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Africans Take Top 3 In adidas Grand Prix 1500

Written by: Chris Lotsbom
(c) 2010 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

NEW YORK — A prelude to the USA National Championships, with a few Africans thrown in the mix.

That’s what some were calling the 1,500 meters here at the adidas Grand Prix IAAF Diamond League meet at Ichan Stadium on Randall’s Island on Saturday.  With ten Americans in the field of fifteen, the Red, White, and Blue had a major presence on the track.

The race, though, had some major non-patriots in the field.  Reigning Olympic gold medallist Nancy Langat, world indoor champion from 2008, Geleta Burka, and four-time world indoor 3,000-meter champion Meseret Defar all would take to the line alongside America’s best.

“Its a little bit like Penn Relays- its the USA vs. the World going on out there, and it was nice to have that camaraderie,” said Morgan Uceny, who placed sixth in a personal best of 4:04.01.  “You see familiar faces, but at the same time you have these women with all these accolades, it gives you that extra edge out there.”

With so many Americans racing at such a high level –three athletes with personal bests under four minutes, and one with a bronze medal from the Berlin World Championships– America has proven that they have top talent in middle distance runners.

But how would they fare here at Ichan, facing Langat, Burka and Defar?

Completing the first quarter in 1:03.41, Christin Wurth-Thomas was the first athlete behind the two pacers.  Through 800 meters in 2:09.22, Wurth-Thomas was all alone, thirty meters ahead of the chase pack, led by the three East Africans.  The American held the lead until 200m to go, where she was chased down and swarmed by Defar, Langat, and Burka.

After passing the American, it was a three-women race to the finish, where Langat won in a world leading and meet record time of 4:01.60.  Defar edged out Langat, 4:02.00 to 4:03.35, earning a personal best time.

As for the Americans, they claimed the next six spots, led by Jenny Barringer in fourth in a time of 4:03.63.

“I just kept repeating to myself, be competitive, be competitive, instead of just be the first American or just run four minutes,” said Barringer, who has gone under the four minute barrier before.  “You just gotta race and race hard.”

With such high competition coming to the United States, even longer distance stars can get in on the action.  Shalane Flanagan, who has been training for the 5000m, ran to get some speed in during the long process of building up towards the marathon distance.

“I’ve got no pressure, the eyes are always on them,” said the ninth place finisher, referring to the East Africans.  “It makes it a lot more fun, you can test yourself at home here and see where you are at.”

Despite not placing in the top three, the Americans did run relatively well, considering it is still early on in their season.  With many meets in Europe to come, most of the women are focusing on peaking later on, rather than now.

“I was thinking of it like a championship race, making sure I was practicing the tactics,” said Shannon Rowbury, the 2009 World Championships bronze medallist.  She used the meet as a tune up for the USA Championships in two weeks.

With such a star studded field, not placing in the top three is no disappointment.  After all, it was USA vs. the world here.

1. Nancy Jebet Langat,  KEN, 4:01.60 WL/MR
2. Meseret Defar, ETH, 4:02.00 PB
3. Gelete Burka, ETH, 4:03.35
4. Jenny Barringer, USA, 4:03.63 
5. Shannon Rowbury, USA, 4:04.00 
6. Morgan Uceny, USA, 4:04.01 PB
7. Christin Wurth-Thomas,  USA, 4:05.56 
8. Anna Pierce, USA, 4:05.96 
9. Shalane Flanagan, USA, 4:06.44 
10. Renata Plis, POL, 4:06.94 
11. Erin Donohue, USA, 4:07.22 
12. Treniere Clement Moser, USA, 4:07.49 
13. Hilary Stellingwerff, CAN, 4:07.76 
14. Sara Hall, USA, 4:10.11 
15. Lindsey Gallo, USA, 4:15.07 
Mardrea Hyman, JAM, DNF 
Karen Shinkins, IRL, DNF