Relentless Molly Huddle Wins Fifth Straight US 10,000m Title
July 25, 2019
DES MOINES, Iowa — Five in a row.
Earlier this year, Emily Sisson, 27, defeated her sometimes training partner Molly Huddle, 34, in both the 10,000 meters and the marathon. Not tonight.
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In the first track final of the 2019 Toyota USATF Outdoor Championships, Huddle took the lead from Sisson with three laps to go and never looked back, winning her fifth straight US title at 10,000 (and seventh overall on the track) in 31:58.47 as Sisson was second in 32:02.19 and Kellyn Taylor third in 32:02.74.
Taylor does not have the 2019 World Championship standard, so the 2019 US team at the World Championships will likely be Huddle, Sisson, and Marielle Hall, who was the only other woman in the field with the standard. Hall finished 5th in 32:14.31.
Huddle got the win by running a huge negative split of 16:38-15:20. The first 11 laps were all 77 or slower. The last 13 laps were all 75 or faster.
While the weather was better than it often is this time of year in Des Moines (72 degrees, 65 dew point, 4 mph wind at race time), it became clear early on that no one in the field was concerned about getting the IAAF standard of 31:50 as the first 800 was covered in 2:50 (35:25 pace). With only three women with the 2019 IAAF World Championship standard, the 2019 Worlds team appeared to be set. This was just a race for pride (and prize money).
4600 meters into the race, Sisson, America’s #1 at both 10,000 (30:49.57) and the marathon this year (2:23:08) took the lead, and as she hit halfway the three women with the standard were running 1-2-3.
They’d run 1-2-3 until the third-to-last lap, when Huddle overtook Sisson for the lead and Taylor overtook Hall for third. Huddle got the lead as she ran a 71.87, a marked increase of the 74-75s that Sisson had been running. Huddle just tightened the screws all the way home as she followed that up with a 69.22 penultimate lap and a 66.80 final lap. In addition to her last 5,000 being 15:20, her last 3k was 9:02 and her last 1600 was 4:42.
Taylor passed Sisson for second before the bell and maintained that spot until the homestretch, where Sisson repassed her to get second.
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Quick Take: Molly Huddle is (still) a badass
One mark of a truly great athlete: even if you know what’s coming, you can’t stop them. Like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook or James Harden’s step-back three, anyone who has watched Molly Huddle run knew what was coming over the final mile. Yet no one in the field could do a damn thing about it as Huddle, once again, ground her competitors into submission for her fifth straight US 10,000 title. Huddle now has 28 US titles across all surfaces.
Huddle said she had a tough May after the London Marathon in April. She didn’t do much running in May due to some foot issues and sickness, but since then her training has gone well. She said, “I knew I was fit enough to come and I knew Emily was fit too and if we made the team we could do Doha before the marathon trials.”
Huddle said her focus is on the marathon now, but “I don’t do great doing two a year. Actually my buildups feel better when I come off of something fast” so doing the Worlds 10,000m is good preparation for the Olympic Marathon Trials. Then she wants to do a half-marathon before her formal buildup for the Trials. But before all of that she’ll do a month at altitude prior to Doha.
Quick Take: The NAZ Elite women stepped up big-time…
Ben Rosario’s HOKA One One NAZ Elite group is known as a marathon-focused squad, but they’ve put up some solid track finishes (Scott Fauble and Kellyn Taylor were both 4th in the 10,000 at the 2016 Trials) and tonight was another example of that. Both Kellyn Taylor and Stephanie Bruce hung with Huddle, Sisson, and Hall until the final mile, and both women beat the 2016 Olympian Hall, with Taylor just getting outkicked by Sisson after holding second place for much of the final lap.
Here’s a stat to put in perspective how impressive Taylor’s close was tonight: her 5,000 pb is 15:19. She ran her final 5,000 of tonight’s race in 15:24. Bruce, who had never run faster than 15:49 prior to this year, closed her final 5,000 in 15:30 (though she has run 15:19 this spring).
It’s probably worth mentioning that each of Taylor’s last two marathons have been faster than what Huddle has ever run. Taylor ran 2:24:29 on the point-to-point Grandma’s course last year before running 2:26:27 in Prague this year (Huddle’s PB is 2:26:33).
