Jenny Simpson Gets Her Sixth Straight Fifth Avenue Mile Title, Jake Wightman Gets His First

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By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (09-Sep) — Despite cold, wet conditions here today, the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile featured a pair of scorching finishes in the elite fields. Jenny Simpson of the United States won the women’s title for the sixth year in a row (and seventh time overall), while recently-crowned European Championships 1500m bronze medalist Jake Wightman of Scotland stole the men’s race with a well-timed kick. It was the 38th running of the iconic New York Road Runners jaunt down the celebrated boulevard.

Simpson’s dominance in the event was immediately on full display when she took the lead and the entire field fanned out behind her, showing apparent deference to the Olympic bronze medalist. Under a light but steady rain and cool temperatures (60F/15C) Simpson pushed hard on the opening downhill segment and passed the quarter mile in a brisk 62 seconds. Portugal’s Marta Pen moved to Simpson’s right shoulder and Britain’s Laura Weightman, last year’s runner-up, was on her left.

Jenny Simpson winning the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo courtesy of New York Road Runners)

Jenny Simpson winning the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile (photo courtesy of New York Road Runners)

“I wanted to be hard off the line,” Simpson told Race Results Weekly after the race. “I wanted to go straight to the center and say, ‘If you’re going to try to win you’re going to have to first keep up.’ If there’s an advantage to having won as many times as I have, it’s the experience and the fact that the field around you knows that you have the experience. And so if I eke an advantage of that it might be by trying to set the tone early.”

As the course turned uphill in the second quarter, American steeplechase specialist Colleen Quigley edged between Simpson and Pen, while Sarah McDonald of Britain briefly took the front as they hit the half mile in 2:11. Another American steeplechaser, reigning world champion Emma Coburn, also started to make a move towards the front as the clock ticked past three minutes, but Simpson maintained her perch at the front of the pack.

Melissa Courtney of Great Britain moved up into contact with Simpson, but the three-time world championships 1500 meters medalist (including gold in 2011) seemed unfazed as she powered through three-quarters of a mile in 3:16.

Jenny Simpson celebrates after winning the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Jenny Simpson celebrates after winning the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

In the closing stages Simpson still had plenty of company, including Quigley, Coburn, Courtney, McDonald, and Alexa Efraimson of the U.S., who came surging by on the far right of the road. Just past the 1500 mark Quigley found another gear, but it was not enough to match Simpson, who hit the tape in 4:18.9. Quigley (4:19.2) was comfortably second, followed by Courtney (4:20.3), Coburn (4:20.5) and Efraimson (4:21.0). McDonald faded to 10th in 4:24.5, but earned a U.S. $1000 bonus for leading at the halfway point and finishing under 4:32.

“I always say this finish line is a dual finish,” said Simpson, who had her string of four consecutive U.S. titles in the 1500 meters snapped this June by Shelby Houlihan. “It’s the end of a mile, but it’s also the end of my season. And so it means a lot to me to end with a win and I’m really willing to fight really hard for that.”

Quigley, who suffered a foot injury in the spring and missed several key races, capped an encouraging final stretch to the season, scoring a pair of track victories in Europe and setting PRs in the 1500 (4:03.02) and steeplechase (9:10.27). Given that momentum, she was frustrated with her tactics in New York.

“I kind of feel like I misjudged it a little bit,” she admitted. “I did that last year and told myself I wasn’t to do it this year, and it happened again. It’s a tough road mile. It’s hard to gauge how far you are from the finish. I was trying to follow Jenny and stick on her shoulder. By the time I realized how close we were to the finish it was too late.”

(Videos with top women at bottom of article).

130Jenny SimpsonF32USANew Balance0:04:19
235Colleen QuigleyF25USANIKE Bowerman Track Club0:04:20
333Melissa CourtneyF25GBRNew Balance0:04:21
440Emma CoburnF27USANew Balance0:04:21
548Alexa EfraimsonF21USANIKE0:04:21
652Emily LipariF25USAadidas0:04:22
731Laura WeightmanF27GBRNIKE0:04:22
849Cory McGeeF26USANew Balance0:04:25
944Nicole SifuentesF32CANSaucony0:04:25
1032Sarah McDonaldF25GBRNew Balance0:04:25
1136Shannon OsikaF25USANIKE0:04:26
1254Adelle TraceyF25GBRNIKE0:04:26
1341Katie MackeyF30USABrooks0:04:26
1442Steph TwellF29GBRNew Balance0:04:28
1534Kate GraceF29USANIKE Bowerman Track Club0:04:29
1639Dominique ScottF26RSAadidas0:04:29
1745Helen SchlachtenhaufenF23USASaucony0:04:30
1843Sara VaughnF32USANew York Athletic Club0:04:32
1937Rachel SchneiderF27USAUnder Armour0:04:33
2047Kim ConleyF32USANew Balance0:04:34
2151Katrina CooganF24USANew Balance0:04:34
2238Marta PenF25POR0:04:36
2387Kenyetta IyevbeleF26USAHOKA ONE ONE NJ-NY Track Club0:04:41
2490Heather WilsonF28USAHOKA ONE ONE NJ-NY Track Club0:04:42
2550Ce’Aira BrownF24USAHOKA ONE ONE NJ-NY Track Club0:04:43

Men’s Race

In the men’s race, Sam Parsons bolted to an immediate 5-meter lead, his mind clearly on the halfway leader’s bonus. He hit the first quarter in 57 seconds, while the pack, led by Johnny Gregorek, came through in about 59. Defending champion Nick Willis of New Zealand, seeking his fifth title in this event, was in the center of the chase group, patiently waiting for the real racing to begin.

