Shalane Flanagan made her first career try at the Women’s 10,000 metres a successful one on Sunday evening (4) and came away with a stunning 30:34.49 victory to highlight the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford University south of San Francisco.
The 26-year-old North Carolina resident convincingly broke the American record of 30:50.32 which Deena Kastor had posted in this same meeting six years ago. The time was also a world best for the 2008 season.
Flanagan thus adds the 10,000m mark to the US 5000m record of 14:44.80 she ran a year ago.
Much of her success last night must be credited to New Zealand’s Kim Smith, with whom she traded leads numerous times during the final half of the race. Finally in the ultimate 200 metres the American sprinted away, leaving Smith with a still-respectable consolation prize at 30:35.54, which broke the Oceania record of 30:37.68 held by Benita Johnson of Australia.
Only Ethiopia’s Werknesh Kidane, with 30:19.39 in winning the 2005 IAAF Grand Prix Meeting at Stanford, has run faster for 10,000m on American soil.
It was the third time that the Cobb Track at Angell Field had seen American runners making auspicious debuts in the 25-lap event. Three years ago, Amy Rudolph clocked 31:18.96 in her maiden 10K voyage, and the following year, Alan Webb registered a 27:34.72 in winning a duel against Dathan Ritzenhein (27:35.65).
“It wouldn’t have happened except for Smith”
For last night’s competition, Rose Koskei was enlisted as pacemaker, and the 26-year-old Kenyan pulled Flanagan and Smith through the first five kilometres in 15:17, exactly half of the eventual winning time. Once Koskei departed, the front-running pair were left to their own devices for keeping a fast pace.
First Flanagan went to the fore, then Smith for two laps, with Flanagan taking over again a pair of laps later. The New Zealander’s final stint in the lead came halfway through the penultimate kilometre, setting the stage for Flanagan’s victorious sprint of 69.5 over the final 400 metres.
“I just wanted to see what I could do in such a long race,” said Flanagan afterwards, indicating that her primary goal for the upcoming US Olympic Trials is still the 5000, as she hopes to better her eighth-place finish in that event in Osaka. “This race is really too long for me to focus. I much prefer the 5K. Before you know it, it’s over.”
As the time drew near for the 10,000m, Flanagan and her coach (John Cook) knew that, for the foreseeable future, her career attempts at the longer distance would be limited. “I thought to myself, ‘Why not just try and break the record?’”
Flanagan was quick to acknowledge her gratitude for Smith’s assistance. “It wouldn’t have happened except for her. We’ve worked together in the past. I look up to her a lot, and I admire her tenacity. When I would motion for her to pass, she would move in front.”
Although losing out over the final half lap, Smith was pleased. “My coach thought I could run 30:40, and I exceeded his expectations.” She echoed Flanagan’s feelings about their teamwork. “It’s nice having her in my races. We don’t mind leading each other.”
Asked at what point she felt confident that the record was going to fall, she indicated that with one kilometre remaining, her only thought was “don’t screw this up!”
As her post-race comments drew to an end, Flanagan indicated no specific plans before the US Trials in late June. “I may not run another race until then. I just want to take care of myself after this one. I probably won’t do another workout for ten days.”
One can easily say that Flanagan was born to run. Her mother, Cheryl Treworgy (who was working at tonight’s competition as a free-lance photographer) is a former World record holder in the marathon (2:49 in 1971) and competed five times at the World Cross Country Championships. Her father, Steve Flanagan, was himself an international cross country runner.
Men’s 10,000m - 27:34.48 PB for Mottram
After last year’s Jordan Invitational, in which an amazing fifteen runners dipped under 28 minutes in the men’s 10,000 metres, the event understandably attracted great international attention again this year.
Haron Lagat led the field of 27 runners for several kilometres while the field sorted itself out, but by the end of 3K, Mo Farah was handling the pacing duties. The British runner stayed continually in the lead, with Australia’s Craig Mottram shadowing his every step, while the cast of a half dozen supporting players rotated frequently behind that pair.
The first 5K was covered in 13:58.1, well off the pace needed for the “A” Olympic standard of 27:50.
Once the runners did some calculating, the tempo increased. The sixth kilometre was covered faster than any preceding one, but Farah couldn’t be counted on to push the rhythm forever.
Finally at the 8K mark, after Farah had held the lead for at least five kilometres, Mottram shot ahead and seemed to be headed for an almost unchallenged win, as Josphat Boit (KEN), Takayuki Matsumiya (JPN) and Günther Weidlinger (AUT) also stepped up their own movements.
The pace warmed up even more in the ninth kilometre, which was the fastest of all by three seconds.
The knockout blow came with 600 metres remaining, as Mottram went into an all-out sprint. Covering the final three laps in 64.8, 61.0 and 59.2, the tall Australian sailed home in a PB 27:34.48, missing Shaun Creighton’s area record by just 2½ seconds.
The Helsinki 5000m bronze winner was blasé about the whole experience, since – like Flanagan – he was including the 10,000m race on his schedule as part of his Beijing 5000m preparation. “It was only training for me,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’ll go back to Flagstaff and train now for six weeks,” indicating that his European plans are not yet firm.
Closing the gap on Mottram at the end was Weidlinger, whose 27:36.46 was a new Austrian record. “I was looking for something like 27:45, so this was quite a bonus tonight,” the former steeplechase standout said. “This track is so wonderful to run on. My legs don’t feel tired at all!”
Boit (27:40.64), Matsumiya (27:41.75) and Farah (27:44.54) followed in the next three places, as a total of seven runners secured the Olympic “A” norm.
Lagat sprints away with 200m to go
The men’s 5000 metres was another opportunity for Bernard Lagat to remind the other runners of his World Championships title in that event from Osaka last year. The American stayed behind pacer Christian Hecht until the latter dropped out, but Lagat always had a crowd of as many as four within a step, including Boniface Songok and Boaz Cheboiywo, both of Kenya, and American university student Brent Vaughn.
At the bell, Lagat still could not shake-off Cheboiywo and Vaughn, and the trio stayed glued together until 200 remained. The former Kenyan then sprinted away to a 13:16.29 victory, with the surprising Vaughn also showing a fine finish to beat out Cheboiwo at the tape by 13:18.46 to 13:19.21.
The outcome of the women’s 5000 metres was less predictable. Stanford student Arianna Lambie had held the lead ever since the end of the second kilometre, but Emily Brown took over with just over two laps remaining and never looked back.
It was a landmark win for the 23-year-old Brown, as her 15:19.57 was a PB by more than one minute. Lambie clocked 15:22.51 for second, more than seventeen seconds ahead of the next runner.
The women’s 3000m Steeplechase saw winner Anna Willard (9:37.73) sprint home ahead of Lindsey Anderson (9:41.41) and 20-year-old Chinese runner Jin Yuan (PB 9:41.60) as all three surpassed the Beijing “A” norm.
The top section of the men’s 3000m Steeplechase was won with a strong finish by Britain’s Luke Gunn in a PB 8:31.17, as Andy Smith was second in 8:32.12.
At age 34, Kevin Sullivan was the oldest in the field of the men’s 1500 metres. But the Canadian showed the younger runners how to contest the event with a 3:39.75 run, more than a second ahead of Nick Symmonds (3:40.98). The women’s 1500 metres was easily won with a strong wrap-up (63.6 final lap) by Shannon Rowbury in a world-leading 4:07.59, a PB by almost five seconds.
The field events were topped by the 6.68m (windy) leap by Grace Upshaw in the women’s Long Jump.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
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