Bedan Karoki improves to 27:13.67 in Palo Alto (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Japan-based Bidan Karoki, a 20-year-old whose first competitive race outside Japan came only last summer in Dubnica, Slovakia, ran away from highly-decorated competitors to win the men’s race in 27:13.67. Only moments earlier, Sally Kipyego scored a 30:38.35 victory in the women’s competition.
After Chris Solinsky, last year’s sub-27 headliner, paced the men through the first five kilometers in 13:43.4, Bob Tahri found himself in the lead. The French steepler and Bobby Curtis took turns at the front until Karoki suddenly bolted ahead with eight laps remaining and streaked to a 20-metre advantage within the next 200 metres. The Kenyan continued to lengthen his lead throughout the race and finished exactly twelve seconds ahead of his closest pursuer.
With Karoki virtually untouchable over the final three kilometres, the real drama came from the group running behind the Kenyan. Matt Tegenkamp, the Beijing fourth-placer in the 5000m and tonight running the first serious 10,000m of his career, went to the fore with 1600 remaining as Curtis stayed close. But just after the bell sounded, Ben St. Lawrence of Australia crisply sprinted past the Americans and seemingly headed for a second-place finish. Only a resolute effort by Curtis over the final 80 metres spoiled the Sydney native’s plans.
Curtis clocked a 27:24.67 ahead of St. Lawrence’s 27:24.95, the latter a new Oceania record (easily bettering the 27:29.73 of Collis Birmingham set two years ago in nearby Berkeley). Britain’s Chris Thompson was next across in 27:27.36, a PB by more than two seconds, as fast-closing Tim Nelson (27:28.19) pipped Tegenkamp at the finish (27:28.22).
Although fading at the end, Tahri scored a creditable 27:31.46 for twelfth place in his first-ever 10,000m outing, as the top fourteen finishers achieved the A-norm for the 2012 Olympics and also logged PBs. Such is the magic of a spring evening on Stanford’s Cobb Track and Angell Field.
Kipkeyo outduels Flanagan
Kipyego’s victory in the women’s competition was the outcome of a riveting duel against Shalane Flanagan, the Beijing bronze medallist. After only six laps, a group of five runners had formed the lead pack, but Molly Huddle soon began to drop off the pace. Lineth Chepkurui of Kenya was the next to fade, followed by Japan’s Kayoko Fukushi.
With eight circuits remaining, it was a two-person battle, with the two protagonists taking turns at the lead. Kipyego took over for the final time with 1500 left, and deftly rebuffed a move by Flanagan with 200 to go. Off a 65.9 final 400, the Kenyan sailed home with 30:38.35, a 47-second improvement on her previous career best three years ago at this meeting, as Flanagan clocked 30:39.57, the third-fastest performance by an American. (And yes, she has the other two.)
Fukushi (30:54.29), Chepkurui (31:24.20), and Huddle (31:28.66) were among the eight who achieved the A-standard for London.
The only other marks surpassing the A-levels for London on this first day of the qualifying period came in the Steeplechase events, plus one field event.
Beijing Olympian Billy Nelson closed in 62.3 for his final lap in the men’s event for a 8:22.44 win over Kyle Alcorn, whose 8:23.27 just finished outside the elite norm for London.
The women’s race saw Emma Coburn take the lead with just over three laps remaining as she coasted to a world-leading 9:40.51, an eleven-second PB, ahead of Sara Hall (9:48.85).
Canada’s Nicole Sifuentes dropped more than six seconds from her previous best in the 5000m with a 15:27.84 come-from-behind victory in the final straight over Mexico’s Sandra Lopez (15:28.71) as Angela Bizzarri also gave chase with a third-place 15:28.74.
In the men’s 5000m, Brandon Bethke went to the lead in the penultimate lap and appeared en route to an unchallenged win. Stanford student Elliott Heath put on a furious finish but Bethke held on to win, 13:25.82 to 13:26.14 as two other American university runners, Tom Farrell and Diego Estrada, were close behind with 13:26.59 and 13:26.94, respectively.
In the men’s 1500m, Ben Blankenship sprinted past leader, Beijing Olympian Lopez Lomong, and held on for a 3:39.49 win, as Andrew Bayer moved in to pip Lomong for second by 0.001 second. Both were officially timed in 3:39.67. Andrew Bumbalough also dipped under 3:40 with 3:39.70 in fourth. The race held much greater potential but none of the competitors saw fit to follow the target 1:55 two-lap tempo offered by pacemaker Mark Matusak.
In a scramble off the final turn, Katie Follett was impressive in her PB 4:08.95 victory in the women’s 1500m over Canadian Malindi Elmore (4:09.71) and Alice Schmidt (4:09.85).
Although carrying the cachet of a middle- and long-distance meeting, the Payton Jordan Invitational contained a full programme of events. Notable among the other results were wins by Jill Camarena-Williams in the women’s shot put (18.91m, an Olympic A-qualifier), Croatia’s Martin Maric in the discus (63.18m), Prince Mumba in the men’s 800m (1:46.96), Christin Wurth-Thomas in the women’s 800m (2:00.72), and Kori Carter in the 100m Hurdles (13.12).
Ed Wright, son of double Olympic 800m gold medallist Mal Whitfield, won the men’s High Jump with 2.23m, and Greece’s Katerina Stefanidi’s 4.35m dominated the women’s Pole Vault.
Ed Gordon for the IAAF
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