A Very Nice Day in Boston: Beadlescomb & Kessler Win 2023 B.A.A 5K/Mile Titles

BOSTON – Two late moves delivered two wins for the Very Nice Track Club on Saturday in Boston’s Back Bay, which should bring a smile to coach Ron Warhurst’s face as he recovers after undergoing knee surgery Monday.

Morgan Beadlescomb got things started by winning the B.A.A. 5K on Boston Common in 13:25, one second ahead of teammate Ben Flanagan, to deliver a 1-2 finish for VNTC. Hobbs Kessler completed the sweep three hours later on Boylston Street, claiming the B.A.A. Mile title in 4:07. Ethiopia’s Mekides Abebe (15:01) and American Krissy Gear of HOKA One One NAZ Elite (4:39) won the women’s titles.

Kevin Morris photo

A late bump with a quarter mile to go spurred Beadlescomb to victory. Coming around the final turn, the Michigan State grad was in a pack so tightly packed that he could not tell whether he was 2nd or 10th. It was getting too close for comfort, and once Beadlescomb felt contact making the turn onto the final straight on Charles Street, he decided to launch into his kick.

“As soon as that happened, I just had to go,” Beadlescomb said.

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In a wild race that saw nearly a dozen men battling it out for the win, Beadlescomb was the class of the field, using the turn of speed that carried him to 2nd in the 2021 NCAA mile to win in 13:25, just five seconds shy of the American road record Ben True set on this course six years ago. Conditions were near-perfect for running fast (52 degrees, overcast and still) and the rest of the men’s field took advantage as the top 11 men all ran 13:30 or faster with a gap of just five seconds between 1st and 11th. 

Ben Flanagan was 2nd in 13:26 to make it a 1-2 finish for VNTC; his time took nine seconds off the Canadian road record set here last year by Charles Philibert-Thiboutot (who was 12th today in 13:32).

Ethiopia’s World Championship steeplechase bronze medalist Mekides Abebe, who might be elevated to silver if Norah Jeruto’s ban is retroactively applied, won the women’s race in 15:01 over Kenya’s Agnes Ngetich as the B.A.A.’s Annie Rodenfels defended home turf and held off Weini Kelati for top American honors in 3rd, clocking 15:12 to Kelati’s 15:13. It’s one of a number of recent victories for Rodenfels in her adopted hometown – she won a pair of fast 5,000’s at Boston University in 2021 and 2022 and claimed the B.A.A road mile title last year.

“Especially at the B.A.A. events, there’s a certain pride, I hear my name more often, I live here, it’s my team, a lot of pride,” Rodenfels said, noting it doesn’t hurt that she was coming off a strong stint of altitude training in Albuquerque. “And I love Boston Marathon weekend. I really feel like that helps propels me.” 

*Full 5K results *Full mile results

Quick Take: Altitude training is paying off for Morgan Beadlescomb

Beadlescomb had not trained at altitude before traveling out to Flagstaff last fall, but that stint went well enough to convince him to return this spring with his 20-year-old VNTC teammate Hobbs Kessler.

“I gotta keep an eye on him,” Beadlescomb joked. “He needs a chaperone.”

Beadlescomb, who will return to Flagstaff after the race, said he’s had a productive spring of training to this point.

“Going up there, the hills, [it’s] free fitness whenever you’re running the hills like that,” Beadlescomb said. “And the altitude, of course. Being around so many serious runners, you learn so much.”

At the same time, Beadlescomb says it’s important for him not to get overly consumed with running while he’s out there.

“[I’ll say], all right guys, let’s get away from running, let’s go do something,” Beadlescomb said. “Let’s go take a hike or something.”

Quick Take: 2023 is a big year for Ben Flanagan

Flanagan has enjoyed much success on the roads since coming out of Michigan in 2018, winning three Falmouth Road Race titles and running a Canadian record (since broken) of 61:00 at the Valencia Half Marathon last fall. But he’s never made a World or Olympic team, something he is desperate to change.

The question for Flanagan, as he heads towards next year’s Olympics, is which event to pursue? Flanagan said he will pursue the marathon during the 2028 Olympic cycle, but his fate in 2024 depends on how his 2023 season goes. 

