Olli Hoare (13:09) Rips Australian Indoor 5,000m Record to Lead Fast Times at BU Season Opener

By Jonathan Gault
December 4, 2021

BOSTON – The indoor track season is officially upon us, and a number of top collegians – not to mention a few professionals – wasted no time at the Boston University Sharon Colyear-Danville Season Opener, ripping a slew of fast times on BU’s famously fast track.

The marquee event was the men’s 5,000 meters, and it did not disappoint as Olli Hoare of the On Athletics Club ran 13:09.96 to take over 26 seconds off the Australian indoor record and more than 12 seconds off his pb of 13:22.16. Admittedly, Australians rarely run indoor track, but even counting outdoor marks, Hoare is just the fourth Australian ever under 13:10, joining Craig Mottram, Stewart McSweyn, and Collis Birmingham.

Hoare was one of 12 men to break 13:30 in a fast race that benefited from an excellent pace job from Hoare’s OAC teammate, US 10k Olympian Joe Klecker. Another member of the OAC, Geordie Beamish, used a big kick (26.25 last lap) to take second in 13:12.53 – a New Zealand indoor record and the second-fastest time ever by a Kiwi, indoors or out – while reigning NCAA indoor champion Wesley Kiptoo of Iowa State was third in 13:14.74, the #3 time ever by a collegian indoors. The NCAA XC Champs Northern Arizona showed their depth with four men breaking 13:30, led by Abdihamid Nur in 13:22.24.  NAU’s Nico Young finished 5th and ran 13:22.59 to better his own US U20 record of 13:24.26 (run outdoors in April).

There were two other national indoor records as Butler’s Barry Keane (13:25.96) broke the Irish record and NAU’s George Kusche (13:28.95) broke the South African record.

In other events, the BAA’s Annie Rodenfels upset NCAA XC champion Whittni Orton to win the women’s 5,000 in 15:08.80, and NCAA XC third-placer Ceili McCabe of West Virginia won the 3,000 in a quick 8:52.52. Below, seven takeaways from the action in Boston.

*Full results

OAC boys from Down Under impress

It’s easy to understand why the BU Season Opener has become a popular meet, to the point where schools like BYU, Colorado, and NAU are now flying their athletes across the country just to run on the track here. All of their top runners are in peak condition having run NCAA XC two weeks ago, and it makes sense to capitalize on that fitness and knock out an NCAA indoor qualifier early rather than stress about it in January or February.

It’s less obvious why Olli Hoare and Geordie Beamish would fly out from OAC’s base in Boulder to race a 5k on the first weekend of December. Pros aren’t supposed to be super fit right now, and if you’re not super fit, there’s a decent chance of the minor embarrassment of losing to college guys – potentially, a lot of college guys.

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The answer to why Hoare and Beamish were here is pretty simple, though: they felt like they needed a race. Beamish hadn’t raced since August and Hoare hadn’t raced since September.

“Between August and Millrose (January 29) is a pretty long time, so [this was a] nice break in training, actually have something to aim for,” Beamish said. “Just a bit of motivation the last eight weeks of fall training. In college, I’ve got a race every two weeks – it’s easy to stay motivated. When we’re out here in September and we don’t have a race until February, it’s harder to be out there every day.”

Initially, Hoare said that they were hoping to run in the 13:20s “on a good day” but both knew training had been going well. They didn’t realize it had been going quite this well, however; after hitting 3k in 8:00 (right on 13:20 pace), both men were able to pick it up and close well to run big PRs. Not bad for a couple of milers in December.

“It definitely makes me a believer in Ritz’s strength training,” Hoare said, referring to his coach Dathan Ritzenhein.

Introducing Annie Rodenfels

If you’re not familiar with the name Annie Rodenfels, you’re not alone. The 25-year-old won three NCAA Division III titles at Centre College in Kentucky, graduating in 2019 with the DIII steeple record (9:58.83) but had not done much in her first two years as a pro – she was 8th in her semi at USAs in 2019 and 15th in her semi at the Olympic Trials this year, failing to make the final each time in the steeple.

You may want to remember her name as today Rodenfels took down NCAA XC champ Whittni Orton to win the 5,000m in a 27-second pb of 15:08.80. Orton finished second in 15:09.47 as both women ran under the 15:10 World Championship standard.

Rodenfels credited her breakthrough to moving to Boston (“best city in the world,” she said) and joining the BAA High Performance Team in September, where she trains alongside US 20k champ Erika Kemp and Abbey Wheeler, who paced her today.

“I feel like for the first time in my life, I’ve had women to train with,” Rodenfels said. “And I always thought that that was going to help push me. And it has obviously helped push me a lot more than I thought.”

