In addition, many athletes met the Olympic ‘A’ standard.
Written by: David Monti
(c) 2011 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Three world-leading marks and two dozen Olympic Games “A” qualifying times highlighted the results of Sunday night’s Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University. Hundreds of athletes flocked to this distance-oriented meet to take advantage of the reliably cool and dry conditions.
The men’s 10,000m produced the best quality results, led by Kenyan Bedan Karoki who clocked a world-leading 27:13.67. Karoki, who competes for the Japanese S&B corporate team, broke the race open in the second half after meet record holder Chris Solinsky finished pacing his teammates Matt Tegenkamp and Tim Nelson at 5000m. Karoki’s lead was never threatened.
“It is my best time,” said the smiling Karoki who improved his career best time by ten seconds. “Actually, it was very good. I’m very happy.”
Just behind Karoki, there was a spirited battle for second between American Bobby Curtis and Australian Ben St. Lawrence, who trained together for this race at Laguna Mountain near San Diego. Curtis spent most of the race near the front, but St. Lawrence stayed well off the lead, before launching a long last-lap drive which moved him up from fourth position to second before Curtis nipped him at the tape, 27:24.67 to 27:24.95. Both men locked in Olympic Games “A” qualifying times, personal bests, and St. Lawrence set an Australian record, bettering Collis Birmingham’s 27:29.73 from the Brutus Hamilton meeting in nearby Berkeley in 2009.
“I hadn’t been doing too well in training, so I thought I’d just hang back and get that ‘A’ standard,” St. Lawrence explained. “As the race wore on, I was feeling stronger and stronger. I had the benefit of picking up a few people each lap. I got Tegenkamp –probably a bit by surprise– coming down the backstraight and thought, I’m in for second place. Bobby really ran strong and got me in the straight. It’s an Australian record and a massive PB by over 35 seconds.”
Tegenkamp, who was making his 10,000m professional debut, finished sixth in a solid 27:28.22. “Today, my mistake was not going when the move was made,” said the former University of Wisconsin star. “A lot of that is being a rookie and respecting the distance, I guess.”
The women’s 25-lap contest came down to a two-woman battle between Kenyan Sally Kipyego and American Shalane Flanagan. The pair had dropped Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi with eight laps to go, and were trading the lead and holding a steady pace at around 74 seconds per lap. With four laps to go, Kipyego dropped the pace to around 72 seconds, then the former NCAA champion from Texas Tech covered the final lap in 65.9 seconds to hold off Flanagan, the American record holder at the distance.
“It was huge; I’m really happy,” said Kipyego who clocked a world leading and personal best 30:38.35. “I’m just grateful because most of the time you don’t go out there and expect a perfect day. When it comes together, it’s amazing. I’m so grateful.”
Flanagan, who plans to run the marathon at the 2012 Olympic Games, was satisfied with her time, but disappointed that she did not win. She knew Kipyego would be tough.
“She had her game face on in the warm-up,” observed Flanagan, who ran 30:39.57.
Fukushi held on for third in 30:54.29, but missed her stated goal of breaking Yoko Shibui’s national record of 30:48.89 set at the same meet in 2002. In all, eight women ran under the Olympic Games “A” Standard of 31:45.00.
The third world leader came in the women’s steeplechase where the University of Colorado’s Emma Coburn, last year’s NCAA Championships runner-up, clocked a personal best 9:40.51, comfortably under the Olympic Games “A” standard of 9:43.00. Like USA steeplechase record holder Jenny Simpson, Coburn is getting her college coaching from Mark Wetmore who shouted encouragement from turn three.
“I have a solid year to improve at the steeple,” said Coburn who hadn’t run a steeplechase in ten months. “I’m excited I have another year to perfect it.”
Billy Nelson won the men’s steeplechase, coming from third position on the last lap, and was the only athlete in the event to get under the Olympic “A” standard of 8:23.21. Nelson ran 8:22.44, beating Kyle Alcorn (8:23.27) and Ben Bruce (8:26.90).
“Our plan coming in wasn’t to run that fast,” said Nelson, who is also coached by Mark Wetmore. “With 800 to go I didn’t know if I would have a kick left.”
Katie Follett (4:08.95) and Ben Blankenship (3:39.49) were both surprise winners in their respective 1500m races. “Oh my gosh!” Follett exclaimed after beating Canadian Malindi Elmore and American Morgan Uceny in the final push for the tape. “What happened?” Blankenship had a similar reaction after outsprinting Lopez Lomong and Andrew Bumbalough with a 54.9-second final lap. “Feels pretty damn good,” he said. “I said, ‘let’s go for it,’ and it worked out pretty well.”
The top sections of the 5000m were won by Brandon Bethke (in a dramatic sprint finish over Elliott Heath, 13:25.82 to 13:26.14), and Canadian Nicole Sifuentes (who sprinted away from Mexico’s Sandra Lopez and America’s Angela Bizzarri and clocked a personal best 15:27.84). Sifuentes, the former Nicole Edwards who finished fifth at last year’s Commonwealth Games at 1500m, ran the race as an endurance test for coach Mike McGuire before concentrating again on the 1500m.
“I usually do one a year, so now I’m finished for this year,” Sifuentes deadpanned. She added: “I’m glad it’s over.”