an American perspective this race may not have been as interesting because neither of the Americans was ever in contention. But when you compare the finals at World Juniors to those at senior worlds or the Olympics, one major advantage the World Juniors has is that the finals are far more unpredictable.
Most 5,000s and 10,000s at Worlds/Olympics will come down to a kick on the final lap. This is the case even when there’s one guy everyone knows will win in a kick. World Juniors doesn’t work that way. Two Japanese runners amassed a huge gap on the field in the men’s 10,000 final only to be reeled in over the course of the race. The women’s 800 final went out stupidly fast and saw the leaders die horribly over the final 400. And instead of the traditional sit-and-kick, tonight’s men’s 5,000 saw an exceptional talent break the field one-by-one over the final mile. Anything’s on the table on World Juniors.