BYU keeps rolling in the 5,000

Newly-crowned NCAA XC champ Whittni Orton, formerly of BYU, does not have any NCAA eligibility remaining, but for context on how fast she ran today, her 15:09.47 is faster than Emily Sisson’s collegiate record of 15:12.22 (Jenny Simpson ran 15:01.70 on an oversize track in 2009). It was also a personal best, taking three seconds off Orton’s previous pb of 15:12.91 from May. Not a bad way to end the year.

Behind Orton, her BYU teammate Courtney Wayment, the NCAA indoor 3000 champ last year, was the top collegian in third in 15:15.46 – the #8 time ever by a collegiate woman indoors. Overall, today’s race was incredibly fast as reigning NCAA indoor champ Joyce Kimeli of Auburn was just 13th in 15:43.39. Last year, you had to run 16:06.50 to make it to NCAAs, and today 16 collegians ran faster than that (and only 16 women make it to NCAAs). Times will be faster this year as there are more meets in which to qualify – this meet, for example, was cancelled in 2020-21 – but to have 16 women at 16:06 or faster (and 13 under 15:45) in one race is staggering depth.

The women’s 3,000 was FAST

The fastest women’s 3,000 during the entire 2020-21 season was 8:54.90 by BYU’s Courtney Wayment. In today’s race alone, five women ran faster than that mark, three of whom still have NCAA eligibility remaining: West Virginia’s Ceili McCabe (8:52.52, #8 in NCAA history) and the NC State duo of Katelyn Tuohy (8:54.18) and Samantha Bush (8:54.37). Incredibly, Bush was NC State’s #5 runner at NCAA XC last month. No wonder the Wolfpack won the team title handily.

There were also a couple of pros in the field in recent BYU grad Anna Camp Bennett (who was outleaned at the finish by McCabe in 8:52.53) and Australian Olympian/WVU grad Amy Cashin (3rd in 8:53.07).

Ceili McCabe could be even more dangerous on the track than she was in XC

McCabe announced herself as a collegiate star by unleashing a huge kick to win the Nuttycombe Invitational in October, and it was more of the same today as she ran down NCAA 1500 champ Anna Camp Bennett to win the 3k today in a huge pb of 8:52.52 (her previous best was 9:25.32). McCabe only had the third-best final 200 in the field (she closed in 31.93) but that doesn’t tell the whole story as she was in third place on the home straight before using a monster kick to beat out Camp Bennett and Australian Olympian Amy Cashin, finishing in lane 4.

McCabe said looking ahead she would like to help West Virginia qualify for NCAAs in the DMR this season. Beyond that, McCabe is not quite sure what her plans for the new year hold as she has improved a lot from last year. 

“I’ve not been quite in this position before,” McCabe said.

Anna Camp Bennett will stay in Provo to train under Diljeet Taylor

Anna Camp Bennett (she is married, and this is her preferred last name) ran her final race in a BYU singlet two weeks ago in placing 12th at NCAA XC. Now it’s on to the professional ranks, and while she doesn’t have a sponsor at the moment, the NCAA 1500 champ has the rest of her support team settled as she will be represented by agent Ray Flynn and will stay in Provo to train under BYU coach Diljeet Taylor.

As good as Camp Bennett has been in XC the last two years (she was 11th at the “2020” champs in March, the top woman on BYU’s title team), she is grateful to be able to focus on the track as a pro.

“I love cross for the team aspect,” Camp Bennett said. “It’s so, so, so fun. 6k’s are hard. I love ‘em, but they are hard.”

The men’s 3,000 was very profitable for James Randon

2021 has been a challenging year for Randon, a 27-year-old Yale grad now running for the Saucony Freedom Track Club. On the track, his fastest 1500 this year was just 3:41.67 and he failed to qualify for the Olympic Trials, while off the track, the Saucony Freedom Track Club has been in a state of upheaval. Coach Tim Broe left earlier this year, and the group is now being coached by Kurt Benninger (Molly Huddle’s husband), but Randon declined to discuss the future of the group.

“I don’t really know what I’m allowed to talk about,” he said.

If most of 2021 was a challenge, at least Randon is ending it on a high note. He got a personal best and World Indoor qualifier in winning the men’s 3,000 in 7:49.44, and he did it in impressive fashion – he was six seconds back of leader Athanas Kioko of Campbell midway through the race but ran his last 800 in 1:58.38 (27.19 last lap) to earn a convincing (and profitable) win.

“My contract is written so that it was a great bonus [for breaking 7:50], and it stacks,” Randon said. “So not only did I get it in for this year, but it rolls over to next year which is awesome. I’m really happy that Saucony has stuck with me. I had a tough year and I think that I’m on the rebound. I’m going to take every win that I can get and see if I can keep stacking and building from there.”

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