We’re definitely excited to see what Bruce and Taylor can do in their fall marathons. Bruce is running Chicago, and while Taylor couldn’t reveal which one she is doing, New York seems like the obvious choice.
Quick Take: Should the NAZ Elite women have gone for the Worlds standard?
Taylor and Bruce deserve a ton of props for how well they ran tonight, but there’s room for some criticism too, if one views the point of tonight’s race as being to qualify for Worlds. The situation heading into this race was very clear: if Taylor and/or Bruce were to make the World Championship team, they had to break 31:50.
Yet Taylor and Bruce said that there was never any discussion about leading the race from the gun.
“Coach Ben thought a lot of times Molly’s strategy is to run from the front, run a good pace, because sometimes it’s inefficient to run a lot slower,” Bruce said. “So it was a little surprising how slow they did take it. But I feel like once we got to a mile, they probably were like, well you’re not getting the standard off this.”
The big difference between this year’s USA race and years past was that only three women had the standard. Huddle likes to lead and push the pace, but this time there was a huge disincentive for her to do that, since a slow opening 5k would guarantee her a spot at Worlds. As good as Molly Huddle is, having won four straight USATF titles, she said not pushing the pace the first 5k was totally the plan. “We knew if we went through 5k around 16:30 we were probably safe (in terms of guaranteeing a Worlds spot).”
Sisson said after the race that Ray Treacy (who coaches both Huddle and Sisson) was in the stands on the backstretch making sure that they didn’t go to the lead too early. Sure, Sisson and Huddle wanted to win, but making Worlds was the #1 goal.
Placing high was the top objective for Taylor and Bruce. Taylor said that even if they had picked up the pace earlier, it still would have been difficult for her to shave almost 13 seconds off her finishing time today — even though she certainly felt she was capable of running faster than she did.
“It would have been nice, but we were just talking about it and it was like, well what else could we have done, we ran close to our 5,000 PR for the last 5k?” Taylor said. “So could it have went a little bit faster? Possibly. Could it have gone 12 seconds faster? Probably not. That’s pretty substantial. Little bit, yeah, probably, but would have had to make that conscious decision to try to get to the front.”
Trying to lead a 10,000 from the front and run a PR in a championship final is a very difficult thing to do. But one thing you cannot afford to do is run an 81-second first lap and follow it up with an 88-second second lap. Taylor and Bruce hit 800 in 2:50. 31:50 pace is 2:32.8. So they were over 17 seconds down just two laps into the race — an enormous hole to dig out of. Bruce wound up going to the front on lap three, but by then it was too late.
For what it’s worth, Taylor ran her final 9200 meters in 29:12.08 — 31:44 10,000 pace.
Quick Take: Marielle Hall is (probably) going to Worlds
Hall said that she was “definitely disappointed” to finish 5th, but the silver lining is that she will likely be on the World Championship team in Doha.
We can’t say that with 100% certainty, however. Hall is the NACAC champion, and the NACAC champion in the 10,000 is awarded the standard as long as she gains approval from the IAAF’s Technical Delegates, “based on the athlete’s level.”
What that means exactly is unclear. Hall was confident that finishing top three at the US champs would be enough to convince the IAAF to approve her entry. She’s not sure about fifth.
“Right this second, I’m not honestly too clear what it means not placing top-three,” Hall said. “I think that was maybe part of the stipulation is to prove you’re in shape or in a position to represent as if I ran the time.”
Hall did say she that she may have another opportunity to prove to the IAAF she’s worthy of selection later in the season.
Fro the archives: Molly Huddles’ greatness at USA 10,000:
- 2015: In A Battle of American Record Holders, Molly Huddle Sprints Away From Shalane Flanagan To Win US 10,000 Title; Emily Infeld Takes 3rd
- 2016: From Start To Finish: Molly Huddle Wins 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials Women’s 10,000
- 2017: Molly Huddle Three-Peats as Shalane Flanagan Misses Worlds for the First Time Since 2003
- 2018: Molly Huddle Crushes Final 4 Laps To Win 4th Straight USATF 10,000 Title Just 66 Days After Running Boston Marathon
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