By Jonathan Gault
August 16, 2014
FALMOUTH, Mass. – NJ*NY Track Club’s Kyle Merber and the Brooks Beasts’ Katie Mackey defeated quality domestic fields to win the men’s and women’s elite races at the 2014 Falmouth Mile at the James T. Kalperis Track at Falmouth High School. Under cool and windy conditions, Merber waited until the final 100 meters to launch into his kick before pulling away from David Torrence and Garrett Heath to win in 3:56.46 to earn $3,000 ($2,000 for the win and an additional $1,000 for breaking 3:58). Mackey employed a different strategy, leading the entire race once the rabbit dropped out and holding off 2013 Team USA member Sarah Brown and Morgan Uceny to claim her second straight title in 4:27.79. Mackey also hit the women’s time bonus of 4:32 to earn $3,000 for her efforts.
Rabbit Danny Stockberger took the field through the first 409 meters in 58.0 seconds with 2012 Olympic Trials steeplechase 4th-placer Donnie Cowart and Heath behind him. By 600, those three had a gap on the field and Merber decided he had to make a move. After a 59.5 second 400, it was those four and then a gap of 10 meters to the chase pack of Torrence, former Georgetown runner Andrew Springer and the OTC’s Jordan McNamara.
Torrence began to close the gap and by the bell it was Heath leading Merber and Torrence with Cowart beginning to fade. It was clear this would be a three-man race as they entered the final turn as it was still Heath, Merber and Torrence up front with a 20-meter lead on fourth. The Falmouth Mile is unique in that the start and finish line are in the middle of the home straight and not the end, and as they turned on to the home straight for the final 50 meters, Merber swung wide and seized the lead from Heath. Merber moved into lane one and was not to be caught as he used pulled away while Torrence passed Heath to claim second. McNamara was a distant fourth in 4:00.18. Leader-to-leader, the last lap was 58.2 seconds, so Merber was probably at 58.0 or a shade under.
1. Kyle Merber, 3:56.46
2. David Torrence, 3:56.96
3. Garrett Heath, 3:57.20
4. Jordan McNamara, 4:00.18
5. Dorian Ulrey, 4:00.35
6. Andrew Springer, 4:02.24
7. Sam Chelanga, 4:02.90
8. Donn Cabral, 4:03.26
9. Donnie Cowart, 4:03.32
10. Pat Fullerton, 4:08.94
11. Will Leer, 4:09.82
Quick Thought #1: Kyle Merber’s breakout year continues.
The 23-year-old Merber has been running well in 2014, with two mile PRs in a four-day span in July (he’s down to 3:54 at the moment). He was third at the Michigan Track Classic last week behind Nick Willis and Heath and got revenge on Heath to win tonight in Falmouth. Merber credits NJ*NY coach Frank Gagliano for his improvement and said that he was extremely grateful to team therapist Tom Nohilly (1997 WC team member in steeple) for keeping him healthy, which has been an issue in the past. Merber recently signed a deal with Hoka One One and was sporting their singlet today, though he said they’re still in the prototype phase of developing spikes for him, which he plans to race in next year.
Quick Thought #2: David Torrence is in a good place.
This was Torrence’s first race since July 25 and he was happy with the performance, hoping it was a portend of a successful “second season” to come in Europe.
Torrence recently switched coaches to Jama Aden (coach of elites such as Genzebe Dibaba, Abubaker Kaki and Ayanleh Souleiman) and his first month or so didn’t go too well as he didn’t even make the final at USAs in the 1,500. Torrence – who is still based in California – said that he figured that if he just followed Aden’s program, he’d improve since athletes like Dibaba and Souleiman are among the best in the world in their events. But Torrence now realizes that there was an adjustment period, as there is for any new athlete-coach relationship, and that Torrence wasn’t asking questions and generating the right kind of feedback to improve as an athlete. He’s now at the point where he’s comfortable discussing the details of his training and asking questions of Aden and as a result his training has gone a lot better. Now Torrence is off to Europe for several races across the continent.
Quick Thought # 3: While Torrence said he didn’t really feel the wind, Heath – who did all of the work once the rabbit dropped – certainly did.
Heath said afterwards that he definitely felt the wind and it was evident track-side that the wind was blowing. The wind probably should have been expected though – there is a large wind turbine just behind the high school and it was rotating quickly for most of the night. Though it may have hurt his chances at victory, Heath should consider himself lucky – just imagine the poor Falmouth HS runners that have to run intervals on that track.
Quick Thought # 4: Jordan McNamara just didn’t have it today.
I caught up with recent LRC profile subject McNamara briefly after the race and he said that he didn’t feel that great warming up. Once the race started, he said that he was having to work really to maintain his position even though the pace wasn’t super-quick and that meant that he was never going to be a factor for the win.
Quick Thought #5: Maybe it was a mistake for Will Leer to shave his beard.
Race announcer Toni Reavis said that Leer shaved it because he’s been to several weddings this summer and was told that he shouldn’t be remembered as “that guy with the beard.” But the clean-shaven Leer was never a factor and finished last in 4:09.82. More than likely it was just a bad race for Leer as he should still be in good shape after running a PR of 3:34.26 for 1,500 last month.
The Top 3 Speak After The Race
This one started at an honest clip as the rabbit, Kimarra McDonald, took the field through 409 meters in 67.6. Mackey was right on her shoulder at 409 and behind them there was a gap to Uceny and Brown. A 67.0 second lap did little to change things as it was still McDonald leading Mackey, Uceny and Stephanie Garcia. Mackey took over once McDonald dropped out at 1,000 meters and she still led at the bell (69.7 third lap), with Garcia, Uceny, Brown and Brie Felnagle all together at the front of the pack. Mackey continued to press and though Garcia and Felnagle would fade over the next 200, Brown and Uceny were still hanging around, with Uceny about a meter behind Brown another meter back. Brown would pass Uceny for second toward the end but neither could make up any ground on Mackey, who powered down the home straight to win her second straight Falmouth Mile with a 63.2 final lap.
Results and an interview with Mackey below:
1. Katie Mackey, 4:27.79
2. Sarah Brown, 4:28.70
3. Morgan Uceny, 4:29.62
4. Brie Felngagle, 4:29.84
5. Amanda Eccleston, 4:30.43
6. Stephanie Garcia, 4:31.26
7. Gabriele Grunewald, 4:36.33
8. Heidi Gregson, 4:38.16
9. Aisha Praught, 4:44.44
Quick Thought #1: Mackey didn’t plan on leading the whole way but can’t complain with the win.
Mackey said she loves coming to this race and enjoys the setting on Cape Cod and was very happy to have won her second straight Falmouth Mile. She didn’t plan on leading and said that the race played out similarly to last year as everyone slowed down and bunched up once the rabbit dropped out. She figured that since she was in the lead and breaking the wind for everyone, she may as well make it an honest race and picked it up for the last lap. The strategy worked as she was able to get a small gap on Brown and Uceny, which meant that they weren’t helped as much by her breaking the wind.
Mackey will be finishing her track season with a few fun international meets. First, she’ll run the 1,500 at the DecaNation meet in France on August 30, where each country competes a team decathlon (i.e. each country enters one man and one woman in each of the decathlon events and are scored as a sum of the individual performances in each event across both genders). The U.S. has won the meet six years in a row and Mackey will be looking to help make it seven. She’ll finish her season two weeks later with the Continental Cup in Morocco, where she’ll run the 5,000.
Katie Mackey Talks After The Race