“It was a gut decision really,” Flanagan said. “…I’m not in a rush [to move up], and honestly seeing some of the guys perform at such a high level in their mid- to late-30s has given me confidence that next Olympic cycle I can go for it. Honestly, the decision part for me was this year…If I [make] Worlds, I’m gonna go for the track in the Paris Olympics. If I [don’t] make Worlds this year, [I’m] moving up to the marathon.”

Quick Take: Annie Rodenfels still undecided on steeplechase vs. 5k

Rodenfels hung back today before striking late and running down Kelati for the third and final spot on the podium.

“I tried to stay back a little bit, save my energy for the end and then just kept working my way up, kept realizing, oh I feel really good,” Rodenfels said.

When she saw Kelati, Rodenfels hesitated but ultimately wound up passing her.

“For a second I was like, ah it’s fine, I’m fine here,” Rodenfels said. “But then I was like, no, it’s third place, that’s a big deal.”

Rodenfels said she will try to break 15:00 on the track at the Sound Running Track Fest on May 6 and isn’t sure which event she will pursue this spring between the 5,000 and the steeple. She was 6th at USAs in the steeple last year but admits that she’s not the best hurdler.

Quick Take: Kelati is headed to Europe

This was Kelati’s first race since finishing 21st at World XC in Australia on February 18. She deemed it a decent start to her spring. Next up, she’ll head to Europe where she’ll try to hit the World Championship standard in the 10,000 meters on the track (30:40).

Mile Quick Takes

Both Kessler and Gear waited until the last of three laps to make their winning moves, seizing the lead before the final turn and holding on for the win. Kessler had to work hard to turn back Under Armour’s Casey Comber, who ran 3:54.01 indoors this year, for the win while Gear was well clear of runner-up Lizzie Bird of Great Britain, winning by more than two seconds. Interviews with both winners below.

Quick Take: Hobbs Kessler was pleased to run well in front of his “bosses”

Kevin Morris photo

In Kessler’s last trip to Boston at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in February, he bombed by running 4:05.01 in the mile. It was, Kessler said, a “humiliating” performance, particularly because a number of adidas executives were in the building. Kessler was still only 19 years old at the time (he turned 20 last month) but signed a lucrative adidas deal in 2021 and knows 4:05 means he is not doing his job.

“I have a contract like everyone else, I’m expected to perform like everyone else,” Kessler said.

Kessler, who did run an impressive 7:39 3k indoors, was much better today and looked good in winning, even though he’s been feeling crummy in training recently. And with adidas sponsoring the Boston Marathon, he was able to get a win in front of his “bosses” – adidas head of sports marketing Spencer Nel held the finish line tape today – which made Kessler feel much better than his last race in Boston.

Kessler won’t race again until the Atlanta City Games on May 6 – another street meet – but plans on running a bunch of 1500’s this spring to put him in position to make Team USA should he finish in the top 3 at July’s US championships.

“I’m in a little tricky spot because I don’t have [the 3:34.20 World] standard or a [high world] ranking right now,” Kessler said. “And I have a 3:36, 3:37, and 3:38 that are going to expire between USAs. So I’ve gotta chase the standard or get my ranking up, one or both of those.”

Quick Take: Krissy Gear got the win in front of a big cheering section

Kevin Morris photo

Gear, who was 4th in the NCAA 1500 for Arkansas last year, is in her first full year as a professional in 2023 and said that earning the win today helped reinforce her belief that she can be competitive on the pro scene. 

“It was really exciting,” Gear said. “It’s something that I’ve struggled a lot and really tried to work on is believing I belong in these races and up in the front.”

Gear said she’s been enjoying training under NAZ coach Alan Culpepper, who takes a slightly different approach from her college coach Lance Harter. She also likes that she is able to race frequently – already this year she has raced in Boston twice as well as Lincoln, Neb., and USA Indoors in Albuquerque.

“I really like that Alan emphasizes racing and having fun with the process,” Gear said.

Gear’s family flew out to watch her race in Boston today and she said she now has to make plans for viewing the marathon on Monday as she wants to be able to cheer on NAZ Elite teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk at multiple spots on the course.

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