By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2015 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
CAPE ELIZABETH, ME, USA (31-Jul) — With three podium finishes, including two victories, Daniel Salel is one of the hottest runners on the USA road circuit this year. Despite temperatures reaching a balmy 80 degrees here today (27C), the always smiling 24-year-old wore a long sleeved black adidas top to today’s TD Beach to Beacon 10-K press conference.
Some say the color black is intimidating. Any intimidation that Salel’s wardrobe emanated was blown away by his beaming grin.
“I am very happy here,” he told Race Results Weekly, gripping his race t-shirt. “So, so happy. I love American and racing in America.”
Salel’s results –especially in the last twelve months– surely give him reason to love racing on U.S. soil. Frequently competing on the roads, Salel has notched personal bests of 13:27 for 5-K, 27:41 for 10K, and 60:41 for the half-marathon, all set in Boston at event organized by the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.). In the span of two weeks earlier this summer he won the B.A.A. 10-K (held in a torrential downpour) and the patriotic AJC Peachtree Road Race 10-K in Atlanta. Now he’s looking to complete the 10-K trifecta here at the 18th TD Beach to Beacon 10-K.
“There is special something about racing here. The support, the crowds,” he said, gesturing with his hands and nodding his head. “It’s special, very special. I like America.”
Salel repeated that phrase very often, that he loves America and is happy; he said the phrase five times in the span of three minutes.
When pressed to name reasons why, he kept going back to the support from those around him. When he runs here in America, he feels at ease, an extra wave of confidence and energy running through his veins thanks to the encouragement from fans and event organizers. Here in Cape Elizabeth, he’s also supported by a host family (elite athletes at this race all stay with families).
Interestingly, reigning women’s champion Gemma Steel said something very similar to Salel, that the crowd support and adrenaline gained from races in America have helped her succeed on the roads. She won this race by a step over Shalane Flanagan last year, and is the women’s favorite heading into tomorrow’s race.
Of late, Salel has found a second home on the podium at New England road races. In addition to his win at this year’s B.A.A. 10-K, he took third at the B.A.A. 5-K in 13:27. In 2014 he finished fifth, third, and second at the B.A.A.’s Distance Medley events (5-K, 10-K, and Half-Marathon), and was also second at the 2014 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, D.C.
“I am confident,” he said. “I am confident and hope for top three again here.”
Fourteen of the last 15 men’s champions at this race have come from Kenya, including two-time winner Micah Kogo who will toe the line alongside Salel tomorrow. Also from Kenya is Stephen Kosgei Kibet, second here last year. Uganda’s triple Commonwealth Games gold medalist Moses Kipsiro rounds out the elite international field, while a slew of Americans led by young stalwarts Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan try to win the USA’s first title in race history.
After completing his interview with Race Results Weekly, Salel surprised this reporter.
“Last time I saw you I won in Boston,” he said out of the blue, referencing our post-race meeting in June after the wet B.A.A. 10-K. “This time I’ll see you again at finish and hope to win again.”
The men’s event record is 27:27.5 set by Gilbert Okari in 2003. While that time is 14 seconds faster than Salel’s lifetime best at 10-K, he’s ready for both a fast or tactical race. He has a feeling it’ll be the latter.
“This year, the U.S. is good for me. Tomorrow it will be tactics, a tactic race,” he said. “I know the guys are very strong, but depending on the tactics I’m sure that I can win. I hope it will come to a sprint.”