Nick Willis (second), Jake Wightman (first) and Neil Gourley (third) celebrate after the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Nick Willis (second), Jake Wightman (first) and Neil Gourley (third) celebrate after the 38th New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

Parsons reached the half mile in 2:00 with a 10-meter cushion on the field, but that gap quickly disintegrated. Just past three-quarters of a mile (3:00), the pack swallowed up the leader, with Chris O’Hare of Scotland making a bold surge to the front from the far right-hand side of the course. Wightman, Willis, and Neil Gourley, yet another Scot, covered the move best.

Wightman seized the lead in the final 200 meters, and held off Willis for the win, 3:53.5 to 3:54.2. Gourley (3:55.3) took third, with American Eric Avila (3:55.5) and Aussie Sam McEntee (3:56.0) rounding out the top 5. Parsons was only 14th (3:57.7) but scored his early-leader payday by meeting the sub-4:00 finish requirement. Olympic 1500 gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz didn’t factor in the final sprint and placed 16th in 4:00.2.

“When someone like Chris goes he’s usually pretty decisive and spot on, so I just followed him, and then when I felt him tiring a little bit I started to go,” Wightman said of his strategy. “I knew people were probably going to come because the finish line didn’t feel like it was coming quite as quick as I thought it was going to be. So there was definitely time to get caught, which is not a nice feeling. I think 20 meters longer I probably would have been.”

The win capped an exceptional year for the 24-year-old runner who, like Simpson, represents New Balance. He bookended his season with bronze medals in the 1500 at the Commonwealth Games in April and the European Championships in August. He lowered his personal best in that event to 3:33.96 and also showed off his speed with a new 800 best of 1:44.61.

Willis, 35, seemed good-natured about the loss, and noted that the wet conditions probably dictated the conservative tempo. “No one wanted have the pace go,” the two-time Olympic medalist said. “I think they learned from my strategies in past years to wait and wait and wait. [Jake] got just a little bit of a jump on me and I thought he was coming back to me when I was trying to do my trademark last 100 on this course, but I ran out of power in my legs and I couldn’t make the difference. Foolish to think I could outkick a 1:44 guy from this season, perhaps.”

Both Simpson and Wightman earned U.S. $5000 for their victories, part of a $30,000 prize purse for the event.

(Videos with top men at bottom of article).

NameAgeIAAFTeam NameOverall Time
1Jake WightmanM24GBRNew Balance0:03:54
2Nick WillisM35NZLadidas0:03:55
3Neil GourleyM23GBR0:03:56
4Eric AvilaM28USAadidas0:03:56
5Sam McEnteeM26AUSHOKA ONE ONE NJ-NY Track Club0:03:56
6Chris O’HareM27GBRadidas0:03:57
7Charlie GriceM24GBRNIKE0:03:57
8Craig EngelsM24USANIKE Oregon Project0:03:57
9Johnny GregorekM26USAASICS0:03:57
10Riley MastersM28USANIKE0:03:57
11Ben BlankenshipM29USANike Oregon Track Club0:03:58
12Ben TrueM32USASaucony0:03:58
13Sam PrakelM23USAadidas0:03:58
14Sam ParsonsM24USAadidas0:03:58
15Andreas BubeM31DENBagsvaerd AC0:03:59
16Matthew CentrowitzM28USANIKE Oregon Project0:04:01
17Graham CrawfordM25USAHOKA ONE ONE NJ-NY Track Club0:04:01
18Lopez LomongM33USANIKE Bowerman Track Club0:04:02

LRC Videos:

Wightman caps very successful season

Wightman had a great 2018 as he was 3rd at the Commonwealths and Europeans at 1500 and set PBs of 1:44.61 and 3:33.96 while finishing 4th in the Diamond League 800m final. Now he’ll get a much-needed vacation.

Nick Willis was chasing it all season, hopes to run some half marathons
Nick Willis has won four 5th Avenue titles but had to settle for 2nd today. He was hoping his experience would help him today, but he said he’s been playing catchup all season after an early injury caused him to miss the Commonwealth Games. Nick said he limited his mileage all season to just get by and see what he could do. Now he hopes to put in more miles and experiment with some half-marathons.

He joked competing at 5000 should be easier now that guys are running 12:43.

Ben True didn’t think he was in 13:04 shape but that’s what he ran in Brussels

True switched to coach Ray Treacy this year and liked the new set-up but he said he surprised himself with his 13:04 in Brussels as he didn’t think he was in that shape.

Eric Avila 1st American Pleased With His 2018 Season

Avila had some very good results this year and some inconsistent results, but he finished it as the first American today and is pleased with his new training group with Terrence Mahon in California.

Neil Gourley looking to sign contract and moving to Eugene

Gourley competed well against the pros today and is looking forward to following his former college coach Ben Thomas to Eugene, Oregon, where he’ll train next year.

Jenny Simpson admits she burned it hot early in 2018 but is glad to end with a win

Simpson won her amazing 6th straight Fifth Avenue Mile. It was a great performance considering her last race was a disappointing 10th at 1500 at the Diamond League final.

Simpson admitted to trying to be in shape early this year (she went after the American 3000m record in Doha and went sub-four at Pre). She was hoping the European break would leave her rejuvenated for the Diamond League final but it didn’t quite work out as planned but she showed today she still is very fit.

Colleen Quigley Looking Forward to 2019 after PBs at end of 2018

Quigley had a nice indoor season, winning Millrose in the mile and making Worlds at 1500. Then she got injured and didn’t race from the end of April till late July. Then she ran a 4:03.02 pb last month for 1500 and a 9:10.27 PB for the win at the ISTAF meet last weekend. So a great but abbreviated outdoor season. She hopes to put all together in 2019.