WTW: Natalie Cook Record Breaker, An Unsponsored Teacher Wins Cherry Blossom, & Meet Australia’s New 1500 Star (It’s Not Ollie Hoare)
The Week That Was in Running, March 28 – April 3, 2022
After a one-week hiatus as we took a break after indoors, our weekly recap is back.
Each week, we try to make the sport more fun to follow by putting the prior week’s action in perspective for you. Past editions of our Week That Was weekly recap can be found here. If you love this written recap, you’ll have lots of fun with our weekly podcast, which we record on Wednesdays. Got a tip, question, or comment? Please call us at 844-LETSRUN (538-7786), email us, or post in our forum.
Natalie Cook Is Putting Together One of the Greatest Prep Campaigns Ever
When it’s all said and done, Natalie Cook’s 2021-22 season is going to go down as one of the best ever by a high school distance runner. In the fall, she made history by winning both national championships on back-to-back weekends – the RunningLane Cross Country Championships and Eastbay (formerly Foot Locker). Indoors, she ran 9:44.44 for two miles to win at New Balance Nationals – the #2 time in prep history, indoors or out, behind only Mary Cain – and was part of the Flower Mound High School team that set the national record in the 4 x mile relay (19:37.78). And on Friday, she took eight seconds off Jenna Hutchins’ high school record in the 5,000 by running 15:25.93 at Stanford.
Cook has done all this by running just 20 miles a week, a concession to injuries that have halted her in the past. And if history is a guide, staying healthy will be one of Cook’s biggest challenges. Just look at the two women directly behind her on the high school list. Katelyn Tuohy (#3, 15:37.12) was injured during the summer of 2020 and had to miss her freshman fall at NC State, though she has since recovered and is running great. And Hutchins, who was part of the high school class of 2022 but graduated early and is now at BYU, hasn’t raced in over a year due to injury.
One more note on Cook: Tilastopaja lists her birthday as May 14, 2003. If that’s accurate, she will turn 19 next month, making her significantly older than a typical high school senior. That also means this is her last year as a junior (U20). The US U20 record is 15:20.57, run indoors by Wisconsin’s Sarah Disanza in December 2014 — when Disanza was in the midst of her sophomore year of college (Disanza’s DOB is 8/22/95, the race was two weeks after the 2014 NCAA xc meet where she was 2nd).
Yet Another Fully-Employed, Unsponsored 30+ DC Area Woman Is Crushing It / American Susanna Sullivan Wins 2022 Cherry Blossom 10 Mile
It had been more than 25 years since an American woman won the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-Mile race in Washington, D.C., when Nell Rojas did it last September. Now it has happened twice in the span of seven months as on Sunday, 31-year old Susanna Sullivan, a 5th grade teacher in nearby Reston, Va., got the win in 52:32 as Cherry Blossom returned to its normal spring date. She earned $14,500, which will help her a ton since she’s unsponsored — $8,000 for the win, $5,000 extra for being top American, and the $1,500 RRCA Roads Scholar-RunPro Camp Development Award.
Sure, an American victory was guaranteed as there were no foreign athletes in the top 10 (there were three Kenyans in the top 10 last year when Rojas won) but Sullivan is the first local winner since 1983. And she’s a great story.
Sullivan’s time and win are incredibly impressive for someone who never scored at the conference level when she was a collegiate athlete. At the University of Notre Dame, Sullivan only ran 16:56/36:14. Her track PBs are now 15:38.40 and 32:03.21, both set earlier this year. After already having improved a ton since college, she’s enjoying an unreal 2022 so far.
This year alone, she’s dropped her pbs from 16:00 to 15:38 and from 32:42 to 32:03. She had raced Cherry Blossom six other times since 2013 and never run faster than 54:22. Now she’s nearly two minutes better than that. It will be interesting to see what Sullivan produces in the marathon the next time she runs one. Her 2:33:27 pb from the 2020 Marathon Project came when she had pbs of 16:00/33:05/72:56. Her pbs are now 15:38/32:03/70:50.
