RRW: Bryce Hoppel (1:46.07), Ajee Wilson (2:01.28) Win Elite 800’s At Track Night NYC
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
NEW YORK (19-May) — On a chilly night at Icahn Stadium, Bryce Hoppel and Ajee’ Wilson showed their class by winning the elite 800m races with relative ease at the second annual Track Night NYC, a bronze level meeting of the 2023 World Athletics Continental Tour. The two adidas-sponsored athletes were timed in 1:46.07 and 2:01.28, respectively, and under the meet’s winner-take-all format they each won $8,000.
“We were just trying to get the legs moving,” Hoppel told Race Results Weekly after holding off Puerto Rico’s Ryan Sanchez in the homestretch. “I haven’t raced for a while and we’re just trying to make the steps to do what we really need to be doing. This was a fun event to be out here and just get it going.”
Starting from lane 6, Hoppel got a clean start and was running third behind pacemaker Alex Amankwah and Sanchez at 400 meters (51.04). Down the backstretch, Hoppel tried to pull away, but Sanchez stayed close. Rounding the final bend Hoppel had better position on the inside and eased away from Sanchez to get the win. Sanchez was timed in 1:46.80 and Isaiah Harris of the Brooks Beasts Track Club got third in 1:47.18.
Hoppel, 25, who finished fourth at the 2019 World Athletics Championships, is coming off of a good indoor season where he won the national 800m title. Tonight’s race was only his third 800 of the outdoor season, and he was pleased with his race execution.
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“I’d say it was good,” Hoppel said. “My coach said just make sure you’re in there being a competitor. I felt the race wasn’t as fast as I’d like it to be so I tried to take it, and that always hurts a little bit. So, we made it happen so I’m happy for it.”
Wilson, the 2022 World Athletics indoor 800m champion, ran a more tactical race. She ran in a tight pack through the first 400m in a not-too-fast 60.01 seconds with nearly the entire ten-woman field right still in contention. She began to pull away on the backstretch, and by the time she came around the final bend she had a five-meter lead on her nearest chasers, Jamaica’s Adelle Tracey and the Atlanta Track Club’s Allie Wilson. She was never seriously threatened in the final 100 meters, and eased up a little before the finish.
“I was planning on following, but I felt good and went back to leading,” Wilson told Race Results Weekly. “Just keep the pace honest and consistent and go from there.”
Tracey finished second in 2:02.03 and Allie Wilson got third in 2:02.46, just slightly ahead of Sammy Watson who closed well to finish fourth in 2:02.51.
The boy’s high school 800m was also exciting. Tinoda Matsatsa of Potomac, Md., made a strong move on the backstretch and built enough of a lead that Colin Sahlman of Newbury Park, Calif., could not catch him in the homestretch despite mounting a furious sprint. Matsatsa won in 1:49.48 to Sahlman’s 1:49.72. Matsatsa said that he could feel Sahlman coming up on him and made sure he kept up his speed.
“I heard him (the announcer) say, ‘Aaron closing hard!,” Matsatsa said. “I looked down at my shadow and I see Aaron’s shadow coming towards me. Even though I was already kicking it I found another gear.”
In the elite 1500m races, both the winners posted solid times. On the women’s side Alexina Tuebel blasted away from the field with about 600 meters to go and cruised to the finish line in 4:07.68, about five seconds ahead of Mexico’s Alma Cortes (4:12.89).
“It was crazy,” said Tuebel, who is a coach at the University of Northern Iowa. “I could tell that Alma was pulling back a little bit and I was just like, I don’t want to come here and run 4:12. I want to run fast.” She added: “I’m so happy with that.”
John Reniewicki, who won the men’s 1500m in 3:39.10, was also a happy athlete. Reniewicki, who focused on the 10,000m last year, felt a special surge of motivation today as he raced with three of his Under Armour Baltimore teammates: Adam Fogg, Casey Comber, and Ahmed Jaziri. Running from fourth place at the bell, he turned a 59.9-second final lap to edge both Fogg (3:39.60) and Comber (3:39.80) after early leader Charles Philibert-Thiboutot of Canada faded in the later stages of the race to finish fourth (3:39.91).
“I’m super-happy with it,” said the smiling Reniewicki, who took third place at the USATF Indoor Championships in the 1500m back in February. “I’ve been focusing more on the 5-K, 10-K the last few years. I’ve been seeing some pretty discouraging results in the 10-K. I think poor timing with illness and things like that. Stepping down to the 1500 has been a lot of fun for me.” He added: “I really, really wanted to break that tape.”
Canada’s Jean-Simon Desgagnes had a good result in the steeplechase. Letting the U.S. Army’s Anthony Rotich and Bernard Keter set the pace in the first half of the race, Desgagnes took the lead with two laps to go and ran uncontested to the line in 8:23.32, nearly four seconds up on Rotich (8:26.98). A French-Canadian, Desgagnes said he felt comfortable the entire race and had come to New York to defend his title. He ran a slightly faster 8:22.95 at last year’s meet.
“We come here every year, a beautiful meet,” Desgagnes said. He added: “I went into this race knowing I had a shot at it. After 2-K I know I had the legs and, like, paces was not that fast. So, me and my coach got ready for this and knew it was time to go.”
In other events, India’s Parul Chaudhary ran away with the women’s steeplechase in 9:41.88; Alma Cortes doubled back from the 1500m to win the 5000m in 15:30.68 over USA Olympian Marielle Hall (15:31.47); Canada’s Thomas Fafard won the men’s 5000m in 13:33.00; and Lily Guinn of Norfolk, Va., and Collin Boler of Morristown, N.J. won the high school miles in 4:46.17 and 4:06.71, respectively. Boler who had a shot at a four-minute mile tonight hitting 809 meters in 2:01.24, tied up in the final 200 meters before the finish.
“Dude, I couldn’t feel my legs,” he told Race Results Weekly. “I couldn’t feel anything.”