All smiles - Sam Chelanga after his world leading 27:28.48 at the Brutus Hamilton Invite in Berkeley (Lisa Coniglio/ © Copyright
General News Berkeley, CA, USA

Three world leads in Berkeley – Brutus Hamilton Invite Day 1

Kenyan Sam Chelanga held off a furious finish by Collis Birmingham of Australia in the Men’s 10,000m as both runners dipped under the 27:30 mark to highlight the first day of the Brutus Hamilton Invitational on Friday (24) in Berkeley.

Chelanga, a student at Liberty University in Virginia, crossed the finish in a world-leading 27:28.48 - one of three global bests during the evening and also the fastest time ever run by a US university athlete.  It bettered the 27:33.48 of Galen Rupp two years ago at Stanford, and tonight’s performance also lowered Chelanga’s own PB by more than 46 seconds.

Birmingham, who closed the gap on Chelanga in the final 150 metres of the race, ended with 27:29.73, erasing the Australian and Oceania record of 27:31.92 set by Shaun Creighton more than 12 years ago.

The winds of earlier in the day abated sufficiently for the distance runners to have reasonable conditions during their mid-evening races.  And with the temperature hovering near 10C, the runners responded brilliantly as five competitors dipped under the “A” standard [27:47.00] for this summer’s IAAF World Championships in Berlin.

The early stages of the competition saw Mexico’s Juan Luis Barrios and American steepler Anthony Famiglietti following the pacemakers through most of the opening five kilometres.

Just before the halfway point, “Fam” moved ahead of Barrios as the final tempo-setter departed.  All the while, Birmingham and Chelanga patiently held their positions close behind.

During the eighth kilometre, Birmingham asserted himself and made a strong move to the lead ahead of Famiglietti and Barrios, with Chelanga staying close to the front-running trio.

The Kenyan waited until the 8600m mark before attacking the lead.  With only three laps remaining, Chelanga then began to stretch out his advantage to as much as 20 metres over Birmingham, as Famigletti and Barrios fell back. 

Chelanga appeared to be on the way to a walk-away win at that point until the Australian began a strong finishing kick on the final back stretch.  Coming around the final curve, Birmingham moved to within about three metres of Chelanga, who glanced quickly over his shoulder and then put on a surge to preserve his lead during the race’s exciting final moments. 

“I had a time in the range of 27:40 in my mind tonight,” Chelanga said. “But when we hit the 5K [in 13:46], I knew that something near 27:30 was possible.” 

“Near the end, I felt the other guys slowing up a bit, but I still had something left in the tank,” he continued. 

The younger brother of standout marathoner Joshua Chelanga, Sam admitted that the 42-kilometre race “is my ultimate distance.” 

With his Berkeley appearance, Birmingham concluded a successful stay in the US, saying that “I wanted to feel as comfortable as I could with five laps left.”  But he admitted that perhaps he let Chelanga get too far ahead before picking up his own speed.

The 24-year-old resident of the Melbourne area indicated interest in running both the 10K and the 5K [qualified with 13:16.26 last month] in Berlin “if the Australian federation will let me”.  But on further contemplation, he admitted that “if I think I can run a good 5000 metres at the worlds, I’d gladly pass on the longer race since it is earlier in the schedule.” 

Yuki Sato of Japan finished strongly at the end to take third in a PB 27:38.25, as Famiglietti (27:39.68) and Barrios (27:40.10 in his first –ever 10K race) completed the quintet achieving the Berlin norm.

Both Birmingham and Barrios have shown comparable and outstanding, wide repertoires of late.  The Australian now has PBs of 3:37.01—13:16.16—27:28.48, while the Mexican’s resume shows 3:37.71—13:11.37—27:40.10.

The success of the Distance Carnival portion of the meet was due in large part to the support of the New York Road Runners Club, whose generous sponsorship included the installation of temporary lighting for the stadium, which currently has no permanent lighting. 

Rowbury wins 5000, Ongori takes 10,000m - both world leads

Beijing Olympian Shannon Rowbury of the US put on a fine display of solo running in the Women’s 5000m, but her world-leading time of 15:12.95 - still a PB by more than 25 seconds - was a few ticks short of the 15:10 Berlin “A” standard.

“I’m not making a serious move to the 5000 quite yet.  Tonight’s race was only a challenge,” said the 24-year-old San Francisco native.  “The wind?  It affected me perhaps a little, especially running by myself.  But I also had a lot of time to think about it.  I expected the competition to be a little bit stronger, and I had hoped the other girls would go with me.” 

Finishing far behind Rowbury was Sara Hall in 15:34.68. 

The woman Rowbury replaced as world leader in the 5K, Kenya’s Fyles Ongori, snared another world-leading label with a 31:53.46 win in the Women’s 10,000m.  The 22-year-old resident of Japan moved solidly to the lead before the halfway point and was never seriously challenged.  American Katie McGregor finished second in 32:14.57. 

The remaining invitational distance race saw Bobby Curtis sprint to the lead with 300 metres remaining in the Men’s 5000m for a 13:29.12 victory. The 24-year-old recent Villanova graduate held off Ben St. Lawrence (13:30.18), Jorge Torres (13:30.65) and Scotty Bauhs (13:30.85) over the final straight. 

Significantly, venerable Edwards Stadium (built in 1932) saw three records fall tonight in the distance races, all from competitions 26 years ago in 1983.  The only record to survive was the 13:08.4 of Henry Rono in 1978, which was a World record at the time. 

The two-day Brutus Hamilton Invitational will conclude on Saturday.

Ed Gordon for the IAAF

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