Steph Bruce, Biya Simbassa Win USATF 10k Titles, $10,000 at Great Cow Harbor 10k

by David Monti, @d9monti
September 17, 2022
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NORTHPORT, N.Y. (17-Sep) — On her fifth try, Steph Bruce of Hoka Northern Arizona Elite won the Great Cow Harbor 10-K here this morning, smashing the course record, winning her second USATF 10-K title, and taking home $10,000 in prize and bonus money.  On the men’s side, Biya Simbassa (Under Armour) got the win, also setting a new course record and winning $10,000.  On a cool and windless morning, the two race winners led a sold-out field of about 5000 runners through this picturesque seaside village on Long Island’s north shore which hosted the national 10-K championships for the first time.

For Bruce, 38, who will retire from elite running at the end of this year, today’s win was extra special.  She first ran the race 12 years ago finishing second, and in her three further attempts at the race she finished second twice again and fourth once.

Steph Bruce wins the 2022 USATF 10k Cow Harbor
Steph Bruce wins the 2022 USATF 10-K women’s title at the Great Cow Harbor 10-K in Northport, N.Y. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“After the first time I was like, I have to come back and try to win this race one year,” Bruce told Race Results Weekly in a telephone interview two days ago.  “I kept coming back but, obviously, have not pulled off the ‘W.'”

But today, that all changed for the mother of two sons, Riley and Hudson, who were here today with Bruce’s husband, Ben, to watch the race.  Using her experience with the notoriously-hilly course to her best advantage, Bruce held back in the first half of the race.  She was among the early leaders up the super-steep James Street Hill in the second mile, where the lead pack was cut from seven to four, and did not react when Nell Rojas put in a brief surge just before the halfway point to pick-up the $500 leader’s prime (16:05 at 5-K).  At that point the leaders were already ahead of the required pace to break Erika Kemp’s 2021 course record of 32:18.

“I think we were just four of us,” Rojas explained, referring to Bruce, Ednah Kurgat (U.S. Army), Annie Frisbie (Puma/Minnesota Distance Elite) and herself.  “At the halfway mark I knew there was a prime… and no one else was surging.  (I was) like, oh, I’ll put in a little surge.  So, I got the prime, but that is so unlike me.”

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The four stayed together through four miles, and about a half-mile later Bruce was seen looking at her watch.  She knew what to do.

“Everyone was just throwing punches,” Bruce said as she described the first half of the race.  “After, I think, mile-4 when I knew it was a gradual climb up to five I said you’ve just got to make it hurt right now.  We’re all hurting, but I know the course.  And so, I just kind of made a move and started grinding.”

Bruce, who is in the middle of training for the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6, felt strong.  She did not let up, and her pace was just too fast for her rivals to catch up.  She took full advantage of the final, downhill mile, and crossed the line in a superb 31:53, just four seconds slower than her personal best.  Rojas got closest to catching her, clocking 31:57 to take second.  Frisbie (31:59) and Kurgat (32:04) rounded out the top-four, all getting under Kemp’s previous course record.  Kemp had an off-day, finishing eighth in 33:00.

“I knew I had to grind the finish because I knew Annie was coming in hot,” Bruce said, looking equal parts triumphant and relieved.  She added: “Those ladies took me all the way to the line out there.  They were so tough.”

While delighted to have won today, Bruce thought that the example she set for younger athletes, both today and in the years before, was far more important.

“It’s like exciting,” Bruce said of her victory.  “What do you want to be remembered by?  I’m like, I shouldn’t be remembered because there will be better women who come after me.  And that’s what I’m hoping.  They’ll see age is not a number, even though I’m at the end I can still kick ass and they’re going to keep kicking ass, too.”

Women’s Top 10 Results
1 – Stephanie Bruce 31:52
2 – Nell Rojas 31:56
3 – Annie Frisbie 31:58
4 – Ednah Kurgat 32:03
5 – Emma Hurley 32:49
6 – Amy Davis 32:52
7 – Molly Grabill 32:54
8 – Erika Kemp 32:59
9 – Carrie Verdon 33:05
10 – Anne-Marie Blaney 33:21

Simbassa, 29, used a mid-race break initiated by Jacob Thomson (Under Armour) to his advantage. After the lead group of men crested the James Street Hill (2-mile split of 9:24), Thomson went to the front at around the 3-mile mark looking to get the half-way prime.  Simbassa and Sam Chelanga followed, and after crossing halfway in 14:22, the trio had an appreciable gap on the rest of the field.  Thomson relaxed his pace, but Simbassa and Chelanga saw an opening to slip away from their rivals.

Biya Simbassa wins the 2022 USATF 10-K
Biya Simbassa wins the 2022 USATF 10-K men’s title at the Great Cow Harbor 10-K in Northport, N.Y. (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)

“My goal is not to get the $500,” Simbassa told Race Results Weekly, sweat dripping off the beard on his chin.  “My goal was to run smart.”  He continued: “I just stayed relaxed.  After they’ve had the 5-K (prime) they slowed down.  I’m like, I’m not going to slow down.”

Indeed, he did not.  Simbassa ran the fourth mile in 4:23 and Chelanga could not keep up.  Simbassa kept the pressure on, running 4:36 for the fifth mile.  The win was in the bag, but what about Ryan Hall’s 2006 course record of 22:23 (22:22.2) and the $2500 bonus which Simbassa would earn on top of the $7500 first place prize money?  He said he wasn’t thinking about it.

“Coming into the race, I wanted to win so bad,” Simbassa said.  He continued: “I mean, I was not going for the record.  You know what?  We went fourteen-something (through the first half), I’m going to keep pushing.  If they got me, they’re going to beat me the hard way.”

But nobody could.  Simbassa had a chance to wave to the crowd lining Main Street and still set a new course record of 28:13.  Veteran Leonard Korir (U.S. Army) came from behind to pass Chelanga and got second in 28:35 (Chelanga was third in 28:36).  Dillon Maggard (unattached), who was among the early leaders, held on for fourth in 28:46, while defending champion Futsum Zienasellasie (McKirdy Trained) was fifth in 28:56.  Interestingly, Zienasellasie ran his fastest-ever time at Cow Harbor by a wide margin.

Thomson, the halfway leader, finished ninth in 29:20.

Today’s race was the 42nd running of this event which was founded in 1978.  Part of the USATF Running Circuit, it was the ninth stop of this year’s series which concludes with the California International Marathon on December 4, in Sacramento, Calif.

Men’s Top 10 from USATF
1 – Biya Simbassa 28:12
2 – Leonard Korir 28:34
3 – Sam Chelanga 28:35
4 – Dillon Maggard 28:45
5 – Futsum Zeinasellassie 28:55
6 – Tai Dinger 28:56
7 – Geoffrey Kipchumba 29:00
8 – Jacob Thomson 29:19
9 – Ryan Kutch 29:28
10 – Brian Barraza 29:34

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