Dr. Sander Distance Recap: Early World Leader for Nikki Hiltz, Ajee Wilson, Isaiah Harris, Jordan Gusman Win

By Rich Sands, @sands
(c) 2020 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK (25-Jan) — Shaking off the cobwebs and targeting World Athletics Indoor Championships standards were the order of the day at Saturday’s Dr. Sander Invitational at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory here. And despite the professional season just getting underway, several athletes showed off impressive form on the Armory’s banked 200-meter oval. The meet (named for Dr. Norbert Sander, the late founder of The Armory Foundation) featured several professional races alongside the Columbia Challenge collegiate competition.

Nikki Hiltz ran a personal best to win the women’s invitational mile in 4:29.39, her first time breaking 4:30. “It actually took me a while to warm up into it, kind remember how to race again,” said Hiltz, who had a spectacular 2019 season in the 1500 meters which saw her win the gold medal at the Pan American Games and qualify for the final of the World Athletics Outdoor Championships.

She was pushed to the line by Brigham Young University’s Whittni Orton, who clocked a personal best and NCAA-leading 4:29.76. “You never know who’s going to have a good day,” Hiltz said of the late challenge. “I didn’t know necessarily who it was going to be. You can’t ever go into a race thinking it’s going to be easy. She had a phenomenal race and pushed me all the way to line, so that was really fun.”

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Hiltz returned to the track a little more than an hour later to pace the invitational 3000 meters. With the aim of helping some of her Mission AC teammates set personal bests, she passed through the opening kilometer in 2:57.70. Hiltz stepped off the track at the 1600-meter mark (4:43.70), setting up a battle between her training partners Nicole Hutchinson and Heidi See. With less than three laps to go, See was controlling the tempo, but Hutchinson covered her every move and used a 32.49-second last lap to score the win in 8:48.92, a personal best. See finished second in 8:52.94 as the top five finishers broke 9 minutes.

“My teammates and I have been talking about this race for a month or two now,” said Hutchinson, a Canadian who graduated from Villanova University last spring and joined the Mission AC in October where she is coached by Terrence Mahon. “It went pretty much exactly how we wanted it to go. We were shooting for sub-8:49 for the world standard.”

She hopes to be selected for Team Canada for the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing, China, but admits that her national federation’s selection process is “complicated… Basically just run the standard and hope that they pick you. So fingers crossed.”

Farther back in the pack, former prep sensation Mary Cain continued her comeback after several years of injury, clocking 9:24.38 in 13th place. She finished one spot ahead of high school superstar Katelyn Tuohy of North Rockland, New York, who finished in 9:32.88. That was well off the national high school record of 9:01.81 she set in this race last year.

There is a separate article on the women’s 3000m: Mary Cain and Katelyn Tuohy Struggle in 3000, Cain Reflects On Her Biggest Regret at NOP

In the men’s 3000, Jordan Gusman was also targeting the World Indoor standard. Running on an indoor track for the first time in his life, he seized control of the race by the 2-K mark (5:16.55). Though several athletes made a late charge, Gusman held on for the victory, clocking a personal best 7:49.11 and slipping under the 7:50 needed for Nanjing. Ryan Adams, a senior at Furman University, covered the final lap in 27.34 to finish second in 7:49.45, with Jacob Thompson third in 7:50.00.

“I felt those guys coming for me at the end. I was just trying to stay in control,” said Gusman, native of Australia who now represents his grandfather’s homeland of Malta in international competition. He trains half the year in Boulder, Colorado, with the Tinman Elite group, and only returned from Australia to the United States earlier in the week. Because of the oppressive smoke caused by the devastating bush fires in his homeland, he was confined to indoor training on a treadmill in recent weeks.

Justyn Knight of Canada won a tactical men’s mile, clocking 3:59.32 to hold off Rob Napolitano (3:59.68). Though he is primarily known as a 5000-meter runner, finishing 10th at the World Athletics Championships last fall, Knight loves running shorter distances. “I’ve been begging my agent and my coaches to let me run miles,” said the Syracuse graduate, who won NCAA titles in cross country and indoor track for his alma mater. “I know that they think I’m going to be my best at the 10-K and I’m pushing it with wanting to do the 5-K, but I really love miles.”

The invitational 800-meter races were won by Ajee’ Wilson (2:02.33) and Isaiah Harris (1:48.05). “It’s a nice way to break up training,” Wilson, the bronze medalist at the World Outdoor Championships, said of her abbreviated three-race indoor season as she prepares for the outdoor campaign and the Tokyo Olympics.

*Results of Dr. Sander meet here

Post-race interviews below from LRC

Jordan Gusman 3000

Gusman is Australian and won the 5,000m title for Australia last year but Gusman is now representing Malta out of respect for his grandfather who died last year and Gusman said the support from Malta has been great.

Nikki Hiltz Wins Mile

Hiltz turned heads by making Worlds last year and started out 2020 with the win.

Athing Mu after 400

Mu broke the US 600m record last year as a high school junior. She followed that up by breaking the US record for 500m last week. Here she dropped down to the 400 and ran 53.14 but that was short of her PR of 52.55 from last year. She said her focus on the year will be the 800.

Ajee’ Wilson wins 800

Wilson was upset at Worlds last year and had to settle for bronze but she said looking back she just thinks she had a bad race and is confident in her training heading into 2020. Off camera Wilson said she was thinking about running the mile here but she got sick in December.

Wadeline Jonathas now a pro

Jonathas got 4th at Worlds last year and turned pro. She got the win here and talked about staying in school via online classes to get her degree in retail from South Carolina.

Jonathas rise from the ranks has been amazing. Two years ago she was a DIII athlete with a PB of 52.81. Last year she ran 49.60 and now she’s a pro and she lowered her indoor PR to 52.86 from 53.70.

Nicole Hutchinson gets indoor standard

Hutchinson hopes to run world indoors for Canada and she just dipped under the 8:49 auto standard. Training is going well in her Terrence Mahon coached Mission AC group.

Justin Knight wins

Knight knows the wins as a pro are harder to come by than when he was in college.

Isaiah Harris back from injuries in 2019

Harris struggled much of 2019 with injury but is now healthy and back to his winning ways.

There is a separate article on the women’s 3000m: Mary Cain and Katelyn Tuohy Struggle in 3000, Cain Reflects On Her Biggest Regret at NOP

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