By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (13-June) — With 600 meters remaining in the men’s 5000 meters here at the adidas Grand Prix, American Ben True was licking his chops. The 29-year-old’s eyes grew wider with each step, the thought of taking home a victory at the IAAF Diamond League meeting becoming a reality.
Relying on his ever improving kick, True overtook Kenyans Thomas Longosiwa and Nixon Chepseba, as well as Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis and Eritrea’s Nguse Amlosom in the final straight, claiming a tactical win in 13:29.48. True’s improbable victory was the highlight of an exciting meet here, the final IAAF Diamond League stop in the United States for 2015.
“As slow as it was going, I sure hoped I could be there at the end,” True said. “I was waiting for a bigger surge and that never came.”
With temperatures in the mid-80’s and a broiling sun overhead, the men’s 5000m looked more like a tempo run than a race, a group of seven completing lap after lap together. Longosiwa led at 3000 meters in 8:12.09, with True and Chepseba on his shoulders. At that point, it was clear the race would turn out to be a sit and kick affair.
When the pace picked up drastically at the bell, True and Willis both were ready. First the East African contingent went, then it was Willis striking with a vengeance. In the crowd was his father, who’d traveled from New Zealand to see him compete. Using his 1500m top speed, Willis went to the pole.
True matched Willis’s move shortly thereafter, coming up on the Kiwi’s right shoulder and making a quick pass just meters from the line. True grabbed victory in 13:29.48, with Willis second in 13:29.78. It was the first Diamond League win in True’s career.
“I came around that straightaway, moved out to lane three and just really pushed hard,” said True. “When you have that little bit of positive feedback in your closing, just a little bit, mentally that’s such a big gain that you can just really go for it and it’s a real positive lift that helps you get around them.”
All season, True has relied on his close to win memorable races. In April he set an American record on the roads at the B.A.A. 5-K, winning at the line in 13:22. Here in New York two weeks ago, he took the UAE Healthy Kidney 10-K by a tenth of a second in 28:12.4, again with a strong kick. Today, he knew he had one more gear to use.
“It wasn’t as drastic a drop of pace as I thought it was going to be. I wanted to get myself into position so they had to go around me when they started to use their kicks,” he said. “When they came around me I was able to hold on to them pretty well. I was surprised, tried digging deep, find something else and I was able to start closing back on them. It was pretty cool.”
Willis was pleased with his showing, especially coming after two months of hard, high-mileage base training under longtime coach Ron Warhurst. Willis said that his usual runs now are 90 minutes, hitting two hours for long runs.
“I got into the lead but it’s a long straightaway into the wind and the crowd was going nuts. I thought it was for me but Ben True was the local hero coming through. That was very exciting,” Willis told Race Results Weekly. “My main strategy was to finish the race. With this heat you don’t know how your body is going to react.”
Nguse was third in 13:30.22, followed by global medalists Thomas Longosiwa of Kenya (13:30.26) and Moses Kipsiro of Uganda (13:31.37). Longosiwa’s reaction to True’s kick was poignant.
“Yes. The race is like any game. So you can win, or you can race well and still lose,” he said with a coy grin.
WILSON, RUDISHA WIN EXCITING 800M CONTESTS
Some say the hardest way to win races is to lead all the way. Tell that to Ajee’ Wilson and David Rudisha, both of whom led every step once the pacers stepped off and broke the tape in 1:58.83 and 1:43.58, respectively.
Wilson, racing 40 miles from her home in Neptune, N.J., split 400 meters a step behind pacer Monica Hargrove in 57.19 and held her form all the way down the backstretch. Confident in her consistency and strength, Wilson wasn’t concerned when Janeth Jepkosgei and Chanelle Price began to close the gap in the final straight.
Across the stripe, Wilson smiled and was pleased to take the victory on the same track where she ran her first IAAF Diamond League competition in high school years ago.
“I felt good going into it and pushed, just stuck to the rabbit and stayed on pace,” Wilson said. “Just to come back, it’s kind of full circle to come here and take the win. It means a lot to me.”
All eyes were on Rudisha, the reigning Olympic gold medalist and world record holder. In three years, Rudisha had never lostat the adidas Grand Prix. He’d extend his winning streak in the Big Apple today, though would face late challenges from American Boris Berian (1:43.84) and Frenchman Pierre-Ambroise Bosse (1:43.88).
Rudisha opened his form in the final lap and rounded the final bend with a four-step lead. He’d cross first, though was well aware of his challengers close behind.
“I understand my body very well and I know I can do better than that,” Rudisha told a small group of media members. “To come here and run 1:43 and a half, I think it is what I am focusing [on]. We will see how the season will progress.”
On his competitors: “I saw them and I saw them on the big screen. I saw that and it caused me to push a little bit,” said Rudisha.