Top 5 Women at 2022 Cherry Blossom
1. Susanna Sullivan, Reston, VA 52:32 PB $14500 total prize money and bonuses
2. Carrie Verdon, Boulder, CO 52:37 PB
3. Paige Stoner, Charlottesville, VA 52:38 PB
4. Sarah Pagano, San Diego, CA 52:46 PB
5. Kim Conley, Flagstaff, AZ 53:40 PB
In the men’s race, Kenya’s Nicholas Kosimbei, the 2014 world junior bronze medallist in the 10,000, continued his lucrative 2022 American tour as he got the win and equaled the course record by running 45:15, picking up $9,000 in the process. Back on February 27, he won $5,500 at the Atlanta Half Marathon, which he won by 2+ minutes in 60:37.
Top 5 Men at 2022 Cherry Blossom
1. Nicholas Kosimbei (KEN) 45:15 PB/CR $9,000 total prize money
2. Wilfred Kimitei (KEN) 45:43 PB
3. Shadrack Kimining (KEN) 45:58
4. Futsum Zienasellassie, Flagstaff, AZ 46:53
5. Reid Buchanan, San Diego, CA 46:57
Big cash ($10,000 for first) was also on the line last week at the Cooper River Bridge Run in South Carolina, where Kenya’s David Bett, the 2010 world junior 5000 champ, won the men’s race in 28:17 over American Leonard Korir (28:27) as Biruktayit Degefa of Ethiopian won the women’s race in 31:23 over South African Dom Scott (31:58).
Degefa, a 2:22:40 marathoner, got the win just two weeks after she placed third in the LA Marathon in 2:31:28. It seems as if visas are harder to come by during COVID-19 so if you are an African runner in the states, you might as well take advantage of being here.
A 24-Year-Old With Zero Track PBs Wins The 2022 Paris Marathon
The amount of depth in the marathon is wild these days. Many young talents from Africa aren’t even trying to have track careers any more.
On the track, there is no middle class. The stars make a lot and the also-rans often struggle to get by unless they have significant endorsement income. In the marathon, the 20th, heck 50th-best guy in the world is super relevant.
At the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris, 24-year-old Chalu Deso of Ethiopia, the 2021 Valencia Marathon runner-up, got the win in 2:05:07 in the ninth marathon of his career. To have finished nine marathons at age 24 is a lot. American Galen Rupp is 35 and has nine marathon finishes in his career (Rupp debuted at age 29).
Yes, sometimes the African ages may be fudged a bit. But please realize that Deso has zero track races listed on his World Athletics or Tilastopaja profile pages. Heck, he’s barely got any half marathon races (two from 2017 before he started marathoning – his official half marathon pb is 65:06, although he split 61:41 in the first half of Valencia in 2020).
Deso won the race by three seconds over 2021 Chicago champ Seifu Tura, who is also 24. Tura has 10 marathons on his CV.
Morhad Amdouni – AKA The Guy Who Knocked Over All The Water Bottles In The Olympics – Smashes French Marathon Record
The third placer in Paris was Morhad Amdouni, who destroyed Benoit Zwierzchlewski’s French record of 2:06:36, which had stood since 2003, by running 2:05:22 in his third career marathon (previous best of 2:09:14).
Prior to this, Amdouni was best known for knocking over a ton of water bottles in the 2020 Olympic Marathon – an act many viewed as intentional and disgraceful – but Amdouni, who was 17th in the Olympic marathon after finishing 10th in the 10,000, claimed it was unintentional and the bottles were just slippery (see below).
Julien Wanders Debuts In 2:11:52
There were some notable results farther down in Paris as well. The fastest non-African-born half marathoner in history – Switzerland’s Julien Wanders (59:17) — made his marathon debut in Paris. The result wasn’t great as Wanders, who in addition to his 59:17 half in 2019 also ran 13:13 and 27:17 that year, ended up finishing 18th in 2:11:52. He ran his first 10k in 29:59 (2:06:31 pace) and hit 20k in 60:43 (2:08:10 pace) before finishing in 2:11:52. Wanders ran every 10km split slower than the previous one: 29:59 – 30:44 – 31:01 – 32:18.
