There was a nail biting match-up between the defending champion Benita Johnson from Australia and 2005 winner and course record-holder (15:18) Asmae Leghzaoui from Morocco in the Freihofer's Run for Women 5K today.
25-year-old Rose Kosgei from Kenya led-out a testing early pace, Kosgei, the winner of the 1997 World Junior Cross champion brought with her a knot of half a dozen runners, comprising Mara Yamauchi (GBR), Emily Chebet (KEN), Amane Gobena (ETH) and Teyba Erkesse (ETH), plus Leghzaoui and Johnson. At one mile, the split read 5:00, evidence that this was going to be a race hard fought to the finish.
Deciding that the rolling hills of Washington Park would be an effective place to inflict some damage, Leghzaoui surged to the forefront shortly after the first mile and began to open daylight. Kosgei immediately lost ground, as did Chebet, Gobena and Erkesse. Johnson, however, spotted the move and closed down the gap just as relentlessly as the Moroccan had opened it. At 3K, they were side by side, and at two miles (10:04) it was evident that this year's Freihofer's finish was going to be a thriller in the finest tradition of this race.
The course record holder fought hard, but Johnson's strength was undeniable. The Australian woman did not inject a startling kick; rather, she increased the tempo, imperceptibly to those on the sidelines, but brutally and efficiently. In the closing 400m, Johnson opened a stunning 10 seconds on Leghzaoui. The winner crossed the finish line in a time of 15:22, five seconds faster than she had in winning here last year, and the third fastest winning time in Freihofer's history.
"I only felt that I was going to win with about 800m to go," explained the re-crowned champion. "I made a surge on Leghzaoui and opened a gap. When I saw that, I went harder again. The pace was fast from the gun, but I had to be up there if I was going to have a chance of winning. I wanted to win this race to kick start my campaign for the World Championships (10,000m)."
Edward Parham for the IAAF
1 Benita Johnson AUS 15:22
2. Asmae Leghzaoui MAR 15:32
3. Teyba Erkesso ETH 15:46
4. Dire Tune ETH 15:51
5. Mara Yamauchi GBR 15:52
6. Emily Chebet KEN 15:59
7. Amane Gobena ETH 16:04
8. Silvia Skvortsova RUS 16:10