Boris Berian, now the fastest American in the two-lap race for 2015, has an interesting back-story. He began his collegiate career at Adams State University in Colorado, though chose to leave the school after trouble with academics made him ineligible to compete. Now he trains in Big Bear Lake, Calif., under the tutelage of Carlos Handler, husband of 800m World Championships bronze medalist Brenda Martinez. He was wearing a New Balance singlet that Martinez had given him.
“[Rudisha] takes it out even harder than I do, and it was pretty much chase after him all race,” Berian said. “If I felt good and I had a kick, I was hoping for sub-1:44 and that’s what I go.”
Now considered one of the favorites to make Team USA for the IAAF World Championships, Berian is in uncharted territory.
“The main goal is really our training. It’s being able to last all three rounds. If you can’t last all three rounds, what’s the point?” he said. When asked if he’s got to know fellow American half milers, he said not yet. He’s still considered the new kid on the block.
Behind Bosse, Matthew Centrowitz was fourth in 1:44.62 PB, while Olympic medalist Leo Manzano took fifth in 1:45.24.
ON COMEBACK TRAIL, DONOHUE EARNS BIG WIN IN 1000M
An Olympian in 2008, Erin Donohue faced a string of injuries and challenges after the 2010 track season. She’d miss two years of competing due to Haglund’s Deformity (a bone enlargement on the back of the heel), and would have to undergo multiple surgeries for the chance to compete again.
Now back on the track, Donohue surprised many by claiming victory in the women’s 1000m, overtaking Mary Cain and powering away from Treniere Moser and Hannah England in the process. Her winning time was 2:37.42, a personal best.
“I actually felt really good out there,” said Donohue, who is coached by Frank Gagliano as part of the New Jersey/New York Track Club. She will compete at the USA Championships in Eugene in two weeks time. “Since I haven’t raced in a couple years, I knew I was fit from workouts but it’s a whole different thing to transition back to getting in the big race, walking in the stadium, the whole atmosphere, and then remembering how to race against people.”
AYALEW CLASS OF FIELD IN WOMEN’S STEEPLECHASE
The women’s 3000m steeplechase was a runaway win for Ethiopian Hiwot Ayalew. A mere lap and a half in, Ayalew had already built up a ten meter lead. It would grow to be roughly 30 meters at the finish, when she broke the tape in 9:25.26 ahead of American Ashley Higginson (9:31.32).
Ayalew currently sits second in the Diamond Race standings, only behind Kenyan Virginia Nyambura. Nyambura was a late scratch from today’s race.
Interestingly enough, had Florida State’s Colleen Quigley run her NCAA Championships winning time of 9:29.32 here, she would have placed second.
FISHER, ARAGON WIN HIGH SCHOOL DREAM MILES; GOREVIC SETS AGE-GROUP WORLD RECORD
In the Boys High School Dream Mile, hopes were high for a sub-four clocking. Yet the slow early pace all but eliminated any chance of adding an eighth (or ninth) name to the selective list.
Mike Brannigan and Grant Fisher found themselves in prime position behind the rabbit, but the pace was slower than ideal going through 400 meters in 1:01.51 and 800 meters in 2:02.28. At the bell, Andrew Hunter joined Fisher and Brannigan among the front pack of six, causing for some bumping and jostling.
Fisher’s strategy was to simply wait until the last moment to move for the win, and that was exactly what he did, reaching for another gear with 150 and 50 meters remaining. He’d sprint to the win in 4:01.73, followed across the line by Hunter (4:02.36) and Brannigan (4:03.18).
“It feels awesome. This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said Fisher. He will continue his season at the Brooks PR meeting in Washington next weekend, then travel to Eugene for the U.S. Junior Championships. “It feels like you’re a pro, like you’re in the Diamond League meet. When you’re in a situation like that it’s hard not to race well, especially with the quality of the field.”
Montana’s Christina Aragon and North Carolina’s Ryen Frazier battled over the course of the bell lap in the Girls’ Dream Mile, with the former taking the title in a surprising 4:37.91. Frazier crossed a step later in 4:38.59.
“It’s pretty scary being next to Ryen, even after I passed her. I knew Ryen Frazier was behind me and I knew she was coming!” Aragon said with a laugh. “I was really excited that I had the chance [to win].”
For the second straight year, youth miler Jonah Gorevic set a world age-group record here. Gorevic won the Boys Youth Mile in 4:51.85, an Under-11 world record.
Smiling as he entered the mixed zone, Race Results Weekly asked Gorevic if he hopes to one day run among the professionals.
“God I hope so!” he said, noting his idols are Bernard Lagat, Usain Bolt, and David Rudisha.
run even drew the praise of mile world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj, who wrote the following on Twitter: “@ChrisLotsbom @RunnerSpace_com happy to welcome Jonah to the club of WR’s breakers.”