Considering his PBs and the fact that he ran 60:28 on February 27, the result was disappointing, though it’s not as bad as it sounds once you read the context Wanders provided on Instagram. Wanders said that he started having stomach issues after 5k, causing him to stop to poop three times between 10k and the half. After that, he decided not to drink anything the rest of the race and said he finished with hypothermia and hypoglycemia.
Stat of the Week I / 2022 Is Going To Be A Record-Breaking Year For The Number of Sub-2:20s On The Women’s Side
In the women’s race in Paris, Judith Korir of Kenya, the 2021 Abu Dhabi champ, lowered her pb from 2:22:30 to 2:19:48 to get the win, her fourth win in five career marathon starts. That’s the first sub-2:20 ever on French soil and already the 10th sub-2:20 on the year.
2022 is easily going to be the fastest year in women’s marathon history.
Take a look at the chart below and tell me what year did the Nike Vaporfly technology start to get widely adopted?
(The answer: 2018, as the shoes were announced for sale in 2017.)
Lindsay Flanagan Runs 2:26 To Place 10th In Paris / Allie Kieffer Drops Out
There were two American elites in Paris. One ran well, one did not.
31-year-old American Lindsay Flanagan ran a pb of 2:26:54 to place 10th overall, a nice improvement from the 2:28:08 she ran in Chicago in 2019. Flanagan went out even more aggressive than that as at 21k (72:12) she was on 2:25:05 pace. At 30k, she was still on 2:25:28 pace but the wheels almost came off late. At 35k, she was on 2:26:04 pace, and at 40k, 2:26:23 pace. From 40k to the finish, she only averaged 7:25.8 per mile but she was able to hold on and get across the line to get the pb.
The 34-year-old Allie Kieffer, who sports a 2:28:12 pb but hadn’t finished a marathon since she ran that 2:28:12 in NY in 2018, also was in Paris. She went into the race full of optimism as she put out a very upbeat post on Instagram three days before the race where she wrote:
It’s been a minute (actually 3.5 years!) since I’ve crossed a marathon finish line. So long that I’d forgotten how bad it hurts until I saw this picture🙈
Over the past 12 weeks I put in all the training I could handle to stand on Sunday’s starting line confident. I did every kind of session— from mile pace speed workouts to 25 mile runs. It was gruelling and exhausting, but it was also incredibly satisfying. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty damn close.
There are no guarantees though. Hard work is just the foundation to endure more. And Sunday is an opportunity to endure more than ever before. Win, lose, triumph or falter, I’ve reset the bar on what I believe I’m capable of.
The best is yet to come!
Unfortunately, the race ended up being a disaster for Kieffer. She ran the first 10k in 34:56 (2:27:25 pace) and hit 20k in 71:23 (2:30:36 pace). Then everything unraveled. It took her 24:53 to cover the 5km from 20 to 25k, meaning she was on 2:42:29 pace at 25k. She then kept going to 30k (2:00:14) but that took her another 23:58, meaning she was on 2:49:07 pace. No other splits were recorded for Kieffer and she hasn’t posted anything on Instagram.
Other Marathon News Of Note
NCAA Sprint Action Heating Up
It’s only April 4 but we’ve already seen some fantastic sprint action in the NCAA during the 2022 outdoor season. The race of the weekend came on Friday at the Florida Relays as there was a showdown between three NCAA champions in the men’s 200: Georgia’s Matthew Boling (2021 indoor 200 champ), North Carolina A&T’s Randolph Ross (2021 outdoor/2022 indoor 400 champ), and Florida’s Joe Fahnbulleh (2021 outdoor 200 champ). It’s definitely worth 20 seconds of your time to watch:
Here is that heat of the Men’s 200 Meters at the @GatorsTF Relays that we alluded to earlier.— USTFCCCA (@USTFCCCA) April 2, 2022
Joseph Fahnbulleh, 20.22
Matthew Boling, 20.31
Randolph Ross Jr, 20.42
Lance Lang, 20.58
Evan Miller, 20.58pic.twitter.com/8gH6CUgPRI
Two things stand out from that clip: how slow Fahnbulleh starts, and how fast he finishes. Clearly Fahnbulleh needs to improve his start, but the fact that Fahnbulleh is now in his third year training with one of the country’s top sprint coaches (Mike Holloway) and he’s still starting that slowly shows that it’s not going to be an easy fix (maybe it’s because of his cross country background ;-)).
We’d rather focus on the fact that, despite that poor start, Fahnbulleh is still one of the best sprinters in the world (he was 5th at the Olympics last year) thanks to his otherworldly close. It also makes him way more exciting to watch as every race is filled with “will-he-catch-them-or-not” suspense.
As fast as Fahnbulleh ran on Friday, he wasn’t even the fastest Gator of the weekend. His teammate Jacory Patterson (who was 3rd at NCAA indoors in the 400 last year for Virginia Tech) ran 20.20 in the second heat, tied for the early NCAA lead.
Fast 400’s Highlight Texas A&M-Texas Dual Meet
After Texas 400 star Jonathan Jones finished second at the 800 at NCAA Indoors last month, some wondered if he had been in the wrong event all along. Well, it turns out he’s still pretty good at the 400.
At the Texas A&M-Texas dual on Saturday in College Station, Jones won the 400 in 45.07, then came back and split a ridiculous 43.48 as part of Texas’ winning 4×400. Jones ran the third leg – which happened to be the same leg as NCAA indoor 800 champ Brandon Miller. It’s worth watching their battle here (unfortunately the Texas A&M anchor pulled up lame almost immediately, handing the race to Texas).
Jones now leads the NCAA in the 400 and 800 (1:45.83) in 2022.
The women’s 400 was even faster (comparatively) in College Station as a week after she split 48.98 in the 4 x 400 at the Texas Relays Charokee Young of Texas A&M and Jamaica won in 50.00 to move to #5 on the NCAA all-time list. Young, who was 7th at NCAA Indoors, took a whopping .85 off her previous pb.
It’s pretty remarkable what Texas A&M has done in the 400 and 800 over the past five years. Every year, they’ve had at least one individual NCAA outdoor champ in one of those events. Between Miller and Young, they could have two in 2022.
2016: Donavan Brazier, men’s 800
2017: Fred Kerley, men’s 400
2018: Sammy Watson, women’s 800
2019: Jazmine Fray, women’s 800
2021: Athing Mu, women’s 400
In the team battle, the Longhorns got the win in both competitions as the women won 102 to 100 and the men 105.5 to 96.5. In other historic dual meets, Navy defeated Army in both the women’s (117 to 86) and men’s competitions (83). Lehigh destroyed Lafayette in both the women’s (124 to 76) and men’s (117 to 86) competitions.
Could The Stanford Men Challenge NAU at NCAA XC This Fall?
Also at the Stanford Invitational last weekend, the host Cardinal really impressed in the men’s 5,000. NCAA indoor 5,000 runner-up Ky Robinson won the race in 13:23.61, Charles Hicks was second in 13:24.58, and Cole Sprout was third in 13:27.02 – those are the top three times in the country this season. Immediately we wondered whether that high-powered top three might be enough to contend with two-time defending champion NAU at NCAA XC this fall.
It’s certainly a possibility, but we’re not going to get carried away just yet. BYU had three sub-13:30 guys last fall in Conner Mantz, Casey Clinger, and Brandon Garnica, and they only finished 7th – and that was with Mantz winning the whole thing.
Plus, NAU’s entire top seven from last year has XC eligibility remaining and they’re supposed to add the #1 high schooler in the country in Colin Sahlman. For Stanford (or anyone else) to have a genuine chance, they’re going to have to improve at #4 and #5 and maybe hope Abdihamid Nur as well as Sahlman turn pro this summer.
Australia May Have a Budding Women’s 1500 Star On Its Hands
Last week, Australia held its national championships with the winner in each event earning a berth at the World Champs and Commonwealth Games (assuming they have the entry standard). Last year, the men’s 1500 at this meet was incredible as Jye Edwards ran 3:33 to upset Aussie star Stewart McSweyn (both of whom were guests on the LetsRun podcast last year) but neither ran the meet this year (Edwards due to injury, McSweyn due to long COVID). That left the On Athletics Club’s Ollie Hoare as the dominant force in the men’s 1500 and he took care of business, winning impressively in 3:40.79 (1:49 final 800) over runner-up Matthew Ramsden (3:41.43).
In the women’s 1500, 21-year-old Abbey Caldwell took the victory in 4:10.75 to earn her first national title. If you’re not familiar with Caldwell, you may want to remember her name. A month ago in Sydney, she ran 4:04.75, which is super fast for a 21-year-old. If Caldwell were in the US college system, that time would rank #2 in NCAA history behind only Jenny Simpson (for reference, Jessica Hull, a two-time NCAA champion, is #4 on that list at 4:06.27 and set the Australian record last year at 3:58.81).
In the other distance events, Olympic 4th placer Peter Bol (1:48.78) won the men’s 800 over the Union Athletics Club’s Charlie Hunter (1:49.31) while World Indoor 5th placer Catriona Bisset won the women’s 800 by over three seconds in 1:59.83. Hunter’s UAC teammate Jessica Hull won the women’s 5,000 in 15:06.13 while Ramsden bounced back from his 1500 defeat to win the men’s 5,000 in 13:40.69.
Stat of the Week II / Kenya Had A Good Week At The 13.1 Distance
8 – number of Kenyan men who broke 60:00 in the half last weekend. Four did it at the Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon, three did it at the Generali Berlin Half Marathon and one did at the eDreams Mitja Half Marathon in Barcelona.
Four Ethiopians did it total for the week, which is about right as Kenya crushes Ethiopia in terms of the quantity of elite half marathoners it is producing. For the year, 22 Kenyan men have broken 60:00, while seven Ethiopian men have done it according to Tilastopaja.
Prague Top 4
1. Keneth Kiprop Renju, KEN, 59:28 [13:51 / 27:52 / 42:08 / 56:23]
2. Philemon Kiplimo Kimaiyo, KEN, 59:33
3. Mathew Kipkorir Kimeli, KEN, 59:46
4. Benard Kimeli, KEN, 59:59
Berlin Top 3
1. Alex Kibet, KEN, 58:55 PB (14:05 – 28:01 – 41:45)
2. Joshua Belet, KEN, 59:53
3. Abel Kipchumba, KEN, 59:58
Barcelona Top 5
1. Haftu Teklu, ETH, 59:06 CR*/PB [14:13 – 27:56 – 41:55 – 56:23]
2. Chala Regasa, ETH, 59:10
3. Elvis Cheboi, KEN, 59:15
4. Antenayehu Dagnachew, ETH, 59:17
5. Kindie Derseh, ETH, 59:18
Kenyans also excelled in the women’s races in Prague, Berlin, and Barcelona as seven of them broke 67:30 – two in Prague, four in Berlin, and one in Barcelona — plus another one did it in Madrid (Winfridah Moraa Moseti, 67:22). Only one Ethiopian did it on the week. For the year, 16 Kenyans have done it and 7 Ethiopians.
Prague Top 2
1. Nesphine Jepleting, KEN, 1:06:57 [15:11 / 30:50 / 46:59 / 1:03:29]
2. Irine Cheptai, KEN, 1:07:16
Berlin Top 4
1. Sheila Chepkirui Kiprotich, KEN, 1:05:02 CR [15:19 – 30:32 – 45:55]
2. Joyce Chepkemoi, KEN, 1:05:50 PB
3. Irene Kimais, KEN, 1:06:34
4. Viola Chepngeno, KEN, 1:06:48
Barcelona Top 2
1. Margaret Kipkemboi, KEN, 1:05:26 DB [15:42 – 31:00 – 46:24 – 1:02:11]
2. Gete Alemayehu, ETH, 1:06:37
Tweet of the Week
We loved the indoor 400m hurdle race that took place in Japan last week. And after the first lap, everyone was in lane 1. We know what many of you are thinking, “Isn’t that super dangerous?” Well they ran it with a specially designed hurdle.
ハードルはこの大会のために開発された最新モデル！— Masayuki Obayashi (大林 督享) (@masa400hurdler) April 1, 2022
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